Chateau de Versailles and its immaculate gardens – 25 euros
Escargot – 12 euros
Goat, Brie, and Blue cheeses with a fresh French baguette – 12 euros
Bottle of red wine – 13 euros
Picnic with new friends on the Champs de Mars in front of the Eiffel Tower – Priceless
(As you can tell from that list, today was my by far my most expensive day of the trip. The food was split between Will, a friend that I had in London, and myself)
After meeting up with Will the night before, we made plans to see the Palace at Versailles today. Beyond the Chateau itself, the city of Versailles has a quaint downtown area with shops, restaurants, and buildings with so much history and character wrought by time that probably go unappreciated due to the ultimate draw of the Palace just next door. I thought the Louvre was touristy but Versailles takes the cake (I think that’s the saying?). Beyond the Palace’s main gates, all I could see was a long winding line into the home of France’s past monarchy. Instead of waiting outside for who knows how long, we opted to begin our day walking the expansive and thoroughly artistic gardens. For as much time as we spent in the gardens we only got a taste of what this vast land offers. The main part of the garden is a hedge-lined maze filled with fountains you could never dream of. Speaking of mazes, in our attempt to visit the Grand Trianon (which was essentially their summer home getaway from the Palace, like King Louis needed more rooms to live in) and Marie Antoinette’s estate, we got completely lost to the point we were about to start walking through farm country. Finally, after righting our compasses, we found ourselves back in civilization and tried to see as much of the rest of the gardens as possible. One fountain in particular was layered neatly together with large pristine shells on the edges while another had a Greek god half-buried in rock attempting to unearth himself with all his mighty power. The whole walk was extremely exhausting but rewarding while we passed by each fountain and led ourselves down leafy, mossy avenues of trees forming an arched roof above. After such a pleasant time experiencing pure peace with nature in the most decadent way possible, I had high expectations for the Palace of Louis. I’m sorry to disappoint you but the Chateau was a complete disappointment. With the exception of the Hall of Mirrors, not much of what we saw was worth lingering for since we got out in less than an hour and a half. The beds that seemed built for hobbits or midgets were amusing but, all in all, I could have lived without seeing the inside of the Palace. Towards the end of the tour I wanted to take a picture of a sled the king must have used to traverse his land during winter. Without a moment’s delay, an employee quickly jumped in and denied my photo. Since the sled sat in broad daylight and I saw others taking pictures of it, I thought screw it I’m getting that dang picture. As soon as he walked away I took a quick pic while trying to appear like I was just glancing at my other photos. Despite how slick I tried to be, the son of a gun sniped me and told me “last warning!” in a hilariously strong French accent. Through the rest of that exhibit he followed me as if he were my shadow and kept a steady eye on my every movement, creepily looking around each and every corner. After getting back to Paris, we went our separate ways with plans on meeting up and getting a true French dinner together (I know, how romantic!). I went to Musee D’Orsay which began way back as an exhibit filled with paintings from all the artists that were denied entry into the Louvre. Of further interest, the building was originally used as a railway station of all things. I have definitely become somewhat of an artistic connoisseur if you will despite my conflicting wardrobe of hiking boots, t-shirts, and basketball shorts (definitely not fitting in with a crowd of fancy, chic Europeans dressed in skinny jeans, scarfs, and expensive V-neck shirts exposing just enough chest hair to assault the eyes of any passerby). Now it was time to eat the meal we had been talking about all day long. I read from my guide book about this great fromagerie (cheese) shop called Barthelemy. Not until we got onto the metro at 6:45 p.m. did I realize the shop closed at 7:15 p.m. Not wanting this inconvenience to foil our plan, we quickly navigated the streets to find heaven’s door. As soon as the door cracked open the smell of cheese absorbed my every being. You could not go in without instantly cracking a smile or grin. It is a true mom and shop with what appeared to be a husband and wife and their middle aged son running the shop. Even though the son could only speak the bare minimum of English, he gave us the best recommendations on cheese and wine based on our preferences. We opted for the blue, Brie, and sheep or goat (I still don’t know but it turned out be delicious nonetheless). After selecting a nice bottle of wine and fresh bread, we decided to pull off the ultimate cliche Paris experience by choosing the Champs de Mars in front of the Eiffel Tower as our picnic destination. But before we could take the metro to get there, we had to check off one more item on our Paris bucket list, which was none other than experiencing the unique taste of escargot. Staring down at the platter, I shook my head in disbelief before grabbing a hold of the miniature, two-pronged fork which aided me in this endeavor Snails should not be eaten but when you drown it with enough garlic butter and spices you will start singing this delicacy’s praises. Once we arrived at our evening’s final destination, we started talking to some girls on the lawn near the Tower and figured why not combine our two picnics. All the cheese was phenomenal although I mostly stuck with the Brie and goat. The wine, unfortunately for me and to the betterment of everyone’s entertainment, was just too delicious. Good food, great people, and one hell of a view made this an incredible night. We sat there chatting for hours and watched the Eiffel Tower light up and then sparkle on the hour. Meeting new people and making new friendships can be so easy if you are just open to the experience.
P.s. The majority of this post was written while standing in line in the rain while waiting to get into the catacombs. I hope these posts entertain you as much as they are a joy for me to write.