Part 2…Versailles…A view inside another era…Today the interior…Tomorrow…The romantic dinner cruise on the River Seine…

The famous Hall of Mirrors. This project was carried out by architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart and painter Charles Le Brun between 1678 and 1686.

After last night’s wonderful River Seine dinner cruise, a visit to the light show at 11 pm at the Eiffel Tower, we returned to our hotel by almost midnight thinking we had to get up and go to the Louvre early in the morning.  Silly me, I had the wrong date in mind and jumped out of bed to check our tickets.  The Louvre is schedule for Saturday morning, not Friday!  We were thrilled to be able to sleep in. (More on the dinner cruise with nighttime photos of the City of Light will be posted tomorrow.

The first stairway near the entrance to the residential chambers.

Today, we’ll finish this length, photo laden post and then head to the self serve laundry to do a few loads of wash. We’ll haul our clothes in the wheeling duffel bag, return to the hotel to later head out for dinner. 

The use of flash is prohibited in the palace. Wednesday was a dark rainy day, causing some of our photos to be darker than we’d prefer.
The stunning artwork is found on almost on every wall in the palace.

Most nights, we find ourselves winging it for dinner. We’ve walked the neighborhood to find dozens of restaurants, some very good and others mediocre. So far, none have been awful.

The doorways to each room are elaborately decorated with marble and gold.
Of course, we wish we’d had time and space to identify all of the art throughout the Palace. It was difficult to hear the tour guide with the crowds in each room as she identified various works of art.

Yesterday, late afternoon, I started working on today’s post, knowing it would take several hours with the number of photos of the interior of Versailles. 

View of the chapel, which was blocked off to tourists preventing us from a full shot.
This is a statue of Marie Antoinette.

As much as we would have liked to have been able to identify every piece of art, after considerable research online, we were unable to find the information for many of the items. The remainder we recalled from tidbits we were able to glean from the tour when the background noise was so loud we couldn’t hear even with the earbuds. In many of the areas, the reception for the receiver was poor and we weren’t able to hear a word.

Ceilings, glass archways, walls…all of it was stunning.
It was hard to resist looking out the windows imagining how the occupants of the palace may have contemplated the view, hundreds of years ago.

As we’ve mentioned we’ve done a tremendous amount of walking. Based on google maps assisted calculations so far, we’ve walked approximately 25 miles, the most Tom and I have ever walked together.

It appeared the sun had come out when light began filtering through the darkened room.
In the 40 years, it took to build Versailles, thousands of workers were employed to participate in the process.

With a few blisters on my feet, I’m happy to have had a bit of a reprieve on Friday during the day to let them heal enabling me to continue on our lengthier walks again in the next few days. Although, the Louvre itself requires an enormous amount of walking which I’ll somehow manage, blisters and all.

This portrait may have been Louis XIV.
Another view of one of the exquisite ceilings.
It was challenging to aim the camera toward the ceilings when there wasn’t enough elbow room for properly aiming the camera.

We have additional booked tours remaining, another top-rated restaurant reservation next week, and other outings whereby once again we’ll take the metro which appears to be the quickest means of transportation in the city and coincidentally the most economic.

We believe this portrait is of Louis XIV when he was young.
This is referred to as a commode with no relationship to a toilet.

The “hop-on, hop-off” one-day bus pass runs approximately US $40, EU $30 per person depending on the bus line chosen, for a 2½ hour ride to many areas we’ve already visited. We can’t seem to justify spending US $80, EU $60 for choosing this option. 

Louis XIV had this statue made of himself dressed as a Roman Emperor to enhance his image. He was of short stature and wore tall wigs in order to enhance the appearance of his height. Others in his court were forbidden to wear a wig as tall as his.
A variety of artists were commissioned for works of art.

Our roundtrip train fare was a paltry US $18.45, EU $13.80 for both of us. What a great way to get around if one can avoid the pickpockets. 

Gold used in creating designs was prevalent.
The various artists maintained a certain style befitting the palace.

