Paris, France (Part 2) – Versailes, Invalides, Louvre and Food
I’m really very bad at keeping up with my posts on my Europe trip… please forgive me! Here’s the link to Part 1 of our Paris trip! I’m sorry if the description are getting shorter and shorter… but I’ll definitely provide essential information (like how to get there, opening hours etc) on these places I’ve been to!
The next day we decided to wake up early and head to Château de Versailles. Being on UNESCO’s World Heritage List for at least 30 years, Versailles is one of the top popular tourist attractions. I recommend going there as early as possible because:
1) The place is really huge, you’ll need at least half a day to explore most of the places, and almost a day to explore fully; and
2) The queue is very, very long, we reached about 9.30am (it opens at 9am) and there’s already a queue to get in!
Upon reaching Château de Versailles, we were greeted by King Louis XIV’s statue. He was the key person responsible for turning Versailles into one of the largest and grandest places in the world.
King Louis XIV used much of the wealth of France to create Versailles, with most design and construction concentrated between 1668 and 1684. The King moved the court and government to Versailles in 1682 to weaken the aristocrats’ power and to increase his own authority.
The bronze statue of King Louis XIV was completed in 1829 and was originally located in the Versailles courtyard. The statue was removed for restoration due to severe damage and it was shifted to in front of Avenue de Paris in 29 Apr 2009.
Versailles was originally used by King Louis XIII as a hunting lodge – the development of the place began only during King Louis XIV’s reign. Versailles was the home of the three French Kings and their royal family from 1682 to 1789, and each king who lived there expanded and developed the palace to be even more beautiful.
(Massive amount of photos coming up, do click to read more!)
In the 1670s Louis XIV built the Grand Apartments of the King and Queen, and the highlight of these apartments is definitely the Hall of Mirrors designed by Mansart. It is where the king put on his most ostentatious display of royal power to impress visitors.
We rent an audio guide to learn more about the history of the place, and I strongly suggest everyone to do the same (unless you have a guidebook or a tour guide), otherwise you wouldn’t really know the significance of the difference areas of Versailles!
There is a ‘hidden door’ in the corner near the jewel cabinet through which Marie Antoinette escaped the night of 5/6 October 1789 when the Paris mob stormed Versailles.
This stunning and beautiful 120 metre long and 13 metre wide gallery occupies the first floor of the aile du midi of the Palace of Versailles. There are more than 100 paintings hung in this gallery, each depicting a famous scene in French military history. A considerable amount of time was spent here, listening to all the information on the paintings (via our audio guides).
After our tour of the château’s interior, we went out to explore the remaining grounds of Versailles – which is extremely huge (lots of walking involved, unless you rent a buggy (like golf carts) or buy a ticket for a mini-train ride.
One of the most stunning displays in Versailles will definitely have to be the Gardens of Versailles, covering about 800 hectares of land. There are manicured lawns, rows and rows of beautiful flowers, sculptures as fountains… there’re really a lot of things to see in the gardens.
This beautiful fountain depicts the legend of Apollo’s mother, Leto, protecting her children against the insults of the peasants of Lycia, and calling on Jupiter to avenge them. Jupiter, upon hearing their plea, transformed the peasants into frogs and lizards (see the frogs and lizards forming part of the fountain!)
Another grand fountain that we spotted was The Apollo Fountain – which illustrates Apollo on his chariot.
It was a pity that none of the fountains are operating that day, otherwise it would have been an even more prettier sight…
Busy bee at work!
As we were wandering aimlessly around the gardens, we chanced upon this place – La Colonnade. 32 marble columns were erected to form this circular arched double peristyle. The statue in the middle depicts the Abduction of Persephone, sculpted by François Girardon.
Another place that most people would not discover (we discovered this by accident haha), the Orangerie features about 1,055 trees during the summer period (some are kept indoors during winter), including palm trees, pomegranate trees and orange trees.
The King’s Garden is an enclosed garden laid out in the English style, planted with superb tree species most of which, unfortunately, were blown down in the great storm of 1999. All that remains today is the original layout of the Mirror fountain.
I loved this flight of stairs – it seems to be reaching towards heaven!
Check out the relevant links on the practical information for Versailles:
P.S. We had a Paris Museum Pass hence our entry was free!
Les Invalides is officially known is L’Hôtel national des Invalides (The National Residence of the Invalids). It is a complex of buildings containing museums and monuments, as well as a chapel, a hospital and a retirement home for war veterans, the building’s original purpose.
