Fancy a beer after a tour of Versailles? Head to the fishing supply shop!
Finding cheap sustenance at a heavily touristed site like Versailles is, to employ a typically fatalistic french expression, “totalement impossible”. So while perusing the restaurants around the Grand Canal with menus featuring 16€ croque-messieurs and €5 coca lights, I recalled some travel advice I read in Rough Guides’ First-Time Around the World on how to cut food costs while traveling: “walk for ten minutes away from major tourist areas and watch the prices drop by the block”. Surely there was more to the town of Versailles than the royal compound anyway right? We set off in the direction of the RER station and continued past it. We took a right on Rue de General le Clerc and saw some umbrellas in the distance. The first umbrella turned out to belong to a rundown döner kebab stand, not really what we had in mind. Across the street appeared to be a quaint french bar with tables outside. As we got closer we noticed that the side of the bar faced out towards an open square, revealing the backdrop of an impressive classical cathedral.
We entered the seemingly unremarkable bar and were immediately confronted by the hideous, gaping faces of a dozen fish heads. Where on earth were we? Had we missed the bar somehow? No there was plenty of booze to go around, and plenty of hooks, rods, and sinkers as well. Apparently we had stumbled upon some old corner general store, where men could convene, have a démi picon, brag about their last catch, and stock up on supplies for their next fishing excursion. I assume they must fish somewhere along the zigzagging Seine, though I did spot some pretty hefty carpe floating around the Grand Canal by the Château. Surely they could put up a good fight, assuming they haven’t been too infected with a royal sense of ennui!
On another note, I learned a cool new word! Halieutique or (halieutic in English, from the Greek ἁλιεύς for fisherman) meaning of or related to the art of fishing. Can’t wait to try that one out at home: “hey dad, why don’t we go down to the lake and work on our halieutic skills this afternoon? I’ll dig up the worms, you grab the skoal and mountain dew!”
For a unique drinking/shopping experience, seek out La Pêche, just a fifteen minute walk from the main Château de Versailles entrance. Address: 6 Rue du Général Leclerc, Telephone: 01 39 50 33 33
For more information (french and english) on the history and architecture of the Cathédrale Saint-Louis de Versailles, consult www.cathedrale-versailles.org.