Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Day trip to Ver(sigh)

I'm afraid to write about it, because it was such a great day, as if putting it in words might cause it to lose some of its magic. I don't want to lessen it with trivialization. It felt big. Yesterday my friend said "there are certain professions, places, experiences... that serve as particularly great metaphors for life... a city like Paris has got to be one of those places." Today was that day.

I took the RER C train to the Versailles, a suburb of France about 40 minutes from the city. I was quite excited. I'd packed crossaints (smooshed from hanging in my bag for two days), proscioutto, some kind of dutch cheese and a bottle of wine. Apparently my hostel is in Paris' Bed-stuy (this is why I haven't been out yet but more on that in another post) and the store that I went to was like family dollar where they'd run out of everything. So I got the dutch cheese in place of mozz and was surprised to find that I really enjoyed it. Back to the story.

I arrived in at the Versailles Rive-Gauche station with Walking Paris by Gilles Desmons, this great little illustrated walking book, great for restless (read overly energetic) souls like me that find all their enjoyment in pounding the pavement. The directions are great and the history of the locations is very interesting, even though its a little hard to pay attention to while you're walking and a little dry to read if you're not walking. I kept stopping every few yards or so at first to check where I was, what it meant, to stop at main gates of the chateau and look back at where the avenue de paris, the avenue de st. cloud and the avenue de sceaux met. Later as I continued on I found a nice medium between reading a head and walking a little. I didn't actually enter the Chateau, it costs money and since I had my handy guide book it didn't seem all too pressing. I wish now that I had taken some time to go through it as I've looked at pictures and it looks as breathtaking as the grounds.

Side note before walking to the chateau, I stopped to by a post card for my friend. The owner of the store an older gentleman with a kind smile, was so nice that it made my day. After exchanging Bonjour (whenever you walk into a shop in paris you are almost always greated with a hello and a least the shops that I've been in, which I find to run against the general idea of the french and their famous rudeness) he began to speak to me in french, after which I flubbed my most important line Je ne parle pas francios. He asked me where I was from and then he said, "You are very welcome here in France." I thanked him and gave him my biggest brightest smile and for which he gave me the postcard for free. (almost in those exact words) I smiled all the way ot the gates of the chateau.

I want to right about my experience in the gardens surounding the chateau but I'm having difficulty (despite all the thoughts running through my head at the time when I should have grabbed my note book and put them to paper). It was that moment of being somewhere that is unlike anywhere you've ever been before, the air is more crisp and everything is more beautiful than it should be. It was the wrong season to be at the garden, too cold and the leaves were still just barely beginning to bloom. The sky was overcast and rain looked immenent nearly the entire 2 1/2 hours I was there. But it was simply moving, standing there at the fountain overlooking the Grand Canal, I never wanted to be so disconnected to experience everything fully and quitely as I did at that moment. I had nearly talked a girl, Johnna, into joining me and I'm sure we'd have had a great time, but I was so happy to have the time to think and breathe and to walk at my leisure, losing myself. The garden is great because everywhere you are, seems like somewhere you shouldn't be, there are so many gates everywhere. I found a big stone bench with moss growing out of it and made three sandwhiches which I ate in silence, watching the occassional person slowly meander through. There were also qutie a few older couples which made me extremely happy, something about a couple of a certain age (think 60-70) slowly walking through the gardens on a cold day, holding hands and talking quitely to one another like it just filled me with so much hope about love. They were everywhere sitting on benches watching their dogs play...the general crowd, once you got past the Bassin d'Appollon was 40+, but once you got into the larger part of the garden there were all these people in love. I'd almost say that I'd rather not have discovered Versaille on any other day but today. I wandered around, past the grazing sheep and horses, until I found a clearing where I sat and while the clouds gathered enjoyed my first glass of wine in france and my first real rain in france.

From there I meandered up and accidently off the grounds not realizing I'd entered the surrounding town, until I saw cars, street signs and bars. So I also enjoyed my first time getting lost in France (with no map to guide me as I was outside of Paris).

I found the train station in the rain, paid just in time and hopped aboard the train. I'm not sure why I'd felt a kinship with the girl who sat across from me (it seemed ridiculous that she sat across from me at all since my legs were propped up, blocking the seat and also because the train wasn't full at all) but she asked me if we were on the train to Paris, which I confirmed and we both kept simultaneously looking at our maps. We napped together, if thats weird to say, seperately but together. It was just that sense of doing something along with another person that I hadn't felt in a couple of days. She smiled (maybe her biggest and best smile) and thanked me as she exited the train.

I wasn't so sure but I really think I love being in Paris alone right now at this time in my life, I didn't imagine how much I needed it or how or why it might change me, but I did need it and it is changing me...minutely and bit by bit, but a change nonetheless.



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