The Palace of Versailles was high up on ‘my places to visit’ list. The treaty thing, the opulence, the fact they used to shit in the corridors, these things all fascinated me (when they were a bit short of cash, they announced that they would only clear shit from the corridors once a day). The closest I had got to it was a couple of years ago, when I was invited fo a small conference to be held in the grounds. Unusually for Paris, very deep snow scuppered the meeting and we ended up cramming into the front room of my bosses house in a nearby village. This time, we were determined to get there so booked 4 nights in a small hotel (thanks air miles) in the town. We also got to meet up with my old boss Chris and his wife Claudie for cheese and wine in slightly more relaxed and roomy circumstances.
The town of Versailles is as beautiful as it is dull. Once you’ve seen the palace and had a wander around the town you are left with a a very conservative and expensive French town. Think Cheltenham.
I did love the palace though. It, and the gardens are truly magnificent and a great testament to what you can do when you have despotic rulers who spend all their country’s money on shiny things and their mates whilst not giving a dam about the starving population.
The scale is incredible; we spent a day there and didn’t see it all. One of the best bits is the queens village, built to help Marie Antonette feel at home. It was built in the style an old English village, by someone who had either never seen an old English village or had consumed a fuck load of drugs beforehand. It’s more twee than a toilet roll cover made from doilies.
When there, I discovered that it is possible to get in early in the morning and run around the grand canal and adjoining farmland without paying an entrance fee, so whilst running around the town is a bit shit, my following mornings run was rather wonderful.
The Palace and around
When not cutting around Versailles we went back into Paris, a short train ride away. We revisited L’Orangarie museum, a small place that is the home to two huge versions of Monets Waterlillies. Like the garden, it is a place that we can sit for an hour just absorbing them.
We also revisited a restaurant that we have had a bit of crush on – Relais de la Venise. They exist in London and Paris and have a fairly straight forward format; you get a green salad to start with, heaps of lovely French bread then entrecôte, sauce and chips, followed by a very limited selection of desert. The only real decision to make is how you want your steak cooked. If you are a veggie, you get a heap of cheese. My crush wore off a bit as I realised that the formula also includes cramped tables and very off hand service. I think it always has been like that - what has changed is my tolerances/grumpiness.
Another revisit was to the beautiful monument to stained glass that is Sant Chapelle. The last time we were on the way there, I got the ‘get home quickly’ call as Mum had taken a turn for the worse and became a day I won’t forget as I didn’t make it.
We do love Paris. Every time we go, we find new interesting areas, we eat well and learn loads. On this occasion we visited the area north of the massive Eglise Saint-Eustache with it’s great cafes, and restaurants and the most disappointing ‘tower’ you will ever come across (there is an old manor house/ museum that was a tower which is not only lower than most buildings in the area but you can’t actually ghetto out at the top),
It was a lovely few days and sometimes I think maybe I should’ve learnt French after all.
Day trips to Paris