03 January 2006

Potato Juice

[posted by Amy]

Well folks, this is posting number 100 on this humble little blog. Hard to believe I've had that much to say! Thanks for following our journey thus far.

Joe, Kate and Beanie got up early enough to grab some breakfast at a café this morning. Up until now, Colin and I have been nearby to help confirm pronunciations and handle the parler-ing as needed. This morning, however, was their first venture out on their own. Now, I should preface this story by giving credit where it is due: Joe and Kate are both doing an excellent job with French. (Beanie hasn't stepped up to the plate yet...) But, early mornings have a funny way of wreaking havoc with one's ability to communicate, particularly in another language. So, when the waitress asked Joe what he wanted to drink, he calmly told her that he wanted, "Jus de pommes de terre" (potato juice). What he meant to ask for was "jus de pommes" (apple juice), but as Kate gleefully pointed out as she recounted the story, that wasn't even an option on the menu. The rather startled waitress gave him a confused look, then chuckled and said, "Jus d'orange?" (orange juice?) He just sighed and nodded, settling for any fruit juice that would prevent him from having to speak any further.

Of course, Kate and I taunted him mercilessly all day long about this. But, as karma has a way of catching up to you, I managed to get my numbers confused at dinner tonight by ordering from the non-existent 30-euro menu instead of the 13-euro menu (trente vs. treize). This isn't quite as good as the time that I responded to the question, "How do you like your French class?" with "Je t'aime" (I love you) instead of "Je l'aime" (I like it). (Lori, do you remember that??)

At any rate, Joe, Kate, Beanie and I toured Versailles today. We had a lovely time - the weather was decent and the lines weren't painfully long. The real bummer is that the Hall of Mirrors is under renovation, so we could only see about a third of this spectacular room. It's not very impressive when you can't see the full length, but at least we could see some of it. This picture to the left is taken inside the temporary dry wall that is covering most of the hall. You can faintly see the Hall of Mirrors sticking out in the back.

Most of my pictures turned out dark in the chateau, but I'm OK with that. I didn't get good pictures because I obeyed the rule of no flash photography, unlike EVERY other tourist in the place. Honestly, it was really bad today. Everyone knows that repeated flash photography is highly detrimental to the paintings and artwork, but they value their own scrapbook over the well-being of a beautiful historic landmark. (Folks, this is why cameras are banned in a lot of museums. Please follow the rules so that you don't ruin it for the rest of us!!) Anyway, I did get a decent shot of part of the Hall of Mirrors, as seen to the right. (Again, this is without a flash!)

For the most part, the Rick Steves tour (a.k.a. the Rick James tour) came through quite well. There are a few little notes that I want to make for future reference, so feel free to benefit from them if you buy this book for your trip.

1. For the suggestions on eating, Rick fails to mention that you have to turn right when you reach the Marché Notre-Dame. (The road you take to get there dead-ends at the church, so you can't keep going straight like the book implies.) So, turn right, then follow the road around to the right when it curves, just before the open-air market. You'll find the restaurants he recommends there. We skipped those in favor of a Cantonese / Vietnamese restaurant that had lunch formules for 8 euros. It was great!

2. When you do the outbuildings (the Trianons, etc), don't go back out to the "street" after you see the Petit Trianon. Go to the back side of the Petit Trianon and take the dirt footpaths to the Temple of Love and the Hamlet. It's shorter and more scenic. (Alas, the Temple of Love was under renovation, too, so we couldn't do our Barry White imitations today.)

3. Personally, I don't think the insides of the Trianons are worth the extra entry fee. We bought the Versailles day pass to get access to the chateau and the Trianons, but in retrospect, I would only buy the 8 euro tour of the chateau. You can still walk around outside all of the outbuildings, and your time is better spent wandering through the Hamlet instead of looking at boring furniture in the Grand and Petit Trianons. (Speaking of the Hamlet, I posted a new video to Youtube of the super-fat pigs in the Hamlet.) Of course, if you have a museum pass, you can see all of this without extra cost, so you may as well check them out. But, your money is better spent on the slow-moving tram (assuming that you're exhausted from walking all that way!)

4. In turn, my suggestion for the day trip: take the earliest train you can to Versailles (we took the 9:25 train from St. Michel / Notre Dame). Go straight to the chateau, buy your ticket and tour the apartments (the main attraction in the chateau). After that tour, go to lunch in downtown Versailles, and then take the side entrance next to the Neptune Basin to walk down to the outbuildings. You'll have the whole afternoon to wander around the outbuildings, and then come back via the Grand Canal to see the rest of the gardens. (By the way, these notes are mostly for my own benefit. If you need more details, drop me an e-mail or a comment, and I'll be happy to give you better directions.)

That's my advice for the day! By the way, if anyone knows how to juice a potato, I know someone who would like your recipe...

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