We woke up to another cold day in Paris. The temperature must have been just a single digit. The weather was making a fool out of us. Last year, we had packed sufficient wear for cold weather and the weather was warm. This year, we were fully prepared for a hot summer and Paris got unusually cold. 🙄 And checking the weather forecast didn’t help one bit in our packing! 👿
Looking back on this day, if I had not bought the tickets for Versailles in advance, we would probably have a relatively boring day in Paris. But I did buy tickets in advance, hence it was an eventful day. 😀
The apartment we were staying at was also located near a RER station, the Avenue de President Kennedy stattion. I assume this is named after American president Kennedy, and have no idea why it was so.
It took a while to figure out how to get to Versailles via the RER. We had to take the RER to Champs de Mar and from there, switch train to the right one to Versailles Rive Gauche. One really has to check that one is on the correct platform and be aware that the train that arrives on the platform might not be the right one. Luckily (or maybe not!), there’s quite a number of tourists heading to Versailles.
The train ride took about 30 minutes and when we reached, we just followed the crowd, knowing the crowd would lead us to the palace.
At the gates of the palace, we saw hoards of tourists and a supremely long line for something. I had hoped that was the queue for getting the tickets.
So we went straight to the head of the line as we already had printed tickets bought online. However, it appeared that the queue was for the entrance into the palace itself, not for ticket buying. Since the queue was super long, we decided to get into the queue first. While the husband was queuing, I waited for my turn to speak to a staff who was directing traffic on the grounds.
While waiting for my turn to speak with that guy, I could hear his conversations with other tourists who were also trying to find out what the queue was for. It did seem like the queue was for entrance into the palace buildings. I was totally amused by the conversation of an American tourist with the staff. The tourist had verified that the queue was indeed for entrance into the buildings. Then he complained to the French staff that the queue was very long and wanted to know if this was normal. The guard then said yes this is very normal. The tourist seemed stunned that this is the normal crowd. The tourist kept going on and on about how crowded the grounds is and how supremely long the queue was. Then he wanted to know if he came back on another day, would the queue perhaps be shorter. To this the French replied the queue, for today, was considered short. In fact, the queue today ended before the gates. Normally, the queue would snake right past the entrance of the gates of the Chateau. This shocked the tourist even more! 😯 By this point, I was getting impatient. A small crowd was getting around the staff trying to get information and that tourist was just hogging him! 😡 The tourist of course wouldn’t let up and went on to clarify if he heard right that the crowd today was indeed smaller than crowds on other days. 🙄 Kudos to the French who remained very patient throughout and let the American vent. The French has got plenty of time on his hands you see. And how does one end a conversation like this when someone just wants to nag on and on about the crowd which no one could do anything about? I gotta hand it to the French. He simply shrugged his shoulder and said ‘This is France.’ When the American started to make another rebuttal, the French again made the French shrug and said ‘Its France.’ 😆 Haha, the tourist finally got the idea that he either continue hogging the staff with his complaints or get into the queue or return on another ‘normal’ day. So he walked away. Finally!
My turn now to speak to the French. ‘Bonjour Monsieur’. You see, I had thought that exchange he had with the American would put him into an irritated mood. So I made sure I was very very polite. ‘Parlez vous anglais?’ See, I was very determined to be polite. And he replied ‘Yes, Madame.’ He was so professional! No tinge of annoyance or frustration at us tourists asking him the same question all over again. So he confirmed that the long queue, which was getting longer by the minute, was indeed the entrance to the buildings. And my printed tickets were good to allow entrance into them, no need to exchange them for proper tickets etc. And if we so wished to, we could go into the gardens first and then return to the buildings later. When I thanked him for his help, he gave a very regal nod and moved on to the next tourist. This is France indeed.
By the time I joined the husband back into the queue, we were on the second pin of the loop. A group of smart tourists behind us knew I had spoken to the staff and they confirmed with me if this was the queue for the palace. They very calmly accepted my ‘Yes, it is’ and went back to enjoying the long queue. You see, this long queue is not quite normal because I haven’t seen a queue quite like this before. But, to me, it added on to the unique experience of being in a top tourist destination, Versailles. Queueing is all part and parcel of being a tourist at top attractions, no?
So while in the queue, we decided to pay attention to the gold on the gates. I wondered if the gates were gold plated or really made of gold through and through. After the trip into the rooms, I think the gates are made of gold. Period.
The long queue was caused by security check at the entrance but also by the huge numbers of tourists present. And boy, it was a huge crowd!
The crowd dissipated after the security bag check and I had thought that’s the end of the crowd. How wrong I was.
There’s a lot of gold in the palace. But of course!
It was really difficult to enjoy what was on display in Versailles. There’s many rooms where one couldn’t linger around as it was too crowded and the crowd would simply carry you away. It was simply just shooting of photos without much idea of what the pictures were of. 😦
While being carried by the crowd, we had occasional glimpses at the spacious gardens outside. It made us want to go out! The rooms were too stuffy and the whole thing was getting unpleasant. It was getting really unenjoyable.
After much jostling in the rooms, we finally got out!! 😮 It was cold, freezing cold!!! We had to use a heat pack that we had brought along. Unfortunately, we had only one heat pack! 😦
The garden was vast! The garden was ‘broken up’ into many smalls areas. The area that I wanted to go was Marie Antoinette’s estate.
And a lovely tree-lined space. Some people were lying on the grass, enjoying the surroundings, while we were busy taking photos.
