It is indeed difficult to start with a title of blog post on Travel. I never could buy the phrase ‘City X calling’, No sir, I do not think a city calls one…one being at a specific place in a specific time is purely circumstantial. Anyways, returning back to the post…the title was an easy one, one of the most famous movie quotes from Casablanca, ‘We’ll always have Paris’
Last weekend, we visited Paris, the city of lights and the city of love. Our trip wasn’t the perfect one, but Paris still left a lasting impression. It also taught us plenty of tricks for future travelers to make.
First things first, 3 days is just not enough if you really want to spend time in Paris. Its a good weekend getaway only if you are looking to feast on the city’s beauty without ever tasting the dish. This city, needs around 5 days for you to dive into the Louvre, Versailles and the likes.
Arriving in Paris, we had booked a room in the Ibis Eiffel Tower hotel, it was quite close to the Tower and one could see the most famous French monument right from our window. However, the hotel had bad sound proofing, one could detect any movement in the surroundings without effort.
The first visit was to a nearby local cafe, the couple tried egg-mushroom omlette and a french duck delicacy. The food was good, and the portions too big. We then managed to navigate through the narrow streets to the tower, only to be attracted by Bengali music playing at full blast. It didn’t make sense, why were the French playing Bangla music? Ah ha, a group of Indians/Bangladeshis were celebrating Poila Baishak, and they chose the most prime location in France to celebrate it.
My partner was filled with joy, this was it, the tower and there we were right in front of it! After a round of pictures attempting to look taller than the tower, we crossed the huge garden to reach the river on the other side. The lines below the tower to go up were filled with tourists, this is when i realized that one must book tickets online to save time on waiting to go up.
The river itself is the nerve dividing the city with over 22 or more bridges connecting the ends, the bridges themselves are a feast to the eyes, and the right way to do this is taking a river cruise at night (last departure at 10.30 pm from Notre dame or Eiffel tower). This is a must do activity, one could also attempt boat dining cruises but we focused on the regular one with commentary on the sights. It is the night time when the city of lights really enthralls you. And yes, the tower lights up, I do not know why, but the view just stays with you as a fond memory.
The next day, I was conscious of the Tower queues (and the ticket was not available online for the next month!), so I ventured to the tower around 8.45 AM. It was 45 minutes before they open, only to find myself behind around 200 other people already in the queue. It was a very windy and cold morning, the wait was not a delight…but we got our tickets by 9.45, because most people ahead of me were from group tours and their tickets weren’t sold individually. From this point on, we went straight to the top, at the height of 281 metres, the view was simply exceptional…the wind was like a blizzard. I couldn’t feel my fingers, but when you are on the top of Eiffel tower, would you really care?
Next stop was Versailles, a RER train trip from Champe de Mars (near Eiffel) to Versailles River Gauche (don’t take the one going to Versailles Chantiers – St Quentin en Yvelines). The train station is around 5-10 minutes from the Palace, we had booked the tickets online to save ourselves from the queue. The palace is just exceptional, and will need 4-5 hours for a simple walk. One wonders at the wealth of the time gone by, the richly adorned rooms, halls and beds of the French monarchy and the violent deaths brought upon by the Revolution. The Palace gardens were filled with springtime blooms of tulips and roses, the palace itself is an architectural marvel with a chapel, a hall of battle, the hall of lights and the chambers of King Louis XVI and his Queen.
We returned to Paris in the evening, and helped ourselves to an Indian meal near the Dupleix metro station, it was one of the best Indian restaurant experience I had in continental europe. We then stopped by a local cafe for a dessert, which didn’t disappoint us. Tired and spent, sleep soon beckoned us.
Next morning, our key stop was the Louvre and Notre Dame. How could a trip to Paris be over without a visit to Notre Dame, the 800 year old church, the stage of Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame. We avoided going up the church tower due to the queues and paucity of time, but the insides of the church are worth a visit.
This was the place where Napolean Bonaparte was crowned Emperor, this was also the place where Joan of Arc was granted her right place in the history of France.
Our next stop was Louvre, we bought tickets at a Kiosk shop and avoided the large queues, our main focus area was the Grand gallery. It didn’t disappoint us, the Nintendo DS audio tour is worth taking, for the paintings have a story..which one doesn’t know about. Apart from the Mona Lisa, David and Goliath by Volterra, Four seasons by Archimboldo, Crowning of Emperor Napolean and other works are worth noticing.
Louvre needs 4-5 hours just for a quick browse, it is a must see place for art students, the colors, proportions and representations of human forms by the likes of Da vinci, Michelangelo, Rafeal and others cannot be missed.
- Buy tickets online for Versailles, Louvre and Eiffel Tower
- There are far too many tourists in the right season, its going to be very crowded, so be prepared!
- Tourist services were not capable of handling the crowd, specially in terms of washrooms. McDonalds had big queues of folks who wished to use their services, this was noticeable in all the places we visited.
- Do try the crepes, they are available almost everywhere!
- Don’t buy souvenirs at Tourist spots themselves. They are pricey.
- Metro/Train system is not extremely structured, but worth figuring out.
- Getting a hotel near Notre Dame will be advisable due to connectivity
Respirer Paris, cela conserve l’âme (breathing paris preserves the soul) – Victor hugo