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Versailles and Last Minute Trips

Parting ways with Mr. Greenhalgh

View Post-College Eurotrip on atbrady's travel map.

This morning, we accidentally “slept in” until 8:45, when we had planned to get up at 8 to head to Versailles. We stopped at a brasserie (which is apparently a step up from a café) for breakfast. We originally stopped there because I saw omelets on the menu but after we sat down, the waiter told us that they didn’t serve them until noon which was strange. Pretty much the only thing you could get there was croissants and coffee or tea. We ordered croissants because we had gotten off to a late start which I suppose is soething you have to do at least once in France although they didn’t fill us up at all and have no nutritional value whatsoever. Apparently breakfast isn’t a big meal over here.

Versailles is on the countryside about a half hour from Paris so we had to get on a train to get there. In my guidebook, I saw that you could take the RER trains there for 3 euros (About $5) each way which wasn’t too bad. We had seen tours offered for around 50 euros (which I would hope covers the 20 euro admission but is nonetheless a crime). We were pleased with ourselves for managing to avoid that tourist trap. However, finding the RER was a different story. On the map, it looked like the train to Versailles left from Porte de Versailles which would have simply made too much sense. When we got there, we realized that we had walked about 10 minutes in the wrong direction and had to walk another 20 to get to the right place. Needless to say, we got to Versailles much later than we had hoped. As a result, the lines were mind-numbingly long to get in, though they proved to move relatively quickly. The 20 euro admission was covered by our 35 euro museum pass which has proved to be more than worth it. Although the food here is much more expensive than in London, at least it is much cheaper to see the sights, most of which cost 15 pounds (about $22) in London and other than Versailles averaged 7 euros (about $10) in Paris (but ended up being even cheaper because of our pass).

Versailles was a grand building. In case you didn’t know, it was built by Louis XIV as a demonstration of his power. Each room by itself was the most gaudy room you could imagine and yet this monstrous building had hundreds of rooms each of which was more extravagant than the last. We were definitely glad that we made the trip, as originally we weren’t sure that we would have time for it. I wish Kristine would have been here since she loves both French history and shiny, expensive things. The one disappointment of the trip was that we weren’t able to see the gardens because they had a water fountain show and charged an 8 euro admission whereas usually you can get into the gardens free of charge. It wasn’t worth the money for a 15 minute walk around the gardens, so we headed back toward the train station and stopped for lunch. I got a Panini-type sandwhich with ham/lettuce/tomato and unfortunately they were premade and had mayo. You cannot escape bread and mayonnaise on any sandwhich around here. Hunter also gets a kick out of it when I try to order Jambon (ham) because I can’t remember how to pronounce it and it usually ends up coming out sounding Spanish.

On the way home, we looked through my guidebook (Hunter thinks he left his somewhere in between Paris and Versailles and didn’t realize until too late) to plan the rest of our afternoon. We decided to hit the Musee d’Orsay for a little dose of culture. When we got off the train, a family asked for directions and I was actually able to guide them in the right direction. Not until after did I remember Hunter telling me how his book talked about a scam that was set up with a girl asking for directions, but I guess I got lucky. We were able to ride the tour bus there since the bus pass was good for two days (another thing much cheaper here – half the price of the London tour bus and good for twice as long). There were some famous Monet, Degas, Manet and Van Gogh paintings that I recognized including Van Gogh’s self-portrait. We ended up enjoying the museum much more than we had expected to with our limited art knowledge. It was still relatively early, but we hopped back on the bus to the Arc du Triumphe to walk down the Champs Elysees to find somewhere we wanted to eat dinner. On the bus, we saw the police raid a group of vendors at the Eiffel Tower.I hadn’t payed much attention before, but most of the vendors keep their wares on a small white cloth and when the cops came, they pulled on strins at the corners to make the cloth into a sack and ran away. Many escaped thanks to this little strategy. I saw beef tartar on a poster somewhere yesterday and decided I would get that for a real French meal. In both the UK and France, restaurants all post their menus outside which is nice because you can see if there is anything you would like before going in. I’m told by my guidebook that it’s by law, a law I wouldn’t mind adopting in the US. The Tartar du Boefe tasted pretty good going down, but a few hours later my stomach wasn’t so happy with my dinner choice. It was here that we parted ways. Hunter’s plane leaves so early that the subways aren’t even running yet and a cab to the airport costs upwards of 60 euros plus a 40% surcharge for late night/early morning travel. Instead he’s headed there on the last train tonight and will be spending around 5 hours at the airport.

