Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Versailles And More, And Less

The "girls" wanted to visit Versailles and I figured that as long as I was in Paris I would be remiss if I failed to visit as well. Rather than pay the fairly hefty price for a tour we decided to just take the subway and then buy tickets on our own. Maybe that wasn't the best idea, but I still am not sure.

The subway drops you off just a short walk from Versailles. It was a crowded ride up to a point. There appears to be some kind of an office park on this line and a lot of people who work in Paris take the subway to get there. We must have hit it just about rush hour.

When you get to Versailles the first thing you notice is...THE LINES. And we got there early enough so that we thought we would beat the rush.


More Lines

Of course one of the reasons for the lines at this hour was because of some kind of a mini-strike that was going on. This one resulted in delaying the opening of the ticket offices for an hour and a half.

Work Stoppage In Progress

The French and their strikes. Got to love them. Just a nuisance thing now because France passed some kind of a law that a strike cannot interrupt a "vital service." So you get these pathetic things like delaying the opening of Versailles for an hour and a half. Just something to piss of the tourists.

One day I couldn't get a copy of The Herald, the New York Times international edition. I was told it was because of a strike of some kind. Apparently there was also a train strike when I was there. It didn't seem to affect the subways, though. I guess the subways are considered to be essential.

At least when Spain has strikes they are strikes with meat behind them. Garbage piles up, rats start carrying off small children, that kind of thing.

There were long lines beginning to form for the toilets even though it was still early in the day. I am not sure if they were late in opening too, or if this is just standard.

Holding It The Best I Can

I decided that I would pass on standing in line to get into Versailles itself and just spend time in the gardens. I left the interior to the Mysterious Chinese Woman and her Equally Mysterious Sister.

The gardens were quite interesting, lots of statues and fountains and no lines and free. Well, it was free, but the fountains weren't turned on either. Apparently they only turn the fountains on certain days and for certain occasions and then they charge admission. And there are probably lines.

Not A Bad Back Yard

This palace used to be a hunting lodge. You know, just a place to hang out, drink beer, play cards, and shoot the occasional wild stag as it walks by. As a result several of the fountains have a wildlife theme to them.

Teeth And Claws

Paws and Antlers

There were a few more traditional statues as well. Must have been the woman's touch.

I have to give this poor woman credit for her patience. The guy taking her picture spent forever focusing his camera and moving her to different spots. It reminded me of my Dad taking pictures of the family when I was a kid. I got stressed just watching.

Say Cheese

I told the Mysterious Chinese Woman that after I checked out the gardens I would head back to the hotel and meet them there latter. Luckily there was a little cafe on the way back to the subway where I stopped to get a beer.

Beer Time

As you can probably surmise, I had a Heineken.

That evening we headed back to Montmartre for dinner again. The Equally Mysterious Sister had read about a seafood restaurant that was supposed to be very good.

La Mascotte

Our visit turned out to be not so hot. We got there about 6:00 P.M. and were told that the restaurant did not start serving until 7:00 P.M. No suggestion that we sit at a table and have a drink while we waited, nothing. Well, the girls decided to go shopping and I decided to pop in across the street for a drink.

Cafe Bruant

I decided an aperitif would be in order so I had a Ricard.

Just Like A Local

At around 7:00 P.M. we headed back to La Mascotte and were seated in the dining room, which was just about empty. After we were seated we were pretty much left alone, no bread or water and nobody asked if anyone wanted a drink. Then, when we finally got our menu it was in French with no English descriptions. When I asked to see a menu in English I was told that they didn't have any. That they used to but it was a new menu and the English version wasn't available. And then the waiter left, knowing that we couldn't read the menu. I would have thought he might have asked us if we had any questions.

Now, I know, we were in France, but up until now everyone had been most helpful. Every other restaurant either had English versions of the menu or English descriptions of the dishes on the menu. Certainly every other restaurant had more helpful waiters.

When it became apparent that we weren't going to get any help we left. The maitre d asked us if something was wrong and when we told him we couldn't read the menu and the waiter left so we couldn't ask any questions he became quite upset. He said that there were English menus and that he would get the waiter to get them for us. By that time though we had had enough of our waiter and didn't want anymore to do with him. Particularly if the maitre d was going to get him riled up.

Luckily we were close to the place where we had our desserts the last time we were here and they looked like they were doing a lively business.

Le Relais Gascon

We were ushered upstairs to a crowded restaurant with the tables packed together. It was crowded in a nice way though with everyone looking like they were enjoying themselves. Although really big salads seemed to be a specialty of theirs, when I saw cassoulette on the menu I had to go for it. It is a simple dish made with white beans and duck that has been slow cooked in lard. Simple, and simply delicious.

A Romantic Dinner

We all had a good time and everyone agreed that the bad service at La Mascotte actually worked to our advantage.