1990-04-13: Versailles & Fountainbleu

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13 April, 1749, Fontenay-Mauvoisin

Wed. planned to go to Fountainbleu, then Versailles. (didn’t occur to us (me) it made more sense to go to V first, & spend lunch time driving to F). Missed a turn & got into edges of Paris, very heavy traffic & no signs to correct direction, & didn’t have Paris map. Eventually found ourselves circling around V (saw a Toys R Us) & decided to go to the chateau. Long line (nearly an hour) (45 min?) to get in; seemed to allow a batch from group queue & a batch from individual queue. Inside, each room was packed with people, difficult to move. Rooms very ornate, but too much so to sustain impression for long; I tired of it quickly. When crowd moved to hall of mirrors, it naturally spread out & we could see it better, end to end,quite impressive. I was unable to imagine function of most rooms in palaces or chateaus, unless they had a bed. All seemed same. On leaving the main part of tour, declined to go thru gardens (they were visible from some rooms, formal, sym, French style).

Drove to Fountainbleu, stopping at rest stop for lunch, got there 1405 & parked 20m from gate. Some groups, but much smaller crowds than V. Still couldn’t grasp function of most rooms. Queen’s antechamber had seating for 15-20. Q. B.R. next to throne room. Saw some of French-style garden, but English garden was closed. While inside, passed through guided tours. Some German, Eng, French. S remarked that tour guides always emphasize what they are interested in, just after we heard one talking about erotic art.

On returning, it was too late to try Giverny (~1700), so parked in Mantes-LaJolie & S bought a roast chicken, I bought more Meccano & S got C a bottle of bubble-blowing stuff, to play at gite, a great idea.

On Thurs, back to Paris. Up at 630, to catch 829 train, direct. From St Lazare, took metro to Louvre, ~945. No line! This was fortunate (as well as inexplicable) because C was not feeling well. Probably too little water, food, sleep; we saw Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, Venus de Milo, and got a drink before leaving. C lost color in face & had us worried, but started to recover after some water. Outside saw some archeological excavation, then went to metro to Sacre Couer. Took funicula up & went inside (views outside were not very good because of haze & low clouds). Dome makes it very different from other cathedrals; quite interesting, nice glass. S walked down, C & I took funicula. Bought several souv. in shops, & S & I got sandwiches (crudite & fromage), C got chips & we ate next to double carrousel. C & I rode (I looked silly), then C rode twice more.

In order to avoid changing trains, walked about 3 extra blocks & passed a luggage store. Bought a cheap one for souv. We then took metro to gare, & checked suitcase in locker (hi-tech). Walked a few blocks (past Opera) to dept store. We saw woman with donkeys & C tried to take a picture. Woman got angry & pushed C away. S bought many souv. in Gallerir Lafayette. This store had dome in top & was very attractive from all floors, stained glass. Went to gare, called agency for next gite & got train home, arriving ~545. Ate at Flunch, all ate well. C had bath.

13 April, 1900, Fontenay-Mauvoisin

Slept in til after 830, got up & went to Giverny. Overcast & light rain on way, but stopped before we got there. Entrance is through workshop (now gift shop), then garden, and house. We went into house, trying to beat a bus-tour, and it started raining hard. I was surprised to find Monet had many (>200) Japanese prints. Saw Hokusai print of giant wave, w Fuji in background, & recognized a few others.

Rather crowded in house & not all that interesting. When we went out, rain had stopped again. Took underpass to water-lily garden & saw Japanese bridge, boat, etc. C took several pictures, but crowds were frustrating. The gardens are very well kept; saw at least 4 gardeners. On return to Mantes, went to Flunch ~1200, pretty crowded, but well run. Oh, nearly left out Giverny gift shop. Many people, mostly American & some British, spending lots of money. Expected this would be a slow day, or even closed Good Friday, but that place can’t afford to close (even open thru lunch, tho guidebook says closed).

Looked in a couple of garden shops for spigots, but no luck. Leroy Mervin very much like Hechinger.

Laundry from 2 days ago still not dry in bath, so hung outside, until rain started. Totalled receipts for customs & charge slips & checked travelers checks. Packed souv. in new suitcase. Have general feeling like trip is winding down, though have another gite & 3 nights after that.


13 April, 1749, Fontenay-Mauvoisin

While trying to find our way out of the heavy traffic, we were briefly behind a flatbed truck with a load of bags labeled ‘Plaster de Paris’! So that’s where it comes from!

At Versailles, Chrissy amused herself in the packed rooms by separating herself from us, then trying to get back or see us through the crowd. At one point she was trying to communicate by mouthing some words to us through a gap between some people, and the gap kept closing and opening, interrupting the attempt. At least she enjoyed herself.

She had read something about Napoleon, so was interested in Fountainbleu as the place where he bid farewell to his troops. She stood on the famous horseshoe staircase from which he addressed them.

Chrissy gave us a scare at the Louvre. We had not realized she was feeling ill, until she turned pale, and basically just sat down on the steps, too ill to walk. She didn’t seem sick to her stomach, so we guessed dehydration was a part of it. We quickly got to the little cafe in the Louvre and had some orange juice and water, and she soon came around. She was tired, and fatigue probably contributed to it. We were all tired to some degree; the pace was too hectic; but then our vacations are never the relaxing kind.

She really enjoyed the double-deck carrousel near Sacre Couer. She was also happy to help pick out a suitcase to pack souvenirs in. She still considers this ‘her’ suitcase.

The incident with the donkey was upsetting. The woman obviously earns her living with souvenir photos involving the donkeys, and she was very cross when she saw Chrissy taking a picture without paying her. But her reaction seemed out of proportion, so we wouldn’t consider paying her after that.

When I called the agency for the fifth gite (from a pay phone in the gare; took forever to get any change) they were not very helpful. We had sketchy directions, a fairly clear picture of the house, and a phone number for the proprietor. But we weren’t sure that the proprietor was expecting us, and weren’t sure about trying to contact him. I told the agency we would try to meet him about 4pm, but wasn’t sure that everything was clear. As it turned out, it wasn’t. (1991-06-19)

13 April, 1900, Fontenay-Mauvoisin

In Giverny gift shop, they had a stack of reproductions of small paintings, Monet & others, simulating brushstrokes, etc. But when they were turned over, most had stickers from various American museum shops (Smithsonian, New York Metropolitan)!!

It seems as if I keep transcribing another rain, and yet our memories are of near-perfect weather. We were really incredibly lucky, in that rain generally (not 100% but maybe 90%+) fell while we were in car or indoors, not when we were outside. Still, this gite was the dampest of all, and recall that we noticed bookshelves were musty when we moved in. (1991-07-03)


On W. we went to Versailles. Stood in the wrong line at first but got in the right one. Very pretty place! I love it. Went to Fountainbleu. I really wanted to see this! Very very [???] nice! I love it! I wanted to see the garden of Diana but was closed. Left. Got a roast chicken, Meccano, and bubbles. I blew bubbles & then ate. Thurs., Paris. Got on train and I’m not feeling good. I am now ahead of Mom. Saw the Louvre: 1st Winged Victory, 2nd Mona Lisa, 3rd Venus de Miel. Went to Sacre Cour, after a while. Rode F. up and walked around. Mom walked down we rode F. D & I rode on a double [ sketch of double decker carrousel ] decker carrousel. It had a swing. I rode horse, I rode swing. Ate and rode 2 more times. Then we got a suitcase. Put souvenirs in it. Went to department store. Went home.


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