Friday, July 29, 2011

Dinner at Les Deux Magots, Saint Germain des Prés

On the evening of our visit to the Louvre and Montparnasse, we decided to have dinner at Les Deux Magots, a famous café in the Saint Germain des Prés area.

We left our apartment after 9 pm, and went to the Cardinal Lemoine Metro station, from which we took Line 10 to Mabillon - five stops in the direction of Boulogne.

We came up out of the station onto Rue du Four, and walked a short block to Boulevard Saint Germain. There we turned left and walked about three blocks to the café. On the way, we passed the typical 5-6 story Pqris buildings with shops on the ground floor and apartments above. We also passed the historic church (aren’t they all?) of Saint Germain des Prés.

The café was on the northwest corner of the intersection of Boulevard Saint Germain des Prés and Rue Bonaparte. We were quickly seated at a table in a glass-enclosed terrace.
Les Deux Magots
Area where we were seated

Les Deux Magots ( and was once a rendez-vous for the literary and intellectual elite such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvois, Albert Camus, and Pablo Picasso, and young writers like Ernest Hemingway. Every year since 1933, it has awarded a literary prize for a French novel.

The business was originally a silk shop and took its name from a popular play, Les Deux Magots de la Chine (The Two Figurines from China). It moved to its current location in 1873 and became a café in 1884. In 1972, the terrorist Carlos the Jackal carried out a grenade attack against the café; killing 2 and injuring 34.

The Chinese Figurines
When we visited Paris in 2006, we had dined at Café de Flore on the next block.

When I had originally checked the café’s menu at its web site, I had seen that it included a selection of sandwiches that I thought would be acceptable to my grandchildren. I had not realized that those sandwiches were not served at the peak of the dinner hour - between 9 pm and 1130 pm. The web site has a separate dinner menu.

My grandchildren both chose the same dish - penne pasta with basil and tomato for 16 each. One of them had an Orangina for 6.20 and the other had a coke for the same price.

My meal was very nice. I started with layered tomato and fresh goat cheese (Millefeuille de Tomates et Chèvres Frais) for 13. Then I had roast rack of lamb with herbs and homemade purée (Carré d’Agneau Rôti aux Herbes,  Purée Maison) for 30. For wine, I had two 18 cl glasses of Saumur Champigny for 7 each. The food was superb and the wine very nice.
 My Millefeuille de Tomates
The total price came to 98.40 ($141.70). Our waiter was efficient, but cold, unlike some of the very nice waiters who had served us. We left the restaurant about 11 :30 pm, and returned to our neighborhood using the route by which we had come.

Instead of turning onto Rue Rollin toward our apartment, we crossed Place de la Contrescarpe and walked to Alberto’s gelato shop on Rue Mouffetard. My granddaughter had a cone with After Eight Mint and Chocolate, and my grandson had a cup of After Eight. I had a cone of Cinnamon and Tart Lemon (Cannelles & Tarte Citron). Delicious as usual.

We arrived back at the apartment some time after midnight.

Montparnasse and the Montparnasse Tower

After visiting the Louvre and walking through Little Tokyo on June 16th, we set out to visit the Montparnasse Tower, the only skyscraper inside Paris.
 Montparnasse Tower (and the Eglise du Dome)
Montparnasse ( is a section of Paris located in the 14th Arrondissement on the south side of Paris. Its name is derived from the Greek Mount Parnassus. It was given the name by French students who used to go to the hill there to recite poetry. The hill was leveled in the 18th Century to build the Boulevard Montparnasse. Many cabarets and dance halls opened there during the French Revolution.

At the beginning of the 20th Century, it was the heart of intellectual and artistic life in Paris. It was frequented and inhabited by artists and writers like Picasso, Dali, Modigliani, Hemingway, Marc Chagall, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, etc., etc., etc., etc.

I have never explored the Montparnasse area, but would love to do that some day.

The full name of the Tour Montparnasse (Montparnasse Tower) is the Tour Maine-Montparnasse (Maine-Montparnasse Tower ( and ( It was completed in 1972 and was the tallest building in France from then until 2011. It has 58 stories and is 689 in height. 

The views from the top are terrific. You can see all the major monuments of Paris (except the tower, of course). The 56th floor is a viewing floor. It is surrounded by large glass windows. It contains a bar, souvenir shop, and restrooms. There is an open-air viewing terrace and helipad at the very top. The viewing radius is about 25 miles.

It is the only skyscraper within Paris. Its architecture has been criticized as being out of place with the landscape of Paris. The construction of new skyscrapers inside Paris has now been banned.

In 1995, French urban climber, Alain “Spiderman” climbed to the top using only his bare hands and feet, and no safety devices. He nearly fell off on the way up.

The normal admission rates for the 56th floor and the 59th floor terrace are:
Adults - 11.50
Youths- 6-20 - 8.50
Children - 7-15 -4.70
Children under 7 - free.

We paid lower rates because the 59th floor was closed for maintenance. My ticket cost 10, and my grandchildren’s were 4.20 each.

