Sarah Pollok ventures away from Paris and reflects on all that glitters in Versailles.
So you've climbed the Eiffel Tower, got lost in the Louvre and meandered through Montmartre. If you're looking to venture away from the city of love for a day, look no further than Versailles. Located on the outskirts of Paris, the magnificent chateau of Louis XIV has enough opulence to last a lifetime.
While the iconic Versailles Chateau opens at 9am, the lines start at 8am, so arrive earlier rather than later. Luckily, you simply have to head to a city train station, purchase a ticket to Versailles-Chateau–Rive Gauche and enjoy the 45-minute train ride. Quick tip? Purchase a round trip and skip the lines on your way home.
Go for a wander
If you love a long, wayward walk, prepare for a morning well spent roaming the Garden of Versailles, or Jardins du Chateau de Versailles. Designed by Andre Le Notre, the 800ha gardens boast kilometres of winding paths and manicured lawns just begging to be strolled. Listed as a Unesco World Heritage site in 1979 and visited by about six million visitors a year, it's a garden you won't mind getting lost in.
Don't miss this
When a room is described as the most famous one in a house it doesn't seem that impressive. Unless, of course, it's one of 2300 rooms. The Hall of Mirrors is that very room. Designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart in 1678 and built over eight years, the 17 arches consist of 357 decorative mirrors which reflect one another, seemingly into eternity. As the most popular part of the chateau, it's one you'll want to make a beeline for when you arrive.
Give it a go
If you came to Versailles and never saw anything other than the chateau you wouldn't be alone. However, there is much to be seen outside the palace walls, so after seeing the road most travelled, head towards the quiet city centre. There you will find the old royal market of Halles Notre Dame. Described as one of the most charming in France, this lively market is packed with vendors selling picnic essentials such as cheese, chutneys and bread and flowers.
Indecisive travellers looking for a cosy place to grab a drink may do well to stay away from La Pirogue. Tucked on the corner of Rue Baillet Reviron, this rustic little bar homes an astonishingly large cocktail menu, with 300 different alcoholic and non-alcoholic drink options. Drop in between 7pm and 9pm and make the most of the happy-hour cocktails among fellow locals.
There is only so much gold-edged grandeur one can take in a day. So if your stomach rumbles and you're yet to leave the palace, take yourself off for a bite at the humble La Mangette restaurant. Decked out with homely furniture, large glass windows and a simple, seasonable menu, it's the perfect place to recoup and refuel.
Qatar Airways flies from Auckland to Paris, via Doha.