The Petit Trianon and the Queens Hamlet- Versailles, France

Having left the incredible interior of the Palace to see what I could explore outside, I was surprised at the chilly turn the weather had taken. I am a bit of a rushed idiot sometimes- in that if i’m in a rush, I become an idiot- and had forgotten my jacket back at the hotel. Also, it had started sprinkling a bit and I of course had no umbrella. So I had the choice of either hunkering down around the palace for the next couple of hours before the bus came back to pick us up or just making the best of the situation.

I choose to button up my cardigan, wrap my scarf a bit more securely around my neck and venture out onto the grounds and into the gardens.

The further out you go into the expansive gardens, the less people you will find, and after the packed (if at least beautiful) sardine can the palace had been, I was eager to get more fresh air and less people. After grabbing a quick lunch at one of the many restaurants scattered discreetly around the grounds, I made the walk out to the Petit Trianon. This was the estate gifted to Marie-Antoinette by King Louis XVI and it was her refuge from court life. It is much smaller and as such a much more intimate experience than the Palace and while it is an extra cost you if you get just the standard ticket, I think it’s really well worth it for admirers of the young queen or anyone interested in the beautifully decorated rooms inside.



Leaving behind the Petit Trianon and it’s english style gardens, I meandered my way down some paths, got turned around a couple of times and then ended up coming out from the woods near the the Queens Hamlet. This area was another part of Marie-Antoinette’s escape from the pressures of courtly life and it was really interesting to view this area, walk around the farms and cottages and imagine the nobles who also visited the palace coming out here to attend the small parties hosted by the queen.

Of course, finding bunnies here was also a small highlight- I immediately snapped some pics to send to Julia back in Germany. Versailles bunnies are just as cute as regular bunnies and if they happen to have an extra air of specialness about them well, you can’t really fault them for that.

I did a bit more walking around, just leisurely following the paths that thread throughout the area, enjoying the scenery and feeling like i’d really gone back in time. Eventually though, I headed off with purpose, in search of the Grand Trianon and back to the palace to finish up the day.

~m

A Riot of Splendor and Gold- Versailles, France

We awoke extra early that day so we could make it into Munich to catch my train to Paris.By early I mean, 4am early and I’m still not sure how Julia forgave me for making her wake up so early to drive me into town and help navigate me through München HBF, especially when she had to go to work right afterwards. Have I mentioned how much of an amazing person she is and how lucky I am that she let me stay with her? If I haven’t, you can be sure I’ll expand on that even more in my last Out-Takes post.

The train was thankfully caught well on-time and I was beyond grateful it would be a one way no transfers journey as I was sure I would have messed something up otherwise, given how tired I felt after a pretty sleepless night (as the night before I had gotten a call from work regarding a job I had applied for the week before I left on this trip-so fun). My fellow passenger was a bit of a weird guy but we left each other alone and apart from peeking over at my journals as I wrote in them, he was a perfectly fine silent travel companion.

The plan had been, once I made it to Paris, to meet up with my friend Rachid. Things of course rarely turn out to plan and by the time it was 3pm I had only just managed to check into my hotel and catch a breather. At this point I had to really consider, do I have the energy to meet up with my friend for the first time ever and make a good impression or will I end up very tired and stressed and hating myself a little? There were also some documents for work I needed to look over and sign so I ended up staying in, getting room service and enjoying the beautiful view (and the incredible sound of the bells from Notre-Dame just a bit down the street) from my room while resting my weary body from the last 12 days of constant traveling. At this point I had been in 3 different countries (4 if you count my unexpected prolonged stop at Dublin airport) and was appreciative for a chance to rest. Rachid was incredibly understanding as well and we made plans to meet up the next evening after I made it back from the Palace of Versailles.

The next day, not quite so bright and early as the day before, I made my way to the tour company that would take me to visit Versailles. I wouldn’t normally have gone for a tour but I was traveling alone and transportation to and from Versailles was included and it was skip-the-line entrance so I figured, well why not?

