Friday, July 22, 2005

Louis was never content to 'keep up' with the Jones. He insisted on royally showing them up, then having them guillotined.

I spent the afternoon at Versailles, that is to say, the Chateau Versailles. I was only in town to briefly walking to and from the train station. It seems like a beautiful, quiet little place that I would've liked to spent more time in, but I got started late and spent the day walking...and walking...and walking around the Chateau.

D'abord: If you plan on making this day-trip from Paris, get the Versailles Passport which is avaiable at any SNCF Ile-de-France boutique (or really at any ticket counter on the RER C line). It cost me 21 euros and included round-trip train passage, priority entry into all of the Chateau self-guided tours with free audio guides. It also included priority entry to the Queen's Hamlet, The Grand Trianon Palace, The Petit Trianon Palace, the fountain show (which, sadly, was not running today), and the gardens. The pass more than paid for itself, I can't imagine seeing this sight any other way-- it was well worth the time it took to seek a SNCF boutique that sold them (I had to trek all over the city b/c most of the stations on Line C are closed for construction from now until August!).

Ensuite: I went through the Chateau first, and it was nice. A giant, guilded castle where lots of famous people lived and lots of famous stuff happened. Cool. I like history. There weren't so many people that I couldn't enjoy the different tours. The one place I wanted to see-- the Opera House-- was closed for some reason and the Hall of Mirrors (open but under restoration) was not as magnificent as I was lead to believe. I was much more impressed with Fountainebleu, which is another of France's royal palaces just outside of Paris.

Puis, I traipsed through the garden just to the head of the grand canal. Now, at first glance, one really only sees the edge of the stone balcony that leads out into the open grounds (not at all impressive). But at my left, I saw a group of people standing/gawking at something just on the other side of the balcony rail. I went to join them and saw a beautiful topiary garden, behind which was a man-made lake. Very ornate, very Louis XIV.

But, surely, I thought to myself, this isn't it. I had done my research and I knew all about the Grand Canal which had a fleet of over 30 boats, there were famous fountains, a botanical garden-- but where were they?
A few steps later, I got a look at what the hype was about. From where I stood to the horizon, well kept gardens stretched into a long river (canal really doesn't do it justice), forests, labyrinth-like hedges, and it just went on and on and on. A truly awesome sight (it was bigger than the mall in Washington D.C., these gardens are bigger than my entire university campus!) I cannot begin to describe how large they really are. This-- for the first time since I've been here, was impressive, really impressive.

I rented a bike for an hour (5 euro) and took the jaunt around the grand canal. It was so peaceful but energizing and the same time. I haven't been on a bike in a while (and it's never any fun going slow) so I will be in pain tomorrow.

I walked up to the Grand and Petit Trianon Palaces. Not thrilling, just more of the same (you can skip the Petit all together). The Queens Hamlet is even less exciting, but the grounds are very nice; rustic gardens if you will.

And I just loved spending the afternoon walking around, surrounded by green instead of dark, dank, smelly metro or side-stepping dog shit on a too-narrow sidewalk.

As I walked back to catch a train, I noticed it was getting late and that I would never make it back in time to eat dinner at home (I prefer to frequent the very cheap caféteria for dinnertime meals just next to my house), so I stopped at the MacDonald's across the street from the gare. Now, this is not something I am proud of (nor something I particularly enjoyed), and I really regreted it later. I rarely eat fast food at home, and I haven't since I've been here. Ick!

Alas, Versaille took up the last of my cash and I am afraid it is going to be an uneventful week of animations gratuit instead of going on tours, or eating nice meals (Oh, well. My ass can afford to miss a few).


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