Sunday, May 6, 2012

Day 26 - Chateau de Versaille, Arc de Triomphe, Dinner at Tarmac

Saturday 21st April 2012
There is no room for error today. None at all. I have prebooked a tour of the Kings Private Apartments at Versaille at 9:30 am. We simply cannot afford to let the morning slip away and we don’t. Just after 8 am we are pounding the footpath on our way to Gare D’Austerlitz and the train to Versailles.  No need to fuss about tickets, I bought these on our arrival in Paris with our other transport.  We are settled on the train and on our way by 8:26 am.  Just in time.  We are perhaps getting our tourist mojo back and I have to say I am pleased.

In planning the trip I read the advice that on arrival you just follow the crowds to the palace.  It’s reassuring that we also have the happy guidance of ample signage as we flow with the first trickle of the daily human tide to the gilded gates of the world’s most famously extravagant royal residence.  Like peasantry through the ages we slow and pause in wonder at the scale of the rich indulgence before us.  Gilt and black gates and roof tops are certainly an effective way to make a statement and at this time of day the beams of the morning sun are reflected in golden spendour. 
Having considered the Chateau de Versailles in two dimensions on websites and in books, I find once again that the reality presents itself somewhat differently to what I have imagined.  The palace is situated at the crest of a low hill, so not only is the size and splendor calculated to impress, the approach also emphasizes to the visitor that you are ascending from the realms of the mortal to the realms of absolute monarchy established by right under god. Quake and be humble.
Our first act of humility is to pause and consider the enormity of a vast bronze statue of Louis XIV which dominates the cobbled square in front of the gates of the palace.  Tourists stop and point, no doubt marvelling as we do at the size of the thing.  The French certainly do, or did, go in for enormous statues. And they seem to have been particularly fond of enormous statues featuring horses. 
We pick our way forward over the rough cobbles and consider the various queues forming ahead of us.  As yesterday we find that there is ample, and very large signage to help us detect where we should go. I am also armed with instructions provided by the website when I booked our tour.  However I am completely puzzled by the fact that no one, no-one, seems to be heading for the modest little door over to our right where the private tours depart.  How bizarre.  We pause in confusion and see someone emerging from the modest little door and with the experience gained yesterday assuring us that we don’t need to look for a particularly obvious or ostentatious entrance arrangement we head on in and are rewarded by finding ourself precisely where we need to be. We are issued with proper tickets, to replace the strange article I printed from the website in relation to my booking and are directed to a small adjacent room to wait for the arrival of our guide. Meanwhile, I let hubby take the lead so that I have time to appreciate the extravagant light fittings.  Now this is more appropriate for a visitor entry to a royal palace. It erupts like a violent clawing of spider legs from the ceiling.
We join the other participants for this morning tour. There’s only a very small group. Not the full complement, places are still available and this is very surprising.  I wander down through empty rooms looking for the conveniences.  I pause to consider carefully which entrance to go into.  Even toilet door silhouettes in France are required to be dressed and posed stylishly. They have none of the angularity of the stylized symbols present on toilet doors in other parts of the world and I find they take some time to decipher.
In due course our guide arrives and proceeds to enchant and delight us with a fascinating tour rich with information not only about the palace but in particular about Louis XVI who, it turns out, was a very interesting man.  He, like his father before him was very well educated and passionately interested in the sciences. As we proceed around his royal apartments learning about the marvels contained there, I become increasingly sad at the fate that awaited him in the Revolution.  Did you note that I said the Kings Royal apartments contains marvels. It really does. Being passionately interested in science and something of an asthete Louis XVI was inclined to set challenges for French artisans and scientists. He would commission extraordinary pieces which no one knew how to make. He would conceive of brilliant new developments in any of a range of endeavours and over time, in some cases over decades, the best and brightest of the age would slave away to produce pieces that would astonish the world.  That continue to astonish the world as we pause to consider the incredible masterpieces of these extraordinary craftsmen.  Louis, not just a self indulgent tyrant, was in effect funding research and development.
