Paris, Day 16

I need to add a postscript to my trip report.     Our last day was really all about getting to the airport.    Which we did on the RER train, and which afforded us our last great authentic Parisian experience.

Now, I had read up a lot about the petty theft problem in Paris.    I was well versed in the Petition Girls, the Ring Scam, and how to avoid pick pockets.     Since we took the train in and arrived in Gare du Nord, I had made plans to get us the hell out of there as soon as possible to avoid said pick pockets (Gare de Nord is one of the hot spots for them).

So, because I was so well prepared, we didn’t run into anything.   Until we were on the train out of town.     We had boarded on the far side of the line from the airport, so had seats, which ended up having a prime view of the door, and as the train stopped at Gare du Nord, two men pulled the classic one man pretends to trip, blocking the victim so the other guy behind can rifle his pockets scam.     The intended victim was a man from China, who was there for a conference with several coworkers, including an Aussie, who had apparently never been to Paris before, because Chinese guy preceded to give him a rather hilarious break down of what had just gone on (apparently, it’s happened before, so he never keeps anything in his pockets – which really should be rule number one in Paris).     There was also a running commentary to his other two companions, in Chinese, which I really wish I could have understood, because it was apparently hilarious.

So I did manage to get that final, apparently quintessential Paris experience, and better yet, it didn’t happen to me.

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Versailles, Day 15: Marie Antoinette’s Hamlet

 

 

 

 

 

 

So by the time of Louis XIV, Versailles was becoming a bit much for the king and his family, so he had a smaller palace built on the outskirts of Versailles, and the Trianons were born.     They’re really quite lovely, and way more opulent than a summer house should be.

The thing about the Trianons is this is where the endurance section of visiting Versailles comes in.    They’re about a half hour walk from the Palace (though there is a shuttle bus).     And once you get there, there’s so much more to see around the Grand Trianon and the Petite Trianon.     We were dead tired by the time we got home, and I felt like we barely scratched the surface of the Trianons.

My favorite place was Marie Antoinette’s Hamlet.    She had it built so she could escape palace life (which she apparently hated) to something simpler.   If simpler involves having your morning milk served to you on a marble table.   I do feel sorry for her.    She thought that this perfect little life was what happened out in the countryside, but it was instead conditions that started the French Revolution, and ultimately cost her her life.  But I swear, it’s really a lovely place to visit, not depressing at all!

Versailles, Day 15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Versailles is an utterly amazing spectacle.    It is grand on a scale that I’ve never experienced before.     Standing there, looking out from the Palace to the Grand Canal is a glimpse into a very different world.

Versailles is a bit of a trip outside of Paris proper.    We took the RER train (basically the commuter rail), leaving early enough to get there when the palace opened at 9:00.     We only had a bit of a wait at the ticket window (because we’d decided against buying any of the passes that would have allowed us to bypass that), and the line at security wasn’t that bad either.   I’d also found out that of the days we would be there, Wednesday should be the least busy (it’s closed Monday., so there’s a definite surge of people on Tuesday).   Still, even arriving that early, there were a lot of people.    I definitely enjoyed seeing the inside of the palace, but it was nice to get outside, where you could control your exposure to the crowds a bit more.

We did stop at the Angelina tearoom inside the palace, for a pastry and espresso break.   (Actually, we had lunch at Angelina too, but at the Petite Trianon lunch counter).   I had a wonderful concoction called a Millefeuille, which involved a whole lot of cream in some really lovely puff pastry.

The gardens outside were amazing.    The scope is breath-taking, and it’s really hard to take it all in.     There are actually a ton of little garden rooms that you can’t even always get into.    It was definitely one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been to.

Paris, Day 14

 

 

Our next morning, we had some shopping plans.   We started out at the Les Halles metro stop, and managed to get completely turned around.    Which ended up being a happy accident, as we ended up at the Centre Pompidou, which has a really neat fountain installation in its courtyard.