We walked up to the tower and immediately saw the tourist entrance as described on the Internet. On one side of the building, there is a covered set of steps. On the first cover are the words, “Tout Paris à 360 (All of Paris at 360 degrees).
Tower Entrance

We walked up the stairs and entered the building. Unfortunately, a group of about 40 Chinese tourists arrived just ahead of us. We had to wait until their guide had gone through the mechanics of getting their tickets. After we purchased our tickets, we had to wait until they had gone up the elevator.

The elevator to the top is very fast. According to the tower web site above, it takes 38 seconds to reach the top.

As we got off the elevator at the top, a man working there asked if we wanted our photo taken. When I refused, he made a sarcastic remark. I assume he was trying to sell the photos.

The 56th floor was large and uncrowded. We walked around, enjoying fantastic views of the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Eglise du Dome, Sacre Coeur, Place de la Concorde, the Basilique Sainte Clotilde, the Latin Quarter, the Louvre, Pont Alexandre III, the Grand Palais, Saint Germain des Pres, Eglise Saint Sulpice, and Notre Dame Cathedral.
Eiffel Tower
Skyscrapers in background are in La Defense, outside Paris. Wooded area between La Defense and Eiffel Tower is the Bois de Boulogne Park. Long park in front of the Eiffel Tower is the Champ de Mars. Building at the front of the Champ de Mars is the Ecole Militaire, officers' school which Napoleon attended.

Eglise du Dome, Site of Napoleon's Tomb
Cathedral of Notre Dame

After enjoying the views, we sat down and had a drink. My granddaughter had a Coke Zero (Coca Zero) 50 cl for 3.80, My grandson had a Fanta Orange 50 cl for the same price, and I had two drinks - a Kir Royal Coupe (crème de cassis and champagne) for 8.50 and Perrier 50 cl for 3.30.

After looking around a bit more, checking out the souvenir shop, and using the rest rooms, we took the elevator back down to the entrance. We left the building about 7:40 pm.
We walked back into the train and Metro station to Line 12. We took Line 12 to Sèvres-Babylone - three stops in the direction of Porte de la Chapelle. We then took Line 10 to Cardinal Lemoine - five stops in the direction of Gare d’Austerlitz.

We walked out of the station and walked a few feet to the Carrefour supermarket, where we purchased a 375 gram box Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes (which are called Kellogg’s Frosties in France) for 2.64 for breakfast for my grandson.

Then we returned to our apartment, where we arrived at about 8:30 pm.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Our Visit to the Louvre

We visited the Louvre on June 16th. The weather was slightly cooler than the previous day - with a high of 69F and a low of 60 F.

Since we planned to take the subway from the Place Monge Metro station, we headed out to a bakery near the station to get our pastry breakfast. We turned left out of our apartment front gate onto Rue Rollin and walked a short distance to the steps from Rue Rollin down to Rue Monge. We turned right onto Rue Monge and walked a short block and a half to Patisserie & Chocolaterie Pascal Pinaud, 70 Rue Monge.

At the patisserie, My granddaughter and I each had a raisin pastry (pain aux raisins) for 1.10 each. I don’t remember what My grandson had. We stood outside the patisserie and ate our tasty pastries.

After we finished, I went to the Bank BNP Paribas ATM machine next to the patisserie, and withdrew some Euros.

We then walked a couple of feet to the Place Monge Metro station. We took Line 7 six stops in the direction of La Corneuve 8 Mai 1945 to the Palais Royal - Musée du Louvre Metro station.

We came up out of the Metro station at Place du Palais Royal. We crossed Rue de Rivoli and walked through a Louvre entrance called Passage Richelieu, which is intended for visitors who have a Museum Pass or other passes. There were only a few people entering through this entrance. We did have to pass through a security checkpoint. 

The Louvre Museum

The Louvre Museum (Musée du Louvre) ( & is one of the largest museums in the world and is the most visited art museum in the world. The museum owns 380,000 objects and displays 35,000 works of art from prehistory into the 19th Century. Its exhibition areas cover 652,300 square feet. In 2010, it received 8,500,000 visitors. No other art museum even approached that number.

Its annual budget is about $350 million per year. Approximately half that amount comes from the French Government, and the remainder from ticket sales and private contributions.

It has major collections of Egyptian, Near Eastern, Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities; European paintings; prints; drawings; Islamic art; and sculpture.

It is also a historic monument - the Louvre Palace (Palais du Louvre) (, which began as a fortress in the 12th Century. The current buildings were started in the middle of the 16th Century under King Francis I and completed in the 19th Century under Napoleon I and Napoleon III. It served as the Royal Palace from the middle of the 13th Century until Louis XIV moved to Versailles in 1678.

The Louvre opened as a public museum in 1793, after the fall of the monarchy.

The Louvre has three large, connected wings:
1. The Richelieu on the north side - named after Cardinal Richelieu, who, under King Louis XIII, played a major role in the creation of the centralized nation of France.
2. The Sully on the east side - named after Bishop Maurice de Sully, who was responsible for the construction of Notre Dame Cathedral.
3. The Denon on the south side - named after the first director or the Louvre.

