Versailles on our Anniversary

Trip Start Aug 04, 2009
Trip End Aug 17, 2009

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Where I stayed

Flag of France  , Île-de-France,
Friday, August 14, 2009

The next day, Friday, August 14th, was our 5th wedding anniversary, and the plan all along was to go and see the Chateau de Versailles. The morning was very beautiful, and we started our day off with quiche for breakfast from around the corner (and a couple of mini pain au chocolate each!).  From the hotel we walked to Haussman and had a coffee at the Starbucks (the fanciest Starbucks I have ever been in!), on the way to get the RER Line C in front of the Museum D'Orsay.  A stroll through the Tuileries Garden before crossing the Passerelle Solferino footbridge made the morning feel complete already.  It was a nice walk because we got some really nice pictures of a morning on the Seine.  This was all still quite early in the day and there were hardly any people around.

When we got to our chosen RER stop, we discovered that station was closed due to renovations, so we headed up to the next stop on Line C.  We had read that there was a combo ticket for a return train ride out and entry to Versailles, but it was no longer available.  At the station, we thought ahead to lunch and thought it would be easier to pick up a sandwich and take it with us.  This ended up saving us some time and hassle after finishing at Versailles.  An accordion player added to the ambiance of the train ride out of Paris, which took about half an hour…and each stop the train got increasingly fuller and we knew exactly where everyone was headed!

Another tip we had read about making entry easier was to pick up the ticket at the tourist office (TI) across from the RER station in Versailles.  Some people obviously heard about this too, because there was quite a line there, but nowhere near the lineup at Versailles for the entry ticket…at the Palace, once you stood in an hour long line for your ticket, you stood in another equally long line to get into the Palace.  The TI was on a shaded side of the street, so not only did it save time, but sun exposure!

Straight down the road we went to the Palace, after getting through all of the street vendors lining the entrance, something we hadn't been exposed to yet.  The Palace 'wowed’ me from the start - I remeber saying once to a friend in history class in high school that I would love to go there, and here I was (only 16 years later!).  How could you not enjoy standing in the line, when you had the Palace all around you to look at?  The crowds did make enjoying the inside of the Chateau difficult, and one thing that struck me was that every room, every hallway was over the top, with gilded this or that, ceiling frescos, or ornate architectural features.  It was unlike anything I had ever seen before.  We felt that it was no wonder the masses rebelled against the monarchy in 1789.  One area I was most interested in seeing was the Hall of Mirrors, but even that large space was maxed to capacity and we didn’t stay long. 

The gardens of Versailles I found much more enjoyable, as the crowds were thinned out and the breeze beat the heat of the sun.  The view of the Chateau from the park, the Orangerie, the Canal, the pink marble colonnades of the Grand Trianon…maybe someday we will be back in the off-season!  The heat eventually got to us that day, so we took the electric tram back to the main entrance, and found a park bench in the shade, near the TI.  We had our lunch, while watching an Egyptian Mummy mime (we had seen one like it the night before) and then a quick washroom and cold drink break at the McDonalds beside the station.  The rest time on the train ride back to Paris gave us enough energy to come up with a plan for the afternoon of our anniversary – first up was the Eiffel Tower, a must-see for us.  We found the energy to stand in line, and there were large misting fans that kept us cool!  We opted to climb the steps rather than take the elevator, and I beleive the return elevator trip is free, because we definately took the elevator back down.  I do not think the Eiffel Tower is an over-rated tourist attraction; we enjoyed getting up to the second platform and seeing the amazing city views!  We watched a pigeon landed on a guy’s lap in the canteen and swipe his snack while his girlfriend screamed in terror – at least we found humour in it!

By this point in our vacation, we were hot, tired and, unfortunately, de-sensitized to architectural and historical sights.  There were lots of things I wanted to see and do in Paris, but I think the desire to keep things simple and relaxed outweighed wanting to make a tick on the checklist, so we did a Hop on, Hop off (HOHO) green bus (the company was called L’OpenTour).  Using the buses enabled us to cover a lot of territory and see things that we may have ended up missing.  They had four different circuits that went through Montmartre, Bastille, Montparnasse and the major tourist area around the Seine.  The pass was good for 24hours and we used it to get around Paris that afternoon and the next day.  That early evening we managed to drive past Napoleon’s Tomb, cross the Pont Alexandre III, the Opera House, La Madelaine, the Louvre, Notre-Dame, Le Petit-Pont…all while resting our feet and enjoying the breeze ontop of the bus.  We knew being on the ground couldn’t be replaced, but that was the kind of evening we needed!

We happened upon Il Teatro for our evening meal, near Haussman.  We enjoyed the food, it was quiet, the cold beer really hit the spot...a bit odd to have pasta in Paris, but it did the trick.  We ended up having a very long walk back to the room, why it did not occur to us to take the subway, I have no idea, and we didn’t get the hang of it until our last day.  But we got back to the room to see the lights twinkle again!
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