Saturday, July 4, 2009

Versailles and some typical Parisian sightseeing

Yesterday we spent a good deal of the day at the Versailles complex, and it was lovely. The day started with some delicious pastries from the corner shop, and was quickly plunged into darkness by the terrible woman taking 349587 years to buy tickets at the station... in addition to the Metro, Paris also has a commuter train called the RER that operates in the city and to outlying areas - when you go outside of the city, you can't use your normal transportation tickets, you have to buy a special ticket. Of course, the self-service machines only accept coins (wth), so I had to go to the window. I'm not sure what this lady was doing, but she ended up having a 400 Euro order; the rest of the line was not happy.

So, instead of getting to Versailles around 9:15, we ended up there around 9:45, which was fine; I think that place is probably packed no matter when you go. I don't really have much to say about the palace itself - we had a self-guided tour, the rooms were beautiful, it was a good hour and a half or so. We looked around a bit, got some lunch, then took a little tour through the giant garden, which spit us out by the palaces away from the palace: buildings to let the kings/queens get away from Versailles once the French gov't was moved out there. They were beautiful but arranged in a bit of a screwy way, so we ended up walking around a bit more than we had originally planned. Two fun things in that area were the theater that Marie Antoinette had built so she and her friends could put on plays, and the "country peasant house" complex, complete with dairy and water wheel. We were helped directionally by a very nice local who heard us talking confusedly - she told us to see the theater and we were very grateful for her help!

We had a long walk back to the chateau to get back into town, so we all got a little crispy from the time we spent outside, but it was really a beautiful morning and afternoon. We decided we were too weary to rush right into anything else, so we took the train and the Metro back to the hotel to rest a bit, and then headed back out. We ate at a little restaurant (eh, it was okay), and headed to the Eiffel Tower. We had to wait in line to get through metal detectors and then to buy tickets, but it really wasn't that bad. Our plan was to take the elevator up to the second floor, look around, and then take the stairs down - and that's exactly what we did. We were on the observation platform when the 10 o'clock light show started, and that was really cool. The trip down the stairs was a little daunting, but we ended up being fine. :D

We then made our way back to our neighborhood, which was hopping because it's full of bars and it was Friday night. We got crepes from the place on the corner and came back to the room to collapse for the night. It was a good day.

This morning we got up early and headed over to the Louvre to get there before it opened. We got in really quickly as soon as they opened the gates, and ended up spending - wait for it - almost 5 hours inside. By choice. We saw some cool stuff, and the set-up was very spacious and beautiful. It's still weird to us that the Italian galleries were so cramped and stuffy and everywhere else has ample seating and breezy galleries showcasing the works in a lovely fashion. Anyway, you can see some of the statuary we saw in the Photobucket album - I don't take pics of paintings because there's no point - you can't capture that beauty with a silly little digital camera. By the way, the place was packed full of people who were running around taking pictures of everything and not looking at anything. Also, people's cameras were flashing all over the place, and none of the museum workers said a thing. Italian museum workers are VIGILANT about that kind of thing... "NO PHOTO!" was frequently heard while in Italy.

After our ridiculous run through the museum, we stopped in the Tuileries for lunch, and walked the Champs-Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe. We couldn't get close to the obelisk at the Place de la Concorde because they're setting up tons of seating there and all along the boulevard for Bastille Day festivities. The crowd at the Arc was ridiculous, and we were already weary, so we just had a look around and didn't go up. No big loss - we had seen the city from above last night. We sang our national anthem while there, very quietly. :D Back at the hotel, we rested for a bit, then got some Chinese take-out.

We need a break every once in a while, so we took a bit of one this evening. Full day tomorrow for our last day in town, then we leave Monday morning (my birthday) for London. Don't forget to look at the new pics! Happy 4th!

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