Tuesday, 21 November 2017

France - Saturday (Paris)

Saturday, 18 November 2017

After having sorted out the little problem we had with the heaters in our room we are ready for another day in Paris.  The problem I mentioned was a rather funny one, by the way.  The radiators in our room and bathroom had been working really well and we were not cold at all, but all of a sudden we had two cold nights.  They would be on, but grow cold very quickly early in the evening.  We had talked about it to Bénédicte who could not understand it.  To help us out she gave us a separate heater which worked properly and supplied enough heat.  This morning however, when we went downstairs to walk to the station she came out and told us what had happened.  She had a hand-held thermostat for the system and this resides on top of the piano in the hallway.  A few nights ago she had moved it and without realising it she had put it under a lamp that comes on early in the evening!  Of course, the heat of the lamp....... etc......  So, puzzle solved! ;-)

Next we walk to the nearest railway station, Versailles Chateau, the one we were at the day before. We walk up the stairs and..... the doors are locked.  Next we see the notice that we had ignored the day before:

Not in the picture, but just above the dates and days it says: AUCUN TRAIN, which means as much as: NO TRAIN.  Had the notice just said: PAS DE TRAIN, I would have known, but the other expression I did not know!  Anyway, I found out when I looked it up on the translator on my phone and now we had to find out how to get to Paris if not on the train from this station.  

I could work out from the writing that the trains were still going from Versailles Chantiers, which was only a 10 minute walk away, so after some debating we decided that we would catch a train from there. 

Once there we bought new tickets, although this time no return tickets, so that we couldn't get them mixed up and we would also have a choice of which station we would return from.  After some more puzzling I discovered that we could take the train from here to Montparnasse and catch the metro from there to Pigalle, the nearest stop for the Place du Tertre, Montmartre and the Sacré Coeur. A kind gentleman at the information office confirmed this and we were on our way.  And even the turnstyles opened today!  So far they did! ;-)

Well to keep the story about the rest of the day brief:  We had coffee at two places, bought crèpes for lunch and visited all three places that I mentioned above, including at the end of the day the Moulin Rouge.  Patricia had not been to either of those places and I had never really seen the Moulin Rouge in real life, so we were both happy with our day.

It really was another day with funny occurences though.  As we leave the metro station Patricia sees a Macdonalds across the road and says: "Oh, let's have a coffee here!", so, we walk to the store only to be met by much emptiness!  Well, we're in Paris.  Let's go to a real café instead!


A steam boiler with numerous taps

I had to have roasted chestnuts. 
The last time I ate those was in winter in Athens more than 20 years ago.

Le Sacré Coeur

Le Moulin Rouge

After four days of flat out walking, ánd climbing numerous stairs (don't forget the ones at the Sacré Coeur) we were ready to go home and put our feet up.  We found our metro station easily enough and were ready to change trains at Montparnasse.  However, I made it through the turnstyles this time, but not so Patricia, who eventually found a police officer who 'let her out' with her key card. :-)  Patricia says she has now more grey hairs than when she left home in September!!!

Metro station at Pigalle

Looooong travellators between stations

Oh, and before I forget: one of the stations we passed is named after my granddaughter: Madeleine  (Or would it be the other way around? ;-))  I had wanted to take a picture at the platform, but couldn't, so a picture of the names in the train would have to do...

On the walk home from Versailles Chantiers station we popped into a supermarket to get the necessary groceries so that we would have something to eat upon arrival at home the next day and then walked 'home' to have a quiet night.

France - Friday (Paris)

Friday, 17 November 2017

Looking outside the weather is not very promising, it is raining!  However, the plan was, and is, to go to Paris, so we get our umbrellas and walk to the nearest station where we, according to Bénédicte, can catch the train to most of the stops in Paris.  For us this is Champ de Mars, closest to the Eiffel Tower.

