Chapter Five: Playing The Palace

P1070249Chapter Five: Playing The Palace

DAY FIVE – RER ERR, Man vs. Machine, Strangers On A Train, Cattle Call, Are You Following Us, Mirror Image, Unique Selfies, Best Orange Juice Since Dubrovnik, Gorgeous Jardins, Grand & Petite, Are You Still Following Us, Change Is Bad, The French David Spade, It Won’t Be Lung Now, “Don’t Go American On Me” and It’s Not Really Open Friday Night

Tracy and I were up early, because we had a train to catch.  Unfortunately it was not early enough to eventually beat the masses, but more on that later.

P1060971We walked over to the Saint-Michel RER station to purchase our tickets for the journey out to the Château de Versailles, where Tracy wanted to return (we had visited once in 1998), while I was indifferent at best about returning.

P1070203At Saint-Michel, I encountered a battle with a very obstinate inanimate object. I attempted to buy our tickets by credit card, but the machine would have nothing to do with that. Of course, I took this in stride (if stride means wanting to kick the machine).   It was really ticking me off, so I stepped back from this monster that I now disliked more than the woman at the Mélia desk and gave it a harsh piece of my mind.

Other people also seemed to have a problem with this ticket-hoarding gremlin, but being humans, we all found out a way to outsmart it thanks to a very nice young couple who said they were from Canada. They told us all that this machine only seemed to like one thing…cash!

Thanks to a multitude of purchases over the first few days, we had enough coinage to feed the machine what it so desperately wanted, and before it could spit them back at us, out came two tickets to paradise…if paradise means spending a morning with thousands of people crammed into some beautiful, but hot, rooms.

We thanked our newfound (although not Newfoundland) friends, who we ran into a few minutes later on the platform. We all got on the train and away we went…for just a few minutes. Then there was an announcement in French, and we all got off that train and boarded another one headed to Versailles.

When we sat down on train #2, we looked across the row and there were the Canadians. I believe they were now afraid we might want them to trade murders ala Hitchcock. “Criss-cross.”

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After the train unloaded at Versailles, a mass of humanity was seen crossing the street on the way to the palace. It looked like the troops storming Normandy, although I think there were more people here.

P1070206We arrived at the golden gate of the palace a little before ten, but it was too late to beat any crowds.

P1070207It did not take too long to go through security, and our audio-tour began…sort of.

P1070261The audio guide did not work on the floor where we entered. It was supposed to auto-magically tell us about the chateau’s history, but we had to wait until we reached the next floor to get information by keying in the correct corresponding numbers.

We deftly maneuvered though the crowded palace, attempting to sidestep wayward tourists staring at the gorgeous ceilings or objets d’art not knowing or caring (or looking) which direction they were headed.

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Some of the highlights that I can remember…hopefully the photos will correspond to what I’m talking about, and I doubt they are in the exact order of visiting …include the Colonnade.

P1070210I then pushed over a couple of unsuspecting tourists so I could grab a quick shot of the Royal Chapel. Their injuries were only slight I was told.

P1070209One room had a statue of Louis XIV on a horse…

P1060516…while another featured a stucco relief called the Triumph Of Louis XIV. It’s good to be Louis XIV.

P1070228There was a red room, which I believe was the Apollo Room, but I wouldn’t bet my life on that.

P1070227We walked into a room called the Abundance Salon, which I assume was named that because there is an abundance of green.  It’s also a place where refreshments were served…not to us, but in the olden days.

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Of course there was the opulent and crowded, Hall Of Mirrors…

P1060521…which must have been quite a place to reflect…

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…and its beautiful ceiling…

P1070231…and golden statues.

P1070232In the Hall Of Mirrors, I bumped into someone, and sure enough it was the couple from Canada. “Oh, you again,” she said and smiled (I think).

Finally we made our way to the Queen’s bedchambers.

P1070241Nice digs, to be sure.

P1060528Along the way, we saw some great paintings…

P1070252….including a replica of one of my favorites, The Crowning Of The Emperor by Jacques-Louis David, which was located in the Salle du Sacre.

