We arrived in Paris late afternoon at the Gare du Nord and hit the ground running. We had planned to go to Versailles the next morning with our friends Jeff and Sue who had also it turns out were in Paris at the same time so we headed over to the information booth to pick up our museum pass before it closed at 6. Arrrggghhhh!!! Their credit card machine wasn’t working and they would only accept exact change, so it was off to hit the little news kiosk for a drink and some change, then back to get our passes.
Once that was taken care of (phew) we headed over to pick up our Navigo Decouverte passes. There are lots of travel pass options for Paris out there did a bit of research before we left home and figured these passes would give us the flexibility we wanted at a good price. They are available by the week or month and allow you to just tap and go on all Metro, RER, and buses in zones 1-5 which is pretty much everywhere in Paris. And even though we arrived on a Thursday and the passes expire at midnight Sunday (which meant we would need 2 passes for our trip) we figured it would be our best bet. Turns out we were right. The hassles Sue and Jeff had with their carnets of tickets showed us we had made the right decision. And they’re good for 10 years so if we go back in the next 10 years we can just reload them. Now the Navigo passes do need a passport style photo and you can get them at picture booths in the stations, but we just went to our local drug store and got some there before we left (They did have to be 25 x 35 mm which is smaller than the normal Canadian passport photo but the girl at the photo desk was kind enough to cut them to the right size for us).
We were ready to roll and had our museum passes ready to go so we hopped on the metro and went to find our home for the next 6 days. We had booked another Airbnb. It was a little studio in an old building by the Jardin du Luxembourg. And it was just a few steps from the metro station.
Our studio was tiny (normal for Paris) and old and on the 4th floor. But it was clean, the bed was super comfortable and for Heather it had an old clawfoot bathtub. Oh, and there was a tiny elevator with room for 2….Just. It was totally as advertised. Perfect for us. We had a little bit of trouble getting in to the building but got sorted and met our host Dominique. She got us sorted out with access and info about the studio, then we got cleaned up and headed out to meet Sue and Jeff for dinner.
Sue and Jeff were staying fairly close to us so it was a quick walk to meet them and then off to a little portuguese bistro they’d found. A beer and a glass of Rosé later we began to relax from our busy day of travelling. We had a nice light dinner, and planned our next day at Versailles. Here we were in a big city with all the noise and excitement. It was really cool. Major change from sleepy little Qualicum. We were planning on packing as much into the next 6 days as we could and it was nice to have friends around to share it with.
The next day started earlyish as we wanted to get to Versailles before it got super busy. It was a little gray out as we headed to catch the RER train out but as we got off at the Versailles station the clouds had broken up and it was getting warm. It looked like it was going to be a nice day. We had our boots on and were ready to walk. The lineup to get into Versailles was not too longish (about 30 minutes) but it was still pretty packed in the chateau as we travelled through. It was spectacular. Amazing how over the top the furnishings and decorations were.
Once we got out of the Chateau proper and onto the grounds, the masses of people thinned out. I think the majority of the tour groups go through the main building and that’s it. So we wandered the grounds and gardens. They’re massive! It was early in the tourist season and the fountains for the most part weren’t fountaining yet but that’s okay.
We weren’t braving huge crowds and the weather was perfect. We headed across the property to visit he Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon and noticed the crowds were non-existent. We pretty much had the place to ourselves as we wandered.
Our final stop at Versailles was the Queen’s Hamlet. A tiny rustic village originally built for Marie Antoinette, it was a neat place to end our tour of the grounds. From there we headed back to the chateau and to the train back to Paris.
That was day 1 and a full day it was. We got back to our place and rested a bit, then had dinner with Jeff and Sue and called it an early night. The next day was going to be another action-packed day. Jeff and Sue had preceded us in Paris by a couple of days so we decided that we would split up for the day and just meet up for dinner. We were learning that eating in Paris was NOT inexpensive so the plan was to pick up food at the nearby Monoprix, have our breakfast in the studio, make a lunch of baguettes, cheese and meat, pack a few drinks and picnic wherever (assuming the weather stayed nice) and save our meal splurging for dinner time. This turned out to be our go to for the rest of the trip.