Wednesday, August 24, 2011

France: Versailles

No, it is not Versailles, Kentucky, nor is it pronounced that way. The French say "Ver-sigh." A mistake I made only ONCE.

Versailles is a short, one hour train ride outside of Paris. Our foursome joined a bike tour of about 20 people to see the grounds of Versailles for an all day excursion led by an animated young lady. Thankfully, we experienced good weather because the tour happens "rain or shine." I would have made for one unhappy and soggy biker in the rain.

I recommend the bike tour if physically possible only because Versailles is spread out with lots of castles and mini-castles to see.  It would be impossible to walk to everything in one day, unless, of course, you're a speed demon or a marathon walker. The bike tours are leisurely and relaxing, although go-carts would jazz it up a bit. I doubt, though, that the French would approve of such a thing.

Our tour guide shared interesting stories about the history of Versailles and the man that truly enjoyed it as only a monarch could, King Louis XIV. My favorite story involved King Louis XIV and his obsession with large calves (on his legs, not in the field). He believed that large calves equated to wealth and a diet rich in protein. Good thing I wasn't alive then because I would have laughed out loud upon hearing such a preposterous idea.  And, therefore, would have subsequently been beheaded.

After King Louis XIV's story, I made Ben take a picture with me that highlighted our massive and Amazonian calf muscles. Mostly, I wanted to prove to myself that we would have been a part of the elite class and not mere commoners.  Brian and Amanda then did the same. We definitely eked into the upper crust of society.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

France: Let Them Sleep (a rip off of "Let Them Eat Cake")

As much as I love to travel and hit every sight, I sometimes need a little downtime.  Luckily, I have perfected the art of being able to sleep just about anywhere.  Distractions, like sunlight or throngs of people or loud noises, don't inhibit my ability to completely conk out. Apparently, our friend, Brian, falls into the same category.

Ben took these pictures outside a "small" castle in Paris where some members of the royal family used to summer.  A cottage if you will. A weekend getaway.

I'm pretty sure after we awoke we sniffed around for the nearest crepe stand and ate a few before continuing on our journey.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

France: Food Coma

Perhaps, what I loved even more about Paris than the Féte de la Musique was the diet.  We adapted to the French cuisine immediately upon arrival. For four days, we subsisted solely on baguettes, cheese, wine, prosciutto, and Nutella crepes.

Yum, yum.

Every day we smothered our faces with Nutella and stuffed ourselves with homemade cheeses. We coated most foods with thin layers of prosciutto. I couldn't eat enough and now my waistline shows it. My arteries thank me.

Below are a few food pics.

A Nutella crepe master at work...

A carb and dairy feast in the flat we rented...

An ice cream break...

A posed picture that Ben and Brian worked so hard to perfect...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

France: Dancing in the Streets

Paris was the second stop on our 2011 European Tour.  Once again, it topped my list of "favorite big cities."  Paris impressed me with it's perfectly manicured parks, swept streets, and clean buildings. People actually used trash cans and the city provided a plethora of public restrooms, though at a small cost.

While there, I noticed Parisians continually exuded a reserved and calm nature. They never yelled or cussed at each other in public.  Can you imagine?  Strangers not yelling at each other?  Inconceivable... at least in New York. Jersey Shore wannabes and tightly wound urbanites just didn't exist there.  Although, as Ben pointed out, I probably "misunderstood" a few French comments that I assumed to be nice.

We arrived in Paris the same night as the famed Fète de la Musique, which only happens once a year.  Basically, any band of any size played anywhere in the city any time of the day and night.  Paris turned into one humongous dance party until the wee hours of the morning.

People of all ages danced in the streets to jazz, funk, reggae, rock, soul, and techno bands.  Kids threw bottles against medieval churches.  Teenagers urinated on cobblestone streets. Adults toasted with glasses of wine. Tourists flocked from band to band. Our group reveled in the once-a-year romp, or debauchery (depending on a person's perspective), and constantly wondered how any of it was legal.  The NYPD would have been all over that.

The pictures below aren't the best, but they give an idea of how many people wandered around the city.