P1070247By 11:30, we had zipped through the apartments, so we gazed around the Royal Courtyard first and all the palace buildings.

P1070264I think they had more gold than Sutter’s Mill.

P1070208We grabbed a quick bite to eat at the palace café.  Then it was time to explore the grounds.

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I thought we had been transported to St. Louis when the first thing I noticed was an arch, but this was much smaller and, I believe, a temporary addition to the landscape.

P1070269Tracy and I were witness to our first “Selfies On A Stick” here as some tourists were having a blast taking pictures of themselves in the garden.

P1070274We looked out over the Orangerie, which was the work of architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart.

P1070273There are orange trees from Italy, Spain and Portugal along with other fruit trees, some more than two centuries old.

P1070272They and most of the gardens at Versailles were beautiful and still colorful.

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Speaking of citrus, as we ambled toward the Apollo Basin.

P1070275…on our way to Trianon time (both Grand and Petite), we spied a lonely figure off to the side with a bunch of oranges. He was the “Orange Juice Guy,” and it was the best expenditure of euros (3) on the trip (I had a similar “life-saving” juice experience walking the walls in Dubrovnik).

P1070278He told us the oranges do not come from the trees in Versailles, however. “They are too bitter,” he said as he poured the OJ with exactly one ice cube in the cup.

P1070279Rejuvenated after a blast of Vitamin C juice, we walked by the Apollo Basin and passed a cute outdoor restaurant that, upon further review, would have been a much nicer to dine than the drab cafe indoors where we ate.  Live and learn!

P1070281Just past the boat rental, we turned to the right and made the walk along a grassy pathway to the Grand Trianon.  Mansart constructed the Grand Trianon in the late 1600s.

P1070282He described the Grand Trianon as, “a little pink marble and porphyry palace with delightful gardens.” Not being a geologist, I had no idea what “porphyry” meant, but I know that Tracy loves gardens.

P1060553                               Fortunately for her, the gardens were still blooming.

P1070293Inside, flowers were also a story.  The brochure said that when the King slept in the Grand Trianon, the flowers were changed every night. I assume the sheets were, too.

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There were some interesting rooms in the Grand Trianon, and the exterior was also interesting.

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Our next stop was the Petit Trianon, which had been designed for Louis VV’s mistress. However his first mistress died before its completion, so mistress #2 was the beneficiary.

P1070296When Louis XVI became king, he gave the little château and its surroundings to Marie Antoinette, who eventually thought of this as her “sacred place.”

P1070297By now, Tracy and I had reached “Château overload,” so we passed on visiting the nearby hamlet and grabbed another fresh-squeezed orange juice at a nearby stand.

P1070300We walked for quite a bit until we reached a spot on the grounds where we could catch a bus (€2) back to the train station.

P1070299It was  beginning to look a little like autumn, even if the temperatures were yelling, “Summer.”

P1070301The bus made a few stops along the way, so we got a mini-tour of the town of Versailles.

As we were about to board, our Canadian friends were suddenly at our side. “Hmm, maybe they’re stalking us,” I thought.

Back at the apartment and parched from a long day, Tracy walked across the street to the grocery store where Dennis was hanging out in the afternoon. Tracy bought a six-pack of water, and then she ran into the checker who was very busy…conversing with friends.

Tracy only had a €10 bill (we’d used all our change for the train to Versailles). Tracy said that when she handed her the bill for about 3 euros worth of water, the checker was none too pleased.

“Don’t you have anything smaller,” she asked in a very unpleasant tone?  Of course, the answer was no.

After a few more looks of disgust from the checker, Tracy received her change, and somehow the checker survived her extra work load.

For once, we actually rested the remainder of the afternoon. It was here that Tracy admitted that I might have been right (there’s a first for everything), and we could have skipped Versailles.  Maybe so, but even though we had to endure hordes of tourists (just like us), it is still a pretty remarkable palace.

