France 2003 Travelogue


Bonjour Paris!

Monday, August 25, 2003, Paris, France, 85F/30C:
The plane ride to Paris from Vienna was fine.  They didn't have a movie since the flight was so short, but they did play some funny TV programs where they play gags on people in the street.  It reminded us of David Letterman stunts.  The food was pretty good, too -- Chicken Caesar Salad. We also had a good time reading our first English-language paper in a long time, the International Herald Tribune.  We landed in Paris around 6:10 PM.

Eiffel Tower

Arc de Triomphe
Bagagge claim was right outside the gate, and then you were in the regular terminal.  There was no passport control and no checking of the bags.  I guess this is due to the formation of the European Union.  We walked down to the airport train station and bought a Carte Orange. This is a pass for all the public transport in Paris.  We got a week-long version that covers zones 1-5.  This will get us anywhere including the airports and Versailles.  It cost us 28.5€ for each card.  Fortunately, we each had a passport picture, which we needed.  According to the Lonely Planet, you only need the picture for the month pass, but they required it for the week-long pass, too.  Then, we took the train to Gare Nord station, and then, another train to Richard Lenoir.  The hotel that we had booked was on Rue Richard Lenoir.  We had gone to Blvd Richard Lenoir.  Ooops.  A clerk at a nearby hotel directed us to the right area. 
Our hotel was Hotel Richard, 35 Rue Richard Lenoir, 33-1-43-79-39-98.  We booked the hotel online via and they charged 30€/nite. This is the cheapest place we could find in Paris. We tried to change our booking to two nights, and then another night after a two night break, but they wouldn't allow us to change anything.  We had to pay for all three nights in advance.  The receptionist, didn't speak any English whatsoever.  Oh well, she was able to show us to our room and explain about the keys and facilities without any English.  We dropped our stuff in the room, and went out again to see Paris by night.
Donna guided us to the Trocadero metro stop where we walked down a long corridor between two buildings that were being renovated, the Palais de Chaillot, and out onto a square, and...there she was, the Eiffel Tower!  It was great!  We really knew we were in Paris now!  We took a few pictures, and then walked from there to the Arc de Triomphe Etoile.  This was lit up as well, and they had a really big flag hanging inside it.  It looked very nice. The Arc is in the middle of what they claim is the largest traffic roundabout in the world.  12 streets come together here!  The Arc was commissioned in 1806 by Napoleon to commemorate his imperial victories.  It wasn't finished until the 1830's. We walked through a tunnel to get to the arc itself and walked around it to see the tomb of the unkown soldier from World War I.  Then we went under the traffic circle again and walked down the Avenue des Champs Elysees.  Jaque Chirac lives along this road, and there were lots of expensive cafes and lots of cinemas. 
We had dinner here at a place called Quick.  It seems to be a french clone of McDonald's.  It had a pretty messy seating area, but ok burgers.  After a bit more walking, we took the metro back to our hotel.  They didn't have a public refrigerator here, but one of the other guests had a fridge in her room, and she offered to store our cold goods there.  Then it was up to bed and to sleep.

