Paris and a trip to Versailles


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Europe » France » Île-de-France » Paris
May 19th 2017
Published: June 11th 2017
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We landed in Paris at about 4pm which was about an hour later than expected as our departure from Marrakech was delayed while we waited for our plane to turn up. Immigration was nice and quick and our bags popped out onto the carousel just as we arrived at the baggage carousel.

We caught the Orly bus from the airport to Denfert Rochereau metro station and then caught the metro to Strasburg Saint Denis. After about a 5 minute walk we arrived at our AirBNB in the 2nd arrondissement.

After checking into our AirBNB we set out towards Rue Montorgueil which was about a 5 minute walk away. Rue Montorgueil is a walking street which is lined with restaurants, bakeries, patisseries, cheese shops, wine shops and so on. We had planned to walk around for a while before choosing a restaurant but not long after turning onto Rue Montorgueil we both smelt a Thai restaurant.. We were both starving as we hadn't had lunch and the food smelt so delicious (particularly after a month without Thai / South East Asian food) that we decided to have an early dinner. It turned out to be a good decision as the food was delicious.

After dinner we continued walking south along Rue Montorgueil towards the Seine. We eventually reached the Seine at Pont Nuef and from there we had lovely views of Isle de la Cite, the Eiffel tower in the distance and all the lovely buildings along the banks of the Seine.

After admiring the view for a while we walked along the banks to the Seine towards the Louvre. After taking some photos of the pyramid we started to make our way back towards or AirBNB.

The following morning we grabbed a pain au chocolate each for breakfast on Rue Montorgueil and then set out in the direction of the Eiffel tower. We walked past the statue of Louis XIV, past the Tuileries Garden, through the Place de la Concorde and then along the Champs Elysees. We then turned south and walked until we reached the Avenue de New York which we followed until we reached Pont d'lena right in front (behind?) the Eiffel tower.

I had prebooked tickets to the highest viewing platform of the Eiffel tower as I'd heard the lines were terrible but they actually weren't that long when we arrived. We passed through security fairly quickly and joined the queue for the 11am trip up the elevator to the top platform.

The first elevator took us up to the second floor (second highest viewing point). From there we transferred to another elevator which took us up the top floor which is 276m above street level. Fortunately the sky was fairly clear so we had wonderful views over the city in all directions. Gustav Eiffel's office is also on the top floor; a slightly more spectacular location that my office!

After admiring the view from the top floor we headed back down the elevator to the second floor. We walked around admiring the views from the second level before making our way down the stairs so we could admire the engineering. The detailing was amazing and I'm not quite sure how the engineers and draftsmen managed to prepare all the drawings without the help of 3D CAD!

Once we arrived back at ground level we took some photos from the base before heading to a nearby cafe to pick up a baguette each for lunch. We ate our baguettes in the Champs de Mars gardens in front of the Eiffel tower.

After lunch we set off for Les Invalides which is a beautiful complex of buildings housing the military museum. We spent the next two to three hours wandering around the various parts of the museum. We were particularly impressed by the extensive collection old armour and weapons from the 13th to 17th centuries as well as the section on the French revolution (Napoleon was really tiny!!). After exploring most of the museum we stopped by Napoleon's tomb before setting off in search of a sugar fix at Angelina on Rue de Rivoli.

We timed our arrival at Angelina well as we didn't have to wait for a table. After finally managing to flag down a waiter we ordered a milleillefeuille (vanilla cream in between layers of crispy puff pastry) and a duchess (macaroon, earl grey tea cream, vanilla cream and strawberries). The pastries were delicious thought we've probably had equally nice pastries in Melbourne. The most entertaining part of our time at Angelina was when a lady sat down at the table next to us and ordered five pastries, three large macaroons and a hot chocolate all for herself.

After Angelina we headed back to our AirBNB for a brief rest before heading out again for dinner. We walked north from our AirBNB through St. Georges towards the Moulin Rouge. We had a fairly quick dinner (Vietnamese) before we headed into the Moulin Rouge for the 9pm show.

I had come across some fairly mixed reviews of the Moulin Rouge while researching which cabaret shows in Paris but we both really enjoyed the show! It was fast paced, well choreographed and entertaining. My favourite acts were a couple who did some amazing tricks on roller skates whilst spinning around in circles on a small elevated platform and the can-can. Even Scott said that he would recommend the Moulin Rouge (which I never ever thought I'd hear him say).

The following morning we caught the train to Versailles. After a 45 minute ride and short walk we arrived at the impressive golden front gates of the Palace of Versailles. After entering the palace grounds we set off to find the meeting point for our guided tour of the king's apartments.

