Thursday, May 26, 2016

Versailles (abridged) and wandering around Paris

Today I met up with a friend from Adelaide (who now lives in Germany) and her partner who came over to Paris so we could catch up. The plan was to go out to the Palace of Versailles, but we had to meet up first; not as easy as it sounds based on where each of us was relative to the right kind of train station (one with RER line C) that we needed to get out there. But after some digging we decided we'd meet up at Javel and go from there.

We got there, albeit after some confusion over the direction we were going in – since it does a kind of weird loop around Paris stations and the first thing was to get some food – I tried my first Croque-monsieur, a famous French dish; it's kind of a toasted ham and cheese sandwich and, as I learned from the Wikipedia article I've linked, there's a Proust connection there as well.

Found our way to the palace itself and lined up to get past the first checkpoint. My friends had brought their pug, since the website apparently says you can take dogs into certain parts of the gardens – but at the line we joined they were told they couldn't come in that way; they had to go to a different gate. It was decided that I would go through the palace and then meet them on the other side.

I went into the palace complex and got a map at the ticket counter – where I was told that, out of the five sections of the palace, THREE were closed. This, by the way, was NOT indicated on the website. So, what was available was maybe 40% of the place – and, according to people who've been, those were the least interesting parts.

Had I gone up there without already having a ticket – via the Paris Museum Pass I'd bought – I wouldn't have been very happy about paying full price for seeing only 40% of the place. But I was still more than a little unhappy since, had I had known, I may well have not bothered going there at all and instead found something I could enjoy fully.

What I did get to see was impressive, but not enough to take the sour taste away. And it was so unbelievable busy (I guess that's what happens when you pack five sections worth of people into two) that it wasn't very pleasant to go around.

It got even less enjoyable when I heard from the others and found that they couldn't even get into the dog-friendly section, and were basically sitting around outside. This – combined with the fact it was raining – killed any remaining urge I had to see the place, so I left to meet up with them.

Some pictures:

I liked this statue 'cause he's got a tortoise at his feet.

Magnificent ceiling, but also note the number of people.

We got the train back to the city and got off at the stop nearest the Notre Dame cathedral (more on that tomorrow), and we wandered around the area in that part of Paris for the afternoon, stopping off to look at a great English-language bookshop (Shakespeare and Company) and then going from place to place looking for a particular kind of pastry (a mille-feuille) that someone I won't name wanted a particular version of.

But it was worth it in the end 'cause the place we found had awesome coffee éclairs, which I'm very keen on.

And that was the end of our day; I walked back to the hotel and did very little in the evening. I think it might have been another bread and cheese night, but I honestly can't quite recall.

Oh, and here's a picture of the pug. Not taken on the day or by me – but hey, everyone loves a gratuitous pug shot, particularly when the backdrop is the Eiffel Tower.

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