Les Jardins de Versailles




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My last post covered our visit to le Château de Versailles.  That grand old palace, built by Louis XIV, and now a museum is certainly amazing. But equally extraordinary are the surrounding grounds and gardens. The entire estate covers over 800 hectares or almost 2000 acres.

That’s about twice the size of Vancouver’s Stanley Park or Perth’s King’s Park. It’s also larger than San Diego’s Balboa Park (1200 acres) or New York’s Central Park (843 acres).

Louis the XIV commissioned the brilliant landscape architect André Le Nôtre to design the gardens and work began simultaneously with the Château. It took forty years to complete. The picture at the top of this article is an aerial view taken from a drone flown by ToucanWings and available through the Creative Commons. Below is an earth view Wikipedia map of the site so you can navigate around it.

The gardens are in the classic French design – sculptured and symmetrical with many paths and flower beds. There are also a great many fountains as well as Greco-Roman sculptures.

This tremendous undertaking is described at the Versailles website: “Creating the gardens was a monumental task. Large amounts of soil had to be shifted to level the ground, create parterres, build the Orangery and dig out the fountains and Canal in places previously occupied solely by meadows and marshes. Trees were brought in from different regions of France. Thousands of men, sometimes even entire regiments, took part in this immense project.”

We caught our first glimpse of the gardens as we were exploring the north wing of the Château.

The North Parterre seen from the 17th Century Galleries of the Chateau.

The photo doesn’t do it justice. We saw more of the gardens as we continued our tour of the Château and from the fabulous Hall of Mirrors, we could see the whole landscape laid out before us.

The gardens as seen from the Hall of Mirrors. In the foreground is one of the two pools of the Water Parterre which is flanked on either side by the North and South Parterres. In the distance is the Grand Canal.

After completing the Château tour we exited near the North Parterre and started to explore. Behind the Château are two large pools on a plaza and directly behind that is the Latone Fountain, one of many to be seen here.

Overlooking the gardens from the Latone Fountain to the Grand Canal. Since we were there, the gardens just beyond the fountain have been rebuilt in the French formal style.

While the gardens cover a large area, an even larger parkland lies beyond, transected by the Grand Canal, a large man-made waterway in the shape of a crucifix.

We’ll come back to the gardens flanking the Château and plaza, the parterres, later. But first let’s wander through the gardens below and see some of the sights.

Flowers abound, set in symmetrical beds surrounded by paths and  manicured lawns. A blaze of color.

Manicured lawn and cultivated flower beds abound. These have since been redone in the classic French style.

 

Flower bed in the garden below the Latone Fountain

We strolled leisurely down the Allée Royale, two wide paths with a lawn between them and flanked by groves on either side, to the large lake and fountain that separates the chateau’s gardens from the Grand Canal and its surrounding woodlands. This fountain is truly spectacular. It shows Apollo driving a chariot pulled by mighty horses emerging from the water. Circumnavigating the fountain we get a spectacular view looking back at the Château.

The Apollo Lake and Fountain with the Allée Royale and the Chateau de Versailles in the background.

Below is a video of the fountain in action.

After grabbing lunch at one of the two restaurants at this end of the Grand Canal, we strolled back up the Allée Royale and over to the Collonade Grove. It features a circle of thirty-two marble pillars surrounding a statue at its center. The circle of columns has a diameter of forty feet. Built in 1685 by Jules Hardouin-Mansart, it replaced the original Spring Grove built by Le Nôtre.

The Collonade

The marble statue was created in 1696 by master sculptor François Girardon. It depicts famous scene from Roman mythology, The Abduction of Proserpine by Pluto.

Statue of Prosperpine Ravished by Pluto in the Collonade Garden

The story of Proserpine explains the changing of the seasons in Greek and Roman mythology. Her mother was Ceres (Demeter in Greek), the goddess of agriculture. Cupid’s arrow inspired Pluto to come out of Mt. Etna with four black horses to abduct Proserpine and take her to Hades to be his bride. Jupiter, Pluto’s brother, sent Mercury as an envoy to order him to release Proserpine. Pluto complied, but not before he had fed her some pomegranate seeds. These compelled her to stay six months of the year in Hades. So she apent the summer months with her mother who made the world fruitful. Then she returned to Hades for six months and her mother withheld her bounty from the earth.

