• LOCATION 49 | Hidden Messages from the Sun King: A Guide to the Palace of Versailles' Gardens

    Bassin d'Apollon

    Bassin d'Apollon on Versailles, Yvelines audio tour Hidden Messages from the Sun King: A Guide to the Palace of Versailles' Gardens

    You are standing before the water Basin of Apollo, who is the central figure riding a chariot. Horses start forward. Horn blowers sound the charge of the day.

    Of all of Apollo's many occupations, one of his main roles is to lead the sun across the sky, riding a golden chariot pulled by his galloping horses. In representing the statue in this manner, Louis XIV switches from embodying his demigod lookalike, Apollo, to assuming the role of the sun itself.

    How? Well, if Apollo is meant to pull the sun across the sky to the West, then why are he and his horses facing East? What is East? Why, the Sun king, of course. Apollo is only just emerging from the water to go fetch the sun in his Palace, from which he'll start the day heading back in this direction!

    Turn around now to see how the Palace appears up on a pedestal from here. The East-West axis is not lined up on the latitude line, but slightly shifted with the Palace southwards and the canal northwards. This is so that on September 5th, Louis XIV's birthday, the setting sun shines the full length of its rays off the Grand Canal, through the central window of the Palace, in the very middle of the Hall of Mirrors, directly into the bedroom of the Sun King.

    We're at the midpoint of the tour, so if you'd like a break, this is an excellent spot. To the right of the Grand Canal, there are toilets, refreshments, boat and bike rentals. This is the closest point to the Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon, and you can catch a shuttle train from here. If you've bought a ticket to these gardens, you will need to show it to re-enter without paying again.

    The Flotilla restaurant has good fare at the same price as bistros in town. Waiters will even charge up your phone battery while you dine. I like to eat their confit de canard, then go tell the ducks in the Grand Canal that I just ate their cousin!

    If you'd prefer to keep moving now, with the Pool on your left, walk along its edge. Resume the tour with both Apollo's basin and the Grand Canal behind you. Walk toward the third statue from the left.

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Hidden Messages from the Sun King: A Guide to the Palace of Versailles' Gardens