- One must be a fox in order to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten off wolves. Machiavelli Niccolo
Visit Versailles, France
Courtyard of fragrances
Inaugurated in late 2013, this elegant 17th-century courtyard, a stone's throw from the palace's entrance, houses a small museum, gourmet café, three outstanding boutiques, and extensive gardens, all with a perfume theme.
La Maison des Parfums charmingly illustrates the history of fragrance and Versailles's role in transforming French perfumery into an art form. The museum features scent buttons, lighted displays, and a gurgling fountain of orange-blossom-scented water (Louis XIV's favorite). After 30 minutes, you'll feel like an expert.
Potager du roi
A five-minute walk from the palace, near the lovely Quartier Saint-Louis, sits the Potager du Roi. Originally the king’s kitchen garden, Potager du Roi offers up a tempting display of tender spring asparagus and sun-kissed summer fruits. Still cultivated using 17th-century techniques, it is now a world-famous gardening school harboring ancient, rare, and endangered species of fruits and vegetables, many of which can be purchased here, along with confitures, honey, and other handmade delicacies from the gardens.
Versailles academy of equestrian arts
Headed by Bartabas—founder of Zingaro, the world's most spectacular equestrian circus–ballet—this is one of the few places that teaches equestrian choreography and dressage (along with fencing, dance, and traditional Japanese archery).
Completed in 1770, just in time for the wedding of Marie Antoinette and the Dauphin of France, the Royal Opera is considered by many to be the most beautiful in Europe. A veritable sea of gilding, trompe l'oeil, and glistening chandeliers, this intimate opera house dazzles the eyes as well as the ears. World-class opera performances, orchestral concerts, and recitals benefit from "the exceptionally warm and lovely acoustics," according to Ryan Brown, conductor and artistic director of the Opera Lafayette, one of the many important companies to perform here.
Jeu de paume
A must-see spot for French history buffs, the Jeu de Paume is the site of the famous Tennis Court Oath. Signed by the Estates General (precursor to the French Assemblée Nationale) in 1789, the pledge signaled the start of the French Revolution. Although tours in English are not available, busts, artifacts, and a large painting on the court's north side movingly depict the momentous occasion.