The second weekend of my stay in Europe began in the city of Love – Paris.
My colleagues and I started on the journey to Paris on the night of Friday, the 14th of October. We woke up to the voice of the travel guide at about 6 AM on Saturday.
We had been told by our friends who had been to Paris before us, to visit the place on our own as that would enable us to visit the places of our choice.
So we disembarked from the bus at the eastern train station(metro). We refreshed ourselves with English breakfast of buttered croissants, orange juice and some tea.
Equipped with the map of Paris, we first decided to leave the luggage in the hotel and then start with the sightseeing. So we took the metro to the place told by the tour coordinator and left our bags there. Thus, once free from that, we started the trip.
All of us were poring over the map along with a printout given to Deepa by her friend, which described the most famous tourist spots of Paris, and were thinking on how to start. Then a guy who seemed to be Indian, came over to us and offered to help. Then once he gave us the starting point, we thanked him and started the tour.
So the first place in the list was the Sacre Coeur. We started from the metro station and with the guidance from various people on the streets and shops, we reached the top of the hill which held the grandiose church. We caught our breath at the first sight of the church. It was beautiful and the lovely sunny weather seemed to be adding to the charm. We took a couple of photographs there and then proceeded to see the interior of the church. It was the first time for me to see such an old church and I was awed by the beautiful statues and stained glass windows of the church.
What inspired me more was the fact that I was in a city that was both old and modern, simultaneously. I am unable to describe in words what I was feeling all the while I was in Paris.
After having seen the church to our heart’s content, we started towards the next spot.
But in between, we felt that we had digested the breakfast that we had had in the morning and our stomachs were growling! So we stopped at a pizzeria for the first taste of European pizza. Till now, all of us had been great fans of the Indianized version of the pizza and had no idea what a real original pizza is like. I took the vegetarian one after confirmin,g with the proprietor of the shop, several times if the vegetarian meant really vegetarian – that’s to say without egg or fish. The doubt had crept in after having heard several stories from the other friends who told that the Indian concept of vegetarian is different than that of the other countries. Anyways, the pizza was good but quite unlike the Indian version of the same.
Thus recharged with the fuel, we started towards the Arc de Triomphe. It was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 but was finally completed in 1836 under the rule of Louis Philippe.
We had to cross an underpass to reach the arc and as with everything else in Paris, it was adorned with beautiful figures sculpted in the walls and the roof of the arc. We thought of climbing the top of the tower but seeing the time and the number of places that we wanted to cover, dropped the idea. May be next time.
From there we moved towards the La Conciergerie. It was initially part of the royal palace. This is a beautiful place but with a tragic history.
When we went there, some sort of exhibition was going on there. I am not sure if it is something that is permanently there or it was just some ongoing exhibition.
The place had a beautiful interior and it had beautiful arches. Seeing it one can’t even imagine that during the French revolution, it was used as a prison and one of the captives was the queen of France – Marie Antoinette, who was taken to meet her death from here!
From there we proceeded towards the Sainte Chapelle. It was built in the year 1248 by Louis IX. It was constructed to house, what is believed to be the crown of thorns worn by Christ during his crucifixion and fragments of the cross. During the middle ages, it was believed to be the gateway to heaven.
The next place in line was the very famous cathedral of Notre Dame.
The church was built in about a 180 years time, the construction having started in 1163 AD and completed in around 1345 AD. But this place, by the river Seine, has been the site of prayer for people from different faiths and beliefs – from Roman temple to a Christian basilica to a Romanesque church before the cathedral that now stands there, was constructed.
By this time we were too tired and did not feel like proceeding for some time. So we sat in front of the cathedral giving rest to our tired feet. Here again, seeing the time and our energy level, we decided not to go to top of the cathedral.
While going from one place to another, we had to cross the bridges on the Seine and we found a nice band playing some beautiful music. And to think, all the musicians were highly energetic, when none of them could have been less than 50 years of age! They advertised their band really funnily – one could hire them for celebrating everything – a wedding as well as a divorce :-)!
We sat there for some time, along with other people lazing around there enjoying the bright sunny day with music in the air.
