For a truly historical event, the Palace of Versailles is reviving the refined era of the Sun King, Louis XIV, for its fourth annual costume evening in the fabled Hall of Mirrors. Baroque costume is mandatory, meaning the atmosphere is authentic and immersive.
Experiences include learning the authentic game of billiard or trictrac (an early version of backgammon) and instruction in baroque dance – or simply watching the professionals themselves perform. Guests can tour the palace itself, including the private apartments of the King, his six daughters and his mistress Madame du Barry. The ball will reach a spectacular conclusion with a fireworks display, viewed from the Hall of Mirrors.
The best place to stay for these festivities is Les Etangs de Corot, which sits on the edge of the forest of Fausses-Reposes in Ville-d’Avray, a 15-minute drive from the Palace. It even offers bicycles to guests to cycle there – not ideal in baroque dress, but a wonderful excursion at any other time.
The hotel carefully blends classic with the occasional modern touch, with a combined effect of relaxed grandeur. From the 19th century on, Ville-d’Avray – which is now a heritage site – was highly popular with writers, musicians and impressionist painters. The hotel itself is named after the 19th century landscape artist Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, who captured many of its surroundings in his paintings.
Each room is individually decorated with antique furnishings by the hotel’s owner. Suites overlook the nearby pond, or the enclosed garden behind. Bathrooms are contemporary, with wall-mounted televisions and Caudelie products from the hotel’s spa. There’s a 24-hour concierge service available for guests, who are ready to organise activities for guests such as painting lessons, wine tasting and pond-side yoga.
Between April and September the Terrace les Pailottes is open for softly-lit evenings of wine, cheese and charcuterie, and Bistro Le Café des Artistes offers contemporary dishes and wine tasting in the hotel’s old cellar. For more formal dining, the Michelin-starred Le Corot restaurant serves a menu that takes its inspiration from locally-grown vegetables.