When les Verts go marching in.
Making it to Paris in time for les Verts’s visit was arguably the biggest concern we had in terms of the timing of our move here.  Many months before we landed on this distant shore, Nez’s dad had asked whether we were 99% sure we were moving to Paris or 100% sure.  Only if the answer were the latter would he proceed with les Verts’s travel plans.  Being eternally optimistic and a bit bombastic, we did not hesitate to respond, “100%.”  We arrived in Paris with our suitcases a mere 12 days ahead of Nez’s sister and her family.
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 5
Day 6
 A walk in the park of the Sun King.

13 May 2008A little excursion.  Today, we left the city itself for the Château de Versailles.  On good information from a certain Rick Steves, we bought the forfait loisirs (what its purveyor dubbed the “queue-cutting” pass) from the RER ticket window at the Saint-Michel station by the river.  For €21.65, this special deal gave each adult roundtrip transportation and admission to the entire Domain of Versailles, and most importantly, we got to skip the long ticket queue there.  (Children were free at the Château and thus just had to pay for the ride.)  Nez and Riot picked up picnic supplies, this time from the Place Maubert on the Left Bank, for lunch.

The forfait loisirs, a great “queue-cutting” deal .

Whereas the run-of-the-mill tour guides lead
with an umbrella, our fashionable Ranger Nez waives her baguettes to round up the troops.
   (Photo - Les Verts)


The train ride itself was rather short; we spent much of it in conversation and watching the build-up of water between the double-pane window splish-splashing back and forth.  Once there, we worked our way through the throng of visitors to the entrance of the Château, its enormous parking lot already filled with supersize tour buses.  The expected heat quickly made its presence known and so did the crowd.  The sight of the masses congregating by the ticket building, listening to a sweating official in a suit yelling instructions in several languages, made us glad we got our tickets back in Paris.  We gave ourselves a pat on the back and then followed Mr. Steves’s other suggestion:  visit the gardens first, the Château last, after the crowd had been herded up by their umbrella-toting guides.

  Pontificating about dome construction or the causes of the French Revolution, Riot made Nez sorry she asked.  (Photo - Les Verts)
  Let them eat the sites:  We would rather lunch on tasty baguettes and whatever we bought today from the local charcuterie.
  Les Verts and some old king’s Orangerie; some orange groves.
  A possbible thought:  Now this is not a bad place for a wedding.

A nice little spot for a picnic.  Before we proceeded to the vast gardens, we paused for a bathroom break and Joie pleasantly discovered the special treatment given to the little ones like Berryana in the long queues.  We regrouped and started making our way toward the Grand Canal for our picnic.  One could only appreciate the immense size of these gardens by walking the length of them.  We crisscrossed through the maze of trees, to the children’s delight, and then along a long, straight stretch of manicured lawn, but our water destination seemed no closer than when we had started.  Several hundred yards later, we finally found a shady spot by the tip of the Grand Canal where paddle boats drifted slowly by.

  Dwarfed by just about everything in this place, Kingskid and Berryana stood in awe of Apollo and his chariot.  (Photo - Les Verts)
  Joie and Berryana rejoined the group, passing along one of two huge water beds behind the Palace.  (Photo - Les Verts)

Against this breathless backdrop, we replicated the picnic routine of the night under the Eiffel Tower while Kingskid and Berryana found much joy in feeding bread crumbs to the ducks and discovering “very ugly” fish in the water.  Two Japanese girls in a passing boat found similar joy in the young Verts and took a couple of pictures, no doubt to show the folks back home “French children” at play.  From where we sat, it did not take much to imagine ourselves to be modern-day monarchs as we scanned the vast expanse of our dominion that seemed to reach the horizon.  Although it was impossible to confirm, as they were mere dots from where we were, we swear we could see the envy in the eyes of the majority of the visitors who did not, or could not, venture far past the vicinity of the Château itself.  Surely, they were missing out on the best part of the entire place.