As we wander the rooms we learn about life at court and the living and dining habits of the French king and aristocracy.  After the revolution the palace was not destroyed, but it was plundered.  Vast quantities of precious items were put up for sale.  Agents of the wealthy the world over arrived in France to buy up the treasures of the French court.  The story of European royalty crosses borders.  You cannot truly appreciate the history and palaces of one country without detailed consideration of the others.  The agent of the English monarch had the sense to buy up one particularly ground breaking set of dinner ware by Sevre. Versaille has managed to acquire just a few pieces of the set which we admire. The remainder are still treasured as part of the Royal Collection and are on display at Windsor Castle. We did see them there and read their little label on the cabinet, but had failed to really appreciate what they were or what it took to make them and indeed how long it took to development the technology to make them, for that we needed to come to Versailles.
Then there is the multi-function solar clock which still works perfectly and will continue to set the correct time and date to the year 9999. It shows you the phase of the moon and is topped by a working model of the solar system where all the planets known at the time of it’s creation rotate on their axis and around the sun showing the correct position.  
We step into another room and here before us is the original roll top desk. Conceived to meet the needs of the King it took years of research and development by the finest craftsmen to come up with something to suit the purpose, and here it is right here in front of us. The very first one, and what an extraordinary piece it is with lots to hear about it and see.  What is original, what has changed on this desk since the revolution and various pairs of hands it has passed through. Nearby is another of the original desks, this time in more traditional style, it is beautiful.
There are even some unexpected links to Australia. Among his many interests Louis XVI was very interested in geography, he kept copies of Cook’s journals and when James Cook was killed it was Louis XVI that sent La Perouse off to finish Cook’s work, famously landing at Botany Bay not long after the first fleet arrived from Britain and lending the name to La Perouse for the northern entrance to the bay. Hubby is tickled to see that the globe in the room clearly shows an accurate map of Australia. Cook's journals sit amongst a fine library containing books in many languages. Louis XVI was fluent in numerous languages.
As we consider a room decorated with a range of chairs and again the protocols regarding who is allowed to sit on what chairs is recapped, noting the different chair styles for men and women I ask a question.  Could the chairs be moved around by people to join this or that group or was the positioning of chairs used to ensure certain groupings between the sexes.  Chairs were moved as people felt like it, even from room to room. To illustrate the point we retrace steps to consider in detail a small, specialised chair we may not have noticed when we were in the previous room.  This squat little chair is for women to kneel on, they leant on the cushioned top to observe the games. Clearly it belongs with the set where it is currently situated but it would have also been taken into the adjacent room. In considering the chair you need to also consider the fashions of the day and the challenge that they would present to the ladies.
The whole tour is fascinating.  Our guide is clearly passionate and knowledgeable about the subject matter.  This is never more apparent than when I comment that Louis XVI was really an interesting guy.  The love and appreciation of this king beams in the smile on our guides face and in the tone of his voice as he says simply “yes”. 
But wait there is a final glory for us to see before the end of our tour. Hubby’s favourite part of versaille. The Opera Theatre. It is a grand space, but we have seen many grand spaces. The Opera Theatre is a practical marvel. It can be converted to a flat floored space of 800m2 so can be adapted for various uses. For example the wedding of Louis to Marie-Antionette.  The opera theatre held a horseshoe shaped royal table seating 23 and held 2000 courtiers watching. We sit in the theatre as we get the run down on the various features. It’s simply astonishing.  We gaze upward at various decorative features which would have been un-noticed and un-appreciated for their complexity as well as their beauty and in many cases camouflaged purpose.  It would certainly be amazing to attend a performance here and I promise myself that if ever we are back in France I will try to make sure that we time it such that this is possible. If advising others planning a visit I would urge them to tour the private apartments and learn about the space first to enhance your pleasure.
I have to say that had we gone home and seen nothing more of Versailles than this tour I would have been perfectly content. It has made my day.  Nothing can go wrong for us now. Everything else is an extra. The crowds cramming the other spaces of the palace are just a vaguely irritating buzz. This is just as well. We are about to enter the pack.
We acquire our audio guide and while hubby ducks of to use the facilities I settle myself down on a seat outside the chapel and indulge in some crowd watching.
The volume rises and falls and I take an opportunity when the crush has subsided to get some photos, albeit composed rather quickly!