This is a whole new ball game for us: obtaining tickets from a vending machine, finding the right train and platform, etc., but we get there.  As the machine offers a 'round trip' to Paris, consisting of two tickets, we go for that, so we know we will make our way back from the same station in Paris!  Yeah, right!  Like that works.  But I will get to that story later.

We get on the train.  The correct one, I may add. :-)  And when we get off at Champ de Mars we walk to the Eiffel Tower.  I had been telling Patricia about how I never made it to any other levels than ground level, because there was always something going on when I was in Paris.  Next thing we see this great fenced off area round the tower, and I think: "Here we go again!"  However, it wasn't as bad as it seemed.  A large area has been fenced off, but an equally large area is set aside for security, because, as we now know, all the major tourist attractions nowadays are secured.  Very unfortunate, but it's a sign of the times we live in.

My first thought: There we go. 
That's all we get to see of the Eiffel Tower.... ;-)

Further down we look up and are so impressed (again!).  It makes Patricia take her first selfie!!! ;-)

Of course, I couldn't stay behind and took mine as well:

After we had our fun we bought tickets to go up to the second floor.  We've seen enough stairs to last us a lifetime (and there are even more to come) so we took the easy way out with the lift.

Once there we took our pictures of the sights all around.  The weather wasn't optimal, but we didn't care.

Pont d'Iéna and Place du Trocadéro

Champ de Mars

Champ de Mars

Looking down from the inner walkway

Impressive.  All of its 324m.
 We have coffee and lunch at a little snack bar and enjoy the views.  Then it's time to go, as we want to do more than just visit the Eiffel Tower....

It's been my fourth or fifth visit to Paris, and I like to do a few things that I have never been able to do before.  'Climbing' la Tour Eiffel was one of them and a boat tour on the river Seine is the next.  Frank never really wanted to do a boat trip, but Patricia does, so here we go.  We walk to the Bateaux Mouches ticket office and buy tickets for the next boat.  As it will be a little while we walk along the Seine till it's time and take some more pictures.  As you do! ;-)

Le Pont Alexandre III

Five years ago Frank, Wim, Gerrie and I walked here and took similar photos.
Such memories...

Every big city 'needs' to have an Eye I believe....

Part of the Musée du Louvre

La Tour Eiffel again...

...and again...

We round off the day with another cup of coffee at one of the real 'Parisian style' outdoor seating places of a café and then walk back through the Champ de Mars where we also look for a geocache.

Enjoying our coffee and watching the world go by....

#1793 - Toute première fois (cache)

As it was quite busy and I could not have a real good look I took my trusted extendable mirror out and spied the container in no time.  We logged our find and were on our way again.

The train station was easily found, but.... not easy to get into!  Our return tickets would not open the turn styles!  In my case it could have been the fact that I had switched the tickets upon entering and leaving earlier in the day, but Patricia's didn't work either.  No help to be found and the vending machine was broken, so we could not buy new tickets.  The only way open for us was to sneak in through the gate that let people through to get out.  Two smart Alec youngsters pointed out to us that we were cheating, but were not inclined to assist us, so we didn't care and walked on.  We got on the train alright and were wondering how the hell we were going to handle this on the other side.  Patricia even more than I, because she doesn't know a word French and hadn't travelled that much on the trains in France.  (Well, I didn't tell her I hadn't either.  I just showed a brave face. Haha)

However, we shouldn't have worried at all, because on return at the Versailles station we could freely walk through, because all the machines were taped off.  There were notices everywhere as well, something about the trains that we didn't really worry about at the time, although we should have!  That story tomorrow....

Monday, 20 November 2017

France - Thursday (Versailles)

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Yes, you read it okay, Versailles for the second time.  As Patricia had never visited the castle, and I had never had the opportunity to see the Petit and Grand Trianons, nor the Hameau de la reine (the queen's hamlet), we had bought double tickets so that we could spend some extra time.

