We headed out to Versailles on Wednesday, hoping that the opulence of the palace and grounds would wow our teens and impress them. We were partially wrong. Jake seemed impressed (at least by all the gold, Sammi - not so much).
Getting to Versailles wasn't as easy as I hoped. We walked over the RER Station for the C line (C5 to be exact), on the road on the left bank, opposite Isle St. Louis, only to find it closed. A glace down the street a bit led us to a crowd and a nice, young lady, with an information vest (yellow), who told us the that a shuttle bus would be along in a bit to take us to the Invalides station as the line between Invalides and ... shoot will need to look it up ... is closed from mid-July to mid-August. The bus did come, packed, and we squeezed on and road it for two stops before arriving at Invalides. That was the only hiccup of our travels.
Once in the station, we approached the ticket booth and I said Chateau Versailles, and held up four fingers. To which he replied by making a back and forth motion with his hand to which I nodded. In a few moments I received eight tickets (or four round trip), tickets for RER line. He told us quai B and we went through the machines with our tickets and found the train.
After a few minutes of waiting, the train took off and maybe a dozen or so stops later we pulled into the last station, and our stop at Versaille, us along, with the hundreds of other people left the train and took the five minute walk to the palace. I don't recall signs, but there were maps, but basically we followed the crowds like lemmings.
Because of our lemming-like approach, we walked through the parking lot - in between cars as opposed to the main path that leads to the gate, but no matter we arrived.
There was a huge line for tickets which I put Mom and Sammi in while Jake and I went to a second line (by security) to see if we actually needed to wait in the longer ticket line, since the kids were free and we had museum passes. We didn't. So Jake ran back and grabbed the others.
Waiting in line became the theme for the day.
Once through security, we debated getting audio guides (Sammi does not like them; she just wants to walk) but my Eyewitness guide is woefully inadequate with details, so we decide on getting the guide, wait in another huge line, only to find out that our museum passes do not entitle us to the audio guide (which I knew) but it was a different line we had to wait in to pay for them. The lady out the counter told us to go to the Information desk to pay. When I asked if we'd have to wait in the audio guide pick up line again, she said, "No, just come right back to me."
So we went to the Information line, and waited there for a while, only to be told, the cashier was not there and we would have to go back out (not sure if he meant back out of the crowded foyer or back outside of the Chateau), either way, we weren't doing another line, grabbed two maps and just headed further into the palace.
You may get an idea of the crowds and opulence from the video but while I'm going to say that the palace wows, something is definitely lost without a guide of some sort, and something is lost when you have to move through a sea of humanity, being pushed and jostled along, as you try to absorb everything.
After the palace, we waited in another line to use a restroom (sorry, this time I couldn't wait) and then we strolled through the gardens, which are worth a visit, and definitely more enjoyable I bet in the spring/summer (where as I think I'll save a return visit for the palace for the winter, when hopefully it will be less crowded).
Oh, another note, wearing sandals not such a great idea. Here and it seems through many area of Paris, the ground is covered by a sandy gravel, that gets little stones caught between your shoe and foot - very annoying.
The kids (aka Sammi) seemed to have enough, and rather than explore Versailles more opted for lunch and an earlier than expected return to Paris - and as this trip was for them we agreed.