Well we are now on the Eurostar, the high speed train that will take us through the Chunnel to London. I am quite impressed with our ability to navigate the Gare North train station in Paris and our success at making all of our travel destinations without stressing out or killing one another.
Yesterday we visited the Palace of Versailles. This is the ridiculously ostentatious abode of the Sun King himself, Louis XIV. Louis built this little get away to escape the crowds of Paris and to have greater control over his nobility. It was also the last home of his great great grandson Louis XVII and his wife Marie Antoinette, who both became a head shorter after being carted away from the palace by an unhappy crowd of peasants. Off to the guillotine in Concorde Square in the middle of Paris for this hapless pair! Marie is somewhat famous for supposedly having said, "Let them eat cake!" when told that the populace of Paris were starving because of the high cost of bread. I had always wondered why she would tell them to eat a nice black forest or angel food cake if they couldn't even manage to get bread but I have learned something on this trip. Cake is the black crap on the inside of the baker's oven...finally the expression makes sense!
Back to Versailles...
Although the palace itself, with all of the gilded gold is remarkable, Chris and I both thought the the most impressive part of this excursion was the gardens surrounding the buildings. The manicured bushes, trees and flower garden stretch for miles and are littered with fountains, roman type arches, Greek statues and paths. There is even a man made canal which stretches for a full mile down the expanse of the gardens. Chris and I rented bikes and had a great ride around the place. A few things to know for anyone who is going to visit Versailles:
1. do not purchase tickets from the people at the train station...they are €2 more
2. the gardens are the best part and they are free...just walk in
3. if you want to go into the palace buy the €15 pass (the €18 pass includes the smaller Antoinette estate)
Versailles is about 10 miles from the centre of Paris but the train system is so efficient it is really easy to reach. Urban Paris has a series of train lines which are numbered and the outlying areas such as Versailles, are reached by the RER routes which are identified by letters. Total round trip cost is about €6,20!
Chris and I met two women while waiting for one metro line. They were Americans and were overjoyed to hear people speaking English. It seems they felt that, as Americans, they were not being treated very nicely by the French, and sure enough a rough looking french national walked by and sneered at them openly (I guess Chris and I don't look American). One of the women expressed the opinion that the French should really treat them better as "We (meaning the Americans I assume) saved them (meaning the french I assume)". If she was referring to WWII, then I think maybe she really is pushing the whole gratitude thing and for that matter....who did she think had been fighting the nazis for three years before the US decided that it might be in their own best interests to join the effort. In any case, I digress...I did help the women out by giving them a couple of Canadian pins so that they could disguise themselves and perhaps be treated better! They were thrilled and proudly pinned them on. We were so engrossed in making sure that our new American friends were well camouflaged, that Chris and I missed our stop and had to double back, but being metro experts at this point, this was not a problem.
Unfortunately we were running low on tickets. Chris had been checking things out however, and figured out that if you were quick, and walked right up against the preceding traveller, you could both make it through the turnstile on one ticket. Chris made it through one spot but I was still stuck on the other side without a ticket. Luckily, a sketchy looking fellow motioned for me to get behind the guy in the turnstile and he then swiped his pass while I went through with his buddy ahead of me. Chris and I are traveling the metro like native Parisians now!