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.
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.