Christmas Break, Day 3: Versailles & le Louvre 2006 December 22Posted by @jennyjenjen in American Holidays, Christmas Break, Helpful Hints, Travel.
I went to do some of my own errands on the northwest edge of Paris on the morning of the third day. I made it to my destination on time (thanks to the wonderful metro system!), and after that I met my parents and brother outside the Notre Dame de Paris.
It’s only slightly confusing getting to the Notre Dame from the metro stop nearby. Not many guidebooks do a very good job of it, as a girl I had met on my way there had discovered. She was also a visiting tourist, studying in Lyon. After walking around a little while and trying to figure out where we were, we finally got there and spent a while taking some pictures while waiting for my parents.
Last time I was in Paris we visited also the Notre Dame, so after just a few pictures and eating a quick lunch (mom and dad brought baguettes with them) we were on our way to Versailles. It’s easy to get to Versailles; just climb aboard the RER train and take the C line (it’s yellow) towards Versailles, which is the last stop anyhow.
This was our first visit to Versailles. Our last trip was too short for a trip to Versailles, which is definitely worth a good afternoon visit. It’s far enough outside the city that the train ride provides ample time for a snack and a chapter or two of a book.
For those of you unfamiliar, Versailles was once the capital de facto of the French kingdom and home to le Château de Versailles (or the Palace of Versailles). Its history as a château begins in around 1624 as a hunting château, and later became the property of Louis XIII. From there it was built up into a massive palace.
On the way to the palace from the train station, one encounters several tourist traps (like a few souvenir shops and foreign men trying to sell knock-off watches and such) as well as a sea of cobblestone. The men selling knock-off watches are very good at detecting tourists who will stop and listen, and if you silently walk past them without looking them in the eye they’ll leave you alone.
We spent the first half of our journey in the main palace. There were a lot of younger teenagers there that day who we assumed to be on a class trip. The main palace is a lot of paintings, sculptures and fancy furniture. I high recommend picking up the audio tour because it explains the important pieces and gives excellent historical context. It also gives the tour more character; just going from room to room and looking at all the furniture and such makes it seem like a blur, and kind of boring.
After the main palace, we looked at the residence area for a little while. There is another audio tour there as well. It didn’t take too long and we went out to the garden after, which is absolutely spectacular.
I’m sure the garden is nicer when it’s summer, but I thought it was very nice even in the winter. Considering the weather was a lot better than I’d been used to – something like 5-6° C in Paris during the day as compared to freezing-and-below in Sweden – I was not complaining.
We then decided to head back into Paris, get something to eat and visit the Louvre. On Friday nights, it’s free for anyone under 26 between 6 am 9:45 pm. We figured it would be the best chance for us to see the Louvre’s most famous pieces and fit in what else we could while most tourists were probably doing something else.
The Louvre was only a little crowded early on in the evening, but as it got late the crowds began to disperse and there was a lot more room to move around. We saw the “big three” first: Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, and Venus de Milo.
I had made it my mission to check out the area for the Scandinavian painters, which was practically at the furthest end from everything else we were looking at. So Ryan and I cruised down there while our parents did their own thing, and when we got there – surprise! – that particular section was closed! However, a very nice pair of guards were nice enough to be persuaded and let us look for just a few minutes. There wasn’t much, but I enjoyed it.
Since we had basically lost our parents, it took us a while to find them again. We found them in the underground level where there are some shops and cafés and headed straight back to the apartment for a good night’s rest.