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A New Way to See Versailles

By Laura MacNeil
updated February 21, 2017
Sony Pictures

Sofia Coppola's film Marie Antoinette, which opens tomorrow (Oct. 20), envelops her characters and her audience in the luxury of Versailles, France's former royal palace.

Coppola got unprecedented access to film its rooms and gardens, but you don't need a royal pedigree or film crew to see the same settings yourself. One-day passes to the whole estate begin at $20--and for the first time as of July, that includes Marie Antoinette's estate and gardens (chateauversailles.fr).

Louis XVI gave his queen the Petit Trianon and its surrounding grounds as a refuge from the strict etiquette of the Versailles chateau. There, she added a theater (for productions starring herself), a Romantic English Garden with a grotto, and a small peasant village with a working dairy farm, known as the Queen's Hamlet. Coppola filmed Marie Antoinette organizing picnics in her estate's fields and leading friends on farm tours, but regular visitors can wander around the buildings and landscape with new, free, digital audio guides that can be downloaded directly onto an iPod in advance (podcast.chateauversailles.fr) or borrowed at the entrance.

The Petit Trianon will close sometime this winter for yearlong renovations, but the rest of the grounds will remain open on a seasonal basis. Certain ironies, however, are best seen on screen: After sipping fresh milk from an expensive porcelain dish, an extravagantly dressed friend of Marie Antoinette's exclaims, "I must do this more often--I love the country!"

Find out more about scenes from the film Marie Antoinette in our December/January issue, which features our annual list of the top movies inspiring us to travel.

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