Saturday, July 16, 2011

Day 5: Paris

I'm writing this post while riding on the train to Rotterdam.  I totally did not expect to have wi-fi on the Eurostar!

Yesterday was a busy day:
Our hostel was in the Montmartre district, so we weren't far from the Moulin Rouge.  Just 2 stops away via the Metro.
Next, we caught the RER train headed for Versailles.  A trip to Paris is not complete without seeing this palace.  It's absolutely gorgeous!  If I ever go again, I'd like to go during the low season....and especially not around Bastille Day!  This place was so crowded, we could barely move.  We did the palace tour, which also gets you access to the palace gardens.  However, the line to pick up our audio guide was almost as bad as the line to get into the we skipped that part.  We both (without knowing the other was doing it) downloaded biographies of Marie Antoinette to our Kindles--we'll read up on what we saw later : )
Note:  when taking the RER train to Versailles, you'll need to buy a different ticket (the tickets purchased as a caret do work for the RER trains, but only within the city limits.  When we got to the station at Versailles, our caret ticket would not work to get us through the turnstiles.)

We had lunch at a little cafe in the Gardens at Versailles.  I believe it was called La Girandole, Para du Chateau de Versailles.  

We then took the train back into the City of Paris, getting off at St. Michael's station.  We crossed the bridge and walked along the River Seine to our next destination.
Notre Dame
Visiting cathedrals is probably my favorite part about traveling in Europe.  It just amazes me that these monuments were built hundreds of years ago....I can't even fathom it!  All the detail--the statues, the stain glass, the ceilings--it's beautiful.  I can't imagine what it was like building this.  Or even more, designing it.  Once construction started, it took a couple of years.  How frustrating would that be to design something like this and never see the finished result?

We also visited the Concierge.  I was not familiar with this site, but it apparently was the palace back during the medieval/Renaissance age, before Versailles became the new royal residence.  When the royals left, it was turned into a prison.  This prison is now a popular tourist spot because of its significance during the French Revolution.  It is where Marie Antoinette was held prisoner.  We were able to visit her chapel, which is now located where her former cell was.

Our train is almost to Rotterdam.  I'll post more pictures later!
Overall, Paris was not my favorite destination.  It's so different from what you see in the movies.  My opinion:  it's dirty and mostly smells of urine.  I realize we were here on probably the worst possible day--hello, Bastille Day--along with the rest of the world.  The overly crowded sight-seeing took away from some of its charm.  And, Rick Steves says the Paris has the best subway system in Europe....I'm afraid I can't agree with him there.  Apart from it being smellier and dirtier, the Paris subway did not seem nearly as efficient as London's Underground, which had very clearly labeled signs and directions.
I'm not saying I won't give Paris a second chance.  I probably will someday.  I wish I had had more time to visit cafes and eat macaroons : )

So long for now!  Our Holland Adventure begins now : )

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