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Published: September 19th 2013
Well today is our last day with Cindy the Citroen and Victoria aka Vicky the GPS and we shall be sad to see them go back to Citroen for someone to buy for their family.The car was a bit of a challenge at times being heavier then what we had been used to driving in NZ but we have got her through unscathed(with 40km to go!).We could not have done this trip without GPS as the locations of hotels especially in countries like Romania and Bulgaria etc which sometimes didn't have a street address or were off the beaten track(which at times wasn't hard)would have made it difficult and slow for us.We will have driven the car over 25,100km by the end of the day when we get to Orly airport.
But first we are planning a few hours at Versailles which is just a short drive from our apartment in Magny.
Dawn revealed overcast,grey skies with drizzly rain so the indoor side of touring the Palace might work out well and we hope that by the time we do the outdoor stuff any rain will have cleared.
We had another repack before we headed away because we
need to be right down to what we can carry or put on our back by the time we get to go to the railway station at Antony,near Orly airport,to get ourselves into Paris and then onto our B&B accommodation for the next three nights.
We arrived in Versailles just before 10.30am,a little later than what we had hoped,to try and avoid the crowds that arrive early for a full day visit.
It was obvious as we parked the car in the very expansive car park in front of the entrance to the Palace that we should have got up earlier and been here an hour ago.Now we will have to join the crowds coming off the buses that were pulling in one after another and the individuals from cars all flocking through the entrance way.
We did make some ground when we got to the ticket queue when Gretchen discovered the automatic ticket machines rather than joining the queue to the ticket office.
Then there was the queue to go through security and begin the tour.
One thing in our favour was at least the school holidays were over or the crowds we are
sure would have been double or more.
We had the option of taking a free audio guide that is included in the admission price but we decided that given the immensity of the place that we would get bogged down with too much information and it would take longer to do the tour than the time we have.Not that we were in a hurry but we needed to be at Orly by 3pm so 3 1/2 to 4 hours would have to do it for us.
First up was the Grand Apartments including the magnificent Hall of Mirrors which as the name suggests was an oblong room lined with mirrors and chandaliers hanging from the ceiling.The effect was quite stunning even with the hordes that were wandering along staring and listening to their audio guides.At this point we were again glad that we didn't avail ourselves of the guide and in fact there is enough information in written form in the rooms that you pass through to get the history of what is in that room.
As we progressed on the crowds did for some reason start to thin out although that may also have been because
we weren't bogged down by an audio guide and we were now well ahead of the swarm of people that were arriving when we did.
We still had plenty of time to admire the beautiful furnishings,the paintings and the artwork especially on the ceilings as we went on our way.And we can only say that they were oppulent and absolutely amazing revealing the wealth that the Kingdom had before the Revolution.
It took us about 90 minutes to tour the Grand Apartments and then we headed outdoors to walk the 1 1/2 kilometres to Marie-Antoinette's Estate at the other end of the Palace grounds.We had the option of a shuttle train but the walk was flat and there was things to see along the way.
We grabbed a baguette and drink from a vendor and did like many other people, found a vacant step on the outside of the Palace to eat.By now the dark skies has cleared a little and the misty rain had gone completely.
There are times when it is an advantage to be a male and one of those times is when there are crowds like there was at Versailles because you
don't have to queue to use the toilets as women do given that there always seem to be more facilities for men.Such was the case at Versailles.!
The Petit Trianon and Gardens were less formal than the Palace and this is where Marie-Antoinette used to like to come to get away from the pomp and ceremony of the Palace.That is not to say that the furnishings were not as beautiful as the Palace just a little less pretentious.The rooms were not as big but then fewer people used this part of the estate anyway.
The garden was past it's best from summer but the symmetry of the layout was perfect and if you closed your eyes thinking of the large portrait of Marie-Antoinette inside the house you could imagine her walking about with a sun umbrella and her ladies in waiting enjoying the display.
Our trek back to the Palace to exit back to the car went a little astray when we went left instead of right and took a path that eventually had us at the working farm on the far side of the grounds and a big distance from the Palace.
Seeing the old
but well kept farm houses and vegetable gardens was worth it and we were soon back on course heading back to the Palace and out to the car.The tour had taken us just under 4 hours and we felt fulfilled that we had seen all we had wanted to.
It was just a short drive to the depot near Orly airport and we said our goodbyes to 'Cindy' and 'Vicky' and took a ride in a shuttle van to the station at the airport to connect with the train into Gare du Nord from where Gretchen had worked out a planned route to our B&B in St Ouen ashort subway ride and a walk away.
However on the train another little drama started to unfold when an African guy got on the train and sat next to me.The size of the seats made it so that it was impossible to not come into contact with the other person and I had a sense that I should be protecting my trouser pocket where I had my passport,travel cars and some cash.
I was relieved when the train arrived at Gare du Nord and we got off although so
too did the African guy although he seemed to disappear in another direction.
I told Gretchen what had happened on the train as she had been sitting in another seat and had not noticed the African guy.We regathered our senses and started to walk towards the subway we needed when I caught a glimpse of the African guy a few metres behind us.We moved over and stopped beside a column and he did the same.This was getting weird.
He was there again at the turnstile when I couldn't make my ticket work but I said I didn't need help and got the ticket to finally work.I was pretty sure now he was following us although for what purpose we didn't understand.
We got down to the platform and took a seat to wait for the train and there he was again sitting a few seats along from us.
We got up to get on the train but decided that it was too full to bale to get a standing position with our luggage and decided to wait for the next train.So did the African guy.
There was only one thing for it and that was
to wait for a couple of trains to go through and see what he did.He waited too!
Finally we waited until the last moment before getting on the 4th train that had come along since we had been on the platform and so did the African guy although he got on a carriage further back.The carriages have no doors between them so we were able to keep our eye on him as stations came and went.
Then he wasn't there any more and the drama was over.We shall never know if he was up to something but we were aware that scams happen all the time in Paris and we were glad we weren't going to be part of one.
We emerged up to the road from the subway and started the trek to the B&B making it before the rain started to fall.
Eric,the husband of the hostess,spoke little English but we managed to understand that his wife would be home soon and he showed us to our room carrying one of the heavy suitcases up the narrow stairs.I was very thankful for that.
We took the short walk to St Ouen shopping area
and found a laid back sort of restaurant and ordered up steak and chips and for Gretchen,a veal dish done Normandie style which was almost as good as the steak.
With light rain falling we made our way back to the B&B with plans for some sightseeing tomorrow although the weather does not look promising.
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