France 4: Let them eat Cake! Versaille – Giverny – Sancerre

18/07/08 – Well, what can you say about Versaille? With the renovated golden gates, it’s one of the most beautiful palaces I’ve ever seen. We took a guided tour (in English – we hadn’t got that brave just yet – the embarrassment on that front is yet to come) of the private apartments, which I would highly recommend. Plus – major bonus – you don’t have to queue; neither for the tour, nor to get into the rest of the palace (and remember, this is only 4 days after Bastille Day – apart from Aug 1st, the most manic public holiday in France). Hall of mirrors? – yep, it looks every bit of palace ballroom as you can imagine, or have seen. If you go to the gardens (and let’s face it – this is Versaille, so you’ve arrived early and are going to spend the entire day here), then you need to finish off with a trip up to the NE corner of the estate (pause to relax under some hazel trees on the way there – hold hands: Paspartout wanted another break anyway!), to the Grand Taillon and Petit Taillon – the custom village built especially for Marie Antoinette (ah, Marie Antoinette; don’t think badly of her – coming from Austria, she knew little of France and its people, and was only a puppet in European politics).

19/07/08 – I thought Monet’s garden, at Giverny, would be dull dull dull (being the keen gardener – ahem! – that I am), but no! The garden itself is organised chaos, and a wild explosion of colour, with many flowers that I hadn’t seen before – an eclectic mix of English cottage and exotica. Inside the house is a collection of Japanese watercolours, including Fujiyama’s Wave, a particular favourite of mine. Important tip – it only costs €5.50 for the house and garden, and only takes a couple of hours to do, but for love of all that’s holy go early! They open at 0930, but by 1100 the coach park (yes – COACH park) is filling up. Old fogies and Americans – dear god, get me out of here!

The drive to Sancerre was long and uneventful, but for the most part alongside the Loire, and the weather was beautiful when we arrived (the first hint of it since we arrived). After the verbal assault from Marianne (they only allow French at the school, and the woman seemed to think we’d remembered anything from April – dur!), and a quick check-in, we had our first random event… tuba, trumpet and percussion, dressed in convict stripes, playing their way, like a pied piper trio followed by c.50 tourists, with ragtime and jazz by way of accompaniment to a guided tour through the streets. We watched in amazement, and as they faded down the hill to their next port of call, we flopped into chair and bed, et la nous reposions pour le weekend…

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