Tuesday was an interesting day …….!!!!!!!
My weather forecast site said that there would be cloudy periods most of the day. Alison's said rain on and off all day. She won.
We travelled to Versailles for the second time. 15 years ago, we went on May Day. It was like mid-winter. Rain and wind that drove Ches into a gift shop to buy a windcheater that she still wears occasionally and might just as well have brought with her today.
Actually it wasn't all that cold, just wet and windy.
We arrived at 10.00 and already there was a queue 1,100m long, that snaked backward and forward across the forecourt. It looked like a long wait for admission, so we decided to view the gardens first as it wasn't raining and there were patches of blue sky. Ches only had a ticket for the gardens as she refuses to set foot inside the palace. Alison and I had tickets for everything. Initial idea was the gardens, then Alison and I would take the transport to Marie Antoinette's Petit Trianon, a small Chateau on the far side of the estate. They said a 40 minute walk or the rail-less train. If it was good, then Ches would travel over there while we went into the main Chateau.
After two horrendous experiences at Versailles, I now realize that the only satisfying way to experience it, is to go on two occasions. One day should be in summer and just to walk as much of the gardens as possible as they are vast beyond imagining. This day should include a drive over to the Petit Trianon as well. No matter the size of the crowd, the gardens are too vast for it to be crowded. The second trip should be in mid-winter when there isn't a tourist in sight and you can spend as much time as you like inside the Chateau.
We strolled the gardens for an hour and a half and witnessed one of the musical fountain shows which was a spectacular fireworks show with water instead of fire. Much of the garden in front of the Chateau consists of groves and fountains. Within some of the groves there are smaller fountains. The best way to describe them is that they are like outdoor rooms. Completely hidden behind trees and hedges, they have fountains, urns, statues and marble pillars … open air salons.
Had the weather been better, we could have lingered longer. After 2 hours we needed lunch. We'd made baguette's up at home. Best baguettes in Paris filled with ham, cheese, egg and mayo. We bought coffee/tea and sat under a shade screen beside the café to eat. By the time we finished, the rain had set in and it wasn't a rain screen so we decided we should enter the Chateau and Ches would wait in a café beside the chateau.
Alison and I went to join the queue. It was still 1,100, long. I kid you not. We measured it. 11 loops each 100 m long with around 4 people per metre. By my calculation, that means 4,400 people in the queue at 12.50pm. There had been 4,400 people in the queue at 10.00 when we arrived.
You think I can make a long story short? Of course I can. At 3.15 when we reached the head of the queue, there were still 4,400 people behind us … the queue was still 1,100 m long. Close to 2.5 hours to get to the entrance.
All we need are our tickets. Alison has lost hers. I remember seeing a ticket on the ground when we came out of the groves. Bloody hell, I wish I had picked it up. I just assumed someone else had lost it and we didn't need it. I'd already been inside before, so I gave Alison my ticket.
Unfortunately, despite my threat to Alison that we not see her for at least an hour to an hour and a half, she emerged ¾ hours later. The crowds in each room were packed so tight that it was confronting.
We fled the field defeated at around 4.30. We questioned an official outside the gates as to whether there might have been over 20,000 people there on that one day. She said, "Yes, that's about the same as it is on every Tuesday .… every museum in Paris closes on Tuesdays." Oh bloody hell again.
This day could, and would be salvaged.
I had made a booking for dinner at La Fermette Marbeuf. Rue Marbeuf is off the Champs-Elysees around 2/3 of the way up. It's our favourite restaurant in Paris and this would be our 5th visit. As I explained to Alison, the decor and food is so good that the wait staff don't have any effect. They can be brilliant or rude and obnoxious, and it makes no difference.
Food was excellent, the wine was sensational, service was extremely good and the décor … the décor … the décor. As amazing as always.
The day was salvaged.
A good night's sleep was had by all.