Paige and I knew we had a busy day ahead of us. Kristi told us that both the Louvre and Versailles were at least one-day stops, and we wanted to do both in one. We decided that strategically we should visit the Louvre first since it was closer to Luzarches. We saw the Mona LIsa. She was our first stop. Thankfully it wasn’t tourist season yet, or we might have been waiting all morning to get her picture. The rest of our time in the Louvre was spent trying to find the ancient Egyptian exhibit. Kristi said that some of the art on display had existed during the time of King Darius! But we got lost, go figure, and saw much more of the Louvre than we had planned on. (The detour was worth it!) We saw several paintings, including one of Joan of Arc. She’s rather special to me because of a play I was involved with last year. We got to see the ancient oriental exhibit as well. And my personal favorite, all the Greek statues. I looked up at the ceiling a lot. Americans aren’t used to seeing art like that on a close and personal level. When I first came face to face with one of the Greek statues, I was so taken aback that I dropped my water bottle and then felt very ashamed at having made such a loud noise. At least my bottle didn’t leak. But the whole experience was beautiful. We did eventually find the ancient Egyptian display. I think I took pictures of everything in it. I’m not sure which exhibit the great sphynx was part of, but I took a picture of its rear end. Everyone takes a picture of its head. Way to be different.
After visiting the Louvre, Paige had the wisdom to suggest we eat something before heading to Versailles. Versailles is quite a way outside Paris, and we didn’t know what food would be available. At first I was a little ticked off that we were eating at a self-service food station. We were in Paris after all! But I smiled as the man took me through seven different kinds of paninis. I bugged out my eyes when he described the three-cheese panini with tomato.
“Is this the one you like?”
“You speak French?”
“No, I’m just practicing.”
He then proceeded to teach Paige and me new French words while he made my panini. Each word was punctuated with a wink. I rather enjoyed his humor. Paige couldn’t decide what she wanted to eat. He said she could take as long as she wanted since he worked until 8:00. He told her that he could make her French toast made with cheese and ham. She agreed to buying his French toast, which in reality was grilled cheese. But Paige says it still tasted good. We were “those Americans” who ate our food while waiting for the train.
We made it to Versailles. Kristi had told us that she loved Marie Antoinette’s gardens and estate but that the palace itself was overwhelming. Paige and I decided to view the gardens first and to come back to the palace if we still had time. My reaction to the gardens: exquisite, large but not grandiose, and in many places secluded. I will return one day with my husband, or at least my fiance, find a secluded hedge row in the maze, and kiss him. You could get away with a lot in that maze. After walking through the maze, we moved on to Marie Antoinette’s estate. Her living quarters were definitely “livable.” She even had my face carved into her upstairs wall. I attached a picture. She had her own theater, which made me immensely jealous. We tried to find the village but must not have walked far enough. By the time we had finished seeing her little palace, I think Paige was ready to be finished. But we had paid for the daddy palace, and I wanted to see it. Versailles is so crowded that there are signs telling people not to stop and take pictures but to keep moving. I didn’t even go during tourist season, and there were times that no matter where I placed my hands, I was touching somebody’s backside. By the time we saw King Louis’s bed chamber, I could take no more.
After the palace, both Paige and I needed to use the bathroom. Paige went ahead of me because I wanted to pick up a map of Versailles as a souvenir. I saw that the sign sticking out of the wall said man and woman. I wasn’t too happy about using a co-ed bathroom, but I needed to go. As I rounded the corner, I saw that only men were coming out. I decided to turn around and check the sign again. The sign hadn’t changed since I last saw it. Back to the bathroom I went, but when I reached the bathroom and looked in the mirror, there were men in the bathroom peeing. I hurriedly left and realized that the women’s bathroom was down the hall.
Paige and I decided to head back to the Rue Mouffetard to buy French pastries and some more souvenirs. While waiting for Paige to figure out which train we needed to get on, a French woman came up to me and asked me something. I think she was trying to get directions or was asking me about something that had to do with the trains. I told her that I didn’t speak French but that my friend had a map. She looked at the map and then said something to me, which I’m guessing was, “Thank you but I’ll find someone who can speak French,” and then she left. It is rather ironic that Paige did not want to look like an American tourist; I just embraced my touring self, and everyone thought that I was the one who was French. I guess not looking like a classic American beauty has its perks somewhere–just not on the stage.
The metro on that evening was the most crowded I had ever experienced. At one point my stomach was practically folded over the pole, and a large man came on and kept sticking his rear into my back. I didn’t want to breathe. After two stops, I was finally able to move to a new location. At one of the stops, we heard a girl screaming. The only reason I could think of for someone screaming over and over again like that was if someone had fallen onto the tracks and died. But nobody was rushing to help her or rescue anyone. I looked out the window and saw the girl who was screaming. She was sitting on one of the benches completely subdued, and then she would lean forward and scream. Then she would sit back again looking peaceful. I was just a little weirded out.
We got to the Rue Mouffetard and discovered the cream puff that Kristi had told us to get. The cafe was set up in an “L” shape, and the cream puffs were at the boot of the “L.” But the cash register was at the tippety top. The cashier could not speak English, and I didn’t want to leave my place at the cash register to point out which dessert I wanted. The line was halfway down the street. (Apparently I should’ve just left my place in line and showed him what I wanted, but you live and learn.) I pointed way down at the end of the “L” and said, “Cream puff.” He pointed to something that was not a cream puff, and I said, “No. further this way,” pointing to the right. He moved his hand too far. “No, back a little.” Finally the man behind me told him what I wanted. I felt like an imbecile, but the good news is I got my cream puff, or cream puffs I should say. The big cream puff on the bottom was filled with coffee-flavored icing. A chocolate bar divided the bottom cream puff from the top cream puff, and the entire dessert was drizzled with coffee icing. I was amazed to learn that the cream puff was not actually very sweet. We spent the rest of the evening doing more souvenir shopping for Paige. She bought her family members scarves. Again, I didn’t want to buy anything because I thought I would have more time (and more money) if I waited till I got back to London.
While we traveled back to Kristi’s house, a man got on our train. Paige and I had seen men playing instruments in the tunnels of the metro station, but we had never seen one play while on the train. Nobody made eye contact with him, or he’d expect payment. He played until the train stopped where I presume he got off to get on the next train and hopefully find some willing payers.
When we got to Kristi’s, we knocked on the door twice, but no one opened the door. The little girl from the house next door told us (we thought) that Kristi had left at 6:15 and hadn’t come back. It was now 9:00. Paige went for a walk around Luzarches. I didn’t go with her, mostly because my feet were tired but also because I knew we’d be walking around Luzarches the next day. I sat on the steps to wait for Kristi and was happily able to connect to the Internet from outside. The girl came back outside at one point and looked confused. I told her that Paige had gone for a walk and that I was waiting. That answer seemed to satisfy her, and she went back inside. Paige returned after half an hour at which point I heard Kristi’s voice inside. I knocked on the door again, and she let us in. Apparently she had been home the whole time. We enjoyed chicken enchiladas and tea–the perfect end to one of the most beautiful days I’ve ever known.