Plan Paris!

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Do you love spring?? I do.

Spring is the sweetest, brightest, most colourful and most awaited of all seasons and what they say about it is so true. It comes like a lion and is out like a lamb. It is over before you know it. But most European countries enjoy a ‘springy’ summer and if you want to extend your stay in spring then come to Europe. Come to Paris. The city of romance. The city of artists. The city of food lovers. The city of Chanel.

I see these days, few people give two hoots about regular, clichéd destinations like New York, Paris, London etc. We know about them sitting in the heart of Delhi, thanks to Hollywood and Bollywood. We know all the landmarks. We see their pictures all over our facebook pages, our friends have been there. What’s the big deal about it?

We, now want to have/put pictures, which make people say, ‘cool place man! wish I could go there’. There! That is our moment!! That is what makes us feel ‘paisa wasool ho gaya’! (It was worth the money). People look for Bora Bora, Machu Picchu, Istanbul, some unheard of Balinese village..(uh oh, sorry !) ‘resort and spa’, now. More and more personal, tailor made holidays are ruling the scene.

I’m not being snide here, I’m just being one of you. I’m being blatantly honest here. For it is this inherent nature of man, to do something new, that has lead to discovery of far away, exotic places in the most impossible corners of the world. I want to do something different too. And these places feature very much on my list…just that…the order might be different.

Therefore before backpacking for some exotic travel, I went to find out for myself, what was all that drama about Paris?? Why was Hollywood fascinated with Paris ‘Before sunrise’ , Before sunset and till ‘Midnight in Paris‘?

And this is what I got…Paris is Paris is Paris and will be, for a reason. And the mornings in Paris are just as beautiful as sunrise, sunsets, midnights. Paris will never loose its magic, its ‘drama’. You have to let yourself be, under its spell, for once in your life. And I’m saying spell because, it will never be just once. You will keep coming back to this city. It will keep beckoning you. No matter how much you’ve seen or heard about it, you have to be in Paris not just for the obligatory sight seeing, but to ‘feel’ it.

Paris, France, Eiffel Tower, Travel experience, Paris pictures, photography, travel, DIY

There are a lot of ways to see Paris, with kids (Paris Disneyland), with your girlfriends (Chanel, Dior, Yves Saint Laurent to name a few), with art/history on mind (Louvre, Versailles) or the Parisien gastronomy experience. But as per my husband, who has been to Paris, many times, ”Paris is best seen holding someone’s hand”. He concluded after our first visit to Paris together. (I know lot of people will vouch for me, on that).

Are you ready to take that hand, and come to city of romance ?

Paris, France, Travel story, Travels, Travel photography, Champs elysees, arc de triomphe

Indians or may be Asians, in general being very hospitable and humble of the hosts might find Parisiens haughty/rude. Japanese, being culturally very formal have gone as far as experiencing and naming a psychiatric disease entity, as ‘Paris Syndrome’! May be its just the huge cultural change. Frankly, I did not feel any hostility whatsoever. Its a pretty welcoming city.
We started our 3.5 hour journey from Lausanne to Paris by French pride the ‘TGV’ train. We were crossing beautiful swiss and french country side with quaint and pretty train stations…journey was more than pleasant. A bit of music leaked through head phones in the cabin with almost non existent chatter. And when I saw hot air balloon speckled skies, I had doubts if all this was a real deal.

We reached Gare de Lyon at 8.30 pm. It was metro number 14  that we then took to reach Pyramides (you might recall these names and places if you’ve seen Mr. Bean’s movie Holiday), from where we walked up to our hotel which was close to Louvre and Opera Garnier.

The hotel room was the smallest I’ve ever seen and my husband said ‘Welcome to Paris style boarding and lodging’. Houses/ apartments/hotels and other habitations there, are way less roomy than the Americas or Asia. ‘Less is more’ must have its origin in Paris. Our room window faced a residential cum commercial building with boutiques at the ground level and apartments on top levels. I could peep into a lot of dim lit rooms, most without curtains and some with half drawn blinds. A pair of bare legs walked across one room to another followed very obediently, by two pairs of furry ones. Someone worked with brisk movements in what I assumed was a kitchen and later confirmed by steam wafting up. I could view a minimally done bedroom. I asked my husband if this reminded him of any old movie. Hubz had no clue. It was Rear Window by Alfred Hitchcock. We added it to his must watch films.

