Bonjour mes amies,
As I sit tapping this email outside is World War III. The prostitutes are having one God awful ding dong row. Initially it was at the end of our street, then as one the women spotted something or someone a way off, and they were off as one group for more blood sport. Add the interminable rubbish trucks noise, plus scooters, motor bikes, cars and the overall noise is horrendous. Then just when it becomes background noise it all stops and peace reigns, not for long though.
This is Paris.
Saturday last, we did a wonderful day trip to Palace of Versailles, even after booking on line the queues were enormous, and standing in the heat of the sun, not for the faint hearted. Any woman daft enough to wear heels is in ankle breaking country. Cobblestones are prevalent in Paris. It can be a challenge even if wearing walking shoes, the uneven surface plays havoc with the arches of the feet and the calf muscles.
“Any woman daft enough to wear heels is in ankle breaking country.”
After taking the No. 4 metro train to Odeon, changing to train No. 10 to Javel, we then passed through some rather picturesque suburban countryside after picking up the RER to Chateau Versailles. There was a more direct route, but guess what, as so often happens, it was closed for maintenance.
Toilets, lack thereof, can be a problem. I attempted to use an automated street toilet. It was not a desirable option believe me, but needs must and all that, I couldn't get the automatic door to shut. Obviously, it was waiting for a magic word or wand. Initially I heard instructions in English, so kept punching the intercom, but it continued to spew forth French. And try as I might, as I fought with the door it wouldn’t stay shut. Rose sought some assistance from some nearby lads who were highly amused. One smart lad indicated he would read the instructions, to no avail. By then I felt I had drawn enough attention to myself so next option was a local cafe. French cafes are not at all generous, you need to buy something, the toilet code is on the receipt. I caught Rose in time, don't buy, the toilet is out of order. Stoically I said we will push on for Versailles, the risk was great. There were no toilets at the station as we were told. At Versailles the yellow M (McDonalds) was the most welcome sight ever. Toilet door was locked, we have to buy which we did, to obtain the code on the receipt.
But, no toilet seat and I had people knocking on the door and trying to open the door. There was no indication on the outside when it was engaged, even when I did yell it was busy they were still trying the door handle furiously to get in.
“Remember this story next time you head to your toilet!”
The queues to get through the security check point at the Palace snaked around 5 long lines. However, it moved relatively smoothly and in an hour, we were in. I had to deposit my backpack because my lunch was in it, no food allowed, whereas Rose sailed through lunch and all. As always, as so often happens, the Queens Chambers were shut, which was a major disappointment. Very little of this truly vast Palace was open to the public. The gardens were of most interest to me and they were vast.
I paid the princely sum of €34 to hire a golf buggy for an hour. While we waited for a buggy to become available we sat on lawn (we were the only ones) in front of the Palace and ate lunch. We noticed later a notice saying "beware of danger of sitting on the grass", too late, oops. There are never, ever any seats provided or very few.
One had to follow a specific route, if you didn't, the buggy stopped. You couldn't do a U turn, you had to put it into reverse and zoom backwards. I was given specific instructions on where not to park, fancy expecting me to remember, I didn't. It was great fun, we took off down towards the grand canal where the Parisians were frolicking in boats and having picnics on the vast parkland. The gardens are normally free to enter except when there is a musical event on, and today, of course was one of those days, so we parted with a further €8. The "musical event" was the 14 fountains spasmodically spouting forth to music. We were lucky enough to spot one such event on the way back. The timings were few and far between during the day and you never knew which fountain it would be. Another way to part the visitor with yet more money.
“The gardens are magnificent but was shocked to see how shabby the gardening was.”
Men generally were driving the buggys. They took your driver’s licence so only that person could drive. There was always the fear that you would head in the wrong direction and be stranded. I was disbelieving until I saw some drivers come unstuck. We let one man go ahead intending to follow, but we knew it was the wrong way. Last we saw was him trying to do a U turn instead of reversing straight back which is what I did. We didn't hang around, we didn't think it was seemly to gloat over his inadequacies as a hapless male. He clearly hadn't read the instructions.
The gardens are magnificent but was shocked to see how shabby the gardening was. Weeds everywhere, lawns not mowed, edges not clipped. I couldn't help comparing the immaculate gardens of London Royal Parks, not a blade out of place.
“It was practically deserted, which was our good fortune.”
The Gallery of Carriages is magnificent. The collection was put together by King Louis Philippe in 1831. It was practically deserted, which was our good fortune. An amazing collection spanning many centuries. Amazing still they had not been destroyed at the time of the French Revolution when everything was burned or looted.
We called into Marie Antoinette’s abode, smaller house but large grounds. No entry there another €23 required.
After 5 hours we made our way back to the station which is only a 10-min stroll through a gauntlet of shops. It was a super day in spite of the intense heat and the long queues. The train trip home was very relaxing. We are getting to know the Paris transport system like old pros, perhaps that is not an ideal term to use given my earlier comments of the ladies of the night!
It is 11.40pm, people continue to chat in the neighbouring apartments as if it is 7 pm, children too, do they never sleep?
Bonne Journee, Diane