Friday, July 10, 2015

My Trip to France 2015, part 4

Day 5:

Today is going to be a looooong day, but we started out the same way--at the Place de la République.

We then took the RER (Réseau Express Régional, or commuter train) to Versailles.  It is located a mere 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Paris (from right in front of Notre Dame, mind you).  Our rendez-vous point at Versailles--a statue of none other than Louis XIV himself.

We arrived fairly early and had to divide into two groups in order to tour the palace.  Our group was the second group, but we were free to wander the gardens until our allotted time inside.  We curiously found a couple of mirrors amidst the crowds.  It turns out these are part of the Anish Kapoor exhibit here.  I really like the mirrors, as they give you a unique perspective of the palace and the gardens.

The last time I was at Versailles was in March of 2006.  The gardens were dormant then, so they weren't that thrilling to view.  But this time, I am abasourdie (stunned) by their sheer beauty and verdure.  Green, after all, is my favorite color.  One section of the garden that especially struck me was the orangerie.  Obviously, the climate here is inhospitable to orange trees, but you will notice that they are in containers and are brought out to enjoy the summer.  They are kept inside in the winter.  The Versailles website says that some of these trees are over 200 years old.  Imagine that!  There are lemon and pomegranate trees here as well. Such a pretty vista!

My daughter thinks I'm too old for selfies, but I wholeheartedly disagree!

You may notice the fountains are running, which I absolutely loved.  These are called "Les Grandes Eaux", and I had not seen these in quite a long time.  There was also classical music playing throughout the gardens, and if it hadn't been for the thousands of other tourists hanging around, I would have felt like I was in a movie.

"To all the glories of France."

Finally, we made it indoors and we had the added bonus of being able to use audioguides as we toured each room.  The interior was extremely crowded, which I did not enjoy very much.  I was actually yearning to get back outside to the gardens.  Here are a few things I managed to get a picture of before heading back outdoors.

Louis XIV's bed.

Marie-Antoinette and her children.

Hey, déjà vu!  Another painting of Napoléon crowning himself emperor.

Once we were back outside, we got some lunch but my appetite was almost severed by this structure.  It is another work by Anish Kapoor.  I won't go into detail on this, but if you are interested in finding out more about it, click on this link.  Personally, I think an artist can make whatever kind of art s/he likes, but I truly felt like this particular work was completely out of place at the historic Château de Versailles.  I would have much preferred to see the green grass growing underneath.

More garden shots.

Making our way to the Petit Trianon.  It is WAY the heck out there, I'm telling you.

I had to pay 10 euros to go see Marie-Antoinette's Petit Hameau, although the kids got to get in for free.  It was so worth it, but we must have walked miles that afternoon.

Marie-Antoinette's Little Hamlet was begun 1783 so she could have somewhere just for her to escape the hustle and bustle of daily palace life.  She indulged in a pastoral life, complete with a farm and a series of buildings reminiscent of a Norman village.  Each house had its own small garden, and there was a mill and a dairy.  I LOVE this part of Versailles!

Here is an English garden.

A vegetable garden.

An arbor with pink roses.

Another view of the vegetable garden with an arbor with pink roses.  :)

An arbor with red roses.


Delightful cottage.

An enchanted swan with enchanted carp.

Unbelievable quaintness.

Another arbor, this time with white roses.

Another vegetable garden.

More botanical photos.  Have I mentioned how much I love gardens?

Now, for the animals:  une chèvre.

Un mouton tondu.

La ferme.

Un arbre ancien.

More flowers.

Le Petit Trianon, her more elegant home away from home, and in all its formality.

And now back to the bigger place...via the Apollo fountain.

The Latons fountain.

Can you tell how much I enjoyed visiting Versailles?  I am so glad we came in the summer this time so I could see everything in its highest form.  I am also glad I was part of a group with an appointed visiting time because the line to get in for non-groups was super long.

I think I could have been happy living in Marie-Antoinette's hamlet, don't you?  Well, as long as I was Marie-Antoinette and only before she was brought to justice by the Parisian mobs.  OK, so maybe I don't want to be M-A, but maybe I will make some rose-covered arbors like hers for my garden.

After a very long day at Versailles, it was time for dinner.  We had walked so far that day, I felt like we had been led on something akin to the Bataan Death March.  My feet were in excruciating pain, even though I was wearing tennis shoes.  I know, how gaudy, right?  C'est un peu tape à l’oeil!  Well, I couldn't have cared less what I looked like; I just had to have something comfortable for my feet that day.  Unfortunately, my feet were still killing me while we went in search of food.  Our guide led us away from the train station and further into town (ouch!), but we were excited to find a wonderful meal at a local brasserie.  This, mes amis, is a croque-monsieur.  It's like a grilled cheese sandwich but a million times better!  Avec une salade verte et des frites, miam-miam!  We even sat long enough that my feet were OK when we started back to the train station.

And when we made it back to the city, there was only one thing on our agenda--la Tour Eiffel.

One can't take enough pictures of this thing!

We divided into two groups again and I was in the group that got to ascend the tower at 10:00 p.m.

I hadn't seen a champagne bar on the Eiffel Tower before.

A view of the Champs de Mars (where we picnicked yesterday) and the Ecole Militaire.

Les Invalides.

Le Palais de Chaillot.

 We got to go up a bit early, so when we got to the top, we got to see the lights flash.  If you don't know this ritual, every evening when it is dark, the Eiffel Tower sparkles for the first five minutes at the top of each hour.   I have shown a webcam of this to my students for years, yet I never imagined I would be able to be on it when the lights started flashing.  It was an invigorating experience!

And we were at the bottom of the tower when 11:00 p.m. struck and the lights sparkled again.

I am in love with this gorgeous structure.  Je t'aime, la Tour Eiffel!

Voilà.  I hope you enjoyed this installment of my blog.  Check back soon for my next post.  Merci!  




                                                                                                     Tour Eiffel.

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