The nosey travelers then had a lousy dinner at a nearby Chinese restaurant and dived into bed.

Paris has enough to keep you busy 24hrs a day of a week. It simply depends on how you want to see the city. So for travelers who intend to see the every landmark of the city and surrounds, stay for 5-6 days. However, you can taste the flavour of the city in one day too. I will list all the must see places and also if you have just a day in Paris or if you want to do something off beat. I have some ideas.

The best time to go to Paris is January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November and December. Yes, Paris is happening anytime of the year. But from what I gather, photographers like it the best in autumn season. That’s when we visited too.

Day one in Paris. The morning was a bit chilly and my trench was defying me in keeping the chill out.
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A breakfast of croissant, fried eggs, cereal and coffee in the company of some pigeons at Le Pain Quotodien, was all it took to take care of the morning chill that was creeping in. I scanned the surrounding area while having breakfast and found, there was a lovely fruit and art mart close by, where I also saw some lovely silk/wool scarfs. I thought, with winter just around the corner having a couple of silk scarfs won’t be a bad idea at all! I think you can guess what happens next. 🙂

We walked our way to the Louvre and there was a large crowd of people picturing the pyramid, pretending to hold it through clever angles of photography.

It was turning to be a pleasantly warm sunny morning, so we saw and pictured the pyramid and decided to come for Louvre  later and rather enjoy the good weather being out in the city.

 

Travels, DIY, photography, Paris, France, Pont neuf, Bridges in Paris, Bridge

 

I wanted to take the pleasure of Paris by walking through it, alongside Seine.

So we made a move from Louvre, walking the sunny walk, trying to keep pace with Seine on one side and clouds drifting low and slow above. It was one of the most beautiful walks that I had ever taken. The bank of the river was flanked by artists, almost uninterruptedly, painting Paris as they saw it. Some selling old famous photographs, magnets and old books and magazines. I kept collecting whatever interested me.

There were also many stalls selling locks which felt clearly out of place to me until I saw a bridge that stood sparkling throughout its span. On going closer I realized it was chock-a-block with padlocks. It was Pont des arts. The legend has it that lovers put padlocks as a symbol of everlasting love on that bridge. They ‘lock their love’ here and throw the key into the depths of Seine. I couldn’t help reading some of the messages and felt how much love, hope and wishes were tied to that bridge alone. 

 

Travels, Travel experience, Travel photography, Paris, France, Conceirgerie, Bridges in Paris

It is a beautiful site. All the die hard romantics – put it on your bucket list.

It also made one of my favourite pictures in Paris.

 

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We passed the Conciergerie, quite an impressive building, also on the banks of Seine, that served as country’s main prison during Revolution. This building did look ‘sinister’ according to a guide book I read, as a part of my travel homework. The building has held Marie Antoinette, as a celebrity inmate. There were several others famous (or should I say infamous) inmates, but I just knew Marie Antoinette, from the movie 🙂 This building offers its clock towers and prison cells and torture chambers as a site to tourists. But no thanks, I was in quite nice, sunny, romantic mood with no appetite for torture chambers so I let it go. But a picture from outside was definitely called for.

Travels, Travel experience, Travel photography, Paris, France, Conceirgerie, Bridges in Paris

The sun shone on us. This was the place I wanted to be, holding a hand, since I saw Before Sunrise. Since I saw Amelie. I was a happy girl 🙂 We walked further, reached Pont Neuf. Another bridge. But I love these small, old bridges all over Seine. Pont Neuf literally means New Bridge, but is, city’s oldest. It has been immortalized by various artists, literary figures and film makers. So we climbed the bridge, stayed there a while and crossed it to reach Saint-Chapelle.This is Pont Neuf.

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Shopping saves from sunburn!!