The Louvre web site has one page with interactive floor plans of all the floors of all the wings (

The Louvre has another web page with virtual tours ( The virtual tours vary significantly in capability. One of the best is the virtual tour of the Egyptian antiquities. Not only can you get 360 degree views of the many rooms, but you can also click on certain exhibits and get very detailed information about those exhibits.

A third Louvre web page has a searchable database, called the Atlas Database that can be searched by room, work of art, artist, etc. In the room search, you can see views of most rooms, including some ceiling views. (  All three of the URLs I provided are the English versions.

Our Visit to the Louvre

It would take several days to begin to do a decent visit of the Louvre. Our focus was very narrow - the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, Winged Victory of Samothrace, and Egyptian and Near Eastern antiquities.

This was the second visit to the Louvre by my grandchildren, and my third visit.

We entered the Louvre at about 12:30 pm. When we entered by way of the Passage Richelieu, we arrived in the Napoleon Hall. It is the place where most, if not all, visitors start their visits. It is at the lowest visitor level of the museum, and is just below the glass pyramid[1] through which most visitors enter the Louvre by coming down  into the Napoleon Hall. The hall has an information desk, free coat check desks, rest rooms, an auditorium, a cafe, and a book shop. I checked my jacket and hat at one of the coat check desks.

We first visited the Denon Wing. We took the escalator up to the ground floor. We showed our Museum Pass to get into the Denon Wing.

We first walked through the Salle du Manège, which had Greek, Etruscan, and Roman statues, as well as a statue of the Egyptian god Horus. One interesting statue was that of a seated barbarian prisoner.

We then walked through the long Daru Gallery, which had Greek Roman, and Etruscan statues, sarcophagi, etc., from the 3rd Century BC through the 4th Century BC.

Then we walked up a long staircase to see the famous statue - the Winged Victory of Samothrace (, which was found on the Greek island of Samothrace in 1863.  It was created about 190 BC.
Winged Vistory

We continued up to the first floor, walking through the several galleries with European paintings from the 13th through 16th Centuries. We entered the long gallery called the Grand Gallery, with 15th-16th Century Tuscan and northern Italian paintings. This gallery is about a quarter of a mile long. The ceiling is arched and most of it is covered with glass, which lets in a lot of natural light.

 The first room we came to on the right was the Salle des Etats, the room which houses the Mona Lisa. We entered the room and joined the rest of the crowd viewing this famous work of art.

We then continued on through the Grand Gallery. One painting we admired was Raphael’s depiction of St. George and the Dragon.

As we walked, we heard a strange shrill noise. I asked one of the guards about the noise. He pointed to the low strings strung between poles along each of the walls. They separated the patrons from the paintings. He said there were sensors which detected if a visitor moved beyond the strings. The sensors then set off an alarm.

About two-thirds of the way down the gallery, there was a very elegant work of art on the ceiling. It may have been a bas-relief. It represented some sort of classical mythological scene.
Grand Galley Ceiling

After finishing with the Grand Gallery, we returned to the staircase near the Winged Victory of Samothrace, where we had entered the first floor of the Denon Wing. There, we crossed over into the Sully Wing.

The second room we entered was Room 74. There, we were impressed by a life-sized Attic Greek sculpture of a horse’s head from 6th Century BC.

From there, we entered Room 35, the Clarac Room. On the ceiling of that room was a splendid painting called the Apotheosis of Homer or the Deification of Homer. The original version of this work was painted by Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingress in 1827. That work now hangs on a wall in another room. The version now on the ceiling was painted by Raymond and Paul Balze in 1855. (
Apotheosis of Homer

Around the base of the ceiling were bas-relief figures depicting various scenes, including “Seven Cities Arguing among Themselves over the Birthplace of Homer.” Another involved Apollo endowing the Iliad and the Odyssey on a number of Muses.

The next room was Room 36, which contained Greek terracotta figures from the archaic and Pre-Classical periods. This room also another superb ceiling painting - Vesuvius Receiving Fire from Jupiter to Destroy the Towns of Herculaneum, Pompeii and Stabiae,  painted by François-Joseph Heim in 1827  (

We continued into Rooms 37 and 38, which contained terracotta figures from the Hellenistic and Roman periods, and from Asia Minor.

We  continued through other rooms on the first floor of the Sully Wing for a few more minutes. Then we went down to the first floor of the Denon Wing. In Room 22, which contained Roman sculpture from the 2nd-1st Centuries BC, we saw another terrific ceiling painting - Earth Receiving from the Emperors Hadrian and Justinian the Code of Roman Laws Dictated by Nature, Justice, and Wisdom. It was painted in 1801 by Charles Meynier. (
Ceiling - Room 22

The next room, the Rotunda of Mars, also had a beautiful ceiling - Man Being Formed by Prometheus and Brought to Life by Minerva. It was first painted by Jean-Simon Berthélemy in 1802 and repainted in 1826 by Jean-Baptiste Mauzaisse.
Ceiling - Rotunda of Mars

Then we crossed into the Sully Wing, where the first set of rooms we came to contained Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities. We immediately went to Room 7, the Parthenon Room, where we saw the famous Greek statue known as both the Venus de Milo. It is also called the Aphrodite of Milos, the Greek Goddess of love and beauty.  It was sculpted between 130 and 100 BC. It was discovered buried in the ruins of the ancient city of Milos in 1820. (

We continued through the rooms in this section of the Sully Wing. In Room 11, there was an exceptional, large funerary vase from 2nd Century BC Pergamon.

