Trip To Paris – The Epitome of Romance, Glamour and Art
The love, the romance, the starry-eyed dreams of impossibly beautiful streets, and of course, the sheer coolness factor – a lot was going through our minds when we decided to go on a trip to Paris last year. We three musketeers – my husband (K), our friend (Ayush) and me – couldn’t have been more excited! Our 6 month stay in London was drawing to a close, and we absolutely couldn’t leave without venturing into (arguably) the most romantic city in the world!
As luck would have it, I slipped on ice in London and broke my little finger a week before the trip, and thus we had to cut short our grand plans and limit our stay to only two days.
We took a late night Eurostar from London to Paris (a round ticket cost us around 90 Euros). The ride was for a little over 3 hours. We went straight to our humble hotel (quite like the hotel in the movie Queen). It cost us around 100 Euros for all three of us. Having been up almost all night to catch the train, we all decided to sleep for 2 or 3 hours, to do justice to the beautiful city.
So after being sufficiently rested and showered, we set out to explore the city by afternoon. The first thing that we realised as soon as we stepped out of the hotel was how cold it was! The temperature back in London had been minus 4 or 5, and weather report had promised the temperature in Paris to be 5 degree Celsius, which had sounded pretty comfortable, and thus we had not carried our super warm coats. But the thing is, Paris gets bone chilling winds, and it feels much colder than it actually is. And we were depressingly ill prepared for the cold. Thankfully, most streets are dotted with little sandwich shops with hot chocolate, and mulled wine (boiling red wine with some spices like cinnamon and a dash of honey, served like tea in small paper cups). These last two we drank with much enthusiasm and frequency throughout the day. The cold also gave me an excuse to buy a cute woollen beret (a typically French cap) from one of the countless alluring shops around town.
The public transport in France is cheaper than in the rest of Europe. We took 10 single use tickets between the 3 of us, which we could use on any underground train, tram or bus. This cost us about 14 Euros. On our very first trip on the underground train station, we met this super jovial old man playing an accordion, looking like he stepped right out of a Raj Kapoor movie! That set a happy tone for the afternoon, and we soon found ourselves walking the Parisian streets happily despite the cold towards the obvious first destination – the glorious Eiffel Tower!
Eiffel Tower truly is a magnificent sight. No matter how many photos or videos or movies you have seen it in, its sheer grandiose hits you when you see it for the first time! It is huge, and it seems to be omnipresent in that part of the town! Even if you are 30 minutes’ walk away from it, it will still seem to tower on you! The Eiffel tower was made in 1889, and is more than 900 meters high. In summer days, it is thronged by tourists, but we were there on a cold weekday, so we did not have to wait in long lines to get to it. A lift took us to the top, and the view that awaited us can only be described as magnificent! The whole city of Paris lay at our feet, and it just felt like a dream! The cold wind hitting our faces somehow increased the surrealism of the experience. There was a little café where we bought hot chocolate from, and warmed ourselves as we roamed around, peering into the beauty of the city from the dizzying height. You can get to the top of Eiffel tower via a lift (14 Euros) or via stairs (!!!!) (5 Euros).
It was evening by the time we made our way out of the Eiffel Tower, and here I witnessed a sight I will not forget in my life. As it grew a little dark, I casually turned around to cast one more look at the amazing structure, and it suddenly and dazzlingly lit up with a million twinkling lights! The effect was indescribable! The Eiffel Tower is apparently fitted with tens of thousands of hidden bulbs, and they sparkle and twinkle for 5 minutes every hour from sundown till about 1 in the night.
It is a half an hour walk from Eiffel Tower to Champs Elysees, frequently described as the world’s most beautiful avenue. Lined with iconic stores of chic and famous French designers to famous restaurants and nightclubs, it also serves as the main venue for countless national events like Bastille Day military parade, Christmas celebrations etc. Walking on this road feels ultra chic and very Parisian! Ayush is a huge car enthusiast, and he came across a showroom where you could drive a racy Ferrari or Lamborghini for 10 minutes for a price. I think he picked a flaming red Ferrari and took off for a spin around the area. K and I held hands and made our way towards Arc De Triomphe, an imposing structure much like our India Gate in Delhi, which was built to honour those who fought in the French Revolution. Again we made our way to the top, this time taking the stairs (about 300 of them) taking us to the top of the 50 meter high structure. The view of the light up Paris, though not as far reaching as the one from the dizzying heights of Eiffel Tower, was still breathtaking!
Quite tired after taking in so much beauty in one day, we headed back to our hotel, but not before a nice, intimate dinner at a cosy little restaurant on Champs Elysees. The dinner was nice and hot, but it wasn’t one which was etched in our memory. This is probably because our mind was buzzing with all the beautiful sights we had taken in that day!
After a much needed good night’s sleep, we made our way to the famous and regal Notre Dame church in the late morning. We didn’t go there right away. We went to this famous bookshop called “Shakespeare And Company” that is a quaint little bookstore across the river Sienne near the church. Its vast repertoire of books old and new, and the old world charm exuding from the store, in my mind, has become synonymous with the Bohemian Paris. We spent some time rambling through the books, reading passages here and there, and reading the messages by the founder of the store displayed on the windows of the store, taking in the poetic chaos! We then walked across the river via one of the numerous bridges and found ourselves in the courtyard of the Notre Dame Church.
We now headed to Louvre, the most famous museum in the world, which houses works by Leonardo Da Vinci (including Mona Lisa), the statue of Venus De Milo, and many many other famous works of art. The sheer size of the building (it was once the largest building in the world, the residence of the king of France) was staggering, and to even think about covering the whole gallery would have been really silly. We decided to cover as much as we could, and treat the rest of the gallery as an incentive to come back again. Again, we realised that the weather might have been inconvenient, but it saved us from the throngs of crowds that are typically present in summer days. Louvre, too, has the GPS audio guide like Notre Dame, and we three took up our own different pace to enjoy the paintings and sculptures on display, promising to meet at the entrance in 2 hours’ time. And boy, how the time flew! Even though I know nothing about art appreciation, each painting, explained in minute detail by the audio guide, took me on a journey back in time, into the artist’s mind! I was lucky enough to see the more famous artworks like Mona Lisa, Venus De Milo etc. Much too soon, it was time to leave, and promising myself that I would come back, we made our way back to the hotel. We had a couple of hours to pack our bags and reach the station for our train back to London. It was late Friday evening, and the trains were suddenly quite packed. As we reached the hotel, I realised that some (talented) pickpocket had stolen about 15 Euros from my purse. I was very shocked, to which Ayush laughed and lectured me, saying that I should have known better, as Paris is very notorious for pickpockets! Though a little disappointed initially, I soon laughed it away, as it was not a very big amount. My passport and majority of the money was safe in an inner pocket of the purse, so I wrote it all off as a unique Parisian experience.
As we had a quick dinner at a street side café near our hotel, I glanced sadly at the famous windmill sign of the Moulin Rouge across the street (where we couldn’t go because of the severe time shortage).
We then packed our things and left for the main train terminal. We had to change a few underground trains to reach there, which was no small feat with our backpacks and a sea of people. When we finally reached the station, Ayush had the horrible realization that in all this running and being crowded in the train, someone had stolen his camera! I must confess, I was a little amused, especially after his lecture to me about being more careful not two hours ago! 😛
And thus, our small foray in the city of Paris drew to a close. It was a visit of a lifetime. In two short days, we managed to see so much, and yet take out time for lazying and talking. The fact that I did not shop at all is a testament to the amazing sights of the city, which could lure me away from my favourite pastime!
Can’t wait to go back!