Sunday, June 28, 2015

Day 32: A Palace, A Garden and A Lovelorn Duck

Since it was Sunday, I thought what better day to spend out in the country hanging out at a castle? So I took a nice long trip out to this little town called Versailles about 16 miles from Paris and a 45min ride on the metro.  
They opened at 9am, so I knew that I wasn’t going to be the first one in line when I got off the train and was at the front gate around 9:44am. But it was within the suggested time of 9-10am so my Paris Pass could get me in faster.

No, not the case at all. I walked up to the broad area right in front of the main gates, there was a line snaking around and when I asked an ‘official’ looking man and showed him my pass, he waved me over and said, this is the line.  

How people, voluntarily lined up and made a snaking configuration that span the width of the Place d’Armes, I don’t know. As I stood in that line, trying to maintain my battery levels on my phone, I looked for free wifi, which the Palace said was available, it wasn’t the strength of signal just wasn’t there. So I literally had to people watch.

Sometimes I like it, most times I don’t because I find myself being judgmental. Things like “Who told her she could walk in those heels?” “Dude, shaving would probably be your best option.” Or better yet, “Honey, would you like some butter with your rolls?” So I resist, because temptation is hard.

I did wonder how the crowd instinctively knew to snake around like that. There were times when lines tended to close in towards each other and other times it was so far apart that it didn’t even look like the same line, which was the case when I got in the queue and about an hour later, I finally got in.

Somehow, in my travels, a bit of Gulliver-itis has snuck in. Suddenly things that should have been grand and awe inspiring, looked ok. I don’t know what it is, maybe because I’ve seen so many palaces and churches and museums that they all look comparatively the same. 

But the gates of Versailles wasn’t massive like Buckingham Palace, but it was very gold! Then not every part of Versailles was available for viewing because of renovations. Then the rooms of the king and the queen looked like every other palace, lots of uncomfortable looking furniture, huge paintings hanging on the walls and paintings on the ceilings. Ornate and overwrought designs that had my head twisting around like the Exorcist.

But I did find the Hall of Mirror fantastic, but with the mob of people seemingly covering every inch of floor, it made the room seem smaller but it was nonetheless breath taking.  I’m assuming the floor to ceiling windows facing east really light up the room with the dazzling mirrors reflecting light up and off the crystal chandeliers.

Then I went and paid the extra €9 to enter the gardens. I was seeing snatches of them as I toured the palace and there was so many people there enjoying a beautiful Sunday that I had to go.

It’s twice the size of NYC’s Central Park and it was a very long walk. But the gardens were amazing! Also I was able to catch a special exhibition by artist Anish Kapoor and his massive artwork. There was his Sky Mirror that at first looks like a big satellite dish until you realize it’s a mirror and you can see yourself in it. But we’ve had the Bean in Chicago for a while, so….

The walk down from the back of the palace to the top of the Grand Canal took about 20minutes and I don’t saunter, I walk a nice pace, and then I had to walk back! It was beautiful, from the aerial views I’ve seen of it online and on the brochures they handed out, the layout would take days to walk. So they will rent you out an electric car. I never found the rental place, because I would be sorely tempted to rent one the proceed to drive like a banshee all over the grounds.

There is a musical event when the fountains are run to matching music, but I missed them all. Instead I had a little moment at the Fountain of Apollo’s Chariot. 

I was lining up a shot to take when I noticed a disturbance in the water in my peripheral view. Then a trio of little ducks swam towards it with one little duck quacking in distress. I mean I heard it quacking as if to say, “Hey, are you ok? Where did you go?” It’s little quack was plaintive and I had to walk to the edge of the fountain to look down and see if perhaps a fellow duck had fallen in.

It’s a shallow fountain, so I saw down to the mossy bottom, but there was no duck lying on the bottom with his beak agape and drowning(I have a very active imagination!). But the little duck kept coming and his two buddies were right by his side and he was just so worried.

Then I saw it, I saw the reason for his distress! It was a HUGE carp! It languidly swam by them and the little duck saw it and continued to quack, plaintively and was trying to catch up to the fish, who of course ignored him.  

I bring it up because I really felt bad for the little duck. As if he was in the throes of unrequited love. Silly me. Then it dawned on me. I knew what I could say to the little duck to bring him comfort and release.

“Don’t chase that big fish in the little pond! It will always be a big fish in that pond and she will always be there, she can’t leave. But you have wings, you can fly away anywhere you want. You are not imprisoned by that pond. Fly little duck fly!”

I chuckled to myself, getting all philosophical over a duck and a fish. But when I walked back on my return trip, the fish (there were several off them) were all still in that fountain pond, all lined up facing south, it was a little bizarre. As if they only swam around causing a fuss when the ducks were around. The ducks, had all flown away, off to have their adventures and the big fish in the little pond sat, quiet and still.

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