We went back on Thursday morning, only to be greeted by a long queue of people waiting at closed gates.  We knew that there was a strike imminent, and we had already left a bit later, but were still a bit too early.  We decided that now was the best time to search for that cache that we knew to be close by.  We walked over to the street at the other side of the castle and started our search.  As my compass played up near the high buildings I knew to widen my search and finally made the find in the ivy across the street.  I called Patricia over, we signed the log and returned the container.  When we looked up we saw the line of people moving, so it was time for us to move as well.

#1791 - Versailles-Chesnay #1  Le Château (revival)

It may have been a bit misty, but the sun was out and it was a glorious start of the day.  We walked straight to the gardens, where I couldn't resist taking another picture of the grounds in all their glory and then we walk on to the Grand Trianon.  Here we got to see lovely furnished rooms and the whole feel was more cosy, albeit not less opulent, than the big castle.  Almost homely, but I like to reserve that description for the Petit Trianon.

There are a few caches in the gardens and we know there is one on the way to the Grand Trianon, so we make an effort to find it.  Well, we do find it, sort of, but it is under a little bridge and from other logs of other cachers we suspect that the container has been thrown too far under and is now out of reach.  We have sent the pictures to the CO and logged the find anyway.  If not okay he may delete our logs.

#1792 - Verdure in Versailles (cache)

After our find we walk to the

Le Grand Trianon

At strategic places you'll find guards who keep an eye on what's going on.  Very much needed in this day and age, I can tell you.  However, as this is not high season there is not a whole lot to do for them and they are happy to have a chat.

We encountered one of them on our rounds and started a chat.  He with limited English, I with limited French, but we got quite a conversation going....  He was almost hanging on to us, he enjoyed it probably as much as we did, but.... of course we had to go on.  There was so much more to see, so we walked on to our next stop:

Le Petit Trianon

The two mirrored panels are special.  They can slide up and down and thus close
off the room or open up the room and let the light in through the windows.

Outside we noticed a seller of baked potatoes in jackets.  As it was way past lunch time and cool enough to eat something hot we thought it would make a good lunch.  Then we were off to the part I had been looking forward to most of all: Le Hameau de la reine (The queen's hamlet).

It really is an, almost whimsical, hamlet, built for Queen Marie Antoinette as a kind of retreat for her.  In her time she enjoyed the working farm, the mill, the dairy and vegetable gardens.  The farm had (and still has) a great range of animals.  Only the actual dairy and dairy preparation room don't exist any more.  There are a few walls that depict the place where they were standing at the time.

The reason I was looking forward to seeing all of this is, because I have just finished reading a book about Mme Tussaud, who lived during the French revolution and actually visited the queen and queen's sister at Versailles and also the hamlet.

Le Hameau de la reine

On the way back, and it had been a very long walk, we needed to sit down for a cup of coffee again.  It had been another wonderful day and since these buildings are a kind of outpost in the grounds of the castle, we managed to almost walk 10 km!

And we hadn't quite done walking, because we needed to find something for dinner and a few groceries to keep us going for the next few days, so we walked to the market halls.  It was hard to decide what to get, but I ended up with some pastry with spinach inside and a kind of terrine with ham and egg.  This is what it looked like (picture from the internet):

It tasted great with the nice and crusty French bread.  And as we next walked past a stall where they prepared fresh crèpes we couldn't resist and took one of those home too.

We have a very pleasant B&B (airbnb).  We have our own apartment on the top floor of one of the typical French/Parisian buildings.  It consists of a bedroom with room to sit and eat at a small table and we have a king size bed.  There is TV available, but Patricia would have preferred English channels, of which there were none.  There is also a huge bathroom and a small kitchenette, just big enough to make a simple meal.  At this stage I only have a picture of the bathroom and one of the kitchenette.  Will try and get some more pictures later, but since we have already left (while I am writing this) I may pinch the pictures from the airbnb site....

The hostess as very kind too and makes sure that we have all we need and that we are warm enough on the top floor.

Bathroom with the lights and mirrors reflecting in the tiles on the wall above the bath