Monday, August 3, 2009

Trip to France Day 3: Chartres-Versailles-Pauillac

Day 3, Part 1 (I guess we did a lot this day as this post was running really long, so I decided to cut it into two part.)

Chateau d'Esclimont extWe ended up sleeping in until around 8 again, which is understandable after the fire drill.

Breakfast was a buffet with scrambled eggs and sausage, in addition to the standard croissant, bread, jam, and yogurt. It was a nice change of pace.

After breakfast we wandered around the grounds a bit and took some pictures.

Then we went to check out. Yep, you know what’s coming. Our credit cards were rejected again. I thought the previous morning was a fluke, now I knew something was wrong.

Flagged?! What do you mean flagged?
The desk clerk dialed the international collect call number for me. And I had to go through all the security measures, which didn’t please me at all because it wasn’t a private place, then I had to listen to all the info about my current and available balance before I finally got to a customer service rep.

I explained that I was on a trip to France and my card was being rejected. She apologized for the inconvenience and said there was a flag on my account because of unusual activity. I was like, “Yeah, that’s me, I’m in France. I told you people two weeks ago. Lift it.” And she apologized again and said it was a different department and she would have to transfer me. But, oh, that department doesn’t open until 9 am EST.

And I flipped out. I said, “It’s 10:30 am here in France and I’m trying to check out of my hotel!” And she said there wasn’t anything she could do and I’d have to call back later.

So my questions are: Why the heck did I bother calling in advance if it didn’t work? And why the heck do they have a number for international calls if they aren’t open international hours?

Note to people who train customer service reps: Having them apologize did nothing to calm me or make me feel better while I was standing in a foreign country being embarrassed by having my credit card rejected.

So we resorted to paying with our debit card again and said, Ok, we’ll call tonight when we get to the B&B.

Just Give Me a (Road) Sign
We headed out to Versailles. Things were going well until we saw a sign for a detour because the road was closed. There was a guy sitting behind the sign, looking bored. He, of course, didn’t speak any English. But we tried to ask for directions anyway. This was an issue because we didn’t have detailed road maps, so we were basically flying blind. But we managed to stumble around and find our way to the road we needed.

The French, apparently, navigate around by city name, rather than road names or route numbers like we do in America. We were able to figure that out pretty quickly. So we looked for directional signs pointing toward our destination. Or towns on the other side of our destination knowing that as we got closer we’d start seeing signs for our destination. Still, it was a rather vague way to navigate compared to what we were accustomed to.

Also it seemed to us that while American road signs indicate what you are going to do up ahead, the French signs seemed to be indicating what you need to do here! Right here! And the French signs are tilted at an odd angle compared to American ones. American street signs are at right angels. French ones are at, I don’t know, 45 degrees or something. I suppose this sort of made them easier to read as they were facing us nicely. But for unsuspecting Americans wandering the countryside it took us a while to realize the signs were telling us to go straight, not turn left.

I admit, we did a few full rotations through a couple traffic circles. However, we didn’t do it because we couldn’t figure out how to exit them. We did it on purpose so we could take another look at all the street signs and figure out which one to follow. It was actually kind of convenient. We got a second chance and didn’t have to find a place to turn around, as we would have in a regular four-way intersection.

Despite the confusing signs, we made it to Versailles in about an hour. Of course, there was no parking. We had issues with parking almost the entire time we were in France. The country seriously needs more parking garages. Or at least better signs directing people to the parking garages, because we didn’t see many.

We managed to find street parking and Hubby fed the meter 2 Euro for an hour and a half. In the mean time, I was under a tree fighting the urge to hurl because I was so stressed out over the credit card situation. I assured Hubby I just had to get some air and get distracted so I could focus on something else, then I would calm down.

Hubby asked a man and his son parked near by how the meter worked. The guy was like “We speak English.” Hubby was like “Yeah, that’s why I’m asking you.” Turns out the dude was from Long Island!

Now That's a Palace
Line at VersailleNow, remember, Versailles is closed on Mondays. Which maybe contributed to what a mad house it was on Tuesday morning. Luckily a coworker had told me we could by our tickets in advance online. If we hadn’t, I don’t know what we would have done, because the non-ticket holder line was out of control. It doubled back on itself three times.

The ticket holder line wasn’t much better, for that matter. The entrance was at the 11 o’clock in the main courtyard. The line went across the top of the courtyard and down the side to the 4 o’clock. We were like, Holy Smokes, our meter is going to run out.

But for all that, it only took about 10 or 15 minutes to get through. I theorized that it looked like there were a lot of people in line, but really everyone was in groups and family units, so we didn’t really have to wait for every single person to get through.

So I would strongly urge you to buy your tickets in advance. I would also urge you to use the restroom somewhere before you get to the palace because the lines for the ladies room were at least as long as the line to get inside. Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating, but you get the idea. The men’s room, of course, had hardly any line at all. Luckily, I didn’t need to visit the facilities while we were there.

We also didn’t need the audio tour, as Hubby was able to walk around naming all the people in the portraits and why they were important. I knew enough to be dangerous because I’ve read The Three Musketeers by Dumas, although it made Hubby roll his eyes. Still, he’ll relate stuff to movies for me so he doesn’t have to explain everything.

Hubby thought it was wild to be walking the same hallways as all the historical people he has studied. We admired the garish decorations and peered out the windows at the gardens.

The program Hubby was on didn’t include a visit to Versailles, which surprised us. We don’t know why, maybe the distance, crowds or expense did it. They did go to a different chateau for a tour. Hubby said he learned that they had fancy bedrooms were they received guests, but they slept in a plain room usually located through a secret door. He said when the French Revolution started a mob of women broke into Versailles and destroyed Marie Antionette’s bedroom, but she was safe in her secret bedroom. And we could see the door, which was cool. I think they should have the door open so you could at least see inside.

Hall of Mirrors in VersailleWhen I went to France in college my friends and I went out to Versailles. I remember not being impressed with the Hall of Mirrors. I don’t know if I hadn’t heard a good description, or seen pictures, but I think I expected it to be more of a fun house hall, and it isn’t. This time around I was more impressed, which pleased me.

We ended up managing to walk through all the public areas in a little over an hour and a half. We did skip the last art gallery of French History, and the Opera House was closed for renovations. The gardens were another ticket and we decided to skip them as well. We were back to the car just before 2 and we didn’t have either a parking ticket or a boot, so the day was looking up.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my goodness (did I say that already??? ha ha ) all of the crystal and mirrors look gorgeous! The line to get in, however, looks bad! Only 10-15 minutes???

    I'm hoping the credit card travesty is fixed on your next post!!