Bonjour part 2 and visiting Versailles

After my not-so-amazing flight over I was pretty well useless for the rest of the day even after a 2 hour nap.  My exhaustion and lack of brain function can be used to explain my poor choice of catching the metro to my relatives house – not my brightest moment!

For starters the Paris metro system is not designed for suitcases, there is also no easy way to get from Orly airport (the Paris equivalent of Avalon in Melbourne or Gatwick in London) to where I was going and my trip ended up involving 4 different trains, lots of stairs and one short trip on a bus with a rude, angry bus driver who yelled at me for using my ‘franglaise’ (mixture of French and English) to tell him the ticket machine was broken at the bus stop and how can I get a ticket!  So I couldn’t remember the word for ‘machine’, I thought I was understandable and he yelled at me in English anyway so the aggro was rather unnecessary, particularly seeing as I had been traveling for 35 hours at that stage.  The French have a notorious reputation for being arrogant, rude and unhelpful to people whose French is either non-existent or less than perfect.  I had found this to be not entirely correct on my last visit as many people were more than happy to help and very encouraging of our efforts with their language – of course there was the occasional ridiculous gesticulating Frenchman who seemed to think that yelling louder and getting angrier somehow made him easier to understand…

All that aside I survived my crash course in Paris public transport and arrived intact and with all my luggage.  My first full day in Paris was lovely.  The cold and clouds went away so we were gifted with a perfect day of sunshine and mid-20’s temperature, perfect weather for strolling in the gardens of Versailles.  After a morning of market shopping with my aunt I caught the train to Versailles all by myself like the independent girl I am and even got off at the right station (which wasn’t too hard as it was the end of the line).  According to my cousin, Versailles is easy to find and well signposted.  So I guess that makes me the only person who could get lost trying to find one of Paris’s most iconic landmarks!  So the sign across from the train station said ‘Versailles 500m’ and an arrow, but the arrow pointed to a lane which ended with a house and I couldn’t see any way through.  The tourist office was very close so I bought my ticket and the girl serving the counter said up the street and next left which I did but it was the wrong left.  But with some perseverance I found it, actually it’s kinda hard to miss once you can see it!

I wandered around the chateaux for around an hour and a half before I was due to meet my cousin for a stroll through the extensive gardens.  The palace is beautiful; marble hallways lined with marble statues of significant figures of French history including Joan of Arc, one of my personal favorites

Most of the chambers high ceilings exquisitely painted with colourful scenes that vary from chubby cherubs to greek legends and famous battles.  Anything that stood still long enough had been gilded or tapestried to within an inch of its life and the chandeliers were shimmering crystal masterpieces.
 I walked along halls and through rooms that had been walked through by kings, queens, revolutionaries and countless thousands of tourists before me and pushed through tour group after tour group.  That bit was a bit annoying as the last time I visited the place was practically deserted, but the beauty of history is that it can be shared and appreciated by people from all different backgrounds.

After the palace I met my cousin and we took a rather brisk stroll through some of the famous gardens at Versailles.  He is one of those people with rather long legs who is incapable of ambling but that was ok, my energy levels were surprisingly good and we covered a fair bit of ground.  I got a little distracted at the large lake by the white swans (a novelty for us Australians as our swans are black), I’ve seen them before but that was a long time ago and only now do I appreciate the size difference, compared to these monsters our black swans are quite dainty (which is hard to believe if you’ve ever seen them bail up a toddler for his sandwich).  Here is the stunning view looking back towards Chateaux Versailles from the first pond (not that the word ‘pond’ does it justice)

After the gardens my cousin snuck me into his school (university) to have a look around; the buildings are typical Versailles style – classic lines and large with extensive rambling gardens and no harsh colours.  One thing I love about Paris so far is the abundance of wide? leafy avenues lined with double or triple story neutral coloured houses sporting a large number of small; decorative and ornate balconies, shuttered windows and window boxes overflowing with (usually red) flowers – it is so different to home and so very cute!

We caught the train home in the evening, it is still very light here at 7pm which feels strange at the moment having just gotten used to it being dark around 5pm at home now.  Finally walking through the door at 7:30 after a huge day for me, I haven’t been able to do that much in one day in a while – maybe it’s the medication, maybe it’s the 3/4 skinz leggings helping my blood pressure, maybe it’s something in the hard and over-chlorinated Paris water but whatever it is I am enjoying it immensely!  It took some calculating but we came to the conclusion I had done around 10+ km of walking – if only it had been in my hiking boots instead of my work shoes as my foot is getting grumpy again, I’m sure, however, that I can bully it into submission!  Everything is looking good for Spain on Saturday!

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