I spent last week in Versailles. Normally, when in Versailles, I stay at the Mercure Parly 2 but the only interest there is a shopping mall so this time I stayed at the Mercure Versailles Chateau. OK, we’re not talking luxury here. It’s small and basic but clean and the location is good. The breakfast is cold meats, cheese, yogurt and cereal but the coffee is hot and the soap has a wonderful smell of lemons.
The décor of the reception area is somewhat suspect from an Anglo-Saxon perspective. In the morning you will find besuited businessmen reclining at alarming angles on the super squashy sofas. The floor is slightly raised and the front and looks out on the street through a large plate glass shop window. With the sofas positioned at such a height and with the addition of gigantic lampshades straight from the swinging sixties the effect is like sitting in a furniture shop in Carnaby Street. Don’t rely on taxis either. I booked one for each morning and when it rained couldn’t get a taxi at all and on other days had to wait half an hour or walk to the station to flag one.
The Mercure Versailles Chateau is on the corner of rue Philippe de Dangeau and rue Montbauron and if you walk down rue Philippe de Dangeau there’s a cheap Pizza place and further down a series of restaurants and bars. Also within walking distance are the station and the Chateau de Versailles.
On Monday evening I ate a takeaway Pizza, then, on Tuesday, a fantastic Lasagne at an Italian restaurant while chatting to a Dutchman from Texas. Yes, the hotels nearby mean that the restaurants are frequented by foreign businessmen, of which, I guess, I am one. There’s an Indian, a Thai and a Japanese restaurant on rue Philippe de Dangeau but on Wednesday evening I returned to the Italian to eat a Tagliatelle while listening to the exploits of a table of American businessmen who turned up again outside my hotel window at 2am shouting “come on, let’s go!”. It’s odd, I have noticed this exhortation in every Hollywood film ever made but have never heard it in real life until that night in France. It seems that the night porter was not about and the Americans were locked out. Being a thoughtful type I got up, closed the window and went back to bed.
Leaving aside the obnoxious station staff at Gar de Nord, I find the French very friendly and weirdly, considering I only did about a year of French in school, I find that I am able to speak enough to get by. I particularly liked the ambience of Le Montbauron on the corner of Rue Jouvencel and Rue Montbauron. Like a British boozer without the noise and kerfuffle.
On Friday I took a cab back to Gar de Nord where I boarded the Eurostar to Ebbsfleet. I jumped in my car and took off for home. One tip on leaving Ebbsfleet and heading for the M25 in the afternoon: The sun will be in your eyes and you will be surrounded by juggernauts. A sign will appear in front of you seeming to say that the Dartford crossing and the M25 are both left and straight on. You will have about a second to make a decision and you will then reason that to join the M25 heading clockwise you should join the left hand slip road. You’d be wrong. This will take you in a large loop to join the absurdly long and slow queue heading north to the Dartford tunnel. You will sit in this queue fuming for half an hour before finally getting to a slip road leading to a roundabout the size of a thimble around which, seemingly, all the traffic in London has been forced to circumnavigate. Finally about three quarters of an hour after joining the M25 going north you will rejoin it going south……and if you complain nothing happens so you may as well not bother and when are we going to get summer this year……etc….you’re back in England – Get used to it.