Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Day Six: Versailles and the Louvre and sunshine, mon dieu!

Wednesday, May 22nd

All week we had been watching the forecasts praying for a reprieve from the rain. We knew Wednesday was our Versailles day and in order to truly enjoy the grounds, we were really hoping for some sun. We awoke to.....SUN!!! Rise and shine! Amen and hallelujah!

You can take the RER or the SNCF to Versailles. We opted for the SNCF because it was a direct shot from St. Lazare and we wouldn't have to Metro to pick up the RER and change trains. Very cost effective at $21 USD for two round trip tickets. You should buy your return tickets (aller retour) when you purchase the outgoing ones. That way you already have them and can just board when you're ready to leave.

The train ride was about 25 minutes and after disembarking, we walked up the main street of the town of Versailles to get to the castle. You can't miss it because there are plenty of signs that say 'CHATEAU' to point your way and it was only about 2 turns.

Gilded Gate

Much of France screams opulence and is richly decorated with many monuments, museums and places of worship. If we thought some of Paris was over the top, Versailles quickly corrected us. 

Versailles is included on the Museum Pass (didn't I tell you it was a great deal?) so we got to skip the LONG ticket lines. We didn't get to skip the security line but that's okay. If you are carrying a larger backpack, they'll make you check it. Ours wasn't but, just so you know. Friends of ours visited in the summer previously and waited in extremely long lines for tickets and security so, leave yourself time. Also, there is no cover from the sun so keep that in mind if you're spending an hour or more waiting to get in.

I'm squinting because I forgot what to do in the sun.

The palace gates gleam in the sun, once entering the halls, it is room upon room of amazement. After seeing several living quarters, we made it to the Hall of Mirrors. 

Quite literally it was a hallway used to navigate between rooms, specifically the ministers rooms and the king's chamber. The bedrooms were gorgeous and still in marvelous shape. 

After touring, we were hungry! There are several eateries around the grounds but in the chateau, there is a sit-down Angelina's and a take away counter. We sat down, looked at the menu, saw nothing to our liking, and left. One thing to note about France, the tables at restaurants are often on top of each other. A little too cozy for us.

Instead, we got two delicious sandwiches and a little wine. John indulged in their famous hot chocolate. Basically imagine taking the most decadent piece of chocolate you can find, melting and adding heavy cream, and this was 10 oz of glory. After lunch, we began to walk the grounds.

Back of the Palace

 If Paris takes the cake for ornate buildings, Versailles takes the cake for immaculate grounds and outdoor features. I have never seen more striking landscaping in my life. 

On certain days, you can pay extra to watch the fountains dance to music. You are not free to walk the grounds on those days unless you pay extra (I think it's 5 euro). So, if you aren't interested in that but want to see the grounds (and you do want to see the grounds) check the schedule. 

After passing by lots of perfectly groomed hedges and fountains, we began making our way to Mario Antoinette's Petit and Grand Trianon. A word of warning, it took 45 minutes to walk from the chateau to the Trianon and hamlet. NOT AN EXAGGERATION! You do have a couple options if you don't want to hoof it. You can rent a bike in 30 minute increments. I wanted to do this but by the time we found the rental place, we didn't feel like we needed them. It's located in the middle of the grounds, sort of. More expensive but less work is renting a golf cart. Or, you can take Le Petit Train, which is an open-air tram that people cram onto. This is the cheapest option other than your feet. Les pieds sont gratuits!

Marie Antoinette's home

I liked the yellow

After this, we went back to the Queen's hamlet. I particularly enjoyed the gardens in this area. It reminded me of the village from Beauty and the Beast. John made me stop singing the opening song. There goes the baker with his tray like always..... I am tres embarrassing.


Just to prove John was there too!

After touring the grounds some more, and not being able to talk John into renting a row boat we had a little ice cream and rested our feet. Having seen enough there for one day, we left Versailles and returned to Paris.  

That symbol is to advertise their Pistoletto exhibit.

After a brief respite at the hotel we made our way to the Louvre. Wednesday is the late night at the Louvre so if you think you don't have time to squeeze it in, tonight it's open until 9:00 pm. Skip the lines at the pyramid entrance and do find the Carousel entrance (not an actual carousel, mind) on rue de Rivoli. We had the Museum Pass of course but even if you didn't, the lines here are always much shorter. 

Never have I ever been to a museum more massive than the Louvre. It is absolutely true when they say you could spend weeks in there and still not see everything. The museum is divided into three wings, Denon, Sully and Richelieu and of course, the most popular acquisitions are spread throughout. We had time only for the highlights. My favorite was the Winged Victory of Samothrace.

Because we had to, here is the Mona Lisa. It's small, under glass, and surrounded by people taking pictures. Pretty underwhelming in person but, what can you do?

John's favorite was the Coronation of Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David (who is actually one of my favorite painters as well). It was huge.

Also quite popular, Venus de Milo......

We wandered some more and toured through the Napoleonic apartments. Did you know Napoleon III lived at the Louvre? Me neither!

Under the Pyramid

We eventually escaped the Louvre (after getting lost several times) and went to a market across the street where I bought some handmade soap. I LOVE hitting up street markets on vacation. You can usually find the best, most unique souvenirs at them. Unfortunately, they were closing up and it was really starting to pour while we shopped so, not much time there, sadly. In fact, I did a really lousy job of shopping on this trip. Super disappointed in myself. I intended to buy things at the airport since most of the popular stores have locations there (including the famed macarons of Laduree) but we ran out of time (ominous foreshadowing). Heading back in the direction of the hotel, we ate dinner at a little Italian dive but the food was pretty good.

Wine? Bien sur!

We went home (read: back to the hotel) and enjoyed some more wine, French TV, and off to dreamland. Bonne nuit, Paris! 

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