Paris: Day 3 - Versailles
Internet has been a little bit flaky in the last couple of days, so I’m posting this in the afternoon of the fourth day. Yesterday we ended up waking up earlier than we planned, even though we were up late. I was a little worried about getting to Versailles early so that we didn’t have to queue for everything while there. We had enough time to stop at the patisserie Parisien and grab a couple of Croissant and some macarons for later. We went right across the street and into the station which was only a little bit away, and got the tickets allez-retour to Versailles. I keep trying to practice my French, but it doesn’t work out that well - I tried to ask for the ticket en français, but she was confused. I think that I need to speak slower, I keep trying to say things fast and probably mispronounce it.
After we got to the station, we ate our croissant and got some advice from a nice lady at the platform about which train to take, which wasn’t the next one at the station, but the one after. I wondered whether we should really be eating on the platform, because I didn’t see anyone else eating there. Maybe it’s more common to have a croissant and coffee at a Cafe in the morning.
The train trip to Versailles was nice, it was almost empty which I thought was good because there wouldn’t be so many people. The trains are very quiet when they run, because they have been running for a very long time I guess and the tracks are all worn down. There is almost no noise like there is on the trains in Minneapolis when there is a curve. I can see how some people would fall asleep. It only lasted about half an hour and I passed the time looking at the sights on the way. We passed Microsoft’s Paris Offices, which had a big advertisement for Windows 7 on it.
After we showed up at Versailles Rive-Gauche station, it was a short walk to get to the palace and get inside. The tour starts right away and there wasn’t really a shop that was open early in the morning. I should have taken some time to stop and get something while we were in Versailles (the town) because we hadn’t had enough for breakfast. I gather that breakfast isn’t very popular here. Diana wasn’t happy about walking through the whole palace without any coffee or anything to eat. There was a small snack shop at the end of the walk through the main palace and we stopped to get some drinks and coffee. Everything inside Versailles was pretty expensive by American standards (probably by French standards too). Coffee was about 2 € and the drink was about 3,5€.
The main palace was quite resplendent and the hall of mirrors was nice and large. There were so many rooms and they all had different colors of wall coverings. In some ways it was a bit too much, so much gold. The ceilings were quite interesting as well and the advice to keep looking up from Diana was well taken. She got most of the pictures inside the palace itself, but I was taken by the Museum of French History’s Galerie des Battailles with it’s paintings along both walls chronologizing the great French battles going through the ages. They were all floor-to-ceiling renditions and covered from way in the past up to pretty recently.
After seeing the palace, we went outside to the part that I was excited about - the gardens behind (in front? Which is the back?) of the palace. After finding out that they were going on, I scheduled the trip on a Saturday so that we could witness the Grandes Eaux Musicales when the fountains run and there is music set around them. The fountains themselves are pretty spectacular, and there are about 30 of them to see. They weren’t all running because of drought conditions, but the main ones ran from when we got there at about 11h30 until they all shut off at 12h00. The gardens themselves are also quite amazing even without the fountains, They have tall trees that are groomed to have really tall (20m?) walls and foliage around the areas with sculptures. Each area was fairly unique.
There are many restaurants on the garden grounds and it was about lunchtime, so we stopped at one and had some lunch to pass the time. I was convinced that with what amounted to a normal length lunch at a Brasserie there we could eventually wait out the break in the fountains, because they were starting again at 15h30. The lunch was very nice, I had some sausage with fries and Diana had the duck confit, something which the waiter said was “traditional French”. The meal was good and there were about four or five different cats who obviously lived off of table scraps.
We walked through a couple more gardens and saw the Mirror Fountain display, which runs all day long every 10 minutes and is choreographed to music. It was pretty great, and then we walked to a small boutique and considered going to see the Grand Trianon and the Petit Trianon. The walk was just a bit too much for me and definitely so for Diana though, and I didn’t want to pay for the little train 3,30 € to go there for only half an hour or so. We were le tired from all the walking. Again another French sight seeing monument that has defeated us by it’s massive size! We only got to the start of the Grand Canal. Right before we started on our journey back to the palace, the fountains started flowing again.
I charted a course through the other side of the gardens that we hadn’t seen before, and tried to keep it short-ish but still see the unique gardens. I’m glad because there were three very interesting ones in the trek back. There was the Encelade Grove with a Titan being punished in the center, and then the Grove of Appolo’s Baths which is in a very different style than all the others, with curving paths which winded through the garden instead of geometrical ones. Finally the grove of the three fountains which had no sculptures at all and was very long with multiple levels.
After all of that we walked back through everything and past some of the flower gardens on the way back to the main gate and then the station. Diana wanted to stop at the Starbucks in Versailles and see if they had Pumpkin Spice Lattes, which they didn’t have, and the barista was very interested. “They’re spicy lattes?” she asked. I think she thought they were spicy hot. Di just got a coffee and relaxed for a little while before we headed back to the train. I was getting quite tired as well on the way back and almost fell asleep a couple of times.
After getting off at the station, we stopped at a grocery store and got some snacky cheese and water for nourishment, and then noticed that the Fromager was open that we wanted to try out. We stopped and bought some cheese that we will have later - they were vacuuming some so that they would be possible to take on the plane home, but we didn’t get ours because we will have it here. Super tired from the trip, I ended up sleeping until about 23h, at which point we didn’t feel like going out for the rest of the night and stayed up reading and fighting with the unreliable internet wifi at the hotel for a while. I ended up reading The Magician, which just happens to be set in Paris. I wonder if I will spot any of the monuments.