Versailles

The weather cleared up so I took a ride out to Versailles. It was about 40 minutes on the train/metro from my hotel (Les Halles/Chatelet). Exiting the station, the palace was only about a 5 minute walk. Once you got there, the line took about an hour to get inside (there’s no advantage to the museum pass since the line is for security- they have security everywhere).

I picked up a free audio guide which was very helpful since there were very few labels in English and I didn’t hire a guide or take a tour. It was very crowded, I hate to imagine what it would be like during the season, or even on a really nice day. Even so, the palace was very much worth it. It was humongous! Full of huge rooms full of enormous paintings, long halls full of statues, and outside were beautiful formal gardens and acres on acres of lakes, ponds and forests.

I’m sure I didn’t see everything there, I don’t like crowds and they were getting to me so I hurried through some of the rooms and skipped listening to the audio guide in those. After a while it got to be pretty repetitive anyway. I mean how many big rooms full of old paintings can you look at before you get bored with it all? No matter how gorgeous and impressive they are at first?

Of course, I did see the famous “Hall of Mirrors”.

I escaped to the gardens. It was nice and cool. The sun was out for a while but it turned overcast again later in the afternoon. The terrace was still pretty crowded with tourists from all over the world taking selfies. I took a walk down the steps towards the lake and a snack.

The map showed a snack bar in each of the small forests near the terrace, but the first one I tried was closed. I headed back out to the one on the other side. They had nothing left but hot dogs and baguettes with cheese and tomato (I hate tomatoes). I had the baguette and picked off the tomatoes. There was hardly any cheese on it but the bread was good. Maybe I should’ve got the hot dog, they seem to be really popular here. I’m just trying to try more French food in France and hot dogs are American to me. Maybe they’re different here?

Wandering around the gardens was a nice change from the Paris cityscape, especially once I got further away from the main palace and the crowds there. I walked over to the smaller Trianon area. It was a pretty walk through the forests with the trees all changing to their fall colors.

The smaller house/palace had a few rooms full of furniture to look at. One of which was “Napoleon’s favorite study”. There was a restaurant next to the old guardhouse and you could go through to more gardens. I’m sure they must be more showy in the Spring when the flowers are blooming, but they were still beautiful and serene with the leaves changing on the trees and the streams and lakes with ducks and swans to watch.

And here, finally, I saw the rats. My god, they were huge!

This shot was taken from about 1000 ft away, they must be at least a foot long (not counting tails), maybe even 2 ft? I didn’t want to get any closer, but one guy was over there trying to sneak up on them to get photos. I love taking photos of pretty much anything and everything, but I’ll skip these guys. No thanks!

 

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Paris: 3 Great Museums

I spent Wednesday museum hopping. I bought a 4 day museum pass on arrival and wanted to get good use out of it, so I decided to go to 3 of the most popular museums my first full day in Paris.

I took the metro to the Concord station and walked through the Tuileries gardens to the  Orangeries. This museum is really all about Monet, although there are other artists represented there (Matisse, Picasso, Renoir, and more). The main focus is on 2 large oval rooms where Monet’s huge water lily paintings are displayed. Even with the crowds, you could still enjoy being surrounded by those beautiful paintings.

From there, I walked across the bridge to the Musee d’Orsay. It used to be a train station and you can tell if you think about it. It’s huge, filled with paintings, sculpture, and other art objects dating from mid 1800’s to early 1900’s. It has the largest collection of impressionist and post impressionist art in the world. It’s right on the river and easy to find. I spent almost 4 hours there and could probably have stayed longer but they were closing (at 1800).

I really loved the art deco. They had entire rooms full of art deco style furniture. One even had its wall paneling done in that style. The huge open space was really nice for showing off the dozens of large sculptures, even including Rodin’s famous Gates of Hell.

The space itself was impressive. It has 6 floors, but there’s nothing on the 6th floor but toilets. The 5th floor has a restaurant where you can eat lunch while looking out through the clock facing the river (there’s another restaurant on the 2nd floor). Most of the art is on the first and second floor.

When they chased me out of there, I headed down the river to the Louvre. It’s open til 2200 on Wednesday’s so I still had a few hours left to check it out. It’s huge! It’s the largest art museum in the world. I figure there’s no way I could see everything there even if I spent days, so I’d just hit the highlights and call it good. It’s filled with all kinds of art dating back from the earliest times to the 21st century (tho I didn’t see any modern art).

I wandered around, enjoying the fantastic collection of art, taking a closer look at anything that caught my eye. It was pretty crowded in the more popular sections, around the ‘must see” pieces of art: the Mona Lisa, the Nike of Samothrace (Winged Victory), the Apollo Gallery where the ceiling is covered with paintings and carvings.

Of course I did not have time to see everything. I only saw a few of the galleries in the Denon Wing: Roman, Greek, Etruscan and Egyptian antiquities and paintings from France, Spain and Italy. The Sully Wing: Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Near Eastern antiquities and European decorative arts.

They also had an exhibit on how the museum came to be. It was created out of the former  Louvre Palace, originally built under Phillip II as the Louvre Castle in the late 12th-13th century. You could go downstairs and walk around the original tower of the castle and see some of the foundation walls still standing.

I would like to go back someday and explore some more, but I think 3 museums in one day is enough for me!