The city of light. The fashion capital of the world. The abode of the romantic heart. So I had heard. In fact, it was funny. I was buying this eurail pass from Frankfurt with Mousam. Now when you buy an eurail pass, you’ve to select the countries that you’re going to visit. So the really cute lady at the ticket counter looks at us, assumes that we’re a couple (no we weren’t. Not till then anyway :P), and gives us this teasing little smile and says ‘of course you’ve to go to Paris!’
We took the famous TGV train to get to the Paris East station. It’s called the Gare de l’Est. I love the way the French pronounce the ‘de’. It is like the ‘the’ in English and not like the sound in ‘trade’. In fact, I like it so much that I started reading Lance Amrstong’s ‘It’s not about the bike’ only because he mentions the Tour ‘de’ France so many times! Amazing book, by the way. MUST read! Here is an excerpt: http://www.bookbrowse.com/excerpts/index.cfm/book_number/523/page_number/1/its-not-about-the-bike
Anyway, we bought the Paris Visite which is a pass for travel in public transport in the city. It gives you a lot of flexibility because you can use all the buses and trains as many times as you would want to. But it’s silly really to call it Paris Visite because it means Visit Paris and why would you want to tell that to someone who is already there?!
Oh and by the way, we do manage to see a couple of really loud punjabi families on the station. So it’s these two dudes, their wives and a kid each I guess. But they are carrying like 3 full sized suitcases for what they told us was going to be a 4 day vacation! Man, don’t we Indians travel heavy?!
So anyway, we take a bus to the Eiffel. Of course it makes sense to visit the Eiffel right away, right? I mean, what else does one know about Paris before going there? If I were to play that word connect game with you and I said Paris, won’t you say the Eiffel tower too? Actually we did consider going there in the night for the lighting is supposed to make it even more gorgeous. But then Europe acts weird in the summer. It gets dark only after 10 and the entry closes at around 9, I think. Anyway, the queue to get into the place was terrifyingly huge! But it didn’t take as long as I had feared. We met Nikhil and Gulshan there and time flies when you’re in good company I guess. We had started climbing up in a little more than two hours. And we climbed up and we climbed up and we kept climbing up! The thing is enormously gigantic. There is level 1 and there is level 2 and then you’ve to take the elevator to reach the top. It’s amazing to look at the city from such heights. Normally we go on a trekking trip and we climb a hill or something and look down from there to see maybe other smaller hills or fields or something. But it’s really beautiful to look at all the architecture of the city from the Eiffel. There are buildings and buildings for as far as one can see and really a lot of space considering the height one is at!
I’ve to admit, the structure by itself is not beautiful for me. It’s grand, for sure. And its splendor is indeed overwhelming. But I’m not sure if it means the same as being beautiful. Anyway, that’s just me.
We were completely exhausted by the time we reached down. Fortunately, there is this beautiful park just outside. We relaxed there, crunched a little cake and chips. In the meanwhile, we’re hounded (literally) by these Pakistani and Bangladeshi dudes trying to sell us really cheap miniature models of the Eiffel. It is sad that a lot of people from the subcontinent have to make do with such demeaning jobs in the west.
We then went to the Sacre-coeur. Now this was, without a shadow of a doubt, the highlight of my visit to Paris. It’s ineffably gorgeous. While the cathedral itself is astoundingly beautiful, the host of cafes surrounding the place and the presence of all sorts of artists – guitarists, pianists, painters – makes the environment utterly mesmerizing! It was almost hypnotizing. Personally, I would choose this over the Eiffel. Sorry Gustave.
Next, we went to the Champs Elysees. Rumour has it that it is the second costliest real estate property in Europe. There were these insanely expensive shops that we could only dream about buying stuff from. We were kind of tired of seeing big monuments, so it was nice to just walk and window shop a bit. We went to this car showroom and doesn’t everyone love to pose in an expensive car!
The next day started with a frantic expedition to find some breakfast. No matter where we went, we just couldn’t find any vegetarian food! Nothing at all. Even McDonalds was full of the non-veg shit. Oh yes, by the way, our dinner last night was a course of French fries as McDonalds. So you can imagine how hungry we were! Finally, we found this small place that had some cheese pizza, I guess.
So we had that and then headed for the Louvre. In my 3 attempts, I’ve never really managed to get beyond Dan Brown’s 20th page. So I figured this would be an easier way to understand the hype about the novel. Again, there was a huge queue, but this time it took only 20 minutes. The entry is free on the first Sunday of every month. The museum is huge and it will take the whole day to see just half of it if you have an eye for art. We spent some time with the statues. It was fun posing with them!
Of course, we had to see the Mona Lisa. But somehow, we couldn’t find it easily. We kept getting directed from one huge gallery to another. It was like having to sit through the comedian before Pink Floyd shows up (Chandler rocks man!) So we finally reached the famous painting. But alas! It was disappointing man. About 50 people had crowded the poor thing, pushing each other and taking pictures with the painting. For some reason, I thought the painting looks better in google images.
We went to the Notre Dame. Ethan Hawke tells this interesting little story in Before Sunset (my favourite romantic movie). He says,
During the world war, when the Germans had occupied Paris and they had to retreat back, they wired the Notre Dame to blow. But they had to leave one guy in charge to hit the switch (yeah, no remote control those days). But the guy, the soldier in charge of hitting the switch… he couldn’t do it. He just sat there, knocked out by how beautiful the place was! And then, when the allied troops came in, they found all the explosives lined there and the switch unturned! And they found the same thing at the Sacre Coeur and the Eiffel Tower.
It’s touching na!
All in all, the trip was wonderful and I enjoyed it very much. I don’t know why, but I didn’t find the romance that the city is so widely known for. Maybe you have to be with your special someone to feel it 😛 There was a plenty of art all around though. Also, I noticed that the people there were not as disciplined and polite as the Germans. Traffic signals were being broken at will and there were fewer smiles on the faces.
PS: The title of the post is inspired from a movie with the same name. I love Julie Delpy and adore the kind of cinema she does. Here is the trailer: