Versailles: A Visit to the King’s Private Apartments, Part 2
In the late afternoon of the first day of my visit to Versailles, I went along to the ticket office of the Chateau to buy my ticket for the next day, including a guided tour of the Private Apartments. There were various tours in several languages, but the young woman behind the counter flatteringly recommended that I take the French language tour at 10:30, on the grounds that it was the most thorough one. I duly purchased a ticket and wandered off in the rain — the weather was relentlessly wet throughout my visit — to find my dinner.
All but skipping with excitement, I turned up the following morning at the designated entrance for the Private Apartments tour. This entrance is on the north side of the Cour Royale (the Royal Court), the great courtyard that precedes the Cour de Marbre (the Marble Court) at the heart of the palace. A uniformed man checked my ticket and waved me inside. A young woman in a smart black pantsuit and a headset then asked me which tour I was there for, and directed me into an adjoining salon. This turned out to be the holding tank for imminent tours. It retained its 18th century boiserie, but was furnished with sleek contemporary furniture, which I’m tempted to say was by Philippe Starck, but I’m not sure. Another pant-suited young lady appeared and gave me a pair of earphones. I nearly protested that I hadn’t asked for an audio guide, but held my peace. All became clear when the actual guide appeared, a brisk, middle-aged Frenchwoman. She instructed us to put in our earbuds and see if we could hear her on the audio system that was connecting us. A very sensible system, this. Nothing is more annoying on a guided tour than straining, and failing, to hear what the guide is saying. We were a group of about 15 or 20. As far as I could tell, I was the only non-francophone apart from a young woman from Brazil who was studying art history in Paris, which I know because we had a chat after the tour. In fact, it turned out that she was taking a course on museology and asked me if I would oblige her by taking a short survey about my Versailles experience. I obliged, of course.