Chapter Four: Tragic Collection, Magic Confection & Restaurant PerfectionFebruary 10, 2015
Chapter Six: Journées du PatrimoineFebruary 22, 2015
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.
We 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.
At 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.”
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.
The 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.
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.
We 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.
Of course there was the opulent and crowded, Hall Of Mirrors…
…and its beautiful ceiling…
Finally we made our way to the Queen’s bedchambers.
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.
Speaking of citrus, as we ambled toward the Apollo Basin.
…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).
Rejuvenated 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!
There were some interesting rooms in the Grand Trianon, and the exterior was also interesting.
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.
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.
About 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).
On 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.
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.
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.
As 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