Jason: Today we took a trip to the 'burbs of Paris, to the château at Versailles. Joanne pointed us to a nearby rail line that took us to the town; from there it was a short walk to the château itself. On the way in the gates, a French TV crew stopped me and asked me how the French treated tourists. I prattled on about being treated well (especially given my utter lack of understanding the French language), and the producer nodded vigorously before releasing me. I'm sure the footage will end up on the cutting room floor, right next to my 2nd-grade Japanese computer TV commercial.
Anyway, back to Versailles. The site began as a hunting lodge in 1661 by Louis XIII, and was remodeled on several occasions to reach its current level of splendor. The pictures we took simply don't do it justice; the amount of opulence simply begins to overwhelm you after a while. We had headsets with an audio guide during our visit to the château, and the information was very interesting (though a little too fond of the word "sumptuous"). By the time we had made it through the "major" rooms, we were unable to absorb any more gilt curtains, paintings of scenes from antiquity, or busts carved out of marble.
We took a break to have lunch, and then launched into the 98-degree weather to have a look at the gardens and fountains that surround Versailles. The grounds are extremely vast; the pictures show some of the scope, and we have some video that also shows how far things stretch. However, I really didn't realize how big things were until we were standing right there.
Unfortunately, the fountains weren't running during our visit, partially due to a lack of water from the drought Paris seems to be in the middle of. However, the gardens were still beautiful, and one can imagine how the fountains looked with the water pouring out of them. The detail on the sculptures was simply amazing.
Just before succumbing to heat stroke, we marched back through town and on to our train to Paris. Upon our return, we did some quick grocery shopping at Inno, which is kind of like the French version of Super Wal-Mart (dry goods and groceries). Though we didn't need frozen goods, we found ourselves lingering in the freezer section a little longer than normal, as it was such a welcome break from the heat.
Upon returning to the apartment, we took cold showers and gathered our strength in the early evening. When Denis returned home from work, we treated him and Joanne to dinner at La Coupole, a bistro just up the street from the apartment. It had been recommended to us by Joe and Lisa, and we were grateful to be able to thank our generous hosts with a dinner out. Also, the restaurant was air-conditioned, which made it a good place to escape for the evening. Even Tiger Lily (Joanne and Denis's dog) came along (and she was very well-behaved).
The food was terrific; Amy and Carolyn sampled duck foie gras while Joanne had oysters. For main courses, several of us tried a chicken Tandoori with risotto, while Denis had beef tartare and Amy had trout. We all finished with a light serving of chocolate mousse. C'est magnifique!
We dined late, as the French do, and did not return to the apartment until well after 11:00pm. We're winding down now, though people on Montparnasse are busy playing loud Indian music for passers-by. We're pretty tired, though, so we should be able to sleep right through it. We've got one more big day of sights tomorrow!