Ok, April’s falling behind on the blogging, because you know its trouble when I’m doing this! Well, after looking at the weather reports, we thought that today would be the best time to go to Versailles, but unfortunately, our rooms did not come with an alarm clock… yes, that’s the one thing we didn’t bring… Anyways, after sleeping most of the morning away we decided to go see the Louvre. It was a beautifully day out as we walked across the Seine River and we had brunch at one of the many cafés on the river. We had a pizza with eggs on it… that was different, not bad, but I can’t wait to get back and have some Papa John’s! Once we got to the Louvre we noticed that there were a lot of people outside. Not surprised, we assumed that it was mostly children waiting to go in with their classes. We didn’t find out until we got inside that those weren’t all school children out there. In fact, the worker’s I guess decided to go on strike that day, maybe because it was too cold out, or something like that. (The curator that we spoke to said this sort of thing happens quite frequently.) Oh well, viva la revolution.
Although there were some exhibits that were not open because of the strike, the Louvre was Amazing. We spent nearly five hours in there and still couldn’t get it all in. We saw hundreds of sculptures, artifacts from all ages, priceless paintings, even the building itself was a work of art. It is a must see if you go to Paris. Unfortunately, our camera’s flash broke, so we couldn't get as many pictures as we would have liked. It was especially hard with the Mona Lisa. We could not get a really good picture of her, but at least we could say that we saw her. We saw all the important pieces - Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, & Winged Victory. The Louvre is so huge, plan to it all of the major pieces first and then anything else of interest.
It was Wednesday so the Louvre closes at six, so we began to limp back to the hotel. (Yes, our feet were killing us). Once we got back to the hotel we had to wait until 7:00pm or later for dinner… I know, that's what I said! Anyways, the first night we were here we ran into an American couple at an Italian place that we went to. They told us that the place right next door had some really good French food, and that we should try it. Deciding to take their advice, we went there to have dinner. I must say, I’m glad we took their advice. It was called Chez Ferdinand, and it was delicious. The waiter was fabulous and explained everything on the menu to us. A nice restaurant tucked away on the quiet Rue Christine. April started off with snails again… eww… and I had onions that were “deep-fried” in cheese. (Don’t ask me, but they were great!) For our main course April had Duck in a pepper sauce, and I had a side of beef that was cooked to perfection. We also met a really nice American couple who had been sat right next to us. They were from Tampa and we really hit it off with them, which made the dinner that much more enjoyable. We were supposed to go hang out with them at a bar later on that night, but unfortunately, after a bottle of wine for both tables, directions sometimes get a little blurry…
Well, after saying goodbye to friends, we headed off to a night cruise on the Seine River. April got to see her first sewer rat, which made the evening that much more memorable… hehehe. We hopped on a boat at 9:00pm and went up and down the river. We got a bunch of pictures of the Eiffel Tower, which by the way, did you know at night they have it “twinkle” for about ten minutes every ten minutes or so. I didn’t either, but it was really cool! We passed under the Pont Alexander III, and a few other famous bridges, then a few more dozen bridges, and so on, but it was worth it. Especially the Eiffel Tower, which was the best part. From April - I highly reccommend taking a river cruise at night when all of the monuments are lit up. It was only 11 euro and was a spectacular way to see Paris. Do it one of the first nights you are there so you can get your bearings along the Seine.
After we got off the boat, we tried finding that bar we were supposed to meet Tom and Jessica, but after a few blocks of searching, we ended up in an Irish Pub because April needed a pit stop. We had a beer, and then decided to call it a night. I think we were both exhausted. So ends day three.
