By Anastasia Mills Healy
If the return to travel has you dreaming big, you can now book a near-private overnight experience at the Palace of Versailles—that’s if you can snag a reservation for the first-ever hotel on the palace’s grounds. The highly anticipated Airelles Château de Versailles, Le Grand Contrôle began accepting guests on June 1. Its 14 rooms and suites come with before-opening access to The Trianon, after-hours access to the Château, and all-day use of golf carts to tool around the palace’s nearly 2,000 acres. Of course you will have a butler on call and of course Alain Ducasse has orchestrated the extravagant dining experience.
A project like this was a dream for the architects, interior designers, and artisans assembled by Christophe Tollemer who used 1788 as a design touch point. Marie Antoinette redecorated Le Petit Trianon (her favorite building on the grounds) in 1788, which was also the year of the last palace inventory (the royals were placed under house arrest the next year and executed in 1793).
The palace grew from a hunting lodge Louis XIII built in 1623; the hotel’s three buildings date to 1681. Every detail has been considered for historical accuracy: There is original 18th-century furniture, art, and décor; lovingly restored original wood paneling and parquet flooring; bespoke draperies, bed coverings, and other fabrics designed by Maison Pierre Frey and the Royal Manufacture of Aubusson; and antique chandeliers revived with LED lights. In other nods to sustainability, the hotel uses geothermal energy and no reusable plastic, and the restaurant sources ingredients locally.The Experience
In addition to the before- and after-hours special access to the Trianon and the Château, guests are also offered curated experiences for an extra fee like a photo shoot after a fitting with costumes from the Netflix series Versailles; private dining in the Château accompanied by a string quartet; and a private cooking class.
One of the world’s most famous chefs, Alain Ducasse has earned 20 Michelin stars. The restaurant, Ducasse at Château de Versailles, Le Grand Contrôle, is open to the public and serves all meals as well as afternoon tea and Sunday brunch. Dinner is theatrical by design, inspired by royal banquets: Servers in period costumes dramatically unveil gold, silver, or vermeil domes to present course after course such as langoustines with sorrel, pigeon in cherry jus, and Orangerie soufflé.
One can imagine that Marie Antoinette would indulge in the Valmont Spa’s signature 90-minute Majestic Mirror facial treatment if not the hammam or sauna.
The Tie to Greenwich
There’s a private home on North Street in Greenwich known as Northway or Le Petit Trianon Deux, as it’s a close facsimile of Le Petit Trianon of Versailles. Built in 1911 using floor plans provided by the French government and architects trained at the Cole des Beaux Arts in Paris, Le Petit Trianon Deux is a neoclassical stunner set behind iron gates and at the end of an impressive allée.
A Marie Antoinette experience at Le Grand Contrôle includes a costume fitting; private tour of the Trianon Estate, the Love Monument, and the Grotto; the signature spa treatment; a macaron tasting; and dinner in the French Pavilion, a gem in the middle of the French Gardens built by Louis XV in 1750 and later much loved by Marie Antoinette.
Rates at Airelles Château de Versailles, Le Grand Contrôle start at $2,077 and include a butler, daily tours of Château de Versailles and the Trianon, access to the palace grounds including use of boats and golf carts, and breakfast and afternoon tea.
At press time it was expected that Americans with a health pass (proof of vaccination or negative COVID test) would be able to travel to France as of June 9.
Photo Credit: Airelles Château de Versailles, Le Grand Contrôle