There is probably no substitute for the professionally prepared guidebooks and videos, but those shots taken haphazardly on the day do have a particular usefulness in helping to bring back the sense of being present in the place.
Hubby back on deck,we head off to tour the State apartments.  To access them we need to head back down the corridor lined with magnificently carved marble statues of past monarchs.

As we head around the formal rooms of State, we diligently listen to the audio guide. I have to say it’s well above average and commits none of the usual audio tour sins.  They even have different voices to speak to you about different things in each room so that the guide doesn’t just become an annoying drone.  Some of the content revisits some aspects of our tour, but rather than finding this irritating, I find it helpful.  It is hard to cram so much information into our heads and retain it.  Things that were referred to earlier we now see in practice. For example some of the State rituals like having to eat publicly and the rules about who got to sit and what the various ranks of society got to sit on for example, or the rising and going to bed ceremonies (which were common across royal houses, not just in France).
We see the table set up for the formal eating of a meal.  The king and queen sit at the table. Stools at the same table can only be used by the couple's children.  Other royal family members can sit on the stools placed in a semi circle. Anyone else can just stand. When I've heard over the years, of this sort of court ritual it has seemed to be such an arrogant imposition on the court. As we tour the palace itself seeing the complex array of rooms and what they are used for there is more a sense of what an imposition all this pomp and ritual would be for the monarch, being as they are, not of that person's devising but an inherited obligation of the title.  No wonder Marie-Antionette craved the relative simplicity of the Petit Triannon.
While we're considering generalities, I must comment that the Chateau de Versailles has painted ceilings, as was fashionable at the time, with liberal use of classical Greek mythology as subject matter.  This is much as we have seen in England, and is in general not to my taste but I have to say, the artists here in France were superior to those who did the ceilings we've seen in England ie Antonio Verrio. To my eye there is a marked difference in the quality.  What a difference the quality of the artist makes to such features!
Getting back to Marie-Antionette, the tour takes us through her formal bed chamber. It is elegantly furnished. You certainly couldn't accuse her of having poor taste! In the context of a grand palace even the gilt just looks fabulous. But it comes with a warning. Don't try this at home. In an ordinary domestic home, or even your average modern mansion decor like this would look hideous. Hubby and I recognise the same fabric we learned about at Fontainebleau yesterday. It has also been used here, though the same details are not provided. It bears repeating that the re-weaving of the fabric in this room took 20 years to complete!
The crowning glory of Versailles, the room that monarchs across Europe were inspired by and sought to play catch up with was the Hall of Mirrors.  This room really was a marvel and it’s almost impossible to get your head around the magnitude of what was pulled together here in an age when mirrors were new, extremely expensive and a huge status symbol. It’s not just the mirrors there’s a system of lighting behind the mirrors which you need to try to imagine.  In truth it is this room that has brought me here today.  I have been more interested in other royal houses but everywhere, simply everywhere you visit a royal house, Versaille is the reference point. You can understand nothing about royal palaces, without gaining an appreciation of the Chateau de Versailles. Consequently modern expectation is a very hard task master. Perhaps it is the continued cost of mirrors even today which prevents this amazing expanse being kept completely schmick.  