FRENCH GARDENS WORTH GETTING LOST IN
Would France be anything if not for its gardens? There are beautiful gardens all over the world, but there's something about the perfection and sometimes imperfection of French gardens. There's no shortage of them because hundreds are scattered all over the country, usually attached to some tremendous impressive châteaux or stately home. Exploring some of the grander gardens can make you feel like a king or queen, while others can enchant you with their unruliness. Either way, wouldn't it be great to get lost in them?
The Gardens At The Palace of Versailles
If there's any garden you're sure to get lost in, possibly not by choice, it's the garden that surrounds the Palace of Versailles, where the French monarchy once lived. King Louis XIV wanted the palace designed to show wealth and power and his divine right to rule. He wanted Versailles to be a residence of leisure, and its gardens are an extension of that.
Louis XIV loved that there were acres of land to hunt in, but his groundskeepers intricately transformed most of the land surrounding the palace into some of the most symmetrical gardens in the world. If you look out of the Hall of Mirrors' windows, you can see the perfect view of the Grande Perspective and the Water Parterre, which have two reflective pools. Above that is the North and South Parterres, and Latona's Parterre, all of which were designed by Le Nôtre.
The garden was designed to have an optical effect. Starting at the Neptune Fountain, you can follow the Water Walk all the way down to the Orangery into the Lake of the Swiss Guard. Walk along the Royal Way and see some of the most beautiful sculptures until you get to Apollo's Fountain.
There are perfectly shaped triangular hedges, flower beds, swirled lawns, groves, and long rows of straight trees. There's even a little train you can pay to take you to the Petit Trianon and other farther places in the gardens if you get tired.
Fontainebleau, Seine-et-Marne, Ile de France
Another royal residence, Fontainebleau, also has some extensive gardens. Four courtyards open out into the gardens full of hedges on either side of the palace. Behind the palace, there are four gardens and 130 acres of parkland. The Bassin des Cascades has some of the most beautiful fountains, and The Grand Parterre is the largest formal garden in Europe. Like Versailles, it has its pointed hedges and symmetrical lawns.
Gardens of Vaux-le-Vicomte
Vaux-le-Vicomte is another fairy-tale-like garden you can explore for hours. It stretches for a mile, has a similar Grand Canal to Versailles', low box hedges formed into mazes, paths lined with statues, and sloping lawns. Even the king couldn't pass it up.
Villandry has some of the most famous gardens in the world. Joachim Carvallo purchased the property in the early 19 hundreds. He demolished the English garden and replaced it with a Renaissance garden, formed in three parts on different levels. The ornamental part of the garden has flowerbeds shaped like hearts, and there are three other 'Love gardens.'
There is also a Water Garden filled with ponds and paths, the Sun Garden (another ornamental garden), an herb garden, and more. The Ornamental Kitchen Garden or potager is most important, laid out in nine large squares full of geometric shapes.
All Gardens Are Not Created Equal
Some might say seeing one garden means you've seen them all, but that is not true for French gardens. They might all have the same influences, but they are not all the same. There are different stories behind them, and each one has its own personality. Don't be afraid to take a big chunk of your day wandering through them; that's why they exist. Just bring a map with you, and you'll be fine.