Wed 4 Dec - Paris, France

To the Palace of Versailles... With apologies to Al Stewart. And get used to gold...

Well, we started off this morning by listening to Al's old song during breakfast to get us into the mood as we had tickets to enter the Versailles palace and gardens. The Al Stewart song was followed by another musical interlude with "I'll meet you at midnight" by Smokie, a 70s song that managed to incorporate every French and Parisian cliche into a 3 minute song. Yep, it was crap.

We headed off just after 8.30am as we knew it was a longer train trip and could be busy at the Chateau. First to Invalides then a switch to the RER to Versailles Chantiers.

On the platform at Invalides we found out that the train to the Versailles Chateau was not running and Di thought she heard some mention of "accidante". But all OK, as it you can reach the chateau as easily from the Versailles Chantiers station although there is a short walk.

The RER train was 2 stories and pretty empty. We chose the upper deck and setltled in, with what turned out to be quite a mixed and colorful crowd...

The RER train ride out to Versailles provided perhaps more entertainment than the palace itself. This is what we encountered in chronological order from the moment we stepped onto the platform at the Invalides station...

  1. A dropped paper scam on the platform where another trickster was scamming a couple of business men. This conman didn't look that much different from the bloke who attempted the ring stunt yesterday.
  2. Two guys who basically stunk from marijuana smoke. We had to walk away as it was that overwhelming.
  3. In our train carriage we had a black young woman wearing a strawberry blonde wig, and muttering all the time to herself and others, at the same time with a very intense BO smell... And we mean, VERY intense body odour...
  4. Some guy who walked into the middle of our carriage, made some long winded statement / monologue to the passengers then walked away without really asking anybody for money - something religious? We had no idea.
  5. An older woman who looked Eastern European and got all agitated when the train stopped outside a station for a few minutes. Lots of loud sighing, hand gestures with "alors" statements and a few mobile calls. She was clearly in a rush, Mrs Sigh as we called her.

We just observed it all and laughed at this human circus. And laughed harder when we saw the quality of the railway station to service perhaps the most glamourous and expensive castle in Europe. The Versailles Chantiers railway station is seriously ugly, inside and out and reminded us of a camp leftover from WWII.

And 10 minutes walk from that ugliness to about extremes.

Louis XIV sits astride a horse at the entrance of this dream palace, Versailles.

Louis XIV, was a very popular long reigning French king and was known for his love of the sun, hence the nickname of "Le Roi-Soleil" (the Sun King). He was responsible for Versailles Chateau being expanded from the smallish country castle of his predecessors to a huge, grand and golden palace. He had a vision of having the best palace in Europe. Of course later kings added more and more to Versailles Chateau until the people of France had enough and got other ideas in 1789.

Get used to gold, you see it a lot from here on. These are the entry gates.

Security checks are carried out smoothly but then we had some minutes coming to grips with what we could/could not take into the palace and what had to be checked in. After much shuffling of iPads, food, water bottle, jackets we worked out the key issue was not having food and drink (except water) in any bag taken inside. Di kept her bag, stuffed full with jacket and iPad etc, and we checked in Hans bag and jacket.

Then we thought we would enter the warm and heated palace and...were directed back outside...without you can guess this was a hurried "selfie" out the front of the central part of the palace on the way the next building. Brrr...

Last time Di was here (ha ha 28 years ago) there was a guided tour through the palace. This time it is a self directed tour with an audio guide which proved to be boring. They first direct you through rooms in the ground floor that have some background to the Bourbon Royal family and the expansion of Versailles from Louis XIV onwards.

The bourbon family tree, ending of course on the top right with Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette and their 10 year old son. In quite a dramatic manner...

The first major stop is the King's Chapel. Dramatic ceiling, lots of frescos and of course tilted with gold.

This room was named after Hercules and we figured you needed his strength for shifting these "logs" into the fireplace. The logs were as long as Di is tall.

Restoration work seems to be continuous on these old buildings and no exception at the Versailles Chateau. We got an idea of how much work is required looking at the brickwork exposed at the top of this doorway.

And then seeing this bloke working patiently on his knees to perfect the grouting around the marble with just a small chisel. It looked like he had a very long way to go.

Red and gold were the colour combination we saw most...maybe McDonalds were just following an earlier trend?

Every square inch is covered in paintings, wall hangings, curtains, and of course gold.

Hans liked the Venus room, as the nature of the frescos changed to something more appealing.

Di got her own room inside the Versailles Chateau - but don't you hate it when they spell your name wrong?

What makes Versailles Chateau so "over the top"? Stuff like's just a ring for hooking on a curtain sash when curtains are drawn open. Did it really need to be this fancy?

What everyone comes to see...the Hall of Mirrors. Crystal, glass and, again, gold, everywhere. You can't help but say "wow" (and Hans muttered something about royalty deserving the revolution...)

Yes, the Hall of Mirrors required a selfie.

The three little golden cherubs holding up a lamp was just too cute for words.

One gets caught up in the moment at times... hiding in an alcove behind a curtain.

