Where to stay and what to do in Versailles
Staying at Les Etangs de Corot which is situated in Ville-d’Avray, Versailles, is like playing modern day Snow White – minus the evil Queen and worse, the seven men to clean up after. Perhaps a more cultured reference would be that it’s akin to living in an Impressionist painting, after all the establishment is named after the 19th century landscape artist Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. Before you read on, I should warn you that this isn’t your typical designed-for-Instagram hotel. It’s full of wild flowers and cobbled pathways, unspoiled by concerns with the millennial world.
With three restaurants under one roof, a Caudalie spa and quaint gardens in which to relax with a glass of wine, there was plenty of ‘nothing’ to do if you were looking for a relaxing break. Especially so if you have a dog that deserves a getaway too, this hotel is dog friendly and we saw lots of happy fur-kids getting the attention they deserved. Rooms are cozy, rustic and full of French countryside charm. You’d never think you were just a short drive away from the smoke and action of Paris (about 40-60 euros in an uber), and the main attraction of the town – Palais de Versailles.
The hotel has two dining options for the summer, with their third, the Michelin starred Le Corot restaurant reopening in late August. Terrace Les Paillotes is set in the most delightful hydrangea garden, with babbling water fountains and long flowery balconies. It looks just like Marie Antoinette’s hamlet which we saw on the Palace grounds. The main restaurant of Les Paillotes overlooks a green lake and resembles a two-storey treehouse. On offer from 11am to 4pm, is the brunch menu of tartines, eggs and a dessert buffet packed with French patisserie goodies that’ll satisfy any sweet tooth. If you’re feeling peckish rather than famished, their dinner menu offers slightly more, such as oysters, fish dishes and a charcuterie board. Try the upscale version of fish and chips, where their breaded fingers will completely change your opinion on the classic comfort dish. We may sound like typical Brits ordering that in a foreign hotel but in our defence, we couldn’t really read the menu so we had no idea.
Brunch is a busy time at Les Paillotes, to be enjoyed after a languid morning steaming and being massaged at the spa. Les Etangs de Corot offers this along with a 50 minute treatment and access to the Caudalie facilities on Sundays.
Things to do in the Versailles area
The Caudalie spa boasts numerous relaxation rooms and the main event – a huge jacuzzi to unwind and sink into. My favourite feature is the minimalist and contemporary vibe that’s a little different to the rest of the grounds. The bamboo showers look like a piece of art, and the mix of stone and various woods made us feel close to nature (thankfully minus the pesky insects that are dying to swim into your wine glass). I had the signature full body massage, where my therapist used smooth, firm strokes to ease out all of my tension, to the point where I probably did fall asleep. Enjoying a glass of fresh detoxing lemon water, I took the opportunity to wander around the spa’s tiny garden area, before being drawn to the steamy tub. Feeling energised and uplifted, I was ready for the rest of the day.
Palais de Versailles
This deserves a post of it’s own because of its enormous size and multitude of attractions within the compound. Les Etangs de Corot offers bikes to guests that are looking for a more adventurous way to get to the Palace, but its easy enough to locate an Uber which will cost you around 16 euros. Requesting a minicab from reception will cost you around 1.5x more.
As most guides will recommend, get there as early as you can. Even arriving at 9am which was the time stated on our tickets, we had to wait a solid 40 minutes before making it inside. During the summer months, there are ‘musical fountain’ shows in the gardens (it’s a sound system that pumps out orchestral music) which means that under 26 year olds who would usually go free have to pay 9 euros to enter. Not a bad deal considering the vastness of the gardens, where everything is manicured to perfection.
Be prepared to walk! I brought nothing but a pair of heels for photos and my Gucci sliders – big mistake. There are ample facilities, from a mini tram to bicycles and even rent by the hour golf buggies, although these aren’t particularly cheap.
Haute tip: get your coffee fix at Angelina, rather than the cafes in the garden. There’s one at the main Palace as well as the Grand Trianon Estate, which despite being very far away, is thoroughly worth every effort.
55 rue de Versailles
92410 Ville-d’Avray, France
Looking for other places to visit in France? Check out my trip to Evian-les-Bains on Lake Geneva.