Day 7: Paris, Part 4 – Versailles and The Louvre


Louvre, Paris

We both got good sleep last night –  7 hours for me, 10.5 for Dan. He’s still not quite 100% but getting decent sleep helped a lot. I was up for 2.5 hours before him so did my thing with coffee, Churchill, and a stroll through the neighborhood. I took this opportunity to grab some photos before I forgot.

The outside entrance to our building, and the inside entry way.
Pretty little courtyard; our flat is to the immediate right and faces the outside, not the courtyard.
6 flights up! Yes, we knew that when we rented it. Figured it was all part of the Paris experience.
Top: the bakery on the corner for our daily bread; Bottom left: the block we’re on; right: across the intersection from the bakery. The green awning is a little grocery we’ve stopped in several times, mostly for bottled water.

Dan was up after 9:30 sometime. We had breakfast in again and headed out about 10:45. Here are some random musings we’ve had since we’ve been here:

  • OMG – the smokers. We thought Germany was bad; people smoke a LOT here. Thankfully, you can’t in buildings, but everyone outside seems to have a cigarette in their hands. All those adorable sidewalk cafes are ruined by it (for those of us with no tolerance anyway!).
  • The most popular cars seem to be Smart cars – we counted 12 of them parked on one block in our neighborhood – and Mini-Coopers, which of course Dan loves since that’s what he drives. They totally make sense in this very crowded city with narrow streets. Motorcycles are also very popular. And it took us a couple of days to figure out that just about all parking other than street parking is underground. You don’t see parking lots or garages, because all of these buildings at least in this part of the city were here long before cars were invented.
  • We thought Amsterdam had a very international feel to it, but Paris does as well, perhaps more so. We noticed it as soon as we got off the train from Cologne. We’ve heard so many different languages here just walking around. There are lots of American tourists, too, we’ve been surprised how frequently we hear American English.
  • Parisians have been Very Friendly to us, starting at the train station. Some angel realized we weren’t sure where we were going, starting speaking to us in French, then immediately switched to English and asked where we were headed. She led us to the right path, and was very gracious. We’ve had great service everywhere we’ve been, even in places where no one speaks English – which honestly has been rare – we’ve managed to get buy with pointing, gestures, and our limited French vocabulary of maybe 30 words.

Just a couple of things we passed on the way to the metro stop.

Random pretty building on President Wilson Ave. They’re everywhere.
Dan really likes the Eiffel Tower!
We took the metro to Versailles, about a 20 minute ride. The line was kinda long but it moved fast. I went in and stood in it while Dan made sure there wasn’t a quicker line for our passes. There wasn’t.
A bit of history: Louis XIII started this Chateau as his hunting lodge. It was Louis XIV who added on to it significantly, wanting it to the be most beautiful palace in Europe. He made it the royal palace in 1682, and it remained so until XVI and Marie Antoinette were executed in 1789. Napoleon used parts of the estate but it was not the official royal residence under him. In 1833, it became a historical monument and museum dedicated to “all the glories of France.”
I read a lot of biographies and history as a kid and had a big fascination with Marie Antoinette, so had read a lot about this estate, albeit not in a long time. After Normandy, this was the #2 thing on the trip I was looking forward to. Not disappointed. The palace, honestly, was almost exactly what I had imagined. The Hall of Mirrors was still pretty spectacular. The gardens, on the other hand, were way beyond what I had imagined.
The front courtyard. The guy in the back would not stop posing – his friend must’ve taken 20 pictures of him, so we quit waiting for him to get out of the shot!

