Saturday, June 12, 2010

Paris Travel Guide: Versailles Gone Awry

Bonjour Bloggy Friends,

This morning I hopped out of bed with an extra bop in my step. I couldn't wait to see Versailles. This is our very last day in Paris, so we thought it would be nice to get out of the city to get a feel for the French countryside. We finished our breakfast, freshened up and jumped the train to the nearest RER station that would transport us to our palatial destination.

While standing in line for our tickets, however, the attendant announced that Versailles was closed for the day. She gave no reason. It was just flat out closed. We stood dumbfounded for a moment, but when we finally pulled ourselves together we quickly decided on "Plan B" - a tour of the famed Père Lachaise Cemetery.

Ok, I know visiting a cemetery doesn't sound like an ideal second choice to Versailles, but this place is unbelievable. Not only are there hundreds of gloriously famous people buried here, but the size of the cemetery and architectural intricacy of some of the tombstones is astounding. We cruised by Maria Callas' plot in the crematorium, Oscar Wilde's massive tombstone covered in lipstick kisses, Edith Piaf's discreet family plot and of course Jim Morrison's grave, which is so popular that it has to be blocked off by guards and gates.

Fortunately, it was a rainy day so the cemetery wasn't nearly as crowded as it could have been. Yea, we had to walk around under umbrellas and raincoats, but what better way to spend the afternoon in the cemetery? It got even better when we pulled out the lunch we planned to eat in Marie Antoinette's garden in Versailles. Yep, we plopped ourselves on a bench near Morrison's grave, pulled out some bread and cheese and opened a bottle of wine. It would have been absolutely perfect if I didn't have to balance the handle of my umbrella between my ear and shoulder as I ate and sipped my wine.

Later that evening we met my old friend Thomas (pronounced Toomah) for dinner in the Marais. For two summers in the late 90s he lived with my family and I as a foreign exchange student. We lost touch for many years but finally reconnected through Facebook. That's how I was able to let him know that I'd be in Paris if he wanted to meet up. He took us to a quintessential French restaurant called Cafè Rouge. I can't hardly remember what I ate because I was so consumed with catching up with him after all these years. I'm  happy to see that he's living a wonderful life in Paris. He has a fantastic job near the Champs Élyseés and just bought a new flat outside of the city. He'll be moving there with his girlfriend soon.

It was also fun to drill him on the Parisian culture, which Alan and I have been trying to wrap our brains around the whole time. It comes to find out life isn't much different for young, working class Parisians as it is for us - at least in his experience. He says he doesn't take two hour lunches, he picks up his groceries in one quick stop and he doesn't drink nearly as much wine and coffee throughout the day as we had figured.

It was great to catch up with Thomas, but we had to cut the evening short because our train to Amsterdam leaves in the morning at 6:25 a.m. Stay tuned...

Love, Josh

1 comment:

Casey said...

Josh, I know that sucks, but I really had to laugh thinking about you propping your umbrella under your chin so you could each lunch and have some vino.

Oddly enough, I would have been most interested in Jim Morrison's grave. I've seen The Doors movie about 800 times. I kind of only remember a few of them :)