Gucci is at home with her ticket to Chateau Versailles. I am in Paris, a temporary citizen of the Republic, ensconced in the Marais district, with my ticket and a train pass, ready to embark upon my search for the Sun King.
We are thinking ahead to our departure for the south on Friday and wanted to organize our documents. Our neatly filed travel documents does not contain our boarding pass for the SNCF to Toulouse (the very same one that derailed three weeks later). We were scuttling trying to figure out how to email it to the apartment business office. No avail. Meanwhile, we need to get going if we are to navigate the Metro and train to Versailles.
Electronic ticketing is wonderful BUT is it acceptable everywhere? We have no idea. We do have a couple of days to figure it out, so we console ourselves. We find our way to Gare d’Austerlitz train station. The name of this station just bothers me, thinking about World War II. Since we had some time before departure, we decided to inquire about the e-ticket. The helpful attendant used our information to bring up the ticket and informed us the trains are on strike that day. Hmmm, that’s interesting. How will we get to Toulouse, we wonder? He mentions the date of the strike and I roll it around in my mind for a moment trying to get the day of the week straight. In a flash I say, ‘pas de jeudi – vendredi!’ Oh, ‘tres bien’ – no strike on Friday, only Thursday! J This means our travel on the train will move ahead, as planned. He very kindly printed our tickets on the spot – and no more hassle – we are ready not only for a rainy day with the Sun King, but our Friday journey to Toulouse.
Off to Versailles, an easy 30 minute train ride to a small town outside of Paris. On this drizzly, gray day we walk towards the incredible edifice known as Chateau Versailles and immediately wonder – dear Sun King, where is the sun? Here’s the drill for all of you Versailles pilgrims – line up for at least one hour to buy a ticket (we did it online from Canada, saving this time). After you have a ticket, then queue again for another hour (longer in busier times) to get inside the palace. I’ve never been into shepherding, but I certainly felt like a sheep…shuffling along to receive my audio player, room 1, move, room 2, move…more art…shuffle…more video….some amazing furniture….and the incredible hall of mirrors. Yes. All outstanding. Depictions of revolutionary art everywhere. Marie Antionette’s bed chamber beautifully displayed. Shuffle, shuffle. We peered out the windows into the gardens. We had the ‘all access pass’. We made it through to the end of the unbelievable chateau. I stopped for a little retail therapy, thinking once again about my missing partner Gucci. Marie Antoinette sent her a little remembrance which I securely stowed in backpack.
Once at the end of the main palace – we sat and discussed pros and cons of more touring, lunch and rain. The Sun King was definitely not a good host. We ( a little too loudly, I’m thinking, in retrospect), discussed how the ‘gardens are no big deal’ and ‘do you care about the Petite Trianon, I don’t.’ Which I overhead a reaction from a young girl studying 5 languages in Paris say to her American mother – ‘can you believe these people? The gardens are no big deal.’ I burst out laughing because I lack passion in art history, but it scandalized this young lady from Wisconsin. We looked at each other and said, ‘McDonald’s?’ Off we went – for a cheap lunch out of the rain and before we have to herd ourselves back to Paris. I’m simply not a great candidate for any kind of touring at this time. I have to accept that about myself.
Figuring out the return train to Paris vis a vis the strike was very entertaining and stressful for about 20 minutes, but a very kind British lady spoke up and finally assured us we were on the right train, even though it didn’t match our map.
Once back in the safety of the Republic (Marais district) – by the way, it’s also the jewellery district, we stopped at the local patisserie and made some delectable selections for evening coffee. We then made a quick stop at the local grocery/department store – Monoprix (the Target of Paris) and we stocked up on necessities for dinner. We purchased things like cheese and champagne – you know, the meaningful French things. My Beloved, my rescuer, also purchased a tiny pair of scissors and a small repair kit for an important trial surgery to be executed on my new, but broken iPod Nano (more on this in a moment).
We put together an amazing array of leftovers, cheese and crackers, pastries – all consumed each bite more delicious that the last. We love simple food and simple life. Our cozy pied a terre is perfect. Our neighbours are friendly. While we organize our day and while away the evening, my Beloved takes my iPod and repairs it in a manner that I believe only he is able. I dropped it, quite by accident prior to departure for the trip. I was so excited to listen to endless music on the plane with my incredible ear phones – but ALAS – the ear phones would not fit in the opening as the iPod dropped on the exact location and bent the hole! I was so disappointed – first of all the iPod was an indulgence. Now it’s broken. All the work My Beloved had done to put 1400 songs on it the week before departure could not be accessed at all! I was heartbroken and frustrated with myself. However – my resourceful Beloved used a couple of dollar tools – and very sweetly presented me with my iPod at the end of this peaceful evening. I cried. I was so grateful and overwhelmed, that again, he is able to fix these prickly problems that seem to dog me at times.
Tomorrow, our final day as citizens of the Republic, we will do a ‘foodie tour’ and picnic and try to find the places in Paris that I believe to exist in my imagination that would bring joy and ring my creative bell.
I am really ‘getting into’ tallying our daily purchases – for this day in opulence with Louis and Marie Antoinette – we lunched, we purchased train tickets, we bought groceries including more champagne (my daily ritual), perfume for Gucci (and one for me, of course) and I even purchased a pink fountain pen with our other supplies to fix the iPod (it satisfies my penchant for pink office things) – all for the huge ticket price of $130!