Category Archives: Paris, Île-de-France

Versailles Chateau, a Day-Trip from Paris, Episode 14

Versailles chateau with cloudy sky

Versailles Chateau, a Day-Trip from Paris

Today on Join Us in France we take a day-trip from Paris to Versailles and visit the Versailles Chateau. This symbol of the absolute monarchy has always inspired both admiration and resentment and we are sure it will not leave you indifferent either. One thing is for sure: it is stately. As a matter of fact, the whole city of Versailles is stately in many ways: wide avenues, statues, grand buildings.

Elyse gives us some historical background, we discuss why you should consider going, and why maybe you should skip it too. Then there’s the question of the lines which can be formidable and some tips on what you can do to make it more bearable.  Should you take the time to explore the grounds or just be in and out of the château? These are all questions we tackle in today’s episode. Enjoy!

If you love our approach to travel and want to tour France with us, visit Addicted to France to look at upcoming tours.

Correction: Elyse misspoke, Louis XIV is the son of Louis XIII and Anne of Austria, NOT Mary of Medici.

If you enjoyed this episode, also listen to Louis XIV, Miraculous Child.

Episode Highlights with Time Stamps

  • [3’45”] Where is it the Versailles Chateau?
  • [5’50”] Historical background
    • Hunting Lodge
    • Louis XIII decides to build a country home there
    • Construction starts in 1631
    • Louis XIV decides to establish permanent residence
  • [13’05”] Louis XIV invests fortunes and hires the best
  • [16′] Le Notre, landscape architect
  • [22’30] The role of rich Americans in restoration efforts
  • No privacy for Kings and Queens
  • Le Petit Trianon
  • Marie-Antoinette
  • [30′] During the French Revolution
  • [33’15”] The furniture you will see inside
  • [36’45”] The blessing and curse of having so many historical treasures in France
  • [39’30] Versailles chateau restoration is a work in progress
  • [44′] Getting around
  • [46’10”] How to avoid being stuck in line for hours
  • [55′] The best way to get there

Conclusion: If you don’t have a reserved timed ticket and if you are not visiting with a tour guide, consider arriving around 1 PM so you don’t wait in line as long.

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Should You Go to the Eiffel Tower? Episode 12

Eiffel Tower with Champ de Mars and La Defense Business District in the background

Should You Go to the Eiffel Tower?

On this week’s episode of Join Us in France we celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower. Should you go see it? What’s so great about it? We talk about the man behind it and the technological innovations that made it possible. Elyse also tells us that while some Parisians hated it, most loved it right from the start. We talk about recent improvements that are going to make the Eiffel Tower even better, and why it still takes our breath away. How should you visit the Eiffel Tower? What’s the best vantage point? All of that and more on today’s show. Enjoy!

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Show Notes

2:40′ Appeal for more iTunes and Stitcher Radio reviews. We want to thank Sandra Goodwin, GenevaGJ, liljackslade2, KRS Chicago for already writing us a review. You too can give us more visibility in the iTunes store by writing us a review and we’ll thank you on an upcoming show.

4:50′ The icon of Paris and France is the Eiffel Tower.

5:15′ It’s called the Eiffel Tower because of the name of the man who built it.

5:50′ Cast Iron made it possible to build large iron structures. Many beautiful buildings are made of cast iron and glass.

7:00′ Eiffel was a bridge builder who entered into a competition to design the entrance way into the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris.

9:26′ The World Fair was to be held on the banks of the Seine river, so that’s where they allotted space for the entrance structure.

10:00′ The people who commissioned the Eiffel Tower wanted something new. The Google Cultural Institute has great pictures of the whole construction process. It is called “The Birth of the Eiffel Tower”

11:20′ Eiffel did not design it; he is the one who built it.

12:10′ Construction began in 1887 and it took two years.

13:20′ People insisted on adding rounded arches in order to make it sturdier, but it turned out to make it prettier.

15:00′ Uproar in the intellectual and artistic community of Paris. The petition of the three hundred who were against the tower.

17:00′ Eiffel and his company built the Statue of Liberty also.

18:00′ The tower was supposed to be torn down after 20 years, but so many people were visiting it that they never tore it down.

18:30′ The Otis company designed the elevators for the tower, that’s why Otis opened a branch in France and they’re still here.

