After a brief stay in Stresa, we left Lake Maggiore and headed towards Versailles, but it was a long drive so we stopped halfway at the fabulous 19th-century Chateau de Varambon. The chateau operates as a bed and breakfast and is a family business run by the Count and Countess….ooooh la la 😊 The chateau continues to be the family home and they wish to keep it as original as possible by not turning it into a hotel, thereby avoiding the many French rules and requirements to be classified as a hotel. The location is magnificent, sitting on expansive grounds with sweeping views over the beautiful Ain Plain. It’s like staying in a museum!!
During the journey to Varambon, the GPS directed us to use the Mont Blanc Tunnel, an 11.5km long tunnel going right through the base of Mont Blanc!!! The cost for using the tunnel was a staggering 48.50 Euros (USD $50) but I’m sure it saved us hours of driving around the mountain. You enter the tunnel in Italy and by the time you emerge, you are in France, pretty cool. Below are a few photos I pulled from the internet.
Arriving at Chateau de Varambon we were greeted by a staff member who spoke very good English, our greeter is not only the welcoming person but the cook as well. He asked if we wished to dine at the chateau that evening, and of course we replied “Oui”. Wonderful he said, appetizers will be served on the terrace at 7:30 pm and dinner will be served in the dining room at 8 pm…..hmmmm I wonder what we are having for dinner??? Dinner turned out to be excellent, enjoyed in the company of a fellow guest from the UK who was on his way to watch the Monaco Grand Prix…driving his very fancy Porsche!!! If you ever find yourself in this region, we recommend staying here, it was a lovely experience.
The following morning, after breakfast at the chateau, we departed for Versailles. Another 4-plus hour drive on relatively flat roads as we left the mountains behind us. Despite having been to Paris a number of times, we have never made it to the Palace of Versailles, so finally this was our chance. Well, not really 😥 We are usually really good about being on top of buying tickets to popular tourist sites but somehow Versailles completely escaped us. There were no tickets available to visit the palace during the time we had in Versailles. Not only are there no tickets available, but there is also a “techno concert” going on at the palace in the evening and they expect thousands of “clubbers”…whatever they are. I must be getting old!!! So, in a nutshell, we came to Versailles and still did not see the palace. We did however have a bit of luck on our side. We got up early and made our way to The Gardens, which Blair read were free in the morning. Arriving at the palace at 8:30 am the lineup for people with tickets had already begun. We kept going past the palace entrance into the expansive gardens behind the palace. We had a good wander around for a few hours admiring the fountains, statues and shrubbery. When we had our fill of the gardens we were leaving and noticed the long lineups to get in, and it seems that you could no longer get in for free. A prime example of the early bird getting the worm 😂😂
The Saint-Louis de Versailles Cathedral is a lovely Baroque cathedral built between 1743 and 1754, listed as a historical monument since 1906. The exterior was completely shrouded as extensive renovations were underway, but we were able to get inside for a look around. The stained glass windows, added in 1847-1848 were the most eye-catching feature of this cathedral.
So, here’s what we learned about Versailles. Book your tickets online and early!!!!!!!!! Based on the huge lineups we saw of people who already had their tickets, you want to book the earliest entry you can and be the first ones in there. Maybe we will get to see the Versailles Palace next time…sigh. Oh well, we’re off to Paris to meet up with our good friend Terrie 😊