Saturday, July 20

I visit the gardens of Versailles.

Started entering a million new vocabulary words into the Java program I wrote that helps me drill myself on the words - a fancy flash card app. It's 8:30 am now. I'm leaving to take my MacBook Pro (and with luck my keys) with me to La Contrescarpe to get some breakfast and work through the drills. Then it's off to Versailles. It only takes about an hour to get there on the train.

Not many people at the restaurant this early, but a couple of friendly dogs. Speaking of France's health care, I just saw a white van with the legend "médicaments urgence" (emergency medications) go past. I see them a lot. Medications are not called "drugs" here ("drogues"). That word is reserved for illegal drugs.

The vocabulary drill did not go well, so I gave up for the moment.

For our writing assignment this weekend we have to write a cover letter for a job application. I'm going to pretend that I'm applying for a job as a senior software developer at a Paris office of Apple. I'll mention 50 years of experience programming, 29 of them on the Mac (true), and I'll talk about why I like Apple and their products so much (true), and I'll pretend that I'm an expert on iOS, Xcode, and Objective C (alas false) . That should actually be kind of fun. Nobody else in my class can claim 50 years of experience doing anything (not even breathing), and that tickles my perverse sense of humor.

I'm going to use Jean-Louis Gassée as a reference and claim to know him (true) well (false).

Les Jardins de Versailles were spectacular. Very much worth the trip. That Le Nôtre fellow did a good job. BTW, asked a clerk at a "Le Nôtre" store in Versailles if the store was named for the landscape architect who created this incredible place. He said no.

Didn't go in the château itself because the crowd was huge and the lines were long and I really didn't care. But the gardens are so enormous that even with the crowds it didn't seem crowded. In many sections I was all alone or with only a few other people.

I didn't write comments for most of the individual pictures. They pretty much explain themselves.

You've heard the expression "live like a king". This is what it means. I hope you enjoy these pictures of the Roi-Soleil's back yard (Louis XIV, the "sun king"). I sure did take a lot of them. And I by no means saw everything or took pictures of everything that was beautiful.

Boy, did my feet ever get a good workout today!

Now I must study. Prof famous French sadist lady. Lucky to get bathroom breaks.

At Versailles taking a break in McDonalds before starting tour with an espresso glace vanille, a little coffee bomb with a dab of vanilla ice cream. They sell croissants and macaroons here too. With free wi-fi of course (pronounced wee-fee).

Versailles is not a place you want to be on a Saturday in July if you don't like crowds.

I was out in the banlieues (suburbs) on the train ride. Nice, but different from central Paris, and closer to what you might see in the nicer American suburbs. Especially the office towers. The RER train ride reminded me just a bit of riding the Metra train up through the northern suburbs of Chicago. The banlieues on the RER out to De Gaulle are more like the south side of Chicago. Sort of the opposite.

Sign in Versailles announcing no parking tomorrow thanks to the 21st (and final) stage of the Tour De France bicycle race, a ceremonial ride from Versailles to Paris with the final circuits up and down the Champs Élysées. I'll be there for the end.

From an article on the net:

The Dragon Fountain

The Water Path begins with the half-moon of the Dragon Fountain 
which depicts one of the episodes of the legend of Apollo: the 
Python snake killed by an arrow shot by the young Apollo. The 
reptile is surrounded by dolphins and Cupids armed with bows and 
arrows riding on swans. The principal water jet rises twenty-seven 
metres into the air. On either side of this fountain restored in 
1889, paths lead to the two Groves, France Triumphant and the 
Three Fountains in the west.

The Grotte de Thétys

From Wikipedia:

Started in 1664 and finished in 1670 with the installation of 
the statuary by the Gilles Guérin, François Girardon, Thomas 
Regnaudin, Gaspard Marsy, and Balthazar Marsy, the grotto 
formed an important symbolic and technical component to the 
gardens. Symbolically, the Grotte de Thétys related to the 
myth of Apollo – and by that association to Louis XIV. It was 
as the cave of the sea nymph, Thetis, where Apollo rested after 
driving his chariot to light the sky. The grotto was a freestanding 
structure located just north of the château. The interior, which 
was decorated with shell-work to represent a sea cave, contained 
the statue group by the Marsy brothers depicting the sun god 
attended by nereids (central grouping) and his horses being 
groomed by attendants of Thetis (the two accompanying statue 
groups). Originally, these statues were set in three individual 
niches in the grotto and were surrounded by various fountains 
and water features (Marie 1968; Nolhac 1901, 1925; Thompson 2006; 
Verlet 1985).

