?

Log in

faith heart by petitemachine

EPIC PARIS/VERSAILLES POST!!!!!!!!!

We are back from Paris! It was very much a whirlwind trip, really, so don't expect a play-by-play of all the famous Parisian landmarks. There wasn't enough time, and not all of them interest us that much anyway. However, we did have a lovely visit, and you can discover what we did below the cuts... WARNING: LOTS AND LOTS OF PHOTOS. Uploading them and writing this update has been a mammoth task, so I would really appreciate it if you could look/read, please, so I can feel justified? XD Thank youuuu.



We left Leamington early Wednesday afternoon, and caught a train to London Marylebone as we normally do whenever we're going into London. Getting a bus outside Marylebone to St. Pancras International, we had quite a while to wait before checking in for the Eurostar. We sat having coffees and the worst croissants I've ever had (they were served cold, and the pastry was chewy, not flaky, like the generic ones you get in Starbucks).
Eurostar check-in was quick and painless. We were pretty early, as we wanted to make sure we did everything with enough time, so again we had to wait a little longer in the departure lounge. Soon the Eurostar was ready to board - it's a nice type of train, obviously not as shiny and new as it would have been when it was first launched. But still, a very pleasant way to travel. And also quite strange - it was odd, two hours or so later, jumping off the Eurostar and finding ourselves in Paris Nord... basically, the Eurostar is like 'Here, get inside this box. In a while the windows will get dark, we will shake the box around a little and then you will alight and VOILA! YOU ARE IN PARIS!'

Our hotel was the Hotel Bastille de Launay, which as evidenced by the name was located near Bastille. It was a nice little place, off the main street towards Bastille. The streets surrounding us were quite scruffy, but not really any different to the rest of Paris that we saw. I was a little unsure of the area at first, but it felt more safe as time went on. Our hotel room was small, which we had expected, it being Paris. It had a nice bathroom, and a TV, so we could watch slightly mad French shows in downtime, and the news.

Myself in the hotel room:

Sorry, no makeup - it was a long travelling day!

View from our window: we looked out onto a tiny courtyard in the centre of the hotel.
.

For our first evening, we had meant to find a recommended restaurant near Notre Dame. We failed in locating it, and instead ending up eating at a different restaurant. Either way, eating in the shadow of Notre Dame late at night was pretty awesome. We wandered around the streets for a little longer before heading back to our room.

A ghostly Notre Dame at night:






This little door/windows were just under the bridge next to Notre Dame, looking very eerie and beautiful with a tiny candle on the window ledge... we said it looked like Lestat and Louis must be hanging out in there.




















Thursday morning, and we went to eat at a branch of Pain Quotidien (which we know also from London) because they do awesome breadstuffs.

Afterwards, we walked to the Palais Garnier. On the way we saw Place de Vosges:



The Palais Garnier is the opera house which inspired Gaston LeRoux for The Phantom of the Opera. Hence the musical takes cues from its design. The 2004 movie version did not film at the actual location but instead was recreated from the ground up at Pinewood Studios.





It was quite surreal walking in, and finally seeing the Grand Staircase up close - the architecture of the place is very grandiose and sumptuous.









The Grand Staircase:






Some of the boxes overlooking the auditorium were open for us to get a view of the chandelier. There were plexiglass screens up to stop people falling over the balconies (including the lower ones, just in case). I managed to take the chandelier picture through the gap between the booth and the top of the screen... and surprisingly it's one of my favourite pictures I've ever taken. The colours were so vibrant in there.



The following pictures were taken through the screens, so not quite as sharp, but I think they look pretty good still.











Box 5, the fabled box that the Phantom preferred for personal use, was shut (obviously... he might get angry if it wasn't...) I managed to get a picture of the outside, however!





Peering through Box 5's door...









We also got to see the Opera's library/museum.





