Friday, June 16, 2017

Palace of Versailles, France

Palace of Versailles (pronounced as Ver-Sai) is a grand and beautiful palace/château just 20km south west of Paris. Foreign leaders and dignitaries are also often hosted here whenever they come for French official visit. It is actually very easy to get here by train from Paris but lack of maps and instructions in English may make it complicated for first timers. Versailles is accessible by RER C trains. There are various RER train stations in Paris all running in different directions. Depending on which station you enter, you may actually need to take the train in the opposite direction and then change again at the station few stops later. The best stations to board the RER C trains are at Invalides or Champs de Mars Tour Eiffel. Here, you don't have to change trains. You need to buy ticket at the vending machine. A round trip ticket only costs around 7 euro under the Paris (Outer Region) selection. Once you entered the gate, you have to look for the correct platform. Look out for RER C train platform going for the direction of Versailles Château (Rive Gauche). The same platform will have trains going in west directions like Versailles Chantiers or Versailles Droit. So make sure you check the arrival board on the platform and only board trains going to Versailles Château (Rive Gauche), also abbreviated as VICK on the same screen.

Versailles is just a short walk from the station once you arrive. You can safely follow the crowd, cross the road, turn right and there is a ticket office where you can purchase your tickets. Then you can follow the crowd again to the palace. If you missed the first ticket counter by turning left instead after crossing the road, you can still buy ticket from the building on the left at the palace itself. Remember only join the long queue at the entrance if you have tickets.

The palace is huge. If you would like to learn its' histories as much as possible, then I suggest you plan a whole day event here. Half day in the morning for palace interior, and then another half afternoon in the huge garden. You can have a picnic here if you would like.

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Mini Travel Log: New York, USA (4)

Instead of the usual Statue of Liberty mainstream tour, this time I took the road lesser travelled. I explored to the east side of Manhattan. Right from midtown Times Square, I walked east until I reached the United Nations Headquarters. One would wonder such important building where world leaders meet is not open for any visitors due security reasons. I was wrong when I spotted the visitor pass office opposite the UN building. I took the chance to walk in and was happy to discover that the UN building does open for visitors. One only needs to provide an ID or passport for on-the-spot pass approval. However do note that on certain days, the building will be locked down from any visitors when there are any high level meetings between important world leaders. You are advised to check the UN website here: for dates of closure and also online ticket purchase if you would like.

After going through security checks at the main gate, you are free to roam around the compound of General Assembly area. Inside the General Assembly building, you need to purchase the guided tour ticket for visit to the meeting rooms. Limited tickets are on sale at the counter for different timings and languages. Therefore you are advised to purchase them online or you could arrive earlier to purchase at the counter before it runs out of tickets of your preferred timing or language.

The tour lasts about 40 minutes and depending on your luck, some meeting rooms are not open to the public if there is a meeting in progress. I was very lucky as the security council meeting had just concluded and I managed to visit the iconic Security Council room as well as the General Assembly room.

I spent the rest of the afternoon by taking the Roosevelt tram to Roosevelt island. The tram station is just a few blocks away from the UN building. This iconic tram ride is one of the recommended attraction for visitors to New York. On Roosevelt island, you'll get a scenic skyline view of East Manhattan including the UN building. You can have a nice stroll at Four Freedoms Park at the south end tip of Roosevelt island. If you can spend longer time here, you'll get to watch the sunset as the city lights come to life.

Also on this island at the southern tip, there is a Smallpox Hospital ruin which is also a heritage site. Some say this is the most haunted place in New York. So go visit if you dare. I was there on Tuesday and unfortunately it was closed. It is only open on Wednesdays till Sundays.

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Related link: Mini Travel Log: New York, USA (1)
Related link: Mini Travel Log: New York, USA (2)
Related link: Mini Travel Log: New York, USA (3)