28 May 2009

Touring Chateau De Versailles & Cruising the Seine River

I woke up just in time for breakfast. The café’ was down in what appeared to be an underground cellar. I happened to share a table with a Chinese guy. He introduced himself as a professor (he looked too young to be a professor though) and a lecturer at one of the universities in Beijing. He was on a job tour doing some presentations at a number of universities in Germany, Lithuania, Holland and France. With his obvious struggle with English, I couldn’t be more sure then that language is not a barrier when it comes to travelling.

So, I started off my day by walking to an RER Station called Champ de Mars Tour Eiffel (a few hundred yards away from Eiffel Tower) from where I took a train to Versailles.
Sorry. I didn't mean to look so serious. I just tried to look French. LOL!

After an hour or so of ride across the outskirts of Paris and a spread of countryside, I arrived at Versailles-Rive Gauche (the end of RER Line C). I disembarked myself from the train and walked off towards what I believed would be the location of the chateau. There was some kind of marching ceremony taking place on the outside of the Versailles Building or on the street of Avenue du General de Gaulle to be exact.
While France as a developed country has so many things they deserve to be proud of, I gotta respect them for being so.. advanced.. And when I say advanced, I mean it..
Every now and then I'd run into people chanting ‘You want to avoid the long queue and save up to 2 hours of your precious time in Versailles? Let’s buy the tickets over there (gesturing to office booths) and you won’t regret it!’ I just gave them one of those famous ‘smirks’ of mine, thinking in amusement how people could be very creative when it comes to earning money nowadays.
But the amusement died the minute I made my way through the entrance and saw THAT queue. It gotta be the longest queue I’d ever seen in my entire life! For a moment, I was just standing there trying to figure out what to do next.

What you gotta know when you come to Chateau de Versailles is that, when you come in through the entrance, you should see two different queues outside the main gate. To the left of you, supposedly shorter than the other, is the queue to the ticket counter. This is the queue that you should join in before you join the very long queue that is on the right.

I’d have to warn you, this is very important because you wouldn’t want to spend hours of queuing up and finding yourself denied of entry because you don’t have a valid ticket with you. Again, head to the ticket counter and buy a ticket first!

So, after joining the queue for a ticket and again for the entry (tell you, it’s a damn long queue) where I went through a security check (tripod wasn’t allowed in, I was asked to put mine at one of the safety racks but I ignored it. I needed it very badly and I was lucky. God must have helped me) and later found myself standing in front of a very spectacular and architecturally artistic palace. It was of course, the one and only Chateau de Versailles.

I was simply mesmerized by the beauty of it. There were more things to get awed by inside the palace. It really is a real chateau anyway. Kings and Queens and princesses and princes used to live in it. The decors, the carvings, the paintings, the monuments, jeez, they were just so amazingly beautiful. In fact, there were more things worth spending more time on in Chateau de Palais then at the Lourve. I can assure you on this one.
While traversing through the series of rooms and hallways inside the Palace, my jaws just dropped in amazement. In fact, there were too many things to get amazed by in details that I eventually found myself saying ‘Ok… What now?..'

… and later down to ‘Whatever….’. I guess I just got tired of gasping over things in the palace. Hehe. But seriously, it was worth every penny that I paid the ticket for.

After returning the audio guide thingy at the exit, I walked off to the entrance to the garden. It is a MUST-SEE thing when you come to Chateau de Versailles. Mind to tell you that you’ve got to buy a different ticket if you wish to tour the garden (€8.00). I came in wondering why there were so many people in the garden. It looked more like a pilgrimage place of some kind. I’d noticed that everybody seemed to be heading in one particular direction. As I followed along, my jaws dropped again. I wasn’t prepared for such a beautiful and spectacular view that I’d come across.

I’d come to find out that despite its spectacular view, the garden is not an all-visual business. Your strolling around the garden would be so rhythmic and classy as you find yourself swinging along with the orchestra masterpieces by some of the finest musicians the world had ever produced including some by the great Mozart. It was such a majestic feeling walking around the garden while listening to the orchestral music that being played on the air. Really.
I was busy doing one of my photography sessions when the pools suddenly went erupting into a beautiful display of fountain, spraying water up to 30 feet high into the air. I had read about the fountain display in many of the ‘researches’ that I made on Versailles Garden. Quite most of them had described it as something of a luck thingy, that you gotta be lucky enough to have the possibility of witnessing it on your visit to Versailles. I had refused to consider myself lucky enough to have a chance on that possibility, probably because I didn’t want to get disappointed later. I went to Versailles almost forgetting about the fountain display. I could simply have missed it had I visited Versailles the day before as per my original pre-planned itinerary. Goshh, luck turned out to be on my side. I was lucky.
A little bit of history on the garden. The laying out of the gardens was initiated by Louis XIII back in 1630s after purchasing the land from Jean-Francois de Gondi. Its building had continued for a few generations of Louis Monarchy and it was spared from the threat of Revolution back in 1792. It was largely ignored during the Napoleonic era though and the gardens had undergone a series of restoration since then until how it is now.
The garden was so huge that it was impossible to cover it all without breaking your legs.
If you happen to visit the garden, you gotta make sure you have your ticket neatly tucked in your pocket at all time because every now and then one of the security personnel might ask you to show it [Wouldzzz youzzzz showzzzzz mezzzz yourzzzzz ticketzzzzz pleazzzzzzz] . It really is well-justified for the fact that the garden is so huge (800 hectares!) it is almost as impossible to keep naughty people from sneaking into it as it is to keep illegal immigrants from sneaking into Sabah.

