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Orangerie, Versailles

I spent the day today rubbing shoulders with the very rich and famous, of the 18th century and of our own. I had been thinking about going to Versailles on Monday, when it was rumoured to be fine, but Versailles is closed on Monday. It was fitfully sunny this morning, so I thought I'd take the opportunity and go today; I wouldn't have otherwise chosen to go on a Saturday.

It probably wasn't the best idea. It was terrifically crowded, with tourists from everywhere. American tourists are the cliche (in our part of the world, anyway), but I heard Spanish, Italian, something that might have been Czech or Polish or Russian, Chinese, Japanese, German, and, of course, English of all different varieties. I was faintly amused by the new camera stance - standing with arms outstretched, holding the camera out in front as you look at the screen of the back... Not me. I have an SLR and still have to squint through the viewfinder.

Anyway, Versailles was predictably vast and opulent. I can't say it made a great impression on me. I was more greatly moved by a single shoe in the Cluny museum yesterday than I was by all the baroque fal-de-rols today. The garden is, of course, magnificent (if you like that sort of thing).

I returned to my neighbourhood in time to go out and forage for supplies again. Tomorrow is Sunday, and likely everything will be closed, so I wanted to be sure that I had everything I might need (wine. salad. bottled water) for the next day or so. As I familiarize myself with my environs, I discovered a wonderful gourmet food shop just round the corner, and procured salad aux crevettes, some slices of melon and an individual quiche. This entire transaction took place in French; I doubt that I really "passed" - I suspect the man behind the counter was too suave and polite to let on that my French was crap. This is a shop that caters to the very rich, but they are so confident and sure of their own worth that they welcome you and make YOU feel like someone special instead of looking down their noses at you. And this is about three blocks from my apartment! I shall return, for sure. I also went for an afternoon stroll down the Champs and up Rue Fauburg St Honore (where that food shop is) and window shopped into Calvin Klein's shop and some other designer's. Sigh.

Still, looking at Versailles, I couldn't help thinking "I would have revolted, too!"



( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 12th, 2007 07:01 pm (UTC)
Bakers and quite a few little food shops (the Casino chain for example, and traiteurs) tend to be open on Sunday mornings - and very firmly shut on Mondays. The sort of bakers which are also patissiers are also often open on a Sunday afternoon - you'll probably find some of the Ile de la Cité at least. OTOH in Paris I doubt if everywhere food-selling shuts on a Monday as it tends to in the provinces.

Versailles is totally overblown, but one visit and you really, truly understand why the revolution happened. Imagine the reaction of the crowds who marched out there from Paris determined to bring the royal family back with them. (Yes, I did the French Revolution for A Level...)

The French have a reputation for rudeness, but I have always found them wonderfully helpful as long as I try to use their language not my own. Quite often their helpfulness extends to correcting my grammar of course!

Have you visited the Conciergerie, talking of the Revolution? It's extremely interesting, though inevitably rather sad.
May. 12th, 2007 07:34 pm (UTC)
I'm well stocked now for the next couple of days - next weekend I'll plan ahead. I was surprised by how many places were closed on Saturdays! Such a difference from the N/A model of "be open or be dead" ~ here it seems "if you want us, come when it's convenient for us!" which in many ways I appreciate.

Well, I rather thought you had some inside knowledge - what with Les Mis and all... Thanks for all the tips :) And yes, I went to the Conciergerie yesterday (seeing as it was right next door to Sainte Chapelle)
May. 12th, 2007 07:41 pm (UTC)
Heck, Les Mis is several more revolutions down the line! The French rather got into the habit - that's why Haussmann demolished the city walls to build the Grands Boulevards - ease of troop movement and prevention of rebel concentration!

I love Paris dearly, so I am very much enjoying vicarious tourism through your journal.
May. 12th, 2007 07:05 pm (UTC)
Sorry I haven't been keeping up (S's dental trauma has absorbed me the last couple of days), but now I'm up to date and enjoying your trip vicariously. I'd love to hear more about Shakespeare and Company. What does it look like? What are the employees like? I don't even know who owns it now . . .

Chicken and salad and wine--I concur.
May. 12th, 2007 07:29 pm (UTC)
Shakespeare and Co is actually two separate shops, right on a very nice corner across from Notre Dame cathedral. The two shops are used and antiquarian, which was closed for a "meeting" yesterday, and the new book shop. The one I went into was small, crowded, with paving stones for a floor that were being cleaned or finished in some way. There were two young females organizing the cleaning and spreading of plastic sheeting to protect the new surface, then a very beautiful young man, who seemed to be connected with one of the females, drifted in and vaguely helped. The other of the young women was the one at the desk whom I spoke with about Jeanette Winterson. Both girls were discussing work visas and the "bloody French" who were creating problems for them continuing in that job. I don't know who actually owns it now (gillo might) but there were various references to a "Sylvia Beach Foundation," so presumably that's the controlling interest. Otherwise, the store is a delightful jumble of everything you can imagine. I could have spent three times as much money if I had it, and space in my luggage! You would love it. You would love Paris.

How is S and her braces?? You mention "dental trauma": I hope it's not too bad...
May. 13th, 2007 05:59 am (UTC)
Have to agree on the shoe vs. Versailles comment :-) Or give me a stained glass window to meditate in front of for hours and leave me there. The gardens are nice to wander in but a bit neat for my tastes. I'm loving the vicarious tourism. Thanks! Are you headed out to Chartres at all? Last time I was there, they had the floor cleared off to film a documentary on the labyrinth and we were able to walk it. Chicken soup for a medievalist's soul!
May. 13th, 2007 04:25 pm (UTC)
Yes, I definitely plan a trip to Chartres, probably one day in the next week, depending on the weather and how I feel. It's on my "life list" of places to visit, so it's a must!
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )


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