there’s a place in france…

7/25/10   –   21:26

Louis XIV [the Sun King]’s little escape from the pressures of grimy Parisian goverance is located a handful of kilometers southwest of the city center. Once you’re out of the train station, it’s a quaint little town with a gigantic palace attached to it. You’re struck by huge gilded gates and once you pull your eyes away, you see the masses of tourists.

First of all, on the train ride there, which takes around half an hour, I kept noticing people using money belts as purses. I don’t think they work if they’re not under your clothes. Somebody needs to tell these people that before they get robbed. Just because you bought an item labeled “money belt,” it does not mean nobody will try to steal your stuff. What’s more, it makes itself even more conspicuous unless you’re wearing skin-tone clothing or nothing at all.

Enough of that, though. I showed my museum pass to the people and gained entrance after waiting in line for about 25 minutes to get through security and started my tour through the palace. It’s the pinnacle of French royal extravagance and I really can’t imagine living there. It probably takes an hour to walk from one side of the place to another. There’s so much glass and gold and the rooms are so big, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself, haha. The tourist experience is admittedly pretty shitty. Rick Steves says that “Versailles is a zoo” at certain times of the day. This is accurate. I found myself dodging tour guides with their microphones and signal umbrellas, pissed off guards, and countless asians. I popped in my earphones to drown out the deafening noise of the human masses that echoed in the huge rooms and continued on my way through the palace. Funny though. The first thing that popped up on shuffle was a one-hour long mix of 2009 club and party songs by DJ Syndicate. This evoked images of the French court getting crunk in their period clothes and it amused me so I kept it on. Lol.

Once you get out, you’re bombarded by immigrant workers trying to sell you postcards and water. I found it odd how the water salesman was advertising his product. I mean. Yes. You can shout that it’s cold. But I don’t think you need to yell about how wet your water is as well.

I went into town to escape the exorbitant prices in the on-site café and found one of my best friends, the supermarket. Or in France, the supermarché. :] I asked someone successfully in French where it was. :D

But yeah. I bought some bread, bacon flavored crisps, and this pack of individually wrapped cheese cubes that had three flavors: tomato, blue cheese, and ham. It was soft cheese [which I enjoy] and I think the people that make the babybel lunch cheeses produce these. You should see if they sell them in Publix. They’re pretty great.

Refreshed after my light lunch, I got on the RER train back to Paris and somebody tapped me on the shoulder asking if I spoke English. Why yes I do, and yes. This train does go back to Paris. Wait. Is that a UF shirt you’re wearing? You’re from the UF in Paris program? Awesome. So yeah. Chandra is a senior and she’s been studying in Paris for the past month or so. We commiserated in the feeling that we are just about ready to go home. We actually fly back on the same day.  Small world, yo.

Overall, Versailles is just a very scenic walking tour of a large building. I didn’t get to see the gardens, but I hear they’re five times the size of the palace. [That’s ridiculous] I liked Neuschwanstein in Fussen better, to be honest. It was more intimate and I liked the setting in the mountains as well as the decorations there.

Back in Paris, my next stop was the Basilica of Sacre-Coeur at Montmartre. It’s a white domed church set on a hill overlooking the city and I remember it being in the movie Amelie. The church and the view were beautiful [like those things tend to be] and I ate the rest of my cheese cubes on the grassy hill. I may have taken a nap too. I’m not too sure.

I walked down towards the Seine and set sights on the Pompidou Centre. This is a modern building hosting the national museum of [you guessed it] modern art. Before that, though, I stopped in a couple of stores on Boulevard Sebastopol. One of them was a bookstore specializing in Chinese and Japanese related materials. They had bilingual Chinese and French books that I thought would be perfect for Tommy, but I know how he feels about simplified characters. I got a character practice booklet though and thumbed through the other stuff they had. There was this book of “100 humorous stories” [aka jokes] wherein the only “humorous” thing was the poor translation. I totally would have bought it, but alas, I’m not paying 17 euro for a collection of engrish. That’s what is for!

I got thirsty so I stopped by a grocery store and found a bottle of generic apple lychee soda. It tasted more like apple juice than lychee, but the bottom line was that it made me look like a hardcore wino because it is the same color as a bottle of white wine. The bottle is clear and the sight of me chugging that shizz in a public square would probably be alarming. Or maybe not. The French do love their wine.

On my way to the Pompidou Centre, I walked through Marais, which was traditionally one of the centers of prostitution in Paris. I think the Moulin Rouge was located somewhere in that district? In any case. I was immediately reminded of the “Moroccan Christmas” episode of the Office. Luls.

Andy [on sitar] : “There’s a place in France where the naked ladies dance.”

Angela: “It’s Christmas and you’re singing about nudity and France.”

The Pompidou Centre was alright. I mean. Modern art isn’t my thing, really, but I appreciate it because it lets me know what I’m not. Some pieces caught my interest, of course. This one is called En Dag I Staden by Pontus Hulten and they had the last 5 minutes on loop in one room. Crazy stuff. On a slightly less nonsensical note, there was a piece of live art on the bottom floor. It’s the featured pic for this entry and yes, those are Snow Whites. They are holding machine guns. That is a dead boar. And it’s supposed to be commentary on etiquette and women’s roles in that sphere? Or at least that’s what I got from the French description.

Seeing that banquet table made me a tad hungry so I wandered the streets looking for food. Apparently that part of Paris is also the old Jewish quarter so there was a lot of falafel. I got falafel. For being in Europe, I’ve never had so uch pita in my life. I guess that makes me a bad tourist, no? But yeah. Uhm. The only food that truly originates in Paris is French Onion Soup. So I’m not missing much. Beef Bourguignon? Bah, I’ll attempt to make it at home.

To end the day, I went back to the Bubble tea shop and ordered some Macha Green tea bubble tea. I had to wait a little bit because the tea wasn’t ready, so they gave me free crepes. Or the way the lady said it, “We give you free craps. French Style! Craps!” Lawl. After my drink, they bade me farewell and gave me a lollipop for the road. D’awwww.

In our next episode: Ryan meets the winner of the Tour de France at the Arc de Triomphe! A dinner I was not prepared for! And a fond farewell to the city of light.


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