Little known fact: I almost moved to Versailles once.
No, not the town just outside of Paris. No, not the famous palace built by Louis XIV. I’m talking about Versailles, Kentucky (pronounced in the Kentuckian Ver-SALES rather than the French Vair-SIGH) — a town just outside of Lexington.
When my parents were deciding where to move when I was in seventh grade, they considered a few of the more rural areas outside of Fayette County. Versailles in Woodford County was one of them. We were coming from the Louisville-Jefferson County area, and in the greater Louisville region, the best places to live aren’t necessarily in Jefferson County. I think my parents thought Lexington would be much the same — you’d go into Lexington to do your shopping or to have fun on the weekends, but for day-to-day life, you’d want to live outside of the city.
As it turned out, though, Lexington’s pretty different. You don’t really need to live outside of Fayette County in order to find suburban quiet; there’s plenty of suburban quiet in Fayette County already. Lexington’s just much smaller than Louisville, so there was no need for us to seriously consider Versailles, Kentucky as a home.
Still, I’ve driven through Versailles, Kentucky many times, and I’m fond of some of the roads and sites. In particular, Versailles, Kentucky has its own castle — not quite the magnificent palace that spurred a revolution in France, but one that’s caused many a confused driver to do a double-take and wonder what a giant chateâu is doing in the Bluegrass state.
And so finally getting to go to the real Versailles — the Vair-SIGH version for which the Ver-SALES one was named — was exciting! I went with the same roommate from Notre Dame who’d accompanied me the previous day on our grand tour of tourist Paris. I think both of us were itching for something to do to get out of the house. We’d already unpacked and bought groceries and begun to settle into our apartment, and so there wasn’t much left to do to keep busy — and more importantly, to keep our minds off of anxiety about the start of the semester in a few days. I suppose I can’t speak on my roommate’s behalf, but that’s certainly what I was thinking.
The Palace of Versailles is a must-see. I know it’s outside of Paris. I know it’s intimidating to take the RER out of the city for the first time. I know it’s not quite as famous as the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe. But believe me — it’s worth that extra 15-30 minute train ride.
Palaces and castles are some of my favorite sites to visit when I’m in Europe. They’re just so exotic to me — outside of the curious Versailles, Kentucky castle-themed concert venue in the middle of nowhere, Americans like me never get to see castles. The closest you might get are old plantation manors like Monticello or Mount Vernon. Castles and palaces also make for great photo opportunities, and, if you’re willing to pay admission to go inside, they give you lots to walk around and marvel at for a few hours. While some of them are arguably less exciting than others (I’m looking at you, Posavski muzej Brežice in Brežice, Slovenia), needless to say, Versailles is fantastic. And if you’re a student at an EU institution like I was at the time, admission is free!
I wish I could’ve stayed there longer — a rather common theme you’ll likely find in all of my Paris-related blogs. Both Isabel and I agreed that it would be worth it to come back in the springtime when the gardens were in bloom (though the fewer tourists who were there due to the winter season was definitely also a perk). There’s so much more to see than just the main palace. I’d liken it almost to something in the vein of a national park. There’s just miles of sprawling, beautifully-manicured land to explore, not to mention dozens of smaller palaces scattered about the grounds that you can go in.
When we finally left, exhausted and hungry from walking around so much, I mentally made a note that I had to go back to Versailles, especially if my parents or friends managed to come visit me. And at the time, I thought that was a given — of course I’d be able to go back! Why wouldn’t I? It was so close, and with my NaviGo Transport pass plus my student ID card, it was a free trip.
…and that’s not to say I’ll never be able to go back, maybe once this whole pandemic has burned itself out and I’ve made enough money to be able to take a nice vacation to Paris. But I’m sad that I’ll likely never return as a student, as a local who actually lives in France. There was something enchanting about visiting the palace knowing I was a resident of Paris rather than a regular tourist. It was almost like being a Bourbon myself, taking a trip to get away from city politics to relax for the weekend at my countryside home.
I guess I always have the Kentuckian Versailles for that.
That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life this semester abroad in the Paris, France. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Bloglovin, Twitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Jacket: A vintage shop in Budapest (thrifted)
Skirt: Zara (thrifted)