Sunsets, fireworks and costume masked balls make everything better
Admittedly the first time I visited la Chateau de Versailles, it felt like an overly extravagant grounds commissioned by a long dead king now a tourist destination. Learning about the labour that went into the making of the lavish place along with some of its scandalous history during my tour only contributed to my distaste of King Louis the XIV. I just couldn’t relate to the royalty who used one third of the city’s water supply just to run the fountains! Instead I empathized for the common people who toiled away to make his vision happen and could see why they stormed Versailles during the French revolution. The cold, gloomy and sporadically rainy weather that day and the fact that I also wasn’t feeling too well probably didn’t help.
However I’m glad I gave Versailles another try with my friends, this time without judgement of its past but to simply enjoy its immaculate grounds. If there’s ever a best time to visit its gardens, I have to say it’s during Les Grandes Eaux Nocturnes- The Fountains Night Show. The event happens each Saturday evening in the summer and ends with spectacular fireworks.
The evening my friends and I chose to visit also coincided with their Grand Masked ball- which we would have loved to attend if we could afford the tickets and then more for the costumes. However it was fun to see people dressed up and enjoying themselves in baroque costumes with the backdrop of a huge palace and garden. Girls were literally prancing around in their long elaborate dresses, conducting mini-photo shoots. The guys were equally as dressed up- with wigs, makeup, trousers, and even bowties on their socks. It was amusing to see the clash of modernity, girls who smoking cigarettes or sporting running shoes underneath their full gowns.
As for the gardens, unlike the regular program where many of the fountains were not running, this time they pulled out all the stops. With water jetting and cascading, the fountains looked alive. There were bubbles in the air, fire shows, laser projectors, fog machines, all with classical French baroque music playing in the background. The fragrant smell of oranges from the freshly pressed citrus stands was a lovely touch as it matched well with the “Orangerie”.
As the sun was setting, walking in the darkening hedges I felt like it could be the maze in the fourth Harry Potter book, minus the magical creatures of course. The lights came on illuminating the jetting fountains, it was probably even better than Louis the XIV could have imagined it.
At 10:50pm everyone headed for the finale. The faint pinks and purples streaks of the last light and this added to the surrealism as the fireworks came on synchronized to music, sparkling in the air.
After the show, while my friends and I along with most other people were rushing to catch the train back to Paris, this was only the start of the Ball for the costumed party goers, which would go on to dawn! For fanciful wishing, here’s to meeting my friends again one day in full costume at the ball!