Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Opulence Overload


Well, today is Friday and we are headed to Versailles; and possibly Chantilly. 
It is still very cold outside, although warmer than previous days. 

Versailles lies at the outskirts of Paris, past the suburbs. 
So, we have to hop on a train, instead of the metro. 
We took the Yellow C line.


We waited on the platform along with everyone else who was headed in that direction.



We sat on the top level so we could have a good view.


See these pod like buildings? We saw them around Paris. I am guessing they are the French version of portables or temporary offices. They are literally cubes stacked on one another.


The residential area immediately outside of Paris reminded me of what little we saw of Queens.


More graffiti and snow.



Glove!


Versailles is the last stop for this particular line. Everyone hurried off the train to get where they were headed.


No need to look at a map to see where you should go. Just follow the crowd. The majority of the train riders are headed for the Palace.

This shopping strip reminded me of a Port for Cruise Ships. There are lots of tourist traps in between the train station and the Chateau.  



Can you see what is at the end of the parade of tourists?


I was hoping this guy had wrapped himself in a solar thermal blanket.

 

Ta da!


It is giant and gilded in gold.



We got to wait in this lovely line to enter. This is on a Friday morning out of season. Craziness. We were all waiting in line for the metal detectors.


We made it in!


Mom and I.


Now, the nice thing about Versailles is they offer a free audio guide. 
So, you can explore every room available to the public at your own pace with your own guide.

Below is the chapel.  It is breathtaking.







I think gilded cherub faces are a little creepy.


The first floor rooms have kind of been turned into a running history, from the start until now, of the Chateau Versailles. 


A model of the Palace and a fraction of the grounds.


It was definitely colder in Versailles than Paris. 
The snow was still sticking to the ground.



 A lovely portrait of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette's family.


They even had an awesome virtual reproduction of the growth and expanse of the grounds. (When I saw this image it looked like a puppy.)


Some of the previous residents.


This sculpture is from a maze that was installed/grown on the grounds to occupy the royal children. I need a maze to entertain my kids. Maybe that is where the term, "Get lost!" comes from. 



I believe this is Marie Antoinette again.




They concluded the first part of the tour with a video montage of all famous events and people to visit Versailles in the 20th century. 



I am going to go ahead and apologize for the ridiculous amount of pictures that are going to be included in this posting. I'll keep the chit-chat to a minimum so you can scroll at your own leisure.





This is what your doorways are supposed to look like. 

 
Even the floors were amazing. 
So many patterns and types of marble for one room.


Do you like fire places?  This one was enormous. 
There are entire tree trunks in it for crying out loud.


The ceiling above the massive fire place.


 

No corner of any room had been left free of sculpture, painting, gold, carving, or marble.



I thought this bust was impressive. It was made of 4 different marbles.




 





Are your ready for the main event?


The Hall of Mirrors.



To read a little bit about the history of the hall, click here.

 


People had vandalized some of the mirrors. Really?! 






After all that, we were a little tired, so we popped a squat in the next room to listen to the audio guide.


I thought these door protectors were interesting, and necessary! Doorways act as choke holds with all of these large crowds moving through.


A little peek at the outside.



Here is about where I started getting overloaded by the opulence. I started taking a lot less pictures. Yay for you!






I was curious about what all of these little paper squares were on the ceiling. 
Nothing was mentioned on the audio guide, but I'm guessing it is part of some restorative process.  


We finally made it out to the grounds. 
But I was a little disappointed. Everything is cold and frozen. 
The fountains weren't even on.  


Don't slip on the icy steps!



Usually, there are lots of people out picnicking and boating on the water... not much going on. Some of the fountains were even under repair.




We finally decided it was too cold to be out wandering around expansive palace grounds, and headed out. We returned our audio guides (Glove!) and went in search of lunch. 


Back down the cobblestone drive.



I had the address of a good boulangerie, but we discovered this place a couple of doors down, and they had a tiny tea room in the back. 








It was a little hard to order here because although our servers could understand us, they couldn't communicate with us and their menu was in French. 

When Dad finally got his sandwich, it was just mozzarella and tomatoes. He was so happy to find out it didn't have meat on it! 


Mom and I had the same panini and it was delicious. I would eat it for lunch every day! You know that EVOO and herb dipping sauce they have at Carrabbas or Macaroni Grill? That is what was spread on my bread. No mayo or mustard. Just olive oil heaven.


I don't even remember what else was on the sandwich. Melted cheese, tomato, thinly sliced pancetta... heaven.


Jake also had a sandwich. I can't really remember anything about his. Mine was better. That is all.


Jake and Mom also got a bean soup that they didn't really love.


Now, onto the part we really cared about... dessert!


Oh, the possibilities...
 

For Jake, I got the last of the day's special, St. Honore'. 
It was as if a pile of mini pastries had been scorched like a creme brulee, and topped with chantilly creme. 


It went fast, and my Mom started her hunt for it once we got back to Paris. 


I got this beautiful little raspberry cake. That is what it was advertised as, framboise.


Little did I know it was also rose flavored. Now, I have had rose flavored macaroons. They were pleasant and sweet. This cake was not. 


Dad got a chocolate cake that was coated in something like a nestle crunch bar.


This is as far as I got with my rose cake. It was like eating mouthfuls of perfume. Gag.


Here is one of the three french ladies who came in to have her pastry and her afternoon cappuccino. 


And here is my second try at desserts, a raspberry macaroon that was larger than my cake. It was much more delicious.


Mom had something that was like a giant profiterole coated in nuts and filled with a chocolate peanut butter cream.


