Map-Paris-Versailles

Paris, Saturday July 12

The main objective today was to visit the Palace of Versailles – a day trip outside of Paris. The RER C would carry us out to the town of Versailles, southwest of Paris. From there, we would walk to the palace.

On the way to the metro station we took a couple of detours.

Pantheon

The first detour was to the Pantheon, a mausoleum built in the neoclassical style between 1758 and 1790. Commissioned by Louis XV, the domed Pantheon was originally built to be a church. The church was converted to a mausoleum during the French Revolution and now contains the tombs of several of France’s luminaries, including: Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, and Pierre & Marie Curie.

Aux Grands Hommes La Patrie Reconnaissante
(To great men, the grateful homeland)
– Inscription above the entrance to the Pantheon

The second detour was to the Musée de Cluny to look for some indication of Nicholas Flamel’s grave. Flamel was a medieval scribe who, after his death, developed a reputation as an alchemist. He appears as a character is several works of fiction (e.g. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone), and is suppose to have been buried at a church where the Cluny now stands. There were no obvious tombs or markers, and staff members at the entrance were not aware of a church or any graves. I was confident he was there, and that they simply didn’t understand. But we would look for Flamel another day, when we had more time. Across the street, in the Jardin Medieval park, we lunched on sandwiches brought from the Mouffetard market, then continued to the Cluny-Sorbonne metro station.

Versailles

From Paris we took the RER C train, traveling west to the town of Versailles. Prior to leaving, Melanie read online about the French monarchs’ fondness for horses, and that Versailles included stables and riding facilities – the Manege of the Grande Ecurie at the Chateau de Versailles. The equine facilities are now home to the Academie du Spectacle Equestre (Academy of Equestrian Arts), where they also practice traditional arts like archery, fencing, choral singing and dance. Performances are offered on the weekends, so we attended the show and a stable tour during our visit.

After touring the palace and stables we wandered the town of Versailles, increasingly deserted as the other tourists returned to Paris. We found a small cafe where we could sit outside and enjoy the late afternoon peace. A young couple from the area told us the owner specialized in obtaining lesser known, better tasting wines. After dinner and a few glasses of wine, I settled into the sublime state of relaxation only achievable under the right conditions (e.g. walking all day, then sipping an adequate amount of French wine at a sidewalk cafe). We would like to have stayed for hours, but had to go “home” to Paris. So we said our goodbyes and made our way to the train station.

Sunday July 13 – The destination of the day was the Musee d’Orsay, exhibiting art from the mid 19th to early 20th century (La Belle Epoque). The Beaux-Arts building where the museum is now located was originally the Gare d’Orsay, a train station of the Paris Metro which opened during the 1900 Exposition Universelle. Due to the popularity of Musee d’Orsay, having our tickets in advance was no help. But the line to enter moved quickly and we were inside before very long, viewing paintings by famous impressionists like Monet, Renoir, Cézanne, Van Gogh and others.

Not far from the d’Orsay is the Musee Rodin, created in 1919 at the Hotel Biron, where the artist used to live and work. The museum includes a large formal garden incorporating several of Rodin’s sculptures. After wandering the gardens, we rested at the museum cafe, chatting with a charming pair of elderly Parisien ladies.