Our search for the meeting point took a little longer than expected due to some wrong directions from one of the staff. Eventually we found a very friendly staff member who said that the people who sent us in the wrong direction probably didn't have great English. She radioed for a colleague who turned up not long after and led us through the back corridors to the guided tour meeting point (which is actually out the front of the gates...). We met up with our tour group with about 5-10 minutes to spare.

Before we set off into the king's apartments, our guide filled us in on the history of the Palace of Versaille. The first royal chateau in Versaille was built in 1623 by Louis XIII as a hunting lodge. Three new wings were added to the original building between 1661 - 1678 by Louis XIV. Another phase of expansion followed between 1678 - 1715; two large wings to the north and south of the Cour Royale (Royal Courtyard) were added and a terrace which faced the gardens on the west was transformed into the Hall of Mirrors. In 1687 another chateau, called Grand Trianon, was added on the property to the east of the the main chateau.

In 1682 Versaille was proclaimed by Louis XIV to be the principal royal residence and the seat of government. In 1683 the royal apartments (which encompassed the original hunting lodge) were enlarged and renovated. In 1688 construction of the Royal Chapel of Versaille commenced, but wasn't completed until 1710 which was two years after Louis XIV's death. In 1738 Louis XV remodeled the kings apartments, build a theatre and a new pavillion, called Petit Trianon, not far from Grand Trianon. Louis XVI gave Marie Antoinette Petit Trianon in 1774; she made significant changes to the interior and added a theatre. In 1789, during the French Revolution, the royal family was forced to move to Paris. The monarchy fell three years later. The chateau fell into disrepair and most furniture and artwork was sold / destroyed. Some restoration was undertaken by Napoleon in 1810 and Louis XVIII in 1820 but it wasn't until the 1950's that extensive restoration efforts were undertaken.

After receiving an overview of the history and political context of the chateau, we set off into the king's apartments. The king's private apartments are only accessible with a tour group; we visited Louis XV's bedchamber (built in 1738; he died there in 1774), the clock room (which housed a clock which displays the time, day of the week, month, year and lunar quarter and includes an impressive model of the solar system which shows the planets rotating around the sun), the dogs room (for his favourite dogs to sleep in), the post-hunt dining room, the king's private chamber, the dispatch room, the golden service room, the royal ledger room (previously the royal bathroom, it was converted to a study in by Louis XVI), Louis XVI's library, the porcelain dining room and the games room. We also visited the rooms which were used by Louis XV's daughters and housed an organ which Mozart played during his time in Versailles. The tour concluded in the impressive Royal Chapel which we were able to enter as we were on a tour rather than just being allowed to peer in from behind the barrier. We really enjoyed the tour of the king's apartments; the rooms were really impressive and elaborately decorated (no expense spared apparently). We particularly enjoyed learning about the history and thought it was a great introduction to Versailles. It was also nice to have slightly less people around!

After our tour concluded we headed out in the Royal Courtyard to have some lunch. After lunch we set off to explore the areas of the palace which are open to the public. We explored the king's state apartments which included Hercules room, the Hall of Plenty, the Venus room, the Diana room, the Mars room, the Mercury room (originally the royal bedchamber) and the Apollo room while listening to the informative audioguide. We were both surprised how on display the royal's lives were; little wonder the king wanted a private apartment.

From the king's state apartments we headed into the most famous room of the palace; the Hall of Mirrors which was definitely the busiest room we visited while at Versailles. The Hall of Mirrors was one of the main thoroughfares in the palace, as well as a meeting room and waiting room. It was also used for ceremonies such as royal weddings or diplomatic receptions. The Treaty of Versailles was signed in the room on 28 June 1919.

From the Hall of Mirrors we made our way to the Mesdames' apartments which were used by the six daughters of Louis XV. Only two of the daughters, Adelaide and Victoire, remained at Vesaille until the revolution (the others had all been married off). We visited Madame Victoire's first and second antechambers, Madame Victoire's great chamber, Madame Victorie's chamber, Madame Victorie's private chamber, Madame Victorie's library, Madame Adelaide's chamber, Madame Adelaide's private chamber and the palace police room.

After the Mesdames' apartments, we made our way outside to the gardens. We walked along the Green Carpet towards the Grand Canal and then veered off towards Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon. As we visited on a Tuesday music was being played throughout the gardens which gave it a nice atmosphere (I'm not sure why they don't do this everyday). Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon were definitely less grand than the main chateau, though they were still incredibly elaborate. The walk from the main chateau seemed to have deterred a lot of the crowds so the rooms were much quieter.

