Birthday Weekend in Versailles

 

Before I breakdown my trip first let me give you a bit of background.  I decided to spend this birthday alone and it was A-MA-ZING for many reasons but mostly because I was ALONE.  I really felt like I needed a break to reflect and relax without distraction or pressure to be engaging…I could simply be in my zone.  I wanted to spend an ENTIRE weekend doing exactly what I wanted to do, when and how I wanted to do it with no discussions or compromises over schedules, budgets, transportation, hotels, meals or activities.  Sound selfish?  Maybe, but I don’t feel a twinge of guilt.

Now that that is out of the way, let me share a bit about the trip itself.  I took the Eurostar from Before I breakdown my trip first let me give you a bit of background.  I decided to spend this birthday alone and it was A-MA-ZING for many reasons but mostly because I was ALONE.  I really felt like I needed a break to reflect and relax without distraction or pressure to be engaging…I could simply be in my zone.  I wanted to spend an ENTIRE weekend doing exactly what I wanted to do, when and how I wanted to do it with no discussions or compromises over schedules, budgets, transportation, hotels, meals or activities.  Sound selfish?  Maybe, but I don’t feel a twinge of guilt.

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I arrived in Paris and purchased my train ticket to Versailles and I was nearly there, just two stations away when the train stopped without explanation.  All passengers disembarked and were left scrambling for options.  It was during this moment of confusion that I met Colleen and Wendy, two American women who were also going to Versailles and had been met with several setbacks.  We chatted about our jobs and our reasons for coming to Paris and Versailles for the weekend.  Then a very helpful ticket agent explained to the group that we could either wait for the next train but it wouldn’t arrive for another 2 hours, or we could walk 15 minutes to a parallel train line and catch another train to travel the 2 remaining stops Versailles.  So off we went to find the other station.  I was so excited about my weekend that I was totally unbothered and reminded Colleen and Wendy that there are no coincidences so take it in stride because everything happens for a reason.

It was nearly 3PM by the time I reached Versailles and I set off to find my hotel leaving Colleen and Wendy to find a bathroom and a glass of wine.  When I checked into the Trianon Palace Waldorf Astoria their computer system was down and therefore unable to produce a room key.  No problem, the reservation assistant escorted me to my room so that I could put down my bag and she gave me a tour of the hotel’s amenities along the way.  After a tour of the restaurants, spa and swimming pool, I had lunch on the terrace…fois gras and a champagne mojito.  By the time I was finished I was able to collect my room key and head to the Versailles gardens where I got a preview of the day ahead.

 

After a few hours of walking through the gardens, I headed back to the hotel to get ready for my 8PM dinner reservation at the Gordon Ramsay Au Trianon restaurant.  I was seated at a table for 1 near the window overlooking the meadow where sheep roamed and grazed…it was absolutely beautiful.  I ordered a glass of champagne to toast my birthday and an amazing meal.  Everything from the food to the décor and the service was impeccable and I felt a bit emotional as I looked around the restaurant reflecting on how far I have come.  I never felt out of place but totally humbled by my journey.  I told the waiter that it was my birthday and he was so kind to have the dessert chef prepare a surprise complementary birthday dessert. After dinner, I headed back to my room to call my family and turn in for an early start the next morning.

I had arranged tickets to the Palace through the concierge and I arrived at the Chateau de Versailles at 9:30 to find an hour long line to enter. The hour passed quickly and I began the tour. I was overwhelmed by the opulence in which the monarchy lived for over 400 years but loved every gilded drop of it. For the entire weekend I felt as though my perspective had been warped from conservative, pragmatist to indulgent, more is more. I spent hours walking around the gardens enjoying the musical fountains and getting lost in my thoughts stopping only for lunch and gelato ironically at a Venetian restaurant in the gardens. I rented a bike and cycled to visit the Marie Antoinette estate and then around the Grand Canal. I hadn’t ridden a bike in nearly 20 years but like they say…you never forget. Satisfied that I had seen and done everything that I wanted to do at the Palace, I headed back to the hotel to retrieve my bag and return to Paris and then on to London.

On the train to Paris I was seated between 3 couples that had visited Versailles but were unsure that they were on the correct train to Notre Dame. None of the couples spoke English, one Spanish, one Italian and one Portugese but I assured them (in Spanish) that we were on the right train and we struck up a conversation about our travels and somehow we all understood one another. I rarely have the occasion to speak in Spanish these days and worried that my rusty Spanish wouldn’t be clear enough but fortunately it was also like riding a bike and we all understood each other perfectly. My train ride from Paris to London was uneventful and I arrived back home around 9:30 PM. Those 36 hours felt like at least 72 and I enjoyed every self-indulgent second.

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