Thursday, August 6, 2009

Paris Day 7 :Versailles, Beach,Transit Successes and Problems - Tuesday

Queue is more of a British word, but I think more clearly evokes waiting than just staying in line. There were queues everywhere :

-queues for tickets
-a queue for general entrance/ security
-a queue for individual wings
-queues for the bathrooms

These queues are punctuated by
-Bees clustering stubbornly around our sandwich and Coke
-Paintings with Paintings in them
-People on one side of the queue trying to take a picture of a picture on the other side, shocked to find a member of the queue stepped into the picture. I tried to respect the camera's field of view, but if you take 30 seconds to a minute taking the picture, someone else is going to get in the shot. We probably now appear in photos that will be viewed on multiple continents.

Speaking of queues, here's one to give you nightmares. A bathroom that would kill our friend T:
A long line, so you're committed. At the end, men move a little faster. But when you get there, it's one small room for both genders. Inside, on the left is a female attendant, directing you to stop and then go ahead to a tightly spaced pair of urinals on the right. Women come in behind you to the stalls at the back of the room. The 3 female stalls are close enough that your elbows touch one. The line is big, so the pressure to be done quickly is intense. There might not be bathrooms, until the end of the tour, 2-3 hours away, and they are probably the same setup, so there aren't any other options. How much did I pay to get in here? There turns out to be more restrooms than the guidebook mentioned, but you didn't know that in advance.

The gardens were good but not exactly exotic or varied according to L. They were designed to be uniform and patterned. Duke Gardens offers more variety (from forest to terraces to water lilies), is free, and offers better strollability and accessibility (no uneven cobblestones). Louis XIV was also striving for a gigantic scale, which makes for a nice view from above. Like Napoleon's tomb, the whole Versailles complex was designed to worship him. Political spin is nothing new. Ultimately, smaller monuments like the WWI/II monument by us at the church square/parking lot in Vetheuil speak more plainly and more deeply than royal excess. The names of 30 boys gone from a small rural village in one war and 5 in a later war illuminate devastating sacrifice. Louis only demonstrated that he had a lot of everything.

Again, the things you hope you'll be able to use again someday. We discovered a mention in the guidebook map of a station near Versailles, River Droit, that goes directly to Paris St Lazare, the train station we take home. It turns that this line L runs twice an hour to La Defense, the mall and movie complex. Of course we don't have a lot of shopping left to do, but if we do, we can do it without lugging our groceries through 3 transfers or up the 100 steps of death. I really like discovering easier and more efficient ways of doing things, even if we don't use it often. However, it would be helpful if some documentation or a trip computer were in the stations. Maybe it's on the web and we can't get to it. There are a lot of options on a lot of different types of transport. Again, this is a blessing, just a complicated one.

Lara stayed on the train to go home early.

From La Defense, I took the No. 1 metro line to Bastille and walked down Henry IV to the Seine River at pont (bridge) de Sully to pont des Arts. There Paris has yearly built Paris Plage (beach) over a closed highway. The Seine's banks are covered in concrete, so there are no natural beaches here.

Add in all the things Paris doesn't have: trucked in sand, potable water fountains, several free restrooms, and you have a fun, parade-type festival running a couple of miles along the rivers. I saw the most kids having the most fun I've seen in Paris. A few adults tried to pick up a tan on the sand or lounge chairs. Our village has a peaceful quietness, but I miss that background music of children playing that we had in Spain.

I headed back and ran across bus 21 going to St Lazare. It turned out this bus could be helpful in getting to the airport.

For a few minutes, I used the wifi at the McD across Rue St Lazare from the train station. I took the train out to Mantes Jolie. I had some time at the Internet cafĂ© before the bus. I worked on some things like confirming our hotel on Saturday. By staying near the Charles de Gaulle airport at Roissy, we can spend €15 more than the taxi ride to the train station and leave at 8:30 instead of 5 am ( , a great value. This is important because we arrive in Durham at 6 am Paris time. It's going to be a long day.

I was getting ready to use Skype to call Lara and let here know I would be coming home on the next bus. Lara walked in, tired and hot. She spent the past few hours unsuccessfully trying to get home on the bus! I'll let her tell the story of scary people, a very nice Algerian man who showed he pictures of his kids, and bus woes.

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