The statues that scattered all over the park of Chateau de Versailles look more outrightly definable then those satues with missing parts inside the Lourve.

and the statue of a sitting lady here is one of my favourites..
This one I took here sure can make a perfectly good picture for a postcard..
Some of the grassy areas are prohibited so forget about sunbathing in any of them or one of the security personnel might blow their wiesel to prompt some unwanted attention from the crowd to you. But of course, I ignored it as least more than once, knowing that nobody knew me there. I needed some photos from a good angle and a little bit of attention wouldn’t hurt. :-P
Although I spent almost the whole day strolling off around the garden, I am quite sure there was still a big part of it that I hadn’t really covered. I apparently had stayed long enough to see another fountain display (must be the real one because everybody was leaving when it was over) on the South Garden before leaving and heading back to Paris. I had just become one of the 6 millions people estimated visiting the Chateau De Versailles every year.
I didn’t want to end the day yet. I took some more time roaming some of the streets in Paris. I had meant to look for the Hilton Hotel (google) but when I couldn’t find it, I said to myself ‘F*#ck Paris Hilton!’ and gave up looking. Instead, I walked into a mini-market (full of Chinese tourists) and bought an XXL size sandwich with 3 Poulet Roti Crudites written across it – somehow, my only encounter with Malay word in my whole trip to Paris. Ok. It was better than nothing. I bought a bottle of Coke and mineral water to come with it and took a seat at one of the benches in the park where I could see the Eiffel Tower in full view. That would be my dinner for the day.

Having done with the meal, I walked off towards the tower, crossing over the bridge to the other side of the Siene River and picked a good spot for some more photos with the tower in it. By then, the sky was darkening over the city of Paris. I had to do it fast before it got too dark.
A bunch of French kids were trying to draw my attention with their playful giggle but I just ignored them. One of them eventually came up to me and asked something I could hardly get at first. He was really struggling with his English that every now and then he’d turn to his friends for some back-up and it got me quite amused. He pointed to the tower and then to his wrist watch and then uttered something like ‘lightzzzzz’, which I could only register later that he was asking about the sparkling lights on the Eiffel Tower. “9 p.m. About 2 hours from now”, I said. The kid nodded thankfully and returned to his friends who were giggling in the same way he was. Well, quite understandably that they knew things better about the city they lived in then I did as a foreigner there but it was more about the thrill of speaking with a foreigner or a tourist. It got me excited talking to a mat salleh when I was a kid. It was like a little bit of challenge to your English proficiency or something. These French kids felt the same way about talking to a tourist as we do here in Malaysia. I returned to taking photos before they called out ‘Sir! Sir!’ and made a gesture, asking me to take a photo of them. “Alright…” I growled. “You’re going on CNN soon”, and to this they said as they looked to each other in excitement “Ahhh. CNN! CNN!” Little did they know that they were never going to make it to CNN, but only to another post to the lousy blog that I was going to write. So, if you have no idea how French kids look like, here is a photo of typical French kids.
I walked down to the riverbank of Seine River and bought a ticket for boat evening ride. I watched as the Eiffel tower loom away, and it wasn’t long before sunset. Sunset in Paris is just so beautiful and magnificent that I can’t even put it into words. Despite the cold weather, I stayed on the open space at the back of the boat because I didn’t want to miss anything. I wanted to take it all, the beauty of the incomparable sunset in Paris, the feeling, the love, the romance, the lights, everything. Traversing along the mystical Seine River, I knew I’d really fallen in love with the City of Paris.

The boat stopped at some of the main attractions of the City of Paris including the Lourve, Notre Dame and Musee d’Orsay.
One of the passengers that had been as resiliently standing in the cold of the open space at the back of the boat was a Korean teenager. At a very young age (he must be about 17 years old), he already had the guts of travelling on his own. What took me 30 years to travel this far? Hmmmm.
By then, then boat was returning to the Eiffel Tower. I stopped to disembark at the Bridge of Pont Alexandre III one of the most famous bridges (and most picturesque) to take some more photos of Paris at night.

A Sabahan kampung boy is trying to play a model in the middle of Paris. Haha!
But what the heck? I was enjoying it. :-P
By then, my legs were beginning to tremble. I took the underground metro back to Aloha Hostel. I got into the room to find out the room had turned into a storage room for luggage and somebody was soundly asleep on my bed! Apparently a group of Chinese tourists had checked into the room, thinking that the whole room had belonged to them. One of them, apparently the only one who could speak English among them all, came up to me with her apologetic remarks and asked the guy to move to another bed. I mean, I had spent at least €10 to have that worn-out matress and pillow covered with a clean piece of cloth. Ok, €3. The rest was the deposit. But I did pay some money for it.

Thinking that it would be my last night in Paris, I walked back out and roamed the area around the hostel – looking for a little bit of night life in Paris. I walked into a pub called Les Artisan and checked out the menu – out of quite a number of options there were, I found myself especially attracted to a beer called Desperado. There was something about that name that got me interested. Somehow. Nope. Despite the lonliness being in a city full of lovey-dovey couples, I wouldn't have categorized myself a desperado. Ahaks!

But beer in Paris could be unbelievably pricey. A small bottle of Desperado had cost me €5.50 and it didn’t even taste good to my tongue! But it was good enough to put me into a decent sleep when I returned to the hostel later.

That was how my second day in Paris had turned out to be. A beautiful Chateau, a breath-taking spread of King's ex-King's gardens, a wonderful sunset boat ride to the heart of Paris along the Seine River and a bottle of cold beer to end the day with. I'd be on my way back to England the next day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

always with some beer eh? :))

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