Later that day we were quite flustered as we tried to escape the rain, and floundered a little in the nearby department stores. Our next port of call was food.
Now, here we failed quite remarkably. We had tickets for the Paradis Latin cabaret at 9pm. Earlier that morning, I had asked Kris to check where exactly the cabaret was located (as I didn't know), by looking at the address on the ticket, and to organise somewhere for us to eat nearby. He did this, and I took him for his word, as he is not SILLY.
Having booked a restaurant apparently near the cabaret, we walked all the way to the border of Montmartre to find it. This took a while, as the name on the outside of the restaurant was not quite the same as the one found on Google! Eventually we found it and were seated, ready to have pizza. It was at this point that I asked Kris to get out the map so I could see how far away the cabaret was. Checking the ticket for the address, I found the street... it was on the opposite side of Paris to where we currently were.

It turned out Kris had automatically assumed the cabaret, (being a cabaret, and in the same vein as the Moulin Rouge) would be located in Montmartre. It wasn't. After freaking out (as I said, we had booked the restaurant and now ordered food, and it would have been very impolite to leave) we decided we'd have to eat our meals quickly and then get a taxi all the way back to the cabaret in time for 9pm. (It was, at that point, past 8pm). Somehow, we managed to achieve this, and arrived at Paradis Latin with plenty of time.

I will admit that I was pretty annoyed/upset at the time, obviously looking back at the story it's a lot funnier. It wouldn't have been if we had missed part of the show! Kris was very apologetic about his mistake, and vowed not ever to try and arrange anything again, lol.

ANYWAY. Paradis Latin is a traditional Parisian cabaret. The venue was designed by Gustave Eiffel and is very shiny. Its current show is Paradis à la folie! and was fantastic. The reason I eventually chose not to go to the Moulin Rouge is because a) Paradis Latin was less expensive and b) it got much better reviews overall than the Moulin Rouge, which has been said to be very Vegas-like and cheesy. To an extent, Paradis Latin was quite cheesy, but it knew it and didn't take itself too seriously. Additionally, the dancing girls and boys seemed to all be enjoying themselves, which made it so much better.

The thing I found hilarious was that most of the people in the audience (who had all opted for the insane multi-course meal with the show - we just had a glass of champagne each), who were quite a lot older than us, looked vaguely unimpressed/shocked when the girls appeared on the stage, half naked in flower costumes. It's a cabaret, surely nudity is expected? I'm fairly certain it's widely advertised as well. Admittedly, some of the sequences were a little flashy, brash and tacky, but I didn't find any of it offensive, just cheeky. If each sequence was presented in the way of French burlesque, all pasties and frilly knickers, I bet the audience's attitude would have been less sour... it's funny how dressing up sexuality in that sense can make it more acceptable. Either way, there were tits (not huge ones, btw, quite small actually) - big deal. They're going to be tits no matter what you do with them, really.

I, for one, really loved the show. It was silly and overt and very tongue in cheek. The girls were all very pretty, they had slim but wonderfully normal-shaped bodies - and the boys! The word 'sculpted' comes to mind. Some of them were a little more built than I'd like (I don't enjoy moobs) but on the whole they were all quite statuesque. The reason for this? None of them - girls or boys - were just jiggling around on stage. They were all highly trained dancers, and displayed their talents in the very different dance sequences throughout the night.

Their 'Romeo and Juliet' skit was actually a ballet which began with a masquerade ball, ending with quite a beautiful almost-nude ballet by the lead dancers. Another act involved a fairground carousel of naked (bar g-strings) ladies which then spun round to reveal another set of ladies inside - in long blonde wigs and leather gear on motorcycles. It was actually one of my favourites, even though it did get pretty racy! (They stripped off the leathers, as you can imagine!) There was also a funny and erotic scene set in the pre-Revolution era with pretty dresses and naughtiness.

In between the dancing we were treated to a guy doing insane things on a tall unicycle and an amazing trapeze artist.

We weren't permitted to take photos, but you can see evidence of such at the Paradis Latin website:

http://www.paradislatin.com/en/la-revue/presentation/

The skits are listed here, with some pictures: http://www.paradislatin.com/en/la-revue/les-tableaux/





Friday was a very important day for me - my first ever visit to Versailles, the famed chateau transformed by Louis XIV and former residence of Marie Antoinette. We took the RER train to Versailles along with lots of other tourists - the chateau is always packed with people, which is also how it would have been pre-Revolution.

