13 days, and yes, you have it, 13 days of rain. This afternoon I made the fatal mistake of remarking to Helen that the rain in Paris had not affected us as we had been in the hotel every time it rained. Not so this evening though. I don’t think I have ever been overseas and had 13 days of straight rain. Must be global warming or as one of my Facebook friends said ‘Global cooling’. Anyway, it ain’t going to dampen our spirits.
Today we decided to go to Versailles. The concierge said the best thing was to pre-purchase our tickets from the Tourism shop and so Michael and I did that this morning. The lady was helpful but not friendly until she asked where we were from and I replied “South Africa”. Then she was incredibly friendly and helpful and said what a lovely country we live in. I agreed. She even offered to sell me the train tickets which saved us from having to do that at the station which I have had experience in previously and my memory is still scarred.
We walked to the train station (we have done a LOT of walking in Paris) and managed to find the right train to Versailles. The tourism lady said we should simply follow the crowds when we got off and she was right. We arrived at the palace at 11:30 and got into the palace at 11:50. The queue (even for ticket holders) took that long to get through security. Now at this point I need to correct yesterday’s blog. I had a decimal in the number of visitors annually to Paris. The annual number of visitors is 27 million. 2 million of them are in Paris at any one time and 25 million of them are at Versailles. It was ridiculously overcrowded. Once inside you could not move and had to just go with the flow of people. Did I say it was ridiculous?! The picture is of the Hall of Mirrors. I took it not because I was staggered at the Hall but rather to illustrate the number of people. And this was the least congested room. Helen shouted back at one stage “Give me the plains of Africa any day over this”. We all agree. Africa is in our blood. Thousands of tourists are not. At the first opportunity to exit we headed for the exit and skipped the balance of the inside of the palace.
The gardens at Versailles are beautiful though. We did walk around them for a short while but they were even spoiled by the multitudes of people. Helen and I had the privilege of coming to Versailles during a conference and only the conference attendees and their spouses were there (1500 of us). In comparison to today it seemed like we had the place to ourselves then. And they put on a special fireworks display for us in the evening over the gardens. So we really had seen Versailles in its glory and not trampled by thousands (no, make that millions) of tourists. By lunch time we were on the train back to Paris and leaving the 25 million tourists behind.
We took the afternoon off to recover from ‘Tourist Shock’. It is a disease closely related to ‘Trench Foot’ which Helen and Michael are now both concerned about. Helen and I went for a quick coffee (Starbucks style) this afternoon and then Helen felt the draw of a shop nearby so she headed off and I went back to the hotel. About an hour and half later she emerged from the shop and it was raining hard. By the time she got back her shoes were soaked through. To ensure she didn’t wet another pair she went out in them again this evening but now she reckons she had joined Michael in getting ‘Trench foot’ (or is that ‘feet’). Either way, it was wet walking around trying to find a restaurant. We did consider recommendations made by our generous readers but in the rain your recommendations were too far away from the hotel. We ended up more local. We will try to take up the recommendations though if the weather allows us too.
And on that note, thanks for all the comments. We do read them even though we don’t always reply. I am still waiting for an explanation of that piece of art. Where are all the art experts when you need them? Besides the rain and the tourists, the biggest problem we have is that my UK account which I transferred money into for the holiday is no longer working (can’t pay with the Visa or draw cash from it anymore). @Bryan – can you wire over some more money so that we can feed your daughter?