As is inevitable, the silvering on these old mirrors is failing over time. They look old and faded. Decayed. Like the monarchy that placed them and is no more the hall of mirrors is decaying and struggles to maintain it’s impact.  The set up as we see it today is how it was decorated for the special events.  The chandeliers were apparently not always up.  What we’re looking at is how it would have been arrayed for the wedding of Louis to Marie-Antionette. This is not mentioned in our audio guides, but that is what we’ve been told on our tour this morning.  The faded glory of the Hall of Mirrors is sad and somewhat disappointing.  
No doubt there are many many calls on the limited budget for restoring and maintaining the Chateau de Versailles.  It took 2 kg gold to re-gild the front gates.. and the re-gilding work is far from finished on the exteriors of this vast palace. The best furnished room in the palace, the room that is most closely reassembled to what it was before the revolution, has taken 60 years to put together as the world was patiently scoured looking for the original inventory for that room.. and then coming up with the money to acquire each item, chair by chair, piece by piece, and there are still a few chairs not yet acquired that would have originally been in this space.  Clearly it takes a monstrous amount of money to build something like this.It also takes a monstrous amount of money to maintain it and restore this legendary glory of France.  As we explore Versailles I understand how one might conclude that Fontainebleau might need to play second fiddle for funding, but what a devil of a dilemma for France to have to make.  I am glad to have visited both and thereby contributed something to the survival of each.  I have to confess I felt pleased that the British Monarch remains in place, and that many of the great houses remain occupied by their families, though many of the houses themselves now exist in managed charitable trusts. There is nothing like “private” ownership to ensure the continued survival of collections and maintenance of grand places, but I have to say, other royal houses are fortunate that they have not inherited such an enormous load of gilding to support!
As we tour the apartments, the surrounding gardens and fountains may be seen through the windows. I am very happy that we came on a day when the fountains are operating. They make a huge difference to the effect. Occassionally we get an opportunity, though rather constrained by access and by the other people also hoping for a photo, to capture a small, probably inadequate reminder of the views.
It boggles the mind that in the view below, hidden between the distant Swiss Lake and the southern parterre, is where we should have found the Orangery garden. The scale of the vistas  is sufficient that a large and famous garden is completely invisible to you even from the height of the palace windows. From the ground you have no idea that there is something to be seen. Today not even foot traffic gives away the existence of the Orangery. 
Our tour around the interiors concluded we decide to seek some lunch. Our decision on where to go is held up as we marvel at the courtyard into which we have emerged. The gilt highlighting across the tops of the palace is a sight to behold. At the edges of the wings are areas where all that is shown gilt in the roofs pictured are a dull tarnished black, highlighting the effectiveness of the golden decorations in creating a beautiful edifice.
We grab a quick meal in the cafĂ©. Nothing particularly memorable, and we have no difficulty with crowds or finding a seat.  Soon enough we are heading out to explore the gardens.  We have visited on a day when the musical display of the fountains is on. We have enjoyed looking out from the various rooms of the palace to see the gardens and fountains working. Now there is a lull over the middle of the day and the fountains are turned back on later in the afternoon.  Our first item on the agenda is to get our tickets for the little train and go out to Petit Triannon and Marie-Antionette’s village.  We line up in the queue and are served by a snappish woman.  There is an audio guide for the gardens for €1.50. No deal unless you show your passport. No, not a photocopy of your passport.  No original passport. No audio guide.  This is the only place in our entire trip other than an airport, that has wanted to see our passport. For a blinking audio guide for god’s sake, it seems ridiculous. What are they going to do, black list us from entering the country if we fail to return the damn thing?  We have followed the oft repeated advice to carry photocopies around and leave the original documents at home in the safe. No garden audio guide for us.
It’s not long before we’re happily enjoying the music on the little train as we wiz down to our next stop.  We had been thinking we’d just do the circuit then head back round to make particular stops, but it becomes clear that this is not a goer due to limited time and also I’m starting to have doubts about whether they would let you reboard from the starting location on the same ticket. The time issue seals it though and we alight at Petit Triannon.  We take a quick tour of the building first up and spend a little time on the interactive multi-media devices provided.  The watch maker Breguet has funded or rather is funding the restoration of Petit Triannon and we enjoy an interesting presentation about how awesome this sort of watch is and the history of the company. Marie-Antionette owned one of these watches you see.. the ultimate celebrity endorsement! I have to confess to being grateful for the patronage. This is the sort of association Versaille can only benefit from. For those who can afford one I encourage you to buy Breguet!
Life in her retreat at Petit Triannon was no doubt simpler than life at court, but it’s still a palace. Still the black and gilt. There’s no sense that the occupant is not royal, though I guess compared to the extravagant excesses of the palace, this little building must have seemed very modest indeed. We don’t have time to linger too long and in point of fact we're walking through here from more of a sense of obligation. I'm almost completely distracted by the priority I have set on an exploration down to the little village in the grounds. It's quite a distance and I want to be back at the grand canal for the start of the fountains.
Hubby loiters in the informal courtyard garden while I take a comfort stop and now, with camera in hand I have an opportunity to provide evidence of the stylish toilet icons! I defy anyone, not already familiar with them, to tell at a glance and at a distance which of the two icons represents the facilities to go to.. well.. aside from the disabled ones obviously!
 We’ve not long headed out the door and are just starting to walk after getting our bearings when I stop dead in my tracks. I’m not the only one. A man nearby and his companion are likewise staring intently into the unmown grass adjacent to us. There’s no time for courtesies. I’m too shocked. All I can say, in some considerable astonishment, is “What is that! Is that an otter?” A brown furry shape is bounding through the grass.  The man asks me in a tone of some relief with a touch of an unspoken thank god I’m not hallucinating… “do you think so?” I reply ”well I’m no expert but that looks like an otter to me!!”  We watch as the furry creature slinks down into the almost dry watercourse.  Oh my god. I CANNOT believe it. We have actually seen an otter in the garden at the Chateau de Versailles!  All other plans are put on the back burner. We head along the path in a direction that might give us views of the where the otter has gone.  As we head down the path a Versaille worker in uniform is doing the same thing clearly looking intently to see where the otter might be.  So we’re not the only ones who have seen this special creature.  A little further along, Hubby spots the otter again and points me in the right direction.  Yep. There it is.  Large as life. FANTASTIC!  I am so glad we came here today.  What a day we’re having. I can't imagine the otter is having too good a time in the dregs of the watercourse though.

