There are a lot of ways and means to spend a magical night out in Paris, but every Saturday night from June 16th to September 7th 2012, Chatêau de Versailles is the place to spend your balmy summer nights feeling like royalty.
Les Grandes Eaux Nocturnes (The Fountains Night Show) allows you a magnificent stroll through the Royal Garden of Louis XVI and a chance to visit groves that are usually closed to the public during the rest of the year.
We arrived a little bit before 10pm (gardens open at 9pm) to a huge crowd. Standing at the steps above the Latona Fountain, we found ourselves amidst swirling bubbles courtesy of the bubble machines installed around the fountain.
From there, we walked down the gardens to visit the groves, or bosquets as they are called in French. These groves, originally designed by gardener/architect André Le Notre but later modified by others, were used as open-air salons for the Court’s entertainment.
Our first stop was the Dauphin’s Grove, one of the first groves designed by André Le Notre in 1660.
Dusk had just started to settle in when we reached the Obelisk grove, and the play of blue and purple lights on the steps of the fountain made it hard to believe that this was the same silent grove I’d seen during my daytime visits to the Versailles gardens.
The Encelade Grove is my favourite grove in Versailles. Inspired by the myth of the fall of the Titans, Gaspard Marsy sculpted a giant half-buried under rocks, one arm outstretched, hand gripping a rock. The 25 meter spray of water from the mouth of Enceladus, along with the dry-ice smoke from the sculpted basins around the grove, gave it an eerie effect.
Exiting the groves, we walked over the Fountain of Apollo at the head of the Grand Canal. An impressive sculpture depicting the sun-God Apollo driving his chariot across the sky, it was designed by the French sculptor Tuby between 1668 and 1670.
But the grove that left the biggest impression was The Colonnade. With its thirty-two arches and twenty-eight fountains, Hardouin-Mansart’s bosquet is impressive enough during the daytime; but this evening the green piercing overhead lights gave me the distinct feeling of being inside a dream.
At 11pm we walked back to the Latona Fountain for a good view of the Grand Canal. The evening ended with a 20-minute fireworks display, amidst the oohs and aahs of the crowd and the squeals of delight from the children sitting on their fathers’ shoulders, all of us enchanted by a lovely evening spent at the gardens of Versailles.
Les Grandes Eaux Nocturnes
9 p.m. to 11:20 p.m.
June 16 to September 7 2012
18 years + : 23 euros
6 – 17 years old : 19 euros
0 – 5 years old : Free
You can also see the Grandes Eaux Musicales every Saturday and Sunday afternoon until October 28, 2012.
For more information, visit their website and read about other special events at Versailles, including the 2012 Dîner en Blanc part deux.