Saturday, November 20, 2010

Day 3 - Chateau Versailles & Musee du Louvre

Very early start this morning – Metro and RER to Versailles. Thought understanding the Metro also meant understanding the RER but I thought wrong. The Metro has line numbers, colours and directions (final station each way). RER has line letter, colour BUT no directions! Instead, they have names such as VICK and JOEL which somehow relate to the station they finish at, which more often than not isn’t the last on the line (where I needed to be). However, made it in one piece and with the correct ticket =D

Arriving in Versailles it was cold and foggy. Short walk from the station to the Chateau, which was rather imposing. A gold gate guards the entrance, but fortunately arrived early enough to miss any large queues. Once inside, it was amazing. The palace now acts as a museum for paintings and artefacts of the Kings and Queens of France. The paintings were divine (the signs saying flash photography damages them were widely ignored), and all the furniture, either the original or a recreation was divine if not over-the-top. There was gold everywhere. Dodged a few groups of tourists and continued my tour of the rest of the palace largely alone, which meant for some nice photos.  And a free audio guide meant I got all the history I could need (little different to the way Ms Scanlon taught it in year 12!). Even got to see the little door where Marie Antoinette escaped during the Revolution.

Outside, the gardens were HUGE. I would love to go back and see them in summer, when the fountains are on and the statues uncovered. It was freezing, but I didn’t mind wandering around, and even after a day I feel there is so much I missed. Deeper into the gardens and you find the Grand Trianon, Petit Trianon and domain of Marie Antoinette. Much smaller than the Chateau, they also house paintings and furniture from the time of Marie Antoinette and Napoleon.
Marie Antoinette’s domain includes not only the Trianons, but many other little buildings throughout the gardens, including a menagerie and her own country style hamlet, which she had built to escape palace life. Tired after walking around the gardens for hours, took the Petit Train back to the Chateau (larger crowds now!) before taking the RER back to Paris.

Spent tonight at the Musee du Louvre. So much culture today! The pyramids where beautiful, but do look out of place within the old architecture. Reduced entry on Friday nights meant there were lots of students and families.  Another place where I could happily go back and spend more time, there is so much to see! I did, however, get to see what everyone comes to the Louvre for – the Mona Lisa. It’s so mysterious! They have now hidden it behind glass to preserve it (not so for the many other masterpieces??), and for one of the smaller paintings it really does draw a crowd. Also so the Venus de Milo, Wedding Feast at Cana and many many others (photos soon!). Had dinner in the Louvre (traditional baguette with ham and cheese) and once again beautiful views, this time of the Champs Elysees. Chatted to a waiter who was more than willing to point out all the differences from the actual Louvre to Dan Brown's 'The DaVinci Code'. Makes me want to read it again though! Left just before closing and did some shopping, mostly the sort where you look, don’t buy, before heading home to rest my VERY tired legs.


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