Rain. Cold. Miserable.
That was our day at Versailles. But first, the Metro drama.
We entered the Metro again at Saint-Michel Notre-Dame, so we could catch the RER to Versailles. Now, I had heard horror stories of the French police catching tourists out for not having their tickets for the duration of their trip. Unlike say the Underground, the Metro largely uses paper tickets that are also required for you to exit the station. So, hold onto them. The police will go after obvious tourists and check for them, and it’s a pretty hefty fine if you can’t produce.
So, what happens shortly after we enter the station? We lose a ticket. So I had to exit using my ticket, and buy two new ones. This also meant we missed our original train, so we had to do some juggling there to catch a couple of different ones. But it all worked out.
The day I couldn’t say got much better. The line to get into Versailles was absolutely massive, and it was raining. And we only brought one umbrella, because it was only overcast in Paris. So we hit the gardens first, hoping the line would reduce. (Spoiler: it did not)
The gardens were nice, and it would have been orders of magnitude more enjoyable in good weather. We didn’t explore maybe five percent of the grounds, just the things closest to the buildings. We never even got to the chateaus which are basically mini palaces. You can rent carts and bikes, and I think even boats.
We ate some food outside in the Brasserie De La Girandole and just did manage to stay dry while we did. Versailles is expensive, and we were losing endurance. The rain and the length of the trip were making this day pretty miserable.
Then we went inside the palace and it got worse.
The line to get in was horrible, and we were getting soaked for at least ninety minutes. I was getting more soaked, making sure my wife was as covered as possible. We did finally get in, and we were happy to be inside even to just start getting dry. But there was absolutely too many people to make the experience enjoyable.
Without assigning blame to an entire nationality or race, without doubt the group of people who most contributed to the misery were the groups of Chinese tourists. They were pushy, they were loud, they did whatever they pleased, and it didn’t matter if you were trying to look at anything or move with the crowd. As a result, Versailles was the thing my wife wanted to see the most in France and it was the least enjoyable experience. We saw things, but we couldn’t really see much of anything at ground level. Simply too many people. They need a reservation system, a timed system, anything would be an improvement. We went on the shoulder season, but I’m not sure there could have been more people in the building.
As a result we left earlier than we had originally planned. We walked back through the rain to the train station in town and back to Paris. We explored the Ile Saint-Louis (the smaller island), got some macarons, tried to get ice cream, and eventually settled on dinner from a small store, premade wraps, chips, and soft drinks. I think we were both ready for the day to be over and the trip to wrap up by this point. We did walk by Shakespeare and Company while we wandered, but were too wet and miserable to go in.
We ended the day by watching some French TV. I can’t say I recommend it. Perhaps if I knew more French, but most of it was news or dubbed 80s American shows.