It is this reason that prompted me to no longer carry a handbag, large or small, except on travel days. It’s odd not to carry a purse but, the freedom of my hands being free to take photos is more appealing than carrying stuff.

This scene was created on fabric. 
One can imagine gazing out of the window to the palatial gardens without tourists wandering about.

Tom carries my lipstick and phone in a front pocket which has my restricted food list translated into the language of the country we’re in at the time. I show this list to the servers and chefs wherever we dine to ensure my meal is safe to eat. Having this list has worked out well in all of our travels avoiding the necessity of lengthy explanations at the table.

A bust of Louis XIV.
The artwork in the ceilings is as detailed as the walls.

Now, back to our visit to Versailles. Once we were inside the palace, able to remove our soaked jackets, shake the water off our heads and faces, we felt more at ease until we encountered the massive crowds, everywhere we walked.

King’s chamber and bed in the King’s apartment.
King’s bedroom.

There were more crowds than we’d ever seen at any venue. Apparently, the time of day of arrival is totally irrelevant when crowds are already body-to-body packed like sardines in each of the rooms in the palace.

There were many photo-taking tourists in the Hall of Mirrors.

When I didn’t want the heads of tourists in our photos, I pointed the camera, still wet from the rain, above the heads for most of the shots. When an item was located at a lower level requiring lowering the camera, we had no choice but to push our way through the crowd to gain a better vantage point.

As the rain continued few tourists explored the gardens.
Artist’s name is unknown.

Tom’s good at pushing through a mass of people and he led the way for me to follow, setting up the best possible spot for the photos. Oddly, many of the interesting aspects of the rooms were above eye levels such as painted ceilings and portraits. I did my best. It was challenging and also frustrating at times.

The bedroom in the queen’s apartment consisting of four rooms.
Marie Antoinette’s bedroom, showing the top of the bed canopy.

We spent no less than four hours inside the Palace, more due to the crowds than the number of points of interest. How wonderful it would have been to see Versailles without the crowds. 

Fireplace in the council room.
Again, a nude statue.

It would be impossible to find a time with less of a crowd. As a result, we did our best using our imagination as to what life may have been living in this extraordinary, extravagant castle of several centuries long ago.

Queen’s bed.
Bust of Marie Antoinette.

Most assuredly, much of the palace has been restored when aging would have destroyed portions of the artwork, fabrics on the walls, beds, and furnishings. We perceived that they were replaced and repaired with the best possible replicas available to maintain its authenticity and integrity. 

The fabric on the wall of the queen’s bedroom.
Queen’s bed and gold-trimmed headboard.

As we walked through the palace, it wasn’t difficult to let our imagination wander to what it would be like living with such excess and opulence with the gold and crystal fixtures and finials and the finest of art and fabrics.  Apparently, the royalty felt they deserved this type of lifestyle, not unlike rulers all over the world today.

The elaborate canopy over the queen’s bed.
View of garden from the bedroom.

Putting aside our political opinions, the discomfort generated by the crowd, our wet clothing, and often standing still for lengthy periods, it was a glorious experience to see that which we’d only seen in movies and books.

Salon of Le Grand Couvert is a part of the Queen’s grand apartment where the king and queen dined, recently renovated.
Ceiling and wall in a room referred to as a salon.

A first visit to Paris would be incomplete without a trip to Versailles, rain or shine, while elbow to elbow with hundreds of other onlookers, as eager as ever to get a peek at a lifestyle one can only imagine.

Our view as we were sitting on the train on the return ride to the Champ de Mars area near the Eiffel Tower where we exited the station for the three-minute walk to our hotel. We remained on alert for pickpockets when one of the members of our tour group had his wallet taken upon entry in the station.

Photo from one year ago today, August 8, 2013:

The only photo we posted one year ago, was this logo from the Minnesota Viking football team. As the season was set to begin, Tom was hoping to be able to watch the games from Italy and Kenya. But the Wifi signal in both locations wasn’t strong enough to download the games after he’d paid several hundred dollars for the service. He was only able to view a few games, much to his disappointment as an avid Vikings fan.

For details from that date’s post, please click here.