  “Can I have some bread for the ducks,” asked Berryana; no one had the heart to tell her that we only had two loaves for all the humans.
  French transformation takes time, for now, a picnic of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches will suffice.
  The luckiest ducks in the world call the Grand Canal its dining room; the unluckier ones end up in our pâté.  (Photo - Les Verts)
  It was becoming very clear that Nez and Riot were not living large in exile, far from it.  (Photo - Les Verts)

A dreamed of world.  Next up was Marie Antoinette’s little palace, the Petit Trianon, and play village.  Joie had read about the ill-fated queen and her alleged excess in her book club back home.  Because the rental bikes did not come with child seats, we all walked the length of five football fields to get to our attraction.  In the little drainage ditch along the path, Kingskid fancied himself as the heir apparent to Indiana Jones, whose DVDs were on heavy rotation on this trip.  Have we complained about the heat yet?  It was hot, really hot.

When we got to a set of ornate gates, we could see the Grand Trianon in the distance at the end of a long path but decided to skip it and instead followed a slightly smaller path to the “little” estate that Louis XVI gave his queen in 1774.  As recounted in the official pamphlet, it was here that “she found a haven of privacy that allowed her to escape from the rigours of Court Étiquette.”  Such escape, apparently, included a little Norman-style play hamlet complete with cottages and vegetable and flower gardens, a tranquil lake and a waterwheel, and a little further away, a farm.  It is said that no one could enter this personal space, where she and her close friends acted out simple living, without her invitation.

  The happiest place on earth, preceding the current one by some 170 years; here, the Fishery, also known as the Marlborough Tower.
  Under a foot bridge spanning this fairy tale land swims a swarm of gnarly-looking fish not fit for a Queen, even one playing peasant.

Nowadays, tourists who made it this far are free to roam the English-style garden of the Queen’s Hamlet to experience the contrast of this corner of Versailles and the rest of its structured extravagance.  We did not see much of the Petit Trianon, which was undergoing restoration, and did not fully enjoy the free-flowing garden on account of the weather.  More than just pitying the poor Queen who had to pretend to be a peasant to find peace and happiness, we felt sorry for her and her attendants for the period attires they had to don in similar conditions.

After we said goodbye to Marie Antoinette’s old haunt, it is recalled that someone in our entourage was more than tempted by the offer of transportation by the mini-train instead of walking, but the rest of the group, including, surprisingly, the children, would rather use the money for ice cream.  Ice cream won over the mini-train, but no one came away unhappy.  After a round of sweet refreshments in the shade we began our long trek back to the Palace.  Along the way, the Language Chameleon did not miss another chance to run through the maze-like hedges with an excited Kingskid not far behind.


Looking out at the Queen’s House,
the only one in this make-believe hamlet
to be roofed with tiles.

An unexpected reaction.  The expected reaction, perhaps even a universal one, we think, upon witnessing the splendor and magnificence of the interior of Louis XIV’s Palace is indescribable awe.  If so, we are sorry to disappoint and report that for us, more or less, it actually was not.  In fact, it actually got a bit humdrum after going from room to room of this over-the-topness.  That is not to say that what we saw – the King’s State Apartment, the Queen’s, the King’s Chamber, the Hall of Mirrors, etc. – were underwelming.  On the contrary, think of any superlative and it would not be far from the truth in describing this royal residence.  But for so much oomph it simply lacked the awe.  We could not imagine what this experience would be like if we were subjected to the undulating masses of visitors during the peak hours.  Quelle horreur!

Perhaps the only way to really enjoy and actually get something out of this tour was to have a personal guide who is knowledgeable enough to impart upon you all of its fascinating history and patient enough for all of your questions in return.  Without the aid of some in depth context, it might as well be a walk through a series of very ornate chambers; a bed here, a fireplace there, and then another bed.  In the end, we concluded that while the Château of Versailles was known the world over, we liked its gardens best.

What else but for the sheer grandeur:  Not yet to our appointed picnic destination (by the square body of water in the center of the photo) , the Palace had already receded a good distance behind us .  (Photos - Les Verts)

A showing of solidarity.  In light of the past excess of the Bourbon monarchs, we showed our unity with the French peasants of the 18th century, as well as the Vert children of the 21st century, by all opting for a decidedly un-Ancien Régime, and un-French, dinner from “mickey do” to consume on our packed train ride back to Paris.

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 5
Day 6

Copyright © 2008  Rien, Vraiment!  All rights reserved.