Notre Dam

One of the rose windows in Notre Dam

Another of the rose windows in Notre Dam

The back of Notre Dam
You can see the flying buttresses here

St Chapelle

St Chapelle Apse

History of Relics panel

Stained Glass Detail

Egliese Du Dom

The only vineyard in Paris

Grapes on the vine

On the Eiffel Tower
Tuesday, August 26, 2003, Paris, France, 70F/21C:
We got up around 8:00 AM, showered, and I went down to get our food bag, and bought some more groceries for breakfast.  We had breakfast in the room, and decided to just stick to food that didn't require refrigeration. 
We took the metro to Citi station, and walked over to the Notre Dam Cathedral.  The crowds here were quite big.  It is free to go inside, so in we went.  The stained glass is wonderful!  They have very nice rose windows! Notre Dam was begun in 1163, and completed around 1345.  After walking around the inside, we went around back to a park that our guidebook mentioned.  There, we had a very nice view of the flying buttresses that the cathedral is so famous for.
Next, we walked from there to Sainte-Chapelle.  This is a chapel in the Palais de Justice.  It has spectacular stained glass windows.  It cost us 6.1€ each to get it, but it is worth it! Consecrated in 1248, Sainte-Chapelle was built in 3 years to house a crown of thorns (supposedly worn by the crucified Christ) and other relics purchased by King Lois IX (later St Louis) earlier in the 13th century. First, you go into the lower chapel that was used for the servants and workers of the king.  This has a fairly low ceiling and smaller stained glass.  Then, you go to the upper chapel that was used just by the king.  The ceiling here is very high.  There are 15 huge stained glass windows plus a stained glass rose window.  There is very little space between the windows, just thin columns.  So it looks like a curtain of stained glass!  The 15 main windows tell the story of the bible, plus the history of the relics that were housed here.  (The relics are long gone).  We sat here and just absorbed the beauty of it for a while.
Next, we walked across the bridge over the river Seine, and looked for a cheap internet place that was in our guidebook.  Unfortunately, they were closed...permanently.  It was time for lunch, so we split a chicken swarma with fries.  Not bad.  We did find another internet place after lunch, XS Arena, 53 Rue De La Harpe.  We split the time and bought 1 hour for 3€.
Then, we took the metro to Eglise du Dome, built between 1677 and 1735.  This dome is considered one of the finest religious edifices constructed under Louis XIV. In 1861, they stored the remains of Napoleon here, encased in six concentric coffins.  We took our pictures of the dome, but they charged too much to go in, so we just walked around and looked at their souvenier shop.
Then, we took the metro to Montemarte, and rode the funicular up the hill to the Basilique du Secre Coeur. The view of the city from here is great!  We also went in the basilique and looked around, too.  We tried to find a good view of the Eiffel Tower, too. Montemarte was a vibrant center of artistic and literary creativity during the 19th century.  Now, it is a bit touristic, but it was nice to walk around the curvy streets and look at all the shops. We tried to find some ice cream, but they are all quite expensive.  We have found things more expensive in Paris than in Austria.  We did find the only vineyard in Paris here. 
Then, we bought a phone card and called Nicolas and Nathalie.  We had met them in Vietnam and they live here in Paris.  They had asked us to call them so we could meet when we got into town.  Nicolas was going to talk to Nathalie and we would call them back later tonight to finalize the details. 
Next, we took the metro to the Eiffel Tower.  It was inaugurated on March 31, 1889. It was the keystone of the Universal Exposition celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the French Revolution. Built by Justave Eiffel it took two years, two months and five days to build.  It is 318 meters high and weighs 10,100 tons.  It has 2,500,000 rivets holding together 18,000 pieces of iron that make up the structure.  In 1983, they replaced the original hydraulic elevators with new electric ones. We bought some popcorn to eat while we were waiting in line.  We bought our 10.2€ tickets to go to the top of the tower, and started the process of getting there.  First, you get in an elevator that takes you up one of the legs to the second level.  This elevator is at an angle.  Then, we got out walked around a bit, and got in the queue for the elevator to the top.  It was crowded, so the queue took a while.  Finally, we got into the elevator and went to the top.  At the top there are actually two levels.  The upper one is outside, and the lower is inside. The lower level has lots of pictures that point out the sites, and the upper has telescopes on the corners.  We walked around and took pictures and picked out various buildings, and then waited for the sunset.  We wanted to see it from the tower.  The sunset was pretty good.  We went down to the second and first levels, looking at all the displays along the way.
We called Nicolas back and agreed to meet them the next day after they get off of work.
Then we headed back to the hotel and made sandwiches for dinner in the room and went to sleep.

