On a fine Monday morning I woke up in Paris without any Monday blues. And the moment was so exciting that I tripped and fell on the ground, to only realize that it was a dream. Pretty Dream, difficult to even to dismiss not think of it. Out of all the dreams that are still waiting to see a sunrise, one of mine saw it coming after yearning for years. For the heart that always desired to see sunrises in offbeat places, I aspired to help it out a bit and keep the heart and mind at peace.
Undoubtedly, I’ve found my super-symmetric friend years ago. She always made it a point to ensure my untold words are apprehended and put a smile on my face no matter what. Let’s call her “Ssh”. Certainly I don’t need 50 odd friends as I and my BFF can exchange 100 texts and decide where to meet next? This is exactly what chanced in September and our dream of 5 years to meet outside India was a thing for real.
Life is good. So I infer you get one. The soul comforting experience when you see a new place that includes new people, food, tradition and a new you is amazing. This year I have no desire to do anything but to focus on my serenity and contentment.
I like real conversations, I like places, I like genuine people, I like vacations and I like fantasies. For the Universe has perfect timings for everything, I guess things take their own sweet time to reach you.
Ssh asked me “Where do you wanna go and what do you wanna see?” It is bad manners to keep a vacation waiting, consequently, the first thing I uttered was “Paris”. That’s how the planning began. I live in Bengaluru and my journey started from here. My first destination on arrival at Europe was Amsterdam. Europe tour started from there. And we went places before reaching France. Soon after from our previous destination Belgium we made our way to Paris. Notably, this was by road with Euro Line.
I stayed at Hotel Campanile, Porte de Bagnolet. We reached Paris by evening, For we were enough tired to hit the bed, we chose to explore the city. Significantly, Paris has a very well connected transport network. The subway system looks like a mystery to me, yet I felt home using the public transport. Owing to which all that you have to do is, pick a map from the hotel and look for the metro connections. Certainly, the best thing is even to ask the hotel reception for a rough idea to cover the places in a logical sequence.
Heading to Eiffel Tower
We freshened up and took our first metro ride to Trocadero. There are around 15-16 metro lines. Firstly, all that you have to do is either follow a color code or a numbering system. Secondly, I must tell you, not even for once we waited more than 2 minutes in any station. Finally, the best thing to witness as soon as you walk out of it is one of the wonders of the world.
I don’t know, since when was I dreaming of Eiffel Tower. To even an extent I had multiple Eiffel Tower themes on my phone back then when I had the first smartphone. I don’t even know what about it made me go crazy over it, definitely not the protagonist from the movie Queen. I had a fancy dream of witnessing a sunrise and a sunset at Paris much before it. And I could successfully make it with her around, who is my favorite person.
I made a few calls back home before the sunset. I still remember my mum’s face when she was proud of me and was watching the Eiffel with the help of technology. My brothers appeared equally delighted. Even though people say, Paris isn’t a safe place, we were careful and alert all the while. Our entire stay was a pleasant one.
Do not panic if some random men approach you and say “Namaste India”, just keep walking. We are easily recognized as Indians, and it is the fact. Just be alright and walk. When we ended our day 1, we found an Indian Restaurant run by a Srilankan. A full meal after starving for veg food in Belgium.
The next day, we took a metro ride again to begin our excursion in Paris. From Galliene we headed towards Montmartre. Montmartre is a dream in itself. A small village in a town. A beautiful dome on a hill. A narrow street with daunting cafes and shops on either side. A village with aging apartments. A walk to the top and a majestic view of the city from there. Brightly painted buildings, Bougainvillea and the glass lamps greet you here. All that you want is, the time to stop and stay there for a long time.
Once a little medieval village in the country, Montmartre has an old-fashioned charm with an avant-garde edge. As you walk through the streets there are plenty of stores to shop and eat. The hanging flower pots from the building are colorful and warm. Once you climb up the hill is the Basilica of Sacre Coeur. For its appearance, this majestic structure is called as a wedding cake. It was built as a symbol of hope after a Franco-Prussian war.
Montmartre usually houses musicians near the basilica. Losing in oneself is a bliss here. A perfect weather, on top of a hill, a cake like a monument and a magical view the city. What more could one ask for?
Arch de Triomphe
Our next destination was a war memorial. The India Gate represents a war memorial to 82000 soldiers of the undivided Indian Army who died in the period 1914-21 during the First World War. Similarly, The Arch de Triomphe is dedicated to the victorious French armies of the Revolution and the First Empire. The mighty building was built in 1806 by the orders of Napoleon but he did not live to see its completion in 1836.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is at the foot of the Arch de Triomphe. In 1921 this was dedicated as a memorial to the dead of World War I. Every evening at 6:30 pm, a small delegation of soldiers rekindle the flame at the tomb.
The feeling I guess would be the same, as you stand at an unknown soldier’s tomb. The structure is iconic with war figures bigger than life-size structures carved on it. As a result, when I stood in front of it, it was nerve chilling experience realizing what a havoc World Wars have been in the history. For anyone, death is a pain, in addition the tomb of a soldier is even more painful to watch.
We climbed up a 250+stairway and viewed the exemplary architectural structures encircled at Arch de Triomphe. There are so many ways that lead to the other part of the city from here. The boulevards are just beautiful for a walk.
Champs-Elysées? Sounds familiar? Kangana from Queen struggling to get there? We Indians get the Bollywood references much quicker. Champs-Elysées Avenue is beautiful. Paris is a place of public squares and parks, the public squares look amazingly breathtaking here. This avenue is a wonderful place to stroll, eat and shop for the rich :).
