Below details the second half of our trip to Paris (you can read about the first half, here).
We got a later start on day three than we anticipated, which was a Sunday. We had tickets to go out to the Chateau de Versailles and simply needed to organize transportation (metro/train) to get out there. I had read Sundays and Tuesdays were especially busy, but after having spent maybe 20 minutes in line at the Louvre (the second most visited museum), I expected a similar wait. I was foolish and stupid. Mistake #1: Going mid-morning on a Sunday. If you are planning a visit out to Versailles, do not go on a Sunday. Do not wait until later in the morning to leave. You will regret it. Big time.
Mistake #2: Eat before you go. We arrived a little before noon and figured we’d be able to eat at a little cafe/restaurant on the way from the train station to the palace OR within the restaurant inside the palace. This didn’t take into account that the options would be minimal (and not that great) or that the on-site cafe did not allow for takeaway.
Mistake #3: Going to the chateau, first, instead of the Gardens. Now, the takeaway issue might not have been a problem if we didn’t have a three hour wait in a line (just to get into the chateau) ahead of us. Yes, friends, I said three hours. We waited in the largest serpentine line I’ve ever seen in my life for three hours to get into the chateau. Jim is a saint, as I was a little sick and 200 percent hangry while waiting in this line. The gardens, however, had no line if you’d already bought your ticket online (which we had). Hindsight’s always 20:20, but my recommendation would be to hit the gardens, first (I though they were prettier, anyway).
Once we finally made it into the Chateau, we were starving and made a beeline for the Ladurée inside. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s probably the best macaron store in Paris. I bet we inhaled our macarons faster than anyone has ever seen before. We figured they’d tide us over until we could make it to the cafe and sit down to eat something more substantial (that never really happened, by the time we did, all the food was gone aside from a pain au raisin and chocolate bread).
Inside the chateau it was crowded. How crowded? Well, we looked it up and Versailles averages 10-14k people/day. Imagine that. Wild. Tickets alone I bet they’re making close to $72M/year. Anyway, once we got past the first floor things started to move a little faster and you could move at a different pace than everyone else. I was most excited about the Hall of Mirrors (see above), the Chapel (above, top right), and the Gallery of Battles (see above, top left), which covers French military history (through paintings) stretching from 495 to 1809. Really cool.
Going back to mistake #3, I wish we’d gone to explore the Gardens of Versailles and Jardins Musicaux earlier, as I thought they were absolutely lovely. I think we (easily) could’ve spent a number of hours wandering around, listening to the music with the fountains, lounging in the grass, going for a boat ride, and even seeing Marie Antoinette’s hamlet. Alas, we had to squeeze our garden tour into about an hour and a half to be back in Paris in time for our dinner reservations.
With that said, it felt perfect to be out there as the sun was going down. Late afternoon sun on autumnal trees feels so warm and inviting, especially with period music playing as you wander about. If I was to go back, I would 100 percent just go to spend more time in the gardens AND I 100 percent recommend seeing the gardens over the inside of the chateau.
For dinner, I made reservations at a place called Dessance. It had been described as a dessert spot, but when I looked into it, it’s more that it creates dishes highlighting sweet/sweeter ingredients, not necessarily dessert. They have a set menu with pairings. We opted for the hedonist menu, which I think was five courses and tacked on the pairings (though I think we had seven or eight). We most definitely recommend this place if you’re looking for something tasty and different. Even my favorite American in Paris, David Lebovitz, recommended this spot on his blog (see his review here). There were too many tasty delights to single out one or two in particular, but I can note that the pairings were all AMAZING with the foods. We’re talking taking sweet wines, ciders, and even whiskeys and pairing them so perfectly that nearly all the food and tastes were transformed together. Just a really fun meal. And, I’m also now obsessed with Chestnut cider and quince Japanese whiskey (if only I could find the bottle…it had a green label…I should’ve taken a photo). Go here. You’ll enjoy it. Perfect way of ending an incredibly long day in Versailles.
We slept in on Monday and really enjoyed our day off and actual wedding anniversary day. We didn’t have anything (specific) planned leading up to our fancy lunch reservations at David Toutain. So, we leisurely grabbed coffee at our new neighborhood spot – Cuillier (coffee for Jim, fresh squeezed OJ or a chocolat chaud for me) and decided to check out Rue Cler (per Gail’s recommendation) and the Esplanade des Invalides.
I didn’t take any photos in this area (though I think Jim did), but it was lovely, and I thought looked pretty similar to the Tuileries. We stopped and did some wedding reminiscing under the trees on a park bench. Life felt great. French life felt even sweeter.
Then we made our way over to David Toutain. This was (definitely) our fanciest and most expensive meal of the trip. This was another spot with fixed menus and pairings. We, again, opted for what would be their version of the “hedonist” menu, which meant we had a 10 course meal plus three “snacks” paired perfectly with booze. It was – quite possibly – the best, boozy lunch I’ve ever had. It was definitely the best cornbread and homemade brioche I’ve ever had. I mean, we’re talking so good I’ll probably never forget it. France has it all over everywhere else when it comes to bread. And that makes me supremely happy to live in France. Ultimately, we’d say it was pretty similar it quality and tastiness as our big meal in Helsinki at Olo (see more about that here), and as a bonus they give you a copy of the menu (which is really a surprise as it’s coming out) to take home with you. Three or three and a half hours later, we finished lunch and made our way back toward our hotel to pick up our bags and head back to the airport.
We ended on a high note, and I can’t imagine a better (or more special) way to spend our first anniversary together than in Paris. One for the memory books, for sure!