After doing a load of wash at the apartment, we headed out to dinner. It was a warm evening, so I thought that dining al fresco at a local café might be a nice way to go, and it was just our luck that there was one table available at the nearby Les Philosophes.

Our luck did not turn out to be entirely good. It started off well enough, because we purchased a bottle of delightful Spanish vin rouge, and that’s never a bad thing. It had been only a few moments (I don’t even think we’d had a sip of wine yet) since our last visit when our waiter returned to see if we were ready to order. I told him we hadn’t even looked at the menu yet.

david-spade-1About five minutes later, he returned and asked again. I told him we were not yet ready to order.  It was then that the French David Spade reared his sarcastic head. In a condescending voice, he said, “Do you need a translator to come over and explain the menu?”

“No thanks,” I replied. “I can figure out what beef bourguignon is in many languages. We’d like to enjoy our wine for a little bit first.  Merci.”  So much for those relaxed, long meals in Paris.  No one around us was being rushed, and I wasn’t about to be either.

As we perused the menu, that old familiar smell came drifting our way. To my left was a French couple puffing away like there was no tomorrow (and with the amount they smoked during dinner, that could be a distinct possibility).

cimg7779On my right were three Brits, who I surmised were members of Parliament, because they had a couple of packs of them on their table. I looked at Tracy and said, “It won’t be lung now,” not knowing that I would be foreshadowing our second week in Paris.

People might say that California is a wacky state, but I have to admit I like dining in a smoke-free environment. It’s always a little culture shock when you visit another state or country where smoking is more prevalent.

We finally ordered from our delightful waiter,  and dinner was quite good. We both ordered the beef bourguignon (deconstructed), although we could actually decipher the entire menu without assistance.

Our desserts were even better.  Tracy had an Affogato, while I thoroughly enjoyed my Ile Flottante.

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As I devoured my dessert, according to Tracy the Brits were involved in a rather heavy conversation. I guess one person in the group said something about combating terrorists, and the woman (who had more drinks than cigarettes while we sat there), blurted out something like, “Now don’t go American on me!”

Tracy said the other two people at her table kind of had a look of semi-shock since they knew we were Americans, but we were way too busy sucking up the last of our desserts to get into any conversation involving world politics.

826060Once David Spade got out of our hair, dinner at Les Philosophes (photo above from cityvox.fr) turned out to be a decent choice that didn’t break the bank.

I had read that Notre Dame was open late on Friday night, so we walked down there, but it was closed. On the bridge, we were treated to an impromptu concert by a very talented singer/dancer, who had assembled quite a crowd watching his performance. We listened for about ten or 15 minutes and headed back to the apartment, walking by our colorfully lit, nearby department store.

P1070307As we reached the room, that wailing sound we’d heard previously resonated throughout the complex. Tracy and I looked at each other and we simultaneously nodded our heads and said, “Dennis.”  It was our friend from the stairwell and store who was making those crazy noises.

At one point during our stay, Thierry came by to put down extra traps in hopes of catching the elusive and wily Mickey, and he explained that the woman’s family was aware of the situation but still allowed her to live by herself. We understood, and because of the heat, the air conditioning in our room masked her sounds for the most part during our stay, so it was a non-issue for us.

Obviously, she was suffering from some sort of mental illness, and there was nobody, I guess, who could help.  We felt sorry for her and also for those who were trying to get a good night’s sleep without air conditioning.

Speaking of sleep, we would need it, because tomorrow was the beginning of that once-a-year opportunity, the Journées du Patrimoine (Heritage Days), and there were a couple of places I definitely wanted to see on this special weekend that we normally would not be able to visit.

I told Tracy that we just had two more rather hectic days, and then next week we could relax and casually meander the streets and arrondissements of Paris while enjoying some more fantastic meals. Well, I was right on the first count anyway.

Next: DAY SIX: You Can Fight City Hall (Crowds), A Royal Visit, Smoke Free Dining, Monet Monet, The Path Of Kahn, Cheese Please, Not You Again, Muscat Love and The Best Meal We Had In Paris

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