La Dernier Jour à Paris
I can't believe I'm saying this, but I go home tomorrow. After two solid months of traveling and immersion in different countries, and absorption of cultures that have withstood thousands of years of history. I'll board a plane bound for Kansas City, where structures are considered "old" of they've been around for more than 200 years.
I feel like I've somehow been gone for 30 seconds and 30 years. As soon as I grew comfortable in Lyon everything
sped up, the days stood out less on their own. Time settled in to a comfortable stream the way daily life does. At many points my time here stopped feeling like a vacation and started feeling like the precise life I want to be living.
For our last big day in Paris, we took the train 30 minutes outside of the city and 300 years in the past, all the way to Chateau de Versailles. Amid thousands of acres of land and magnificently curated gardens is the focal point of the entire property, the Baroque palace is splendid and enormous, built in the mid-17th century during the reign of Louis XIV – the Roi Soleil (Sun King). The chateau is a French architectural achievement.
This palace was built in the mid 17th century by Louis XIV to project the absolute dominance of the French monarchy, which at the time was at the pinnacle of its glory and power. The chateau has undergone very few alterations since its initial conception, even surviving the violent insurrection that that initiated the French Revolution, making it a living remnant of the monarchy's former grandeur.
The construction of Versailles started in 1661, took 30,000 workers and all but drained the royal bank account. Hills were flattened, marshes were drained and forests were relocated to create the profusion of gardens, fountains and ponds that endlessly dot the land.
If I were to go in to all of the history of that Versailles has seen, it would take hours. And I'm no scholar, that's what the internet is for. But the grounds at Versailles are expansive and impossibly beautiful. While the chateau itself is the reigning star, the immaculate flower gardens and smaller chateaus like the Grand and Petit Trianon, scattered across the grounds are a visual feast. Versailles is so much bigger than you could ever imagine.
We spent all day there, got lost a few times, and still didn't quite make it to Marie Antoinette's Hameau de la Reine. Hameau is the rustic retreat built for Marie in 1783, so that she and her friends could play dress up as peasants and play
with pet chickens.
Maybe I'm biased because I love Sofia Coppola's film adaption about the young archduchess turned queen, but I personally think that Marie Antoinette was misunderstood.
The grounds show how stunning the French countryside But Chateau de Versailles is the jewel, and the pièce de la resistance is the Galerie de Glaces or the Hall of Mirrors. The Hall of Mirrors was used as both The War Room and The Peace Room and is stunningly endowed with 17 arched mirrors, paying tribute to the political, economic and artistic success of France.
Courtiers and visitors were meant walk across the hall daily, it is a feast of French splendor. Balls, weddings and diplomatic receptions were all held here. The aristocrats of the ages once
sauntered about the sumptuous Hall of Mirrors. Its seen history both gruesome and glorious, from the fall of the French monarchy to the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 among German and Allied Powers, deciding the fate of tpost WWI Europe.
Also, Kim Kardashian is undeserving of a wedding in Versailles.
Our last night in Paris had to be memorable and special. And inevitably sad.
Both Isabel and I have always been charmed by anything French, voraciously consuming anything with Parisian pop culture reference. So it didn't come as any surprise to either of us that we both adored the movie Something's Gotta Give starring Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson.
I won't go too far in to the plot details, because you should honestly just watch it. But in the film, Diane Keaton's character Erica Barry, has a favorite french restaurant. "I love this bistro called The Grand Colbert," Erica says. "It's behind the Palais-Royal. It's the best roast chicken in the universe." They even end the movie celebrating Erica's birthday at Le Grand Colbert.
We didn't order the roast chicken, but we did dine at Le Grand Colbert to celebrate our last evening in the City of Lights. And yes, I know that's SO touristy. But it was our last night and we felt like being a little ostentatious.
Le Grand Colbert exudes an old French brasserie feeling with high ceilings, low-lit brass lamps and cozy booths.
Dinner started with a round of Kir Royales and Soupe à l’oignon gratinée. I take back what I said my first weekend in Paris, THIS is the best French onion soup that I'll ever eat.
Our server's name was Jean Louis, and he added an element of fun to the night that was simplement parfait. He was goofy and coquettish, making us folded flowers from paper napkins and generously providing complimentary glasses of sparkles. Flattery and free bubbles was exactly what the doctor ordered for two sad girls forcefully bound back to America the next day.
The main event Carpaccio de boeuf, Pistou et Grana Padano, frites et salade, or beef carpaccio with basil sauce, mixed greens and french fries. Plus a side of my best-loved French side, ratatouille. Isabel ordered the grilled lamb cutlets with green beans and a dollop of spicy dijon. My beef carpaccio was thinly sliced, perfectly seasoned and served with sheets of Grana Padano parmesan. The ratatouille was warm, savory and reminiscent of dinners in Sylviane's apartment. Even Lyon already feels like an eternity ago.
Once more, I don't do nice dinners that don't end in dessert. Especially not on my last night in France. Isabel was on board for this. She ordered a blazing Crème Brulée that was sumptuously sweet and creamy under the carmelized shell, and I ordered my all-time favorite French dessert, Profiteroles. Fluffy Choux pastry baked, stuffed with vanilla ice cream and doused with rich melted chocolate arrived in front of me along with a final round of bubbly and Jean Louis' phone number.
We couldn't have had a better last night. I couldn't have found someone better to travel with this last leg of the adventure. We sat in our cozy booth, feasting and snap chatting all of the friends we'd made that summer. There was so much remincising.