A couple of minutes later, we saw a very unusual young woman. The sides of her head were shaved. The hair on top  was a mixture of black and dyed bright green - with long strands hanging down her back. Her arms were covered with tattoos. My granddaughter took an excellent picture of her.
Venus de Scranton

Our next objective was to see Egyptian antiquities. The Louvre’s collection covers the period from about 4,000 BC to 500 AD. The artifacts in the collection cover many aspects of life from agriculture to furniture to clothing to education to royalty. The collection is displayed on two floors of the Sully Wing - the ground floor and the first floor, one room in the lower ground floor of the Denon wing, where Egyptian Coptic Christian art is displayed, and  the lower ground floor where the Crypt of the Sphinx  houses the giant Tanis Sphinx.

We started with the Crypt of the Sphinx, where the giant Sphinx of Tanis sits in majestic  splendor. This mythical Egyptian creature, with the head of a king and the body of a lion, dates to about 2600 BC, during the Old Kingdom. It is made of granite and weighs 24 tons.  It is one of the largest Sphinxes outside of Egypt and was found in 1825 among the ruins of the temple of Amun at Tanis. (
Sphinx of Tanis

We then went up one flight of stairs to the lower ground floor of the Sully Wing to view a variety of Egyptian artifacts. We walked through many rooms, enjoying the exhibits.

In Room 5, The Livestock-Rearing, Hunting, And Fishing Room, My granddaughter, who loves cats, hit the feline jackpot. There were a number of ancient Egyptian cat exhibits, including:
1. A cat reclining with her kitten - from the period 664 - 332 BC
2. A cat nursing two kittens
3. A cat playing with her kitten
Cat Reclining with Her Kitten

In Room 10, the Leisure Activities Room, we saw another Sphinx from Tanis. This one had some damage to it. It was about 9.5 tons in weight compared to the larger 24-ton Sphinx in the Crypt of the Sphinx.

In Room 11, the Temple Square Room, was a line of six Sphinx statues. The group was called the Avenue of the Sphinxes and was from the 4th Century BC from the Temple of Saqqara.

The statues in Room 12, the large Temple Room, were very interesting. They included:
1. A number of large black statues of Sekhmet, the lioness goddess. The largest one was from the period 1391 - 1353 BC.
2. A colossal statue of the Pharaoh Ramses II, from  the period 1279 -1213 BC.
Statues of Sekhmet
Ramses II

In Room 13, the Royal Tomb Room, we saw the huge stone outer Sarcophagus of Ramses III, from about 1184 BC. It was made of pink granite.

In Room 14, the Sarcophagi Room, we saw a large variety of impressive stone and painted sarcophagi. One interesting display in this room was a group of 70 small blue statues that were supposed to be a group of funerary servants that were buried with a high-level personage. This particular group was from the 23rd Dynasty - 1069 - 945 BC.

Funerary Servants

We then went back down to the Crypt of the Sphinx and  walked down a couple of steps into the remnants of the original medieval Louvre fortress that was ordered to be built in 1190 AD. We walked around the remains of the walls, the fortress tower, and the moat.

We then made our way to the ancient Persian and Assyrian exhibits on the northern side of the ground floor of the Sully Wing. We started with the Persian exhibits. The first room that impressed us was Room 12a, which contained items from the Palace of Persian Emperor Darius I at Susa from the 6th - 5th Centuries BC. One of the items was one of the 36 huge capitals from the palace. At the top of the capital were two huge stone bulls.
One of 36 Capitals from the Palace of Darius I

Another interesting item was two sets of polychrome glazed brick panels depicting warriors. They were also from the palace of Darius I.

We next went to the Cour Khorsabad on the ground floor of the Richelieu Wing. This courtyard contains items from the palace of the Assyrian King Sargon II. The items are arranged in the order they were situated in the palace. Among the items are huge winged bulls that have the face of men with long beards.
Assyrian Winged Bulls

There were also life-seized figures of Assyrian people, including warriors.

We then decided to go get something to eat. We walked through rooms 33 to 21 on the north side of the ground floor of the Richelieu Wing. These rooms were primarily filled with 18th and 19th Century European sculptures and paintings. On the south side of these rooms, we saw a large courtyard and found our way into it.

The courtyard was the Cour Puget, a pretty, multilevel courtyard which had a number of statues and a glass ceiling about 3 stories up.

From the courtyard, we worked our way back to the Napoleon Hall. In one corner of the hall was a café where we ordered from the counter. All three of us had the Sandwich Mixte - a baguette sandwich with ham and cheese for 4.90 ($7.06). My grandchildren each had a bottle of Orangina for 3.30 each, and I had a bottle of Evian spring water for 2.70. We were happy.

