By matthew rose
December 17, 2012 · 6 Comments
Three hundred years ago getting to Versailles, the celebrated French seat of power, was a bit of a slog through muddy country villages. Only 20 or so kilometers southwest of the Eiffel Tower, the trip was made by horse or coach or worse, by foot, and could take the better part of a day. But Revolutions have consequences. Today for about $8.50 you can now jump on the RER C suburban railroad from a handful of stations along the left bank, and shoot over to Versailles in half an hour. And your coach might be a royal one.
One in about 40 trains according to the station master at the Saint Michel station is a newish virtual museum of the grand château itself, reproducing the home Marie Antoinette and Louis XIV made famous with their extravagance (and decadence) and their final flight from the murderous cries of the peasants. Using high-resolution photographs as interior panels, the rich décor of Versailles is reproduced for commuters and tourists alike.
The train includes detailed images of the royal arms, the outdoor palace grounds, one of the many libraries, golden statues and ornate decorative ceiling designs. Wander through the uber-designed gardens, or check out the reflections in the Hall of Mirrors. It’s a trip in itself even if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool 99 percenter; few can resist this ride that puts you at home with the Royals – that is if you’re lucky enough to catch the rare C train with the regal outfit.
The project is a joint venture between the Versailles palace and the French rail operator SNCF, and the decorations will remain in place for at least 18 months (the first decorated train debuted in May, 2012).