Day 9: Versailles

Today we stumbled upon a street market near our hotel in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood. What was just a nondescript street yesterday, transformed into a bustling street market early this morning.

There were stalls selling everything from gourmet cheeses, meat, seafood, fruits & veg to jewelry, art, clothing and hand crafted wares.

We bought some fresh berries for our journey. Kai scored a lovely hand-tooled leather journal, while Kiki picked up a proper nautical striped top à la Pablo Picasso in his Parisian era. Oh la la!

Next up was an 17 km/11 mile Metro ride to the nearby town of Versailles. We hopped on at a nearby station and rode to the end of the line.

Our journey was flavored with a nice dose of public transport color; including deciphering the chit chat of nearby passengers from the Netherlands who were clearly talking about us AND an impromptu accordion concert from a traveling train performer. Upon arriving at the station, we followed our portion of the pack of 10 million annual visitors to the principal residence of the kings of France prior to the French Revolution.

The Palace at Versailles, was home to Louis XIV, followed by his successors: Louis XV, Louis XVI and the latter’s famous bride Marie Antoinette.
They all lived an exceptionally extravagant lifestyle, that eventually led to Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette’s imprisonment and eventual demise during the French Revolution.

What we didn’t entirely anticipate was the length of the line. Despite our “Paris Pass” cards, there was still a line that snaked back and forth a half a dozen times in the giant “royal” courtyard. We made friends with the family in front of us and enjoyed some epic people watching as we waited in the blazing sun for TWO HOURS for entry to the palace.

Once inside, we wove our way through the public rooms of the palace. Although the palace boasts about its 700 rooms, only maybe a dozen of them are available for public viewing. The most impressive to me was a long corridor used for entertaining known as the “Hall of Mirrors.” Mirrors were an extreme extravagance at the time and this hall was lined with 357 of them reflecting the 17 giant floor to ceiling arched windows that looked out onto 2,000 acres of gardens. In addition to the hand-painted walls and ceiling, there were 43 crystal chandeliers dotting the length of the 73 meter/240 foot long room. Pretty impressive.
I can appreciate the beauty, but it all seems very foolish, self-centered and Trump-ish to me. I suppose I would have been one of the uprising peasants and not the bourgeois, anyway. We didn’t take the time (or pay the extra €) to tour the gardens. Although I am sure they would have been lovely.  It was simply too hot to spend much time in the sun.

We had a nice lunch in Versailles and then metroed back into the city.

Upon returning back to Paris, Jeff hung out at the laverie, washing enough clothes to get us through our trip. I, on the other hand, took a wildly ambitious walk around a previously unexplored area of the city whereupon I found myself trapped in a shopping mall. (Srsly 😐) The only egress I could ascertain was via the Metro, upon which I climbed on the wrong train, rode one stop and was too stunned and frustrated to reattempt getting to the correct destination.

Instead, I found myself temporarily trapped in the Metro station (I couldn’t find the exit here either) and decided to walk the 2.5 km/1.5 miles back to the hotel. Did I mention it was 87 degrees and I was wearing flip flops? Luckily I had a stack of band-aids in my purse. I used six of them.

Once I made it safely back to my family, we found a bistro for dinner, watched a little World Cup fútbol (the excitement around this activity is palatable in Europe) and called it a night.

Even statues make bad footwear choices

I walked 20,348 steps/ 8.84 miles today (at least 3 miles of them in flip flops 😭).
France 🇫🇷 you’re killing me.


Day 7: Travel to Paris

We got a bright and early start today. We had train tickets to travel from Brussels to Paris, but we had to get to Brussels first. That meant walking through Bruges 1.7 km (on cobblestone streets) to the train station. We left with plenty of time and ventured across town. This was not my favorite part of our trip and the kids and Jeff can attest to the fact that there was much swearing involved. Little did I know that it would get worse before it got better.The good news is that we made it with plenty of time to catch a train to get us to Brussels. The bad news (and what we did not know) was that one train line was down and our train would arrive 19 minutes late. We had a 20 minute transfer time and arrived just in time to see our Paris bound train pulling out of the station. Fortunately, the train line rebooked our tickets for the next train and upgraded os to a cushy first class cabin. We made it to Paris just after 1pm. Caught a taxi to the hotel and rested up for a bit. I had purchased some museum passes that required that I pick them up in person, so after a while we set out on foot to find the travel office. Google Maps said it was a 15 minute walk. Jeff, Kai and Kiki were not convinced that I had and idea where we were going me and found a bench to sit and wait about 3/4 of the way there. I found the office without a hitch, picked up the passes and reunited with my exhausted family. Along the way we were about to see many sights, including the Louvre courtyard and famous pyramid, Notre Dame Cathedral, Pont Neuf, Pont des Arts, Fontaine Saint-Michel and many Bouquinistes, riverside booksellers that also sell a variety of trinkets and souvenirs. We were all exhausted from a long day, so we returned to the hotel. Jeff wanted to get out and see Paris at night, so he took a stroll through the Saint-Germain area near our hotel. He was able to capture some breathtaking pictures of Notre Dame Cathedral and witness the excitement of a warm summer Paris night along the river Seine. He even brought us delightfully delicious pizza, which we devoured before drifting off to sleep.

Bonsoir!(and Goodness Nacho!)