September 12, 2014 – We conveniently had food in the apartment, and had a nice breakfast of cold cuts, bread, yogurt, juice and fruit before heading out to the train station.
We left around 9am, and the train was fairly packed. The walk from the station to Versailles was pleasant, and afforded us a great view of the sun glinting off the gold on the palace roof and gates. There weren’t that many tour buses yet, and the line to get inside was fairly short. This, we discovered, was because everybody else was already inside.
So… Versailles. After Notre Dame, the other “you should go if you’re in the area but probably not more than once” segment of the trip. The palace is beautiful, and well maintained. And crowded. Very narrow passages, never meant to house hundreds of people, were bottlenecked by shoulder-to-shoulder tour groups. If you could get by one, you would run right into another. Fortunately we got to the Hall of Mirrors in between the tour groups; or perhaps we just had the misfortune of starting our tour immediately following all the groups.
Regardless, we were quite happy to have a coffee and donut break midway through our trek through the palace. The little cafe is not well sign-posted, but we found it by following the arrows and signs down a small back staircase.
We were also pleased to discover how extensive and massive the gardens are. They’re so large you can rent golf carts to drive around. We decided to walk instead, and spent quite a bit of time watching a gray swan swimming around before heading back through the 15+’ tall hedgerows to an outdoor cafe for lunch. We split some wine and the free bar mix (pretzels, crackers) that was provided and ordered pizza. Tony really liked the pizza, Louisa wasn’t quite sold. The twist was the layer of bechamel sauce in place of tomato sauce.
That afternoon we realized that we hadn’t walked around Notre Dame to see the iconic flying buttresses, so that was our first stop. That river side of the cathedral includes some small gardens and pedestrian ways, and is overall more pleasant than the side by the shops.
Next up was Angelina . We opted to get our pastries and hot chocolate to go, not only because there was a bit of a wait for the dining room, but also because we preferred to eat outside in the neighboring park (prices are about 40% less for takeaway as well). We selected two pastries – a chocolate eclair with chocolate filling, and a white cake/cream/berries combination – as well as two cups of hot chocolate. The chocolate is literally melted chocolate, kept warm in an ornate stainless steel carafe. The pastries were good, though we discovered we much preferred the berries/cream/cake to the eclair.
On the other end of the garden was the Place de la Concorde, the largest square in Paris and home to a 3400 year old Egyptian obelisk that once marked the entrance to the Temple of Luxor. Our destination was the Orangerie museum to look at some famous paintings. Louisa mostly wanted to see the room of water lilies (probably the most peaceful museum spot we’ve ever found).
And where else would we finish the day but at the Louvre – this time to see the ornate apartments of Napoleon III, as well as whatever else we happened to find. That evening we were pretty tired after the full day, and just wanted to relax. So we scrounged around the apartment for dinner – rose wine, seasoned rice, toasted open-face sandwiches and some fruit were on the menu.