Jeudi I took a tour of Versailles on Thursday. I had found Blue Bike Tours through TripAdvisor and they were highly recommended. I thought that it might be something different to try other than wandering around by myself. It did run a little on the pricey side, but I decided to splurge. We met at the train station in Paris since the tour included the train to and from Versailles. Other tours required lugging the bike from an office in Paris on the train, which I was not about to do. So I met my group a bit before 9 am and headed for the palace. I was the only single traveller on the trip, the others were families or couples. Upon arriving in the town of Versailles, the guide led us to the marketplace. hour buildings around a square built an indoor market that was to die for. The guide pointed out all the best businesses and off we went. I grabbed a sandwich before heading over to try the crepes our guide raved about. I watched the woman from Brittany, where crepes originated, spread the batter onto a hot pan and slap a generous pad of butter on it. Amazing. After everyone finished grabbing their lunch, we went to collect the bikes and go. It had been a while since I had biked and like many others, I wobbled my way down streets, unsteady with the slow pace of the biking and the many stops. When we got to the palace grounds it was much better. The Palace off Versailles is 2,000 acres making it perfect for biking.
We spent some time biking on the trails along the basin before picnicking across from the palace. What a view. Not to mention, the day was gorgeous and sunny, but not too warm. Then we biked some more getting off once in a while to listen to the guide. We went to the Grand Trianon and the Petit Trianon, the retreats of the king and queen from the public eye and decorum. The Petit Trianon was especially known for housing Marie Antoinette, as she was so disliked by the public and was a young foreigner. She redesigned the gardens in the english style and built the prettiest faux village I have ever seen. In order to escape her life as the queen she had a peasant-style village built and hired farmers to pretend like they lived there. She would dress in peasant clothes and walk around, playing the part. Still the village is quaint and beautiful. Lastly, the guide had us ride back through the town of Versailles and drop off our bikes before walking us to the palace. Here he sent us into the main palace. This was probably my least favorite part of the tour, in that I was under the impression that an hour and a half of the tour would not be me walking through the main palace by myself with an audioguide. Otherwise I loved the tour and biking through the grounds was breathtaking. The Palace is unimaginable. Its huge and lavish. The Hall of Mirrors literally made my mouth drop open. Everything is gold or glittery. The gardens are just as astounding, leaving me wishing I never had to leave.
I started Friday with a bit of a late start, but made a good day of it. I took two buses to reach Montmartre where I saw Sacre Coeur. The white building looked unreal against the flat blue of the sky. I decided to climb to the top since I hadn't gotten a view at the Eiffel Tower. 300 steps later I was out of breath and quite dizzy from the tiny spiral staircase. The view was great. It was not so crowded, allowing me to walk around the dome and see Paris from all sides. I loved being at the top, I could have spent a few hours up there if I wasn't so hungry. So I went back down and visited Le Relais Gascon, recommended by my host. I had one of the best salads of my life before setting off for the Musée d'Orsay. I'd say this was my favorite Paris museum. I should have left more time for it, because in two hours I could only see the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist exhibits. Their collection of Cézannes, Monets, Sisleys, and Pissarros is beautiful and huge. Degas, my personal love, was featured mostly in sculpture with a few nice paintings. I think I had an out-of-body experience viewing Le Petit Danseuse Agée Quartorze. There was just so much beautiful work I nearly passed out.
My last day in Paris. I woke up early, grabbing a croissant on the way to the bus. Arrived at the Louvre a few minutes after opening. The line to get in was just five minutes. Once inside I started with the Mona Lisa, knowing it would only get more crowded as the day went on. I quite easily slide to the front of the railing and admired the masterpiece. Great to see in person, but the tourists elbowing me took away from the moment. I did the Italian, English, and Spanish paintings, which I greatly enjoyed. Then I looked at antiquities from Rome, Islam, and Egypt. This part of the museum was quite and very underrated. The sculpture halls were another of my favorites and the Venus de Milo was more beautiful than I had imagined. I took in the apartments of Louis XIV which were like Versailles in their lavish brocades and gilt edges. Lastly, I viewed French, Dutch, and Flemish paintings marveling in their shadowed colors and details. The Corot and Delacroix collections were vast and varied, a pleasure to view. The amount of artwork in the Louvre is mind-boggling. Had a quick lunch before walking over to Notre Dame. I only was able to admire he outside, as the line to get in was crazy long. Since it was nearby I stopped by Shakespeare and Co. a great little bookstore with a lot of history. I bought a book or two and had them stamped. I could've spent the rest of the day there but instead I decided to try the ice cream at a place called Berthillion. Berthillion had three places on one street, a line at each. Luckily I reached the front of the line quickly and ordered. The scoops were small, but the flavors intense. Not overly sweet or rich, but well balanced and strong. I savored it as I strolled along the Seine for a final trip to the bus stop. Of course I could not leave uneventfully. The center of Paris was crazy with multiple demos traitors by political groups and events along the river. At 15 minutes I thought the bus was just late, but the. I looked down the street and I could see it sitting at an intersection. 10 minutes later it was still in the same spot, bus driver out and on the sidewalk. Another 10 minutes if nothing so I decided to hail a cab, just wanting to get to the house. A block and a half down the road I see the 72 bus. I nearly fell out of the cab I went so fast, shoving the seven euros for the cab (imagine the price if I took it all the way to Boulogne) into the drivers hand before hopping on the bus. Then bus ride took a bit, but I made it there in one piece. My hosts took me out for dinner at a cute Japanese place with great food before I was treated to an apple tart made by their daughter. A wonderful end to the week, though I never really wanted it to end.