09 October 2005

A beautiful weekend

Finally, finally! Some beautiful weather to enjoy! We had sun on Saturday and Sunday both, and the temperature was in the mid to upper 60's (my guess) the whole time. It's so nice to walk around without needing a jacket or a sweatshirt. We kicked off the weekend with a leisurely Saturday morning of sleeping in without worrying about the alarm going off. (Have I mentioned how much I LOVE not having to get up for work in the mornings?)

Once we got our acts together enough to open the shutters on the windows, we discovered how amazing the weather was and agreed that we needed to get Didge out for a walk. Colin had some work to do first, so I spent a couple of hours cleaning out cabinets and making a list of supplies that we needed (there wasn't much in the apartment in the way of cleaning supplies). Afterwards, we headed over to Parc Montsouris and spent about 1.5 hours there just strolling around. We found out the hard way that dogs aren't allowed on the grass (a police officer blew his whistle at us, so we had to "get out of the pool" so to speak), but nonetheless it was a lovely time. I really wish I had taken my camera along because there was a woman playing an old nickelodean in front of one of the children's rides - it was exactly the type of music you imagine hearing when you think of France in a romantic, cliche kind of way. Very charming. (Of course, there was also the not-so-charming site of a couple sitting on a bench - the woman was wearing a low-cut shirt, and the man had basically buried his face - and lips - into her chest. Tacky!!!)

Saturday night was my and Didge's "Welcome to France" party with the small group of people we know here. We missed Annie's presence, but Muriel, Tasha and Rachel all came over for good food and conversation. Colin made a Normandy-style pork roast with apples, Tasha and Rachel brought cheese and baguettes, and Muriel brought a delightful French dessert called charlotte, which I am quite sure attributed to my weight gain this week. Oh well, it was worth it!! Muriel has promised to take me shopping with her, so it's nice to know that I have a shopping buddy again! (Don't worry, Kate, no one can replace you and New York & Co!!)

Today, we decided to check out Versailles, since the fountains "only run on Sundays." Yet another LIE! OK, sorry, not that dramatic at all. One of our guidebooks said that, but in fact, they run on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays ... between May 1 and Sept 30. So, no running fountains! I was really bummed - the fountains look like they will be incredible when they are running, so we'll have to go back in May.

Fortunately, Versailles totally lived up to the hype and then some -- it is enormous and beautiful! Of course, since we slept in after our late night dinner party, we sort-of screwed ourselves because it was too late to buy tickets to tour the buildings. So, we decided to walk all over the gardens and then come back another day to tour the buildings. I'm actually glad that we did it this way - the gardens are HUGE!

We spent a few hours wandering around and gawking at everything. These are French-style gardens, so everything has to be symmetric and very carefully manicured. All of the trees were perfect geometric shapes, be it triangles, circles, or rectangles. Even without the fountains running, it's just a breathtaking place to visit. It almost doesn't seem real - everything is so big and so perfect. I'm glad that I'm not just saying this because I was happy for good weather - I just don't think you can downplay the impact of this place. It's really amazing.

The pictures in this blog entry are all from Versailles. The first is a close-up of some flowers in one of the many, many gardens. The second is a shot of PART of the front of the palace (seriously, it's enormous). The third is looking down into one of the manicured gardens - I don't think we got a shot, but there were palm trees there, too. (Hey, if the king wants palm trees, the king can have palm trees!) To the right is a picture of one of the fountains (obviously not running, as I might have alluded to earlier). I thought this one was really interesting, though I couldn't tell you exactly why.

And finally, there is this picture to the left. We hope it gives you an idea of the scale of everything, since I'm standing at the base of one of those trees. If you need to see it bigger, left-click once on the photo, and it will open up bigger. I'm wearing a turquoise t-shirt and jeans, and man, I have never felt shorter in my life!

You could sit in the grass here, so we walked a bit further and sat down for a while to enjoy the quiet. Our apartment is great, but you can always hear honking car horns and police sirens (like right now, as I type this), so moments of true quiet are really a treat. Also, after dealing with a lot of poorly behaved college students on the trains back to Paris, we were glad we had the time to ourselves! But, I won't spend any time complaining about them right now ... it's been a great weekend and I don't want to remember a bunch of kids skipping class in Ireland to whine about how claustrophic they felt in the French trains!!

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