Soon, we got hungry and proceeded to the nearest restaurant. With such a cold weather, we were looking forward to a piping hot meal. Upon reaching the restaurant, however, the restaurant turned us away as it was over 2.30pm. 😯 Even in such a touristy site such as Versailles, the French culinary staff stuck to their rule of opening for certain hours only for lunch/ dinner. And we weren’t the only people looking for a meal. 😕 There’s s small stand nearby the restaurant and there were words such as crepes on its menu. So we asked for that. But, we were told they have only chips available. 😮 So we ended up a cup of hot tea each and a pack of chips to share. 🙄
As we neared Marie Antoinette’s estate, we saw another food selling stand. Sandwiches and crepes were sold there! Luckily, we had bought only a pack of chips. So we each got a crepe with sugar and it was one of the best feelings in the world! A hot sweet crepe down our throat with the cold wind blowing at us! 😛
We carried on our way to Marie Antoinette’s estate. The garden is full of such avenues.
And finally after some time walking in the cold wind, we finally reached Marie Antoinette’s estate, glad to have some shelter from the cold.
We finally headed indoors after spending some time in the gardens, when we couldn’t take the cold anymore. Luckily it wasn’t crowded at all at Marie Antoinette’s estate! 😛
Thereafter, we headed to Petit Trianon and had no idea where we ended up. But since the area was huge, we managed to take in some sights while having a real fuzzy idea of where we were. 😳
So along this stream, we saw a beautiful swan. It seemed to enjoy its ‘stroll’ on the water and was not tempted by calls from tourists to do anything.
However, when we were on the bank, the swan decided to grace us with its presence and it came onto the bank! 😀 Animals love me!! 🙂 We made sure not to annoy the swan, seeing that it was so very kind to come towards us. I was worried that the swan would peck at us. Its mouth seemed big enough to give a very bad bruise, or something like that.
I think the swan was attracted by the little kids too. And they were very respectful towards the swan too! No screaming or shouting or stone-throwing kids, these French kids were so well behaved!
I had made dinner reservations at a restaurant in Paris and we really had enough of the cold. So we headed back towards the main entrance. And along the way, we saw an enclosure of sheep. It certainly reminded me of CingJing .
It was nice to see some animals here and there on the grounds.
As we walked back to the entrance, the clouds hovered threateningly. Well, they have been hovering all day and they decided to just pour their contents onto earth. Well, the rain started out as a drizzle. I had an umbrella and it barely sheltered us as we tried to hasten our steps. It was, oh so cold! And we were still a long way from the entrance. 😦
And this was when our travel god took pity on us. A French couple came by on their golf buggy. Yes, golf buggy! There’s actually rental available for golf buggies. And the couple was so friendly and nice. Without any hesitation, they told us to quickly hop on and they’ll give us a ride back to the main ground. And within minutes after we got on their buggy, the skies opened and rain poured! 😮 The couple even joked that the buggy was not much use against the rain. Unfortunately, we couldn’t have a proper conversation during the ride. The rain was very heavy and the ride was rough as the gentleman driving it was full of intent on getting us back to proper shelter as dry as possible and in the quickest time. And a golf buggy is not structurally conducive for holding a conversation at all. When the let us off at a place where we could have a short run to shelter, the French lady was so friendly and she even told us to enjoy our travel in France and to please return again. The only way we could show our gratitude was to thank them both profusely. That was definitely insufficient but we couldn’t do more with the onslaught of rain. 😳 What friendly people the French are! I seriously wondered who were those French that gave French a bad reputation because we didn’t see any of them at all! Or even if we did, none of them stayed in my memories. I could only remember the warmth of the French. I was full of gratitude to that couple because, without them, without a doubt, we would be drenched and would probably be down with pneumonia that very evening. It was freezing cold before the rain and with the rain, the cold became unbearable.
So we waited for the rain to slow to a drizzle before we walked to the train station. It would be wise to buy return tickets to Paris in advance. We headed straight to L’Ange 20 for dinner. It was the only night I managed to get reservations for!
Again, the menu was on the blackboard. Perhaps that’s the fad in Paris these days.
The waiter was very friendly and he translated the menu for us. While waiting for our dinner to arrive, we had small talk and it turned out that the waiter had once upon a time studied in Singapore. He was a young man and he had went to Singapore for studies. He mentioned he liked the food that’s available in the foodcourts of Singapore and he even named chilli crab as one of his favs. It was very pleasant talking about home in a foreign land with someone who’s been there before.
So for appetisers, the waiter recommended some chicken parts for us to try. He said its a bit like sausage with a really crispy exterior. I was skeptical about the dish but the adventurous husband gave the go-ahead.
Ah, turns out the word which the waiter mentioned about the chicken was innards, which I didn’t catch. It was well, very crispy on the outside but still tasted like innards (which we don’t eat). Surprisingly, the husband managed to take them as sausages and finished them. 😮
And I had a lovely deep fried prawn starters.
I liked the way the prawns were prepared. Delicious!
So perhaps the waiter thought the husband was all for exotic food, so he recommended quail. Again, the husband went along.
And I had the lamb which was highly recommended on Tripadvisors.
The sides were potatoes and ratatouille. I loved the ratatouille! The lamb was very tender but the gamey taste which I absolutely can’t stand was still present. AS such I didn’t enjoy the lamb that much.
We didn’t linger after we were done as there were lots of people coming in and asking for tables. And the husband was feeling the effects of the cold day and we decided to head back.
On our way to the metro, the husband asked me what building was this:
Silly me! I was so cold I blocked out everything and I forgot to introduce the Pompidou to him. I explained about the pipes etc and he seemed interested in what I was saying. I knew he would be interested in Pompidou. I could only say this to him “I’m sorry we didn’t have time to make a trip to Pompidou but next year I’ll make sure we’ll get there.” With a nod of his head, I took it as confirmation that we would be back in Paris the next year!!! 😛