For our third day in Paris we decided to book a tour through the Palace and gardens of Versailles. We chose the half day tour which left a local cafe at around 9am and had us back into central Paris around 2pm with the option to stay in Versailles longer if we chose. We were a little worried at first that a half day might not be long enough, but it was perfect to see all the main attractions the Palace had to offer.
We decided to take a taxi from our hotel to the cafe since if was a bit of a walk and we didn’t want to be late arriving. Once there we were able to relax and drink some coffee while we waited for the rest of our tour to show up. Due to the possible strike for the transit system our tour company (Fat Tire Tours) rented a bus to take us the 45 minute drive from the main city to Versailles. We later found out the trains were still running until later that night and were given train tickets for us to take the train back from Versailles giving us the option to leave whenever the tour was done.
When we arrived at the palace we were able to skip the extremely long line with our tour guide and get into the gardens right away without any wait. This is a huge bonus since we probably would of had to wait in the long line for a couple hours and it did not look like it was moving at all. Our tour guide set up a very interesting story line for us to follow as we took our tour through the gardens which kept us engaged and interested in all the history of the castle. He gave us details about how people lived in the various time periods that Versailles was built making us feel like we were transported back in time. Throughout the gardens we were able to admire the intricate landscape, breathtaking fountains and the 221 sculptures heavily influenced by Greek mythology and made out of bronze, marble or lead.
We started our walk through the Orangerie Parterre which boasted their lush fruit trees that the Kings used to impress royal visitors, especially in the winter when they would take a tree from the inside greenhouse and plant it outside just to show their power. We continued through the maze like greenery to the Rocaille Grove which was used as an outdoor ballroom in the late 1600s and surrounded by cascading waterfalls. As we continued to the Colonnade Grove we were surrounded by lush greenery with statues and fountains hidden within the large maze. We finally came to one of the true gems of the garden the Apollo Fountain. This fountain boasts an impressive depiction of Apollo rising from the water on his chariot which was especially important during the reign of Louis XIV as his emblem was the sun and he was often compared to Apollo.
As we made our way into the Palace we passed the Latona Fountain and Parterre which gave clear views of the beautiful garden on one side and the impressive palace on the other. Once inside, we were given our own audioguides to hear the history of the palace allowing everyone to move through it at their own pace. We were able to move through the palace in probably 30 minutes and I spent more time admiring the views the palace provided of the gardens then the majority of the rooms. The room I was probably most interested in was the famous Hall of Mirrors which has beautiful views of the gardens as well as impressive chandeliers and art lining the ceiling.
Once we finished our tour we took the train back into the city to spend the rest of our afternoon having lunch and shopping. We went to a small restaurant called Cocorico where we decided to order delicious burgers and fries as well as a taco salad. The staff was great at recommending their most popular foods and encouraged us to use our broken french to try and order. We then set on our way to the area of Le Marais famous for quaint side streets filled with cute specialized stores as well as more department like malls. We went to one department store the Bon Marché which was a little our of our price range in the women’s section but I was able to find a casual scarf for my dad in the Mens section. The department stores are laid out quite different from North America because they are built high instead of wide and usually have separate buildings across the street or corner for the different sections of shopping. Many were laid out with six or seven floors of shopping in each building and divided the buildings into Womens fashion, Mens Fashion and Home Design or other speciality stores.
After we shopped till we dropped we headed back to our hotel room to drop off our shopping bags and rest before taking a boat tour along the Seine. We wanted to wait till it was dark so we could truly see the beauty of the city of lights that comes out at night. We got on the boat around 9pm and we able to take in the beautiful sunset and see many of the buildings along the river still in the daylight. This was also a popular time in which the locals took picnics down along the river to watch the sunset and every couple or group we saw were also enjoying a bottle of wine. What a great lifestyle! When the sun finally set we were surrounded by the amazing city lights from the Louvre, Museum D’Orsay and the Tour Eiffel.
After this amazing tour we headed back to our hotel and fortunately were able to grab a street Crepe along the way. There are Crepe stands all over Paris and one of the most famous toppings for these Crepes is Nutella sometimes with bananas or strawberries. Our Crepes were folded up and filled with Nutella and bananas, making it easy to snack on as we walked back to our hotel with our late night snack.
Coming Next Week: Our final day in Paris contains more shopping and sights around the city as we wrap up our Parisian Adventure.