With the rest of my night, I planned to go back to the Arc du Triumphe because I so enjoyed the view from the top yesterday and thought it would be cool to see at night since its open until 11pm. After consulting my guide book, however, I saw a few other points of interest. Montmarte is a part of Paris on Paris’ largest hill and has the Basilica du Sacre Coure (Sacred Heart - getting its name because it claims to have a piece of Christ’s heart). My book claimed it was a fantastic view of Paris, so I decided to do that, plus on the way I would pass by the Moulin Rouge. Montmarte is an awesome neighborhood, with lots of character. Since its on a hill, its roads are very steep and they have to work with the space they have. For example, there was a cool little jazz club I passed by on a rooftop that offered a great view of the city. At the top, the Basilica was beautiful and they hold a service every hour so there was nuns singing and the organ playing. The acoustics in the church were incredible. Then I sat on the steps at the highest ground in Paris to watch dusk settle in and the City of Light turn on. Once it got dark, I caught the metro over to the Arc du Triumphe. Though it was after 11 and I couldn’t go to the top, it was still a sight to see. Hunter and I had talked about how the City of Light wasn;t so bright from the top of the Eiffel tower and while it’s true that it lacks the bright skyline of New York City, Paris’ monuments are instead lit subly from underneath, making the skyline less inmpressive but also making the monuments look truly majestic at night from up close. While I mention NYC, I have now also seen I heart Paris, Berlin, Rome and a few others in addition to the London shirts I saw a few days ago. Some of the Paris ones at least said J’Adore Paris which switched it up a little bit. By this time it was pretty late and I was exhausted so I headed back home. On my way past the Eiffel Tower, I passed through a park, Jardin du Trocadero, which offered some of the best views of the Eiffel Tower and yet I was the only one there. It was definitely a cool find.

Both the Champs Elysees and the Eiffel tower were absolutely packed today, noticeably more than in the last few days. We finally realized that the Tour de France was ending here tomorrow. I remembered checking on that for the trip and have a little regret that I could see Lance finish his last tour. Had he been in position to win I might have ate the Airline ticket and first night’s stay in Rome, but it just didn’t seem worth it to wait around for hours to watch him bike by for a split second and not even get to see him on the podium or anything.

Well, my stay in Paris is drawing to a close. First, a few random notes… There were no showers in our hotel. All we had was a bath and a handheld shower thing. It was kind of weird but Hunter and I both ended up taking a few baths for our tired legs. We estimated that we walk around 5 miles per day. Doing that every day with a pack on your back takes its toll. Also, I don’t know what we would do without our guidebooks. They give us suggested itineraries, restaurants, hours of different attractions and maps. Hunter and I affectionately call them Rick (Steves) and Arthur (Frommer), respectively after the authors and frequently thank them or blame them depending on how we feel about their suggestions. I’m a bit sad to be leaving Paris but I feel like we really saw just about everything in our whirlwind tour. The only things I might add next time are getting to the top of the Eiffel tower, and going to the Sainte Chapelle which is behind Notre Dame and claims to have the Roman lance that pierced Christ as well as parts of his cross and his crown of thorns. Apparently the stained glass windows are unreal.

I have to get up around 6:30 tomorrow to leave by 7 and get to the airport by 7:45-8ish for a 9:30 flight. I’m a little nervous about waking up, not only because Hunter isn’t here but also because his watch isn’t here. Our hotel room has no clock and my phone is way off because it doesn’t have the Verizon network to keep time. I had to check some public clocks on buildings to figure out what time to set it for (12:50) so that I would wake up at 6:30. Hope I did the math right!

Posted by atbrady 13:06 Archived in France Tagged tourist_sites

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