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Written in a hotel in Ghent

 On Friday, Margie had a rest day while the rest of us had a “wander around the city looking at shops and a few sights” day – we deliberately didn’t get Metro tickets, so that we could see more of the city. Our first stop was the Moulin Rouge, which had a large circular vent whose function appeared to be continuously pumping out warm air, so that people could reproduce Marylin Monroe’s famous picture whenever they wanted. (I assume that it was actually part of the Metro ventilation; why it needs to be always on, I couldn’t tell you.)

We walked along, looking at shops; I managed to look at some headphones in FNAC, decide which ones would be most useful for the plane… and then get distracted, and purchase the wrong ones. We then had a spot of lunch in the Tuileries, and wandered further into Paris.

We joined the line for Notre Dame, which was long when we joined it (thanks, in part, to some sort of American music camp), and only got longer; however, there was a big guy at the front of the queue firmly shooing away those who tried to cut into the line. There should be more guys like that.

The cathedral itself was… nice, but crowded, and we didn’t join a tour or get an audio-guide, so it was just a case of wandering and looking. (We did pass a tour ostensibly in English, but the guide’s accent was so strong that there was a decision made to keep looking by ourselves.) I didn’t get as much out of this as with some of the other cathedrals we’ve seen; I’m not sure whether it was because it was so crowded, or because I didn’t have enough context for it. We passed the entrance to the treasures, but there was a general movement towards moving along, possibly because there was an entrance fee; it’s a pity, since it would have been interesting to look at. But I did light a candle for my nephew and nieces, and the rest of my family, which I appreciated.

There was some discussion about whether to go into Sainte-Chappelle, since Meredith had already been, G didn’t know anything about it, and there was both a line and an admission charge; Meredith & G decided to wait in a cafe while we went in. It was actually pretty cool – it was no longer a working church (and all the relics it had been build to house had been removed… some to the Notre Dame treasury), but the magnificence of the windows was still obvious. (Annoyingly, there was a cool carving of the creation of the world that I wanted to take a picture of, but there were a couple of guys sitting in front of it, and I wasn’t confident enough of my French or Japanese to ask them to move. I’m hoping that they’re in the guidebook I bought.)

We then headed back.

The next day it was time for Meredith to zoom off to England, so we wished her bon voyage; G decided to have a rest day, and the remainder of our group hopped onto a train to head out to Versailles. (I had pushed quite strongly for this, since I wanted to do something in France that wasn’t in Paris.) We looked at the intimidating lines, and decided that we would have a wander around the gardens before we did anything else.

This turned out to be a really good idea, and all we actually managed to do. They were piping period music into the gardens; one of the fountains was programmed to operate in time with its music. It was quite relaxing to just wander around, looking at the follies and grottos and such. There were crowds, but the way the gardens are designed means that you didn’t see too many people at once, and we had a very pleasant, stress-free time. And the fact that it was relatively easy to do means that next time, we might brave the lines and see inside some of the palaces.

(C has been very firm on the fact that there will be a “next time”.)

We returned to Paris in the rain, collected G (despite the fact that no-one was completely sure where her hostel was), and we did our best to finish off the remaining food (with mixed success). We then walked G home, mad a valiant attempt at packing, and went to bed.

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