Sunday, May 20, 2012

Paris Journal: Day Three

This morning, I was anxious to get out of bed.  Tired, but eager to start the day.  Our plans included both the Musee D'Orsay and Versailles, both of which could take the better part of a day (or more).  I'd been planning my Paris wardrobe for weeks, so it was easy to get dressed...I was confident that we knew the city enough to get breakfast and take the metro.  I was up and ready to conquer the day.  Our two-day pass was ready to expire, and I had an agenda.  However, Ryan was (understandably) exhausted....and seemed (to me) to take forever to wake up and get ready.  I may have been a little panicky and nagged him just a bit.

Finally down the stairs and out into the street, we saved some euros (and time) buying our croissants and cafe cremes down in a little chain boulangerie in the metro station.  It seemed every bit as delicious and magical as the cafe variety....once we we arrived at our stop and walked through the Tuileries Garden to eat our breakfast.

We walked through the garden and over the bridge to the Musee D'Orsay.  Again, we were grateful for our Museum Pass which allowed us to skip a winding crowded line and go straight into the museum.  First, VanGogh, Seurat and the other neo-Impressionists...then off to the Impressionists.  These were the paintings I fell in love with as a child....poring over the little book of postcards of the Musee D'Orsay, given to me by my big brother Andrew and sister Lynn.   Some of the Renoirs....I had also seen as a teenager in a special exhibit in Chicago for a school trip.  To me they are almost sacred.

Degas sculptures and the paintings of Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir...breathtaking.  And the view of the city, from the top floor of the museum...looking out through the giant glass clock window.
A. Maz. ing.

When I first saw Monet's "Poppy Field" painting,  I tried to explain to Ryan that it was the print..a framed painting that hung in my bedroom as a little girl and all the way through college...another beloved gift from Andy and Lynn's trip to France.  As I realized how much it all meant to me, that painting, Andy and Lynn's formative roles in my life, so many of my now fulfilled dreams, being in this city, in this museum, in this room, with this painting, with the man I love...who has given all this to me...I started to cry a little.  Teary eyes, filled to overflowing with joy and the knowledge of being loved.

We also saw an interesting Finnish exhibit with rugged landscapes that reminded us both of the cabin.

Leaving the museum, we descended straight to the metro station below the Musee D'Orsay....which conveniently led us to the train bound for Versailles.  My exhaustion hit hard on the way and I fell in and out of sleep on Ryan's shoulder.  We were part of a mob-like crowd pouring out of the metro station, descending upon the ville of Versailles. It was after 12:00, so the crowd was hungry (including us).  We laughed about the strategically placed McDonalds and Starbucks, which, at first glance, appeared to be the only options for food.  But as we walked up the shady rue toward the Chateau, we were delighted to discover a quaint street packed with little cafes and bars and markets.  After walking up and down, we settled on the Aquarium, which was lovely and delicious and simple.  Our "trois fromage" sandwiches were made on one very long baguette, sliced open and cut in two, spread with green-leaf lettuce and layered with camembert, brie and fresh mozzarella, drizzled with light olive oil.  A perfect lunch.

The wait at Versailles was disappointing, especially after our "royal treatment" at the other museums with our passes.  The line snaked up and down the giant outer courtyard.  It was sunny and a bit hot, and fortunately, the line moved along.

Inside, the palace was beyond all descriptive terms such as elaborate, decadent, overwhelming, opulent, beautiful, ridiculous.   Enormous....stretching on and on, long corridors, giant rooms, grand staircases, it's own cathedral.  All covered, every square inch, with exquisite materials, precious stone, masterpiece paintings or carvings, grand sculptures.  Amazing to see.  Probably the only place of its kind and degree of grandeur in the world.  But the shoulder to shoulder crowds, covering every square inch of space was exhausting, suffocating, and also ridiculous.

By the end of the great Hall of Mirrors, (which of course, was impressive), we were feeling quite trapped, and more than ready to escape to the gardens, calling peacefully to us from the windows.  Since our pass excluded the gardens, but included the Trianon Palaces and Marie Antoinette's Estate (my most desired destination in Versailles), we were forced to decide: pay for the gardens (9 euros each) AND the tram tickets (7 euros each) to get to Marie's estate in just 15 pain-free minutes...OR take the 45 minute walk around the Palace, through the town, and around to the back of the estate all the way to Marie's cottage.

We walked.  And walked.

Our sore, blistered feet and aching calves might have caused regret...but it was truly one of the most beautiful walks we've ever taken.  I kept telling Ryan how dreamlike it was, how much it meant to me, how delighted I was with every view...the long straight dirt road, lined with perfectly symmetrical trees, along both sides, the rich green of the grassy pastures on both sides of the road, sheep on one sided, horses on the other.  It was like walking into a film I've always loved.

Eventually, the stone fairy-tale-esque cottages with quirky turrets and towers appeared through the trees.  We wandered through the paths, snapping as many photos as possible.  Every moment, I felt the struggle to keep taking it fight the anesthetizing effects of so. much. Beauty!!  As we walked back towards the Chateau, we found the Trianon palaces too AND...the tram back to Versailles.  For only 3.70 euros a piece, we got a full riding tour of those same gardens we'd skipped out on earlier, and...they dropped us off inside the gardens to wander as we pleased.  The bargain that we had just arranged felt delightfully "tricky" and smart and made the end of our Versailles day twice as fun.

Back in Paris, we crossed back over the bridge, through the Tuileries, and wandered to a French restaurant that looked pretty traditional.  A L'auberge.  The eager waiter convinced us by enthusiastically waving us in.  And the "Prix Fixe" menu looked about right for our budget.  I ordered escargot and Supremes de Volailes and Ryan had a tomato and mozzarella salade with Confits du Canard.  As is so often the case, Ryan got it right with the duck.  It was so tender and buttery/salty tasting.  My chicken was okay, a little dry, despite the delicious creamy sauce, I thought, but the snails were a delicious "first" for me.  The shells were filled with a pesto-like sauce and melted butter...and the snails themselves were delicious and tender and salty.  mmmm..

We hadn't talked to the girls yet all day (no wifi), so we headed to a cafe for some cafe creme (for me) and of course, a crepe for Ryan, and a tiny little cup of cafe (very bitter).  The waiter was the only one we experienced in all of France, the kind that everyone warns you about, the caricature of french "rudeness", who seemed annoyed with our American presence, expecting us to order more than just one dessert and cafe...and waiting impatiently on us, frustrated to be wasting his time on a table such as ours.  I tried hard not to feel the pressure, but it was hard for me to feel the disapproving Frenchman's smugness.  So, I ordered creme brulee too.  And it was delicious.  But he still didn't like me.

It started to rain.  It was warm under the heated canopy outside the cafe, but the wind and rain threatened to intensify.  The people passing on the sidewalks and on motorcycles were getting drenched.  So, we paid the grumpy waiter and huddled under our little umbrella, walking briskly back around the square to our hotel.

1 comment:

moxiemandie said...

I love the way you write this- your insights. Beautiful. So glad you got to experience this with your love.