Was Louis XIV 'the Sun King' the ultimate foodie?
Long before sustainable food advocates such as Michelle Obama, Alice Waters, Stephanie Alexander and Maggie Beer helped spread the word on kitchen gardens, Louis XIV was commissioning the development of a huge kitchen garden for his Versailles Palace so he could have everything he needed for his lavish banquets.
The Sun King's Kitchen Garden is still operating today, and a range of preserves, jams and hard-to-find fruits and vegetables are available for purchase.
It took Royal Gardener Jean-Baptiste La Quintinie over 5 years (from 1678 to 1683) to complete the masterpiece - also known as 'Le Potager du Roi'.
The thing is, the kitchen garden is almost intact from those times, and few international travellers are aware that you can actually visit the garden year round - and for just a couple of euros. This is a fantastic hidden gem.
So my advice to foodies - or people with an interest in gardens - who are thinking of visiting Versailles Palace while in Paris, is to go to the Potager du Roi as well.
It's definitely worth spending a good hour, plus it's a great way to beat the crowds at the Chateau (start with the Kitchen Garden, then head to the Chateau later in the afternoon).
Row after row of beautifully kept fruit trees, vibrant flowers, intensely fragrant herbs, more vegetable patches than you could imagine and dozens of different types of pears and apples - many from rare and endangered species you didn't even know existed.
This 'tunnel' of weird-shaped squash above was quite a sight!
The Kitchen Garden is still very active nowadays and has become some kind of living museum for rare species.
Over twenty full-time gardeners and apprentices work there (the National Superior Landscape Architecture School is based there), providing some of the best chefs in Paris with hard-to-find seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Now you know where to shop for Halloween pumpkins if you're in Paris!
For more info on the Potager du Roi, tickets, guided tours and opening hours, visit www.potager-du-roi.fr. Be careful because the entrance to the Kitchen Gardens is NOT in the Chateau, see access map below.