Today’s main activity was the Château de Versailles.
It’s approximately a half hour train ride from Paris. Before heading to the train station, we popped into a boulangerie around the corner from our hotel to pick up a few pastries for breakfast and a fresh baguette for lunch. We also stopped by a mini mart in Versailles to pick up a few extras (plus a butter knife) to go with the baguette.
Versailles is massive. You could easily spend a whole day exploring les jardins alone. The security appeared tight. There were metal detectors and military personnel armed with rifles at the gate. Amy and I were a little worried they’d confiscate our brand new butter knife. But we got through all clear. We later learnt (from the introduction on the free audio commentary) that we weren’t allowed to bring any food and no more than a small bottle of water into the palace. There I was with a big bottle of water, a whole baguette, beurre, cheese, jambon and a punnet of cherry tomatoes in my backpack.
I’m glad we paid a little extra (7€) for a guided tour. I didn’t catch his name, but our tour guide was excellent. He spoke English really well and had interesting and entertaining anecdotes. Our tour group was a small group of six (two Aussies, two Brits and two Americans), which I liked. I feel I don’t get as much out of a tour when there are a lot of people. Our guided tour took us around a section of King Louis XV’s quarters and the Royal Opera, which was my favourite. The opera house was commissioned by King Louis XV and it’s mostly made out of wood, which has then been painted to look like expensive materials such as marble. This was so it could be converted into a large ballroom for entertaining.
The hallway to the opera house had plaques on the wall with the names of individuals and organisations that have donated to the upkeep of Château de Versailles over the years, dating all the way back to when it was first opened to the public as a museum in 1837. Recent donations have come from the likes of Google, Chanel and Cartier.
After the guided tour, we wandered through the palace to the famous Hall of Mirrors.
We then made our way down to the gardens, where we had our picnic lunch. We’d also bought a small bottle of wine, but we realised too late that it had a cork and we were sadly without a cork screw.
After lunch, we continued down to the Grand Canal. The “waterfall” that stands tall in the Grand Canal feels so out of place. It looks clunky. I don’t know why it’s there or why it was designed the way it is. We hired bikes for an hour and hoped to explore Marie Antoinette’s Estate, but they weren’t allowed in the Trianon and the estate. So instead, we cycled all the way round the Grand Canal. There were some beautiful grassed pathways leading in towards the park, lined with trees with ivy growing all the way up the trunks. I wanted to stop and take a photo, but we were already racing to get the bikes back within the hour. A glacé to cool down post-bike ride, and then it was home time.
After a little R&R at the hotel, we headed back out to the Arc de Triomphe to catch the sunset from the terrace. 284 steps later, we were rewarded with a spectacular view of the Eiffel Tower and a perfect panorama of Paris. I wish we’d stayed up there a little longer to see the Eiffel Tower light up. Dinner was at Café Eiffel tonight. We both had the melon and jambon. The jambon was sliced a little too thick, but the melon was sweet. I also had the pork rillettes and Amy had the French burger. They were okay. It was late when we finished dinner (around 10.30PM). So we just took a quick stroll round the base of the Eiffel Tower. It looks grand and impressive standing at the base looking up, but for some reason, I still think it looks small when looking at it from a distance.
There’s so much to do in Paris. I knew two days wouldn’t be enough. I wasn’t too fussed though. We’ll be back for one night before Amy leaves, and I’m sure I’ll be making a return trip in the near future.