Over-tourism is changing our travel experiences .
What is it and why?
A hot topic in the travel world, Over-tourism is the term used when too many tourists jam a destination or the area gets destroyed or damaged. Locals are protesting the impact on their neighborhoods or scenic areas.
I’m researching this subject because I am going to be doing a couple of talks next spring on Over-Tourism. Reading about the situations in Venice, Barcelona, Rome, Mont St. Michelle, Iceland, Cinque Terre and many other places everyone wants to visit has me fascinated and concerned.
To my amazement, I experienced “Over-Tourism” first hand in Paris in September. Where? Versailles—the fabulous palace of the Sun King, Louis the XIV.
Apparently everyone wants to see the Versaille and I was no exception. I had visited the colossal palace, known for opulence beyond belief, on a trip to Europe right out of college.
It was so long ago that I wanted to go again so I signed us up for a “Skip the Line Tour” in September and got on a bus for the 40 minute trip outside of Paris.
It is an impressive structure with lots of gold. Originally a hunting lodge, Louis XIV moved his court to Versailles in 1682 and proceeded to rule from there for most of his long career. He started the renovation in 1668 with a modest hunting lodge ultimately creating the largest place in Europe. While there, he spent a lot of the French people’s money making it the most luxurious court in Europe.
What bugged me was that I thought we’d just cruise right in since we were on a tour that promised skipping the long 2-3 hour long lines. Wrong. We were herded into a line of “Skip the Line tours”, waiting more than an hour to go into the massive structure.
Then we went through more lines to pass security and to make our way through massive crowds.
Once we got inside, we could hardly move. This is what it looked like.
We had a good guide who described to us what we would see if we could see beyond the people. He apologized profusely about the crowds saying that 4 million people a year visit Versailles, but, alas, the building wasn’t built for 4 million.
Naturally I wanted to scream, “Well, why don’t you limit the tickets?” But, no one asked me.
What we did see were the fabulous ceilings, each one more ornate than in the room before.
We also saw paintings and statues of Louis XIV in every room. No exaggeration. Every room. The guy had an ego that wouldn’t quit. Louis XIV died in 1715. Versailles was turned into a museum in 1833 and the Treaty of Versailles was signed there in 1919.
We also learned he was as bald as a grape, hence he wore the big wigs.
The famous Hall of Mirrors was cool. It is a large room and seemed to hold the crowds a bit better or maybe people just walked on through. Seventeen great mirrors face the tall and arched windows. I hung around as long as I could. It was an interesting creative challenge to take photos in the curved mirrors at the end. The Alice in Wonderland distortions captivated me.
There wasn’t much in the way of furniture in Versailles, since much of it was destroyed or carted off during the French Revolution. But…..with so many people, who would see it anyway? I was sorry not to see a dining room set with the dishes like I saw in the palaces in St. Petersburg. We did see several ornate beds.
Eventually we made our way through mazes of rooms and out to the gardens. Wow. Fabulous. We didn’t have time to tour them all but what I did see left me wanting more.
There are Garden Only tours. I think that’s on the agenda for the next Versailles experience.
#Versailles #LouisXIV #Sun King