We then proceeded towards the Eiffel tower. By the river Seine, there were lots of shops selling beautiful water colors of the places in Paris and Deepa and Prakash bought some of them, besides buying a few miniatures of the Eiffel Tower.
We had underestimated the distance from the Notre Dame to the tower, and started on foot, thinking that we would reach the place just like that.
But that was not to be and in some time we realized our folly and then went to a place to have some refreshments before starting again. It was a park beside the river and we relaxed a bit there. Lots of people were lazing around there and a sort of lethargy crept into us as well, having been on foot the whole day.
Then we again started and at a bus stop we finally stopped to look at the chart and matched that with the map. Came to know that there would be a bus in some time from there and so we waited there. I struck a conversation with a lady from Greece who was a teacher in her native and had come for a conference to Paris. She decided to stay back for two more days, after the conference, to see the place as like us, she also wanted to take full advantage of the chance that she had got to come to Paris.
She was also on her way to the Eiffel Tower, after having spent a long day at the Louvre.
Once on board the bus, she mentioned how she felt that the drivers in Paris were crazy, driving through thin lanes and all, before going on to mention that Greece was crazier. She also mentioned how organized Germany was and that she liked the craziness more! I could not help thinking and mentioning to her that the craziness in India was unimaginable for her, if she thought that Paris was crazy :-).
Once we reached the tower, we parted ways, as we had taken the tickets to the boat ride on the river Seine, while the lady went straight ahead to ascend the tower.
We were greeted by a beautiful sight of the tower against the skyline and after taking some photographs while there was still some daylight left, we reached the river side and stood in the long queue to embark upon the boat.
We took our places but after some time, I saw a place on the outside of the boat, and went there. But two unfortunate things happened at that time – first the battery of my camera went low, then the headset at my seat would not work so I couldn’t listen to the commentary in English.
Nonetheless, the sights were good and I had to be content with that.
By the time we reached back to the tower, I was feeling very cold and wanted to ascend the tower and call it a day.
Deepa, Prakash and I took the tickets up till the second level while Panda went up to the third level.
The three of us had the view of Paris from the second level, took some coffee and came down.
There we waited and waited for Panda, but he was nowhere in sight – humanly not possible also, as he was on level three!
After a long wait, finally Panda was there and we decided to go back to the hotel.
But the three of them wanted to have something for dinner and so we got some sandwich packed. Upon reaching the hotel, I kept myself awake for some time to compile the expenses sheet and also to charge my camera battery.
Then the sleep overcame me and I was sound asleep and woke only when my alarm rang in the morning. Even then I did not want to get up as I was feeling tired to the bones. But since we had to catch the bus again, so I forced myself to get up and took a shower and then got ready for the breakfast.
Then the four of us had the breakfast of buttered croissants and coffee and then started for another day, albeit a small one, for being in Paris.
We boarded the bus and the bus went ahead picking up the people from various hotels and then left us at the Opera, from where we had to board it again at around noon to go back to Germany.
We saw the Opera from the outside and proceeded towards the Musee de Louvre.
And boy, was it awesome, that would be an understatement to describe it.
It was built as a palace and was opened to the public as a museum in the year 1793 AD. The glass pyramid at the entrance to the museum was added in the year 1989.
It is huge and has so many sections but we had time enough to see the paintings and the sculptures section only. We rushed to see the Mona Lisa though I was disappointed upon seeing it. After having heard and read about it so much, somehow I had a notion that it would be something which would captivate me but I just found it just another painting. May be, watching it for some time would have inspired something in me but we did not have time enough for that. I found the other paintings there more beautiful.
Then upon reaching the sculptures section, we were greeted by the beheaded winged angel. And there were beautiful sculptures of characters from the Roman mythology.
But we had to rush back to catch the bus and so we could not spend more time there though I wanted to see the other sections as well.
We reached the Lafayettes square where we went around to see some shops and then boarded the bus back to Germany, with lots of beautiful memories of Paris and wishing in heart to return some another day and explore the place more leisurely and feel the true spirit of Paris.
(*What happened after we returned from Paris, is a separate story by itself, which I will post some other time 🙂 )