Two More Days In Paris

August 27, 2003, Paris, France:
We got up late this morning and had breakfast in our room.  It's becoming a nice little routine -- bread and cheese or jam, a banana and boxed juice.  It's a great way to live without a refrigerator, which we no longer have access to. 
I have a great friend from Atlanta who lives in the Montpellier area, whom I haven't seen in years.  She and her husband had invited us to come down and visit and we really wanted to do it.  We headed down to the Gare de Lyon train station to try and sort out train tickets.  We figured we only had hotel reservations through tonight; we'd try and get a train ticket for tomorrow morning and go see her for a couple of days and then come back for the last two nights in Paris before we head to London.  It sounded like a perfectly good plan to us...and my friend Laura was up for last minute plans, too...
Well, we got to the correct train station and went looking for ticket information.  There wasn't really any, so we stood in the long line to just buy a ticket.  When we got to the front, we got quite a shock!  They wanted 264€ for two round trip tickets to Montpellier, which was about all the money left we had in the bank for the rest of our whole trip!!  In Austria, the tickets would have cost about 1/2 to 1/3 the quoted price.  We asked why they were so expensive and she said because the train was booked quite other words, because we didn't buy them in advance.  Needless to say, we were quite disappointed and ended up not going to Montpellier.  As much as we would have liked to, it was just not something that we could have done within our budget. 

