Our last full day in Paris – also known as the day I was almost arrested.
We had tickets to Versailles, which is outside of the city limits. Lucky for us, the train that runs by the apartment we rented goes straight there. We also had purchased a week pass that would allow us to travel to any zone without paying additional fees. It was perfect. The weekly pass had been incredibly useful all week and I was glad to have something that allowed unlimited train travel throughout the city. Especially when we walked so much and needed a break.
The train ride itself was uneventful. Typically when you leave a station on one of the larger lines (RER B, C, etc.) you have to tap out once you arrive at your station. Today, there were a line of uniformed officers checking everyone’s cards. James strolled up and I heard the person say something to him about needing a photo on his subway pass but let him through. I was stopped by a woman who spoke no English and she wouldn’t let me through. I thought maybe it had to do with the lack of a photo on my card. Then she started rather aggressively yelling at me. I asked if she spoke English. She said no. I asked if her colleagues spoke English. She said no. She was clearly frustrated with me too and I couldn’t imagine what I had done wrong! She started telling me I owed her 50 euros. And then 80 euros.
Eventually I saw the woman that had let James through. She spoke English and explained to me that I was missing a plastic case that my card slipped into. This was punishable by fine because I stole the card and was pretending to be someone else. The case was on the kitchen table at the apartment. It is literally a piece of plastic. That’s it. James had to come back through and pay the fine – and they said we could probably get our money back if we wrote and took a picture of the case and my card together. I was completely shaken up by the experience. It felt like an opportunity to take advantage of tourists. I would rather they had taken away my card. It would have been much less money.
That said, I really didn’t want to walk around Versailles too much. We strolled through the palace, but it was underwhelming (probably because I had been to the Spanish royal palace, which is dripping with wealth). Versailles is empty, most of the furniture is gone, and you’re left with the walls. The outside is over the top in gold, but that was about it. After going through the main palace, I opted not to do the other two houses on the estate. Instead, James and I ate our respective loaves of bread with some leftover cheese in the gardens, and then departed back to the apartment to find that pesky plastic case.
Wanting to bring back some bread with me, we made the pilgrimage back to Helmut Newcake, and purchased two loaves of the GF bread, along with some cookies and a pistachio pear bread, which is cut up and ready to go on the plane with me. We then headed to Montemarte – a neighborhood in Paris where the Moulin Rouge is located. I had signed us up for a walking tour, which was the saving grace for our day.
The group had about 10- 15 people in it, from all over Europe and the U.S. Our tour guide was a Parisian who spent a significant amount of time in the U.S. and currently lived in Montemarte. He guided us through the neighborhood, which is absolutely fantastic. On my own, I would have never discovered the small, winding streets. It was where Amelie was filmed. It was where all of the artists from the 1920s lived and thrived – Matisse, Picasso, Renoir, Van Gogh, Gertrude Stein, etc. There was a hotel that artists used to live in, when they couldn’t afford an apartment, and street art everywhere you looked. We went by a famous windmill that every impressionist painter has painted. The tour ended at Sacré-Cœur, a beautiful white church that was built in the mid 1800s.
Following the tour, James and I headed back to the department stores for one final round of shopping (mind you, we’ve not really purchased a lot here!). I picked up a pair of pants, a blazer, a sweater and a scarf. Since we had dinner in an hour, and it didn’t make sense to go back home, we ducked into a bar nearby for a glass of wine (and a mocktail for James).
For dinner, we went to Le Florimond, a little restaurant tucked near the Eiffel Tower. The food was good – very rustic and homey – and the atmosphere was perfectly French. I had a pumpkin ginger soup, a piece of beef with risotto and creme brulee. James had lobster ravioli, cod and a massive puff pastry tower.
Following dinner, we walked back towards the Eiffel Tower to finally see it sparkle – something we had neglected to do every night we were in Paris because of sheer exhaustion at the end of the day. Following the 4 minute light show, we headed to the train and took it back to our apartment, packed and got ready for a day of travel.