Paris 2013 - The Palace of Versailles
I usually prefer to visit places without a tour guide. Most of the things a tour guide can tell your - you can find out in guide books or on the internet. And often what they say may even colour your perception of the place - sometimes not in the best way. However for the Palace of Versailles - I would really recommend that you go with a guide - especially if you can find a very good one.
The story of the Palace of Versailles is very much the story of the French Monarchy and aristocracy. The palace intrigues that went on there would fill books, and the history of the buildings and the stages in which they were built and extended would probably be sufficient for a life time's study.
Considered one the most opulent palaces in the World - it is a building as an expression and embodiment of absolute power. It is therefore not surprising that many of the modern despots and autocrats consider it a a model of choice for their own edifices that are close to their hearts.
While the buildings are impressive because of their sheer scale - it is the interiors that leave most people speechless. Such extravagance - such audacity - so very in your face. When visiting these places I can't help thinking about the number of people who have to work and toil to please the whims and fancies of the rarefied few. Hopefully they are paid their proper dues - but I think most often they are not.
The gardens of Versailles are just as opulent as the buildings. It must take hundreds of people working non-stop to keep them in pristine condition. In fact we could see many workers at work rebuilding the garden. Apparently in winter they need to drain all the fountains or the ice will damage all the ducts and pipes.
I don't think I would return to The Palace of Versailles. Yes - some of the interiors are beautiful. But I can't bear to be reminded of such absolute power and oppression which are so physically represented by the buildings.