Venus de Milo

Kirk and more stolen Egyptian artifacts

Mona Lisa
She is behind a screen to protect her from flashes

King Louis XV's Coronation Jewels

Natalie, Nicola, Kirk, and Donna
(click for full size)
However, we did go to the Louvre, one of the highlights of Paris.  The Louvre, which has a standard entry fee of 7.50€ per person, is chock full of art!  It would be impossible to see it all in a single day, but we figured we'd see what we could!  Originally constructed about 1200 as a fortress, the Louvre was rebuilt as a royal palace in the mid-1500s and became a public museum in 1793.  The French government has been collecting art and antiquities to fill its halls for the past five centuries from other European countries and beyond.  It was clearly going to be a more daunting task than trying to see the Egyptian Museum in a single day!! 
We started off on the ground floor in the Italian Sculptures.  Then, we went through the Etruscan and Roman Antiquities section.  There, we saw Etruscan art from the 1st through the 4th centuries BC, from the 5 through the 6th centuries BC and from the 7th through the 9th centuries BC.  We also saw formative Roman art from the end of the Republic, art from the early Roman Empire (1st to 2nd centuries AD) and art from late Roman Antiquity (3rd to 6th centuries AD).  The most famous pieces here were the Sarcophagus of a Married Couple and the Borghese Gladiator.
Next, we headed into the Greek Antiquities area, where we saw art in several Greek styles: Greek Art in the Bronze Age (3200-1015 BC), The Geometric Style (900-720 BC),
The Orientalizing Style (7th Century BC), Greek Art of the 6th Century BCClassical Greek Art of the 5th Century BC, Classical Greek Art of the 4th Century BC and Hellenistic Greek Art of the 3rd-1st Century BC.  Of course, among all of these, the most famous piece we saw was the Venus de Milo
Next, we went back to Egypt.  I know, I know...  we're not supposed to go back to Egypt, but we did, if only for a little while...  in fact, we only went as far as the Pharaonic Egyptian exhibit in the Louvre.  We thought it would be interesting to see all the stuff that they stole from Egypt, especially since we had been in Egypt and kept hearing "This is now in France...that is now in the UK...etc., etc., etc." 
The collection was interesting, but after having toured Egypt for three weeks, it got old fast -- mainly because we had just gotten back from Egypt and had seen much better examples of much of the work there.  They had exhibits on Pharaonic civilisation, Egyptian religion, From the end of Prehistory up to the Middle Kingdom (circa 3800-circa 1550 BC), The New Kingdom (circa 1550-circa 1069 BC), The last pharaonic dynasties and the Ptolemaic epoch (circa 1069-30 BC), Roman Egypt and Coptic Egypt.   Of particular interest was a seated statue they had of Ramses II that matched with one we had seen in Egypt.  The one in Egypt was much better preserved, however.  The face of the one in the Louvre had been badly marred across the nose.  They also had a sphinx that had been swiped from the road between Luxor Temple and Karnak Temple.  Finally, they had a very nice display of four statues of Sekhmet, one of the Egyptian gods. 
We found that the Levant and Antique Iran areas were closed, so we cut back toward the Greek Ceramics, Terracotta and Bronze and Precious Objects on the next floor up.  After a quick pass through those rooms, we headed back downstairs and had lunch underneath one of the pyramids.  We had made lunch in the hotel room -- our typical cheese and sausage sandwiches (about the cheapest thing you can get here), two cookies a piece (a real luxury...we've found ice cream is even too expensive in France!!) and water.  After a bit of resting our feet and filling our tummies, we decided to head back into the bustling milieu. 
This time, we headed for the First Floor and the Large Format French Paintings and then the Italian and Spanish Paintings.  The Italian Paintings were strung along a gigantic gallery and divided by era: 13th-15th centuries, 16th century, 17th-18th centuries.  The Spanish paintings were tucked into a gallery at the end of the Italian paintings section.  Kirk and I noted a marked difference between the two styles.  The Spanish paintings were MUCH darker than the Italian paintings, which, when bright colors were used, did tend to set the colors off more, but generally, just made the paintings darker. 
Of course, the highlight of our visit to these galleries was seeing the Mona Lisa.  At first, we didn't think we'd get anywhere close to the painting...there was a literal hoard of people around her, snapping photos...with flash!  But not to worry.  The folks at the Louvre are pros at this after 5 centuries and have put up a protective screen around the painting.  It seems to protect her not only from crazy tourists who might get a little too close, but also from damaging effects of camera flashes, etc. 
We headed back through the Objects of Art section.  We saw some very beautiful pieces there, including the crown diamonds from Louis XV's coronation ceremony.  Then, we headed up to see more paintings on the 2nd Floor.  We saw Flanders 17th century paintings, Dutch 15th-16th century paintings, Dutch 17th century paintings, French paintings from the 14th-16th centuries, French paintings from the 17th century, French paintings from the 18th century, French paintings from the 19th century, German paintings, and paintings from Great Britain