After exploring Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon we headed back through the gardens in search of the musical fountain shows. We timed our arrival at the Mirror Fountain perfectly as the show was just beginning as we arrived. The fountains were choreographed to music and we watched while sitting on the grass beside the pond. Once the display finished we walked to the Water Theatre Grove and sat and watched the fountain and listened to music for a while. The Water Theatre Grove wasn't as impressive as the display wasn't choreographed to the music; the fountains were just stationary. After the Water Theatre Grove we decided it was time to head back to Paris. We hopped on the train at about 5:30pm, meaning we had spent about 8.5 hours exploring Versailles.

The following morning we caught the metro south to the Catacombes. We had prebooked tickets so joined the (significantly) shorter line; we only had to wait about 20 minutes before we were able to enter. We climbed down the stairs until we reached the tunnel. The tunnels of the Catacombs were excavated in around the 12th to 17th century as people mined the limestone to use as a building material as well as gypsum for use in 'plaster of Paris'. Following a series of disasters (including collapse of some parts of the mine) a division of architects was created which was responsible for the inspection, maintenance and repair of the mine network.

During the 18th century the growing population of Paris resulted in all cemeteries being filled which lead to public health concerns. On 9 November 1785 the decision was made to remove the corpses from the Cemetery of Innocents, which had been in use for almost ten centuries, and transfer them to a section of the mines. The first transfer from the Cemetery of Innocents occurred on 7 April 1786 and it continued until 1788. After that the catacombs continued to receive remains from all the cemeteries of Paris until 1814.

We had to walk for a while before we reached the ossuary section of the catacombs. After walking through the entrance we were amongst the walls lined with neatly stacked bones. The people who transferred the bones didn't just stack them neatly, they were fairly creative. They laid them our in patterns and created artwork with the remains of Paris' citizens. We walked along looking at the bones and listening to the audioguide which described the ongoing process of maintaining the bones (as they degrade the walls begin to lean and the bones have to be removed and restacked so that they don't collapse onto some poor tourist). It was a very strange tourist attraction but very interesting!

From the catacombs we made our way through the streets of Saint Germain de Pres towards the beautiful Luxembourg Gardens. The Luxembourg Gardens, which were commissioned in 1611 by Marie de' Medici (widow of Henry IV, king of France from 1589 to 1610), covers 23 hectares. The gardens are beautifully landscaped with lots of lovely shady trees, lawns and flowerbeds. We walked through the gardens until we reached the Luxembourg palace which now houses the French senate.

We made our way out of the Luxembourg Gardens and headed into the Latin Quarter towards the Pantheon. The Pantheon was originally built as a church in 1758-1790, but is now a secular mausoleum which contains the remains of distinguished French citizens such as Voltaire, Victor Hugo and Marie Curie. We admired the building from the outside but decided not to enter...perhaps next time we're back in Paris we'll check out the inside.

After the Pantheon we stopped at a little burger restaurant for lunch (not very French, but still delicious). We then continued on to La Sorbonne which would have been much more beautiful if the fountains were running.

We made our way back through the streets of the Latin Quarter until we reached
The Duchess, AngelinaThe Duchess, AngelinaThe Duchess, Angelina

macaroon, earl grey tea cream, vanilla cream and strawberries
Notre Dame. The queue to enter the cathedral was quite short so we decided to head inside. The cathedral was very impressive, however my favourite part was the display which stepped through the history of construction. The cathedral which stands on the site today doesn't even resemble the original building!

From Notre Dame we made our way back to our AirBNB to get ready to head to the ballet. We had some cheese and baguette for dinner before we ventured our again towards the Palais Garnier. We arrived early enough to take some photos of the beautiful building, before we set off to find our seats.

When we found our seats we discovered someone was already sitting in one of them. The usher was very confused and said there must have been a mistake...but then we pointed out that the man who was sitting in our seat was actually supposed to be one level down. With that resolved we took our seats.

The first act, En sol, ran for about 25 minutes; the tutus were beautiful with layers of different coloured tule. There isn't a lot of difference in the level of the rows of seats so
Milleillefeuille, AngelinaMilleillefeuille, AngelinaMilleillefeuille, Angelina

vanilla cream in between layers of crispy puff pastry
sometimes it was a little hard to see the performers due to the people in front of us.

