Saturday, September 19, 2009


September 17, 2009, Overcast

By Claire

We got up early today and made it to Versailles taking two trains without a hitch. Following Rick Steves’ advice, as usual, we went straight to the Information booth and bought tickets for a guided tour. The extra €7.50 tickets were well worth the price. We purchased museum passes for two days yesterday which gave us complete access to all the sights at Versailles including the Chateau, the Grand Trianon, the Petite Trianon and Marie Antoinette’s Hamlet. I think we put on 100 miles today, or at least it felt like it. This, after walking all over Paris yesterday visiting museums. I think we’re ready for a break.

In one of dozens of gardens at Versailles

The Petite Trianon, built for Marie Antoinette

Royal babies had to have royal carriages

This is just the warming room, the real kitchen is further away--what I would give for a kitchen even close to this....

The Grotto in Marie Antoinette's Estate

The Rock Pavillion (music room) where Marie Antoinette hung out with friends. Maybe that's where the term Rock and Roll came from

We had a wonderful time at Versailles and our guide was perfect, very French in manner and dress, including his pointy shoes. He led us into private rooms requiring a huge skeleton key for entry. Our group was relatively small and we saw a lot more than if we had been shuffling along with the masses. We seemed to also be back in stride in terms of our usual good timing. We were almost first in line at the guided tour desk although they had computer problems and after waiting and waiting for that to get fixed we found out we had to go to another desk first to make reservations for the tour then come back and pay for the tour. Oh well, it all worked out and we had an hour to kill in the gardens. We found a bathroom and walked right in, no waiting. Later I saw a long, long line. We checked out the menu for lunch at the Chateau café and somehow beat the crowd and ended up with a couple of great “rustic” sandwiches and cappuccinos in a room by ourselves for most of our lunch.

Marie Antoinette’s Hamlet was the highlight for me. Way more my style—very rustic and homey—reminiscent of The Cotswolds in England with thatched roofs, half timber architecture and an English Garden.

The Hamlet

One of the houses in The Hamlet

View into a backyard of one of The Hamlet houses

We loved this leafy tunnel in the Hamlet

Tonight we decided to crash and burn and watch the first of many movies our friend Tai provided to watch on our computer. Naturally, we decided on Sophia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette” which was filmed at Versailles. She was apparently given complete access to the Chateau. It was fun to see all the sights we had just visited. I love that movie!

Tomorrow we get Homer organized again for another trip, this time towards Normandy. It will be nice to be out of the city but we are far from done with Paris. There is just so much to see and do but our bodies can only take so much. I think we should have walked the Pacific Crest Trail as training for this trip. Even the tops of our feet hurt. I think a few days of recovery are in order.

Some things I’m grateful for:
My morning cappuccino a la Chuck
My “Keen’s” slip on sandals
My quick dry towel
Being surrounded by people from all over the world: Spain, Netherlands, Switzerland, Russia, Germany and much, much more. I hear so many languages here.
Croissants, baguettes, éclairs
Our wonderful camping site here in Maisons-Laffitte, just outside Paris. Sitting by the Seine in our chairs watching the barges go by is pretty great.
My traveling companion Chuck
My GPS Suzette

We have found our favorite boulangerie on our way home from the train station in town and Chuck always orders one baguette and 2 éclairs. La clerk always wraps them up in a sheet of paper, twisting it just so, ending up with a little package.

As we walk down the tiny sidewalk towards Homer, I notice that all the tiny cars have their side mirrors folded in so people can squeeze by. There is no super sizing here in France.

Camping, €15.92
Train, €17.80
Guided Tour, €15.00
Lunch, €16.20
Baguette, €.90
2 “café” éclairs, €4.00

Total: €69.82

Every civilized man has two homelands, and one of them is France. ~ Benjamin Franklin

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