Part 1…Versailles…A view inside another era…Another kind of life…Today the gardens…Tomorrow the interior…

This is my favorite place in the gardens of Versailles. 

The visit to Versailles was challenging, not for the faint of heart. It was pouring rain when we left the hotel on foot to walk a few blocks to the train and the rain continued long into the day and evening. 

The train station where we waited for the train to the Palace of Versailles.
Statue of Louis XIV at the entrance to the Palace of Versailles.

Since it was our first metro ride in Paris, we were slightly apprehensive and on the alert to be aware of potential pickpockets at the station. Once we boarded the proper train for the direct trip to Versailles with several stops taking approximately 25 minutes, we sat back and relaxed, certain we were on the correct train.

In the pouring rain, we walked all the way forward toward the palace only to discover we had to go to a side street to meet up with the tour group, another 10-minute walk. Also, the walk from the train station to the entrance was another 10-minute walk in the pouring rain.
The ornate gold embellished gates to the entrance to Versailles.

As we peered out the window of the train, it was evident that the rain wasn’t about to stop. Tom had read the weather report, with a 90% chance of rain. We have no idea why we forgot to bring an umbrella. Having pre-purchased the tour, we had no choice but to go to avoid losing the US $107, EU $80 we paid for the tickets.

Seeing the gardens of Versailles proved to be worth the over one hour of standing in the pouring rain.
In some ways, I wished we visited the palace at our own pace. We may have stayed for the same period, but we’d have been able to take better photos.

The rain was pelting down on us non-stop during the long waiting period to begin the pre-arranged tour when a few people hadn’t shown up.  Later, we discovered they’d been ripped off by a pickpocket at the entrance to the train station and had gone back to their hotel to cancel all of their credit cards. The man told Tom he’d had his wallet in his back pocket, a definite “no-no.”

The palace itself always created a stately backdrop to our outdoor photos.
Louis XIV had installed numerous fountains throughout the gardens when water was not readily available to turn them on. An intricate system was installed at the time to facilitate the running of the fountains at a huge sum of money. Then again, all of Versailles depicts vanity spending in excesses beyond one’s belief. Tom said, “That’s not unlike the governments of most countries.”

As a result of their late arrival, we waited outside in the rain over a period of no less than 20 minutes when Versailles was too packed to enter. The crowds were unreal. Our guide explained it is getting out of control when now over four million visitors come to Versailles each year, an increase of one million from only a few years ago.

The gardens went on and on for miles. On a nice day, it would have been marvelous to walk further into the garden on our own.
Raindrop on the lens as I shot this photo of the great expanse of the gardens.

Crowds? We always cringe at the thought of crowds. It was so crowded as we slowed made our way from one room to the next in the massive palace, where we spent over four hours, it was literally body to body, at times not moving at all. 

A few parts of the garden were plain and unassuming. The remainder was opulent.
The flowers were the most exciting part of the garden for me as well as the sculpted gardens shown here.

Add the soaking wet clothing, hair, and water running down our faces, it was not an ideal scenario. Luckily, Tom had suggested we bring our hooded parkas, but even they couldn’t keep us dry especially around the head and face when our hoods wouldn’t stay up easily. We had no umbrella

Flower gardens were interspersed with neatly trimmed evergreens.

Tom and I held wet and dripping hands on the hour-long walk through the gorgeous gardens, still lovely in the rains. I’d quickly remove the camera from my pocket, take a few fast photos, try to dry it off on the inside of my jacket putting it quickly back into the pocket to avoid getting it soaked as well. 

Astounding view! The crane in the photo is in an area where the palace is under renovation.
We can only imagine how much more appealing our photos would have been on a sunny day.

Thus, our outdoor photos aren’t of the quality we’d expected when rainwater was running onto my contact lenses causing my vision to blur. Also, the wet lens automatic lens cover didn’t open fully resulting in dark edges in some of our photos. We could edit these but, with all of our daily plans and postings, we don’t have time.

The colors in the garden were a treat to behold.

