Versailles is one of Europe's main tourist attractions, drawing over 3 million visitors a year. That's a lot of people to walk through the palace's rooms and corridors and a lot of history to cover, from the Sun King, Louis the XIV to the French Revolution in 1789. The tour guides of Versailles are a passionate and dedicated lot, but their profession is threatened by the advent of the audio-guide.
The grounds of Versailles contain some 50 spectacular fountains connected by 35 kilometres of pipes. This water system was designed and built under the direct supervision of Louis XIV, a great lover of water features and pyrotechnics. Today, a small team of engineers, maintenance workers and pyrotechnics experts prepare a spectacular show that combines water features, fireworks and a cast of hundreds to recreate the pageantry of Versailles, from the time of Louis XIV, the French Revolution and Napoleon, until the turn of the 20th century.
Marie-Antoinette's private quarters in Versailles, the Petit Trianon, where she entertained lavishly, and the "peasant cottage", where she played shepherds, are in a sorry state of disrepair and closed to the public. Versailles' president, Christine Albanel, wants to transform the run-down estate into a major attraction.
Frederic Didier, head architect of Versailles, supervises a team of restorers, sculptors, stone masons, carvers, gardeners, and other highly skilled staff who fight a constant battle against time and decay. The painting collection alone comprises 6400 paintings, which means 6400 frames are in need of constant attention. Then there is the furniture, the sculptures, the decorative elements, the mural paintings and so on: a work in progress of Herculean proportions.