I'll put up a bit more about the rest of my trip sometime this week, but I wanted to put up this picture in the meantime, because I loved it so much. It was taken at a cafe I walked by in Montmartre.
Day 4 actually took me outside of the city, to Versailles. I got up early and took the train out of town on a chilly, foggy day. I bought an all entry ticket at the train station in Paris, which was actually a great deal - for about 20€ I got a return train fare and entry to all of the attractions at Versailles, including an audioguide for each venue.
Imagine if you will, being a queen and residing in the most magnificent of palaces, surrounded by beauty within and lush greenery outside. Surely after a while you'd get a little tired of bossing such a large staff about and having to walk so far from one end of the house to the other, so you'd have your king build you a smaller palace - a mini-palace if you will, a mere few hundred meters away. Sure, the place would be grand but it would only take you half an hour to get from one end of the house to the other - quite convenient. Naturally, after a while, the mini-palace would get tiresome as well, so you'd have your king build you something a little smaller and much cozier - a nano-palace, say. With only a few rooms in which to roam, you'd get a little bored, no? Why not, then, have your king build you a little peasant village, in which you could slum with the little people, milk some cows, bake some cakes?
These were the thoughts going through my head at Versailles. I found it almost completely overwhelming, on several fronts. Everything was beautiful - grand, intricate, stunning and so well preserved. At the same time, the scale was just difficult to grasp, especially in light of what I understand Paris living to be today - paying a king's ransom to live in a shoebox.
Another thing that amazed me was the fact that this wasn't just a house that featured great works of art - this was a house that WAS a great work of art. Every single detail was a masterpiece - every floor, every pillar, every wall, ceiling and every piece of furniture. It makes me look at my white boxy residence through different eyes - as much as I'd like to decorate it and make it lovely and welcoming and attractive, it will never be a work of art.
The order of the pictures doesn't exactly correspond to the course I followed, so for reference, I started my tour at
The famous Hall of Mirrors connects the two wings of the palace. It is currently under renovation and only a small portion of it is open to the public. What little was available for viewing was magnficent.
The grandness of the furnishings was very appealing and I particularly liked the following pieces - they are from the private apartments and the Grand Trianon (the mini-palace).
The weather didn't really clear up much during the day and visibility was fairly poor. In spite of this, the grand scale of the gardens still shows in these pictures. Due to the season all of the flowerbeds were empty, leaving only the perennial frames and all of the statues were covered up with tarp for protection. Can you imagine this place in spring? I'll definitely have to make a return trip to Versailles at a different season, just to compare. Due to visibility issues I didn't really photograph the water canals, a replication of the Venetian tunnels, which were well over a mile long. Gliding down the canals was a pastime of the royals in residence.
Since I mixed up the interiors of the various palaces, I'll just provide a few images of the exterior of the Grand and Petit Trianons.
Leaving the Petit Trianon, you walk down winding paths, surrounded by fields, leading to the village - the "Hameau" - where the Queen played with the little people. It really felt like another world compared to the grandeur of the other properties. The grounds in their entirety were a sort of microcosm of France, if you think about it - grand palaces, "smaller" bourgeoise homes, and little peasant villages.
After traipsing for hours from house to house, garden to garden, I began to walk away from Versailles, heading for the train that would take me back to the city.
Before I walked away I took a last look at Versailles.
Although it had been a very long day, it wasn't done yet. I had made plans to meet with Laurent for dinner. I had hoped to have time to get back and have a long shower to defrost from the nippy day, but ended up with less than an hour so I quickly changed and got ready. Laurent came to collect me at the hotel again (such a gentleman!). He was a very brave soul to even venture out, as he was sporting the beginning of an unfortunate flu. We rode the metro to Place Bastille, where he showed off the lovely opera building - he tried to look all cultured, claiming it was as lovely inside as it was out - blatant lies! He'd never been inside :). (Well, it may very well BE beautiful inside, but I won't be able to take his word on it.)
We searched for a restaurant and settled on a Corsican place called Bar Bat. We each ordered a starter of pork carpaccio and both Laurent and the waiter were quite mortified when I tried to order a white wine. Unwilling to deal with the scorn, I let Laurent order me a glass of red, which proved to be drinkable (I generally don't like red wine)(Heh - if you click the link for "Le Bar" on that site you see an image of the waiter who scoffed at my wine order!). Next I had a beef dish with figs and Laurent had a lamb dish - both were quite good. The conversation flowed throughout the evening and I got to find out all sorts of intersting things about Laurent. It's funny, we've known each other a really long time, but don't really know that much about each other.