After over an hour in the garden, we finally made our way inside the palace into the mob. Many comments we’d read online suggested different times of the day or days of the week best to visit Versailles but, we couldn’t imagine that any time would be better than the other. It’s always mobbed.

Various pools adorned areas of the gardens.

Our French tour guide spoke reasonably good English as we followed her raised pinkish flower from room to room in the palace. We wore earbuds attached to a small receiver to pick up the sound of her voice which we kept inside our pants during the time we spent outdoors.

45,000 workers spent many years developing these gardens.

At times, we were too far away to hear our guide when the crowd literally moved us along. Overall, she did a great job considering the circumstances. Had it not been a rainy day, it would have completely changed the nature of the tour. Then again, had it been a hot day, that may have been as equally trying.

There were more areas to experience than the rain allowed us. One could easily spend hours in the gardens weather providing.

Aside from that, the palace is beyond one’s imagination. We’ve seen snippets of Versailles in various shows such as “John Adams” which was presented in a series a few years ago on HBO and also in other period piece movies. In any case, it still was all the more magnificent in person.

The tour guide explained that all of these plants in pots are brought inside the palace into one of the largest greenhouses in the world during the winter months.

The gardens? Oh, my! Awe-inspiring. Then on to the palace, its bedrooms, the Hall of Mirrors, and many other rooms, hallways, and stairways, all of which presented their own unique presence and ambiance. It was a joy to behold.

At a distance, some of the fountains were running although difficult to see in this photo.
We longed to be able to walk this area on a sunny day.

Today, we’ll share a portion of the photos. Tomorrow, we’ll finish with the balance. There simply are too many photos to post on one day. Yesterday’s presentation of the museum photos was challenging when I tried posting so many at one time. It’s tricky manipulating more than 10 photos in a single post especially with the slow Wifi signal such as we have here in Paris at our hotel.

Can you picture the kings and queen walking this path while chatting?
Our tour guide explained that the design of this statue was poorly considered when the marble and bronze don’t age well together resulting in a lot of maintenance.

So, here we are, dear readers, Versailles in its full, albeit rainy, crowded glory. Who knew this quiet couple from a sleepy town in Minnesota would have such stories to tell?

There were many fences and decorative items that included real gold finishes.
As we left the palace to make our way back to the train station.

                                           Photo from one year ago today, August 7, 2013:

On this date, we heard the news that there had been a huge fire at the airport in Nairobi, Kenya. We had a long flight scheduled to travel to Kenya on September 1, 2013, with two layovers, luckily neither of which stopped in Nairobi. We were apprehensive about the risks in Kenya and this incident exacerbated those concerns with the rampant political unrest. We arrived safely without incident. More on this harrowing flight when we post details on September 1st.

9/2/13 – Departure   2 stops
Total travel time: 15 h 25 m
custom air icon
2 h 25 m 
VCE  10:45am
IST  2:10pm  
Terminal I
Turkish Airlines 1868
Economy/Coach (S) | Confirm seats with the airline *
Layover: 4 h 5 m
custom air icon
6 h 55 m   3,110miles
IST  6:15pm
JRO  1:10am +1 day  
Turkish Airlines 673
Economy/Coach (S) | Confirm seats with the airline *
Layover: 1 h 0 m
custom air icon
1 h 0 m   180miles
JRO  2:10am
MBA  3:10am   , Arrives on 9/3/13
Turkish Airlines 673
Economy/Coach (S) | Confirm seats with the airline *

A visit to a museum in Paris…Many photos…Was the fine dining fine?…A day in Versailles on a guided tour…We’ve walked 23 miles (37 km) so far!

Tom, standing next to an enormous statue.

As much as we’d like to be able to identify each artifact that we share from museums and art galleries, based on the limited time we have when posting daily with photos, most of these photos are presented with little information. By clicking on any of the links, you will be directed to more detailed information. However, we invite you to contact us about a specific item which we’ll be happy to research on your behalf. 

Also, based on a poor Internet connection and also the number of photos we’re posting in Paris, there’s a formatting issue with spacing between photos and paragraphs. We apologize for the inconvenience.  hank you.

