Famed for its stained glass windows, the queue into Sainte-Chapelle was surprisingly unassuming. Sharing an entrance with the Palais de Justice, we had to go through a stringent security check before getting anywhere near the chapel.
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Once in, I was pretty much left speechless by these awe inspiring glass panels.
And that’s the first proper phrase I uttered in French. With surprisingly good results to boot.
The ticketing staff understood perfectly and handed over 2 train tickets to Chateau Versailles better known as the Palace of Versailles (for those who studied history for their O-levels).
Spent our time on the train savoring our takeaway breakfast of French pastries with the occasional background music provided by street musicians. So very different from how we travel back home.
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Alighted the train and followed the massive crowd to the palace. Spoiler: more queuing lay in wait.
An early bus and flight equal to a whole load of waiting and traveling and more waiting. Upon touch down, it finally hit home that we are in a foreign country. Signs were all in French which left us scratching our heads aplenty.
Pretty soon enough we got a knack of it; sortie = exit anddddd that’s about it. While struggling through the ticketing machine interface to get our metro tickets, I regretted not picking up a few basic French words/phrases.
Those regrets deepened and literally forced themselves up my nose and mouth in the form of my first meal in Paris. Headed to a cafe which came highly recommended online. Even though it was way past lunchtime hours, the place was still packed to the brim. Thought to self, “This meal is gonna be darn good!”
Finally got a seat and realized the menu is the big chalkboard hung on the wall. Added bonus was that it was all in French. Binbin went for the safe option and ordered poulet which we sorta knew was chicken or poultry.
Feeling helpless (the servers were not fluent in English) and adventurous at the same time, I decided to order a dish called “AAAAA blah Andouillette blah blah blah”.
That AAAAA to infinity totally sold me on it.
Interestingly, andouillette turned out to be “a coarse-grained sausage made with pork (or occasionally veal), intestines or chitterlings, pepper, wine, onions, and seasonings” as Wikipedia kindly puts it. I call it the sh*t sausage.
Obviously this was of nobody else’s fault but mine. I should probably just leave the ordering to binbin next time.
The alarm went off. Eyes opened. First thing out of bed was to ruffle the curtain drapes and peer out the window.
Nevertheless, we decided to push on with our plan to visit the neighboring islands Torcello and Burano. Who knows, maybe by the time we reached, the weather would have improved.
After an hour of traveling which involved transferring from one vaporetta to another, we finally reached the shores of Torcello. At this time, the rain was falling even more heavily. And the winds. The piercing winds!!
Compounding the depressing weather was the virtually empty streets as local vendors were all holed up at home while tourists that were as hardcore/foolish as us were far and few.
Well, I suppose our luck was going to run out sooner or later. Misfortune came in the form of rain as soon as we arrived at the train station. Thankfully we managed to find our way through the notorious Venetian alleys to our hotel.
First order of business was to hook ourselves up with tickets for the water taxi which is locally known as vaporetta. It is easily the only viable public transport if you wish to get around Venice. More often than not, you will see signs proclaiming “Vaporetta” pointing in all sorts of obscure directions while walking along the streets.
Unfortunately, this time round we fell victims to the maze of Venetian streets while trying to locate the vaporetta stop. Wandered for a good 20 minutes trying to make sense of the map/following the crowd/returning to base and starting all over again. Finally located the stop with the insides of our shoes feeling slightly soggy. D:
Proceeded to purchase the 72 hours tourist pass even though we would be staying for 2 days only. Value for money since a single ride cost 6 euros.
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Waiting to board our first ever vaporetta ride! Rather than being uber hyped about it, I remembered us shivering while holding our damp tickets, second guessing if we were waiting at the right stop.
An early start to the day with us all geared up for our pre-booked Tuscany tour with Walkabout Florence. Only to meet with a slight setback as it started pouring just as we were about to make our way to the tour bus. It proved to be the only disappointment of the day as the tour turned out to be freakin’ awesome!!
Time flew by all thanks to our guide Steffano who kept us entertained throughout the bus ride to our first stop, Siena. Highlights include the Siena town square also known as Piazza del Campo which is supposedly one of the greatest city squares in the world.
Florence is well known for its collection of sculptures and paintings which are proudly displayed in museums across the city. But apart from its assortment of art works nourished with years of history, there are also artifacts of the less artsy kind to be admired in the Museo Galileo.
Rather than being a shrine dedicated to the life and times of Galileo Galilei, the museum housed a huge collection of scientific instruments and inventions from the good ol’ days of the 15th to 19th century. A very educational tour that will no doubt invoke tonnes of challenging whys and hows that parents will find hard to answer.
Suffice to say, the amount of information to digest left my holiday brains in a state of paralysis. Can’t say I’ll do any better with my normal day to day brain. Doubt there will be many left wearing t-shirts with “Nerd” or “Geek” emblazoned across their chests if they were made to tour the museum before they could gain the right to don them.
Time to recharge with a quick lunch at one of the top rated eateries on TripAdvisor, All’Antico Vinaio. Similar in concept to the sandwich joint we visited yesterday, it was located along one of those cosy alleys serving up cheap tasty sandwiches and glasses of wine.
Ordering was a challenge though as there was no fixed menu and the chefs were not fluent in English. Due to the store’s popularity, the queues were a huge clump of people squished against the counter. Ordering methods varied as there were customers who carefully questioned the identity of the various ingredients before making a decision or those that pointed randomly at the ingredients. I went for the “anything with truffle” option.