Versailles Day! Chad and I were both excited to visit the Palace of Versailles and explore the history and opulence of the era. We hopped a train for the short ride over there (requiring me to use my rough abilities with the French language in order to purchase our train tickets).
Thanks to another great tip from our Rick Steves guidebook, we stopped in the tourist shop on the way to the Palace and only waited in line about 10 minutes before we got our tickets (compared to the hour-long wait once you reach the Palace of Versailles line).
We were immediately stunned by the extensive use of gold on the gates and all around the Palace. This place definitely screamed “royalty.” There were several different buildings to explore and not much signage to indicate where to begin, so we just picked a door and walked in.
One thing that we found particularly interesting as we toured the Palace was the layout and size of the rooms. The hallways seemed to be enormous, but the actual rooms seemed relatively small. They weren’t tiny, mind you, but the hallways seemed proportionally larger and often more impressive than the rooms themselves. The Hall of Mirrors was particularly impressive and beautiful, with mirrors all around reflecting golden statues and accents and reinforcing the impression that this was created during a time of extravagance and vanity.
One interesting fact about the place was that music played a central role in the lives of everyone who resided at the Palace of Versailles. There were several instruments about and our audio guide told us that music was often heard throughout the day, wherever you were inside the Palace. This continued as we exited the Palace and wandered around the vast gardens outside. Music (pumped out in speakers disguised in bushes or trees) provided a soundtrack for our garden stroll and made us feel as though we had stepped back in time.
We explored statues and a fountain show, grabbed an ice cream (we were on a mission to sample ice cream in every country on our trip so we could declare an ultimate winner at the end), and admired small theaters tucked away within the garden maze.
After several hours of wandering the grounds, we headed back to the train station and disembarked somewhere between the Eiffel Tower and Champs Elysses. We headed toward the Champs, stumbling upon incredible views of the Eiffel and Paris along the way. Eventually, after a few wrong turns and a lot of walking with no food, we finally found the beautiful street and the Arc de Triumph. We took a few photos and strolled along, drooling over the expensive shops and cafes.
It was nearing the end of the day and once again, we still hadn’t eaten a real meal yet. We were getting sleepy and grouchy, so we popped into an overpriced outdoor cafe and ordered some beautiful and incredibly delicious pastries. Chad had an apple tartlet and I had some other pastry that had a hint of coffee (I can’t remember what this was called).
The sweet treat gave us new-found energy to continue along the Champs, stopping along the way to pick up underwear for us both that we were already running low on (the price we pay for packing light). Then we headed over to the Latin Quarter (walking again–we did a LOT of walking) and found a lovely restaurant where we could sample some of the delicacies that Paris is famous for, including snails (actually pretty tasty with enough garlic and butter!), french onion soup (not usually a fan, but this stuff was YUM!), wine (of course!), bread, and beef bourguignon. For dessert, Chad tried the ice cream and I had creme brulee.
After dinner, we walked through the Latin Quarter for a bit, happy to have found a city that seemed lively at this hour on a Tuesday night. We found a jazz/dance club that was recommended in our Rick Steves book and popped inside to check it out. There was a normal bar on the ground floor, but downstairs there was a wonderful dance floor with live jazz music and folks swing dancing the night away. We had a few glasses of wine and gave the dancing a try. They even played “At Last,” one of “our songs” and a song that was sung at our wedding.
We danced for awhile and had a lovely time. The crowd started to clear out a bit around 1am, so we headed back to our hotel, exhausted from another beautiful day and night in Paris.
Side note: Chad accidentally left our bag of brand new underwear that we had purchased on the Champs under the table at the restaurant where we ate dinner. That must have been quite a surprising tip for the waiter!