Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Paris on to Versailles

Sitting in the clubhouse of a busy campground on a cold and rainy night here in Versailles France, but they have WiFi here, our first campground with it!
Paris was wonderful. We saw and did more than we thought any two people could do in two days....of course, starting early in the morning and going nonstop until late evening helped! Why 2 days? Looking at calendar AND how long it's taken us to just get to Paris...we've got a lot of travel ahead and the weather is getting colder and damper. We've had to keep saying...this is our first visit, an overview visit to Europe, and hopefully not the last.
We spent the better part of a day at the Louvre. Yep, we saw the Mona Lisa, up close and personal, as well as some incredible Vermeers, Rubens, and thousands of other wonderful paintings, sculptures and the most amazing collection of Islamic art from about 4,000 B.C. onwards. (Nancy finally folded at the Louvre, and let Tom wheel her around in a wheelchair as the back, legs and feet just couldn't stand the strain). And the size of the Louvre is so immense, with literally miles of corridors, that it was just impossible to do it otherwise. It made a great difference, as she was actually able to enjoy the exhibits without being in such pain that she could hardly enjoy them. But it felt like she was really giving in, which was very hard on her.
But other than that, we walked our legs off, and took one of those open double decker bus tours that have four different routes all over the city. You can get on and off at any stop you like to explore something, then just catch the next bus and go on. We saw the Place de Concorde (site of where Marie Antoinette and many others were made a foot shorter, from the top), the Champs d'Elysees, the Arc de Triompe, (please excuse if some is spelled wrong, I don't have the guidebook with correct spellings with me), the Left Bank, site of the Bastille, innumerable little shops and markets, wonderful street scenes and people watching, and some of the most memorable food we've ever eaten.
It was not only the most memorable food we've ever eaten. It was the most expensive to date. Poor Tom.......the first night in Paris, we had the only dinner in our lifetime that topped $ quite a little bit. But every mouthful wonderful. I had creme caramel for dessert that literally brought tears to my eyes, it was so good.
And the second day, an escalloped salmon with pureed fall vegetables, and chocolate mousse, layers of white chocolate mousse and brown chocolate mousse with whipped cream and little shavings of chocolate on top, and the best bread in the world.......thank God we're walking miles every day or I know we would come back even heavier than when we left. We're trying at least to hold our own......
We rode the Paris Metro all over the city. What a great system. You'd never need to have a car at all. You can go anywhere, at any hour of the day or night in this city that never sleeps.
We stayed at a campground right inside Paris, along the Seine. You just hopped on the bus right at the entrance of the campground, rode a few miles to the Metro, and then were whisked into central Paris in a jiffy, no muss, no fuss. McDonalds and free WiFi (or WeeFee in French) was just a quick mile walk across the bridge.
Of course, you could spend a year in Paris and never see everything you wanted to see, but we gave it our best shot in the couple days we had, and had a wonderful time. It's sad to say goodbye to the city. BTW, we found the Parisians to be courteous, friendly and very helpful. Somehow, I expect one sees what one expects to see whenever traveling, contrary to all the negative stereotypes. In fact, with regard the French, it just might be that the American dislike for the French may be nothing more than that we see ourselves, a nationalistic, proud, at times arrogant, and self-centerd people reflected too much in the French. Something like what happens when you find yourself particularly put off by someone; often when you look a bit deeper, you see elements of yourself reflected. Just a thought.
Today we came to Versailles, and toured the Chateau and the many acres of formal gardens. Really beautiful, but when you looked at all that wretched excess, you didn't wonder one bit why the ordinary people rebelled and made the Revolution. The excesses and complete detachment of the aristocracy from daily peasant life evidenced in the luxury here were enough to turn anyone (?) into a revolutionary. I wonder what kind of mansions our heirs will tour in a hundred years or so? Funny, too, I asked many of the guides if they knew of any museums about the history of the Revolution, what brought it on, about the Paris Commune and great social upheavals of the 19th century, and no one could point out any. BTW, we were NOT alone today, with tour buses and school groups and thousands on a normal off season midweek day. Somehow, the excesses and actions of the rich and famous hold a perennial fascination for us humans. Paris Hilton, et al?
We're just about touristed out for the moment, so came in early tonight to the campground and are doing laundry, emails, and just heating up soup in the camper for dinner. It's really nice with the little stove and refrigerator, because in between the fabulous restaurant meals, we can have ham and cheese sandwiches and vegetable soup (tonight's offering), and get back to normal.
We were going to the Loire Valley for a day or so, but it turned cold and rainy this evening, and the weather report doesn't look good for the next few days, not to mention that time is slipping by and we have a lot more ground to cover, and Germany and Italy are waiting, so we're just going to skip the Loire Valley this time and head east toward Germany. The weather is supposed to be awful for a couple of days, so we might as well be driving rather than touristing. We've spent quite a bit of time wandering around in the French countryside in Normandy, and Versailles was plenty to fill up my desire to look at big, expensive castles for the moment, one of the big draws of the Loire, so we'll just be moving along, and will save the Loire for the next time through, si Dios quiere.
Everything else is fine here. We were blessed with great weather for our two days in Paris, mostly sunny, with a few scattered light showers, so are fine if the weather is bad for the next few days as we'll be pretty much just traveling. When we started planning this trip, two months seemed like SUCH a long time, but now that we are here, it's easy to see that you could be here six months or a year and that still wouldn't be enough time. Sights, sounds and experiences coming at you with a fire hose, and trying to just sip a few is difficult. Tom would have us sleeping only a few hours per night and ramming all the rest of the time if he could, but I just poop out on him. He's like the Energizer Bunny, but patient with his lady who tires so much faster than he does...but he does sleep VERY quickly and soundly.
That's about all the news in the travelogue....all is well in our little world. The van is cozy and dry despite the cold rain outside, so will turn in early and be ready to move along tomorrow morning. Did complete laundry tonite for first time in trip...15Euro/$19 for 2 loads! Expensive even here, but...The dollar's slide in value has other significant consequences for us EuroTravelers!
Happy trails.

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