 When further opportunities for otter viewing are clearly not presenting themselves we head on down the path to the little village. Hubby takes an opportunity to contemplate the temple of love.

We walk along informal paths to the modest village buildings. It’s a cute little village. Well done.  There are a few elements to the village that remind you that this is all just royal garden ornamentation. For example in one modest dwelling beautifully laid floors are visible through murky windows. Would peasants have had such a floor I wonder with undisguised skepticism.

Or the trimmed box borders to the garden?

We enjoy a lovely cluster of spring blossom trees. On the whole we have not seem a great many of the popular blossom trees that are a feature of spring at home. Mostly it is cherries. Mostly they are the same extravagantly double pink cherry.  Lovely cherries that revel in the cold climate. At home you mostly see flowering plum trees which present opportunities for a variety of colours.
 Our final contemplation of village life involves marvelling at the good fortune of one peasant who has been able to erect an ornate tower. Lucky peasant that one.

My favourite view of the little village is seen from a distance over the village pond. Viewed from a distance the village is an idealised fantasy world. Perhaps a lesson to all of us here today indulging in some tourism across time and space. It's difficult to judge the decisions and situations of history through a modern paradigm, just as it is difficult to consider the lives of the poor when you have known only extreme privilege and wealth.

The gardens are not really getting going for the new season. It is easy to imagine what a charming cottagey feel the place will have in warmer seasons, but on the whole we think we could have skipped the village. It's not the fault of the little village. We’ve had a fantastic tour and we’ve seen an otter. Can anything else really compare?
We wander back along the paths, occassionally checking the map. We are trying to make our way back to a train stop as soon as we can. Along the way as we set out on our walk to the little village an American man stopped us to ask for advice on how to find his way back out of the maze like pathways.  As we try to do the same I begin to understand why his question was tinged with an air of quiet desperation.  We come to a grand building. Ah is this Petit Triannon?  Ah.. no actually. Where the frig are we?
Where do we go to get the train?  Hubby takes the lead. A quietly determined perusal of the map. Some skillful reasoning and landscape interpretation from hubby and we are soon lining up with rather a lot of others waiting to board.  I begin to worry about how long it is going to take us to get back to the grand canal, but the worry is in vain and we’re on the next train from which the great majority of passengers alight. Thank god for that!

We arrive back at the grand canal for the magical moment when the fountains are turned on creating a waterfall cacophony across the immense expanse of formal and secret gardens.  Despite the weather, there's a few people out on the canal rowing. Gee they must be keen. It seems cold and exposed out on the water. Across to the side is a busy cafe with seating.

With the assembled crowd, we watch the jets of water erupt at the Apollo ornamental lake. It's not so much a powerful eruption as a gradual build up to full display.
The palace is visible in the distance from the Apollo ornamental lake. The scale of the vistas here is beyond anything our minds can readily take in, let alone a photograph. 
We have planned a fairly simple route that will enable us to sample some of the intriguing garden features.  We wait at the colonnade, which has a circle of arches under each of which a fountain is situated.  Nothing happening.
We move on past fountain after fountain. Most of the fountains are large, but even with their size  in the scale of the gardens they are dwarfed..
We come to a stop at the Mirror Ornamental Lake and watch transfixed as the jets of water dance to the music.  An employee maintains watch and keeps everyone off the grass, her ire descending on a young girl with the audacity to approach the water across the grass.  At the end of the piece of music there is a pause, encouraging you to move to the next thing and leaving space for other people to come and watch in a semi-hypnotic state.  If that music didn’t pause, who knows when we would have been able to bring ourselves to leave.
 As we are walking towards our next target area loud explosive sounds like gunfire erupt over towards our right in the general direction of the upper gardens. I get a sense of surreal unease.  Should we be walking towards the noise?  I ask hubby. “Can you hear anyone screaming?” “No”. “Neither can I, surely if this is a Port Arthur moment there would be screaming.  Lots of screaming”. Hubby thinks I’m slightly nuts. .. that’s my slightly added there!  Still, I feel a little uneasy walking up towards the palace. As we near the main areas, it seems the gunfire is coming from an area outside the grounds, or far enough away that I stop worrying about it.  In a few days time it will be explained to us in other circumstances that the French love shooting and get out on the weekends and shoot stuff.
 We pause to consider the extraordinary views around the ornamental pools. I think this is my favourite area of the formal gardens so far.
The weather has held off, but is closing in. It is bitterly cold and we are tired after a long day of exploring. We pause at the southern parterre to check our map.  I have a feeling that I was supposed to see something called the Orangery.  I don’t find it on the map. The Southern Parterre is OK, but not such that I feel obliged to wander through it, where it transpires I would have found the legendary Orangery, a wonder that has inadvertently been reserved for a future visit. From the info available to me I conclude that perhaps the orangery is closed at the moment. As icy cold rain again begins to fall we join the growing throngs who are making for the station and the train back to Paris.  I am pleased about the time, we depart Versailles Rive Gauche at 4:43pm.
One of the main things I wanted to do in Paris was to pay my respects at the grave of the unknown soldier at the Arc de Triomphe.  We are exhausted, but I have to admit I have been trying to plan the day and making our choices to try to maintain an option of heading to the evening ceremony.  We consider going home for a short rest and heading back out for the ceremony, but we’re so tired and when we get home I know we we won’t leave again, so we get off the train from Versailles at Invalides and make our way across the Pont Alexander III, famous star of film and screen.
Looking across Pont Alexander II towards the dome of the Grand Palais