Ancient busts.

A chair that may have been used for a ritual.
Could this artifact be a drum?

We simply have too many photos for one post about our experiences of the past 24 hours; a visit to Musee de Quai Branly, a newer, built in 2006, architecturally interesting museum with a wealth of treasures from around the world and two special exhibitions transpiring at this time: Tatoueurs, Tatoues (tattoo exhibit in photos and films) and Tiki Pop (South Pacific pop art new and old).

Wood carving with considerable detail.
Hand-carved chest.
One wonders what the oversized ears may indicate.

And, today, Wednesday, we took the train and spent over four hours at Chateau de Versailles on an outrageously rainy day. With many photos to post, tomorrow we’ll start a two day series on Chateau de Versailles and its unbelievable gardens and the exquisite rooms and art in the palace, posting at our usual time.

Small characters.
This appeared to be a voodoo doll.
Life in the city.

Back to yesterday…After spending a few hours in the beautiful Musee de Quai Branly, we walked next door for our 7:00 pm reservation at the upscale restaurant, Les Ombres. The combination of the museum and the restaurant located in the lush garden of the museum were ideal for a fully rewarding experience.

Asian art.
Religious artwork.

Entrance to the museum (to which we walked) was US $24, EU $18, and dinner which we’ll describe at the end of today’s post was less than we’d expected at US $155, EU $116 for dining in a gourmet French restaurant.  Of course, a few bottles of champagne or wine, of which we didn’t partake, could easily sail the bill up to hundreds more.

Painting of dapper man.
Wood carved mask with a crucifix.

Built in 2006, as a newer museum to Paris, it had a tough act to follow when this city has numerous world-renowned museums and of course, the famous Louvre which we’re booked to see on Saturday.

Mask carved from wood with some metal.
Tall wood carving.
These were from Haiti.

Interesting architecture, convenient location to the Eiffel Tour, lush gardens, and a wealth of artifacts from around the globe from centuries past, makes this a worthwhile tourist attraction. 

Small wood carved men.
Totem pole.
North American Indian art.

Much to our pleasure, the museum, although crowded, was no less crowded than many other highlights we’ve encountered in the city of Paris.

Many artifacts were predominantly male.
One can only guess the significance of these.
Tall male structure.

At times, we question the design of certain venues when there appear to be unoccupied wasted spaces and long and seeming endless walkways until one reaches the main attractions as was the case at Musee de Quai Branly.

Mother and child.
Perhaps a symbol of a type of birthing chair.

Once we reached the exhibitions, the design improved, as we meandered our way through the dimly lit rooms and display areas. Once again, I commend Tom for his excellent sense of direction, preventing us from frequently retracing our steps in the somewhat confusing floor plan.

There were many artifacts encased in temperature-controlled cases.

With the number of photos we’ve taken, most of which seemed to turn out well, we could literally spend days presenting them here. However, with so many other sights to post in our remaining ten days in Paris, we have to pick and choose what we think may appeal to our readers the most.

Austere and frightening.
Mardi Gras costumes from centuries ago.
This was identified as a bear costume.

If you aren’t interested in art and museum artifacts, we apologize if you find it dull. In any case, we’ll be back with other topics that hopefully appeal to your tastes over the next several days.

These costumes could have taken months to make.
These costumes were made in preparation for Mardi Gras in Mexico.
The skill and time required for the detailing in these costumes are astounding.

After touring the museum, we wander next door to Les Ombres, an upscale restaurant located on the museum complex. Reviews were mixed on TripAdvisor but, we always try to keep in mind that every diner may have an entirely different perspective of a dining experience. 

There was some representation of the American Indian.
Many artifacts appear to represent the need for an ancient civilization to be armed for war.
The interpretation of specific items may be very personal.
We find that if there are mixed reviews, some five stars, and others less, it may be worth a try. In this case, our experience at Les Ombres was more ambiance based than the perception of the food.
This damaged figure is a woman giving birth.
These masks and figures were from the South Pacific.
These are Peruvian artifacts.

