Took the RER C5 train (VICK) to Versailles Rive Gauche...got the right train without any hiccups on this trip. [The RER is a bit counterintuitive, because the trains ride on and arrive on the left-hand side of the tracks, unlike Metro, for example. In the rush of a crowded train station, its easy to go down to the wrong platform.]
Versailles is always our favorite destination in Paris...but this trip was definitely special. Our first trip without cold rain...that was a biggie! Instead, we found a typical October day. It seems that every local and tourist chose today to visit as well...but that turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The lines to go into the main Chateau were insane...INSANE...so we diverted off to the less visited parts of the grounds.
Winding walks though the gardens with their hidden bosquet and fountains...several of which we had never seen before. A long path along the Grand Canal with silent boaters. All the trees were radiant in yellows and reds. Visited the Grand Trianon...the elaborate retreat built for Louis XIV...some new rooms were open.
Visited Le Domaine de Marie Antoinette. The building and grounds around the Petit Trianon...a retreat bequeathed to Marie Antoinette on her husband's ascending the throne as Louis XVI...have been spruced up with newly opened buildings and better interpretive signs. All to take advantage of the wave of new interest in la Dauphine et la Reine. The most brilliant new sight was the elaborate but small theatre, which has been restored. Marie Antoinette's personal lakeside peasant village (hameau) and farm were bustling with people and animals in the warm afternoon sun. Peacocks, chickens, and rabbits living in the same pen. The white marble Temple of Love shined brightly in the sun.
Another first for us: one of the large fountains near the Chateau was running late in the day. The amazing array of fountains at Versailles all run on an elaborate engineering triumph...an extensive historic (and revolutionary) gravity-fed plumbing system drawing water from far away sources since Versailles has no water source of its own. Louis XIV...who put absolute in absolute monarch...defied the laws of nature to fit his own desire for a palace and garden befitting his self-proclaimed role as the center of the universe. The fountains only run periodically...so it is a special treat to see one in action.
The setting sun lit up the Chateau, the Grand Canal in the distance, and the surrounding trees.
Took the train home. Dinner at a cozy restaurant on Ile Saint Louis: Auberge de la Reine Blanche. Traditional French fare...rich and flavorful. A mouthwatering appetizer to start...ravioles de royan aux champagiones. A wonderful bottle of Côtes du Rhone. Traditional Bouef Bourguignon for me. Coq au Vin for Jeff. Finished with a warm gateau moelleux chocolat and two espressos. Our waiter was charming, and did a masterful job serving all 10-or-so tables at once.
Topped off my birthday watching the Eiffel Tower sparkling in the distance marking midnight, followed by quick mojitos and bed. A call home for warm trans-Atlantic birthday hugs. What an amazing (and long) day. (Thank you, sweetie.)
[Halloween report from the nephews and neices: Mia was a pumpkin. Benjamin was a skunk. Natalie was a witch. Keegan was a ninja. Dominick was Captain Hook.]