It wasn’t a guided tour, so once they got us out there and through the metaphorical front door, we were set loose with our maps and audio guides and told to meet back in about 8 hours at the front of the main gates.

To say it was packed inside would be a severe understatement. It was filled to almost overflowing with people and at first you really think, alright, is this worth it? And if you’ve read even a couple of my posts on here you’ll know i’m the first to say, “Yeah ok, lets go find somewhere else” but, truly this place is worth sticking it out for. Marble, granite, gold leaf- you can’t turn your head without being confronted by it. Decadent art and wondrously beautiful paintings upon paintings everywhere as far as the eye can see. Every single inch of what you walk through is like being submerged headfirst into a whole other realm of existence.

What was especially interesting to me was being here after having visited places that were so heavily inspired by it, from Herrenchiemsee to Linderhof. I thought I understood well enough the language of opulence but, being here made me understand exactly how little I knew of it.

For those of you unfamiliar with the history of Versailles, here’s a handy link for you to read over . For those of you that are familiar with it, we can dive right into the surreal experience that is being in the Hall of Mirrors.

The crowds fade away into insignificance when you step into the Hall, and nothing else matters- not the noise, the people bumping into you, nothing. For a good minute and a half your brain is completely riveted by the majestic beauty of the room and the tribute it embodies to the artistic and political triumphs of France. Unlike the palaces I visited in Germany, photography is allowed here and as you can see , I full took advantage of it.

357 mirrors adorn the 17 arches opposite the windows encapsulating and showcasing the economic prosperity of France since at the time these were great luxuries (even now I doubt you know anyone that just has a whole bunch of opulent mirrors everywhere in their home just for show).

All in all, even with the crowds, the experience of being here is by itself worth the price of admission.

I walked around a bit more inside for about an hour until I realized with an almost frightening jolt- there’s a whole bunch more to see outside. The immense gardens and other residences just waiting to be visited. And so outside to explore I went.

~m

(P.s If you’re wondering about the tour I took, the hotel I stayed at and such, i’ll be covering all that plus detailing out some very big do’s and don’t for whenever you first travel to Europe in my last post.)

Wooden Masks, Colorful Frescoes, and Rain Soaked Violins- Mittenwald, Germany

I woke up that morning to the sound of soft rain and my phone buzzing with unanswered texts and WhatsApp messages. It was my last full day in Germany and I almost didn’t want to get out of bed , just to prolong the time I had left. But Julia would be arriving soon to pick me up so we could make our way to the days adventure so lounging around in bed really wasn’t an option. Besides, when had time ever stopped for someone?

An hour later I was downstairs, checking out and receiving my complimentary chocolate and then shortly thereafter I was running through the rain to get to Julia’s van. We drove around Garmisch looking for somewhere to stop in at for breakfast (and coffee for me) all the whole wondering if the rain would ever let up. (Spoiler alert: it didn’t)

Breakfast was procured at an amazing little cafe and I had what felt like my 100th cappuccino of the trip (more about that in my last post) and then once more, we set off into the rain.

Our first stop of the day was the Werdenfels Museum, in the Partenkirchen section of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The history of this town is pretty interesting, especially considering that for most of their respective histories, they were separate towns, with Garmisch in the west and Partenkirchen in the east. They were forced to join together in anticipation of the 1936 Winter Olympic Games by Adolf Hitler and while they still remain recognized as one town, each side retains its own unique identity and atmosphere. Julia and I mainly spent our time in the Garmisch part but that morning we ventured over to the other side.

Definetly the smallest of museum i’ve ever been in, but also one of the most interesting. Julia and I spent about two hours here, walking around the small rooms and up creaking wooden stairs, taking in all the items on display . One section we stayed in front of for a while was this room that held a case displaying wooden face masks. These, she explained to me, were face masks people wore for the Fasching festival, which I later learned was a bit like Carnaval, basically a pre-lent celebration.