After lunch, we went into the large book shop across the hall from the café. We then walked up the stairs inside the book shop to the gift shop one level up. In 2006, My granddaughter had purchased a pretty, gold-colored Egyptian cat amulet for a necklace. This time, she found matching ear rings, and purchased them for 12.

We then walked out of the west end of Napoleon Hall into the Carrousel du Louvre shopping mall. The mall has over 40 shops and restaurants, including an Apple store, an international food court and a Starbucks.

We first walked into the very busy Apple store. We were searching for a plug adapter so that My granddaughter could connect her Apple computer to my transformer. We did not find what we needed. We could have purchased a special transformer, but did not.

I was also looking for a plug adapter for my camera charger. My charger operates on 110 or 220 volts, but the plug was a 110 plug. I had mistakenly brought a British plug adapter. Fortunately, I had brought two spare batteries, so I did not really need the adapter.

There was also a Virgin Megastore, where we went to look for the adapters. No luck. While we were there, My grandson saw an Abyssus Razer gaming mouse that he wanted to buy. It was €39.99 ($57.57). I told him he shouldn’t buy it because it was probably cheaper in the U.S. - because the European VAT taxes result in higher prices.  When we returned to the apartment and I checked on, the price there was $20 less.

We walked around the mall and checked out the shops. We then returned to Napoleon Hall, where I retrieved my jacket and hat.

We left the Louvre via the Passage Richelieu at about 5 pm.

[1] This pyramid was designed by the brilliant, Chinese-born American architect, I.M. Pei.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Veal Marsala & Roasted Baby Potatoes

Did a very easy meal of Veal Marsala and Roasted Baby Potatoes with Herbs. Both recipes were from and were by Giada de Laurentiis. Both were very tasty and had great reviews.

Veal Marsala
I wasn't able to find veal cutlets at Publix or Fresh Market, so I used veal scaloppini cuts. The recipe was:

Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis

Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 20 min
Level: Easy
Serves: 4 servings
  • 8 veal cutlets (about 3 ounces each)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 to 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 ounces assorted mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup sweet Marsala
  • 3/4 cup low-salt chicken broth
  • Leaves from 1 fresh rosemary sprig


Sprinkle the veal with salt and pepper. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 4 veal cutlets and cook until golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Transfer the veal to a plate. Add another tablespoon of butter and oil, if necessary. Repeat with the remaining 4 cutlets. Set the cutlets aside.
Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet. Add the shallot and garlic. Saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add a tablespoon of the olive oil, if necessary. Add the mushrooms and saute until tender and the juices evaporate, about 3 minutes. Season with salt. Add the Marsala. Simmer until the Marsala reduces by half, about 2 minutes. Add the broth and the rosemary leaves. Simmer until reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Return the veal to the skillet. Pour in all of the pan juices. Cook just until heated through, turning to coat, about 1 minute. Stir the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter into the sauce. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, to taste.
Using tongs, transfer the veal to plates. Spoon the sauce over the veal and serve.

2. Roasted Baby Potatoes
I was not able to find herbs de provence at Publix or Fresh Market, so I used Emeril's Italian Essence. That worked fine:

Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis

Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 1 hr 0 min
Level: Easy
Serves: 4 to 6 servings
  • 1/2 pound small red-skinned potatoes (about 1 3/4-inch diameter), scrubbed
  • 1/2 pound small white-skinned potatoes (about 1 3/4-inch diameter), scrubbed
  • 1 tablespoon herbes de Provence, plus extra for garnish
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Put the potatoes into a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk the herbs, garlic, and oil together until blended, and then pour over the potatoes. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Transfer the potatoes to a heavy large baking dish, spacing them evenly apart.
Roast the potatoes until they are tender and golden, turning them occasionally with tongs, about 1 hour. Transfer the roasted potatoes to a decorative platter and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and herbes de Provence, if desired. Serve hot or warm.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Day Trip from Paris to Versailles

Our plan for June 15th was to visit the Palace of Versailles (Château de Versailles), which was roughly 20-21 km (13 miles) from our apartment. The weather was very comfortable for sightseeing high of 73F and a  low of 62F.

There are many sightseeing tours from Paris to Versailles, but I thought it would be more fun to go on our own. We would take one subway and one train.

We started out with breakfast at La Boulangerie Parisienne, the bakery next to the Cardinal Lemoine Metro station. My grandchildren each had an All-Chocolate Muffin (Muffin Tout Chocolat) for 2 each, and I had a pastry with raisins for 1.50. They were all delicious.
Boulangerie Parisienne

After eating our yummy breakfast, we went down into the subway station. We took Line 10 two stops eastward to the last stop on the line, Gare d’Austerlitz ('Austerlitz), which is both a Metro station and a train station. (“Gare” means “train station” in French.) The station was built in 1840 and is named after a town in Austria where, in 1805, Napoleon I defeated a larger army of enemies united against France.

The station is one of six large Paris terminus stations. It is the start of the Paris-Bordeaux line and also handles trains to Madrid and Barcelona in Spain. It is used by about 30 million passengers per year. It was much busier until the high-speed TGV trains serving southeastern France began operating from Gare Montparnasse.

The train we wanted to take was on the C5 branch of the C Line ( ), which was operated by the RER (Reseau Express Regional - Regional Express Network). The C Line has seven branch lines, one of which, the C5 branch, goes to Versailles - Rive Gauche, the station closest to the Palace. Another branch, the C8 goes to a station called Versailles - Chantiers, which is nowhere near the Palace.

Once we arrived at the subway station of Gare d’Austerlitz, we walked to the part of the station which serves trains. There, I found a ticket window and bought three round-trip (allez-retour) tickets (billets - pronounced “beeyay”) on the C Line train to the Versailles - Rive Gauche - Chateau de Versailles station. The round trip tickets cost 6.10 ($8.78) each. However, when they issued the tickets, they issued two one-way tickets per person instead of one round-trip ticket.

(A person not speaking French could easily buy the correct tickets by writing the words “billet allez-retour à Versailles Rive Gauche s’il vous plait” on a piece of paper, with the number of tickets needed in front of the words. For more than one ticket, write “billets” instead of “billet.”) There are also ticket machines selling the tickets, but I felt more comfortable buying the tickets at the ticket window.)

In searching for a restroom, we found the Relais Toilettes on the upper floor of the train station near the Grandes Lignes (Main Lines). These are pay toilets which are located at major train stations. The ones at the Gare d’Austerlitz 0.50 are operated by an attendant to whom you pay 0.50. These rest rooms were very clean.

The train departed from Platform (Quai) A. Next to each platform is a large white letter on a blue background indicating the platform name. Platform A was the farthest to the left facing the trains. All trains to the Versailles - Rive Gauche station are named “VICK” trains.

At the time we were there, the trains were running every 15 minutes. Our tickets were for any train rather than for a train at a specific time. We took a train at 12:31 pm. The train had two levels. We sat in the upper level of the last car. The ride was smooth, but not particularly interesting. Much of the line was either underground or below ground level. There were a couple of small towns visible along the way. We arrived at Versailles - Rive Gauche at 1:10 pm.

The Versailles - Rive Gauche train station did not have rest rooms, so our first stop was the McDonald’s across the street from the station. The rest rooms there were very clean and free. (There are over 1,000 McDonald’s in France.)

It is very easy to get a street view of the route from the train station to the Palace by going to Google Maps, typing “McDonald’s, Versailles, France,” and using the street view to follow the route described below.

The Palace was only a couple of blocks from the train station - about a 5-minute walk.  We walked in a northeasterly direction (a right turn out of the train station) on Avenue du Général de Gaulle to the first intersection - Avenue de Paris. The avenue was a wide commercial street with shops and hotels on our left and a beautiful town hall (Mairie de Versailles) on our right. The shops on the left appeared to be primarily souvenir shops. Also on the left was a small, unattractive commercial plaza that was open on one side and surrounded on three sides by shops and a cafe. The cafe had many outdoor tables.

We turned left and immediately came to the town’s tourist office. There I picked up a free map of the town and a free French and English guide book about the town.

We then continued the short distance up Avenue de Paris to the Palace. The avenue was about eight lanes wide, and lined on both sides by two rows of trees. We did not see shops on this street. One of the buildings we passed was the National School of Architecture. As we approached the Palace, we passed a mime who was dressed as an Egyptian mummy.

The Palace of Versailles

The Palace of Versailles ( & is magnificent both outside and inside. It is one of the largest palaces in the world ('s_largest_palace). The Palace grounds encompass 2,014 acres and it has 2,000 acres of gardens and woods. The size of the building itself is 721,206 square feet.

The Palace started as a hunting lodge for King Louis XIII. He ordered its construction in 1624. His son, who later became the Sun King, Louis XIV, played there as a boy. As King, Louis XIV decided he wanted to move the court out of Paris to take more control of the government from the nobility and to distance himself from the population of Paris. He settled on Versailles. In 1661, he ordered that the hunting lodge be expanded into a palace. The court was officially established at Versailles in 1682.

Construction of the Palace involved four separate building campaigns during the period 1664-1710.

In addition to the main palace, there are two smaller ones on the grounds - the Grand Trianon (Large Trianon) and the Petit Trianon (Small Trianon). Louis XIV used the Grand Trianon to relax and get away from the strict etiquette of the main palace. It also served other occupants. (

The smaller Petit Trianon ( was built in 1762 by order of Louis XV to serve his mistress, Madame de Pompadour. When Louis XVI became king in 1774, he gave it to his wife, Marie Antoinette.

The main Palace has undergone many internal changes over the years - some dramatic , such as during the period of the French Revolution, when many of the furnishings were sold. (During the late 20th Century, considerable efforts were made to find and repurchase many of the furnishing that had been sold.)

Several important treaties have been signed at Versailles. Many American know that the treaty ending World War I was signed there. However, many do not realize that two treaties relating to the Revolutionary War were signed there.