Walking from the train station up to the gilded gates of Versailles was quite a sobering experience. Luckily I got into the palace free (because I'm under 26) and I had ordered Kris' ticket online and printed it out, so we didn't have to wait in the queues. I couldn't believe how many tourists were queuing to buy their tickets then and there. The queue was so long it must have gone on for at least an hour. What a waste!









We wandered round the exquisite rooms that are open to the public, including the King's apartments - I have never seen such overstated opulence, and it was truly numbing to witness. It was so enrapturing and breathtaking, and I still can't quite believe I have been to see it... it was so much to take in.

I can't very well describe it in words... so you will have to make do with photos. It was virtually impossible for me to pick and choose the absolute best examples - so there are many, MANY pictures. But they're all very gorgeous and hopefully they encapsulate the beauty of the palace. I have tried to include some information about certain images but it's a lot to try and explain, there is obviously a wealth of information on the Chateau on Wikipedia, etc, if you're interested in knowing more about its construction and concepts.

A lot of this will be very familiar to those of you who have seen Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette - she was given permission to shoot much of the movie at the Chateau.
We spent the entire day here and still didn't get to see all the groves and fountains, or in fact all of the Queen's Hamlet - we will return someday to do this.

The Royal Chapel:





Some shots of the King's Private Apartments and the Queen's Private Apartments:

























This is a famous portrait by Élisabeth-Louise Vigée-Le Brun. It was meant to help mend Marie Antoinette's reputation by portraying her in a motherly sense and wearing simple yet regal state dress.






The images here are of the Queen's bedchamber. By the jewellery cabinet, there is a small door which is open and clearly visible. This was built to be a hidden and secret door, by which Marie Antoinette escaped on the 5th/6th October 1789 when the Paris mob stormed Versailles. So astonishing to view that piece of history, right in front of us.











A stock photo of the room, with the hidden door closed and almost invisible.


Below is the Galerie des Glaces (Hall of Mirrors). Now, Kris and I were married in a Hall of Mirrors, at the Palazzo Zenobio in Venice - but it was nothing like this. The famous hall is utterly awe-inspiring. On 25th February (that's our wedding date... weird!) 1745, the Bal des Ifs (Ball of the Yew Trees) was held here - it was where Louis XV (dressed as a yew tree) met his mistress, the Marquise de Pompadour (dressed as the goddess Diana).
At the end of the Franco-Prussian war, William I (the Prussian King) was declared German emperor (beginning the second German Empire) in the Hall. In 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was signed here, ending the World War I.





I could not, as you can see, get a halfway decent photo of the Hall. Instead here is a stock photo, to show how it is when empty (it was full of visitors).


We also got to see the apartments of the Dauphin and Dauphine. Marie Antoinette spent time here as Princess... you might recognise some of these rooms from the film.











I can't quite remember what this device was, but it was commissioned by the Comte d'Artois.








Once outside, we were faced with the tremendous spectacle of the palace gardens. Again, there are no words. The grounds stretch as far as the eye can see.

















This was a space conceived as an 'outdoor drawing room.'


The Latona Fountain.








You can see the 'Grand Canal' here, the most enormous water feature I have ever seen...


These paths were lined with white statues of Greek gods and goddesses.


The Apollo Fountain.


Afterwards, we walked all the way to the Trianon Palaces. The larger palace, the Grand Trianon, was built at the request of Louis XIV, for himself and his mistress, the Marquise de Montespan, to spend time away from court. The smaller palace, the Petit Trianon, was created for Louis XV and the Marquise de Pompadour. After the death of Madame de Pompadour, it was occupied for a time by Louis XV's subsequent mistress, Madame du Barry. When Louis XVI ascended to the throne, he presented the Petit Trianon to his wife, Marie Antoinette, as a gift.

