I came across the Petit Trianon a few years ago doing research at Versailles while putting together a show called "A night in Versailles". Long story short, even if the show, based on a Moliere play with baroque music, took place in North America, I wanted to get more familiar with Versailles and Louis XIV's court. At that time Moliere (the equivalent of Shakespeare for the French) was writing groundbreaking new comedies and thanks to his daring stories pleased the king more than once.
Arriving at the Palace, the monuments grab you – Grandiose, beautiful, powerful... everything has been built to impress. Versailles under Louis XIV's regency became the illustration of the French power and what you could expect from such a wealthy country. Louis XIV wanted to be the "Roi Soleil", powerful, educated, aesthete, rich, inventing Ballet (we're still using French terms for each position), needless to say Versailles was all about Ego with a capital "E".
Don't get me wrong, when entering the Palace, you don't know where to focus your attention... so many beautiful rooms, paintings, interior designs, sculptures, you're literally part of a flow of people discovering an amazing world! And then... you need a break.
After this first crowd packed experience, the gardens welcome you and revive your inner you. You can choose where to wander, stay with the crowd, get lost, have a nap, your mind starts to function in full discovery mode again. It's during this walk that I had the pleasure to bump into the very feminine and full of charm Petit Trianon.
Built in 1768, this rather small palace was given to Marie Antoinette by her husband Louis XVI in 1774. It then became an oasis for the young queen where she settled into activities and a life according to her taste. Even though she's often associated to lavish parties (that played a big role for the bad reputation she acquired amongst the "peuple de France" right before the French revolution), Marie Antoinette's interests encompassed nature, theatre and cultivating her garden. A full functioning farm was built adding to the bucolic and far from the real Royal life she preferred.
After the French revolution the Petit Trianon suffered quite a lot, being once a hostel, while the gardens narrowly escaped being divided into separate allotments. In 1867, thanks to the Empress Eugenie, Napoleon III's wife, a museum was dedicated to Marie Antoinette. In 2008, thanks to the Swiss watchmaker Breguet watches, the Petit Trianon has been fully renovated.
Little side story (explaining the Breguet's involvement in the latest renovations).
"In 1783, a mysterious admirer of hers ordered from Breguet, as a gift for the Queen, a watch that was to be as spectacular as possible, incorporating the fullest range of horological expertise known at the time. The order stipulated that wherever possible gold should replace other metals and that auxiliary mechanisms, i.e. complications, should be as numerous and varied as possible. No time or financial limits were imposed." Read more at Breguet watches.