On September 3, 1783, three treaties ending the Revolutionary War and other hostilities were signed in France. A treaty between the U.S. and England was signed in Paris. One treaty between France and England, and another treaty between France and Spain were signed at Versailles.

Toward the front of the Palace on the left as you face the Palace from the Place d’Armes, the street closest to the Palace is called the Street of American Independence (Rue de l’Independence Americaine).

The Palace has two main floors - the ground floor and the first floor (second floor in U.S. terminology).  Only about one third of the Palace is open to visitors - the beautiful chapel, the famous Hall of Mirrors, the King’s Bed Chamber, the Queen’s Bed Chamber, the Gallery of Battles, a number of rooms called Salons - such as the Salon of Apollo, and the apartments of the Dauphin, heir to the throne. You can also visit the gardens, the Grand Trianon, and the Petit Trianon. There is an interactive floor plan of the Palace at The plan shows the sequence of the rooms to visit. Click on “Inside the Palace” and then on “Ground Floor” and “First Floor.”

There are a couple of gift shops, a book shop, a restaurant, a snack bar, rest rooms, etc. Free audio guides in a number of languages are available. To read about various facilities available at the Palace, see the following page at the official web site of the Palace (

The Palace can be very crowded. It receives millions of visitors per year. I have seen vastly different numbers quoted - three to ten million. The day, we were there was not bad - probably  because it was in the middle of the week and because we had arrived just before 2 pm. The Palace is closed on Mondays. It is best to check the official web site for changes in schedule, such as early closings.

There are many types of tickets, and there is no admission charge for children under 18 and for European Union residents under 26. Tickets can be purchased on-line. For complete details, see In our case, I used our Museum Pass, so I did not have to bother with tickets.

Our Visit to the Palace

As we looked at the Palace from the Avenue de Paris, our view was marred by two sets of huge, rusty-looking metal arcs. They had not been there when we visited in 2006. I later discovered that this was an exhibit of the work of famous French sculptor Bernar Venet. The arcs were to be displayed there between 1 June and 1 November, 2011.  While these arcs might work in some other setting, we felt they were completely out of place in front of the Palace.

The Arcs - Ugh!

The street that runs in front of the Palace at the end of Avenue de Paris is Avenue Rockefeller. It is named after American John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who, after World War I, donated large sums of money to the restoration of many major French buildings, including the Palace and the Chateau de Fontainebleau.

Once we passed the arcs, the view of the Palace itself was much nicer than in 2006 because the view then was partially obstructed by renovation work.

A Partial View of the Front of the Palace

At the rear of the second set of rusty arcs was a statue of Louis XIV on horseback.

The arcs and the statue were at the front of a broad, deep plaza called the Place d’Armes. The Palace is at the rear of the Place d’Armes. From the statue of Louis XIV, we walked a couple of hundred feet through the front part of the Place d’Armes and came to a fence with a gate. After passing through fence, we walked another 300-400 ft. toward the Palace.

Toward the rear of the Place d’Armes, we saw the entrance to the ticket office on the left. It was just in front of a decorative gold-colored fence. Since we had the Museum Pass, we walked inside the entrance building, and bypassed the ticket windows.  We quickly went through security, where the items we were carrying were checked.

We started our tour at the large and beautiful royal chapel. We looked at it from the ground floor then walked up the staircase to the first floor. There we had another view of the chapel.

Ground Floor View of the Chapel

 First Floor View of the Chapel

I think it was in this area that we came across a small gift shop. I purchased a Fleur-de-Lis (or Fleur-de-Lys) tie bar for my collection. The Fleur-de-Lis is a symbol associated with the French monarchy. The tie bar cost 12 ($17.28). (Most Americans do not realize that the “s” in Fleur-de-Lis/Lys is pronounced like the “s” in “miss.”)

We then proceeded through a series of rooms called “salons” - the Hercules Salon, Abundance Salon, Venus Salon, Diane Salon, Mars Salon, Mercury Salon,  Apollo Salon, and Salon of War. Each one was gorgeous and decorated differently -with paintings, statues, ornate trim, painted ceilings, etc.
Ceiling View of the Venus Salon

Then we came to the 234-ft-long, elegant Hall of Mirrors. ( It was in this hall that the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I, was signed.  Along one of the long walls are 17 high arched windows looking out onto the palace gardens. On the opposite wall are 17 mirrored arches that reflect the arched windows. Each mirrored arch contains 21 mirrors.

Hall of Mirrors

One interesting aspect of the mirrors is the context of their manufacture. In the 17th Century, mirrors were very expensive and considered high tech. The Republic of Venice had the monopoly on the manufacture of mirrors. A French official lured some Venetian technicians to produce mirrors in France. The Venetians reportedly sent operatives to France to poison the Venetian mirror technicians who had gone there. They were apparently unsuccessful, and the French began to produce mirrors at the Royal Mirror-Glass Factory

From the Hall of Mirrors, we went into the adjoining King’s Bedchamber.

Then we proceeded to the Salon of Peace and the Queen’s Bedchamber. (Could there be some reason that the King’s Bedchamber and the Queen’s Bedchamber were separated by the Salon of Peace.)