Grand Trianon:























This room really captured my heart because of the built-in, private chapel behind a set of doors:
















Kris surveying his kingdom:




Petit Trianon:









From there, we walked even further to the Queen's Hamlet, Marie Antoinette's recreation of the idealistic English country cottage and its surrounds. As you take the long walk to find the mill, the grotto, and the farm, the gardens slowly become less and less like a traditional French garden (as the gardens of Versailles are generally designed to be) and more like a wandering English garden, complete with 'English river' and rolling fields. Down secretive winding paths, the magic of the Hamlet is slowly revealed.



















Fishies!






Sheep and goats in the fields...




Cute bunnies :D




I'm glad we walked all the way to the Hamlet and back to the Chateau - in my own small way I guess I was trying to pay tribute to Marie Antoinette's memory... by putting myself through a lot of pain, lol.

In the evening we actually did go to the restaurant we tried to find on the first night. We'd in fact walked past it about three times! But as with the restaurant on Thursday, the title of the restaurant was not actually the same as the supposed title! It was meant to be 'Ponte Vecchio,' but was something else instead. We had a nice, if quite complex, Italian meal there.

Later on, we were walking back to the hotel when Kris spotted something over one of the bridges. Beyond the skyline of Paris was an orange-red light obscured by clouds... as we stopped on the bridge to look more closely, we realised it was a lunar eclipse. The moon, looking absolutely huge, was slowly revealed from behind the clouds to be a perfect, dark golden orb. It was so beautiful, and eerie, and we stood watching for several minutes. Below us, students and hipsters hung out on the banks of the river, drinking - I don't know how many of them noticed what was happening. A couple of rollerbladers went by us and also stopped in their tracks, staring at the moon in awe. It was truly mesmerising. I attempted to capture some photos, unfortunately they're not very good quality... but they somewhat illustrate what we saw.













On Saturday, it was our last day in Paris, so we decided to look at some of the shops we had on our list. First stop was Baby, The Stars Shine Bright. The shop in Paris is quite small but very well laid out, and I spent a while looking through the racks before buying a keepsake to take home. I chose a gold and black necklace with a crown charm and the Baby logo. It's so pretty, and the Japanese lolita working in the shop was so cute and beautiful! She was very polite to us, I didn't expect anything less in Baby, but she was honestly so sweet.

Afterwards we went to find a gaming shop called Oeuf Cube (yes - Egg Cube??) and first of all almost got lost in this maze of a garden which has a menagerie (with wallabies!) and stuff. We found a way out and got to Oeuf Cube. We went there more for Kris than myself, but it was still really interesting to see lots of White Wolf roleplay books in French! They also had loads of collectable items wrapped in plastic that are really old-school and hard to find. We didn't buy anything in the end but we were really jealous that Paris has such a great gaming store!

From there we went on to the Latin Quarter again and came across an awesome looking store that sold Visual Kei-type clothing (I noticed it from the Gazette poster in the door). Unfortunately it was closed and didn't show any signs of opening. :( We will try and go next time.
However, on the same street we did find the greatest thing ever... the Manga Cafe. It's basically a library of over 8000 manga, and you can go there, pay a few euros, get a ticket and stay for an hour or so. And you just sit there and read as much manga as you want, they have most of the popular mangas and some I've never heard of, and you can buy some of them in the shop as well. You also get unlimited drinks with your money (they had a coffee machine, and juice and iced tea). It is such a great idea for teenagers that are interested in manga and don't have enough money to buy it... I was totally blown away by it! We sat in there for a little while and they told us about an Expo that was going on all day and night, but as we didn't have any cosplay gear with us we didn't think we'd fit in! Maybe another time.

We went to find a very popular ice cream place called Pozzetto for a treat in the afternoon. I had extensively searched for what was supposed to be the best Italian gelato in Paris and we may have found it... you get lots for what you pay for, and it's incredibly rich but not sickly. I chose dark chocolate and coffee and the intensity of the flavour was insane! Kris had strawberry and fleur de lait. We also got coffee served Italian style (with hot water to top up/dilute the espresso), which was awesome. Unfortunately later on we suffered quite a lot from our indulgence, I think because we hadn't properly lined our stomachs before noshing on all the creamy goodness. It was totally worth it though!