Les Invalides is an important place which symbolises the military history of France. The buildings house the Musée de l’Armée, the military museum of the Army of France, the Musée des Plans-Reliefs, and the Musée d’Histoire Contemporaine, as well as the burial site for some of France’s war heroes, notably Napoleon Bonaparte.
The most beautiful aspect of this chapel is definitely the golden dome on top. The dome was gilded for five times since its creation, and the last time it was regilded in 1989, a total of 10 kilograms of pure, thin gold leaves were used!
The most notable tomb of all will definitely have to be Napoleon Bonarparte’s. Napoleon Bonarparte’s tomb was made from red Finnish porphyry. There are twelve large figures are arranged around the tomb, intended to represent Napoleon’s victories.
The painted dome – De La Fosse’s allegories under the dome over the tomb of Napoleon
Everyday except for the first Monday of every month, and January 1st, May 1st, November 1st and December 25th
1 Oct to 31 Mar: 10am – 5pm (5.30pm on Sundays)
1 Apr to 30 Sep: 10am to 6pm (6.30pm on Sundays; 9pm on Tuesdays)
Adult: 9 €
War veterans; visits after 5pm; Tuesday evenings: 7 €
Under 18; 18 to 25 years old nationals of the European Union: Free
Free with Paris Museum Pass
How to get there:
North reception desk: Esplanade des Invalides
South reception desk: Place Vauban
Line 8, Latour-Maubourg, Invalides
Line 13, Saint-François-Xavier, Invalides, Varenne
Line C, “Invalides” stop
28, 63, 69, 80, 82, 83, 87, 92, 93, Balabus
After our trip to Les Invalides, we headed to the Louvre Museum. The Louvre Museum is a historic monument, one of the world’s largest museum and the most visited art museum in the world.
I don’t want to lie, so here it is: I am not an arts lover – I am unable to decipher the strokes behind a painting, or understand why a particular method was used to sculpt a sculpture etc… I do love buildings, architecture and nature, but paintings and sculptures aren’t exactly my cup of tea. So, when we headed into the Louvre, we only focused on looking for the famous pieces and admire some other pieces that we found interesting.
After dinner, X went around to take some night photos while I huddle in a warm corner somewhere… :p
We had the Paris Museum Pass (it’s different from Paris Pass), which granted us free entry to the museum, and I strongly urge everyone who will be in Paris for at least 2 days to get one because it’s really useful.
Ours was a 2 day pass, and it cost us 39 € each, but it’s worth it because we covered these places:
- Musée du Louvre (Louvre Museum): 11.10 € to 11.60 €
- Arc de Triomphe: 9.50 €
- Musée de l’Armée (in Les Invalides): 9 €
- Panthéon：8.50 €
- Sainte-Chapelle: 8.50 €
- Château de Versailles: 15 € (The pass covers only certain parts of the palace)
Those places would have cost 61 € each to cover, so it’s definitely worth it to get the pass!
Moving on to the food! While we were at Tuileries Garden, we spotted a moving van (sort of) selling some snacks, desserts and drinks. We grabbed a quiche and a chocolate cake and sat down nearby to people watch. The food was alright, but sometimes I guess it’s the company that matters.
One of the more memorable meals in Paris would be at Crémerie-Restaurant Polidor. A very old restaurant founded in 1845, the interior apparently has not changed for over 100 years and the style of cooking is that of the late 19th century. The restaurant has a nice ambience and a perfect setting for dinner.
We started off with a cream soup with foie gras bits. I’ve never eaten foie gras before so I have absolutely no idea how it should taste like. The soup, just like what the name said, is creamy, with bits of – we assumed – foie gras. We found the soup interesting (something new we have not tried elsewhere before) and pretty tasty.
X ordered the daily special – baked beef with mashed potato. And it turned out that it’s actually shepherd’s pie. Unfortunately, the beef was a tad to dry…
The highlight of the meal would have to be the duck confit – a French speciality. The leg of the duck is first marinated with salt, garlic and herbs for up to 36 hours in the refrigerator. It is then washed to get rid of the seasoning. After drying the duck, it is cooked in a lot of duck fat (enough to cover the whole leg) at a very low temperature in the oven, for four to ten hours until the meat is extremely tender. After cooling the duck leg, it can actually be kept in the fridge (submerged in the duck fat) for several months! It was hard work and extremely fattening, but it was so, so, so delicious! Polidor’s duck confit is extremely delicious – the meat can be pulled off the bone easily and the meat and the fats (oh, the fats!) simply melt in the mouth. Absolutely delicious!
