Queue Jumping at Versailles

>>  Sunday, July 29, 2012

For the Palace of Versaille we didn't book tickets in advance as the weather had been so unpredictable, by the time we knew when to go we were already in France and couldn't print them out, I also (correctly as it turns out) had little faith in discovering a Customer Services Internet Desk.

When the train pulled in at Versailles Rive Gauche about 300 people got off and walked to the gates. Those with tickets joined the already long line for the entrance, the rest of us joined the ticket queue.

And we queued, and queued! The queue was so long people were exchanging email addresses.

After an hour the Americans in front of us gave up. Saying 'we thought it couldn't get any worse than Rome, we were wrong' and they headed for the 'garden only' ticket queue.

The man of the couple behind us went off to join the queue for the house leaving his wife to buy the tickets.

It was about 27C with no shade, no queue booths to buy water, just snakes of queues.

After 90 minutes I asked the lone lady behind us if she wanted her place saving so she could go to the toilet. She went off to find a map as well.

The crowd in the background is half of the entrance queue,
the line in the foreground is the queue to join the ticket queue
(yes, there was a pre-queue, to the ticket queue, before the house queue)
Turned out she was from Iceland, grew up in Sweden and learnt her American English in Maryland. She had never been in a queue so big. 'There are more people here than the population of my whole country!' she said. And so the conversation progressed.

As we got close to the ticket desk where 3 people were slowly processing the queue I could see 6 self service machine completely unused.   A couple of times I saw people attempt to use them and give up but I suspect they wouldn't have been so hard to use, the apathy of trying was mostly because people had waited so long, why not wait 5 minutes more and be safe.
After 2 hours we got to buy a ticket and were told the queue to get in was now about 2 ½ hours.

Then the thought struck us, the selfish thought, the 'what's the worst that can happen' thought....

We waited for the Icelandic lady to buy her tickets and said 'can we come and join your husband and you in the house queue?'

Of course she said yes, wouldn't you? But actually she seemed genuinely happy to help us. We only queued another 15 minutes for the house. I gave her my email address. I hope she gets in touch, I can't thank her enough.

Did I feel guilty about the 2 hour queue we just jumped? Not really no.  I have never seen such a disorganised chaotic mess and It felt a bit like everyman for himself out there.

So the lessons are:

if you can get your tickets in advance,
if not split yourselves up and queue separately,
It is worth being brave and heading for the self service machines to see if you can get what you need from them (if necessary pretend to the queue you are going to the toilet as the machines are right next to them)
and if you decide to queue for the tickets do offer to save places for those around you to take queue breaks you never know what karma might come into play later.

The ultimate WTF though was children are free in the palace so you buy your adult full pass tickets in the first queue. But children need tickets to get into the garden, so you have to queue again at the garden entrance to buy their tickets for that!

Ahhhh Vive la France and all who queue in her!


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