Go to Versailles, they said. It’s amazing, they told us. The gardens are massive, the palace is gorgeous, and you won’t believe the decor, they promised. So, buying into the hype, we swung by our favorite little coffee shop, picked up some coffees and walking sandwiches, and descended to the working train station beneath the Musee d’Orsay.
We missed the first train by seconds so we spent half an hour talking about the TikToks we’d film and writing postcards. The train out of the city offered a great view of the countryside as we left Paris behind for an afternoon. Our sojourn was a wonderful afternoon and the Palace itself is gigantic. There’s no way to offer any understanding to its size, and our audioguides (free with the price of admission) didn’t say. There were, however, an elephant’s skeleton and another taxidermied specimen inside rooms with massive tapestries.
We joked that they must have had an army of staff to make living there even slightly feasible. We stopped by the gift shop and grabbed a couple macarons from the Ladurée in the basement because pourquois pas? Outside we took in my favorite part of the afternoon, the sweeping gardens. Complete with dormant fountains, mini-mazes, a restaurant and a pair of snack stands that were more than helpful in my hunt for Heineken.
With a couple cans in our pockets and a mini bottle of red, the walk through Versailles’ massive gardens seemed to soar by. I wish I brought a few more snacks and a little more time on a warmer day to enjoy what the grounds had to offer. I’m not sure if France frowns on frisbees, but if ever there was a good spot for a frisbee, its right there. With our fill of the grounds and what we could enjoy of Marie-Antoinette’s mini-village (worth the walk), we headed back to the city.
One of the absolute best things about France is the abundance of cheap wines. You could find an excellent red for about 8 or 9 euros, but we had so much luck with our 5 and 6 euro bottles, including a frizzante amiable, Italian, probably, that was so good, we went back for half a dozen bottles over the course of our two weeks together in Paris. Tonight was one such occasion and we grabbed a few bottles to ease our recuperation from roaming through royalty.
Dinner was a lowkey affair and we opted for the local cafe instead of taking another hike. My broken french and our server Cortu’s broken English about the origins of the cafe, I’ve come to understand that Cafe L’Empire, located just south of the Seine three blocks from the bridge to the Louvre, is anywhere from twelve to two hundred years old. Based on this informative conversation, I can conclude that Napoleon loved that stuff and met his fifth wife at the same table we sat.*
I had their fish special, and despite my most intense rackings of my mind, I cannot recall exactly what kind of fish it was (the menu called it julienne), but besides to say that it was crispy and delightfully tender, the true star of the show deserves its due. The butternut squash was delicious and butter forward, which, anyone in my family will attest, is the fastest way to my heart, but even that must take the side stage to the buerre blanc, a traditional white butter sauce with white wine, and now, a piece of my heart.
Dessert was an apple tart with a rum raisin ice cream, and even with the bottle of wine, the whole experience was quite affordable. The service was fantastic, if occasionally heavy-handed, and Erickson had one of his best espresso martinis in the city, not more than a hop, skip, and a jump from our doorstep. No more than fifteen euros for what I got to enjoy. All this to say that if Versailles could get any better, it would need some buerre blanc.