Tuesday. It was a late night and we drag ourselves to the station because Versailles can be insane, even on a weekday. It takes less than an hour to get there, and it feels like The Amazing Race as we speedwalk to the gates. (Anything to beat the Asian tourbuses. No really.) It’s just after 9am, but we have no choice but to patiently wait in line. Is it a bad time to mention I need the toilet? The real ray of sunshine is the Rick Steves’s audio guide we listen to in the meantime. (Thanks for the tip Bruce!)
Finally we are in and the first few rooms are an awkward shuffle amongst the many other tourists. Not the best. And what is up with those people who photograph EVERYTHING? I’m not even like that. Thankfully the crowds spread out and we enjoy listening to both the supplied audio guide and Rick Steves (the better one). I’m not going to bore you with history. But yes: King Louis IV, Marie Antoinette, The French, Revolution, money, palaces, eventual beheadings … it is interesting, I promise.
And the decor is just beyond. So lavish. Beautiful. Excessive. Exquisite. The gardens are magical too. We enter those after we eat a quick picnic lunch like true peasants in the courtyard. People look at us. I know what they’re thinking. They’re thinking: “We should have brought lunch like them! Now we will spend our life savings at the Versailles Angelina’s.” Ha! (Thanks for the tip Sean!)
The rain plays an unpleasant game of peek-a-boo and there are times where we stand huddled under an umbrella, waiting for it to pass as my legs get soaked anyway. Today is also the day where I repeatedly misplace tickets. It’s embarrassing. Dani eventually starts giving me ‘seriously, again??’ looks. Once I legitimately lost my entrance ticket because it slipped out as I took my phone out of the same pocket. I found it drenched on some gravel nearby.
At the bottom part of the gardens is a lovely place to sit and relax and I enjoy a chocolate gelato (as per Bruce’s recommendation). We watch as gigantic fish and ducks battle it out for crumbs dropping in the water below. Before our visit is over, I insist we hire bicycles and see more of the (unofficial) gardens and the other homesteads and buildings nearby. We hire a tandem bike. It seemed like a good idea at the time. And while I have certainly had my fair share of practice in the past few months, I am not ready for this mockery of my control. Obstacle number one is passing through a few wooden poles and I inevitably panic and hit the very object I intended to pass. Mind you, only the pedal hits, but I am forced off my seat and obtain a minor ‘lower groin’ injury. And a bit of a fright. Danielle, of course, is in stitches and then terrified because I grow silent for the next hour… Don’t get me wrong, once we get the hang of it, it is great. But pulling off? A challenge even for seasoned Dutchies.
It is nearing 5pm and we take a slow meander to the exit, passing through a few more pretty parts. My feet are shattered. Luckily there is a seat on the train and we head to Montparnasse to get the best view of Paris. On a different metro train, there is an awkward moment as it pulls away and I lose balance and give some poor (or should I say lucky?) fellow the shortest lap dance ever. Good times.
Back to the tower. It’s not the cheapest ‘activity’ (about 17 Euros to go up), but it is panoramic views from inside and outside 58 floors up. We buy burgers at the place downstairs and when we finally get up there, grab some chairs and eat with front row seats to a spectacular view of the Eiffel tower and surrounding Paris. It’s unbelievable. No fighting off crowds, just enjoying a private view in peace and quiet. While stuffing our faces with scrumptiousness.
We wait patiently for the sunset on the top outside deck – very safely surrounded by railings and glass. It gets busier (but not unpleasant) as more people gather to photograph the last rays and watch the lights come on. I have a little chat with a handsome Hungarian who was sadly born far too recently for me.
Despite our exhaustion, we trek back to the Louvre and marvel at the illuminated triangles in the now dark. I take a lot of pictures and I am pleased to see this again. I am even more pleased to arrive back at our Best Western hotel.
Wednesday. We have a few more hours to enjoy Paris. We pack, check out, and manage to find the famous Pont Nuef bridge that is just literally covered in love locks and frequented by a few weird characters. It’s a sight to see. I’m in the mood for a savoury crepe, so we buy some and find a spot on the steps next to the Seine where we can wave at passing boats and be in those people’s pictures.
Then it’s back on the metro to the hotel and back on the metro to Gare du Nord. Because we are NOT missing that Thalys train! Good news is we make it with more than enough time to sit and sip an overpriced Starbucks iced coffee and reminisce about the past few days.
It’s a comfortable three hours on the Thalys (barring the annoyingly loud Dutch guys near us … there’s always one) and there’s naturally a bit of sadness that it’s now over. But we did it. We went to Paris. Together, as sisters. And we will forever get to treasure that.