We headed down to take a look at the French Sculptures after that.  We saw the sculptures in the Cour Marly (17th-18th centuries), and several by Pierre Puget, including the Milon of Croton. 
Finally, we decided we had had enough for one day and we headed out.  We headed over to the XS Arena internet cafe to check email.  We found that we had both had our yahoo accounts hit by the so.big virus.  It didn't hurt our computers, since we just deleted the messages, but our mailboxes were FULL of spam messages!  Good grief!!  While there, we decided to check on train fares to Bristol, where a friend lives that we are visiting in England.  After the experience in France, I am now paranoid about booking trains.  We got a quote and then emailed my friend to see if it was a good price or if there was a cheaper way to go see her.  While we were checking emails, we had another surprise...a friend had invited us to stay with her in Hertford our last two nights in England! Cool! 
We decided it was time to head back to the hotel.  We wanted to rest a bit and grab some food before we had to meet up with Nicolas and Nathalie at 9:30.  Actually, as we were leaving, Kirk told me they were coming between 9 and 9:30.  We caught the subway and started to make our way back.  As we worked our way back along the various lines, we realized we may not even MAKE it back by the time they got to our hotel to pick us up!!  ACK!!
We arrived at the hotel at 9:04PM.  There was no one waiting outside.  Whew!!  We went ahead and went up to the room and made sandwiches, as we were starving!  About 15 minutes or so later, Nicolas and Nathalie arrived.  They had come straight from work (they work for one of the airlines at Charles de Gaulle airport).  We went down to meet them. 
They announced that they were going to take us to a real French creperie, to ensure that we had a genuine taste of France.  They didn't want us leaving, only having eaten sandwiches the entire time!  Nicolas drove us around giving us a little sightseeing tour on the way.  It was good to see them!  We had spent a few days traveling with them in Vietnam and had a great time.  They gave us a nice insight into what to see in Paris, as well.  The creperie, which was in an area heavily populated by resettled Brittanies (that is folks from the area of France known as Brittany), was excellent!  I had the Ile de France, which was cheese, mushroom and creme.  Kirk had egg, sausage and cheese.  Afterwards, we even had ice cream!  Nicolas and Nathalie were very nice to treat us to dinner!  It was wonderful!
Afterwards, they drove us around Paris some more, showing us more sights.  Eventually, we came back to the hotel, and took a photo outside (we forgot to take one at the restaurant).  Then, we had them write down for us, in French, how to ask to stay in the hotel longer.  The lady at the reception speaks no English and we speak no French.  And we have no reservations after tonight -- we had expected to be on our way to Montpellier tomorrow morning.  We said our goodbyes and went off to sleep, after a very long, but wonderful day!
August 28, 2003, Paris, France:
Ack!  We woke up late, after having been out so late last night!  Kirk went downstairs almost right after we woke up (at 10AM) to see if we could stay the next four nights, which is the duration of our time in Paris.  He came back... no.  They are full.  Bummer!
And check out is at 10.  We're already late leaving.  Well, we can't leave without eating breakfast first.  We had a quick breakfast while we packed.  Then, we headed downstairs and turned in our key.  We weren't quite sure what the best course of action was, so we headed to Gare de Lyon train station.  Lonely Planet said it had a Tourist Information office that helped with accommodation booking. 
We got there and eventually located the office.  Unfortunately, the single man who was operating the office wasn't particularly helpful.  He would only call one hostel for us, even though he had a list of about 30 in front of him.  We did manage to get him to print the list for us.  We went outside with our calling card and called them ourselves.  We ended up at the Blue Planet Hostel (01 43 42 06 18), which was quite close to the train station.  It's €42 per night for a double with shared facilities.  It turned out to be a triple, but that doesn't really matter. We were hoping for a double bed, but we got bunk beds.  Ick.  Oh, well.  We originally booked it for one night.  It turns out they have lots of rules, including a lockout from 11AM to 3PM (we don't like lockouts).  So, we went back to the internet cafe to see if we could find someplace cheaper (or even get back into Hotel Richard) for the rest of the time.  In fact, we did get back into Hotel Richard for the last two nights in Paris.  But we'd have to spend two nights at Blue Planet.  Oh, well. We also had an email from our friend in London...the buses are cheaper than trains, so we didn't book the train.  We'll wait and just take a bus. 

Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty in Paris
We had a schwarma for lunch and then went off to find the Statue of Liberty.  They have one here, actually.  Just like ours, but much smaller!  We took the train to the Charles Michels station and then walked from there to the statue.  We took a couple of photos and even laughed at the lengths we would go to in order to get "just the right" angle...we walked down a long way along a very busy street in order to get a photo of the statue with the Eiffel Tower in the background. 
Then, we walked back along Allee des Cygnes, the island on which the statue resides and then caught a train back to our hostel.  We hung out for a while in our new room.  It was a rather odd room, which apparently at one time had its own toilet; but no more.  We played cards and relaxed.  Eventually, we made some dinner (thereby, breaking one of the hostel rooms -- no eating in the room) and ate it in our room.  Then, we decided to go and visit a cemetery that Nathalie had said was a beautiful place to visit, Cemetiere du Pere Lachaise.  We hopped a train and were there in no time...but it was closed for the night.  And the neighborhood was not one we wanted to wander around in.  In fact, Kirk turned us around rather quickly and we hopped right back on the train. 
We jumped off briefly at one of the stations to get some groceries, and then headed back to our hostel.  We spent the rest of the night relaxing in the room.  We listened to some music (ahhhh... the Abalandeli Brothers...the CD we bought in South Africa!!) and one of our downloaded sermons from church!!  Then, it was time to hit the sack.
But oh...  the beds had bedbugs!!  ICK!!  We ended up squeezing onto one of the little bunks so as to take advantage of the sleep sheet's benefits.  It's pretty good at keeping the bed bugs at bay. 

