Monday, May 15, 2006

My husband's former advisor has a conference in Toulouse this week, and he spent the weekend with us before leaving this morning. I love it when we have visitors, partly because it's a real incentive to clean the house and mostly because I love playing tourist. Saturday we went to Chartres, a city (town?) I looooooooove. It's gorgeous and I get a shiny, happy feeling every time I go there, even when it's cold and rainy. On Saturday, it only rained while we were driving there and it was pretty nice while we were out walking around.

There are several things I love about Chartres: 1) the far-away view of the cathedral while driving in. I feel the same way when I drive into Paris and get that first glimpse of the Tour Eiffel. 2) I notice something different each time I go. There's either too much stuff to remember in one trip, or I just have a terribly poor memory. It's probably the latter. Anyway, this time we climbed up to the top to gaze around the city and to try to conquer our vertigo. I don't remember being able to walk around the top like that and see in so many directions. We also got a good look at the non-Gothic (renaissance?) tower made of stone. Incredible. 3) the blue in the stained glass windows. 4) the flowers in the gardens along the canal where we park. Today I saw Calla Lillies and one giant, orange poppy (California poppies, I think they are). 5) There's a FNAC in Chartres. Even though they don't have Starbucks, I just love walking around and plotting which book I will buy next. I do really well at not spending money in there, primarily because I feel like I don't have a lot (waiting for those tax forms to arrive), but still feel recharged by the time I leave. I love France for its books. 6) The very cute shopping area. Of course, it always weirds me out to see a Claire's in a French centre-ville, but the other nice boutiques make up for it. So much better than a mall. Well, except when it rains.

Yesterday we went to Versailles, a town that I am not so crazy about for personal reasons which I will not name. However, the palace and grounds are not included in my dislike of the town and I had the best visit I've ever had there. This was the third time I've been. The first time was ages ago on a school trip and I think we just breezed through. The second time we just did the Grand Apartments. This time we shelled out the bucks for a day pass, and boy, was it worth it. The nice weather really helped...on Sundays they play music in the gardens and turn on the fountains so you can just wander around for hours looking at the fountains, drinking coffee, eating ice cream, etc. We also finally went to the Trianons, which were interesting but I'm glad they were included in the package as I think they would have been slightly disappointing by themselves. My favorite part by far was the hamlet where Marie-Antoinette played milkmaid. Overall I felt that Versailles is like the world's first Disneyland, which is a very fair analogy given the fact that one does spend a lot of time standing in line at Disneyland as well.

It's times like these that make me really appreciate France. At Chartres, I think we did spend about 6 euros to climb up the tower. That's reasonable, though, when you think about how much money it must cost to upkeep the cathedral. (Is that a word? Am I making stuff up again?) I always try to donate something when I visit old churches/cathedrals because I feel guilty taking advantage of their 'freeness.' Maybe I won't feel the same obligation when I get my first tax bill. And the day pass at Versailles was around 20 euros, which included access to everything along with audioguides. It didn't include parking, but I think if we had been smarter we could have gotten away with parking on the street for free. It's just a gamble to find a space. Anyway, my husband thought it was expensive, but when I think about how valuable that site is, it seems like a bargain. We spent around 8 hours there, so I think we got our money's worth. I highly recommend visiting those 2 places if anyone is ever in the Parisian region.


Anonymous said...

I'm so glad to read about your favorite places and how you always add such neat comments about the place.
Glad you had company and got to see Versalles? again.
Hope to see it again when we come.
Keep up the good work.

LĂ©ons Life said...

Try going to the gardens in Versailles when they are on (something like last Sunday in August and July, or something like that)

That is really stunning and well worth the trip all the way to Versailles.

20 euros is quite a lot though, but I think Disney would be even more expensive !

bcinfrance said...

Having guests always reminds me that I really am living in a wonderful area. And I agree -- there's nothing like it for getting the house cleaned up!