The Opel and the MINIs

Beastmaster and Peanut Adventures

CooperBeast needed a weekend adventure so a trip to Versailles was planned.

Here is what we did. We booked the overnight Friday night ferry crossing from Portsmouth to Le Havre with a cabin included, which arrived in Le Havre just before 8 am. Then we drove to Giverny to see Monet's garden and had breakfast there. From here we carried on to Versailles for lunch and to explore the Palace. At about 5pm we headed back to the coast, but this time we made for Honfleur, which is a very pretty port not too far from Le Havre.
We had dinner in Honfleur before driving the last half hour back to Le Havre and the ferry at about 10 pm.

The trip from here back to Le Havre takes you over the rather impressive Pont de Normandie suspension bridge. We then overnighted on the ferry returning to Portsmouth at about 8 am.

The cost was £59.00 return for the two of us and it is just over a two hour drive from le Havre to Versailles. Coopers Castle accompanied us for the trip - just a shame we couldn't make a bigger convoy as this was a lot of fun.



Monet's home made an excellent stop for breakfast and a stretch of the legs.

Giverny History

As a starving, somewhat nomadic artist responsible for an extended family, August Monet escaped Paris to find a permanent home in the idyllic countryside of the River Seine's tributaries. He sought a life in these agrarian lands for the region's extraordinary atmospheric variances to light his work and for quality schooling for the children. There he found and rented the Giverny home in 1883 at the age of 43. Unlike so many of his contemporaries, he soon realized a healthy enough income to purchase the house and eventually, more land across the street, where he rerouted a river channel to create the famous lily pad Water Gardens.

The contrast of Monet's starving artist' phase and his eventual success is well illustrated by the children hand-carrying water from the river to irrigate the first plantings in front of their pink stucco home. Upon attaining recognition and income, five gardeners were retained to tend his extended garden of arts. But in those early years, Monet himself designed, planted and weeded the land that was to become his living studio. There he continued arranging living compositions in his last 20 years of life and work. Eventually, the garden, paintings and his emotions became entwined as one, evolving together and being expressed by each. To study the paintings is to read his very biography at Giverny, as the works reflect his state of mind during major life events which he communicated atmospherically through garden subjects.

Towards the end of his life, Monet commented, "Gardening was something I learned in my youth when I was unhappy. I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers."

Monet's Giverny house and gardens was almost lost to the world when his son-in-law passed in 1960, leaving the property to France's Academie des Beaux Arts. A fund raising campaign was launched in 1977 when the curator of Versailles, Monsieur van der Kemp and his American wife Florence, accepted the position to oversee restoration and contributions. The most ambitious work began when Mrs. Lila Acheson, the Founder of the Reader's Digest Foundation and one of America's great benefactors for art, donated a most significant sum. Revenues from today's visitors continue to insure the preservation and maintenance of the entire estate.

The Clos Normand Flower Garden fronting the house is 380 by 240 feet in a rectangular shape, much of which is divided by symmetrical beds in grid formation. It is thought that Monet's visit to the blooming bulb fields of Holland may have inspired him to plant in blocks of colors for compositional effects.

Giverny's front flower garden and water gardens are still divided by a small roadway, as they were in Monet's day. Generous funding has enabled the building of a tunnel for visitors to walk the short distance underground.

The Water Garden is basically oval, 418 by 153 feet, roughly centered with an island point and followed along one side by a flowing channel. Multiple bridges traverse winding spans, positioning strollers into various angles on the same, yet often unrealized features. Intricate routes and magnificent plantings constantly disorient one's location as the garden seemingly multiplies in size and content, and we become euphorically lost.


This place is big!

Very Big!

Chateau de Versailles in France

The Chateau de Versailles castle is one of the largest palaces in the world and is one of the most visited chateaux in France.

Chateau de Versailles castle is a grand example of French architecture and the Versailles' history galleries which are around 18,000 metres squared in size which makes this the largest history museum in the world, with the contents comprising many different and significant masterpieces.

Chateau de Versailles has played major roles throughout its existence, not only during the French monarchy, but throughout the history of the French Republic and this palace is still used for both houses of parliament to sit.

Situated several kilometres Southwest of Paris, Chateau de Versailles was originally no more than a modest hunting lodge that was built by King Louis XIII in 1623.  But his son, King Louis XIV abandoned the Louvre wishing to build a royal palace in place of this lodge and because he was so taken with the palace, in 1682 it become the official residence of the Sun King and his Court, replacing the Louvre and Saint-Germain Castles, which gave a grand statement of monarchical power.  He also insisted that the Chateau de Versailles was for the people, and that his home should be open to one and all who wanted to visit.

The architect Jules Hardouin Mansart transformed the modest hunting lodge and Andre Le Notre designed the gardens between 1661 and 1700.  One of the last parts to be built under Jules Hardouin Mansart and Robert de Cotte was The Chapel in 1710 and is one of the architectural highlights of this famous palace Versailles.

But Andre Le Notre who also designed the gardens at Fontainbleau Chateau, designed the garden to include numerous fountains, jets, waterfalls, a vast amount of sculptures and statues, water parterres, and formal gardens, which has turned this into the most famous garden in the world, although with its size and grandeur, you cannot really call it a garden!

Chateau de Versailles also has later additions such as the Petit Trianon, which was given to Marie-Antoinette in 1774.  The Hameau was designed in 1785, as a stage village for Marie-Antoinette in which to play with her friends, as she favoured the irregular style, with hills, rocks and streams.

The Chateau de Versailles castle has over 2,000 windows, 700 rooms, over 1,200 fireplaces, 67 staircases and also includes the 75m Galerie des Glaces, otherwise known as the Hall of Mirrors, where the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919, signifying the end of World War I.

In 1789, the royal family returned to Paris and then in 1837 King Louis-Philippe decided to convert this magnificent palace into a museum of French History, which was to be dedicated to 'all of France's glories' and hence there are only victories depicted and not any defeats!

However, a vast amount of construction work had to be undertaken to transform many of the areas into museum galleries, so that the paintings could be hung, as apart from the older works dating from the Middle Ages up until around 1830, King Louis-Philippe also commissioned around 3,000 paintings from all of the major artists of the day so that there would be a complete museum of French history depicted within the works.

The vast amount and the quality of depictions by famous artists through its paintings, sculptures, tapestries and furniture makes the Chateau de Versailles an outstanding portrait museum with the very best of Italian and French artists of the time being shown.

The interior visit, which you can enjoy with a speaking guide in French, Spanish or English, or with your own set of headphones, will introduce you to the immense luxury and magnificence of the Chateau, with its famous Hall of Mirrors as well as the lavishly decorated King's Bedroom, plus the curators have been tirelessly concentrating on the restoration of the original decor within state apartments, private apartments and princesses' apartments since the early 20th century.

The museum founded by King Louis-Philippe can still be seen in the lateral wings, yet there are also other galleries which are devoted to things such as the French Revolution, the Crusades and the Battle gallery, which at 120 metres is the longest hall in the Chateau and depicts France's great battles in a cycle of monumental paintings.  Other 18th century collections are distributed throughout some of the restored apartments.

The Versailles gardens include around 1,300 fountains, which use water pumped from the River Seine and you can view a fountain show at a weekend from April until September.

This chateau, full of wealth and luxury is definitely well worth visiting whilst on holiday, although in the height of season you can often find there will be a long queue just to get in, but once there you will not be disappointed.

The nearest airports to the Chateau de Versailles are the Charles de Gaulle Airport or Paris Orly Airport, whereas if you are traveling by car then you will need to take the 1st exit, which is sign posted Versailles-Chateau, when heading towards Rouen.