Wow, well what can we say about day four… I guess I can start at the beginning. Since we didn’t see Versailles yesterday, as we got home last night and checked the weather, it only called for light rain and highs in the lower 40’s, so it looked like a good day to go. We asked the front desk to wake us up at around 7:00am so that we could get on the train and be there at a good time. (So far so good) Unfortunately, we didn’t get home until late last night, so we didn’t really get to bed till around one in the morning. (Hey, after getting a few nights with nine to ten hours of sleep, six really doesn’t do it for you!) The alarms went off like they were supposed to, but April and I really didn’t have the “get up and go” attitude that we had the last few days, but that was OK because we were going to Versailles! Looking out our window, we only saw a light rain so we didn’t think it would be too bad. The game plan was to go across the street, grab a crepe, then head down to the RER station down the street. There we were going to get the “passport” pass, which was the round trip ticket, and Versailles pass all in one. Sounds easy enough right… well that’s when things went wrong. Turns out that most of these sidewalk businesses don’t open up till later on in the morning. Nothing was open, so we caved in and went to Starbucks for some coffee. After we got the coffee, we thought it would be best just to get to the train station as fast as we could, then we could enjoy our “breakfast”. Well, by then the light rain turned to immense downpour with a side of sleet in the face! We ran to the closest train station thinking we had escaped the elements, unfortunately, when we got down to the ticket office, the lady (who knew no English what-so-ever) had no idea what we were talking about, so we had to run a few more blocks up to the other RER station. Thank God the guy there knew what we needed, got us our tickets, and instructed us on how to get to Versailles. We were finally on our way, but by now April’s hair was a mess, we were both cold and sopping wet. This in turn made April, as she put it “a bit grumpy”, not good for yours truly…
Trying to keep a positive attitude, I told her that once the clouds broke, it would be a beautiful day, and that this would be a great trip. We both found seats on the train, and began to relax during our trip. As we got closer to Versailles, the train lost most of its city passengers, and only left us tourists, so we didn’t feel like complete outsiders. It was raining on and off, so my hope of my promise of a good trip began to increase. Once we got to Versailles’s train station, we embarked to a moist and cold environment. We saw the sun trying to break free from the clouds, so there was some hope of it warming up. We followed a bunch of students out of the train station then up to a corner where you turned to head to the Chateau. April noticed a newsstand, so we stopped by to pick up a cheap umbrella, just in case it started raining again. We got a cheap 5 euro one which seemed like it could keep us dry, in case we needed it. The Chateau sat on top of a hill surrounded by cobblestone sidewalks and packed dirt walkways. There was large mass of tour groups and students waiting outside. As we bypassed them on what we thought was the right way, we didn’t understand why no one else was following us. Turns out we found the shortcut that we weren’t supposed to find. Me, April and two other couples were met by several guards and were asked to go back around, the “long way”… yep good times. Well, once we back tracked all the way, and made a few apologies to the people that were following us, we got to the back of a massive group of people waiting near the gates. Our goal was to leave Paris by 8 am because it was about a30 min train ride and the Chataeu (French for palace) opened at 9am. We of course did not leave by 8 am so it was about 9:50am when I hear a man say that the gates didn’t open till 10:00am. “Perfect” I told April. We had gotten there at the perfect time. Though it seemed like things were finally going to start going our way, things quickly made a turn for the worse.
As it got closer to 10:00am, there was more and more movement in the mass of people. A man came up from behind me, and asked a guard what time the gates would be opened. It was then that we learned that the operators would not open the gates until 11:00am - Another strike! So now we had an extra hour to kill. April noticed a group of people heading towards the back of the Chateau. Following that group we found the gardens of Versailles. Since it wasn’t spring time yet, most of the trees were still barren, and the fountains were not turned on yet, but the view was amazing. We walked along the path and could get a mental picture of how beautiful the grounds would be in spring and mid-summer. We walked along the ponds till we came upon a rest area that had a restaurant in there. April and I stopped to get something to eat, hoping the food would put us in better moods, and to give us a chance to warm up a bit.
