September 22, 2013
From Paris to the Chateau de Versailles…that took up most of our Sunday. I’m pleased to say we successfully bought the correct roundtrip train ticket and made it to the correct stop where we exited and found a ticket office to the palace. The ticket office was out of English brochures, so we received an excellent French brochure about the palace that we didn’t try to read while we waited in the extremely long entrance line. The website had warned that mid-day on the weekend was VERY busy, and that was no mistake! The line snaked half-way through the court yard. It looked like a customs line at the airport without any barriers defining the next curve. I was surprised at the orderliness. We spent an hour or more people watching…some snacked on baguettes from a nearby sandwich shop while others snapped photos. We picked the Americans out of the crowd…the biggest give away is they wear tennis shoes.
Eventually, we made it into the palace with the masses. Once a Louis XIII’s hunting lodge, the Palace was transformed and expanded by his son Louis XIV when the court and government was moved from Paris to Versailles in 1682. The next three kings lived at the magnificent estate and added to its beauty before the government was forced back to Paris in 1789.
I can’t even say how many rooms and hallways we were siphoned through to view countless pieces of art, sculptures, antiques, wall and ceiling paintings, as well as amazing architecture. I say siphoned because despite the magnitude of the château, we were squeezed in there like sardines with the rest of the tourists. We were both terribly hungry and were very excited to finally find a restaurant in the labyrinth of rooms. We enjoyed a delightful lunch before finally finding our way down to the gardens that I couldn’t wait to see.
The gardens were sets of mazes with statues and fountains. There had to be at least thirty fountains of elaborate design with columns, gargoyles, and more. We couldn’t even get to all of them before the show stopped. The fountains only run a few hours a day, and we walked the grounds for much of that time. They were simply magnificent. I wish we could have seen them all in action! We also enjoyed some crepes and ice cream by the Grand Canal while others paddled boats and swans floated across the glassy water. It was a very relaxing way to enjoy the slightly overcast, crisp day. The garden area at Versailles is a must see!
At closing time, around six, we strolled back to the station, and took the train to the Eiffel Tower station where we transferred to the metro to go south of town to a restaurant called Chez Gladines recommended to us by a friend. We were now in the heart of a French neighborhood, in a very busy restaurant, without the ability to speak this lovely language. It was entertaining. We were warned people would be sitting on the ground outside with a glass of wine while waiting for a table, and that is what we found. Our biggest challenge was getting our name on the list for the table. The bartender took the names, and he was one busy man. I think we waited about fifteen minutes to give him our name, but only one group got in front of us, so I don’t think it was an English thing. Well, maybe a little, we had to watch how it was done before we knew what to do!
After we got our name on the list, the bartender asked us what we wanted to drink, but we didn’t answer fast enough or loud enough I guess, as we never got our wine while we waited another fifteen or so minutes for our table. We were finally seated at a community table which gave us a chance to inspect diners’ meals and try to decipher the chalk board menu. With some of the French words similar to Spanish, I could narrow down some of the choices. We eventually went with salads because we had hardly eaten any vegetables since we’d been in France. Bread and cheese had been the meal of choice. Theresa’s salad was complete with gizzards, livers, sliced fried potatoes, and a fried egg while I substituted prosciutto in for the gizzards and livers. It’s a little weird to have fried eggs and potatoes in a salad, but it seems like eggs come with every meal! Anyway, it was fun to have a real French experience and thankfully we had enough Euros on us because they didn’t take credit cards! We are preparing to fly to Nice in the morning…we will be rising bright an early for a 7 a.m. flight. ETB
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