During the intermission we made our way out of the box (which was very stuffy, clearly they didn't have airconditioning when the theatre was constructed!). When we returned to our seats we found the same man sitting in one of them again. We went through the process of trying to explain he was up one level too high again (despite him protesting he was in the right spot...not sure how he didn't recognise us and remember having the same discussion about 40 minutes earlier!).

The second act, La Valse, was only about 20 minutes long; it was a much more modern piece and at times the choreography reminded me of the final scene of Centre Stage. After the act concluded we again made our way out of the stuffy box for intermission.We were surprised that the same man wasn't sitting in our seat again when we returned!

The third act, Bolero, only lasted about 15 minutes...the dancers pirouetted, chained, fouetted, posed and twirled around the stage for the entire act which was pretty impressive. As we exited the Garnier we discovered it had started to rain. We didn't have an umbrella with us so by the time we arrived back at our AirBNB we were both pretty wet.

The following morning we had a reasonably early start as we wanted to be at Notre Dame by 9:30am. Fortunately the rain had stopped overnight so we had a nice walk through the quiet streets (with the obligatory croissant stop) towards Ile de la Cite. We joined the queue for the Notre Dame towers at 9:30 and waited until they opened at 10am.

The towers were fantastic and well worth the climb up the 387 stairs. The views from the rooftop over Paris were fabulous. We snapped photos of the skyline, the church rooftop and the gargoyles whilst admiring the view.

From the towers of Notre Dame we made our way towards the Louvre. We weren't sure what time we'd arrive so hadn't pre-booked tickets because we didn't want to rush our visit to the towers of Notre Dame. We joined the queue which moved reasonably quickly and fended off people selling umbrellas and water until we made it through security and into the Louvre.

The Louvre was originally built as a fortress in the 12th century. It was converted to the main residence of the French Kings in 1546 and remained so until 1682 when Louis XIV chose to move the main residence to Versailles. The Louvre was converted into a museum in August 1793.

Once inside we set off towards the Northern European paintings (Van Eyck, Brueghel, Rubens, Van Dyck, Rembrant and Vermeer). We then walked through the near Eastern Antiquities (objects, statues, tablets and architectural decorations from palaces and temples in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey etc.). We then made our way through the maze to the Italian paintings from 1250 - 1850 (Botticelli, da Vinci, Raphael etc), including the Mona Lisa (I was a little disappointed by how small the crowd in front of it was, I wasn't expecting to be able to get as close as we did). We continued on to the Spanish paintings (El Greco, Rivera, Goya etc.). After stopping for lunch we made our way to the Egyptian antiquities section.

Neither of us are particularly big fans of art galleries so we didn't really linger to admire individual paintings / statues for long. I think the most impressive part of the Louvre for us, apart from the number of paintings and artefacts they have managed to steal and / or buy, was the beautiful building.

From the Louvre we made our way back towards our AirBNB to pack and relax for a while. The rain returned whilst we were in our AirBNB; by the time we headed out for dinner it was pouring! We grabbed our rain jackets and made our way to Rue Montorgueil. As we hadn't had French for dinner whilst in Paris as French food was actually quite expensive, however I was determined that we'd have French for our final dinner in Paris. We eventually found a restaurant which looked suitable (and dry!), so headed inside out of the rain.

We shared a French onion soup for entree; Scott had a steak for main and I had a cheese platter. We shared some profiteroles for dessert. The food was OK, though a little underwhelming. We both enjoyed the French onion soup the best, it was perfect for a rainy cool night.

The following morning we packed up the last of our things and headed out for breakfast. I ordered a croissant, a crepe and a strawberry tart while Scott opted to just had a ham and cheese croissant. After breakfast we walked through the streets around our AirBNB for about an hour before we returned to pick up our bags and head to the train station.

Our departure from Paris was delayed by about 45 minutes due to weather, which meant that when we touched down in Dubai we had about 20 minutes before our connection to Melbourne was due to depart. Despite assistant from the crew, who escorted us to the door as soon as we touched down so we'd be first off the plane, we missed our connection. We thought we'd definitely be spending the night in Dubai, however it turned out there was another direct flight to Melbourne departing an hour later. We were transferred onto that flight and were surprised to discover we had a spare seat next to us so we could spread out a little more. We were both impressed when our bags also arrived in Melbourne.

We caught a taxi back to our apartment and were greeted by two very friendly and happy cats; we're not sure whether they were happy to see us because they were hungry or because they missed us or perhaps a little of both. We had a fantastic 5 week trip through Spain, Morocco and Paris...and now need to start planning the next holiday!


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12th June 2017

Never enough Paris
No matter how often we go we never tire of this amazing city. You've taken some great photos!

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