|My first day in Paris
I sat at a small table, sipping my glass of Sancerre and writing in my journal as I waited for my lunch to arrive. This was my last day in Paris and the weather was gorgeous—sunny with temperatures ranging from high 60s to low 70s, but cool in the shade where I was sitting. Once again I was dining outdoors. Café culture is an integral part of Parisians’ daily lives and one in which I partook every day, sometimes more than once.
I wrote a few thoughts down on the page then looked up to watch the cars and pedestrians passing by as well as to observe diners seated near me. Smoking is no longer allowed inside restaurants and cafés, so smokers are banished to the outside tables. In Paris, I was much more tolerant of second-hand smoke than I ever am in the States. While it was annoying, I refused to let it mar my experience. However, I still find it disgusting and cringe-worthy when someone is smoking a cigarette while they are eating, which I witnessed often.
I finished my meal and took off to explore the Latin Quarter in the 5th arrondissement. After walking for a while, I decided to go for a boat ride. I had yet to take a boat tour up and down the Seine and felt my feet could use a rest. I strolled down to the river, bought a ticket for 13 euros, and found a seat on the top deck. For an hour, I relaxed, basking in the warmth of the sun as we cruised up and down the Seine.
|View of the Musée D’Orsay from the Seine
|Inside the Musée D’Orsay - used to be a train station
Bryan also introduced me to his friend Angela. She and her friend Deb joined us the evening of that first day for drinks and then dinner. Because of this introduction, I had dinner with Angela my last night in Paris. I met her at a restaurant/bar that a friend of hers and said friend’s husband opened a year earlier. Even though I was traveling solo and was alone a decent portion of the time, lonely I was not.
I signed up online for three group events prior to my August 31 departure for France. These events included a wine tasting, a tour of the Musée D’Orsay, and a small-group day tour of Versailles. During these events and excursions, I met some wonderful people who made my trip even more enjoyable.
|Louvre et Pyramide
|Another view of the Louvre from the Jardin du Tuileries
The wine tasting took place at ÔChateau, located a few blocks from the Louvre. This was conducted in English, and the attendees were from the United States, Canada, and Australia. Pierre, our sommelier, was fantastic—his presentation was the perfect mix of entertainment and education. We tasted six wines: one champagne, two whites, and three reds. These were no diminutive pours either. Every glass was quite liberally filled. There were a couple wines I did not finish and poured out, but we were all definitely feeling rather jovial afterward.
|After the wine tasting w/ Pierre, our sommelier
I was surprised how often American politics came up in conversation, and I was never the one introducing the topic. Political conversation arose during lunch the day of the Versailles tour and when I met author David Downie and a Florida couple with whom he had been having lunch prior to my arrival at the café.
|Notre-Dame on Ile de la Cité
At the Palace of Versailles we toured the King’s apartment, the Queen’s apartment, and the Hall of Mirrors. This is only a small area of the entire 67,000-square-meter palace complex that boasts 2,300 rooms, 2,153 windows, and 67 staircases. I was mesmerized by all of it—the grandness, the opulence, the decadence. I struggled to imagine what life must’ve been like residing inside these magnificent walls. Even harder was envisioning the upkeep and management required of the palace, which had to have been quite a feat given the number of people living there—the royals and their family, other nobles, clergymen, courtiers, dressers, readers, cooks, servants, etc.
|Hall of Mirrors
|One view of the gardens from the Palace
After lunch, we were driven to the Grand Trianon, the Petit Trianon, and the Queen’s Hamlet. I was particularly charmed by the Queen’s Hamlet. This residence, though minuscule compared to the Palace of Versailles, is no small abode. The Queen’s Hamlet is part of the Petit Trianon, located within walking distance and is visible from certain areas of the Petit Trianon grounds. This was Marie Antoinette’s refuge from the hustle and bustle, the strict etiquette, and the political intrigue of Versailles. Much maligned and misunderstood, Marie Antoinette possessed a gentle, caring heart, and much of the slander and libel aimed at her from the press and the public, leading up to the French Revolution and until her execution day, was very hurtful and distressing to her.
|The Queen's Hamlet
|Rock pavilion & Belvedere pavilion - Petit Trianon grounds
|French pavilion - Petit Trianon grounds
|The Moulin Rouge