3:45 am, and people were still sitting and talking at one of the several cafes located along the square adjacent to our hotel. Unfortunately, one of these is positioned directly below our room. My husband was up much of the night, disturbed by the noice. Both of us slept late today.
When we did venture out, we found a cute cafe in the Northern Marais, where I had a huge capuccino and he had an American-style formula breakfast; basically, a continental breakfast with accompanied by a small cheese omelet. Thus fortified, we decided to undertake a self-guided walking tour of the Southern Marais.
Of course, we started out in the wrong direction; soon recognizing the mistake, we started from rue de Rivoli and walked toward the Seine along rue de Labau, then across Place St. Germain. Along the back of the church, we turned right down a tiny alley, rue des Barres, where some cute cafes brightened a very old residential street. At the corner cafe (Cafe Julien), we circled around and walked up Pont Louis Philippe, buying a trinket at a fabulous stationer, Melodies Graphiques, and gazed at the fabulous instruments in the window of Orphee which, unfortunately, was closed. There was a very old mandolin in the window, and 2 violin backpieces painted with scenery.
Turning right onto rue Francois Miron we discovered Izrael, an outstanding spice shop which also sells homemade candies and tinned biscuits. While we were walking about the tiny store, locals arrived to buy bulk spices, which were scopped into paper bags by the friendly proprietor. A small but excellently-stocked deli section offered products including canned olives, preserves, and dolmas.
Rue Francois Miron houses numerous restaurants and bars, and seems a pretty little place for shopping. It runs parallel to rue de Rivoli, the street on which our lodgings are located. Two 14th century houses – old wood-beam structures – were the elders on the block; the remaining buildings were only about 300 years old.
We didn’t have time to finish out the walking tour as we needed to meet the family for an afternoon trip to Versailles. That will be for our next visit.
My husband opted out of the Versailles trip due to foot pain and a very nasty blister on his toe. The rest of us walked a circuitous route to the nearest RER where we caught the 2:34 pm train to Versailles.
The day was quite warm, and the trip took about 45 minutes. When we disembarked I was surprised and pleased to note that we only had to walk about 2 blocks to the palace.
We entered the Dauphin’s apartements first, which was rich with elaborately painted furniture and impressive mouldings. We then crossed the front of the palace and entered the king and queen’s apartements, opulent to a distressing degree. Portraits of royalty, statuary, huge mirrors – it was all rather overwhelming. The most appalling sight was the Hall of Mirrors, the ultimate expression of narcissism, well lit with dozens of chandeliers and doorways flanked by larger-than-life statues of goddesses.
As I walked into that wing of the palace I was most struck by 2 things: the smell of urine, and the many flattering portraits of the king.
The stone steps were worn uneven after many years and thousands of feet treading up and down.
My feet were sore, it was quite hot, and the crowds of tourists snapping pictures overcame me. I ventured out to the impressive gardens, where I was soon met by my two nieces. They had grown bored, so they had made a video in the gardens. This is the plot: Marie-Antoinette is an alien, and two young women had discovered her spacecraft hidden in the queen’s gardens. Quite amusing and creative! One of my nieces – one who has a zest for life and loves a good laugh – was so pleased with herself that while dancing about in self-congratulation she nearly lost her balance and fell into one of the garden fountains. A video of that would have been fun, too.
Fortunately the rest of the family also tired of gazing at fine furniture, so we soon gathered and returned to the RER, catching a very crowded train back to Paris – standing room only, and no air conditioning on a hot evening. By this time we were all rather sticky and a bit grumpy, so we decided to regroup for a late dinner.
The kids opted for McDonald’s, so my husband and I led the adults out to a fancy restaurant we’d spotted in the Southern Marais during our morning excursion. We then walked on to ile-de-France, where we finally located the elusive Berthillon ice cream vendor – and the ice cream was fantastic. The neighborhood was alive with people, chatter, street musicians. It was an absolutely lovely evening.