After this we went to Noir Kennedy in search of trousers for Kris - he had seen a pair he liked which was dark red in colour. It was a shame the sizes only went up to 26" waist in that style - Kris tried them on but he was too fat! Damn skinny French guys!

My Baby necklace!







General impressions of the city:



I disagree that Parisians are the best-dressed people in the world. I saw a few people looking quite smart, and in that sense we fit in quite well - all in black and generally looking neat. But otherwise the Parisian look is quite conversative and dull in places. Kris got stared at for his hair even though he looked, in all other ways, like a typical Parisian guy (sans scarf because he forgot to take his along with him). He even had his shiny patent leather shoes instead of his big goth boots!
So aside from many Parisians wearing black, it being Spring, beige was also a popular shade, and I hate beige, as you can imagine. A lot of the fashion I saw was very preppy and boring - there were no interesting twists to make people stand out. I liked that the cuts were classic and flattering, but nothing made me exclaim how awesome it was. I also couldn't see a lot of unnatural hair colour - it was all browns and mousey blondes, and long. I got quite a few looks for my hair colour as well, it being red that appears slightly unnatural or striking.

We did see a couple of goths - for example an older female in her early 30s on the Metro, she was wearing New Rocks, a biker jacket and had cropped black hair. We also saw a punk-type guy wearing modded camo, with a shaved head, pasting up flyers around a slightly more 'alternative' part of town. Which brings me to my next point.





We had a few goth/metal bars and clubs written down but didn't really visit any of them, more out of tiredness than anything else. As far as I know there weren't any real club nights on whilst we were there, bar one which was more of an electro/EBM night at Le Klub. We found quite a popular bar called Black Dog which we plan to visit if we go again soon. One bar we did go to was Le Piano Vache, a small and very atmospheric punkish bar which is/was a favourite of Johnny Depp's. Unfortunately we didn't see Mr. Depp there, but we loved the bar anyway!

Overall, Paris seems fairly friendly to the alternative scene, despite the fact that you will get stared at by regular Parisians if you look 'weird' - the Japanese streetwear/Visual Kei/manga/anime scene also seems quite thriving as shown by the Manga Cafe and the presence of a Baby store. There are quite a few specialist goth stores and more generic metal stores with band t-shirts etc. And the fact that there are actual goth-centric bars and clubs is very promising.





We knew we wouldn't do as well with food in France as we do in Italy. We really love Italian food for its usual simplicity, and that is something that French food tends to lack (or Parisian food, anyway - French peasant style food, i.e. bread and cheese, is good enough for me!) Our fears were realised when we ound it difficult to find good places to eat. In Paris, I know! Crazy. But we honestly do not enjoy typical French dishes and it was hard to get away from that sort of thing. I don't like my food very rich, laden with butter or dressing, or trying to be too fancy. Basically, we enjoyed French-style breakfasts, which were orange juice, baguette, croissant... otherwise, we went for Italian stuff where we could.

It was also difficult to know where to go to grab a coffee in the afternoon. Here, a lot of lunch places, like the French-style Cafe Rouge, will just serve you coffee if that's all you want. In Paris it's not quite like that. We went into one brasserie that titled itself as a cafe - and the waiters were quite rude when they found out we only wanted coffee and not lunch. I understand if they were busy and wanted a table, but it was quite obvious we were tourists and we would have preferred for them to explain to us before we sat down (we said, in French and English, when we arrived, that we only wanted drinks, and they decided to ignore us).

Plus, as we'd suspected, Parisian food can be fairly overpriced in certain places. And in others, quite underpriced, especially for breakfast!

Coffee was utterly useless, I think I had one decent-ish Americano whilst there and one decent-ish Cappuccino. Also... NOWHERE served brown/demerera sugar with coffee. Just white. BARBARIANS.





My French is very rusty and although my accent and pronounciation are pretty good, remembering key phrases I was not always at my best. Kris has only just begun learning more French since high school (he took German for GCSE, whereas I took French and have dipped in and out of learning it since I finished school), and he is getting better at it, the only issue is with confidence because he normally knows what to say or how to say it and hesitates.