Mistake corrected, we headed into the Marais (which I need to go back and explore more someday), and stopped at E. Dehillerin, which was apparently where Julia Child bought her cookware, and G. Detou, where we went a little crazy buying things like mustard.    (Yeah, mustard.)

Our next stop was the Passage des Panoramas, one of the covered passage ways you can find in Paris.    This one had a lot of restaurants, so we ate at a creperie for lunch.    Across the main road was another passageway with stores.   I may have made some purchases at a candy store and a toy store.

 

 

 

Shopping done, we headed down toward the Seine by way of the Tuileries Garden, which was absolutely lovely.     And from there, we headed to a Seine cruise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A cruise is a really lovely way to see the city.    If you can get beyond your really obnoxious fellow tourists.   Seriously.    Why take a Seine cruise if you’re going to just stand there looking at the sights entirely through your camera lens?  But that withstanding, it is really amazing how much life is going on along the river.    It’s completely different than I thought it would be, and yet exactly what I expected.

Paris, Day 13

 

 

 

 

 

Our first full day in Paris, we decided to do some shopping.    Which worked out to involve a whole lot of incidental walking.      We started the morning at Notre Dame, because, well, we’re in Paris, so we had to go to Notre Dame.     Which is fully as fascinating as a medieval cathedral should be.    We did not climb to the top of the towers (the line was already insane), but we did walk around the inside, which is really neat.    There are lots of little side chapels with interesting statues and icons.     Really worth the trip.     There are also some lovely gardens around the church.

While we were waiting for the bus to our next destination, I realized we were just across the street from Shakespeare & Co.     I know it primarily from my days as a member of a particular fandom that shall not be named, so I had to run across the street and wander on through.    It is a really cool little bookstore (English language too!), and well worth a trip.

Outside, they had one of the Wallace Fountains – I kid you not – this is a water fountain.    I did indeed fill my water bottle there.

So, that done, we headed back to the bus stop, and to the Galeries Lafayette, one of the grand old department stores.    (I should mention, that bus lines goes through the Place de la Concorde and past the Madeleine church – such a cool ride).   The store has an amazing Art Deco interior, and I was far less intimidated wandering around the really high end stuff there than I would have been in Manhatten.     They also have a great roof terrace with amazing views.    You can see the Opera Garnier, which is just across the street, as well as the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe.     The store is on Boulevard Haussman, which is a great shopping street, as well as one of the streets leading up to the Arc.

 

Which means that we headed up the street to the Arc (and for the shopping along the way, of course).     The traffic circle there is indeed one of the great traffic watching experiences of the world.    It’s insane.    So insane that there’s an underground pedestrian walkway to get to the Arc.     So you can wander around the bottom (and climb it if you’re so inclined).

One of the other streets leading away from the Arc is the Champs de Elysee.    To complete our Parisian experience, we stopped at the Laduree there, and had pastries and espresso at their outside tables.   I had a rather amazing confection called the Corelle Feuilletee Rose Framboise, which involved rose water, choux pastry, raspberries and lots of chantilly cream.     So good.   I mean, so good!    Naturally, we also stopped at the retail store and got a box of macarons to go.    My personal favorite was the pink peppercorn.    If they weren’t so damn perishable, I would have brought a box of those home with me.

Day 12: London to Paris

I definitely recommend taking the Eurostar train from London to Paris.    The transport links are so easy (city center to city center).     There’s great leg room (I bought my tickets the first day they were available, so I was able to snag one of the table seats for the three of us.    Oh, and the further out you buy your tickets, the cheaper they are).    So we left our hotel at about 11:00, grabbed lunch for the train at St. Pancras, and were in Paris by 3:00 (and did I mention there’s an hour time change in the middle).

 

 

Our first day, we just wandered around.    Started at the Eiffel Tower (which sadly was just closing as we arrived – Sunday hours).    So we wandered around the Seine instead, which was really amazing.    I’ve seen plenty of pictures, and scenes from tv shows, and it was just so cool to actually be there.