19:30′ The first wireless telegraph antenna was on the Eiffel Tower.

20:00′ The French jammed signals from the tower so the Germans could not use the signals during WWI.

20:40′ It was the tallest structure in the world at the time and lots of famous visitors came, including Thomas Edison, and Buffalo Bill Cody, who were some of the first people to go up the tower.

21:50′ It became an instant success with all the people who wanted to go up the tower.

22:00′ Two ways to go up the tower still to this day: take the elevators or walk. There are 3 levels total. The first level is 300 steps up from the ground. The second level is another 300 steps up. And then there are 1100 steps to the very top.

23:20′ What happened to the tower during WWII? Germans are occupying Paris and Parisians cut the cables so the Germans could not use the tower elevators. At the end of the war the Germans sent a an officer by foot to the top to fly a Nazi flag from the top of the tower. It was blown away by the wind within a few minutes. 🙂

24:15′ Most visited paid monument in the world: in 2010 it went over 250 million people all the way to the top.

25:00′ There are three levels. What’s on each level? Wonderful restaurant called the Jules Verne run by Alain Ducasse on the second level quite expensive and reservations needed.

26:40′ They are renovating the elevators, so only one bank of elevators is open. The lines are longer now because of these renovations. If you go soon be patient. If you buy your ticket in advance you skip the ticket line, but you still have to line up for the elevator.

29:00′ The elevators going all the way to the top are made of glass, beware if you’re afraid of heights. The very top is great to take photos, but you take photos from behind the Plexiglas. It’s cleaned daily.

30:30′ There is a Champagne Bar on top of the tower
32:00′ They are planning to build a museum of the history of the Eiffel Tower on first level, and a souvenir shop with nicer souvenirs, and also a cafeteria with better food offering than what’s there now. They will also make part of the floor Plexiglas so it’s transparent under your feet.

33:50′ The tower requires an enormous amount of upkeep, it’s painted every other year.

34:10′ Visiting hours. The best way to see the Eiffel Tower at night is not from being on it, but from being nearby. For instance take a river cruise on the Seine river (Bateau Mouches) which all go to the tower and turn around right in front of it. They all stop there so you can see it lit up. Or you can walk along the Seine
River. Or you can see it from the Trocadero.

34:50′ The tower sparkles for 5 minutes every hour on the hour starting at sunset. It changes colors for different holidays.

35:15′ French people don’t call Bastille Day “Bastille Day”, they call it “Le Quatorze Juillet”.

37:00′ If you’re jet-lagged, slept in one day, and now you need something to do late afternoon and evening, the Eiffel Tower is a great choice because it stays open late.

37:00′ Why are the Bateaux Mouches called that? The Bateaux Mouches are a tourist boat that offer cruises on the Seine River. Those are fun. It could be translated “Fly Boat”, but they look nothing like flies. The name comes from Monsieur Mouche.

39:00′ Bad weather days are not ideal for the Eiffel Tower. It’s nice to walk across the bridge away from the tower, you go up monumental stairs (3 floors) and you get to a wonderful esplanade from which you get a great view of the Eiffel Tower. This area is called Trocadero. A great thing to do even though lots of people don’t know about it.

42:00′ The area right around the Eiffel Tower does not have a lot of restaurants. You will find catering trucks. You can bring a picnic and enjoy it on the grass!

43:30′ Annie tried her Capitol One credit card without a chip or pin number at gas stations and toll booths in France (and Spain) and it didn’t work. It sounds like there are cards being issued in America right now that do have a chip and a pin, but someone told me that those don’t work without being specific enough for the information to be useful. Elyse has a US credit card with a chip but no pin, she says it worked for her. We want feedback from our listeners, can you use your US credit card in France?

46:00′ Next week Reims and Epernay.

47:00′ We need more reviews so we can be more visible on iTunes. Thank you!

Thank you and we’ll talk to you next week!

Cluny Museum Walking Tour, Episode 8

Entrance of the Cluny Museum in Paris
Entrance of the Cluny Museum in Paris

The Cluny Museum

This week Elyse takes us to the Cluny Museum, also called the Musée National du Moyen Age. This museum is a lesser known jewel, and well-worth a visit. There you will see The  Lady and the Unicorn, the Roman Baths, the stained glass up-close and the statue heads from Notre Dame that angry revolutionaries had thrown in the Seine river.

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