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Saturday Shenanigans: Was Versailles in 'History of the World?'

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The heat rose faster than the sun on this particular Parisian Saturday.  I woke up with my shirt clinging to my back and the noise of the street already in full force.  It was 10:30am.  I needed that.  I had set my alarm for 4:15am this morning; a grave mistake.  Air France, presumably because it’s French and contrarian, requires you to check in 30 hours before your flight.  Not 24 hours.  30. 


And because I have always been terrible at math, I was off an entire day for my check-in.  I wasn’t leaving Paris until Monday.  But the early wake-up kind of re-set my internal clock and I lay in the bed like a soaked baguette, my body and mind relishing the sleep.


My friend was kind enough to deliver unto the kitchen a couple of coffees and pan au chocolates.  I got a warm fuzzy feeling.  Sleep, coffee, pastry.  Amen.


We met up with a couple associates from the production, one of whom is my friend’s assistant.  We get along well and she’s still in that naive period of her life where she thinks politics, men/women issues and so forth are black and white.  That will change for her in approximately four years.


The streets were buzzing with tourists and Frenchmen alike.  We steered our path towards Boulevard Saint Germain, named after a 13th century Parisian bishop.  It’s a main thoroughfare with a mix of quaint bistros, boutiques and large stores beckoning the Chinese invader (Hermes, Prada, etc.).


Stopping for lunch at well-situated bistro (still don’t know the difference between bistro and cafe, other than I think a cafe is more about the coffee and drink).  The menu included a cheeseburger for about $45.  I got the chicken and potatoes.  Maybe I was gun shy after the food dominatrix waitress from the previous night.  The chicken came out in its own little Le Crueset pot and I just know my wife would’ve lost her mind upon seeing this.  She loved food served in this style.  I blurted her name out and felt like a weirdo. 


After lunch, we walked to the giant Hermes store, which, if you’re into that sort of thing, is outstanding.  Perfectly coiffed Hermes sales attendants waited to be beckoned.  They all looked like the chicks from Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” video, but with skirts just a tinge longer and maybe less rouge. on the face.  They were professional and scary confidant.  Even if I had the huevos, I wouldn’t have asked any of them out for a date because the emasculating response would have cloistered me for the rest of my life.


I nervously took a pic inside the shop, waiting for one of the fashion robots to slap my hand, but it didn’t happen.  This is your Paris Hermes store:




Our parade through this shopping area was not without purpose.  I needed a tie for the next day’s event:  My friend scored tickets to the Prime Minister’s viewing area on top of the Arc d’ Triumph for the next day’s finale of the Tour d’ France.  Since I’m an Oscar Madison at heart, I didn’t pack a suit – or tie.  Note to world travelers:  at a certain age, you should pack a suit and tie for such ‘just-in-case’ scenarios.  You can get away with it if your 20-something.  But possessing the ability to dress-up gives you many more options.


I didn’t find a tie I liked, not that we looked as hard as I should have, and we were now fighting the clock.  The assistant was excited to about an event she got tickets for a few days earlier:  Fireworks at the Versailles.  Due to our late start, we needed to power walk to our various apartments and get ready for dinner.  One of our Frenchy associates scored us a table at a fancy, hidden little place nearby.  Of course, the caveat from the hate breed matron was that we must be at the restaurant right at 7pm, or they would give the table away.  We apologized the moment we walked in the door at 7:01, but by this time in Paris, I just apologize out of habit.  “Pardon, pardon, pardon.”  My French lexicon.

Dinner was swell.  We were outside in a sunken lil’ patio next to a fountain of a lil’ naked boy.  The standard European touch of class:  Jerry Sandusky fountain.


A driver met us street level and whisked us out of Paris to the Versailles.  The sun was making its way to the horizon and we were dropped off in a perfect light.  There was just enough cloud in the sky to add some pink to our faces and it reflected impossibly off of the facade of the Versailles. 




We strolled the various fountains as classical music was piped in throughout.  It was spectacular.   The assistant was stuck with me; she was probably thinking some cool French dude inhaling a pack of Gitanes, while whispering something soft in French in her ear, might have been more suitable.  My upside is that I open and close doors for her.


A line of giant flamethrowers had been installed down the main stretch of the ‘lawn,’ for lack of a better term.  They were cued to the classical music at various times and added to the magic of the sunset.  A water fountain arched in the near distance.  We have something similar, but the fountains at the Grove or Fashion Island just don’t have the same panache...can’t put my finger on it.  Must be an 18th century kind of thing.



We jostled for a place to watch the fireworks.  They were good, but truth be told, I like the Big Bang Fireworks at the Big A much better.  Americans get fireworks so right.  Big and bright, loud and fast. 


Upon leaving, there was a mass exodus.  The assistant grabbed my arm as we made our way through the crowds.  Then she held my hand.  This is the first woman, other than my wife, I've held hands with in years.  It was a weird feeling...foreign.  I did a good job, for once, not over-thinking it.


After all the walking about, we were crispy.  We probably didn’t say more than five words as we drove back into Paris.  But it was nice.  You can’t do much better than driving past an illuminated Eiffel Tower after watching fireworks at the Versailles, except for maybe a 10 game Angels winning streak.  Guess which happened first to me this year?


When I got back to the apartment, I commenced with my late-evening ritual:  put on Radio Nova, light a candle and read or check out some emails.  I was tired this night.  What a great day.  I set my alarm for 4:15am, Sunday.  I double-checked my math.  I wanted an aisle seat and I was willing to check-in precisely 30 hours before the flight to get it.


ADDENDUM:  I forgot to mention...My friend found a theater called the Luxor which was showing the 1979 film “Quadrophenia.”  I was fascinated with this film in the ‘80s, watching it over and over and studying the accents, the scooters and the music.  I loved everything about it.  I wasn’t expecting much when we got tickets for it.  But it held up nicely.  Still an interesting film and it’s fun to see Ray Winstone and Sting in their roles.  Leave it to Paris to have Quadrophenia on the big screen.  Merci.




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