As I am seated at the Dubai airport, hopelessly waiting for the information desk screens to reflect our boarding gate number, half droopy and half excited, I can’t help but work on my first account of the Europe diaries.
Landing at Charles De Gaulles, we quarried our way from the information desks to the train tickets queue ensuring that we were on the right train. The first sight of the city streets embarked a spark upon our tainted, tired faces, as we strolled across Gare Du Nord in the oxygen-rich air. With ‘Vintage Hostel’ board in sight, we beamed at the thought of a baggage-free self. Since there was time before our room got readied, we went strolling about the nearby streets in the hope to explore a Paris we had never seen. And surprised we were!!
The first encounter
Recovering from the aftermath of the incident, we stumbled upon a swarm of people – tourists and locals alike. Wandering about we realized later that we were at the footstep of the Sacre Couer Basilica. Randomness had found its target. What seemed like a thousand steps up to the basilica in the scorching heat coupled with the almost jet lagged selves was compounded by the ordeal of another set of men trying to find the ‘right’ targets. With threads in hand and a resolve so adamant wanting to experiment God knows what gimmick in lieu for money they barged in our direction. Their body language seemed to tell that they had indeed found their bait, but needless to say we did not relent, my friend more so this time around. 😉
At the highest step up the basilica, the entire Paris seemed to be on my feet. The top most view of the city was the most gorgeous. With a tiny me perched on the brick wall, I felt like a speck in the Parisian sky that stretched before me.
A change of clothes, and we were ready to take Paris by the storm. Struggling initially with the machine for train tickets taking help from people who could speak ‘English’ (at least a little), we trailed our way to the Concorde – statues, fountains and the first view of the Eiffel across the bridge. Delight discovered a new found embodiment in us.
Walking down Champs Elysees with a row of top-notch brands wading by reiterated the status of the city as the fashion capital of the world. Add to that the prim, petite and dolled up French faces with sharp, crisp features that walked past you. Amidst the fanfare roads went berserk with frenzy as France forayed into the UEFA euro cup quarter finals – quite a sight (imagine bunch of people hooting, scooting by at flash of a speed in their jazzy cars with flags waving and loud music ;P)
End of sight, Arc’ De Triomphe shone bright in the Parisian sun – a hallmark of glory for those who died for France in the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars.
Completing an entire circuit and walking down a few kilometres more, we scouted our way to the points nearest to Eiffel. Going beserk with selfie stick clicks, we stopped every 5 minutes, soaking in the view from every angle till we reached right under the embrace of the mighty tower. Digging into the crepes from the close by stall ensured that our taste buds and stomach too got their fill.
Eiffel not only surprised us but also challenged our beliefs with its grandeur and enormity. At that moment, all else stood still and the only thing that stood testimony to that awakening reality was time. Time that spoke of a world, right out of a dream, thats so so beautiful and you a tiny part swarmed in its embrace.
Day 2 brought with it unwarranted surprises, ecstatic moments and unblemished joy all the same. We headed for the Louvre the first thing in the morning, after grabbing a quick bite from one of the cute eateries. Excitement was at its peak – the sagas from Da Vinci, the pyramid, sculptures of Michael Angelo and the Mona Lisa of course- the mystique was for real. Delighted to get a free entry courtesy the ISIC card, we were elated at the near accomplishment. The museum is huge, with separate galleries for paintings, sculptures, drawings and works of art, although the most popular attraction remains the Mona Lisa. Reaching it is almost like walking past a maze from one gallery to another until you spot the find in a treasure trove.
|Yes, those are over-enthusiastic strangers posing in the background|
|Right outside the Louvre|
Walking across the Seine River, trying to find the ‘We love Paris’ blocks of concrete and failing miserably at it, we decided to head for Montparnasse next. Known as the heart of intellectual and artistic life in Paris, Montparnasse is replete with fancy restaurants to quick take-away cafes and the omnipresent supermarkets. We scrounged the streets in search for pocket-friendly food options, much like the starving artists who ideated and debated, perched themselves on a table all evening only we were there for only a few hours. We stopped by the upmarket Galeries Lafayette but didn’t find much.
Top of Eiffel
This was insane and truly the most exhilarating experience ever. While we stopped at the second floor, going crazy with pictures and panoramic views from every angle, it was only when we reached the top most floor post dusk that the excitement got the better of us. The entire city shone bright under the twinkling stars and teeming lights with Eiffel itself lit up in more than 20,000 light bulbs. Shine like a diamond, we literally did that evening, mesmerized and besotted at the top of the mighty Eiffel. Lovers, friends, families, solo riders – gathered there in numbers, as if it was one big happy family cheering and clicking from different view-points.
It was only until the last glass lift went down at 11 p.m. that we moved down with it. Stopping by the first floor, with the entire floor made of see-through glass, our intimidated selves experienced the thrill of looking down at the tiny world from 187 foot above ground.
The last day in Paris
Biting off more than we could chew, last day in Paris meant leaving no stone unturned to check the places that were left to be done. Though with Paris, there’s always more to discover all the time! We headed for Notre Dame the first thing.
|The everyday planning|
|The Vintage Hostel main lobby area|
The gothic architecture combined with the colored stained glass panels and the utmost grandeur of the church left me spellbound. Altered and restored several times over the course of 8 centuries, Notre Dame is an architectural wonder in itself. It is marvellous how the sanctity, peace and quiet are maintained in the cathedral despite the burgeoning amount of visitors it attracts in a day.
We strolled past the next door gardens with lovely blooms, where we decided our next stop.
Walking down to the close by Pantheon was a wise decision as we transversed the part of the city on foot. An iconic building in itself, it houses the remains of notable French citizens.
|Pediment of the Pantheon with the caption which translates to “To the great men, the grateful homeland”|
The Pantheon represents the nerve of everything that Paris houses – the rich, the elite, the classicist, the freedom fighters, the writers, the thinkers, the revolutionists. It is thereby not a surprise that it is a revered icon of symbolic significance.
Across the same street, we stopped by an ice-cream parlor to indulge in our sweet nothings. We delved into flavors that we wouldn’t even get close to back home although Paris being our first city felt like a rich man’s indulgence and we too poor to afford something as small as an ice-cream. Hence we shared our sorrows with just a cup. This was to obviously change as we set foot in the next country and got accustomed to living life in euros.
The sights and sounds of Paris are intriguing. It’s almost magical and unreal whether it is the sight of Eiffel from any corner, the architecture, or its people.
The only speck of taint robbing the city of its unreal self would probably be the street-side gimmickry or the roadside gangster who probably stole something and ran for his life. The svelte policeman in their uniform and machismo running behind and catching hold of him the next turn was an eyesore too. The evening saw us avail of our free coupons at a nearby cosy bar pub we made our way to amidst this incident.
Hale and hearty we sat by the corner of the road the next few hours until we returned with best memories of the 3 days as we warmly tucked in bed under the chasm of a good good night.