We left Epernay for Paris today and made a stop in Versailles for lunch and to visit the palace. We ate a lovely meal of mushroom and green bean salad, duck with garlic potatoes and warm chocolate cake at Brasserie du Theatre this afternoon. After we had all finished our espressos,we boarded the bus for the palace.
It has been five years since my last visit, but I was still very excited to see Versailles again. We parked amongst forty or fifty other tour buses, as the palace is a very popular tourist destination. French schools are on vacation as well, meaning many families are touring the château. We walked up the massive promenade to enter the right side wing of the palace to begin our tour. We were given two hours to tour the site, which was not enough time to truly explore the palace and immense gardens. My mother has not been to Versailles, so we decided to spend time at strategic locations, notably the Hall of Mirrors, the Royal Chapel and the grounds behind Versailles.
The Royal Chapel was our first stop, as it was at the start of our tour. We walked through the salons and bedrooms on the second floor until we came to the Hall of Mirrors. Though I have visited before, the opulence and beauty of the palace is still incredible. I often wonder about how it must have felt for King Louis XIV to create a home without any thought of expense. Also known as the Sun King, every detail was designed to promote his reign. This includes everything from dramatic paintings of the Sun King commanding his troops in war to gold door handles engraved with the king’s initials. My pictures simply do not do the palace justice. If you ever have the chance of experiencing Versailles, take a day and discover its opulence and beauty. It is a place to which I could return a thousand times and it would still amaze me every time.
Though Versailles is a beautiful place, it was far too busy today. We encountered three to four tour groups in each room. The palace was stuffy and we yearned to be out in the gardens. We finally left the palace, viewed the gardens and, with some time left before the group reconvened, we met up with fellow traveler, Christine, and wandered the streets of the town of Versailles. As I have only visited the palace before, it was interesting to experience how modernity has surrounded this gem of French history. We happened upon an enclosed marché, Versailles’ version of Lyon’s Les Halles. There we walked through stalls selling fish, cheeses, meats and dry goods. We popped into a store where I purchased a container of chestnut cream. It was delightful to remove ourselves from the mayhem inside the palace and to spend time exploring the city. We returned to the bus at five o’clock and drove into Paris, where we later checked into our hotel. Sadly, at this point, we had to say “Au revoir” to André, our chauffeur par excellence. He returns to his home in Lyon as we will be traveling by Metro in the city.
We took the evening off to do some laundry and to eat a quick dinner at Mezzo di Pasta, my favorite chain of fast food pasta restaurants. After dinner, we took the Metro to our hotel, where we had a leisurely evening. Tomorrow we travel into the 1st Arrondisement to visit E. Dehillerin, a cooking shop that was established in 1820. From there, we will visit the famous pâtisseries of Fauchon and Ladurée, as well as Hediard, an ingredients shop. We conclude our evening with dinner at Au Pied du Cochon, where we will eat their famous Soupe a L’Oignon Gratinée.