French Picnic with Marie Antoinette Image

Last year I promised myself that I’d escape to the lush French countryside at the first sign of Spring. When that day finally came I was off biking from Vernon to Giverny for a visit to Monet’s inspired gardens. This year typical Paris weather and final deadlines for my masters kept me cooped up in my studio a few too many weekends. At last, the perfect moment came this last weekend and I opted to spend a day at my favorite destination just outside Paris: Le Domaine de Marie Antoinette at Versailles.

Le Domaine de Marie Antoinette

In true Parisian style, I packed a picnic for the day: fresh baguette, camembert and slices of grison, a salty dried beef from Switzerland which has become my favorite go-to charcuterie since I don’t eat pork. Once I arrived at the château I rented a bike from the gardens and with my picnic blanket in tow, set off to find a secluded patch of shaded grass for an afternoon away from it all.

Le Domaine de Marie Antoinette

Le Domaine de Marie Antoinette

Le Domaine de Marie Antoinette

Le Domaine de Marie Antoinette

Far beyond the formal gardens of Versailles, Marie Antionette’s Estate is nothing short of a luxurious countryside getaway, and consists of three sections: the Petit Trianon and her private theater, the hamlets which resemble a quaint idealist village, and the farm which Marie Antoinette filled with happy chickens and royal cows. The Petit Trianon was built under the reign of Louis XV, the queen’s father-in-law, to keep his infamous mistress Madame de Pompadour contented and close. It was then gifted to Marie Antoinette who used it as an escape from the rigorous, over-burdening court life of Versailles.

Le Domaine de Marie Antoinette

Le Domaine de Marie Antoinette

Today the hamlet adds to the charm of Marie Antoinette, although that wasn’t always the case. Used solely as a luxurious retreat for games and relaxation, the Queen would dress as a shepherdess and reenact the idealized life of a peasant-girl shielded from hardship by the gilded gates of Versailles. Meanwhile the French were struggling against poverty and starvation (a law was passed at this time that regulated the amount of sawdust that could be used in baguettes, a technique of desperation that helped the flour go further). I don’t consider Marie Antoinette to have been malicious however ill-concieved the hamlets may be, rather she really struggled with the demands of life at Versailles that were far more rigid than her upbringing in Austria. Marie Antoinette was born at time when it wasn’t uncommon for an Austrian princess to befriend the peasant children whose parents worked on the castle grounds. And I think today many of us can appreciate the romanticized ideals of a quiet life in the countryside that even Marie Antoinette must of have felt to a degree.

Le Domaine de Marie Antoinette

Le Domaine de Marie Antoinette

Le Domaine de Marie Antoinette

I love that the farm at Marie Antoinette’s Estate is fully functional with cows and sheep lazing about. There is even a vineyard which produces roughly 2000 bottles of Marie Antoinette wine. Beyond the vines, chickens lay their golden eggs in a shaded garden while peacocks and ducks escape the sun under small trees. Even 300 years ago, the farm provided all the culinary needs to keep the hamlet a bustling, little village: Sustainability at its finest!

By the time I started heading back, I was exhausted. But it was the sort of exhaustion that comes only after a fun day in the sun.

For more photos of Le Domaine de Marie Antoinette, check out ArtfullyAdored on Flickr.

What are your favorite summer retreats?

18 comments… add one

  1. Joanne June 10, 2013, 7:45 pm

    Beautiful ! I won’t miss that kind of a pique-nique when I go to Paris in the future !

    Reply
    1. Stephanie June 10, 2013, 9:53 pm

      You’ll love it! Worth every moment.

      Reply
  2. Virginia June 10, 2013, 8:32 pm

    My dear, you have outdone yourself with these gorgeous photographs.
    V

    Reply
    1. Stephanie June 10, 2013, 9:53 pm

      That’s very sweet! Thank you :)

      Reply
  3. TheWanderfullTraveler June 11, 2013, 1:25 am

    Absolutely divine!
    I must try some of that Marie Antoinette wine sometime – have you tried it? How was it if you have?
    Wine is on my mind after returning from Wine Bloggers’ Conference that was hosted in Penticton, 45 minutes away from my home. There are so many summer friendly getaways around here that mostly consist of wine tasting along the lake. Naramata, Keremeos and when in need of a city adventure I like to head to Vancouver. This summer I am also giving Whistler a try.

    Murissa

    Reply
    1. Stephanie June 13, 2013, 2:23 pm

      I am not sure where I can find that wine, but I would love to try a bottle! I’m pretty sure it’s not the best but it’d still be a treat. I love all the traveling around you do in your area! It’s so healthy!

      Reply
  4. Jennifer F. - American Mom in Bordeaux June 11, 2013, 8:37 am

    Beautiful!! You brought me back to when I visited that area as a 16 year old – as an exchange student. We too, rented bikes and explored the grounds! To this day some,…(lets say give or take 25 years later…) I still have fond memories! Thanks for taking me on a trip down memory lane!! I will need to bring my kids there someday! Love your photos!!

    Reply
    1. Stephanie June 13, 2013, 2:23 pm

      I hope you head back! Kids love it and it’s nice to be in nature that still has fun things like a four hundred year old castle or private château.

      Reply
  5. Kat June 11, 2013, 11:40 am

    You’re such a talented photographer! I love the picture with the little cow :)
    I wish I had seen more of the countryside and scenic villages around Paris, but alas when I’m there it always feels like there’s so much to do in the city that it would be crazy to leave!

    Reply
    1. Stephanie June 13, 2013, 2:25 pm

      Thank you! I really enjoyed dusting off my camera and heading out for a day with it! It’s true, Paris has so much to do but I think it’s important to experience the countryside or smaller towns of a country. Many things are very different – from the cuisine to the overall vibe. I hope you make it out there!

      Reply
  6. Melanie June 12, 2013, 10:35 am

    What beautiful photos!

    I actually live walking distance from here, but although we have many picnics in the Versailles gardens and enjoy wanding around the far reaches of the grounds, I’ve never been inside this area. Now I think I really must do it!

    Thanks for the inspiration.

    Reply
    1. Stephanie June 13, 2013, 2:26 pm

      You should! I know it’s a pain to have to pay but it’s worth it! It’s a very large area that has a lot of things to see and there are very few tourists back there. Definitely worth it!

      Reply
  7. susan June 12, 2013, 11:04 pm

    So lovely Stephanie, what a perfect day! I never explored her hamlet like I wanted to…and seeing that little girl there makes me so anxious to get my *marie* there!

    Reply
    1. Stephanie June 13, 2013, 2:27 pm

      How cute! Yes, you should! Marie and Henry would love it, especially when they can feed the goats and donkeys mini-handfuls of grass.

      Reply
  8. Melinda June 13, 2013, 1:47 pm

    I love the gardens, Trianons, and Petit Hameau so much more than the Palace of Versailles. You picnic and photos are so lovely! I especially love the one with the bee. It reminds me of this scene in the film, “Marie-Antoinette”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZ6fxc4Mq_o – “O, petite abeille!”

    Reply
    1. Stephanie June 13, 2013, 2:32 pm

      I LOVE that scene! <3 Such a cutie! I thought of it when I saw the girls I photographed.

      Reply
  9. Lindsey June 16, 2013, 8:09 pm

    Such BEAUTIFUL photos! So glad you went.

    Reply
    1. Stephanie June 17, 2013, 8:57 am

      Thank you Lindsey, I had a great time!

      Reply

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