Our next non-work excursion was to Versailles.
This was a bit of a fizzer. Due to an appointment, we did not leave Paris very early in the morning. We had also failed to pre-purchase tickets.
When we arrived at the station for Versailles, we had no need to restort to our map for directions, as there was an enormous crowd of fellow tourists tromping up the road. We took a small diversion and bought supplies at a bakery before following the crowd at a suitable distance, thinking we would let them buy their tickets first, and reduce our wait in the line.
The only problem with this masterly plan, was that the line to purchase tickets was at least 500 people long. I am not exaggerating. After this line, there was another line of similar length to actually enter the palace. This was equalled in length by the line for the ladies loo. I was very glad that I was not travelling with a 3 year old.
It was about 11am by this time. I stood in the line for the tickets whilst my husband wandered about a bit. Half an hour later, he came back. I had moved forward about 2 metres. We calculated that we would not reach the ticket counter until about 4 in the afternoon.
Fortunately, in his wanderings, my husband had seen the much shorter lines for the gardens.
We stood in another line for another half an hour and spent a few hours in the gardens. They are very large and formal.
Peering in the windows of the palace, I saw a few paintings up very high and people packed in the rooms like sardines.
I was sorry to miss the textiles in the palace, but there were pretty sections in the garden.
It was disappointing to find that most of the fountains were not turned on. I saw a lot more white marble statues wearing figleaves than I appreciated. Figleaves are not very interesting when you want to see clothes.
After this unsuccessful day, I was not at all keen to finish it off with another bread and cheese picnic in the room. Melissa's post came to the rescue again.
She provided a link to this foodie post, which recommended falafel in Bastille. My husband was very keen to eat real vegetarian food by this point (you may remember that this was his 4th day with no dinner other than green beans or less) so we took a 30 minute train trip to Bastille on the metro.
Bastille was much more interesting than we had expected. We saw Victor Hugo's house, a fabulous Jesuit church and an astounding building over the street, all on the way to L'as du Falafel. There was another line here, full of Parisians, and the wait was worth it.
We ate delicious and enormous falafel in the street amongst the Vespas, along with everyone else from the falafel queue, then found an Italian gelato shop on the way back to the station. We felt much better.
The next day, we got up early again and walked for hours around Paris - the palaces, the Louvre, the Champs Elysee again. It does look amazing.
We did not manage to completely avoid cycling.
We only just got back to the hotel in time to check out and catch the train to the Gare Nord for the Eurostar to London. We had pre-purchased our tickets, and printed them out at home. Paying by visa debit instead of a credit card gets you a discount.
It took a long time to get through immigration, which was surprising to me after the trip to Spain with no immigration at all.
The train trip to London was uneventful (another half a sock). It was a great relief to speak English again. We pre-purchased tickets to the Tower of London (17 pounds each instead of 21 at the Tower)at the railway ticket counter as soon as we got off the train at St Pancras. Buying the Tower tickets this way is not shown on the Tower website, nor was it advertised at the station, but I had read it in a guide book, so I felt a bit clever. This was a good boost to my organizational ego which had been crushed at Versailles. We also bought a weekly 2 zone public transport tickets (28 pounds and change) on an oyster card (3 pound deposit)
We then took the underground to our accomodation near the Barbican, (pre planned trip using London transport site). The accomodation had been kindly organized by Elizabeth, whom I "knew" from Stitcher's Guild.
I was very excited to meet Elizabeth, and nervous. What if she instantly took a dislike to me in real life?
We followed her excellent directions, and arrived at her front door to be warmly greeted by her husband, as Elizabeth was picking up their daughter from nursery.
Here is an internet friend problem. I had been writing posts to and fro with Elizabeth for about 2 years. I knew her pattern size, her favourite colours, and could recognize most of her clothes in an instant, but did not know her husband's name, as he is under a psuedonym on her blog. Shameful mistake on my part. I greeted him as Dr.Moreau, for lack of another name. Thank goodness he has a sense of humour!
Fortunately he forgave me for this oversight, and made us a cup of tea. I had been missing tea very badly in France, and instantly fell in love with England as I took my first sip.
Elizabeth came in soon afterwards, and it was terrific to meet her. I felt as if I was catching up with an old friend, and we had plenty to talk about. (Our kind husbands managed to find something in common (the difficulties of living with sewing fanatic wives maybe?)whilst I toured Elizabeth's sewing space and was treated to a close inspection of some gorgeous garments I had only seen previously from 10,000km + away). Elizabeth had arranged a meet up of a few people from Stitchers Guild, and I was an early arrival, so the next day my husband and I wandered about doing touristy things - the museum of London (terrific) the Tower Bridge (just like the photos) policemen in funny hats, black taxis and red double decker buses (just like in Noddy).
It was great fun. The vegetarian food was legion. We ate at some markets, and my husband had about 4 lunches, all delicious. It helped to take his mind off the sudden cycling withdrawal.
Next up, Ruthie and at last, some sewing.