Time for supper anyone? In "style"? The King and his queen had to eat supper here every night at 10pm in front of selected courtiers. A strange way of living where even your waking up is a public ceremony.

Many rooms had decorations just about everywhere there was free space.

A seriously poncey portrait of Louis XIV.

Over to beds and bedrooms...

This was the king's "day" bedroom, sort of for show where he also received guests.

The king's bedroom, the real one, but still with a public area behind the balustrade for granted audiences.

The queen's bedroom styled as per Marie-Antoinette's taste.

She escaped the initial mob hunting her during the revolution through a small door, blended into the wall coverings. The door has been propped open here to the left of the bed.

After some 1 1/2 hours of wandering through the Cheatau Versailles, and just a tiny little bit of it that was open to the public, we had enough. As much as we loved Musee D'Orsay yesterday, we were quite disappointed with Cheatau Versailles. Di commented that "last time" she also got to see the Opera Theatre and some other areas that were no longer available to view now.

Yesterday, at Musee D'Orsay it was all ahh and ohh with the art as well as the building exceeding expectations but this was not anywhere near that standard. Hans found the artistic decorations dull and we were both frustrated by how much of the palace was out of bounds to the public. Add to this the quite boring "one size fits all" audio commentary and we were disappointed overall.

We decided to check out the famous gardens of Versailles Chateau, free to enter for anybody so we picked up Hans' jacket and bag, which of course also contained the baguette lunch that we had bought near home.

If the Cheatau Versailles is big, the gardens are HUGE (Wikipedia says 800 hectares). Looking back just down the hill a tiny little bit.

And the other way... For as far as you can see, it is all part of the estate. The waterway is Grande Canal that crosses in the middle and runs in 2 directions through the estate.

The green "artwork" left us a bit dumbfounded. Seemed like a lot of work for something that wasn't even pretty in our views, but we have to admit we are not topiary fans. We like our plants "au natural".

We did, however, really like this water feature. At the moment the caretakers were doing lots of work on the hydraulic water pumps for the hundreds of water jets in various fountains and we think this is why currently this does not spurt water - shame but still attractive.

We liked this fountain so much that we decided to have our lunch sitting down on one of the benches overlooking the water feature.

There are a lot of straight lines within the gardens of Chateau Versailles. We were told the other day that this gardening style was called French Alignment, and they seem to have perfected it here...and we thought the Germans and Swiss were precise.

More straight lines... and a not so straight Hans.

The Grande Canal, as they called this stretch of water which is essentially is laid out as a cross, with a boat anchored in it and two swans, which to us seemed highly appropriate.

This swan was very tame and clearly used to people feeding it as it was hanging around punters who had bought food or snacks from this outlet.

After exploring a fraction of the gardens of Cheatau Versailles, we decided to call it a day, and so wandered back to Versailles Chantiers station for the return trip back to Republique. Waiting for the train...

Di's calf muscles were crampy and tight and needed a massage, so Hans kindly helped her with that. Di's grimace and facial expression when Hans was massaging her was photo worthy in Hans' view.

The return trip was totally uneventful compared to our first trip of the day, and we arrived at Republique looking to buy a new SIM card to our phone as we could no longer use the old one and its number (long story). Di spent quite a bit of time getting it activated (in French) but it now works. Yippee. If you would like to know our new mobile phone number, please let us know.

We were due to have dinner with Lise, however, the poor career girl got stuck in a work conference and could not be freed up until 9pm at the earliest. So, we decided to postpone. After all, we will see Lise and Greg in Lyon this weekend from Saturday morning.

So, we had an afternoon of catch ups, blogging and sorting out our new mobile phone number then went for dinner literally across the road at Maria Luisa, a pizza / pasta place that had been recommended to us both by Lise and by our hosts.

Maria Luisa opens at 7.30pm, we arrived maybe 7.45pm or so and not long after 8pm the place was full and they were turning people away asking them to come back later. This looked promising.

Yep, we ordered pizza. Hans had a Capriciosa and Di had a Diavola and they were both very good as we finished all that was in front of us. Yep, we could understand the attraction of this place.

As a side note, most of the waiters had long bushy beards a la Ned Kelly, a phenomena we understand is now trendy within Generation Y.

Also, there was a lady eating there, who Hans initially thought was a man but Di said was a girl, who had the biggest gold earrings and gold necklace that Hans thinks that he had ever seen outside the theatre or a show. A very severe hairstyle and makeup too. But not this girl below...

Thin, great crust and delicious pizzas.

As we left, and gave up our table to other hungry punters, we noticed that a sculpture class was in progress in the store across the road (and still across from where we lived although we hadn't noticed this before). Clay work trying to recreate parts of the naked female body. How French :-) but sorry no live model...

This photo is actually taken outside the front gate of our apartment building.

We were back in our apartment before 9pm feeling relaxed and full as Hans poured himself another glass of wine while Di relaxed in bed.

All coordinated with Francois and Martine in Lyon for tomorrow as we have to say goodbye to Paris in the morning, well, for this time at least. Now it is good night from us for the last time from the city of lights.

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