The Beauty and the Beastliness of Paris


Since Monday marks a French national holiday (one of the about dozen  jours feriés), much of the city has emptied out to take advantage of the opportunity to travel that a three-day weekend provides. Well, we thought about taking off on a vacation, but if you don’t book more than a couple weeks in advance this time of year, the prices to even nearby cities get jacked-up. And then it occurred to us:  why leave? We’re in Paris! True, I’ve already been here a couple weeks and will be a couple weeks more. But in the daily routine of French classes, chores, and gym, I actually haven’t had as much time as I would have hoped to explore what the city and its surroundings has to offer.

So we decided on a plan for today: morning at the Chateau de Versailles.

But then there was a problem: bed bugs.

Well, bed bugs had always been an issue here, but we were in a bit of denial. And–given that we occasionally spotted mosquitos in the apartment, it was easy enough to dismiss the itchy, red welts on my body as having another source. But once you look under the mattress cover and actually see the bugs, you have no choice but to toss everything aside and deal with them.

I went to the supermarket armed with the google translation of “bed bugs” and “insecticide” (actually the same in French), but no one seemed to know what I was talking about. Sifting through the insecticide isle at the Monoprix supermarket, I quickly had to learn some new vocabulary: cockroaches, ants, flies, bees, spiders, mosquitos. Hmm… the insecticides for which of these creatures would be most likely to kill bed bugs too?

Well, we tried a combination. But with noxious gasses filling up the apartment, we needed to get out. So it was off to Versailles after all!

It wasn’t far at all on the train from where we live, and when I first arrived at the castle, I thought I was entering the gates of heaven. It helped too that I could get in free as a young (under 26) EU resident (I have a Paris student ID). But once you wait almost an hour in a line to get inside and find out that you are packed in it with other tourists like sardines, the majesty fades quite a bit. All said and done, I’d say the palace is highly overrated compared to other castles I’ve seen. The gardens are said to be magnificent, but we hardly got to see much of them. We thought they were going to close at 6:30, but they actually closed at 5:30 today.

In the end, stopping at a nice restaurant for sangria, tapas, and ice-cream, made the trip well worth it. And when we got back to Paris, we went out to the movies to a very classy theater in the chic 16th for a good laugh at “Bridesmaids.” Though, the French in the theater weren’t laughing quite as much, I would surmise due to poor translation in the subtitles. I mean, the very title of the film is poorly translated as “My best friends.”

On the walk back home from the theater, we crossed a bridge over the Seine, while looking on at the Eiffel Tour, lit up for the night. I guess, when you see such a splendid site on such a lovely evening, you remember that despite the bed bugs–and the rats and the need to watch where you step so as to avoid stepping in dog poop–Paris still has a certain charm.

Paris charm

Le Charme de Paris

3 responses »

    • It’s ok. We got rid of the mattress and are sleeping on the futon, which is comfortable enough. Will update blog soon! Have much to say, but have been too busy to say it 🙂

  1. Suggestions RE Versailles: Since posting this blog, I have received two good recommendations: 1. Rent bikes at the Grand Canal. Plan a few hours for the ride to the far gardens. 2. Go to Versailles in the eve to see the nocturnal waters /fountains. The entrance is 24 Euros, but I’ve heard it’s totally worth it. Plan to be there at least a couple hours. I’m not sure if these waters are open all year round, so check on that first. As a disclaimer, I haven’t tried either of these options, but these were highly recommended to me by friends. I personally didn’t find too much special in the Palace itself, especially with the crowds of tourists and the poor quality of the audio guides. But perhaps seeing the gardens and fountains by bike or by night would make the visit far more worthwhile.

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