Undoubtedly, the ambiance couldn’t have been more perfect. Had we been able to get a later reservation than 7:00 pm, we could have enjoyed the Eiffel Tower light show at 10:00 pm from our table. 

Wood carvings.
Intricate door to either a room or a house.
Another intricate door.

Booked in advance for days, if not weeks, we took the early seating, hoping the food would justify missing this major highlight of the restaurant.

Early decorative items.
Many items were found on archeological digs in the 1800s and early 1900s.
The colors were eye-catching in the 100’s of years old tapestries.

Although beautifully presented and served, the food fell short in a few areas; one, the menu option for the fixed price three-course meal didn’t offer a beef selection of the main course; two, the portions were so small, when we left, I was still hungry.

Interesting tapestries from the Middle East.
Many of the masks were intended to ward off evil spirits.
These figures were almost life-size.

Tom filled up eating lots of crusty rolls with butter but, he too, felt the portions were too small. We both had the salmon which couldn’t have been more than 4 ounces, (113 grams). 

Decorative posts.
We were intrigued by the amount of skill that went into the production of many of these artifacts.
Decorative mask.

Adding the four tiny pieces of broccoli as shown in the photos with a few tablespoons of broccoli puree, that was my entire meal. I just couldn’t justify spending another US $32, EU $24 for a side salad, although Tom encouraged me to do so.

Celebratory masks.
Body piercings are common in many African countries.
To us old-timers, this poster looks familiar.

Tom’s meal included an appetizer of delicious although tiny portions of shellfish and octopus risotto and a chocolate dessert which he seemed to enjoy. Without the crusty rolls, he too would have been hungry when we left.

This photo was from the 1930s in the US.
Many tattoos in Asia were designed as a result of popular Asian art.
The museum currently has an exhibition of tattoo art from around the world.

By no means are we saying this restaurant wasn’t worthy of a one time visit. For those eating three meals a day, these smaller portions may have been satisfactory. And, the service was excellent, the ambiance dreamy and overall, we had a lovely experience.

Saturday Evening Post, March 4, 1944.
Many of the ancient artifacts were headdresses and costumes worn in war or celebration.
An interesting light pattern of words that was scrolling along the floor as we entered and exited the museum.

After all, we’ve accomplished in the past 24 hours including many miles of walking, we feel refreshed and committed to continue on with our ongoing exploration of Paris with gusto.

The beautiful fresh flowers adorned the already inviting ambiance of the restaurant.
Tom, ready to dine at Les Ombres.
Tom chose the fixed price option at EU $68, US $91.

Hopefully, tonight when we’ll brave the rain again after we’ve just borrowed an umbrella from the hotel, we’ll have a slightly more at an Italian restaurant we’ve agreed to try with several non-pasta items on the menu that will work for me.

Butter arrived at the table imprinted with “Marie Antoinette.”
These warm cheese-filled buns arrived before dinner. Tom said they were good.
Tom lobster, prawns, and octopus risotto was delicious but a tiny portion.

Look for Part 1 of our Versailles series starting tomorrow when early in the morning we’ll head back to the lobby of the hotel, armed with our laptops, fresh mugs of our favorite iced tea, and the excitement of sharing another fabulous Paris experience with our readers all over the world.

We both had the same main dish (entrée in French translates to “appetizer”, grilled salmon topped with shredded cabbage and a slice of cauliflower. These four bits of broccoli were no larger than the end of a thumb. This consisted of my entire meal, not quite enough after a busy day of walking for hours.
Tom dessert. At the top, is a rolled filled chocolate cake with a Grenache frosting garnished with chocolate candy sticks. Below is a dollop of chocolate ice cream atop of spoonful of a chocolate sauce containing chunks of chocolate.
Our dinner bill at EU $116 was slightly under US $155, based on today’s exchange rate.
View of the Eiffel Tower from Les Ombres Restaurant.

Photo from one year ago today, August 6, 2013:
No photos were posted a year ago on this date when our discussion revolved around how much we’d budgeted for our monthly expenses for our travel. For details of that post, please click here.