We continued on through the Nobles’ Room, the Chamber for Grand Couvert, and the Guards’ Room.
(At one time, the Chamber for the Grand Couvert was where the King and his family dined in the presence of the Court.)

Every single room was beautiful and elegant.

I later discovered that we missed one large room on the upper floor’s southern wing. It is called the Gallery of Battles (Galerie des Batailles). It glorifies 1,300 years of French military history. It is 360 feet long and 42 feet wide, and is decorated with 118 paintings and busts representing famous battles and military personnel.

After we finished with the first floor, we looked for a place to have lunch. On the ground floor was the Salon de Thé Angelina (Angelina’s Tea Room) that has a restaurant and snack bar. It is associated with the famous Salon de Thé Angelina on the Rue de Rivoli in Paris, which is famous for its hot chocolate. (Both are now owned by the Group Bertrand, which operates a number of other restaurants, including the famous Brasserie Lipp.) We decided against the restaurant because it would take too much time. The snack bar had very little left in the way of sandwiches.

We decided to walk into town and look for a restaurant, then return to the Palace Gardens. It turns out that was not a great idea because of the place we chose for lunch.

On the way out of the Palace, we stopped at the gift shop and book shop near the exit, but we found nothing we wanted.

Then we crossed the Place d’ Armes and Avenue Rockefeller. We turned left and walked a couple of blocks along Avenue Rockefeller. The first building we passed was the large former Royal Stables (Les Grandes Ecuries). Today, the building houses the Equestrian Arts Academy (Academie du Spectacle Equestre) ( There are equestrian shows there several times a week.

At the end of the Academy building, we came to Avenue de Saint- Cloud, a beautiful tree-lined avenue. We crossed the avenue and immediately came to a café called the Café de la Place d’Armes. After looking at it, we continued on for another block. We passed several other places, but decided to return to the café. It was a very poor choice. My grandson had a cheeseburger, and My granddaughter and I split a very long hot dog. Both were microwaved. My grandchildren both had a bottle of Fanta, and I had a bottle of water. The total came to 16.80 ($24.19). The food was terrible.

After finishing this “feast,” we returned to the Palace. We went back through the same entrance and security checkpoint. Then we walked around back to the gardens ( The gardens are huge and in the style of formal French gardens. They encompass nearly 2,000 acres with fountains, a grand canal, ponds, manicured lawns, some 200,000 trees, and lots of flowers and statues.

Flowers behind the Southern Wing

For those who prefer to ride through the gardens rather than walk, electric carts are available for rental for 30 ($43) per hour.
A Long View from the Latona Fountain to the end of the Grand Canal

Immediately in back of the center of the Palace are two large ponds.  Beyond the ponds is a broad staircase that leads down to a very large fountain called the Latona Fountain (Bassin de Latone), which depicts a scene from Ovid’s Metamorphosis. It incorporates many statues and is four levels high.
The Latona Fountain

Beyond the fountain is a broad gravel pathway with a garden on either side. Then there is a long, wide lawn flanked by a gravel pathway, statues, and trees. It is about 800 feet in length. There we saw two gardeners using a wooden form to trim trees in various geometric shapes.
Gardeners Shaping Trees

Further on is the Apollo fountain in the center of which is a cluster of statues of Apollo, the Sun God, driving his chariot to light the sky. (Since King Louis XIV considered himself the Sun King, he associated himself with the Sun God.)

Next is the Grand Canal, which is nearly a mile long. Near the beginning of the Grand Canal is an area with a couple of restaurants, a garden shop, and places where you can rent row boats and bicycles. There is also an ice cream stand. We stopped at the ice cream stand and each ordered an ice cream cone. My granddaughter had a single dip mix of chocolate and pistachio, My grandson had a double dip chocolate, and I had a double dip apple-raisin. They were very good. The total cost was 9.80 ($14.11).

After we finished our ice creams, My grandchildren decided they were too tired to visit the Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon palaces. We found a mini-tram stop near the Grand Canal. It traveled to an area near the Palace entrance for 3.80 per person. We decided to take it.

The train traveled north about 1,000 feet along the tree-lined Allée Saint-Antoine to the Avenue de Trianon. There the train turned right and went about 2,000 feet. It turned right and went to an area near the rear of the Palace.

After leaving the Palace, we crossed the Place d’Armes and the Avenue Rockefeller. We followed the Avenue de Paris back to the Avenue du General de Gaulle. There we stopped in a couple of souvenir shops. My grandson is the only one who purchased anything. He paid 1 for a small item. My granddaughter and I each bought a 50 cl bottle of water for 1.60 per bottle.

From there, we returned to the train station and took a train back to Paris at 6:05 pm. (The return trains are called JILL or CIME trains.)

The ride back was smooth. We arrived at Gare d’Austerlitz about 6:45 pm. We walked to the Metro part of the station and took Line 10 two stops to Cardinal Lemoine. After stopping at the Carrefour Supermarket near the Metro station, we walked back to our apartment, arriving there about 7:40 pm.