Thursday, May 30, 2013

Paris Part Quatre: Au Revoir

After a couple days of rain I was so happy to see sunshine the next day on Wednesday for our trip to Versailles. We hadn’t bought tickets for the train as we were able to get in the doors with our metro passes, but on our way there I was getting nervous that we would get stopped at the train station (they have these electric doors that you have to enter your ticket to open to get off the platform) but we lucked out and the electric doors weren’t working and we went right through saving a few bucks. Once we got to the village of Versailles instead of heading straight in we took a detour and went food shopping at Les Halles du Marché Notre Dame which doesn’t have anything to do with Notre Dame Cathedral, but is a large food market. 

It took us a while to decide what to buy, but I was set on packing food for a picnic in the gardens of Versailles. I had read online they say it’s not allowed but don’t enforce the rule. It was worth all of the trouble because later in the day we ended up eating soft cheeses, baguette, the ripest raspberries, and some really good Portuguese wine (strange I know, but it was a steal).

Back in Versailles we toured some of the inside of the palace first. Do you remember that Sofia Coppola movie Marie Antoinette from 2006? Well they had gotten special permission to film most of the movie at the actual place, so I kept imagining Kirsten as Marie Antoinette and Jason Schwartzman as the awkward Dauphin would come around the corner any minute.

The rooms were jam packed with tourists so we didn’t spend as much time inside (I don’t love being elbowed) but the Hall of Mirrors was really breathtaking in real life and there was plenty of room to enjoy it.

When we got out to the gardens I was disappointed as I’d read you can rent bicycles to ride around, but really it is only in a small area. Most of the gardens you are not allowed to bike in, but we walked around and  rented the bikes for a little while to go visit the Hamlet, which is a very adorable old-fashioned farm Marie Antoinette had built to live a more simple life than the lavish palace. We walked around the Hamlet visiting the animals and looking for rabbits (didn’t find any) and got a little lost but we found our way back. Overall, Versailles was definitely one of the most fun sights to see as they have restored it to really feel like you’re stepping back in time.

We headed back to the city to use the boat-tour tickets that I had bought before the trip. I love a good boat tour since you can see the sights while taking a rest. We were sitting on the top deck when it started raining so we popped up the umbrella and opened the second bottle of wine. The lady in front of us was getting up to go sit underneath for cover and said “you two know how to do the boat tour right!”
this bird was a pro, he came right up to us and ate baguette out of our hands

That night on the way back we walked around the outside of the Louvre and had a really late dinner at a pizza and sandwich shop near our hotel, but my three cheese panini  was still really good. It was next door to this strange reggae/punk/indie club. We had a drink there one night and it was definitely a dive but had lots of couches and Bob Marley playing. It seemed to always be packed really late at night. We thought it was really funny they were playing Bob Marley but the girl tending bar had to have her friend translate our request for Rum & Coke.

The next day was Thursday and it was crazy to realize that was our last day of the trip. I still had so much to do! I was supposed to meet up with my co-worker Emily, visit the Musée de Orsay, Musée Rodin, visit Deyrolle (the crazy taxidermy shop), and a million other things! But that’s how vacations go, they fly by. We knew we had to see the Louvre, both having art degrees, so that’s where we spent most of the day. I will be honest, we got lost walking around a few times, I had trouble working the crazy Nintendo 3DS audio guide, and the crowds were noisy, but I’m still glad we went. There was so much art there, we were only able to take in a little, but we hit some of the highlights and spent a lot of time in the French painting rooms.

After spending most of the day there we ventured across the street to a little outdoor market and bought macaroons and some jewelry.

Then, all of a sudden it started pouring rain and this was the one day I didn’t bring the umbrella. We hurried down a couple of blocks and were lucky to find a nice place to eat dinner under the outdoor heaters.

The rain let up so we walked around the hip shops on rue Saint-Honoré like Colette and found a few more Invader tags.

The next morning we got two lovely parting gifts from Paris. One, when I was checking out our hotel somehow had an extra credit of €198 over what we had paid beforehand for the 7 nights.  I asked him to double-check (since I am pretty careful with my credit card records) but he said we had overpaid. He used the credit to pay for the breakfasts & dinners we had and then refunded us €77. Basically it was like free food and $100, but I wasn’t going to complain! Then our taxi was quick and we got to our flight on time (long story but there have been many an instance of a missed or almost-missed flight in our travels). Unfortunately the way home was not so joyous, we spent probably 25 hours straight in airports and planes and our luggage was lost by the time we arrived in Phoenix. But it is much better for your luggage to get lost on the way home, as I spent the next day in pajamas anyways and they delivered it the next night. Since I’ve been home everyone keeps asking how the trip was and it’s hard to explain. I like to say we vacation hard-it doesn’t matter if I’m sick or my feet hurt I will keep going, but we had an amazing time. Je pense que je pourrais y vivre, c'est vraiment magnifique.

Paris Part Trois

The next day, Tuesday, we slept in a little (finally!) and had breakfast at a Boulangerie Pattisserie  near the hotel. I am not exaggerating when I say we had the best quiche frommage and croissants aux amandes I have ever tasted. We tried to go back to that place a few times but they were never open again (who knows what hours they keep?) so it will just have to be a delicious memory.

This day we tried to take the bus thinking it would be fewer stairs and walking than the metro stations and then proceeded to miss our stop and ended up walking back, ha. We had gotten off in the Marais, a trendy neighborhood, and walked over to Notre Dame. The line wasn’t too bad to get in and the cathedral was beautiful inside, especially the windows. We had one of our only encounters with a rude person there, as the lady behind the counter selling the audio guides had no patience for Tom, but she was speaking French so it was just sort of funny.

After touring the inside we waited in the long lines to walk up the towers to look at the gargoyles. I think Tom was not excited to wait another hour or two to climb stairs, but once we were up there it was totally worth it. Unfortunately, they have put a cage and lights around everything up there (for safety I’m sure) so it’s not quite as picturesque, but still awesome.

A sad side note, while we were up there, unbeknownst to us, a radical right wing writer shot himself inside the cathedral, you can read the story here. We had no idea, but did notice the line to get in was huge when we were leaving (probably because they were in the middle of evacuating and closing up). We found out after we got home and our friend commented on our InstaGram pictures, funny the way we got the news all the way from Arizona. I can’t express how glad I am that we didn’t have to see that and that he didn’t hurt anyone else in the process.

On our way back we stopped at a couple of vintage shops in the Marais, I ended up with a dress for €10. I did find an awesome Yves St. Laurent skirt, but it was €60 and I’m a cheapskate.

We then rushed over to Père Lachaise Cemetery where we had about an hour before it closed. I could have spent a day there, it was such an interesting old cemetery. The ceiling of old trees, moss everywhere, crumbling headstones and statues, and the telephone booth sized tombs . . . They say over one million people have been buried there, and with one million different memorials it seems. I have a fondness for old statues so that amazing. We did of course find Jim Morrison’s grave, but it was fenced off, covered in graffiti and trinkets, and not the most impressive. I do love a good Doors song though so I don’t mean any disrespect.  When it was closing time more than one guard driving around made us leave, I wondered if people hide and spend the night there? It seems like it wouldn’t be too hard to do.