Street lighting on Pont Alexander III

Petit Palais

Grand Palais

 Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill captured mid stride
Our walk takes us along Ave Winston Churchill past the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais to one of the world’s most famous avenues. The crowds reflect that fame. It is very crowded.  Once upon a time I planned perhaps to walk down the Champs Elysees, but this is simply not an option after such a long day.
The bus will do fine.  More than fine in fact.
Champs Elysees
Waiting at the bus stop gives me time to capture the scene and reflect on the importance of beautiful street furniture in setting the tone of a city. The street furniture is beautiful.
Now that is a street lamp! Modern cities should learn from the style of older cities like Paris and  make more effort.

It’s good to see the Champs Elysees, but I don’t regret not having more time. We have no difficulty finding our way across to the Arc de Triomphe, we flash our museum pass once more and make our way to find a good position. We are not alone.  Barriers have been erected and there is a growing throng of people standing patiently waiting for the service to begin.
As we wait an elderly English lady stands next to us, but soon her daughter comes and says. “Mum there’s a better view over here” and they relocate. This lady is old enough to remember WWII.  The people waiting fluctuates a little over the proceeding half hour. In a trickle some older French officials of the ceremony are leading people inside the barricades. They appear to have been outside picking people and asking them inside the barrier. The chosen ones look like every other tourist around in casual clothes.  Some of the elect get out their cameras and take photos, blurring any distinction between participants and tourists.
As preparations proceed and the ceremony nears, it becomes apparent that the service has been set up in a way that seems deliberately calculated to exclude public participation or viewing.  There is one area where a good view could be had. That area, though it is accessible and is not used during the service, is barricaded so that people can’t stand there.  As participants of the service arrive and take their places they are carefully positioned with backs to all the areas where visitors have congregated. It is made absolutely abundantly clear that they do not want us there. The crowd starts to drift away. We persevere, though. I’m at this service in respect for the dead not the living and we've gone to some trouble to be here. I decide to ignore the slight.  The time comes when they sing the national anthem. It becomes apparent that virtually everyone inside the barriers is French. We slink away as the service concludes and begin to make our way home.  It seems the buses aren’t going to be of much use to us, so we make our footsore way to the Metro and get the train home.  Dog tired.
We need an early night. We have a very early train to catch tomorrow. But we also need some dinner.  Hubby has had his eye on Tarmac on the corner. As we have such an early train our first priority is to pay for our accommodation for which we have been accumulating cash as requested.  We have a lovely chat with our host as he comes to collect his money. He encourages us to consider visiting the place outside Paris that inspired Versaille if ever we get the opportunity.  I make a mental note.. not a great mental note. I should have written the name down.. but at least I know to look for it some time! He also encourages us to eat at Tarmac as we want something close.  We ring ahead and check they have a table. It is Saturday night after all.  There’s no problem so we head downstairs for some seriously convenient local dining.
The menu at Tarmac doesn’t strike us as particularly French for our last night in Paris, but I don’t really mind. We do notice that the place is full of local people, which is generally a good sign. It feels somehow wrong but I order a burger hoping that it will have a particularly French twist to it.  Fatigue levels are showing as I completely fail to record our dinner choices either immediately or within time that memory can clearly recall our meals. Sigh. The menu has now changed which is itself positive feedback and I can say that my burger was delicious and yes, it did have a distinctly French twist, mainly to do with the cheese used which seemed to be melted onto the delicious bun. The meat was very good also, clearly good quality lean beef and not over spiced.  Really it was a very superior burger.  Hubby can only recall that he enjoyed his meal at Tarmac and the price for quality and standard of service was good. We would both eat there again very cheerfully.
Our plans of packing up tonight to make tomorrow easier, completely fail to overcome our fatigue level. We will just have to rise especially early tomorrow to make our train.

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