Saint-Chapelle is said to be a ‘jewel of gothic architecture’. Well, the long queue was corroborating it but I and my camera had to see it to agree. So we joined in to contribute to the length of queue. It is also when this smart traveling couple realized their stupidity. What we did was booked  the tickets online for all the places we wanted to see in advance. Of course to skip the queues. So with A4 size print out in hand, we marched ahead of the line. As if people have been waiting for us to open the gates! But! thats when my dear husband remembered  that there’s a weekend in September when all the museums, cathedrals, chapels and such tourist traps are open free to public!!! No body is allowed a different access. And again, hours and hours we stood in queues. INSPITE OF HAVING TICKETS!! BOOKED IN ADVANCE!!!

Lets talk about Sainte-Chapelle and let bygones be bygones. Its interiors comprise of beautiful large stained glass windows depicting scenes from the Bible. Also the walls have biblical depictions. Its a very small chapel therefore a short visit but worth it.

 

Travels, DIY, photography, Paris, France, Pont neuf, Bridges in Paris, Bridge, Sainte-Chapelle
Paris, France, Travel story, Travel, experience, photography, bridges in paris, Sainte chapelle

We had lunch at an Indian Restaurant upon exiting Sainte-Chapelle.  The food wasn’t great but the growling stomach wasn’t bothered  about what the palate thought. They played some never heard before hindi songs. And presented a pack of bindi/kumkum or the Indian sticker as a gift along with the cheque.

 

A few walking steps from this restaurant lies Point Zéro (from where all distances in France are measured). There lies one of the most famous book stores in the world, Shakespeare & Co. This is where the movie Before Sunset begins. Its a small, old, packed and crumbling bookstore. The one’s who love the smell of old books will also love how this place smells and feels. They don’t allow taking pictures inside. Fair enough. I couldn’t have captured any of the things described above.

We bought a heap of books from this store.

 

Paris, France, Travel story, Travel, experience, photography, bridges in paris, Sainte chapelle, Shakespeare and Co, Bookstore in Paris

 

We made move to our hotel. The load of books compelled us to do so. You don’t want to be standing in front of Van Gogh while all your concentration is on the pain in one of your shoulder. We were going to see Musée d’Orsay!

This museum is just a year younger than me. And has been created out of a railway terminus! It is a massive museum, spread over three or four levels. They have divided the art works into these levels depending on the era. The central area has sculptures. I wanted to see Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir, Degas…all of them for real. They were all really really impressive. There is a restaurant and terrace on the upper level. You can get some fresh air and taken in the views of Seine and Paris city. Taking pictures, however, is prohibited in the museum.

 

Strangely, with each landmark I saw I was getting more and more energetic! Thats why I call it magical city. I was still charged and so we decided to nail another landmark Arc de Triomphe.

After a victory in one of Napoleon’s many battles he gave a word to his soldiers that each of them will pass under a triumphal arch. There began the construction of this arch. Its arguably the most famous triumphal arch in the world. There is a viewing platform at the top that gives you views of Eiffle Tower and Champs-Elysées. At dusk, the views are splendid.

 

Paris, France, Travel, Travel story, travel photography, champs elysees, arc de triomphe

Champs-Elysees from Arc De Triomphe

After some splendid sites it was time for some splendid shops!! My rest of the evening was to be spent at Champs-Elysées’! So I walked on the bustling 3 km stretch of this boulevard starting from Arc de Triomphe. I’m guessing its the most crowded part of Paris with most notorious traffic. They have their national parade here.  Also, Tour de France terminates here and shopping begins!

 

Thats where also comes the last picture of the day (I was too busy doing some serious winter shopping there after ) 🙂

Paris, France, Travel story, Travels, Travel photography, Champs elysees, arc de triomphe

Day 2 in Paris

Before I begin this section, I want to share a very interesting incident that happened previous night at Champs-Elysées. I was at Naf-Naf store, trying on a leather jacket. I slid my arms in it, zipped it up and pocketed my hands and felt something paper-like in the pocket. My first thought was, ‘Yay!! I found some money!’ I removed it from my pocket and found it was a handwritten note. (Well, that should have been my first thought, ideally)

Then I tried hard to read in what I assumed to be French (since we were in a store in Paris). I didn’t understand a word…and why would I, it was written in Hindi, my native language and script! It read ‘front bottom par silayi utari hai!‘ (Meaning the stitching at front bottom is unraveling). I immediately took it off to see where it comes from and of course it was ‘Made in India’. The manufacturer seemed to have taken care of the remark and I took care of the jacket by buying it! Imagine that! In a random store, out of all clothes, I tried that very jacket and found a random note…. in Hindi!! I love traveling! Stories happen. And it makes you a ‘story teller.’

