Before I get into what Patti and I did today, let me tell you about ice cream. We went to this place near our hotel to get a cone last night and when we ordered they told us we could have as many flavors as wanted. We weren't sure how several flavors could get onto one regular-sized cone, but then we saw what they did. You have a main scoop of whatever flavor, and then all the other flavors are added on the outside kind of like petals on a rose. Then they top it off with a mini-cone. I don't know how well you can see in this picture, but here was Patti's cone:
OK, moving on to today, We went to Versailles and Rick Steves recommended getting out of Paris by 8am to beat the crowds because Versailles opens at 9am. So that is what we did. We got on the RER train at just before 8 and got to Versailles about half an hour later. There was already quite a long line at the entrance. When the gate opened, it took us about half an hour just to get to the gate and go through security. By the time we left, we estimated that the lines were taking at least an hour. So we were glad to get there when we did.
Again, we did a Rick Steves guided tour of the palace. A word of advice to any of you thinking of going here: you had better be OK with crowds. You basically shuffle along from room to room in a preset route that you cannot deviate from, shoulder to shoulder with the other tourists. But the palace is definitely opulent and worth visiting.
We opted not to visit the gardens for a few reasons. First, you had to buy a separate ticket to go in there and there was a line to do that; second, there was another line to take the little train out to the furthest smaller palaces and we didn't want to walk that far; and third, there were some things back in Paris we wanted to do. So we went back to the train station to catch the RER train back to Paris. I know, some of you who have been there think that was the worst decision ever.
Our first stop back in Paris was to view the Eiffel Tower from my favorite spot at Trocadero. Given the number of people there, it is clearly everyone's favorite spot. We took some pictures and then bought some artwork from a vendor nearby.
Then back in to the Metro to finally see the Arc de Triomphe. And guess what was there? Yes, another clown! Aargh!
After that we decided it was time for lunch and that we would eat somewhere on the Champs Elysees. We got a table outside and had a leisurely lunch. Our view from our table was acceptable:
We then walked a little further down the Champs Elysees, along with half of Paris it seemed. Well, the half that weren't at Versailles or Trocadero at least. Patti then wanted to go back to some souvenir shops near Notre Dame to pick up some things. So we took the Metro back there and walked over to the Isle St. Louis. Patti found what she was looking for and we stopped at a bakery on the way back to buy tarts. We took them to the park behind Notre Dame and ate them there. Because one must always eat tarts in a park when in Paris if the weather is nice, like it was again today.
We then walked around the side of Notre Dame closest to the Seine to make our way back to the hotel for our afternoon rest. I don't think I have ever been on that side of the cathedral. We came upon a statute of St. John Paul II. We then walked through a small park across the river from the cathedral and I got a final look. I am really happy with the picture because the bright sun made it so I couldn't see anything on the screen when I took it. Seriously, Paris pictures just take themselves.
Tomorrow we leave Paris for Luzern, Switzerland. So tonight we will have dinner and then re-organize our bags.
Let me just add one thing about Paris. When I tell people how much I love this city, I often get comments about how they have heard (or they themselves have found) French people are rude. I have not found that to be the case generally. Of course, there are rude people everywhere (except maybe in Ireland because those are the friendliest people in the world). In fact, the guy who sold us our tarts today wasn't super friendly but I think he was just a curmudgeon. Everyone else we dealt with was super friendly and helpful and more than willing to speak English when we asked them in French if they spoke English. I have found that most people who think the French are rude, are rude to them first. And that's what I have to say about that. I will talk to you tomorrow from Switzerland!