Very yummy, but messy.


Pat is back!


Poor guy.


Good bye cute patisserie/chocolatier/boulangerie!


Hello, shopping!


I ended up getting the softest scarf here. 
A pale, pale salmon with metallic silver stars.


The scarfs were very reasonably priced, but the tops were 50+ euros.


Back to the train station we went!


A quick side note, this woman was riding her bike in a mini skirt and stockings, behind a bus, in the freezing cold. Bleh.


Our train back had a fancy roof. Lamination is not gold leaf!



Ten seconds after Dad said, "We're moving." he snorted and was out cold. Hilarious! I've never seen and adult fall asleep so fast in my life!


Then I felt a heaviness on my shoulder. Two down! Men. 


We decided to cross Chantilly off our "To-do List". Just like Versailles, I'm sure the grounds were mostly closed and dormant. We had already had five jammed days of sites, so we decided to hit a department store and then dinner. 

Bon Marche has been around for over 150 years. It was my second favorite store we visited, but the best kids department I have ever (and most likely will ever) seen in my life!


I'm sure they would hate for me to say it, but they are kind of a step down from Harrod's. I didn't feel uncomfortable walking around, but things were still very expensive and elegant.



They had an amazing china department. 


Everything from super elite brands to ceramics.



Furniture.



Espresso cups anyone?


They even had an amazing baking department. These sheets have edible ink on them. You can apply them to your baked goods, peel away, and the pretty designs will stay on. They had so much cool stuff in their cooking areas.


On to my favorite... the kids department.




I loved these rag bunnies! But they were upwards of 35 euros.


This is what I really wanted to get Katie, but she was 60 euros, and Katie goes through dolls like water. She is always adding and moving on. 


The most awesome dress-up department ever!



Knights, cowboys, and pirates for the boys.


An actual toy store, for all of the boxed items.


Puppets!


The jewelry department. They had beautiful affordable pieces, as well as stunning works of art you wear.













 These friendships bracelets were a hundred euros each. I should go into business!


Jake had gone down to the Mens Department in search of a tie.



I found him in his mecca, tie heaven.



Every shade, pattern, width, and shape are available here.


And you can find gloves to match!


Or  maybe you prefer a bow tie?


One of my favorite departments was the Womens Hats.


Meow.



Tweet, tweet!


Directly across the street is the Bon Marche Grocery and Restaurant.


They have some food areas set up by country. 
What do they associate with the American diet you ask? 



Fluff, M&Ms, Reese's Cups, Pop Tarts...


Dr. Pepper,


Salsa, salsa chips, chili,


and pancakes and cakes in a box. Awesome.


We resisted the urge to buy some Fluff and Chili, and headed back out in the direction of our dinner destination.

French boutique.



The restaurant was just down the street from Bon Marche, but didn't open for another hour. So, we decided to walk the neighborhood.



It was a great bustling, middle class neighborhood.


We stumbled on this shop and I bought a pretty seed bead necklace. 



The store was filled with great trendy accessories.





On our way back to the restaurant we passed a few butchers. They really don't have many grocery stores that encompass all food groups. Everyone shops at their local baker, butcher, cheese shop, grocer (for fruit and veggies), to get what they need.


One of the butchers had a rotisserie with chickens and potatoes waiting to be taken home.


Jake got adventurous and decided he wanted to try a new cheese. This cheese shop was particularly busy, so we knew it must be good. Dad stayed outside. It was very packed.


They let him sample a few. He decided on a goat cheese that had been aged 8 months. He liked it. I'm not big on cheese. Now, the warm baguette we got to go with it the next day... that is definitely in my wheel house.

I wonder if people were perturbed with him. It was a very busy hour in the store, and the only standing room in the store is for the line that goes in a circle (around the table in the picture below) in front of the glass cases. The line was long, but the clerk was very helpful with him once he said he didn't know what he was looking for. However, once you do make your choice, you continue to the end of the line, past the wine section, to pay the cashier. I also wonder if they keep a sommelier on the premises to help with pairings.


Back to Chez Germaine we went! 


Hands down, my favorite restaurant of the trip. 
The decor and the food were fantastic!




We started with an anti-pasta platter. It was delicious! The hard and soft salami's paired with the greens was awesome. I don't remember what the greens were, but they were so good! I had never seen or had them before. They were a kind of buttery leaf.


Dad wasn't disappointed. He was savoring the awesomeness.


For our entrees Mom and I got the special, fish with basmati rice. 


The fish was cooked to perfection, but it wasn't earth shattering. And that is not basmati rice. It was just regular rice with lemon. 


Well, what made this my favorite restaurant you ask? My husband's meal. 
Shrimp risotto. I have never had such delicious risotto. I am determined to learn how to make it. I have craved it every night since I had it!


Dad had a veal chop and fries that was equally delicious. He ate up every bite.


As good as our fish was, it wasn't the shrimp risotto.


So, Mom and I ordered one to split. The waiter looked at us a little funny when we ordered it, but we didn't care!



It did not disappoint. It was not a fluke. It was one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten.


We didn't lick the plate because we had already eaten the fish, and we didn't want them thinking we were pigs.


Plus, we had to save room for dessert.
Creme brulee for the boys. 


Chocolate cake with raspberry sauce for the girls.


Mom and I shared. Obviously, it was disgusting.


The boys did not share. They each annihilated their own. 


I've never been so sad to be full!


Bye Chez Germaine! I will be giving you a rave on Trip Advisor!


Back home with our haul for the day. One more day left!



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