 

The bottom pictures are the kings bedroom. They had separate wings!
Hall of mirrors.
More Hall of Mirrors
This was our favorite room, one of the few that had windows on two walls.
Queen’s chambers.
Dining room
So: the gardens. You’ve probably seen pictures of them, usually aerial shots. What those angles don’t prepare you for is how tall everything is. I always thought it was well manicured shrubbery, but it’s mostly very high shrubbery and lots of trees. We were really blown away by the gardens. It’s hard to describe how big this area is, but this first picture gives it a good shot. Look how far back that goes. We walked the whole thing! Remember that pool in the background, you’re going to see it again.
It was practically a maze, although eventually you would get out pretty easily. But there were moments you just weren’t sure.
We were supposed to do this trip yesterday, but put it off today because the weather was better. Good call!
This was such a beautiful walk.
Remember the pool from earlier? Same one. The gardens are managed as a park, open to the public for free.
In the far right corner of the estate was Grand Trianon. It was a much smaller chateau used to host small parties and intimate guests. There was also a Petit Trianon, preferred by Marie Antoinette, but we ran out of time and didn’t get to see it.
This is what we might call a porch or breezeway linking the two wings with the gardens to my right.

 

This room was so yellow!
This room had several bowls, vases, etc., made of this – malachite, a mineral and considered a semi-precious stone. Extremely valuable.
We sat on the steps of the back porch and rested before moving on.
We left the gardens around 3:15pm walked around the little town of Versailles, current population around 90k, which grew up around the palace. It is currently considered a wealthy suburb of Paris – about 10 miles away – but also has a strong tourist economy because of the palace.
Adorable French hole-in-the-wall where we had a very late lunch/early dinner. The menu called their specialty “salty pies” – turns out it was quiche!

Around 5:00pm we went back to the metro station and got our tickets to head back. Because of rush hour, it look much longer to get back than it did to get here – 45 minutes instead of 20, although granted we went 2 stops past where we got on. We headed to The Louvre.

I did a little reading this morning and discovered something I didn’t know. The original building was constructed in 1190 and was the royal residence for several centuries until Louis XIV moved it to Versailles in 1682. So it was kinda cool to see them both in the same day. But it’s definitely a two-fer visit, because the palace itself is spectacular.

This is the largest museum in the world, with 35k pieces spread over 73k square meters – or roughly 220k square feet. We had originally planned to spend 6 hours here in two shifts but that just hasn’t worked out. Oh well! We moved through it pretty quickly and saw what we could in 2.5 hours. Dan really loved the design of the place.

And I was pondering this pyramid monstrosity (see yesterday’s post for a better picture) on the train this morning. Yesterday I referred to it as a juxtaposition; maybe it’s more than that: a symbol of antiquity done in a modern design set against a medieval backdrop. Three periods collide. Or something like that. It’s starting to grow on me. The photo below is taken from inside the pyramid – you go down into it as the main entrance, so that’s looking up at ground level from below.

We really didn’t intend to spend time in Egyptian Antiquities, but somehow got sucked in, and then we couldn’t get out! That really was a maze.
Luckily, windows to the outside helped you orient yourself to the map so you could get your bearings.
Greek and Roman Antiquities which I really did want to see. Top left is Hercules; Top right is Venus de Milo
This Italian Painting section begins in the gallery bottom left. Guess where we’re headed?
The Wedding Feast at Cana by Paolo Veronese, 1563. This is massive, in a side gallery off of the very long one above. It is across the room from the one that gets all the attention below, but is seriously more spectacular.
This is way bigger than I was lead to believe by people who have seen it.
Top: the lack of attention at the Wedding painting. Bottom: the chaos at the Mona Lisa not 50 feet away. And this was late in the evening, around 8:15pm.
We were really tired after a long day so cheated and took the metro home.
A late dessert: Dan finished the strawberry tart we bought on Saturday at the open market; I started on some macaroons we bought at an adorable patisserie in Versailles. The French are crazy for macaroons and they are pricey in our opinion. Typically we seem them around 1.50 to 2.00 in Euros; these were a mere 1.10. That’s like $1.50 for 2 bites if you want to make it last. I had the chocolate and the lemon tonight. Worth every penny.

0 thoughts on “Day 7: Paris, Part 4 – Versailles and The Louvre”

  1. Steve Haas says:

    Thanks, Meher – glad to hear you are enjoying it. That's all just the iPhone, usually Dan, sometimes me, always my editing. Cropping does wonders 🙂

  2. Meher says:

    I am blown away by the fabulous photography! I am so glad that the stunny wrought iron balconies caught your eye! Thank you for sharing your moments with us!

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