Saturday, May 19, 2012

Falling in Love with Versailles en Route

It’s Wednesday morning, May 16th, and you are waiting on the RER platform in Paris for the C train still feeling a wee bit gris after a late night with friends. You glance at your watch and tap your foot impatiently. Running late as usual, but this morning you are meeting with a German businessman, and the Germans are always annoyingly punctual.

Finally, the train arrives and you push and shove your way into the car.

Details from the Queen’s Chamber – Petit Trianon
Suddenly you find yourself in Marie-Antoinette’s bedchamber.  This is definitely an OMG moment writ large in any language. 

Ceiling of the Hall of Mirrors

The French have found yet another brilliant way to celebrate and showcase their beloved patrimoine. 

Hall of Mirrors

The SNCF, France’s National Railroad service, in partnership with the City of Versailles and the Château de Versailles have elegantly redecorated six cars of the RER C line that serve the City of Paris and four départements of the Ile-de-France region. 

Marie-Antoinette’s Belvedere
Quietly and without fanfare, on the morning of Wednesday, March 16th, the six Château-décor cars were sent out for their maiden run to the astonishment of commuters lucky enough to find themselves stepping inside and back in time. 

The Gardens

By the end of the year, it is expected that the full fleet of Château-décor trains will be in daily service, serving all 36 stations of the RER C line. 

Library of Louis XVI
The trompe-l’œil effect is obtained by the use of polished plastic film panels made from photographs of Versailles. These photos are then adapted to the specific dimensions of the car and glued to the walls and ceilings. There are seven different decors that range from the grandiose to the more intimate corners of royal life.

Ceiling of the Cotelle Gallery
According to Bénédicte Tilloy, the Director General of the SNCF, although vandalism is a growing problem on the RER, the hope is that vandals will be dissuaded from doing their worst by the sheer majesty and beauty of their surroundings. But, just to be on the safe side, the materials used in the panels are graffiti and tag resistant, and Madame Tilloy assures us that ripped panels will be replaced as quickly as possible.

A bit of a risk? Perhaps. But, as the French say, “Qui ne risque rien, n’a rien” -- nothing ventured, nothing gained. And if we can gain a little beauty in our lives, it’s worth the risk.


  1. Bonjour M-T. This is incredible! Some days, I am particularly happy to be French :-) Hope I get to see this on my way to Versailles in a few weeks when I go home. Hope all is well with you! Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

  2. Bonjour Véronique. If you happen to find yourself in one of these beautiful cars, please let us know when you return.

    I am jealous of your trip home. Have a wonderful time! Et tenez-moi au courant!!


  3. Lucky commuters! Hands off vandals...


My dear Readers, I do so love reading your comments and appreciate the time you take to make them. To make it easier to leave your comments, I have disabled that annoying "Word Verification" setting, which Blogger (in its infinite wisdom) enabled without my consent.

If you have a problem posting your comment, just send it to me at

I will be happy to post it for you and link back to you. I look forward to hearing from you.

You Might Also Like

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...