|Date:||Saturday, September 19, 1998|
|Location:||Versailles and Paris|
Breakfast: Same as yesterday...
We're in a hurry. We have to pack, so the hotel can store our bags. We will be checking into a different room in the Castex this evening -- one with a private toilet! And we're running late, holding up Ray, Peggy, Ling, Alice, and perhaps Lora. We're all going to Versailles together this morning.
While wolfing down my juice and croissant and baguette, Rick shows up,
clearly just out of the shower and looking quite pooped. I think
he's ready for some time off!
With breakfast out of the way, we make a few more farewells (to Rick, Mike, Denise, Carl, and Diana), and head to Versailles. Lora decides to go with a later group, as she needs to purchase stamps and eat breakfast. Last we see of her, our postal worker is waiting in line at (where else?) the Bureau de Poste across from the hotel.
As we go from the Austerlitz Metro station to the RER station, somewhere, someone strikes up "La Vie En Rose" on an accordion. Brig gets all misty eyed, and insists that I record the incident here. Women can be sooooo sentimental. Ahem.
At the Austerlitz RER station, we once again bump into that bane of La Belle France, the striking worker. The rail workers are on strike, you see. There is only one train per hour to Versailles Rive Gauche, the preferred stop for visiting the palace. Make that maybe one train per hour. And it won't leave until 9:59. Maybe.
We buy our tickets anyway, the ticket vendor regarding us with a sour
look. (Too bad we didn't consider a taxi!) After some confusion
(you see, the rest of this group mistakenly dubs me "Rick" for this excursion)
we get on the train for Versailles CH (against the train engineer's and
the guide books' recommendations). We figure that we ought to be
able to walk to the palace, wherever the train lets us off. And that's
precisely what we do. Versailles CH is only about 5 minutes further
away from the palace than the preferred stop. And they offer a simple
walking map for all the misguided tourists. Piece of cake!
(Get it? Marie Antoinette? Cake? Ah, never mind...)
After all that, most of us are a little disappointed with the joint.
Lots of opulence, to be sure, but little taste. The Mona Winks tour
helps a bit, but I got more out of the reading than the seeing. The
gardens and pools and fountains are a different matter altogether.
It is a huge, beautiful place, and is very well kept. A great place
for a frisbee toss and a picnic lunch. Oh, and it's not clear that
there is any charge for admission to the grounds. You can rent bicycles
to ride around in there. You can even rent a rowboat -- and the pool
is a mile long!
Back to Versailles CH station. Along the way, we happen on a wedding party, with a uniquely decorated getaway car. Once we reach the station, the schedule board shows only one train that goes to Paris, to Montparnasse station. But, we want to go to Concorde, so we can get to the Orangerie, near the Louvre. I ask the information desk: Sorry, there's a strike. Try that Montparnasse train, and then use the Metro. We do so, and it works just fine. We say our last good-byes to Ling and Ray at Concorde, and visit L'Orangerie.
What a treat! It's a tiny museum, with some uninteresting (to me) paintings upstairs, and eight Money works, almost murals, downstairs. According to my translation of the french sign, Money announced, on Armistice Day (11/11/1918) that he would paint these paintings, to be displayed in these rooms constructed for this purpose, as a bouquet to France. The room was not made available to the public until Money's death in 1927.
The paintings are beautiful, and huge, wrapping around the elliptical walls of the two rooms. It is easy to lose oneself in them. And you can get as close to the paintings as you like. It is a unique experience in Paris, heck, in the world.
Back to the hotel, to check in, confirm flight reservations, and take a rest. I notice that my throat is getting scratchy. Bad news. The cold I had hoped to avoid (about half the tour members seemed to have gotten it, including Brig) was knocking on my door. Brig had used up her cough drops, so I went in search of some more while Brig took a nap.
While in the room, I start hearing a banging noise, coming from the street. When I reach the hotel lobby, the desk attendant is at the front door, and waves of banging and clanging are filling the lobby. I reach the street, and to my right are trucks with loudspeakers and youths are slowly cruising by, surrounded by throngs of more crowds, mostly in their late teens and early twenties, many with very brightly colored hair. The trucks are blaring a rhythmic beat, without any melodic elements. It's the Techno Parade, a festival for the lovers of techno music. The parade passes by the Place de la Bastille, whose monument is covered by the crowd. From the top of the monument, kids are throwing squares of paper that say "Servez-vous." (It turns out that this is hardly a subversive message -- it's the current advertising motto of France Telecom, a corporate sponsor of the Parade.) One of the Techno trucks carries scantily clad dancers, another billows theatrical smoke, and all of them bear amplified speakers blaring out the same style of musicless beat, with occasionally boingy/clanky sound effects thrown in for variety. This stuff is suitable for inducing ecstatic trances and suppressing conscious thought -- not for appreciation of music. Either that, or I'm insufficiently open-minded to "get it."
As young and wildly attired as the crowd is, it is very mellow. No fights, no jostling, no shouting (other than in response to the music), and no rowdiness. Folks are drinking or rolling cigarettes (I don't smell any dope, but then my nose is going on the blink). Little kids are on the street with their parents, so there must not be much realistic expectation of violence. On the other hand, some increased presence of uniformed, armed personnel is in evidence. Someone must be concerned -- or at least covering their butts.
Walking down the street, I'm impressed with the number of pastry shops, charcuteries, cafés, restaurants, and produce markets. I stop and drool at each one. This would be a dangerous place for me to live. Visits, however, would be wonderfully fun eating. A long stay here would definitely threaten my waistline.
After her nap, we go to La Bastoche for dinner, and order from the FF89 menu: