Tower in the Fog
Where is the summit?
The day has finally arrived, my 50th
birthday. Paris is a long way from St. Helens Oregon. We slept in a little and had breakfast in our room so we could back and get ready to leave for Versailles. There was one stop in Paris before we boarded the RER to Versailles. We packed and checked out of our hotel, leaving our bags until we finished this first trip of the day. The Battle with the Eiffel Tower
Before leaving for Paris, I had purchased tickets to the summit of the Eiffel Tower for all of us. The plan was to ride to the top and toast my birthday with a class of champagne from the champagne bar at the top of the tower. We got there in plenty of time before we were to go to the top. It was a foggy day and you could not see the top of the tower from the ground. I didn’t care if you could see the top or not, the point was going to the top and toast my 50th
birthday. A Little History
In my prior two trips to Paris I have never been able to go
Not the Summit
Third time is not a charm
all the way to the top of the tower. In 1994 both times I tried the summit was always closed for some whether relating reason. In 2006 Jerry and I got there to late and the last elevator had already gone to the top. This being my third trip and my 50th
birthday, I was determined to get to the top at last. It was not to be. The elevator was experience technical difficulties and had been closed for the last week. So yet again my plans to get to the top had been foiled. We did go the second stage and take some pictures and then returned to pick up our bags and head for Versailles. RER to Versailles
Versailles is about a 20 minute train ride from Paris, it is basically a suburb and the RER is like a commuter train. Versailles as a city did not exist until Louis XIV expanded the royal hunting lodge to the present day chateau. Actually Versailles was in a constant state of expansion from the time of Louis the XIV to the last occupier Louis the XVI and Marie Antoinette.
Bruce met us in front of our hotel
and we walked to the RER station form there. It was a little less than a mile and we all lugged our suit cases behind us. Thankfully we have wheels on them and it was a flat and straight walk. Once we arrived we purchased our round trip tickets for 13.80€ for two of us. We trudged our luggage down the stair case and through the turnstiles to the RER platform. The train was already there and we boarded and were on our way.
Versailles is the last stop on the line C so you can’t miss your stop as long as you got on the right train in the first place. We all got off the train and exited the station. Bruce’s hotel was within walking distance ours was about 1 ½ miles from the station on the edge of the gardens of the Chateau. We did not want to walk that far with our luggage so we hired a taxi. Bruce walked to his hotel and we agreed to meet at 3:30 in front of the Chateau Versailles to do our first tour.
While Bruce had is easy walk to his hotel, Jerry and I got
Our home in Versailles
in the luggage. The trip there was uneventful, but then when I went to pay the driver, he started adding supplements to the metered fair. The fair on the meter was 6.95€ but after he added charges for each of our bags it ended up being 10.16€. The price was fair, but he just didn’t explain this up front, but then we didn’t ask either. Taxi Tip
It is standard to charge extra for luggage if you have more than one piece, so be prepared for that on your next trip to France. The Hotel
When we travel we usually stay at 2 or 3 star hotels. They are inexpensive and easy to find. I can also typically get them through hotels.com at a great price. This trip we booked all of our hotels in advance to insure we got places in the areas we wanted. When it came time to book the hotel in Versailles I splurged just a little and decided to stay in the Trianon Palace Versailles, a Waldorf Astoria Hotel, owned by the Hilton. I was able to get a very good price via their website, it was in fact about 1/3 the rack
rate (the rate you pay if you just walk up to the desk and say I want a room). I booked the cheapest room they had, which was in the new part or pavilion of the hotel. The main hotel was in the Palace, built in 1910 and not part of Versailles other than it is along the edge of the gardens outside the walls. After I booked the room and because I was a Hilton Honor’s member we were given the option to upgrade to a better room if it was available upon check in. I signed us up hoping for the best. When we checked in we did get the upgrade for an extra 39€, which moved us from the pavilion to a deluxe king room. It was very deluxe much bigger than our hotel in Paris; in fact the bathroom was bigger than our hotel in Paris.
The room was probably the second nicest room we have stayed in, the nicest still being the 1889 in Barcelona, nothing beats 8 levels of lighting and heated towel racks, although, the bathroom floor in this room was heated. There were two balconies, one off the bedroom and one
off the bathroom; everyone needs a balcony off the bathroom. There was a shower, with rain shower head and a deep bathtub. It had all the amenities, including two restaurants owned and operated by Gordon Ramsey, more on that later. The Chateau
After we were settled in our room, we headed to meet Bruce for the first tour of the Chateau. (PP) To get there we went through the Queens gate and walked through a portion of the Versailles gardens. TIP
, if you are only going to go to Versailles one time in your life go during the summer and on a Sunday. This is the only day that you will get to see all of the fountains in the garden on display and they are an amazing site. We would not see them this time since it was winter. TIP2
winter is the best time to actually see the Chateau; the crowds are 1/3 of what they are during the high season so you can actually take your time and actually see each room with out 1,000 other people. TIP3
go late in the day if your there in the winter, I don’t care what the guide
books say it is the best time to go. We got there are 4 had 1 ½ hours to see the castle and there was practically no one there. It was much more enjoyable and informative. The audio guides are included in the price of admission.
