What the heck is RER?

I've about had it with this volcano business. What could have been a cheap flight to Lisbon, turned into spending hundreds of dollars for an overnight train. But, after a nice little refund from Orbitz, (yay for complaining on twitter!) I'm thinking the train might have been a better idea. Besides, how many people can say they took an overnight train between three countries? I missed the bike tour of Paris, and it was getting late in the day, so I figured I might as well try to get to Versailles. The notes at the hostel desk said to take the metro, and then the RER line 5 to Versailles. I had no idea what an RER was, but I was going to give it a whirl. The metro is the easy part, but after dozens of stairs and signs, I ended up in a parking lot with a sign that said "RER Line 5" and an arrow pointing down. I thought Oh, so I'll just wait here. Clearly the arrow is telling me to stand right where I'm at. Um, no. I stood there looking like an idiot for about ten minutes. Was the RER a bus? A coach? Just as I was about to ask someone standing near me, I felt a tug at my day-pack and I turned around to see another sign: RER Line 5 - and another arrow pointing down - down the stairs.

After a few minutes of confusion, (my metro ticket didn't go to that particular zone of Paris) I was on the RER - which by the way, is a train.

I got to Versailles only to see hundreds of tourists pouring out of the museum. I must've just missed it- by a couple hours. I walked up to the gardens and snapped a few pictures, and then to the gates of Versailles. The gold-leaf gates are newly restored, and a replica of the original gates to the entrance. Still, amazing to look at. After all that metro and train/RER confusion, I left Versailles a little disappointed thast I couldn't get inside, and headed back to the hostel. After a quick stop at Starbucks, of course.

There was a soccer game on (or is it futbol? Football?) so the cafe downstairs was absolutely packed. No chance of getting a meal there. I sucked it up and went against everything I believe in and walked to McDonalds, AKA The American Embassy. As I was leaving, two french men were standing at the door, one wearing a white polo shirt with a pot-leaf print. I reached for a cigarette, and lifted my head up as to say "nice shirt", and he stopped me. We had a little chat about marijuana, and I told him that "420" was a stupid American reference to marijuana, and found it kind of funny because the date was April 20th. We compared music on our iPods, talked about Paris, and just as Jay-Z came on the radio, he wished me luck on my travels.

This morning, I had to check out of my hostel by 10:30. I left my bag (and prayed to St. Christopher that no one would steal it from the luggage room) and headed to probably the creepiest part of Paris - the catacombs.