Where Marie Antoinette Played Make Believe

Marie Antoinette's hamlet

One of the most interesting parts of the sprawling Versailles compound outside of Paris is the Hameau de la Reine (The Queen’s Hamlet), a fake rural farming town built solely so Marie Antoinette could escape the “pressures” of being queen of France and pretend to be a simple milkmaid. Seriously.

The town (which actually does function as a farming community) includes a farmhouse, dairy, dovecote/pigeon coup, mill, tower and the “queen’s house and billiard room,” set in the very center of the village. Continue Reading →

Paris’s Elysee Palace: France’s White House

Elysee Palace 9

Nearly every visitor to the City of Light pays a visit to the Champs Elysees, either to stroll the long, sycamore tree-lined boulevard or to visit the Place de la Concorde or the Arc de Triomphe that anchor the two ends of the elegant thoroughfare. But relatively few walk the two short blocks to visit France’s version of the White House—the Elysee Palace. It’s definitely worth the short detour! Continue Reading →

A Hidden Paris Gem: Palais-Royal Gardens

Palais-Royal 9

One of Paris’s most serene public parks is one not often visited by tourists to the City of Light—the gardens of the Palais-Royal, directly north of the Louvre in the 1st Arrondissement. Why is it such a secret gem? First, the Palais-Royal itself is not commonly visited by tourists—or even Parisians themselves. The former royal palace today is home mostly to a host of French bureaucracies and administrative offices. And second, the garden—though very large—is part of an entirely enclosed courtyard in the center of the complex, making it nearly invisible to passers-by. And that’s a shame because its beautiful fountain, gorgeous landscaping and iconic double rows of perfectly manicured trees lining long promenades combine to create the quintessential Parisian green space. Continue Reading →

Palais-Royal: Grand and Quirky

Palais-Royal 5

Today’s Paris memories are of the Palais-Royal, a one-time palace located near the Louvre on the Right Bank. Once called the Palais-Cardinal, the palace is today home to an unusual modern art exhibit and a gorgeous enclosed courtyard with a huge reflecting pool, numerous statues and perfectly aligned rows of trees and shrubbery. Continue Reading →