After we were re-fueled, we decided to head towards the Grand and the Pettit Trianon. The larger one was nice, more like a much smaller version of Versailles with a nice garden, but April was more interested in the Pettit one. This is where Maria Antoinette set up a small village so that she could feel like a commoner, to escape from the court etiquette to a simpler lifestyle. I had noticed that the clouds where getting darker, but it had gotten warmer out, so I was hoping that whatever was brewing would pass over us, and hopefully the sun would break out from the clouds, giving us a good day for all of this sight seeing. Well, here’s to hoping. As we were walking through the gardens heading towards the hamlet or this small village of Marie Antoinette's, it began to lightly rain. We quickly got out our recently purchased umbrella, giving ourselves “props” for our intelligent buy. As we began to make our way to the village, the rain increased in intensity. It quickly went from a light rain, to an all out squall, with large gusts of winds, and sleet, (yes I said sleet!) We tried to hide behind that stupid umbrella, but it was no match for the storm. We used it more like a shield than anything else, hoping to get some relief from the wind, but it was to no avail. After one side had collapsed, we began to increase our speed to the village in hopes of finding some type of shelter to protect us from the storm. As we got closer, we couldn't see anything that would provide adequate shelter (all the buildings were locked up), so I grabbed April, and whatever was left of our cheap umbrella, got behind a tree, and spread out the fabric of the umbrella, just to protect us against the sleet. After a few minutes of huddling behind the tree, the wind began to calm down, so we headed towards one of the buildings. We saw a spot that seemed to still have dry ground, so we huddled there for a bit to dry out, and warm up. My hands were bright red from trying to hold the umbrella in the storm, and April’s gloves and had been soaked through, so both of our hands were frozen cold. Our jeans and coats had also taken a beating, we were cold, wet, and our optimistic mood was quickly fading. Once the storm passed we began to see other people begin to emerge. Our gloomy outlook began to fade, so we picked up our cold wet rears, and got them in gear. We saw the rest of the gardens and hamlet and got plenty of pictures. After that we headed back to Versailles.
Heading back we encountered another batch of storms. This time we were lucky in that the wind was to our backs. By this time, the umbrella was no longer useful in it designed form, so being that my coat was both waterproof, and I had a hood, I suited up, and April used the umbrella as more of hat. It kept her dry, but could not hold its form anymore. It was still a bit chilly out, so once we got back, the plan was to make it inside as fast as possible just to get some warmth. There was little relief once we got inside, so our best bet was to keep moving to keep warm. Versailles was beautiful inside! The artwork on the walls was exquisite, and the design of all of the stone and marble was breathtaking. As we listened to the audio-tour we learned about each room, and the significance each room played. Out of all of the rooms the Hall of Mirrors was simply the best room in there. A bit small than what most pictures portray, but I must admit the room was breath taking. On another note, the Hall of Mirrors were not the only thing to take something away. Today was the first time that I heard a public announcement that there were “pick-pocketers” in the building. Talk about feeling like a lamb in the middle of a herd of foxes (no I don’t know if a group of Foxes is called a herd, let’s just roll with it). Anyways, once we heard that announcement, everyone kind of puckered up, I’ve got to admit, and it was a weird feeling in there after that.
After that we finished the tour, and then called it good for one day. We saw many different and beautiful things, but it was time to head back. April and I were both soaking wet, tired, and still a bit on edge about the pick-pocketers. As we made it closer to the train station, we saw a familiar sight, and stopped at a McDonalds for some lunch, hoping that it would help a bit. Not like home, but it did help so we got back on the train and headed back towards the hotel.
Once we got home, we got cleaned up, and then took a nap for a few hours. I was able to peal April out of bed because she promised me that we’d do fondue tonight. We found a quant like restaurant in the midst of a busy alleyway and had dinner there. We learned fondue is not just melted cheese but rather the way of cooking, in which a pot is placed over an open flame. We had cheese fondue and also a meat fondue in which raw meat was brought to the table along with a pot of oil. The meat is then cooked in the oil there at the table. We met a friendly Holland couple who were celebrating their five year anniversary there. We got to talking to them, and really enjoyed their company. The night was going well, however there was a guy from New York, (originally is what I think he said) who really pissed me off! Long story short, as we were all making our introductions, he stated that he would have never guessed we were from Kansas with all of the F-bombs I was dropping. Looking at April and the Holland couple in surprise, I told him that I was unaware that I had been cursing, and he assured me that I wouldn’t have remembered due to the amount of wine I had been drinking. I checked with April and the couple, as I thought, I hadn’t been cursing, but it still kind of pissed me off. Oh well, let him think what he wants, us four had a good time. We learned how to eat fondue, which was fun it itself.
After dinner, and a bit more venting, we headed down the street for desert. We found an Italian gelato store and got us some! April got a chocolate one and I got the Creama. Both delicious! Well, after that, we weenied out again, and went home. It’s about 2am here, April’s passed out, and I think I’m right behind her. Day four was an adventure, but we’ll put it down as another great day in Paris. Wish us luck for day five!