It’s no question whether I’m poor/cheap/stupid. When all three of those traits take over, though, it leads to adventure (and saving money, and illegal things).
This morning didn’t start off too great. I had to make my first student loan payment, which I couldn’t do through credit card, so I had to dig through some old email to find a scan of an old check, and in light of other financial burdens (you know, having my crap stolen), I was in a pretty awful mood. I decided to head out to Versailles today to see the palace and the gardens, but took the wrong train line first (of course) so had to backtrack a little and I got there around 1.
There were lots and lots of tourists there, many of them French, surprisingly. I didn’t hear any American English, but there were plenty of Australians for whatever reason.
Gates at the palace.
A building across from the palace.
I entered the area that was labeled “TICKETS,” not expecting to have to pay anything as a student, but the attendant explained to me in Italian (after I asked her in Spanish) how much it cost to see the palace. Fifteen euro! No no, that’s too much to see a building. I walked outside and decided to look around the city instead. After all, what’s a palace without its city?
That quickly got boring, because Versailles looks exactly like Paris but with more free space and a few unique buildings located near the palace and the city center. So I figured, maybe I can find another way in. A free way in. I remembered seeing a video online about how to travel on the cheap, and one of the pieces of advice was to sneak in. Could I sneak into a palace though? It was probably full of guards, danger, and je-ne-sais-quoi. And surely each vulnerable point in the walls surrounding the place would have been blocked off in the past four hundred years, right?
I walked through the streets of Versailles with the palace and gardens on my left. I ran into an opening at a gate that looked unguarded, but as soon as I was close a man in a black suit appeared to tell me in really awful Spanish (I kept telling people I only spoke Spanish today, I don’t know why) that it would cost fifty euro to enter the gardens. Whoah, what?! No. I thought fifteen euro would cover the palace and the gardens, but apparently not, as the gardens are totally separate. I found out later that its only 6.50 to get tithe gardens, but for this point in the story I was under the impression that I would have to spend a total of 65 euro to see everything. So I kept walking.
There were some fences that looked easy to climb, but there were too many pedestrians to sneak over it, and it was three meters off the ground on a concrete slab, so I’d have to run up the wall too. So I kept walking, and finally ran across a low point in the wall that had a ledge and was covered with minimal flora. I had my chance.
Heart racing with adrenaline, I looked all ways before making the jump. I would have to make sure no one was on the other side during the jump or risk getting caught. Here goes nothing.
Alley-oop! I jumped as hard as I could and managed to land a hand on the ledge. Swinging left I got my other hand on the ledge, pulled myself up hard, looked around to make sure no one was there, and jumped down on the other side. Then I felt like Harry potter in the scene in the Goblet of Fire where he’s running through the Tri-Wizard maze to avoid being killed by Viktor who was under the imperious curse. I ran quietly to the next wall of shrubbery and looked around to make sure I wasn’t being followed. Nothing. Okay, I was in. Time to see the gardens.
Battle wound from the wall!
It put up a good fight, but to no avail.
The gardens weren’t very impressive on the side I came in (save for the sheer magnitude) because none of the fountains were running, and because I’m not really into art. Sorry!
For whatever reason, there were a ton of these trees with a rock lodged in their branches. I couldn’t figure it out either, don’t worry.
The whole time, I could hear classical music coming from far away, which turned out to be coming from a fountain show on the other side.
I walked through basically the entire park, then upon finding out I couldn’t get into the palace by sneaking in, decided to stroll through the public access part.
Public access running trail.
I’d had my fill of walking for the day and I didn’t want to be late to make dinner for Camille so I went to a local supermarket, devoured a baguette and a banana, and got on the train, which was probably the most fun part of my day aside from jumping the wall. Couple after couple after couple of people kept coming to the train asking me which direction it was going (because the line we were on could have gone several ways depending on the train. We were going toward Paris and then I didn’t know where, so I just kept asking where people were going and informing them which stop they were safe until. The cool part, though, was that I used basically every language I know to help everyone. There was a Spanish couple, some French tourists, a guy from Australia, an Italian woman and her husband, a Portuguese girl (I had to speak to her in Spanish though), and — I kid you not — an older Japanese couple. I was standing right where the door was so I was the first person people saw when they were looking for a place to board the train. Here’s how it goes…
“Creo que este tren va en la dirección de París. A dónde vais? Vale.”
“Je croix que ce train va à Paris, ou est-ce que vous allez? A bon? Ça va.”
And so on. The only problem is that after speaking so many languages, you answer people on the wrong language and you can figure out what to say when you accidentally step on someone’s foot because you’re all literally piled on each other. But when everyone is like, “Dude, you’re crazy” and smiling at you when you turn to someone new to talk to them in a different language, it’s a great feeling. I just think the whole world needs to be polyglot (capable of speaking several languages). How else are you gonna communicate with all those billions of people who are so different (and after reflection, maybe not so different?) than you?
TOO MANY PEOPLE IN THIS SPACE
The rest of the day was unremarkable except for the American style dinner I made, which was supposed to adhere to French meal rules but didn’t really. We had grapes and pasta and then French toast for “dessert.” Camille put caramel on hers and thought it was atrocious how much syrup I was using, and found it strange that I tore it into pieces before putting the syrup on. “You have to tear it up like that?” she asked, sounding appalled. She didn’t want a picture of her in her jammies so she took one of me instead, holding up the only thing that really matters in the world (FRENCH TOAST).
There have French toast in France, but it’s not very popular and it’s called ‘pain perdu’ or “lost bread.” It’s made with bread that is very dried out and isn’t covered in maple syrup because it basically doesn’t exist here (unless you want to pay lots of money for the imported stuff (my little 110mL bottle cost €3,50 or so). Still, very much worth it. Today was a good day!