I thought about those masks a lot after we left, the history behind them, and frankly also just the way they managed to be wonderfully artistic while also being slightly terrifying. It didn’t help that Julia noticed and said, once we had left and were in the dimly lit underground parking garage, “It would be really scary if you were in your car and looked out and a person in one of those mask was just outside, but also kind of funny too- how would you describe them to the police.” In either case, the museum was very interesting and there were so many great items and pieces of art and history to look over that even if I might have had some small nightmares about those masks later, I didn’t regret the visit.

After a morning spent indoors we were ready to breathe in some fresh air, even if the rain still hadn’t let up. Julia suggested a quick trip over to the town of Mittenwald and off we went, curling our way in her van towards what ended up being another dreamy fairly-tale like town.

A town famous for its painted houses and violin making history, it’s also well known for its colorful church of Saints Peter and Paul. We of course had to pay it a visit.

A beautiful interior matches the almost exuberant exterior and even the rainy day couldn’t diminish the way it stands out even amid all the other brightly colored buildings. Very few people were inside that day and so we got to gaze up at the frescoes in relative peace and quiet, sheltered from the rain outside. It was the last church we visited on my trip there, and while I can’t say it was my favorite (given the almost literal dozen I visited) it definitely holds a special place and if you’re in Mittenwald or even in the general area, I highly suggest you make the visit.

We walked around a bit more after that, the streets quiet and mostly empty apart from some other intrepid sightseers. The air smelled just like it had when we were in Ramsau, clean and crisp but with the scent of woodsy burning firewood drifting over us. Eventually though, even the comforting smell and brightly colored buildings weren’t enough to distract us from the way our feet were getting rather cold and how time was rapidly moving towards afternoon.

And so, rain still falling, we headed back to Garmisch-Partenkirchen and then later, back to Geretsried so I could repack and get ready to finally head off to the trips last destination, Paris.

~m

The Completed Palace and A Walk In The Rain- Schloss Linderhof, Germany

Linderhof Palace, located near Ettal, was the only one of the three palaces commissioned to be built by Bavarian King Ludwig II that he lived to see completed. Ironically, it was the least crowded of the three, at least as far as Julia and I experienced. That, combined with it’s gorgeous beauty and the immense fun we had wandering around the park made it our favorite of all three even if it was softly raining the whole time we were there.

After leaving Füssen, we made the relatively short drive here, winding our way through rolling green hills and red-orange dotted mountains in the background, autumn colors painting the whole landscape in lovely shades. Immediately as we pulled into the half empty parking lot, we know the experience here would be different than at the other two castles we had visited so far.

The architectural queues that signify it’s Versaille inspiration are less overt here than at Herrenchiemsee. Though Ludwigs deep admiration (what some would call obsession) with the French Sun-King are still very present here, in general everything feels more…private and intimate. This probably has to do with the size, as Linderhof is the smallest of the three palaces but maybe also with the fact this is the one he spent most of his adult life in, as a retreat from the world he didn’t quite wish to be a part of.

Same as with the other castles we visited, you can only go inside with a guided 30 minute tour and taking photos of the interior is strictly prohibited. Once again though, we lucked out with a relatively small group that day and we had a chance to linger a bit longer in the rooms and really look at all the exquisite details in each. This virtual tour of the palace is pretty neat at giving you a good idea of what we saw inside, though of course the feeling of almost being overwhelmed by the grandeur is hard to replicate (I highly suggest you google the search term “Porcelain chandelier Ludwig” and see what I mean)  .

Once we were were done with the tour we headed back out and while we saw plenty of people head back out to the parking lot, probably because of the sprinkling rain, we stayed behind to wander around some more. Statues, fountains, pergolas, majolica vases- it seemed every time we rounded a corner or took a step to the side, there was yet more to see. And since it was at the end of the day we had most areas almost all to ourselves to lean in closer to all the little details, to fall further into the lull of this fairytale like landscape.

