Being away from home for 8 months is hard for the kids. As much as they are loving the adventure, there are many days when they miss home, school and most of all their friends. Luckily through some amazing fancy footwork and very brave parenting, The Big Kid’s best friend flew over to spend 10 days with us in Paris. After a sleepless night for her parents, sweet A arrived in Paris at Charles DeGaulle airport into the waiting arms of her BFF. Both of our kids were equally happy to have someone their age to hang out with and most of all to spend time with someone that wasn’t us.
An absolute trooper, A came straight off the plane and jumped right into sightseeing. We wanted to squeeze in as much as possible and G was very excited to share Paris with her pal. I think we managed to check most of the sites off A’s to do list with visits to The Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, Disneyland Paris (a post for another day), Eiffel Tower, Versailles, Jardin du Luxembourg and L’Arc de Triomphe.
I won’t give you a play by play of the full 10 days as that seems like overkill. Maybe we’ll just talk about our day at Versailles. Around an hour’s train ride from Paris, the Palace of Versailles is a must do if you’re ever over here. Originally built as a Hunting Lodge by Louis XIII in 1623, it was expanded by Louis XIV to an incredible Palace and in 1682 he moved his court and the government here. The Palace is massive with its impressive Chapel, Apartments, Museum, Gardens and the almost as incredible smaller palaces of the Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon. Its overwhelming.
Once off the train, its just a short 10 minute walk through the town of Versailles (a very cool little place) and you’re at the Palace gate. Tickets are only required to enter the Palaces, the vast Gardens and grounds are free unless there’s some special event (fireworks, concerts etc). Our pre-booked tickets for the Palace were scheduled for the late afternoon and it was lunch time so we made a beeline for the Gardens and one of the many restaurants.
I’ve been to Versailles twice before but always in the winter, so it was very cool to see the Gardens in full swing and the tourists flocking. We knew that there were golf carts available to rent to explore the Gardens and to get to the secondary Palaces, but since its Spring and tourism in Paris is back on track, the line was way too long and the supply of golf carts was way too small. We headed out on foot, stopping at the first restaurant on the map, La Girondole.
The map indicates that this is a restaurant, but what we found was a glorified snack bar. Chicken nuggets and burgers again! Although to be fair, this is France so I was able to get a quiche and Monsieur a baguette sandwich. AND they did have lovely Tarte Framboise for dessert. We would have been smarter to hold off as La Flottille Restaurant at the beginning of the Grand Canal looked much lovelier.
Speaking of the Grand Canal (a massive man-made, t-shaped basin in the second half of the Gardens), I booked our tickets with a row boat rental. How idyllic, I imagined a scene with all of us in a rowboat with parasols and corsetted dresses. Nope, instead we found a loud-mouthed boss on the dock yelling instructions at us. We crammed into the boat. The little, because they are under 12 was required to wear a life jacket much to their chagrin. Ironically, I’m quite sure that if we had capsized, the water was only waist high and we could walk back to shore.
Monsieur was relegated to rowing and off we went. Rowboats are frigging hard to row, especially with 5 people in them and in a man made lake with about 200 other rowboaters equally as inexperienced as us. With Monsieur at the helm, his back to the bow, the rest of us we’re left to hurl directional advice:
”Dad, watch out!”
”Slow down, you’re going to hit that boat.”
”Go left, left, I said left. No my left. Oh shit, I mean right.”
”Oh my God they’re going to hit us!”
”Don’t hit the swans! They might attack us!”
”I feel sick.”
“Can I get a gelato?”
After 5 minutes we decided we were good. We could check “Rowboating on the Grand Canal of Versailles” off our list.
Continuing our journey on foot with gelatos for the road, we made our way to see the Grand Trianon which was built by Louis XIV as a respite from court. Its easy to see why the French Revolution happened with all the opulence here at Versailles. We didn’t make it over to the Petit Trianon. One Trianon is a enough for one day.
Realizing we were quite close to our reservation time for entry to the Main Palace, we decided we needed to hoof it back through the Gardens to the Palace door. Sheesh, these Gardens are VAST. It was a walk for sure. We made it back just in time, covered in pea gravel dust and ready to soak up some history!
The highlights of the tour are the Royal Chapel and the Hall of Mirrors. But its also great fun exploring all the portraits of the French Kings and their courts. Man, there were some hair-dos! It is fascinating to see the worn steps and think of all the people that came before us over the past 350+ years.
Versailles is an easy afternoon trip from Paris and well worth the time to explore any time of the year. Next time, I want to go on bikes and a picnic.
As for our lovely guest, I think she enjoyed her stay with our gang. We had a ball sharing Paris with her and I think that the kids built some memories that they will treasure forever. As far as I’m concerned, that’s mission accomplished.
With thanks to the McL Family for sharing their girl with us 🙂