This morning, Marco and I departed ways again. While he remained in Chartres to teach students du college (high school) English, it was time for me to take on another part of France. Today I would conquer Versailles, the home of pre-French Victorian history. Versailles, which is about 20 minutes outside of Paris, sits in a town that has no resemblance of prestige and historical monarch presence. Luckily for me, the Versailles train station was also on the same line from Chartres which made my trip extremely easy, or almost. Because I would be traveling during non-peak hours, I was eligible for discounts but had to buy my tickets at the information desk of the station. Marco and I had it all planend out. I would tell the ticket teller, “je voudrais aller-retour a Versailles avec la reduction ving cinq pour les jeunes,” or I will buy the return ticket to Versailles with the 25% off reduction for young people. Parfait, or at least I thought it was.
I arrived to le gare de Chartres and recited the plan that Marco and I had developed. The dialogue went well and I knew I was understood clearly when the teller nodded her ahead and said “oui.” My brief celebratory smile was interrupted as the teller continued to speak. She went on and due to my surprise and sudden angst of the conversation diverting from the plan, I could not pick up what she said. Something, something, “dix-sept heures,” oh no, could it be that the train was only leaving at 5 p.m.? We both stared each other in the eye with bewilderment for a few seconds as we were lost for many words, but tried to find the simplest of them. I could feel my uneasiness begin to grow as the line behind me did the same. And then it came together, she referenced the times that I would be eligible for the discount, avant 17h or after 20h. I smiled and reassured her, “d’accord, je sais, je sais, oui,” okay, I know, I know, yes.
We laughed at our short misunderstanding and she stamped my ticket Composte, which gave mon billet credibility and I fleeted toward voie deux, where the train from Chartres to Versailles would take me. I made the adolescent choice to go straightforward to the second level of the train, hoping to experience some kind of juvenile excitement from watching France go by on another level. An older man took the seat beside me and wished my morning well with greetings, “bonjour mademoiselle.” He commented on my phone case of le Tour de Eiffel and I again, did not have many words for a response. He asked if I spoke English. “Oui, je parle anglais, seulement un peu de francais.” He continued to go on about English being the the most beautiful language in the world and challenged me to a conversation in which he would talk in only English and my responses would be in French. He completely confirmed my discovery that many French who know English like to practice their skills. And as I engaged in this strangely spontaneous conversation, I hoped he understood that I shared the same sentiment toward the French language.
On the SNCF toward Montparnasse, I knew that I would depart from the train a couple of stops ahead to get to the noteworthy estate, Versailles. I waited for the signs to read, Prochain Arrêt to brace myself for another independent day in France. I left the train station and my heels created an acoustic echo on the cobblestone road. I decided that the royal glory of Versailles deserved a pair of modest heels. Oh, Versailles, just a couple chateaux, I told myself. I can manage a day in heels in a couple chateaux, no big deal. Little did I know, Versailles is more than just a couple of 18th century mansions, it’s humongous grounds cover more than 6 square miles of royal estates. I walked up to the golden gates of Versailles to buy mon billets to the palace and was welcomed into royal glory.
I was in awe of the beauty of interior design by Marie-Antoinette, Louis XVI, and other influential residents of the territory. As I glided my fingers on the map that was given to me and allowed my feet to follow, I was taken into an 18th century impression of the life of Kings and Queens. I toured the grand canal, various estates, and the royal castle. During the literally gigantic stretches of land, there were displays that advanced my knowledge of the Francophone institution and monarchy. I learned of Queen Marie Antoinette’s regard as the epitome of a historical icon who endorsed arts and culture. Later beheaded during the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette was considered the ultimate socialite of her time and her many rooms were truly evidence of that.
Finally having walked for almost the entire day, I found rejevunation through my snacks that I bought in London. The remaining Starbursts and pieces of Cadbury Chocolate came in handy as I continued strutting throughout the royal estates. There were several jardines, most of them absolutely beautiful and the embodiment of a landscape architect’s fantasy. Many of the works of Versailles extended for miles, from the largest chateauxs to the tiniest homes. The acre of land was fascinating, just a wonder to see.
After enjoying my final moments with swans at the Grand Canal of Versailles, I headed to a restaurant Brasserie de Musée. I was relieved to learn that my waiter was familiar with English but was also happy that he would share patience with me as I surveyed the menu and ordered my food. “J’ai poulet et vin cabernet vingt cinq,” I’ll have the chicken and a 25 cl cabernet, I said. Pretty good, I thought to myself. Quite confident and quite clear.
With almost two hours to kill before my train would arrive at the Versailles-Chantiers station, I walked up le rue toward the SCNF but would stop at whatever place caught my eye, preferable something pas cher. I found a random bar owned by Spanish men who only knew French and Spanish. I chose to have un chocolate maison par ici, a hot chocolate for here. I let time pass me by appropriately and progressed toward the Versailles-Chantiers station where my morning began.
I felt at ease while waiting for my train. All kinds of people passed me by, most of them speaking French, most of which I had no idea, but for some reason I found comfort in my surroundings. Throughout my trip to the East, I’ve only experienced 4 days in France but since I’ve been here, I’ve been entirely open and ready for whatever comes my way. Today I waited for my train to read prochain arrêt and tomorrow, I’ll do the same for whatever my next stop is.
See more pictures of my trip to Versailles, here.