9/20/12 - 9/21/12 68 °F
I made the rookie mistake of telling the kids we could rent bikes to ride around the gardens in the "back yard" of the Versailles palace. Not to say we didn't spend a lot of time in the palace, but thank goodness we had the audioguides, which were included in the admission ticket.
I woke the kids up at 6:30 this morning. We were out the door by 7am and on the Metro platform by 7:05. There were two or three others down there. Do the French take Friday off? I think instead they just sleep in! The train wasn't empty but there were not many people on it. Fine by me. We transferred to a suburban train and went to the palace of Versailles, created and made popular by King Louis XIV.
We were there very early and waited in the sun for the palace to open. Seems like every account I'd read about visiting Versailles referenced hoarded of people, rooms jammed with crowds. I felt obligated to take the kids, it being such an iconic place, and was determined not to be intimidated by lots of other tourists. And, I was curious if my 30 year memory of the palace was accurate. Some flashbacks today, but mostly the pleasure of being there with the kids. We got lucky, no crowds.
Magnificent this, gold leaf that, hundreds of rooms, a big old' party area called the Hall of Mirrors. Thanks to the audioguides, we lingered a bit, took some photos, did our best to eavesdrop on professionally led tours, and spent a solid couple of hours in the palace. We saw the strong morning sun coming into the Sun King's bedroom, just as Louis XIV planned it.
That was all very good, but outside called us.
Unleashed on the back 40 (well, 200), we hightailed it to the bikes. It was the first time they'd never ridden without helmets, they said. We rode around the entire "grand canal," down a few side roads, and around some smaller buildings. The sun was still shining. We even found one field with sheep (!), one with a farmer plowing (!), and a few with just grass. We saw a crane. After two weeks in a very, it seems, polluted city, it was nice to be in the country, even if it was only 35 minutes outside of downtown Paris.
We rode on the cobblestone roads a bit, mostly because it made our voice echo when we held our mouths open. We stayed on the gravel and dirt wide paths a lot, with just a bit on the skinny side roads. The ride was flat for the most part, with no one else around except for an occasional runner. In my mind, the Tour de France! Ahead of me, two pedal happy kids. They put the bike rental of the things they want to do with Don when he is here with us. (So far, Don, that's 1) the Eiffel Tower to the top, 2) Versailles bike rental, and 3) re-eating every crepe they've already had).
By the time we returned the bikes and spent a few minutes in the gift shop, it was raining. We opened our umbrellas and got some pizza in the town of Versailles before heading home. Journal writing for all, reading log and math facts for the kiddies. We did a lot of school hours yesterday, knowing most of today would be a field trip.
Late afternoon yesterday, we went to our playground, and then to one in Vosges square, took a nice walk and had falafel for dinner. I also got myself a souvenir: an Opinel pocket knife. It's orange, not too big and not too small, and has a little string handle. I will keep it in my purse for picnics. Love it, and very French!
More than 24,000 on the pedometer today, but I think it was registering on the bike ride as well. Regardless, our bums are sore from the spiny seats and our sights are set for more excursions out of the city!