Technically, the Grotte de Thétys played a critical role in the 
hydraulic system that supplied water to the garden. The roof of 
the grotto supported a reservoir that stored water pumped from 
the Clagny pond and which fed the fountains lower in the garden 
via gravity.

The Apollo theme recurs throughout the gardens because he was the sun god, and Louis XIV was the sun king. Louis XIV very much identified himself with Apollo. He famously said "L'état, c'est moi" - "I am the state".

Got a much needed bottle of Perrier at the stand on the left and sat on a bench in the shade to take a break. That's a nice restaurant on the right.

The French waiter, king of his domain.

Dancing waters synchronized to music over loudspeakers. Pretty cool, but probably not authentic Louis XIV stuff.

From Wikipedia:

There were so many fountains at Versailles that it was impossible 
to have them all running at once; when Louis XIV made his promenades, 
his fountain-tenders turned on the fountains ahead of him and turned 
off those behind him. Louis built an enormous pumping station, the 
Machine de Marly, with fourteen water wheels and 253 pumps to raise 
the water three hundred feet from the River Seine, and even attempted 
to divert the River Eure to provide water for his fountains, but the 
water supply was never enough.

I noticed that they weren't turning the fountains on for ME as I walked through the gardens. Why not?

100 steps. Exactly. Sign says so.

Those are citrus trees, and this is the citrus garden (the "Orangerie").

There must be hundreds if not thousands of gardeners taking care of this place. I wonder - is Versailles privately owned like lots of the châteaux in the Loire, or is it publicly owned and operated? I think it must be publicly owned. From Wikipedia:

The Fifth Republic has enthusiastically promoted the museum as one 
of France’s foremost tourist attractions (Opperman, 2004). The palace, 
however, still serves political functions. Heads of state are regaled 
in the Hall of Mirrors; the Sénat and the Assemblée nationale meet in 
congress in Versailles to revise or otherwise amend the French Constitution, 
a tradition that came into effect with the promulgation of the 1875
Constitution. Public establishment of the museum and Château de Versailles
Spectacles recently organised the Jeff Koons Versailles exhibition.

I just love all the flower beds here in Paris. They're everywhere, in every park and garden. Just spectacular. And of course Versailles is special.

Can you imagine living in a place like this? With thousands of servants to satisfy your every need and whimsy? It's unimaginable to me. No wonder they had a revolution here. As much as my politics sympathizes with the revolutionaries, my sense of aesthetics is still astounded at the beauty surrounding the old aristocracy. So much of Paris and France is imbued with this contradiction.

Saturday + July = Tourists.

Before I came home from Versailles I walked around the town for a while. This is a pretty park where I ate lunch with other folks on the grass.

Lunch was some very special chocolates from Le Nôtre.

A main street in Versailles.

The cathedral of Versailles. Built in 1742-1766 and still in use today. It's the seat of the Bishop of Versailles. It's also a national monument.

Now here's a big blue door worthy of a photograph. I'm thinking of getting one of these for my front door in Skokie. It desperately needs replacing anyway.

A train station on the way home, shot from the upper deck of my RER C commuter train. I was all alone on the upper deck of that rail car, except for 3 young women with their iPods and earbuds in the seat in front of me. I was so tired at that point. This looked so pretty that I made the special effort to hoist my iPhone up and take a picture through the window.

I took the train home from a different station than the one I arrived at at Versailles. Got pretty lost while wandering around and went pretty far off the beaten path.

Dinner is camembert from Normandy on a fresh baguette with champagne and the rest of the Le Nôtre chocolates for desert. The champagne is Robert Desbrosse à Congy Brut.

I got seriously flamed by a Frenchman for this, a friend of a friend on FaceBook: Camembert with Champagne??? Serious crime! It's a serious crime I'm telling you man! Camembert goes with red wine. Same for Brie (although depending of the region you could eat it with some white wine).

My camembert says "au lait cru moulé à la louche". Is that good? My attempt to use the dictionary to translate this yielded "from raw milk (unpasteurized) molded by the ladleful".

This is the kitchen in my apartment. The whole thing. Kind of the opposite of bobo. But I like it. It gets the job done. No serious cooking gets done here, though, of course. One nice thing about getting back home will be resuming my interest in cooking. But I'm in no hurry.