Europe 2008 (Troyes to Paris) Day 15 – June 8

8 06 2008

Having to buy a 20 euro adapter last night to simply connect to power and then spend 10 euros to get online was pretty painful.  It was, however, necessary as we needed to complete our bookings for various days.  It seems that as we get towards mid-June that the tourist season is beginning and rooms are harder to find. 

We got up and going by 0900 without breakfast as it wasn’t included in the room price.  I’m hard pressed to shell out 10 euros for a croissant and some bread.

Our target was Chartres first and then Versailles followed by our hotel.    We took off and headed along.  The highway limits are 130 kph here!  The little Punto hummed along like a happy sewing machine doing 4500 rpm while driving at 125.  We didn’t really stop along the way at all.  We went straight to Chartres.  After paying what seemed innumerable tolls we got down to the town that I had visited back in the summer of ’86.  Wow.  It sure had changed.  Funny how 22 years will do that to a place.  Chartres had grown up from a little town to a small city and was a hustle and bustle with tourists around the cathedral.

Chartres Cathedral is beautiful.  They have, I think, about 1100 stained glass windows and many of them from the 12 and 13th century.  During the war they had taken all the glass out of the windows and stored it underground to avoid damage.   That must have been a lot of work.  The cathedral was much as I remembered, but BIGGER.  It was huge and deep, and they LET you take pictures inside.  It was hard to shoot.  Almost all the light in the cathedral was filtered by the stained glass windows and as such it was pretty dark.  As we walked around the organist was playing (probably due to the fact that the service has just ended at around 1200.  The sound was marvellous. A great organ and a huge cathedral – what a combination.  We stayed in Chartres until about 1400 and then drove up to Versailles.

As it turns out, it was fortuitous timing that we arrived in Versailles at 1445.  We found our parking at the palace of Versailles and worked our way to the ticket line.  It looked long.  This was really the first location that we had been to that had tourists in large numbers.  And by large numbers we’re talking about 10+ tour busses parked and a parking lot full of cars!  We joined the line and expected a long wait.  Boy were we surprised.  It only took about 10 minutes to get through the line.  We expected to pay about 16 euros for our tickets and found we had another surprise in store for us – namely that at 1500 there is a "discount" ticket issued which is only 10 euros AND includes the audioguide.  I imagine they don’t think you’ll make it through it all by 1730 when they close the buildings. 

The palace was HUGE, spacious and lavish.  As you went from room to room you saw beautiful ornate furniture, gilt  frames on paintings, whole ceilings painted with roman themed paintings.  Luxury, exuberant luxury.  So many beautiful things dating from Louis XIV and XV.  Just when you think you’d seen it all, you end up in the hall of mirrors.  What a beautiful hall.  17 large mirrors that are across from 17 large windows (by large I mean 15 feet tall and about 10 feet wide each).  I tried taking photos, but I’m pretty sure they don’t do justice to the place.  We finished the palace as they were ushering people out.  Just in time.

After going through the palace we headed out to the gardens.  They were immense.  There was a little train you could take to go around for about 4 euros.  We parted easily with our money yet again.  We took the train down to the bottom of the Grand Canal and enjoyed a nice light dinner with beer in the warm evening sunlight.  Instead of taking the train back, we decided to walk back up to the palace.  It was great to walk up.  A lot of people were lounging around and enjoying the late evening rays.  It was a pleasant walk back up.

By the time we got back to our vehicle it was 1800, and time to drive into Paris proper to find our little hotel Caulaincourt, the same hotel the scouts stayed in last summer.  We hopped in the Punto and fired up the GPS.  It couldn’t find us!  It insisted we were were one block to the West of where we actually were!  This was going to be a disaster.  In the narrow, winding streets of Paris, we were going to need ACCURATE location in order to make sure we were in the right place.  We turned it on and off, and on and off again.  It continued to think we were off the road.  Aggh.  Then, for no apparent reason, as we approached the city, the GPS decided it knew where we were!  Thank God!  We found the Caulaincourt Square after passing it a couple of times and having to do 2km loops to get back.  It was such a tiny square and not exactly marked in the way that MOST squares tend to be.

I left Mrs D with the luggage to get us checked in and went out to find parking.  I found a garage/carwash/gas station which rented space.  For the four days that we were planning on being there, it would be 105 euros.  Ouch.  After parking I walked back the 600m to the hotel and found that Mrs D had already taken down the luggage.  Excellent.  While we had only booked on the ‘Net for 2 nights it turns out we were able to get a room for all 4 nights that we wanted to stay in Paris. 

I tried to get the WiFi working, but had somewhere between zero bars and no connection.  Sigh.  That’s the way life works I guess – Cheap room = lousy free WiFi. 

Good Night.

Managed to get a room at the hotel caulaincourt for all 4 nights.  Great didn’t have to move.

Shitty WiFi but cheap room.  Can’t complain.

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