We took two more day trips from Paris – one to Giverny and one (really a half day) to Versailles. I’m glad that we went to both, but they aren’t for everyone and, in my opinion, certainly not necessary to do on your first trip unless you have more than a week.
We booked our trip to Versailles online while we were already in Paris. After having such a great experience with Paris Tours for our Normandy trip, we decided to use them again. Once again we were picked up at our apartment in an 8 passenger, air-conditioned and clean van. The trip from Paris was about a half-hour.
See that massive golden gate across the front? It’s made of wrought iron and gold leaf…REAL gold. They just finished restoring this replica of the original gate a couple of years ago – to the tune of 4 million GBP (kicked in by private donors). Yowza. Here’s a close-up of the ornamentation on the top center:
The tour guide first gave us some information and history about the palace, then gave us some time on our own to explore the gardens around back. I was not expecting such an enormous space. They have a mini-train available (or you can rent golf carts) to take you to other sections and buildings, but we didn’t have time for that.
|Just a small part of the gardens.|
|One of the many sculptures and water features on the grounds.|
We then met up with our guide and she took us inside the Palace. Even at the end of March, it was packed. The three of us were the only people on our particular tour, so it was very intimate (well, as intimate as it could be while being herded through the rooms like thousands of cattle). The guide was knowledgeable and friendly and patiently answered all of our questions. We finally made it to the Hall of Mirrors, which was simultaneously impressive and disappointing. It was certainly beautiful, but too crowded to really appreciate the grandeur. I simply cannot imagine coming here in the summertime at the height of tourist season.
|Yep, lots of mirrors! And lots of people, too.|
We walked through several more rooms, getting a glimpse of how royalty lived back in the day.
|The Queen’s jewelry box. Yes, it’s as tall as the doorway.|
|This is where the King and Queen ate in front of people who paid to watch them…eat.|
If you are interested in visiting Versailles, I would definitely do a small group or private tour. There’s just so much to take in, I think it would be difficult to do on your own. And unless you have an unlimited supply of patience and love for other people that you do not know bumping into you, jostling you or standing in front of you while you’re trying to look at things, I really would caution you against visiting in the summer months.
On our very last full day in Paris, we took a trip to Giverny to visit Claude Monet’s house and gardens. We ended up having to extend our original trip dates by one day because the gardens don’t open until April 1, and visiting them was a must for all of us. We took a private driver to make it easier on my mom and aunt (and, let’s be honest, on me), and it was a great decision. No worrying about trains or buses, or trying to figure out where we were going. It took us about an hour to get there, and although a lot of the flowers in the garden were not in bloom yet, it was still gorgeous.
|On our way to see the water lilies that Monet made famous.|
|Unfortunately, they weren’t blooming yet!|
|But other flowers were, and it was still a beautiful place to see.|
After walking through the gardens, which weren’t too crowded, we toured the inside of Monet’s house. Only a small part of it is open to the public, so it didn’t take long. It was really interesting to see – but note that you are not allowed to take pictures inside. I will admit that I tattled on someone that was taking pictures…but, hey, if I am going to follow the rules, I’m going to make sure other people do, too (yes, I’m that person)! After spending some time (and money) in the gift shop, our driver took us to the church and cemetery where Monet is buried. Technically, you could walk, but it’s about a 20-25 minute uphill climb from the gardens (no thanks).
There’s a very small church that you can visit. It’s quite plain inside, but as long as you are there, it’s worth a peek. On the way up to the adjoining cemetery, you will pass by Monet’s grave.
We were the only ones in the small cemetery, which was very old and interesting. Some of the graves were in disrepair, but a few of them seemed to be kept up.
Our final stop for the day was to have lunch at a restaurant in the countryside called Moulin de Fourges. It is about a 15 minute, scenic drive from Giverny. The setting was beautiful and so was the weather, so we opted to sit outside.
|The outdoor seating area is just to the left of the building.|
The food was good, but not my favorite. I think true foodies (not just someone who likes to eat a lot of tasty food…meaning, someone like moi) would really appreciate it here. The portions were small but plated with flair. One of my very best friends kept telling me I had to try pate while in France, so I did. And I hated it.
|Layer upon layer of ickiness (or deliciousness, depending on your taste buds).|
|They brought us an amuse-bouche of salmon, caviar and creme fraiche,
which I wanted to like but did not.
|I had better luck with the main course of duck, potatoes and veggies.|
|Dessert was delicious, too. Ice cream with fresh raspberry sauce and slivered almonds.|
After lunch, we headed back to Paris and enjoyed one last view of Eiffel Tower in all its splendor. Au revoir, Paris!