The Champs-Elysées houses beautiful French cafes and the brand stores. The main shopping attraction here is Louis Vuitton, Zara, Boss and other elite brands. No, I’m not rich and just window shopped there. For all the very obvious reasons it is one of the most famous streets in Paris. This street connects the monumental Arch de Triomphe, Grand Palais, Petit Palais, Invalides, Air France museum, Alexandar Port, Invalides Port, Eiffel Tower and The Louvre Museum. We walked for about 6 km to cover this stretch.
The Petit Palais & Grand Palais
Pont de Alexandre III
Also, the Luxembourg Gardens are just around the Alexandar Port.
Eiffel Tower Tour
The next thing was to be on the terrace of one of the wonders of the World. Eiffel Tower terrace gives an astonishing 360 degrees view of the city. A river so calm, serene and beautiful – Seine River flows just across the sides of Eiffel. Apart from being famous around the world, it is the most emblematic of Paris. The Eiffel Tower was designed by Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel and was built for the Paris Exhibition of 1889. And it marked the centenary of the French Revolution.
The tower consists of 15,000 steel sections held together by 2.5 million rivets. The terrace has an apartment where Gustave Eiffel hosted prestigious guests. On the terrace is a depiction of Mr. Eiffel, his daughter Claire and Thomas Edison seated showcased with lifelike statues. Above all, there is a wine stall and a place to Kiss.
An evening in Paris is incomplete if you do not walk crossing Seine river and witness the night lights on the tower.
Paris Fashion Show
An exceptional coincidence on the day of my visit was Paris Fashion Show at Trocadero. Just opposite on the other side of the tower. I’m not a fashion enthusiast type of a person. However, the show appeared elite and marvelous to me. To be honest all I could see was supermodels walking on the grand ramp with a prompt that looked like a mere pillow to me. And then there were 1000s of delegates from fashion industry gathered and delighted. The tourists did not move until the show was over. It’s funny how people were glued at the ramp, while I thought they are walking expressionless with a pillow thingy. Individual perspectives you see.
The last thing before the night was getting longer was to visit Madam Mona Lisa. Musée de Louvre is where she stays with many other from her societal class. Apparently, the Museum in itself is a maze, and I was totally amazed. One thing we were interested in was Monalisa. It’s customary ritual kinda thing to meet her if you are in Paris. Yes, we quickly took a metro towards the Louvre. One of the world’s largest repositories of priceless art and antiquities. As the title suggests, the Louvre is like a city unto itself, a termite compound of bustling human activity.
The Musée de Louvre wasn’t originally a museum but was a fortress built in 1190. In the 16th century, it was turned from a fortress into a royal palace. It was only in 1793, after the French Monarchy moved to the Palace of Versailles, that the first Louvre museum was opened to the public, and offered just 537 paintings.
Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is undoubtedly one of the most famous pieces of art in the Louvre, and people from all walks of life travel to the museum to catch a glimpse of the world-famous painting. In addition, what you may not know about the Mona Lisa is that it isn’t as big as everyone thinks, as the dimension of the painting is actually just a little bit larger than an A2 piece of paper.
The Mona Lisa portrait has its own bodyguards and is protected by the bulletproof glass. Apparently, it was stolen in the year 1911 before being returned to the Louvre just two years later.
My laugh at myself moment at Louvre is undoubted – One where people from all the walks of life just stand there in awe and look at the masterpiece as if it were to be God and granting everyone their wishes. The mad hatter, that I’m, stood there wondering what are they actually wishing for? For one thing, I wondered if she could come alive and just fulfill their wishes. Jokes apart, it is a masterpiece and I do not have that thing in me to analyze those expressions on her face. Significantly, Mona Lisa is a mystery where none could ever think why is she smiling the way she is doing it.
The Louvre’s galleries are displayed across 652,300 square feet – which is nearly 15 acres! Because of which, the galleries are divided into 8 different departments: Near Eastern Antiquities, Egyptian Antiquities, Greek-Etruscan-Roman Antiquities, Islamic Art, Sculptures, Decorative Arts, Paintings; and Prints and Drawings. The gallery contains around 7500 paintings. The French artists created 66% of the paintings that are here.
Finally, I had another course of Indian meal for dinner to end the day 2.
Today, as I sit and pen down my experience in Paris- I almost overlooked everything as tons of memories flashed back like a cinema. Did you only see Eiffel on the fabrics, books, blogs, phone covers, coffee shops? Also wished to be at the boulevards of Paris? Then, go for it. To sum up, everything kept aside and an experience like this lasts a lifetime. A best friend and backpack are the best companions to walk on a new land.
1. Paris Ticket – To use the hassle-free public transport. And a ticket to go to the Tower Terrace.
2. Eat something different every time you are in a new place. It is simply a struggle if you are vegetarian like me.
3. There are too many migrants that try to trick you at Mont Martre, just escape from the trick.
4. Be like 100% sure to walk safely in a new place, anything fishy – hop onto a public transport and reach your destination.
5. Shopping – If you think the things you see are very different and special turn down the plan. Very expensive place.
6. Carry a map wherever you go. English reading and speaking ability are enough to manage.
7. Furthermore, wear like the weather permits.
8. Buy scarfs, books, posters, and postcards. Bargain if you are buying Souvenirs. Go to the coolest bookstores in the world.
9. Plan your shopping list and area in advance if you are a shopaholic and it fancies you to buy expensive brands outside.
10. Finally, be safe.
P.S: The blog content is of the author and is migrated from the old blog site.