We met up with the tour group at McDonalds' on Champs Elysees. There were about 45 persons, mostly from Shanghai. Nearly everywhere we went, we heard Shanghainese spoken; they must be one of the largest groups travelling in Europe. In all the time I was in Europe, I've only met a Japanese tour group once. I wonder where the Japanese are travelling to these days.
From the Arc, we went to Napoleon's Tomb and then Versailles, about 30 minutes away. Versailles is AMAZING in its opulence and decadence. No wonder heads had to roll. My photos don't do justice to the palace. It was so huge and so gilded with gold, we needed sunglasses to shield our eyes :D. The Forbidden City in Beijing looks like a stable compared to it. Hub quickly reminded me that The Forbidden City was built in the 1400s while Versailles was renovated, from a chateau, about 250 years later.
This is just the side yard...
The Hall of Mirrors is a long hall with lavishly-painted ceiling, gold details and 17 arched mirrors placed opposite 17 arched windows. This is where the Treaty of Versailles was signed, ending World War I.
The Coronation of Napoleon hangs in both the Versailles and The Lourve. I was wondering which was the real thing. Apparently the one in The Lourve was the original and the one in Versailles too because the painter Jacques-Louis David was asked to paint the second one after the original was moved to The Lourve. These are very big paintings. I'd go mad painting the same thing twice.
The little white door is where Marie Antoinette tried to escape. Apparently Marie Antoinette did not coin the infamous "Let them eat cake". Historians agree that she was the victim of rumors and plots by anti-monarchists.
Getting a glimpse of how the royalty lived was truly fascinating. Besides the opulence, I also remember the hordes of tourists, all snapping away furiously. I think Versailles should be like the Schonbrunn Palace in Austria where photo-taking is banned.
We didn't want lunch with the crowd at Versailles' cafeteria and wandered out into the town for a simple lunch in a nice little cafe. Unfortunately the croque monsier and madame didn't quite impress us. I didn't think anyone could go wrong cooking these open sandwiches, least of all in France. The mille feuille which I picked up at a bakery was yum.
From Versailles, we went to Eiffel Tower where we were given 2 1/2 hours to line up, get the tickets (9.10 euros per pax), take the elevators to the 2nd level, take our photos and run all the way down. It was like a running a marathon.
Paris from the second level of Eiffel Tower. I read somewhere that Paris the the greenest city in the world.
The Seine River cruise (10 euros per pax) was next and because it was about 5 pm, the sun was burning hot (we were so lucky that the weather in Paris was perfect during the four days we were there) so I sat in the cabin, hot and exhausted. I think the river cruise is only good at night because the buildings will be all lighted up and romantic. In the daytime, it's just a cruise down a river with famous buildings on both sides and it's buildings I've already seen close up and from far so it's really not a big deal.
For dinner, we were driven to Chinatown, which is not a town or even intersections of streets but just one street with a sprinkle of Vietnamese restaurants. We were told that Pho 14 at 139 Ave de Choisy was very good but I opted for Le Kok 3 doors away because it was filled with local Vietnamese, not tourists. And that was where we had the best pho ever ever. The pho in Melbourne is all quantity compared to this. I suspect that even the pho in Vietnam may not be as good because of the difference in the quality of beef.
The beef bones were complimentary and you'd think it was bland. It was full of flavor and very delicious. The spring rolls were crispy and tasty but the pho was the best. The soup was full of beefy flavor, the noodles were smooth and yummy, the bean sprouts, Vietnamese coriander leaves and basil all made this The.Best.Pho.Ever. All for 20 euros, including a beer. The pho was big enough for two hungry persons.
The Radisson Hotel is new, the rooms are big and the hotel grounds are a golf course and lots of green fields
On the Eugo bus tours, you are given 2 to 2 1/2 hours to tour the cities and have dinner after which the bus'll take you to the hotel, which is usually out of the city. In Paris, the hotel was 40 minutes away in the suburbs near Disneyland. Miss the tour bus and you have to pay 100 euros taxi fare to get back to the hotel. It happened to some of the people in our group.