Sunday, June 22, 2014

Europa! (Part Three): Paris!

A wonderful city loaded with oomph, charm and charisma!

Our visit was just a sampler as it were, of this lavish spread of beauty and magnitude.

I think the best thing we (rather my husband did) was to pick up a five day pass through the Metro line in the city - the RER (the underground Metro) as soon as we landed. What an amazing connectivity! What surprises me is that the entire Metro system is so organised and standardised that it becomes completely reliable. For instance, take the train routes - each route is colour coded. Now where ever you look for a particular route, the font, the size, the colour everything remains just that. Absolutely no confusion.

So, after a harrowing first evening and the unsettling morning, our first 'sight seeing trip' was to Eiffel Tower. A truly grand assemblage of iron and steel. I never imagined it would be huge. (I couldn't help remember scenes from Queen). The moment we stepped in, it started raining and how! The heaviest rainfall in the season perhaps. Not just rain, the gusty and chilly winds just blew our minds out. All tourists were huddled at Level 2. So were we...sipping hot coffee and taking in the most amazing views from the very top. We unfortunately couldn't do much because of the rain. Also our baby, who was extremely patient and co-operative till this point started showing signs of weariness and homesickness. She wanted potatoes and ladies finger and nothing else. Now where do we find that in Paris? People had told us of Saravana Bhavan but we had no idea where it was. So we walked around looking for it. While we were walking, we passed by a FOREX shop and I thought I saw an Indian - a South Indian, a Tamilian to be precise. Like I said in another post, when you are desperate, even a Mexican starts looking like your countryman. But we still retraced our steps. And politely asked the gentleman, "Would you know where Restaurant Saravana Bhavan is?" He looked up and asked "Tamil pesuveengala?" Those were the sweetest words I had heard in a long time. I could hear Thavils and Sivakasi pattasu in the background. We eagerly replied in Tamil and he sweetly wrote down the train routes and off we went profusely thanking him. The little one who has always smirked at the mention of Saravan Bhavan in Chennai was jumping with joy. We finally reached the place after changing 2 trains. What do we see? A tiny T Nagar, with everything from 'Annachi Kadai' to 'Thanga Maaligai' to 'Anjappar'. And of course Saravana Bhavan. We got back to hotel with silly grins pasted on our faces. Food wasn't great but yet, we were pleased.

The next day, we headed to the famed Notre Dame. We weren't actually very keen on seeing exactly one place or the places listed in the 'must-see' list. We just wanted to explore. We stopped at street corners. We admired the roads. We gawked at the Palaces. We asked someone the directions for Notre Damme. But we found ourselves at the Saint Chapel instead. We didn't mind much. Its a chapel housing the most intricate stained glass paintings depicting scenes from the Bible. Beautiful!

That morning, we had looked up children's parks on the internet and found a place called Jardin d'Acclimation, one of the oldest amusement parks for children. So off we went. It's such a beautiful park with everything that a child would want. A zoo, an aquarium, plenty of space to run and play, a farm kind of a corner with all kinds of farm animals and huge sand pits, wooden houses, pine name it. Yes, there were rides and games too but as it was almost the end of the day, they weren't functional. (We weren't interested either!) There wasn't an whiff of commercialism about the place. If there is someone visiting Paris with children, I would definitely recommend this place. A great place to rest those tired touristy feet while your children get a break from seeing old building and statues which really don't mean much to them. Our moody little one shrugged at the Eiffel and said, "Its just a steel building. What's so great about it?". And at the Louvre, with a roll of the eyes"Oh, they are just drawings and paintings.". So you know what I mean!

Day three was important. On the agenda was Disneyland! Its been a month since we got back but I still see it in my dreams. It just transports you into a world of fantasies and fairies. Everybody knows about Disneyland. The lesser said the better. Unforgettable!

The last day. We made quick visit to the quick that I was almost in tears when I left it. We had a flight to catch that evening. So much to see. One needs at least  3-4 days, if not one week to take in all the wonderful pieces of art. I only feel the object on display needs to be labelled in English along with a little note about it. There is an audio guide but I its more useful for those who have time and the extra 7-12 euro to spare. And like a lot of people have told me before, Monalisa was a disappointment. Neither can you get up close and personal with her nor can you appreciate her beauty even from a distance. Such is the crowd there.

So, our almost 15 day trip to Europe came to an end. Three countries. Four cities. I was charmed by Florence but felt a sense of belonging in Paris. Probably that was the only city, we really 'lived' and 'explored' on our own. A regular traveller would call us lazy. Apart from Disneyland, we didn't have a major itinerary. We woke up late. Never stepped out before 11 am. We got to observe people on our journeys on the Metro. I'm sure we'd be scolded by friends for not visiting this or that place. I think by being laid-back, we were able to soak-in the real feel of the city. And I am glad.  I know I am going back to Paris. When and how, I don't know, but when I do, I know it is going to be a homecoming of sorts.

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