We had two scoops of sorbets which came with X’s set meal (which I happily ate most of them!) They were light, fruity and refreshing.
41, rue Monsieur Le Prince, 75006 Paris
Daily 12 noon – 2.30 pm and 7 pm – 12.30 am (except for Sundays 11 pm)
Line 4 and 10 Odéon station
I have no address for this place we last had our dinner, it was a restaurant located near the Louvre museum and they served pretty decent food.
I finally convinced X to try escargots – a French dish of cooked land snails. X still didn’t really like them but I adore them completely. These were cooked with herbs and butter, but my favourite was still garlic and butter. Nonetheless, they were absolute yum!
We also had a fish soup, served with a little cream and grated Parmesan. It was a great soup to warm ourselves up (the weather was really cold outside!)
I ordered a salmon and scallop with saffron risotto which was disappointing – so I’m not posting the photo up. X ordered duck breast with foie gras sauce and warm carrot cake. The meat was tender and the sauce complemented the meat very well. He loved the grilled tomatoes because they were very juicy and “exploded” in the mouth.
As for desserts and pastries, we tried out macarons from Ladurée. The queue inside was so long, and there’s so many other desserts to choose from! I’m a bit upset I couldn’t buy every single dessert in the bakery…
Majority of the people in the shop are buying macarons – and they don’t just buy a box, but several boxes at one go!
I thinkeach macaron costs between1.60 € and 2 €. Our tight budget did not allow us to splurge as much as I’d like… We got ourselves (from left to right) caramel with salted butter, lemon, chocolate and I think coffee.
1) Printemps de la Maison Haussmann
64, boulevard Haussmann – 75009 Paris
Opens every day, except Sunday, from 9:35 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., with late opening on Thursdays until 10:00 p.m.
2) Ladurée 16 Royale
16, rue Royale – 75008 Paris
From Monday to Thursday from 8:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Sunday and Bank Holidays, 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
3) Ladurée Bonaparte
21 rue Bonaparte – 75006 Paris
From Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Satuday from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Sunday and holidays from 10:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
4) Ladurée Champs Elysées (currently under renovation, visit the site for more details)
75, avenue des Champs Elysées – 75008 Paris
From Monday to Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 00:00 p.m.
Sunday from 7:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
We also tried Pierre Hermé macarons, X is really not a fan of macarons so I got only two in the end for myself…
1) 72 rue Bonaparte 75006 Paris
Sunday – Wednesday: 10am – 7pm
Thursday – Friday: 10am – 7.30pm
Saturday: 10am – 8pm
2) 185 rue de Vaugirard 75015 Paris
Monday – Thursday: 10am – 7pm
Friday – Saturday: 10am – 8pm
Sunday: 9am – 5pm
3) 4 rue Cambon 75001 Paris
Monday – Saturday: 10am – 7.30pm
Closed on Sundays
4) 58 avenue Paul Doumer 75016 Paris
Monday: 1pm – 7pm
Tuesday – Saturday: 10am – 7.30pm
Sunday: 11am – 7pm
5) 39 avenue de l’Opéra 75002 Paris
Sunday – Thursday: 10am – 7pm
Friday – Saturday: 10am – 7.30pm
6) Galeries Lafayette
40 boulevard Haussmann 75009 Paris
Espace Chaussures et souliers (Floor B1)
Monday – Saturday: 9.30am – 8pm
Closed on Sundays
7) 133 avenue des Champs-Elysées
Monday – Sunday: 10am – 10.30pm
To be honest, I am still not a fan of macarons, even after trying them from supposedly the best bakers of macarons… They are pretty to look at, but for taste wise – I would rather eat cakes and chocolates (so sorry to all the macarons fans out there!) But who knows? Maybe my taste will change in the future…
Are you asking, where are the croissants? Well, we did ate croissants everyday, but I didn’t get to taste exceptional ones I didn’t have any delicious croissants to share…
But hey, there’s always next time, right? ;) X and I have made plans to visit France again to visit their countryside (not so soon but definitely one day) and when that trip comes, I’m definitely going to splurge on all the other desserts and pastries I can afford! :p
And this is the end of the Paris trip, our next stop is Spain!
Here’s a list of the places we’ve been:
- Pisa, Italy
- Florence, Italy
- Venice, Italy
- Budapest, Hungary (Part 1/2)
- Budapest, Hungary (Part 2/2)
- Vienna, Austria
- Prague, Czech Republic
- Berlin, Germany
- Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Memorial, Germany
- Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Brussels, Belgium
- Echternach, Luxembourg
- Paris, France (Part 1) – The City of Light