The paths through the various groves are almost maze-like with high hedges enclosing various spaces. We were wandering through the groves to the South of the Allée Royale when we came across the Bacchus Fountain. There are four such fountains representing the four seasons, Bacchus represents Autumn. They’re located at crossroads within the groves.

The Bacchus or Autumn Fountain. Note the tall hedges lining the walkways.

As we walked along we noticed a crowd had gathered to watch some dancing waters. The place was the Bassin du Miroir or Mirror Fountain, actually a good size lake.  We got closer and watched as the waters danced in time to the music coming from nearby speakers.

We made our way back to the Latone Fountain and the flower beds nearby. Then we wended our way to the South Parterre.

Gardens below the Latone Fountain with the Chateau in the background. This was reconstructed in 2015 as the Latona Parterre, a more formal garden in the French style.

The South Parterre sits above a large building called the Orangery or Orangerie. I’d never seen or heard of the idea until our trip to Europe where Orangeries sprang up in the 17th to 19th Centuries. They are large conservatories where ornamental shrubs, trees and plants imported from warmer climates could be housed during the winter. We saw an Orangery beside the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris.

This is the South Parterre seen from the Salon of Peace in the Chateau. The Orangery is beneath this garden.
The South Parterre built in the formal French style.

Wandering to the edge of the South Parterre we come to an overlook and some magnificent gardens below. These gardens are the Orangery Parterre. The lake beyond is the Lake of the Swiss Guards.

These gardens are below the South Parterre and directly in front of the Orangery which you don’t see because we are standing on top of it.

From there we went back across the plaza of the Water Parterre to the North Parterre. Our schedule showed that the daily display at the Neptune Fountain was soon to begin. The Neptune Fountain is a large fountain found at the end of a broad path down the center of the Parterre.

The walkway down the North Parterre leads to the Pyramid Fountain and continues past it to the Dragon Fountain and the Neptune Fountain.

Te Neptune Fountain is huge. Like all the major fountains, the water show is set to music.

Although we spent most of the day at Versailles, we only saw a small fraction of the sights to be seen, both in the Château and on the grounds. We did not venture far up the Grand Canal and we did not see the Grand Trianon, which lies part way up the canal. It is a large estate that includes the Petit Trianon, a smaller residence that was used by Marie Antoinette as an escape from courtly life – a private sanctuary.

The Château and grounds are also illuminated at night. So when we return to Paris, hopefully in the next year or two, we will definitely see Versailles again. It is truly one of the wonders of the modern world.

If you’re on the main page of this blog, scroll on through for an additional photo gallery. Otherwise click on the link below.

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Perth’s Kings Park




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Kings Park is a fabulous urban park sitting on the western edge of the Central Business District of Perth, Australia on Mount Eliza. It’s just a short walk from downtown but there is also lots of parking.

It’s a large park comprising 4.06 square kilometres or 1003 acres. Like Vancouver’s Stanley Park which is about the same size, it is a multiple use park with much of it wilderness. The lower area features a large children’s park which includes many replicas of Australian dinosaurs. We entered the park near here which borders on the university district.

The Synergy Parkland is a children's park in the lower area of Kings Park.
The Synergy Parkland is a children’s park in the lower area of Kings Park.

This area has a lake and a children’s playground as well as the dinosaurs. It is a popular destination for school outings as well as for families. Large signs describe these giant beasts.

This big fellow is a
This big fellow is a muttaburrasaurus,a plant eating dinosaur indigenous to Australia. It measured 26 feet long and weighed around three tons.

A network of roadways connects the various parts of the park and along the roads are eucalyptus trees planted to commemorate Australia’s fallen warriors. A plaque marks each tree with the name and details of one of these soldiers. Over 1600 of these plaques honor the war dead.