You don't strictly need French to enjoy Paris, but a certain knowledge of the language will go a long way. I was very happy to at least be able to greet people in the proper way, and ask simple questions and provide simple answers (most of the time. The problem is, if I begin to speak simple phrases in French with any amount of prowess, people will then assume I am fluent, and ask me things I don't know, very rapidly).

Hearing French being spoken fluently was quite helpful in getting a better feel for the language, and I mean to continue learning it in preparation for our next visit. I do think French is a gorgeous language, and am still fairly decent at writing it and reading it, so the trip has encouraged me to keep going.

Comments

Gosh that must have taken you ages, lots of pretty pictures.

Firstly, when I saw that first picture of you, I thought "Her make up is flawless" and then you said you have no make up. WTF. Naturally gorgeous!

I love the pictures of the chandelier and the lunar eclipse, I've seen a lunar eclipse before and found it terrifying!

I didn't know that they actually filmed "Marie Antoinette" at Versailles.

And Johnny doesn't even fit in a 26" waist, the mind boggles! 0_o
I would love to see the palace. Although after looking at those photos I think my eyes would bleed out of sheer amazement.
you look fantastic with no makeup. really, you have great skin and a well-defined face. gosh. the more I stare at it the more I'm like WOW! I'm one of my only friends who doesn't wear makeup, so I'm not used to seeing other people go natural.

I also loooooove the chandeleir picture with the colors.

Also your Paradis Latin? I feel your peevedness, but you made it! My roommates and I went to see Wicked and for similar reasons I ended up missing HALF THE FIRST ACT INCLUDING MY FAVORITE SONG. :( I was super pissed at them. I kind of still am. But their parents were the ones who got us tickets, so...

they let you in free if you're under 26? that's fantastic! and I don't understand the reason why at all.

also wow! her bed matches the wallpaper! like camoflauge. I love the silly curlicue walkways outside as well.

also hahahahaha Kris standing there in the middle of the splendor, all anachronistic. He reminds me of.....well, long story. Love it though.

your lunar eclipse story also. That's beautiful and romantic.

Also as I live in New Orleans and go to the French Quarter all the time, it's somewhat amusing and bizarre to hear about the Latin Quarter.....in France. And the Manga Cafe sounds fucking fantastic. I wish they had that for all books and had one everywhere.

I agree with your food-taste: something simple and good is so much better than all the heavy-on-the-stomach butter-and-cream-and-wine-and-and-and food.... especially for people with sensitive digestive systems :P. Bread and fruit is always appreciated, eggs, coffee. Not so much cream reduction sauces and etc. I have never had brown sugar in coffee and want to try it immediately.
What an awesome chandelier picture... And Notre Dame.. And Versaille... Aaaaw. Thanks for sharing!
Wow! As any brave soldier, I read everything. I enjoyed every photo and appreciated all your effort ;D I was really looking forward to seeing all of your photo's from Paris and you certainly didn't disappoint in showing some of the beauty of Paris.

I'm glad you had a great time despite food problems. That is the only thing that concerns me with going to Paris is the food. I can be particularly fussy and anything swimming in butter won't do [as I'll be sick]. I'd like to go to Paris but that's the only thing that really concerns me. Apart from knowing no French XD

Apparently, Angelic Pretty, will be opening a store in Paris soon too..or they already have. Angelic Pretty is another favourite of mine. Very sugary sweet. So I'd never wear a lot of it at one time. But it is very cute.

I absolutely love your necklace from Baby!
Versailles looks beautiful. It was somewhere that I didn't get time to visit on my trip to Paris and after looking at all those photos, it's definitely on my list for next time.

I did get stared at when I went, but people actually seemed to want to compliment or ask me about my style, rather than just gawping, so I quite liked it really. I was recommended the Black Dog alt night too, when I went, but didn't have time to go.

I was interested in what you said about the food because I found pretty much the same thing. I had expected that Paris would mean amazing food, but for all I don't remember having a bad meal there, I didn't find any of them particularly amazing.

Glad to hear you guys had fun anyways, you've definitely made me want to go back. :)