Rain in Paris

Buskers in the Paris Metro

Jardin du Luxembourg

Friday, August 29, 2003, Paris, France, 71F/22C, 1.8"/46mm rain:
We got up around 7:00 AM and went downstairs for our free breakfast of tea, two baguette pieces and jam.  That is pretty much what we have ourselves anyway, except for the tea.  We had been planning to go to Versailles today, but it was very rainy, so we decided to postpone Versailles.  We went upstairs and made sandwiches, and then went to our favorite internet shop, and wrote the last two posts you read.  We ate our lunch while doing that. 
After the internet shop, it was between showers, so we took the metro to Place de la Concorde, where we saw the obelisk that the French stole from Luxor, Egypt.  Then we walked into the Jardin des Tuileries (garden).  We saw the Musee de l'Orangerie here.  This is normally the impressionist museum, but they are closed until 2004 for renovation.  Bummer!  We walked on to the Louvre area, and then over to the Palais Royal.  It seems to have been converted into business and shop use.  It was not terribly exciting.  The garden and fountain in the middle are nice, though.  Then it was back to the Louvre to make use of their free and clean toilets. 
Then, Donna guided us via the metro to Jardin du Luxembourg.  This is a very nice garden outside the Palais du Luxembourg.  As we walked into the garden, there was a great jazz band playing on a stage.  (Donna said she planned this! Ha!)  It was the John Cleveland College Jazz Band from Leicester, England.  We sat and listened until they were through, and then we bought one of their CD's (10€).  We had been talking earlier that our memories are really tied to the music we listen to, so we wanted to cement these memories in there!
After they finished, we walked around the garden and took a few pictures, then we sat near the fountain and listened to another of our sermons from home.  It is great to hear the familiar voices and have a good message.  Later, we took the metro back to the hostel.  We ate dinner in the room and played cards and listened to our new CD and then some others.

Musee d' Orsay

Claude Monet - Coquelicots (1873)

Pierre August Renoir - Bal du Moulin de la Galette (1876)

Vincent Van Gogh - La Nuit Etoilee Arles (1888)

Vincent Van Gogh - La Meridienne Oula Sieste D'Apres Millet (1889-1890)

Vincent Van Gogh - Portrait de la Artiste (1889)

Vincent Van Gogh - Leglise d'Auvers (1890)
Saturday, August 30, 2003, Paris, France, 70F/21C, Rainy:
Today was rainy as well, so we decided to go to Versailles on Sunday.  We got up around 8:00 AM, and Donna took her shower first.  She informed me that it was very cold, so I agreed that I wouldn't take one this morning.  We went down for our free breakfast again, and stayed and chatted for a while with other folks from the hostel.  We met a guy from England who works in Coventry for Landrover.  Once he found out about my Spitfire, we had lots to talk about. 
After breakfast, we went back to the room, packed and moved to our new/old hotel, Hotel Richard. After we got settled in, I went out and bought us some more groceries and film.  Developing is very expensive here, so you probably won't see any more new pictures until after we get home.  We made our lunch and then took the metro to the Musee d'Orsay. 
The Musee d'Orsay's collection covers the years, 1848 to 1914. It cost us 7€ each for tickets.  The museum is set in an old train station from 1900.  We were able to see the entire museum's collection in one day, UNLIKE the Louvre.  The museum is organized chronologically and by type.  We both really liked the paintings on the upper level.  This is where the impressionists were.  We really liked the Monet, Degas, Renoir, and Van Gogh.  You could use cameras here (no flash of course), so we were able to take pictures of our favorites. 
While we were there, we found some out of the way seats near the restaurant (there was no art around)  and sat down to eat a snack.  When halfway through our apples, a museum rep came by and said we couldn't eat there, we would have to go into the restaurant. We tried to protest, that we didn't want to buy any food there, but she insisted and said we just had to go inside.  So, we went ahead and went in with our apples, where they proceeded to seat us at a table.  When the waiter came by, I said we didn't want anything, and tried to explain, but he wouldn't hear it, and kicked us right out!  He was quite rude about it, too.  Whatever.  We finished our apples in the doorway between the restaurant and the hallway.
After the museum, we went back to the internet place and did more internet.  After that, we got a crepe with sugar.  Very yummy!  Then, we headed to the Citibank branch on Champs Elysées, where we withdrew nearly all our money. We only have one week left, and we knew we would have nothing left when we go home.  It looks like that will be the case! 
Then we walked down the Champs des Elysées, and onto the "most beautiful bridge in paris", the Pont Alexandre-III. It really is a nice bridge.  Then we walked back to Place de la Concorde again and we saw a giant bungy machine that threw people into the air inside of a little cage bungied to two giant poles.  It really threw them high in the air!  We were getting tired, so we took the metro back to our hotel, and had dinner in the room.  Then I discovered that my watch battery had finally died.  The band on my watch had previously broken and I fashioned a home-made band until I get home and can order a new one.  Now I have to get a new battery too!

