Wednesday, January 26, 2011

La Vie En Rose: New Year in Europe

Thursday, December 30, 2010: Paris, France

Roger and I have both been to Paris before,* but neither of us had ever visited Versailles, so we decided to spend Thursday doing just that. We woke up late and finally wandered over around noon. We somehow managed to find a secret entrance into the St. Michel subway station that doesn’t require a ticket, and it was so crowded on the way out of the subway at the Versailles-Rive Gauche station that we didn’t have to swipe out, so we would have gotten a free ride, if we hadn’t bought round-trip tickets. This crowd, however, turned out to be the theme of the day at Versailles, which was packed. We waited on line to get tickets, and then again to get into the palace, and then walking through the grand apartments felt a lot like being on a line, the pack moved so slowly.

They were interesting, though. My only real exposure to Versailles, other than some brief mention in art and history classes in high school, was through the Sofia Coppola movie, Marie Antoinette. I didn’t like it much at the time, and I don’t think I’d like it much more now, although I do think I’d have a greater appreciation for it. It was nice to see them in person, particularly the king’s and queen’s chambers. I wish the rooms had been fully furnished, which is something I like in historic homes, and the ones that were furnished were my favorites. The Galerie des Glaces was also beautiful, although I completely misunderstood what it was until Roger pointed it out after we’d moved on to another room. I have a fondness for chandeliers, and this only made me love them more. There was also an interesting exhibit on science at Versailles, which featured some of the experiments and innovations that were unveiled there in the 18th century. The gardens were, of course, not at their peak, but the boxwood was still green, and they were lovely. We walked about halfway down them, and if it was nicer out, we would have gone further around them, but we decided to head back into Paris for the evening.

We grabbed a croque monsieur from a kiosk to share and headed over to the Musée d’Orsay for the late night opening. Unfortunately, a good amount of the museum, including the entire 3rd floor, was closed, either because of renovations or extensive loans. It did allow us to focus on some other works that we might not have paid as much attention, including a room on Orientalism that I’d been in before but never really “seen.” A temporary** exhibit on The Spectacular Art of Jean-Léon Gérôme also featured a variety of interesting Orientalist paintings, very loosely based on photographic trips he’d taken to the Middle East in the 1850s. The stories behind the paintings are, perhaps, more interesting than the paintings themselves, but since I’m a story-person and not a painting-person, it was a good experience. I’m hoping to write something inspired by it soon.

We ate dinner late (for us) that evening, wandering into Polidor around 9:30pm. The meal was quite good, and very reasonably priced (meals were between 10 and 15 euros, and the house wine, Costères de Nimes, was 14 euro), and the atmosphere, with communal tables and a general French feeling, was wonderful. Roger had boeuf bourguignon, which was tender and sweet, and had an incredible, buttery side of potato purée. I had sausage Lyonnais, which was tangy and almost too flavorful, if you can imagine that. For dessert, we had the tarte chocolat and the tarte tatin. I’d recommend the tatin, which was the only apple dessert I’ve ever liked, but the tarte chocolat was more like a candy than anything else. Our waitress, who seemed as if she’d been waiting tables there for a thousand years, was one of our favorite parts of the meal. She was completely no-nonsense, but never impolite. This is exactly what we needed.

Up Next: We celebrate New Year's Eve in Paris!

*Together, actually. In 2007.
**Unfortunately, it looks like this closed a few days ago. But it was awesome. I hope you check it out online!


  1. Um. I love your blog. And I will be visiting often because I also kind of am in love with your life too. So take that. Count me in on your adventure!

  2. Oh my goodness, I really wanted to see that science exhibit because it has a Marie Antoinette automaton that plays the piano! Did you see it?!

  3. @Lauren - Thanks so much! I am kind of in love with your life also, so I'm so pleased to have you along for the adventure!

    @Carlea - YES! It was definitely the highlight of that exhibition. There was a little panel explaining that it wasn't just an adorable plaything, it was also on the cutting edge of animatronics back in the day. So cool.