It took us about 15 minutes to walk from our hotel to the entrance of the chateau. We met Bruce, and we began our tour. Bruce did it a little faster because he wanted to see everything he could because he only had that day and tomorrow morning. Jerry and I had two full days to see visit. TIP4
spend at least 2 days at Versailles, it may be an easy day trip from Paris, but there is just two much to see in on day.
Versailles Chateau is truly the most decadent and amazing thing you will ever see. You will truly understand why they lost their heads during the revolution. I could write pages about the chateau and we have too many pictures to post so I will just say it needs to be on your list of things to see before you die. I have tried to post some
The King atone's for his sins here
of the best pictures for you to enjoy. Birthday Gift from the Hotel
After our tour we all returned to our hotels to freshen up for dinner. Bruce was meeting us at our hotel as we would be eating in one of Chez Ramsey’s restaurants. When Jerry and I returned to the room, on our table were bottles of water, a bottle of wine and some macarons (and they weren’t your American coconut things). I asked him if he arranged this and he said no, the hotel and done it simply because it was my 50th
We had some wine, I did a little blogging and we ate the macarons. Honestly I never really understood why people always went on about French macarons, what pops in my head is a cookie covered in coconut. That is so far from what a macaron really is, the simply melt really melt in your mouth and the taste is beyond description. So now I understand, and if we come back in April with Ms Maria Joy, I am taking a class on how to make them. The Birthday Dinner
So the reason we were here at all
was to celebrate my 50th birthday. You all pretty much know that I love to cook, love French food and want to open my own French restaurant some day. You also might know that I applied to be on Master Chef a show done by Gordon Ramsey. I did not go to the Seattle audition because the filming of the show was during tax season; I could not possibly spend a week in Paris and take 6 weeks off to be on Master Chef, so I did not audition, maybe next year. In any event since I was staying a place were there are one but two Gordon Ramsey establishments, we ate in one. The main restaurant was closed so we ate at the upscale Brasserie called La Veranda. It was according to Jerry classical but with modern furnishings. It was long and very nice mood lighting; the tables had space between them, unlike in most French restaurants. This was going to be an event.
Any of you that have ever watched one of Chef Ramsey’s shows, know that he can be for lack of any better word a Bastard. And he goes on and on about his risotto.
Well, you don’t think I was going to not have the shellfish risotto and if it wasn’t perfect, look out Chef Ramsey I am going to have some words for you. I wish I could say it was undercooked and not flavorful, but unfortunately it was truly the best risotto I have ever eaten. Bruce and I both started with the shellfish risotto (two kinds of fish and crab) I will master this dish. Jerry had an equally as good Duck confit Y& Crab roll with a sweet & sour pepper sauce (kind of a spring roll but not really) and the sauce was not your bad Chinese sweet and sour, but really nice with a bite of a bite.
Before the appetizer’s Bruce and Jerry both had a class of champagne (oh Jerry and I drank that bottle of Moet 2002 in our room before dinner we toasted my birthday at 6 pm which 9 am back home which is then I was born) I had a dry martini, which was not dry, but still good, first bit of Gin since Hobo’s the night before we left.
Our entrees were as follows:
Jerry – Chicken with
tagliatelle and a savory brown demi-glaze (the chicken was the moistest chicken I have ever tasted)
Bruce had turbot lightly seared.
I had Iberian duo, which was a very dense Spanish ham and a nice slice of pork tenderloin, in a very simple plum sauce.
With dinner was an excellent bottle of Bordeaux from Pulliac it went well with everything we had. Desserts, (the drama begins) Bruce did not get his, Jerry had a light cream with cherries, and I had a shortbread covered in caramel. The reason Bruce did not get his, is right before we ordered dessert, there was an incident two tables down. There was some random French couple who thought they were special (like every person who eats in the Pearl) the woman evidently was not happy with her meal, the server (the same as ours) tried to make it right and suggest something else, but this woman wasn’t going to have it. She threw her napkin on the table, pushed the table away and stormed out of the restaurant in a way I think only the French can, true indignation. This totally frazzled our server and she got flustered with the rest
The Queens Bed
Marie Antoinette slept here, for real.
of our meal, hence Bruce did not get his dessert and when Jerry went to order Sherry, OMG you think we were asking for the rarest liquor on earth. One she did not know what it is. I don’t know how you work in a restaurant owned by Gordon Ramsey and do not know what Sherry is, second, she forgot it and the maitre‘d had to get it. It was all good in the end, the food was great and the Sherry was comped.
After dinner we all went up to the room had some wine and talked politics (very little politics Bruce is a republican after all and I am well NOT). Bruce left for his hotel about midnight and Jerry and I crashed.
Up Next a Private Tour of Versailles.
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