We made it through Versailles on the morning of Day 9. The crowds were little better. This time we did find a much shorter audio guide line, so grabbed the little phone-type device and headed into the clump of people in the history of Versailles rooms. We quickly figured out that if you waited until the audio device recording for each room stopped and you let the crowd move on en masse, you could time your viewings of each room between the group ahead and the group behind, thus minimizing the “herd” sensation. This time I took only a couple of photos and concentrated on the history.
Somehow, almost as we were exiting, we came upon another area of rooms we had not viewed before. They seemed to be a bit off the main path and not clearly marked, so they were much less crowded. We still are unable to get past the size of the palace, and can’t keep from wondering what people DID there all day. Roam around the hundreds of rooms? Stroll the gardens? Write letters? Eat? I would have put on roller skates and gone sailing down the vast corridors, around and around until I was hopelessly lost.
With a final goodbye to the palace, we tripped down the hill and back to the hotel to collect our luggage and check out. At this point, we were headed back to Paris, to Charles Gaulles Airport where we were booked at a hotel for the evening, in hopes of boarding our 8:00 a.m. flight to Frankfurt, then home. We were a little concerned because Lufthansa had already held two days of strikes, and was planning a third for Friday. Our departure was set for Thursday, and Robert prepared me for a potential “surprise” strike day that might mean we were trapped in Paris or Frankfurt. Plus, we were using “miles” for our business class seating which meant we could be bumped to make room for someone else if they decided to evacuate before the planned strike occurred the following day.
Luck was with us, and our flight crew had a good laugh at us when Robert greeted them with a relieved, “Boy, are we glad to see you.”
“You were expecting someone else?” the male flight attendant asked.
We explained our concern and they were all too happy to assure us we would make it home today. They were going from Frankfurt on to Latvia and had plans to spend the next 24 hours there.
Without incident, we made our way through “customs” at Frankfurt and on to our D/FW flight. Lufthansa flight attendants are the absolute best. They were friendly, helpful, friendly… they seemed to enjoy their work and took pains to make us comfortable. At one point I was feeling a bit blue, as you tend to at the end of a vacation when returning to the real world. On one hand you miss home and your family and friends, but on the other, you have had a wonderful experience and are sad to have it end.
Plus, the white wines I had been offered with my in flight “lunch” were AWFUL. I was sinking into a pit of despair, knowing I was at the tail end of my French adventure and was now trapped for my 10 final hours with mediocre to poor wine (as far as my taste buds ran) when the flight attendant told me he happened to have a bottle of something different. (They were transitioning and often change the white wines out after a few flights, I suppose.) He poured me a glass of Chateau de Rully Premier Cru, 2007. As he passed it by Robert, my nose began a happy dance. It was exactly what the doctor ordered. Creamy, smooth, vanilla and toast… Heaven. I must have looked absolutely transported, because when next the flight attendant passed, Robert’s overhead bag was open on the seat and my new best friend slipped a bottle into it and winked at us.
As Robert drifted in and out of sleep and I watched Hysteria, Big Bang Theory, Sex and the City, some terrible show called Enlightened, and The Avengers, we would chat a bit about the trip. Some thoughts on France:
1. We both agreed, when sitting in the crowded brasseries or restaurants, you are in such close proximity to your table-neighbors that you can hear every word of their conversations. Sitting between two such tables of people rattling on in French gives you the feeling you’ve just been dropped into the middle of a foreign film. I kept looking for subtitles to go along with the drama or laughter I heard on either side. Whether they left first, or we did, it felt as though we were walking out in the middle of a movie, or it was walking out on us – and we would never know how it turned out.
2. France (Paris and Versailles, at least, in my experience) is no place to be physically challenged. We stumbled up and down cobblestone hills, dusty streets with steep curbs, construction zones, narrow walkways wide enough for only single file, metro stations with stairs that I swear were put there for no reason whatsoever. We climbed monuments and up and down steps at museums. Some of these places had elevators – most of which were out-of-order. At one point I turned to Robert and said, I’m glad we did this now, because I don’t see me surviving all this if we’d waited another 10 – 15 years. If I did make it through the trip at that point, once home, I’d be bed ridden for two weeks.
3. No offense, but the wayfinding signage in France is a disaster. I don’t know how to explain it, except to say there is no reason why two adults who are somewhat intelligent cannot find their way to an airport gate or out of a metro station. An arrow pointing diagonally upward and to the right should mean you veer to the right or that you go upstairs and to the right. Such is not the case. An arrow pointing to the right at a 45 degree angle should mean turn right, not “go upstairs here.” I felt like a mouse in a maze.
4. The euro is pretty money.
5. We debated for about five days whether we loved the European license plates or thought they were silly. We settled on silly. (We were fooled briefly because they were European, which made us assume they were cool.)
6. I don’t understand how they can wedge their tiny cars into tinier parking spots (and I heard more than a few crunches as people’s bumpers met with others’) and yet have no dents in their vehicles. I swear there is no way you could get a car out of a space without hitting the cars both in front and in back of you. All I could picture was the scene from the Austin Powers movie when he’s trying to turn the golf cart around. Yet, when standing at the traffic circles, I never saw a single dented car. I see them everywhere here. Maybe there’s a government program in France that fixes dents?
I think that’s about it for the France diaries. We got home safely to a very happy dog, did laundry for three days and have since satisfied our cravings for hamburgers, Mexican food and Chinese food. I miss my morning croissant and cheese, and have returned to being a coffee drinker, rather than enjoying a less aggressive English Breakfast tea.
Au revoir, Paris and Versailles! We’ll always have these memories. And photos.