Posted by: vlibrizzi | September 23, 2009

The Paris Tour Guide: Day 3-Chateaux and Pickpockets

IMG_1607On Saturday, C. joined A. and me on a day trip to Versailles.  This was our third time visiting Versailles, and, honestly, I think C. and I still haven’t seen all of it! The first time we visited Versailles, we went inside the main chateau. Then, the second time, we walked around the gardens. Then, this time while A. visited the interior of the main chateau, C. and I took a little train to the back of the chateau grounds to Marie Antoinette’s Petit Trianon. It’s amazing that Versailles is so big that you have to take a train to go from one side to another! 

 

 

 

DSC_0087The first stop on our train was for the Grand Trianon, a “summer cottage” that Louis XIV built to get away from the hustle and bustle of chateau life (ha!). Apparently, he would ride a boat down the canal in the gardens of Versailles down to the Grand Trianon each summer for a relaxing vacation. 

And, what a relaxing vacation that must have been! The place is absolutely beautiful, with tall marble columns, lush flower gardens, and breezy, open hallways. It was such a peaceful, beautiful place. You can see me leaning against one of the columns in the open-air arcade in the photo to the left. 

Sadly, while we were visiting the Grand Trianon, our camera battery died, so we don’t have any other photos from our afternoon in Versailles, but I’ve found a few photos online of Marie Antoinette’s house, the Petit Trianon (below), and the Queen’s Hamlet which is a collection of adorable, Disney-like French cottages for Marie Antoinette’s guests (or maybe we should say that Disney is Marie Antoinette-like). Both of the photos come from a great blog about Versailles called http://blog.catherinedelors.com/

petittrianon_Z

 

The Petit Trianon, Marie Antoinette’s house where she lived and entertained guests. 

One of the best things about our visit on Saturday afternoon was that Marie Antoinette’s estate was free to visit (we’re not sure why!), and there were many actors walking around, playing croquet, having tea, etc. all in period costume! It made us really feel as if we were living during the 17th century. So cool! 

 

 

hamlet

 

The Queen’s Hamlet with adorable French thatched-roof cottages, that Marie Antoinette had built as a peaceful place—everything about its atmosphere and appearance is the opposite of the main chateau in Versailles.

 

 

Later on in the afternoon, we met up with A. at the main gates of the chateau and hopped on the train back to Fontainebleau. While we were on the train, though,  three French teenagers came up to us asking if we would sign a petition to “help the handicapped.” The pushed the petitions in our faces and pressed them against our stomachs when we wouldn’t sign. I thought this whole incident was a bit obtrusive, but I just figured that they were very adament about getting their signatures. 

It was only after they left and I looked into my purse that I realized that they were, in fact, pickpockets…and had stolen my wallet! While they were pushing the petitions in our faces with one hand, they were using their other hand to try to steal our wallets!!!

As soon as I realized what had happened, C. jumped up and chased after them. He found them in the back of the train, going through my wallet. Luckily, they were clearly inexperienced pickpockets (Who goes through the stolen wallet while still on the train? ) and were only about 15 years old, so C. easily got the wallet and my money back. 

It was such a scary experience, though. I had never been pickpocketed before! I couldn’t believe how easily they were able to steal my wallet without my noticing. But, luckily, once again, C. saved the day!

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Once we got safely back to Fontainebleau, we joined some friends for a night-time visit to another chateau closer to Fontainebleau, Vaux le Vicomte. 

Every Saturday night during the summer and into the fall, Vaux le Vicomte is lit up by hundreds of candles, and people roam the grounds drinking champagne and listening to classical music. It was so romantic and unique…it’s not often that you get to stroll through the gardens of a candle-lit chateau at night 🙂

 

IMG_1716

In addition to visiting the gardens outside (see photo above from my friend A.), we also visited the interior of the castle (see candle-lit basement photo to the left) and learned all about its original owner, Nicolas Fouquet, a French financier who supported the monarchy.  Fouquet has a sad story, the victim of a plot by a rival financier that came about after Louis XIV had come to the throne. The rival (Colbert) convinced Louis XIV that Fouquet was stealing from the country, using the beauty of Vaux le Vicomte as part of his evidence and stoking the King’s jealousy.  Fouquet was imprisoned for life.  But in fact, Colbert was actually the one who was stealing, and was just trying to distract the new king from discovering the truth…ah, just another example of French pickpocketing for today!

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