Eventually though, the rain went from a light drizzle to something more persistent and with closing hour approaching fast, we made one final photographic effort and climbed up the stairs facing the palace to have a chance to look out over it all. Rain falling down over us and our hands cupping our cameras to keep the droplets away from the lens we stood there, legs more than a little tired from all the walking we had done that day and just…took it all in. Perhaps summertime would have been a nice time to visit, weather-wise, but looking a the brilliant riot of colors that fall had brought to the landscape, I couldn’t imagine a more beautiful time to have been given the chance to come here.

As we made our way slowly back to Julias van I knew it was going to take me a while to actually well and truly believe that I had visited a place like this. I’ve said it numerous times in the posts i’ve written about this trip but, that feeling of being somewhere else- in a fairytale or in a whole other world- its hard to shake off when you visit places like this. This would turn out to be the last of King Ludwigs II’s castles we would visit, as the weather took a turn for the worse the next day but having this be the last one I got to visit, there were no regrets whatsoever lingering in my mind when I departed Germany two days later. Besides, getting a a chance to explore a rainy picturesque Mittenwald and learn more about the Partenkirchen side of Garmich-Partenkirchen the next, it more than made up for missing anything.

~m

 

An Enchanting Bavarian Town and Some Schneeballen- Füssen, Germany

Have you ever been inside a fairytale? Walked the streets of a town or city that you felt would fit so neatly right into the stories spun by Disney or Miyazaki? Füssen was this for me and the word enchanting wouldn’t even begin to describe it.

Located just north of the Austria border and just a short distance away from not one, not two but three castles( Neuschwanstein, Hohenschwangau and even Linderhof are easily accessible from here), a beautiful picturesque lake (Alpsee) and many (many) historic sites, museums and churches to be seen, Füssen certainly deserves more than the few hours Julia and I spent there that afternoon we visited.

After leaving the madhouse that was the Neuschwanstein Castle we headed back here to tuck in somewhere for lunch and then make our way to Linderhof Palace. We found easy parking just off the city center and then picked a direction to start walking towards in the hopes it would lead us to good food.

We got a bit sidetracked of course because I was like a wide eyed child as soon as we had emerged into the town itself- the beautiful bright colors of the buildings, all the interesting small shops tucked in neatly next to each other, even the people walking around added to the magical touch of it all.

Italian food made by Germans- a novelty I hadn’t expected to encounter. After wandering around for a bit we spotted a place with plenty of happy customers eating outside and figured hey, Italian sounds nice. If you’re curious if I ever actually tried traditional Bavarian cuisine on this trip btw, let me go ahead and sate that curiosity by saying I definitely didn’t- but in my defense my own native German friend wasn’t too keen on it either so we decided to save that experience for the next trip.

The food we DID have here was actually pretty good and we finished up our meal happily stuffed and ready to make our way back to the car and head off to Linderhof. But then we got sidetracked- this time by Julia! She had remembered a place from a previous visit that sold a special type of pastry and was determined we should find it so I could sample the goods there. I was more than happy to go on this adventure that might possible end with me eating something delicious.

The shop was found and the restraint exercised because as much as I wanted to buy one schneeballen of each flavor (and they had so many tempting flavors) I still had a week left on my trip and unless I wanted to lug around a suitcase full of these, only buying a few was the best plan. And what are schneeballen? In English you would call them snowballs, they’re made from short crust pastry and then rolled over toppings like caramel or chocolate and they taste heavenly. Also, they keep for a rather long time as I found out when I experimented with bringing some home with me. I brought 3 home for the bf and they tasted almost as good as the day I bought them.

All in all Füssen was a lovely town to have been able to stop in and i’m so beyond happy and greatful that Julia and I missed our turn while navigating to Neuschwanstien and I really hope I can come back one day for a longer stay.

~m