Friday, June 28, 2013

Katey's Family in France Part Three: The Bourbons and the Impressionists

For my friends who are not so well-versed in French history, I'll let you know now that the title does not refer to any alcoholic beverages. I'll forgive you if you stop reading now. In fact, it refers to our adventures in Versailles yesterday, followed by our trip to the Musée d'Orsay today.

We knew Versailles would be a big day, so we tried to get out of here somewhat early to get to the metro. I had to buy the RER tickets, but I had double checked that I could get them at the Saint Michel-Notre Dame station, so I wasn't worried.

One thing I didn't count on, however, was an SNCF strike. That is, the employees of the RER and other train-related things were not at work. I probably should have counted on it, as la grève in Paris is hardly groundbreaking news. Alas, we had to buy our RER tickets from the little machine. Which didn't take bills. And of course didn't take our puce-less credit card (American cards don't have a necessary chip in them to be read by machines). And so we counted up all of our little coins to scrape together the necessary change for one-way tickets (although I wasn't really positive they were one-way until we had to buy return tickets under similar circumstances). And of course we had to wait in line behind all of the other tourists attempting to buy their tickets - some of whom had to discover that their cards wouldn't work by trying them over and over again and some of whom had invested in cards with the correct chip but that simply were not functioning properly. It was during this time that the SNCF man came buy to get something from the office (you know, the booth where they would normally be selling tickets and helping the struggling tourists) and informed an inquiring French woman that they were not working because of the strike. By translating this to my parents, I inadvertently informed the surrounding line of bewildered Americans and Brits of the situation. But we got the tickets.

The next step is always not taking a train that doesn't go all the way to Versailles (the RER C splits off in several directions). We were fine on this note because I was prepared for it, but I still have a bit of a guilty/worried conscience about some people (from the aforementioned ticket line) whom I witnessed getting on the wrong train before I could stop them. My mother just informed me that she did, in fact, see them at Versailles later that day. Conscience clear.

And so we got to Versailles. And we got audio-guides (Being nine months removed from my last tour and my French history courses, I was not prepared to relay the history of Versailles + Trianon). And we had a lovely lovely time with a wonderful lunch at the place my group ate at last year. But I didn't get ice cream. Oh well.

We saw all the rooms in all the palaces, of course including the Hall of Mirrors:

And of course we had our photos outside:

And we made our way up to the Grand Trianon as well as the Petit Trianon.

All in all, a successful day. Even if at the train station I promptly realized that our tickets were only one-way (in my defense there had been no aller + retour option presented, merely a "Chateau Versailles" ticket). There had been someone at the booth when we arrived, so I thought perhaps the Versailles employees were not on strike. My mistake. Then, of course, we had the needing change issue. Luckily, about a zillion other people also needed return tickets, so my mom had plenty of time to wait in line while my dad and I ran to buy an orange juice and hot chocolate from the McCafé across the street. I asked the nice young man working for extra coins, and he was quite accommodating. And the orange juice wasn't bad either. After watching a few more Americans (a few too many, I might add) struggle through the realization that their credit cards wouldn't work in the machine, we made it to the machine and got our tickets. A little later than planned, we made it onto the RER C headed for Paris. Needless to say, we were a bit tired and opted for dinner in. But it was delicious, and we all slept quite well. 

This morning we could sleep in a bit, as we were just headed over to the Musée d'Orsay (where the Paris Museum Pass gets you in a separate and super fast entrance unlike Versailles, where there is only one entrance and one über long line). We started with the top floor, home of most of my favorite impressionist pieces, and spent quite a bit of time there. Although my mom spent about twice as much time as my dad and I. We all looked at various areas for a while and then met up (after my dad and I chased down my mom, who always seems to be difficult to find in museums). We had lunch at the café on the fifth floor, which was actually quite good. I was pleased with their Quiche Lorraine and very satisfied with their Chocolat Liégeois (an ice cream dish). Anyway, although we were originally planning to squeeze in the Musée Rodin, we decided to round out the day with the rest of the Musée d'Orsay. I may have encouraged this decision, as I am inclined to think that, while I am very glad I saw "The Thinker" and other Rodin works last year, sculpture museums only need to be visited once or twice in a lifetime, and in the case of my parents, my account and photos of the experience will suffice. 

Because you are not allowed to take photos in the Musée d'Orsay (I saw a sweet Italian man get fiercely chastised for committing this crime with his ipad), this is the only picture I can offer. I did, however, recently take photos from my parents' camera, so I may add a couple to old posts and more variety will come in the future!

All for now, but we've got some fun days ahead!

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