Roads through the park are lined with eucalyptus trees and plaques honoring fallen soldiers.
Roads through the park are lined with eucalyptus trees and plaques honoring fallen soldiers.
A couple of newly planted trees with their plaques. There are over 1600 of them along the Honor Avenues of the park.
A couple of newly planted trees with their plaques. There are over 1600 of them along the Honor Avenues of the park.

The upper part of the park stands on cliffs overlooking the Swan River and command a panoramic view of the city. There are restaurants and a convention center as well as spacious lawns and a war memorial.

The upper plaza of Kings Park commands an excellent view of the city.
The upper plaza of Kings Park commands an excellent view of the city.

The upper part of the park also is the entrance to the Western Australian Botanic Garden. This is an 18 hectare area within the park which features over 2000 species of Western Australian plant life as well as species from the rest of Australia.

A path through the botanic garden.
A path through the botanic garden.

Signs throughout the garden explain the flora on display as well as some of the history of Western Australia. Along the trail you pass under a high footbridge. On the return route you can take this bridge to get another excellent view of the Swan Valley.

The footbridge.
The footbridge.

Australian brushland is subject to periodic brush fires. There was a severe brush fire that affected a huge swath between Perth and Margaret River in January of 2016. It wiped out one small ton completely. And we encountered another brush fire when we visited Lancelin.  Kings Park has also had brush fires over the years and many of the trees and shrubs in the botanic garden showed the effects of fire and the resilience of the plant life.

Burnt tree in the botanic garden.
Burnt tree in the botanic garden. These dead specimens are kept as part of the exhibit as new vegetation grows around them.

When we reached the end of the trail, we took an unpaved path back. It was narrow and a more adventurous as well as pristine route.

The dirt path we took back.
The dirt path we took back.

This led us back eventually to the footbridge, formally known as the Lotterywest Federation Walkway.

The Lotterywest Federation Walkway - a footbridge that takes you high above the bottanical garden.
The Lotterywest Federation Walkway – a footbridge that takes you high above the botanical garden.

From the footbridge you get a superb view of the Swan Valley in all directions as well as a great view of the old historic Swan Brewery building below the cliffs. Originally built in 1838 as a sawmill, it was acquired by the brewery in 1877. It was redeveloped in the 1990s and reopened in 2001 as a multi-use facility that preserved the historic character of the building while housing restaurants and office space as well as 28 luxury apartments.

The old Swan Brewery complex with the city in the background.
The old Swan Brewery complex with the city in the background.

Among the plants on display is a magnificent old boab tree. This tree is noted for its very wide trunk.

A magnificent specimen of a boab tree.
A magnificent specimen of a boab tree note for its wide trunk.

Kings Park is a jewel in Perth’s landscape, one of the great urban parks in the world. Below are links to two additional photo galleries and other links of interest. If you are on the front page, just scroll on through for the photo galleries.

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Photo Gallery: Kings Park 2




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The restaurant and convention complex at Kings Park
The restaurant and convention complex at Kings Park
The path leading to the botanic garden.
The path leading to the botanic garden.
Map of the Botanic Grdens
Map of the Botanic Gardens
Magnificent tree
Magnificent trees
Beautiful flower
Beautiful flower
Some burnt trees
Some burnt trees
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Along the dusty trail
At the footbridge
At the footbridge
Australia has six seasons! One of many signs explaining flora as well as Australian lore.
Australia has six seasons! One of many signs explaining flora as well as Australian lore.
The Boab Tree
The boab tree showing some of the damage that happened when it was transplanted here.  Arborists have the plant on the mend. 
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Truly one of the world’s great parks.

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Photo Gallery: Downtown Perth 2




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Here is the second part of my downtown Perth photo gallery. This one covers the Stirling Gardens to the waterfront.

