Day 14 - Versailles, France
Friday, July 31, 2015: Bonjour, France! We arrived in Le Havre to a bright, sunny day.
|In a particularly brilliant move the night before, we solved our daily breakfast problem by ordering a club sandwich and milk from room service and saving it for the morning.
|We had already been to Paris before, so we opted to take the ship's tour to Versailles.
|We got a nice early start because it would take a couple of hours to get there and back.
|Here's an interesting building.
|Laid-back countryside and a Renault factory coexisting side-by-side.
|There was thick fog everywhere with blue skies and sun occasionally breaking through.
|It was so thick over the river that we couldn't see the bridge we were about to cross. Don't worry, we got a nice shot on the return trip.
|This is the Normandy region of France. It's charming.
|Running out of ways to say charming.
|A little over two hours later, we were in the city of Versailles, ...
|... then a few more minutes later, we were heading toward the gates of Versailles. Our progress was slowed by mobs of people with their selfie sticks at the entrance.
|We started our tour in the Grand Degré, near the bathrooms.
|From there, we took the stairs up to the first level.
|The Swarovski crystal chandelier handing from the ceiling is 12 meters high and weighs 1000 pounds. Looks good though.
|At the top of the stairs was the Hercules Drawing Room. Many of the rooms in Versailles are named for the people depicted in the paintings on the walls or ceilings.
|From that large room, we funneled through a series of much smaller rooms. There were far more people than space.
|The next room was the Drawing Room of Plenty.
|The Venus Drawing Room contained a statue of Louis XIV, ...
|... and this amazing ceiling showing Venus being crowned.
|Here's the Diana Drawing Room.
|These multi-color stone busts were all over the place.
|Our guide, Evelyne, did her best to keep us together.
|This is the Mars Drawing Room, ...
|... containing a painting of Marie Leczinska, ...
|... wife of Louis XV.
|Here's the Mercury Drawing Room, ...
|... and here's the War Drawing Room, looking into the Hall of Mirrors.
|I'm starting to think that Louis XIV was a bit of a narcissist.
|The Hall of Mirrors.
|It has huge windows overlooking the gardens.
|Next, we visited the King's Apartments, including ...
|... the King's Bedchamber and ...
|... the Council Chamber.
|Back in the Hall of Mirrors, then off to ...
|... the Queen's Bedchamber.
|Here is the Coronation Room, devoted to Napoleon Bonaparte.
|Napoleon Bonaparte, 1796.
|The Coronation of the Emperor, 1804.
|The 1792 room was filled with portraits of the heroes of the French revolution.
|We had left our tour group earlier in order to get out of the awful crush of people, so we had time to peek at the Gallery of Battles in the south wing.
|We also had a chance to look longingly at the gardens outside where we wanted to be. We assumed that we'd have time to visit them, especially this one, but we were quite wrong.
|We met up with our tour group and filed out down the Queen's (or Marble) Staircase leading out to ...
|... the Royal Courtyard. At this point, we had some free time to look around.
|We peeked in the gift shops ...
|... and we walked down some hallways ...
|... and we got a closer look at the shiny gold gate.
|Here's the Royal Courtyard again looking back from the gate.
|Once our break was over, our group gathered again and we were marched around back to the gardens.
|We just kept marching, so any photos we got were taken on the run.
|This fountain is the Bassin de Laoton and the Grand Canal in the distance.
|There must be an army of gardeners to keep everything looking perfectly groomed, but we didn't see any. Magic invisible garden fairies, perhaps?
|The walkways go on forever in this place, or so we assumed because we were marching down the main walkway only.
|There are statues everywhere too, and they're all perfectly white, so perhaps there are magic invisible painting fairies as well.
|This sculpture is called "Dirty Corner."
|It's both hideous and out of place, but it gives people something to talk about.
|This fountain is Bassin d’Apollon. The fountains only run on weekends and Tuesdays in order to prevent the sculptures from too much decay from the lead-filled water.
|Our march ended when we reached the restaurant where we'd be having lunch: La Flotille, next to the Grand Canal.
|The restaurant is light and airy and pretty inside.
|We had red wine, salad, a chicken entree, ...
|... and a fruit tart for dessert.
|After lunch, we had over an hour of free time.
|We decided to rent a rowboat and spend our time on the Grand Canal in the sun, ...
|... safely away from the crowds.
|Here's the view from the water looking back toward the palace, ...
|... and here's Tom view from the other end of the rowboat.
|This man's shoulders were custom-built to a row a boat.
|We turned in the boat after about 45 minutes, ...
|... then we bought a ham baguette sandwich to save for breakfast the next day, and waited to meet our group to leave.
|So, we're heading back ...
|... and there's more charming stuff ...
|... and this time, the bridge is not only visible, it's radiant.
|Apparently, there's a cute little town nestled among the white cliffs along the river bank.
|Another cute town along a river.
|We made it back to the ship in exactly two hours, arriving at 6:00 sharp.
|We bolted onto the ship, through security, and to the dining room to get to our table before it was released to the general public. It wasn't really a problem, though, because the dining room was fairly deserted due to a shipful of people on 12-hour-long shore excursions.
|We had rushed to the dining room for one reason: it was Baked Alaska night! It is truly the perfect cruise dessert.
|Here's the March of the Baked Alaska! We were at the point of ordering dessert well before this occurred, so we had already eaten our serving.
|After the march, a trio of waiters performed a song for the audience.
|Before leaving, we got a photo with our assistant waiter Felix and waiter Liudmyla. They made sure that Debbie's lack of interest in fresh ground pepper had not changed since the previous course or the previous day or the previous week, but they also provided otherwise impeccable service.
|After dinner, we watched sail out from our balcony, ...
|... and waved at the people on the dock waving to us.
|Here's the pretty town of Le Havre.
|We aren't sure what those little white boxes are for, but we're thinking they're some sort of beach cabana.
|We watched the French shoreline ...
|... slowly slip out of view. Right about here was where we saw something porpoise-like leap out of the water several times, but you'll have to take our word for it.
|Au revoir, France!
|This evening was a blue moon -- the second full moon in a month. It sure looked beautiful next to the blue lights of the SeaWalk.
|Before bed, we got some photos of the excellent Princess entertainment system.
|We had brought a stack of DVDs with us so we were very disappointed to find that the cabin didn't have a DVD player, but the on-demand movie system made up for it with a nice selection of movies.
We especially liked the ship's location map and referred to it often. Next stop: Southampton!
Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy