Monday, July 11, 2011

Day 6 - July 4 : Versailles

On our last full day in France, we woke up in Vitré to a bright and sunny day- it was promising to be the warmest of our trip. We (of course) stopped by the pastry shop on our way out of town. For my last French pastry in France, I had a pain au chocolat, since they're not the same at home.

We started out on the long trip to Versailles France to see the famous palace of the same name. It was a three hour plus ride, so we didn't get to Versailles until the early afternoon. When we arrived we learned that the palaces at Versailles are not open on Mondays! This was a total bummer- since Versailles is one of the top 10 most visited sites in France, it didn't even occur to me that it would be closed during the high season! I had been to Versailles before, but it was in the winter and only some of the buildings were open then. I was really looking forward to seeing the other three buildings on the enormous estate, but I guess that it wasn't meant to be.

The entrance to Versailles

Luckily for us, the gardens were still open to the public, so we spent three and a half hours exploring the gardens. Frankly I don't know how you could do all the gardens, the 3 palaces and Marie Antoinette's farm in one day. My cousin made a good point- that's why they rent out golf carts! First we walked around one side of the grand palace and checked out the formal gardens of the Orangerie, where several kinds of citrus fruit are grown. From there, we took one of the side paths into the labyrinth of hedges punctuated by many benches, fountains and statues. We left the hedged paths and rejoined the main path, where we had an awesome view of the palace and the fountains and gardens in front of it.

One wing of the main palace

The formal garden of the Orangerie

View of the reflecting pool past the Orangerie

There were many paths cut through the tall hedges

Back on the main promenade, there were lots of topiaries

A ramp leading up to the palace, lined with topiaries and statues

The palace viewed from the gardens

The gardens viewed from the palace

We walked down the main boulevard, along the enormous reflecting pool, towards more fountains. The fountains were all extremely elaborate, with a mythological theme, I think. At this point you feel like you're in the middle of the long promenade, but I would estimate that we were at best one third of the way down the length of it. At this point we stopped for a quick drink in the shade before continuing. There was a snack shop where you could get cold beverages and ice cream. The ice cream was tempting, but there weren't that many flavors, so we passed.

The main promenade goes alongside the lawn and pools

One of the many elaborate fountains

We took a right hand turn towards Marie Antoinette's domain, which includes two palaces, Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon, plus the Hammeau de la Reine, which was a farm where Marie Anoinette would pretend that she was a sheep-herder. These were the buildings that I really had wanted to visit, but at least I got to see them. The two palaces were splendid and elegant. The Grand Trianon was made of pink marble and the Petit Trianon looked like it was tan marble. The farm where Marie Antoinette pretended to be a peasant was huge; it seemed bigger than a lot of the farms around here on the North Shore.

The path leading to Marie Anoinette's domain

Grand Trianon

Petit Trianon

The sheep on Marie Antoinette's pretend farm

The property is surprisingly large (nearly 2000 acres) and it takes quite a long time to walk around it, and we probably did less than half of it in three and a half hours. We did take our time though, because it was very hot that day. On our way out, we noticed a pedestal that was missing its statue, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to make our own. Melissa and I quickly boosted Mariellen up and snapped a few once in a lifetime photos before the grounds crew started whistling at us! We also tried to peek in the windows on the way out, as a few others were doing, but the people working inside hastily pulled the shades.

The palace from the other side on the way back

Mémé and I in the gardens

Up on the empty pedestal

After spending the afternoon at the palace wandering through the gardens, we had worked up an appetite and set about finding a restaurant for our last dinner in France. There weren't too many choices on the road that we picked, and two of them were American style food, so we ended up at a French style brasserie. After a filling dinner of rotisserie chicken and salad, I was ready to do some shopping. First we hit up the tourist shops that lined the road to the palace.I was able to get a bunch of mini magazines for about a euro each, not a bad deal. Then we headed to Monoprix, which is kind of like the French version of Target. At every Monoprix that I've been to, there has been clothing, accessories, toiletries, home goods and stationary on the upper level(s) and then a grocery store on the bottom floor. This is definitely one of the best places to get the Haribo candy that I love to bring home, in addition to finding fun presents for the family.

After getting out shop on, we searched in vain for an ice cream shop or a crêperie before heading back to the hotel to get ready for our flight home in the morning.

The next morning, we got to the airport nice and early and still had to wait in a huge line to check-in, just like last year. If you ever fly Aer Lingus out of Paris, arrive early, because there always seems to be a long line and not enough booths open to accommodate it. We did make it through though, and got through security pretty easily and had a little time to kill in the duty free shop. I spent basically every last euro in my purse on cookies and candies to bring home.

Our flight to Shannon Ireland was quick and uneventful. When we arrived in Shannon, we went through US Customs, so we wouldn't have to do that in Boston. That was very convenient. Then flight to Boston was long, but I kept entertained by watching movies the whole way. Luckily all of our luggage made it and we were on our way home in no time!

No comments: