Saturday, July 27, 2013

let them eat bikes

We woke up to an incredibly loud thunderclap at about 6:00 am. It sounded like it was right on top of us, and probably was. Our rooms were on the top floor of the hotel, and it felt like we were in the middle of the storm. After a few more booms and pretty frequent lightning shots the rain hit, and it was very nice to lay in bed and listen to the drops pelting the streets below us. It was also a little disconcerting: we had planned an entire day outside at Versailles. Fortunately, though I didn’t know it then, the day would turn out to be warm and sunny.

I’ve done the Flat Tire Paris tours by day and twice by night, it’s really my favorite way to see Paris. This year I thought I would take a shot at Flat Tire Versailles, and ultimately it turned out to be a great decision. Versailles can barely be attempted on foot, but a beach cruiser seems so much more manageable. Especially the gardens, which are my favorite part anyway.

Our tour guide was Bill from New York, who had a slick shaved head and arms the size of my legs. I felt like Bill could keep us all safe no matter what. I can’t imagine any brawls happening at Versailles, but you know. Just in case. What if a mob of angry peasants showed up?

Bill met us in Paris and then took us all down to Versailles where we saddled up on our bikes for the day. Mine was named “Cinnamon Toast Crunch,” which held no real import for me since I don’t eat cereal (except Cinnamon Life.) CTC was super cruisy and smooth, though, so we were MFEO. Bill talked a lot about crepes, I mean a lot, and then took us to get some. We shopped for lunch in a little market, and also checked out the fish counter as well as a little store that sold the most top stitched, bedazzled, men’s jeans of all time. Anyway, my lunch was a chicken baguette, some chips, and a raspberry tart. I hinted that I also really wanted a crepe but didn’t have enough money for one, so Jason and Josh bought me one. Then it turns out I had money all along!

Riding a bike through the fields of Versailles was about as surreal as I expected. Everything was green and dappled in sunlight and it sort of felt like a movie set. Bill gave us periodic history lessons in a particularly Bill kind of way. We took pictures and swigged from water bottles. At one point we all laid down along the Grand Canal, ate our lunches, and had a giant nap. Who cares about all the spiders in the grass! That nap was a long time coming. I had to be woken up when the time came.  You know the scene in Marie Antoinette where she sits with her friends and watches the sun come up? It felt like that.

We were fortunate that today was a fountain day. I didn’t really know this, but they only turn the fountains on one or two days per week. So you suddenly hear booms of Baroque music coming from the bushes and the fountains burst on and you wander around the gardens feeling like you are in another time and place. It was this point, however, that I realized that my head was getting sunburned so you better believe that I cracked out my handy travelling umbrella! More than one person confused me with an old Asian lady. I don’t blame them. I may was also accused of trying to "act all steampunk."

We had a few hours left before we needed to get back to Paris, so we explored deeper and deeper into the grounds. We wandered through the Petit Trianon as well as the Grand Trianon. The flowers looked pretty amazing:
We stopped for a breather at the Temple of Love, and then walked all the way to Marie Antoinette’s hamlet, which was far too bespotted with duck poop to sit under the tree, unfortunately. So we found a bench and were very happy there for a few minutes. I thought the buildings and flowers were particularly beautiful today, especially this little home where Marie put on her chicken plays:

By the time we made it back from the Hamlet the gardens were closing, so we had to detour all the way around the grounds to get off the property. But nobody seemed to mind. This is a really an easy going and affable group. I kept promising they would get McDonald’s if they kept going, and so they did. Wouldn’t you? I mean, if you knew that Big Macs were way better in France than they are in the states, and you could get a giant Diet Coke with ice? After biking and walking for miles and miles? Well, you would. And we did. Too bad the ice machine was broken!

We got home at 9 pm, and I’m not sure that anyone went out after that. We were tired. But it was that good kind of tired where you know that you pushed yourself, kept your spirits up, and saw some amazing things. There’s no better way to sleep!