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Industrial Action / Social Movement / Workers On Strike – Jun 24, Thursday
Thursday morning, we woke up as per normal, had our breakfast at the hotel in Paris as per normal. On the TV at the pantry, it was the usual World Cup update in French, the usual news on how the French team has failed the local fans. And there seemed to be some local breaking news in French with people at the train or subway stations, which we did not understand. As planned, it was a day for us to get out of Paris, take a train to Versailles and visit the palace. Every 10 minutes or so, there should be a train taking passengers from Paris to Versailles covering a distance of around 25 km. When we reached the train station, it was empty. Soon we learned that the train drivers were on strike – hence the news on TV earlier on. Train service was shutdown to the minimum and we were told that there was only one train taking passengers to and from the international airport on that day.
So we waited for more than one hour, boarded a train that did not even stop at where it said it would, walked about 20 minutes from the train station and reached Château de Versailles. It was a warm day. We took a slow walk through a small town. Life is about making the best out of a given situation. I thought it was quite a romantically charming walk with Cynthia that morning, in the city of Versailles, passing the grocery stores, restaurants, and garages.
Château de Versailles
The palace was closed due to the fact that most staffs were not able to catch a train to come to work. Fortunately the gardens were open for the public. As for me, someone who has visited the palace quite a few times, I welcomed the idea of spending more time in the gardens as I often did not manage to. As for Cynthia, it must have been disappointing.
The present palace, started by Louis XIV in 1668, grew around Louis XIII’s original hunting lodge. In 1774, Louise XVI and Marie-Antoinette lived at the palace. During the French Revolution, in 1789, the king and queen were forced to leave Versailles for Paris after the palace was invaded by a crowd of women joined by some members of the national guard from Paris. Something to do with bread prices. Four years later, Louise XVI and Marie-Antoinette were executed. Louis-Philippe turned the château into a museum in 1833. Today, Château de Versailles is one of the popular tourist attractions in France.
Looking back, I did wish that I have picked Château de Fontainebleau instead because I have not been there before. But it is further (75 km from Paris) and the interior area seems larger (according to the guidebook, it is impossible to cover the palace in one day). We would need to stay around the area for a night. With the train strike, I was glad that Fontainebleau was not in our itinerary. I was also glad that we have decided against taking a train to Nice.
The gardens of Versailles are beautiful. There are rows and rows of neatly trimmed bushes and trees, a good number of fountains and statues – large and small, and there is a long canal running through the middle section of the gardens. I was tempted to rent a buggy to drive around the gardens but we walked instead. It was a warm day and most of the time, we tried to hug the shadow and walked underneath the shade. There were tourists like us who were stuck in the gardens of Versailles, there were locals who had picnic on the grass, and there were students led by the teachers on what I suppose a school outing. When I finally located the Colonnade through the labyrinth of gardens (see photo below), I was nearly smashed by a group of hyperactive kids running towards the closed gate – two times.
The Rest of the Day
Early afternoon, we left Chateau Versailles. We spent some time in the city of Versailles, made some inquiries on the alternative means to travel to the airport tomorrow, and then headed back to the faraway train station that still had limited trains returning to Paris. After dropping the heavy photography gears at our hotel, we traveled to Champs-Élysées by metro (that was still running) and had mussels for dinner. According to the locals, depending on how tomorrow morning’s meeting with the Unions turned out, the strike might intensify.
Great. Tomorrow would be the day we finally got out of Paris and flew to Nice, the south of France. We booked a private transport to travel from the hotel to the airport just in case. We would miss Hôtel Doré. It is tiny but clean, modern, and centrally located. It was also the first time I have used a showering system that allows me to set the water temperature. And I realize that anything different from 37 Celsius is uncomfortable. That kind of makes sense eh?
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PS. Thank your for reading our journal and feel free to drop a comment or two. You may wish to view our photo collection for day 5 too.