Thats me in that jacket at a metro station in Paris.

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And this is the note.

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Another beautiful morning in Paris. Headed for breakfast at a nearby bistro. When in Paris you will find Bistros facing the street/road as people watching is a very interesting must do activity. We did that at breakfast.
And reached Notre Dame. Its a huge cathedral. Not to be missed at any cost. Its west façade is considered to be a masterpiece of gothic French architecture. Remember when I say ‘masterpiece’ before anything, it means we stood in a super long queue for a good two hours to see it. Its that important a land mark and that good. I have pictures that speak the same.

Thats us against the West façade of Notre Dame.

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The star features of the cathedral are, the gorgoyles that casting angry looks downwards. They are sculpted so expressively that you look any longer and you might even see them spitting fire!

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A tall spire, two towers that you see on west façade, where you get to go at the top after climbing 387 steps. We did that. Boy, was it easy? Nooooo.

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It has a huge circular ‘rose’ window also seen at west façade and one other and the famous flying buttress at the east end.

And the interiors, aaah…they are ethreal, soaked in serenity and light…

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Paris, France, travel, photography, french, notre dame, shopping in paris, travel story

The Rose Window.

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Inside Notre Dame

Next destination – Musée du Louvre. We walked from Notre Dame to Louvre. A green eyed, black cat accompanied for some distance. Had probably already seen Louvre, so turned back.

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Pretty little flower market on the way!

I hadn’t! I was pretty excited to say hello to Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo, whose statue I have been seeing at my uncle’s place since I remember.

Louvre is the most visited museum in the world. I guess its the, magnetic Mona Lisa, pulling people towards her from all corners of the world.

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Therefore, we first went to see the painting collections and I was shocked at how huge and beautiful these paintings were.

I took a picture from behind the crowd just to show the size of the painting in relation to man. I’m still in awe, how at that time, they were equipped to paint something like this!! With so much detail that I would take a lifetime to depict.

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That’s a larger than life-size painting!

And then came Mona Lisa…and my reaction was ‘thats it?!’

The way I’ve been seeing it, imagining it …it was something larger than life in my mind. And it was behind two layers of thick god-knows-what proof glass and even smaller than some of the paintings in our small apartment. Especially after seeing some giants of the paintings, it was like an anti-climax.

 

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There is so much of crowd that there is even a warning about the pick pockets!!

Mona Lisa was the most guarded painting I ever saw until recently where I saw ‘Scream’ by Edvard Munch at MoMA in New York! They had four people standing by it, at all times. You can’t get by American security.

After some paintings I saw the Winged Victory of Samothrace and Venus de Milo.

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I was happy and hungry. We had food in the restaurant at Louvre. It was average food. As such places usually have.

Well, it didn’t matter as we were about to take a bateau cruise along Seine at sunset.

Paris, France, travel, photography, french, notre dame, shopping in paris, travel story

We reached our boarding point. The evening was lovely and pink and I was imagining it to be all romantic and stuff. But but soon a flood of people came behind us and rushed and pushed and formed a noisey queue at the entrance to the boat! That was a big desi group, by the way!

There was a run for the best seats on the deck and by the time it started my imagination stood in the stark contrast. Anyways as the boat bobed a bit and sailed along, a recorded voice greeted in several languages and explained what are we seeing on either banks. That silenced the crowd and it started feeling good again. It was a best boat ride ever. Otherwise I hate boating!

We took some lovely pictures.