We skipped dessert, ordering a cappuccino instead. I had the nerve to ask for mine without the seemingly obligatory sprinkle of cocoa on top, which greatly unsettled the waitress. After a short argument and what I imagine quite a bit of laughter at my expense - this was all in French so I'm assuming - the young lady finally agreed to bring me my coffee as I'd requested it.
We left the restaurent and headed back to the metro and I hopped off after two stops, sending Laurent on his way home to try and fight off his flu before a long trip to the country to spend Christmas with his family.
*Smiff* I hate goodbyes, especially when they come too soon. Of all the things I got to see in Paris (more reports still to follow), the absolute highlight was meeting Laurent, and I was sorry that I came at such a hectic time and we didn't get to spend a little more time together. I'll definitely have to go back to hang out with him and he'll have to come back here to visit with me.
After exploring the facade, I headed inside. The church is obviously massive but wasn't overwhelmingly crowded so I walked around slowly, taking in all the sites. I've developed quite a fascination with stained glass and enjoyed what was on offer. I did make sure to light a candle for roo and make a special wish for her, although I didn't remember to look for Ste. Clair's shrine to do it. Immediately after I took a picture of the candle, because I'm lame like that. Speaking of roo, maybe she could help me figure out why one of the stained glass windows depicted a Star of David. I also noticed a Star of David mosaic at Sacré Cœur the previous evening which was rather curious.
(Click the thumbnails for larger images.)
I skipped the opportunity to go up to the Tower of Notre Dame, mostly because I didn't feel like climbing the stairs, so upon exiting I did a quick look around the back of the church. The side of the church is very ornate and ominous looking, however, there is a nice garden at the back as well as a nice view of the rear of the church.
At this point I was getting a little hungry, so I began searching for the place that Jenny recomended for lunch. She couldn't remember the exact name of the place but described more or less where it was relative to Notre Dame. Well, I don't know if I found the right place but I ended up having a delicious (if somewhat pricey) croque monsieur at the Cafe Parvis.
Following lunch, immediately after uttering my one and only complete sentence in French for the entire trip to the waitress, I headed to nearby Ste. Chapelle, a chapel with astonishing stained glass.
After Ste. Chapelle I headed over to the Conciergerie, which served as a prison for many years, housing many famous French prisoners, including Marie-Antoinette.
Following that I walked down along the left bank, passing the churches of Saint Germaine du Pres and of Saint-Sulpice, and also passing by Pierre Herme twice. I actually walked into the shop both times I passed by, but was utterly overwhelmed by the crowd and the display, so didn't end up buying anything. I also felt a little too conspicuous about taking photographs in there. Not to worry though, I did not leave Paris without some macarons.
From Pierre Herme I headed up to the big department stores on Blvd. Haussmann, stopping off to buy Laurent a bottle of wine for Christmas (Laurent, was it any good? Did you use it to drown your sorrows a little?) and walked around the stores a little, but I was exhausted and just found the crowds overwhelming, so after a little while I went back to the hotel. I had walked so much during the day that I could barely put one foot in front of the other, but instead of just jumping into bed I went out to look for food. That was a big mistake, but I'll spare you the details. Just know that there is horrible, overpriced food in Paris.
I started this rainy day with breakfast at a cute orange cafe called Plein Soleil at the corner of Place de la République and Parmentier. Following a quick breakfast I headed over to Père Lachaise cemetery. The cemetery is the resting place of numerous famous and important people. I, of course, managed to avoid any and all "important" burial sites and just roamed around for an hour or so. The mood of the place is definitely somber, and the rainy weather only added to the feel. In several novels I've read about chase scenes taking place in this location, which I can definitely understand. The place is mostly constructed of crypts, some in good condition still, but many in disrepair.
After leaving the cemetery I took the metro to the the Ile-de-la-Cité, the island connecting the right and left banks of the Seine, to visit Notre Dame and a couple more sites. Notre Dame is really a gorgeous edifice. Roo suggested I visit at night and I imagine it's quite awesome then, but I got there in early afternoon.
Stay tuned to the continuation of Day 3...