Janis and Sarah with the statue of Alexander Forrest at the entrance to Stirling Gardens.
Janis and Sarah with the statue of Alexander Forrest at the entrance to Stirling Gardens.
Brass kangaroo has a drink at the top of the Stirling Gardens
Brass kangaroo has a drink at the top of the Stirling Gardens
My friend the kangaroo and I. He's a big fella. Slightly larger than life size.
My friend the kangaroo and I. He’s a big fella. Somewhat larger than life size though a large male kangaroo in a fighting stance can stand six feet or more.
Bamboo grove in Stirling Gardens
Bamboo grove in Stirling Gardens
A closer shot of the bamboo grove
A closer shot of the bamboo grove
A path through Stirling Gardens
A path through Stirling Gardens
The Supreme Court of Western Australia is just on the border of Stirling Gardens
The Supreme Court of Western Australia is just on the border of Stirling Gardens
Interesting tree in Stirling Gardens
Interesting tree in Stirling Gardens. Looks like a palm but it’s not.
Palm tree growing into another tree
Palm tree growing into another tree
A very large palm. Did you know that a palm is not a tree but a grass?
A very tall palm. Did you know that a palm is not a tree but a grass?
Interesting baob tree bordering Barrack Street
Interesting baob tree bordering Barrack Street.
This walkway and park extends for miles along the banks of the Swan River
This walkway and park extends for miles along the banks of the Swan River
A cormorant stretches its wings on the Barrack Street Jetty
A cormorant stretches its wings on the Barrack Street Jetty
The foot bridge at Elizabeth Quay.
The foot bridge at Elizabeth Quay. West Perth is in the distance across the Swan River.
The Bell Tower seen from Elizabeth Quay
The Bell Tower seen from Elizabeth Quay. Construction continues on hotel, residential and commercial complexes.
Janis and Sarah in front of a large stainless steel penguin statue
Janis and Sarah in front of a large stainless steel penguin statue on Elizabeth Quay
The BHP Billiton Building rises high in the Perth skyline
The distinctive BHP Billiton Building rises high in the Perth skyline. Nearby is the Rio Tinto Building. Mining is big in Western Australia.
The Perth skyline from Elizabeth Quay
The Perth skyline from the Barrack Street Jetty




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Photo Gallery: The Butchart Gardens




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Here are some additional photos of the Butchart Gardens.

The Sunken Garden
The Sunken Garden. You can see the last remaining stack of the old cement plant among the trees on the right.
The flower gardens are stunning in their beauty.
The flower gardens are stunning in their beauty.
The Mound surrounded by flower beds.
The Mound surrounded by flower beds and shrubs and covered in ivy.
Janis, Chris and Sheila on top of the Mound.
Janis, Chris and Sheila on top of the Mound.
The Mound from the other side.
The Mound from the other side.
The Ross Fountain
The Ross Fountain
Janis rides a brass horse.
Janis rides a brass horse.
The carousel
The carousel
Close-up of a fuchsia flower
Close-up of a fuchsia flower
Close-up of whatever kind of flowers these are.
Close-up of whatever kind of flowers these are.
A beautiful yellow rose
A beautiful yellow rose
A blood red lily
A blood red lily
A busy bee gathers some nectar
A busy bee gathers some nectar
There were a few salamanders in this garden.
There were a few salamanders in this garden.
A moss owl.
A sphagnum moss owl.
Gorgeous lilies
Gorgeous lilies
The Three Sturgeons
The Three Sturgeons Fountain
The Butchart house
The Butchart house
The Japanese Garden
The Japanese Garden
Sculpted trees in the Japanese Garden
Sculpted trees in the Japanese Garden
An interesting flower in the Japanese Garden
An interesting flower in the Japanese Garden
Looking out to the Tod Inlet from the Star Pond
Looking out to the Tod Inlet from the Star Pond
Tod Inlet
Tod Inlet. Boat rides are now offered.
Colourful flower bed alongside the Italian Garden
Colourful flower bed alongside the Italian Garden
Close-up of some flowers in that garden
Close-up of some flowers in that garden
Janis and Tacca, the wild boar.
Janis and Tacca, the wild boar.
A superb succulent garden near the parking lot.
A superb succulent garden near the parking lot.

 



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