Paris, France, travel, photography, french, notre dame, shopping in paris, travel story
Paris, France, travel, photography, french, notre dame, shopping in paris, travel story

The Bateaux Cruise

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Taken from boat cruise

Paris, France, travel, photography, french, notre dame, shopping in paris, travel story

Paris, France, travel, photography, french, notre dame, shopping in paris, travel story

Eiffel from boat cruise

 

Well, there are many different ways to cruise Seine. You can dine and sail (must wear a jacket and tie). You can even wine and sail! And of course there are more personalized tours and are priced accordingly.

But its highly recommended. Day or Night? I would say both. You can take your pick.

Last one for the day, but of course Eiffel!

 

Paris, France, travel, photography, french, notre dame, shopping in paris, travel story

Lights dancing on eiffel tower. Its a blurry shot, but lovely.

We had food at another Indian restaurant called ‘Ratn’. The meals were very Indian and hence good. They also give you bangles as a gift of  ‘Indian jewellery’ to you 🙂 That was sweet. And the lady, on the table next to me was shrieking happy on receiving it.

Day Three in Paris

Final Day in Paris and let me introduce to you the most visited paid monument in the world, the Eiffel Tower!! Having seen it glowing in the night, I wanted to see it by day as well as go atop.

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And there we were in the queue again. But I wasn’t happy for another reason. It was cloudy and grey and dull and bit colder than…I would have preferred. Since it was a long queue, I carried hope and we all know what they say about weather.

A lift took us to a third level observatory, on top of Eiffel, where there was a platform or deck from where I could see the grey clouds looming over such a pretty city. More disappointment. 🙁

Also I had shoe bite from this new pair of sandals I was wearing and it was too cold for sandals anyways. Double trouble, infact triple. Plus to be honest, I’m done with my ‘stand-in-the-longest-queues-ever-and-see-the-oh-so-spectacular-view’. With more traveling, I have realized I’m not a fan of such places. Such observatories usually have more people aboard than can make such experiences pleasant. Besides when you are standing at a height of  300m, all places look alike. I mean, I can no longer tell the difference between New York and Paris and Tokyo. For me ‘seeing’ Eiffel tower is a view, seeing ‘from’ it is just a spread of city.

 

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Paris, travel, eiffel tower, France, photography, pictures, places to visit, sight seeing in Paris

This is totally my opinion and I have this opinion after seeing these views in USA, Brasil, Spain, France. But I did try all of them to criticize them so don’t let me deter you, you might like them.

There is also a restaurant at level one and another Michelin star one called as Le Jules Verne on second floor which is supposed to be good and so is the price. Celebrating something special would be worth it, there. Make sure to book in advance.

We didn’t go there, as by now changing into warm socks had become my top priority.

So we came down, I put on socks and little more hope and we walked  on Champ de Mars, which is the green space surrounding the Tower and a little bit of sunshine finally cheered me up. 🙂

Paris, travel, eiffel tower, France, photography, pictures, places to visit, sight seeing in Paris

So we sat in there awhile with a backdrop of flower beds. It was time to leave City of Lights. It was time to catch a train back home.

It was a lovely trip. And we haven’t seen many places yet but you cannot not go there, just once. Can you?

I loved Paris and that was our long weekend trip to the city.

Now, what we missed (but you shouldn’t) was Château de Versailles, Montmartre region and Jardin du Luxembourg from my ‘to see’ list. And from my ‘to do’ list perfume studio and a completely on foot tour of Paris.

Q: Got just 24 hrs in Paris ??

A: Cruise Seine by day and see Eiffel Tower at night. 

Q: Want to do something different than a regular tourist in Paris?

A: Well, make it something new, something old…see the regular tourist places too but also head to Latin Quarters and do people watching (especially St. Germain des Pres area), visit Montmartre (a region that really fascinates me) and see the perfume museum and take perfume making sessions where they teach you how to smell eau de cologne and you get to make your own too! 

Thanks for reading. Your suggestions/comments/queries are always welcome.

 

Comments

  1. Akanksha says:

    And thats why Mona Lisa smiles! 😀

  2. Anonymous says:

    And thats why Mona Lisa smiles! 😀

  3. Anonymous says:

    And thats why Monalisa smiles! 😀