Versailles Chateau

Mirror Hall

Bassion de Apollon

At the Queen's Hamlet

Queen's Hamlet

Queen's Hamlet

Versailles Fountains
A Day in Velvety Versailles

August 31, 2003, Paris to Versailles, France and back:
We got up early this morning - 7AM so we'd have an early start to Versailles, our destination for the day.  We had breakfast in our room.  We are quite happy to be back at Hotel Richard, where eating in our room does not involve breaking the hotel's rules!  I showered, we made lunch and stuffed it into our pockets.  Then, we headed over to the train station.  It was quite chilly this morning, although the weather was supposed to be warm and sunny later on (only partly cloudy today, and no rain). 
We took a roundabout way to get to the right line, but there is no direct line to the train we needed to be on -- the RER C line to Versailles - Rive Gauche.  We had to make three train changes!  But we are getting to be experts at this, and if there's anything in Paris that we've gotten our money out of, it's certainly our Carte Orange pass!! 
We arrived at the end of the line and followed the signs to the Chateau de Versailles -- a short walk down a block and a turn around a corner and it was in sight.  WOW!  It was unbelievably huge.  I had expected something quite large and opulent from comments a friend, Marlene, had made, but I hadn't expected THIS
Originally built as a hunting lodge by Louis XIII (in 1623), Louis XIV expanded Chateau de Versailles into a palace without match and the seat of his government.  Versailles became a place of legend.  The architects of the new Versailles were reknown and with good reason.  We compared the pricing scheme of the various options of seeing the Chateau and decided to go for the "Passport" - for €20 each, we could pretty much get in to see everything, except go on private tours.  It also gave us priority entrance...we didn't have to wait in any lines...we could just go right in to any exhibit. 
We started our tour with the State Apartments.  I thought I would die on this tour, it was so incredibly crowded.  However, this is also the tour that just about EVERYONE takes, so we just tried to suffer through it.  They had an audio guide for the tour for €3.50.  We decided to rent just one and share it.  The tour takes you through the Royal Chapel, the Upper Chapel Vestibule, the Hercules Drawing Room, the Venus Drawing Room, the Diana Drawing Room, the Mars Drawing Room, the Mercury Drawing Room/Bed Chamber, the Apollo Drawing Room/Throne Room, the War Drawing Room, the Hall of Mirrors, the Peace Drawing Room, the Queen's Bed Chamber, the Noble's Salon (which was closed for renovation), the Queen's Antechamber or Antechamber of the Grand Couvert, the Queen's Guardroom, the Coronation Room/formerly the King's Guard Room, 1792 Room, Hall of Battles, and the Prince's Staircase.  The War Drawing Room, the Hall of Mirrors and the Peace Drawing Room form a magnificent series of rooms extending along the western façade of the Chateau looking out onto the Grand Perspective of the gardens.  The Hall of Mirrors, which is 73 meters long, 10.5 meters wide and 12.3 meters high, is a work of art.  It was used for large receptions, royal weddings and ambassadorial presentations.  It was definitely the highlight of the State Apartments. 
The entire time we headed through the State Apartments, however, we were literally surrounded by hundreds of people.  There were times when tour guides shoved us aside to get their tour groups into a room.  It was quite an off-putting experience.  It reminds us why we like seeing things independently whenever possible.  We were quite happy to be finished with the State Apartments and hoped the rest of the areas wouldn't be as crowded!
We headed over to the King's Chambers next.  Although you'd think the King lived in the State Apartments, in fact, he didn't.  He prefered a more "private setting", and had a separate set of quarters (although the word "private" is not one I'd use to describe anywhere at Versailles).  Thankfully, the King's Chamber tour was much less crowded.  We were each given an audioguide as part of our admission and off we went.  The tour was nice and the audioguide tour was actually better than the one provided for the State Apartments.  The tour was much shorter, however.  We did get to go into the Hall of Mirrors again.  We saw it from a slightly different angle. 
We decided to head into the gardens and have some lunch on our way to the Trianons.  At first, we were going to hop the train, but then we found out it was €5.20 each and it was not included in our Passport ticket.  We decided we were more than capable of walking the 3-5 kilometers to the Trianons roundtrip.  We stopped along the way and had sandwiches in the gardens, overlooking the Grand Canal.  The gardens have an admission fee, too.  In fact, everything here does.  Even the toilets! 
We went to the Grand Trianon first.  Louis XIV was particularly fond of this palace and came here often in the summer for short stays, accompanied by his family.  Louis XV left the palace to Queen Marie Leszczinska and her father, King Stanislas, but took an interest in it again in 1750.  During the Revolution, the furniture was removed.  Napolean I had the palace restored and stayed here several times with the Empress Marie-Louise.  Important renovations were finally undertaken in 1962-1965 thanks to General de Gaulle and apartments were installed for the President of the Republic and heads of state on official visits.  It was an interesting, if short, tour.  There was only a brief brochure with little English commentary accompanying it. 
We walked over to the Petit Trianon.  While it was much smaller than the Grand Trianon, the English-language brohure was much more detailed.  The Petit Trianon was built between 1762 and 1768 for the private use of Louis XV and madame de Pompadour, in the middle of a botanical garden.  It was inaugurated in June 1769 in the presence of madame du Barry.  Louis XVI gave it to Queen Marie-Antoinette in 1774, and it became her favourite residence.  She had a stunning bedchamber.  She turned part of the garden into an English-style garden, with workshops and a rustic hamlet.  The Petit Trianon was restored and refurnished for Pauline Borghese, Napoleon's sister, and for the Empress Marie-Louise, and then again during the July Monarch (1830-1848) for the Duc d'Orleans, Louis-Philippe's eldest son.  In 1867, the Empress Egenie turned it into a museum devoted to Marie-Antoinette. 
After walking around the Petit Trianon, we headed down to the Queen's Hamlet, the area that Marie-Antoinette had added during her stay here.  It was positively beautiful.  There were many wonderful cottages (commonly called "fabriques", in this instance meaning frameworks or edifices), mostly covered and surrounded with flowers and gardens.  They had thatched roofs and were arranged in the style of a village.  It was lovely and quaint. 
We wandered back through the gardens up toward the Chateau.  We originally planned to head to the coach museum, but then we realized that Les Grandes Eaux Musicales was about to start, so we decided to wait for that and then go to the Coach Museum afterwards.  Les Grandes Eaux Musicales is a musical fountain display.  Supposedly, the fountains dance to music.  We headed back around and into the gardens.  Kirk had a map that one of the women at information had marked for us, showing which fountains had the best displays.  We headed for one of those.  They made an announcement over the loudspeaker about not doing something because of a watershortage, but we didn't ever figure out what they were talking about.  At 3:30, the show started. 
Les Grandes Eaux Musicales isn't so much the water in the fountains dancing to the music as just them turning the water ON while music is playing.  Most of the day, the water is off.  But there are at least 31 fountains in the Chateau de Versailles Jardin and they all have quite different "personalities"...  We walked around to pretty much every single one of them.  Most of them were quite pretty.  It wasn't quite what I had expected when they said "dancing fountains", but it was still enjoyable.
Afterwards, around 4:30, we headed over to the last thing on our list...the Coach Museum.  This small museum houses the few remaining ceremonial vehicles from the 19th century.  It also included Louis XVIII's hearse coach. 
That's it!  We were done.  We headed back and caught an RER train back to Paris and then Kirk negotiated us back to our hotel along the subway lines.  We had a snack in the room and then headed over to our favorite internet shop.  Right outside is a little creperie, and since it's our last night in Paris, we decided to treat ourselves a little!  We each had a "jambon fromage crepe" -- that's ham and cheese to you English-speakers!  It was delicious!  And it cost us €3.40 (each).  After we do internet tonight, we'll probably head back to the hotel and listen to one of our sermons.
I do have one very serious prayer request, though.  As I logged onto my email account tonight, I found out that my grandmother had a serious stroke last night.  They don't think that she will recover.  I don't know what her status is at this point.  Please pray for her, my grandfather and my mother and uncle! 
That's all from Paris!  We catch a flight tomorrow morning to London!
See you from there!

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