'Orangerie, Palace Gardens, Versailles.'
Overlooked by the Château, the Orangerie - with its wide space and pure lines and dating from 1686 - is one of the crowning achievements of architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart. It consists of a central vaulted gallery 150 metres long, prolonged by two side galleries located under the stairways of the Cent-Marches. The Orangerie Parterre covers no less than three hectares. In the reign of Louis XIV it was decorated with sculptures now kept in the Louvre museum. Consisting of six sections of lawn and a circular pool, in the summer it features 1,055 trees in wooden boxes, mostly orange trees, but palm trees, oleanders, pomegranate trees and eugenias as well. They spend the winter inside the building.
The lady enjoying the orangerie is dressed in white because she participated in the White Picnic ("pique-nique en blanc"), which is organized on Bastille Day, the 14th of July. That day thousands of people come together with their picnic baskets and have a festive meal on the banks of the Grand Canal. After the meal, many spread out over the gardens, of which the Orangerie is a part. Photo Paul Smit.