Ianna goes to Europe: une journée à Versailles
We made our best effort to wake up early on Thursday to maximize our time at Versailles, and grabbed breakfast on our way to the train station. After a beautiful 45 minute train ride through the suburbs of Paris, we were pulling into the train platform at Versailles. We skipped all of the vendors selling tickets, as Ian had already purchased ours online the night before to expedite the process. But we stopped short when we saw the line for the palace. It ran the full length of the palace forecourt and wrapped around itself.
Not wanting to waste hours just waiting, we instead headed to the entrance for the gardens, which are free and don't require a ticket. We skipped ahead on our Rick Steves audio guides, and began the outdoor tour, starting behind the palace and walking down to the Apollo fountain. Unfortunately the fountain was not running, but we learned about the engineering to get all of the fountains to work by gravity.
Along our walk, we decided to pause for lunch at one of the restaurants on the palace grounds. We enjoyed some soupe à l'oignon gratinée, steak frites, and crème brûlée while chatting up the expats sitting at the table next to us. It began to rain, but the outdoor seating came with automatic awnings so we could stay dry while finishing lunch. As we headed back out to continue our tour, the rain stopped. Impeccable timing.
We continued to follow Rick Steves around the gardens, taking in the fountains, sculptures, and immaculate groundskeeping (a few of the statues were getting baths as we strolled by). Ian couldn't help gawking at the "power of the axes" and "the genius of Le Nôtre" and other landscape architecture-related jargon. But no matter what words you use to describe them, the gardens of Versailles are incredible.
As we passed the pink palace, it began to rain once again. We took the opportunity to duck inside and sample Angelina's famous chocolat chaud and our first macarons of the trip. Both were incredible. The chocolat chaud was like drinking a melted bar of rich chocolate, and the macarons were light, crisp, and exquisitely flavorful.
The rain stopped shortly, and we finished our tour of the gardens. We strolled along more peastone paths lined with manicured trees, back to the palace.
By the time we arrived at the entrance, the long line from the morning had all but disappeared. We breezed through security and made our way to the start point of the Rick Steves audio tour.
While the grounds impress with their vastness, the palace impresses with it's decadence. Not a single inch of the palace lacks decoration, and it is drenched in history, from French kings to the Treaty of Versailles that ended WWI. Every room was more opulent than the last, full of priceless artifacts.
Once we reached the end of the tour, we stepped out into the Orangerie. As another show of his power and wealth, King Louis built a magnificent collection of citrus trees in giant planters, which were brought indoors when the weather didn't suit their tropical temperaments.
Exhausted, we took one final look at the palace then headed to the train station and back to Paris. We arrived back in the city just in time to get in line for the concert Ian had noticed advertised two days before: Gregorian chanting at the Notre Dame Cathedral.
While Ian waited in line, I procured dinner at a crepe stand across the street. I admired the chef's finesse. He spread out the batter, then added the toppings in careful measure.
Gregorian chanting isn't the sort of thing I enjoy listening to on a regular basis, but there was something haunting about hearing music that has been heard in Notre Dame since foundation was laid 850 years ago. History is so much more incredible when you experience it.
See all our photos from Paris on Flickr, and catch up on our trip posts.
*We turned our celebrity couple name, bestowed by my brother Caleb, into an Instagram hashtag (#iannagoestoeurope) and now it's virtually impossible to refer to our trip in any other way.