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Versailles three ways

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Have you seen the treasures from Versailles yet? There are some add-on experiences you may want to try.

We speak to three Canberra women who experience the National Gallery of Australia’s Versailles exhibition in three completely different ways – with a girlfriend, champagne and shopping, with children in tow and some kid’s craft, and as a catch-up with mum, taking in quiet time in the Member’s Lounge.

Emily Crabb is a University of Canberra student who toured the exhibition with a girlfriend

Glorious colours, a hit of culture and a glass of champagne.

In the sweltering Canberra summer, what better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than in air-conditioned decadence seeing treasures from Versailles having just enjoyed a glass of bubbly in the café downstairs?

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Over the weekend, my girlfriend and I had the pleasure of escaping to Paris without leaving our hometown. We visited the NGA to see the Versailles collection and I can safely say the experience was overwhelming.

For two girls who love to chat, the exhibition brought on a gob-smacked silence our friendship had never experienced before. After the initial shock of the incredible size, colours, textures and detail of the works had worn off, we were whispering away in no time.

Feeling giggly from the Moët we had just inhaled in the café, we moved through the exhibition in excitement. We were especially enchanted by the space dedicated to ‘Plan du labirinte de Versailles’ or The Labyrinth of Versailles and the story of how it came to be.

The experience was topped off with a visit to the gift shop, which is dedicated to French-themed self-indulgence. Walking out with a print artwork of Marie Antoinette, silky knickers, a bottle of Moët and a light head, I can safely say the experience was as inspiring as the palace itself.

Emma Macdonald has two children aged 6 and 11 and took another two, aged 8 and 10 for an explore

I am feeling a tad out-numbered as I coax my young party through the door of the NGA.

The two giggly little girls and the two tweens are keen for a taste of Versailles and on a hot summer’s day, I am happy to spend a morning out of the sun while exposing my young charges to one of the biggest cultural exhibitions to hit Canberra.

Luckily for us, 10-year-old Liv is at Telopea Park School and she is well aware of the historical significance of the exhibition and happy to explain points of interest. The little ones skip along, ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhhing’ at the “real gold!!!” artefacts, the massive tapestries, the peacock statues and the excitement of standing in a multi-media display of the Latona Fountain. It really is quite something.

But the highlight of the day for the kids is a chance to blow off steam at the recently-opened NGA Play. There is tonnes of room to roam, activities aplenty and it caters for a wide age-range. While the younger kids busy themselves making topiary gardens out of foam blocks, the older two get arty on the iPads creating their own fountain designs. Storytime is also a hoot when Marie-Antoinette (storyteller Rose Marin) appears in a ball gown (made from bubble wrap) and explains in “an evvy Franch ac-scont” what really goes down in the corridors of Versailles.


Belinda Neame took her mum Pamela for a long-overdue catch-up

It was that time of year again, when I had to think about what to buy my Mum for her birthday.

Every year it gets harder and harder and there are only so many family photos and ceramics you can keep giving!

Then someone suggested a membership at the National Gallery of Australia. That was it! It was the perfect gift for my Mum who loves visiting the gallery, especially when we have family staying from out of town.

Mum was rapt when she received her membership and until then, she had no idea about the fantastic benefits that come with it – from invitations to members’-only exhibition opening parties, 10 per cent discounts at the gallery shops and cafes to entry to the members’ lounge with complimentary tea and coffee, reciprocal benefits at all state galleries including the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Powerhouse Museum, and the list goes on.

What better way to start using Mum’s membership than to visit the Versailles exhibition? The exhibition was quite crowded so halfway through we decided to take a break and head up to the members’ lounge for a bit of a breather.


The lounge is a stunning, welcoming space, sitting on the top floor of the gallery with the most spectacular view. It’s one of those views that forces you to slow down and stop for a while. There is also the enjoyment that comes from reclining on the elegant designer lounges, perusing the library, and catching up with the daily newspapers.

Mum and I had a great natter – it’s not often we get uninterrupted time together so it was really wonderful to just sit and chat over a complimentary tea and coffee with some sweet little Byron Bay cookies. It was such a lovely time spent with Mum and I think the gift of a NGA membership is going to be perfect for her to spend some quality ‘me time’ as she heads into her semi-retirement.

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