I had read in my guidebook that despite the crowds and more expensive admission, weekends are the time to visit Versailles because all the ornate garden fountains are on, making it all the more worth the trip. With this in mind, we woke up early on a Saturday morning to take the RER train to the Versailles train station.
On our short walk to the palace, my family and I stopped at A La Coiffe Bretonne to have crepes for lunch. I had the cockles and mushroom crepe with Moray sauce:
It was more buttery than crepes I’ve had in the U.S. and fortified me for the rest of the morning and afternoon. Once we got to the palace gates, we stood in line for about an hour (!) before we finally purchased our tickets and began exploring Chateau de Versailles.
It was unfortunate that part of the palace is under renovation, and another part of it was closed during our visit. Still, we took our time strolling through the grands appartements, the grand appartement de la reine and the sparkling Galerie des Glaces (Hall of Mirrors).
It turned out that a ticket purchased later in the day (we didn’t reach the ticket booth until almost two in the afternoon) does not grant you full access to the gardens. That wasn’t hugely disappointing, since the greatly-coveted fountains had not been turned on all for the weekend:
I don’t know why, but I sort of expected more from Versailles. Maybe it was the long lines, the overwhelming crowds, the partial renovation and closing off of quarters, or just a general overload from so many museums over the past few days, but I wasn’t as impressed as I thought I’d be. It was beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but in France everything is so stunning that perhaps it just takes more after awhile to really be stopped in your tracks.
Though we didn’t have a chance to visit it, we had fun looking for signs pointing to Saint-Cloud, the little city between Paris and Versailles where my cousins grew up. Since we were running late, we caught the RER back to Paris and headed to our neighborhood for dinner.
We ate at L’Auvergne a Paris, a small restaurant a couple of blocks from our apartment. I had been wanting to try escargots so I was delighted to find and order them from the menu:
They tasted a little like clams, although less flavorful and overpowered by butter, garlic and parsley instead. Still, I was satisfied enough to be able to say I’ve now tried escargots.
By the time we finished dinner, it was evening and we hopped on the metro to visit every tourist’s requisite stop: the Eiffel Tower:
And you know what? Despite the cliches, it was magical. For fifteen minutes at every hour, the entire tower would light up with sparkling lights, and it felt like all of Paris was giving you a great big stinky, wine-soaked, cheese-laden hug. And I wanted to turn around and give it one right back.
Paris, je t’aime.