Friday, April 10, 2015

Romance in Paris..

      I always wished to visit Paris and finally it did come true. Arrived in Paris on Friday the 13th, its a lucky day for Parisians. I have been disappointed to see such a beautiful city of Paris is not that well maintained as you can find dog poop, trash and primarily cigarette stubs on the streets. Parisians smoke heavily in public places, restaurants and even while talking which I found quite bothersome. Wait, if you can set aside these, there is more to Paris.

      Unlike New York, San Francisco where you see the modern tall buildings, Paris extravagance is due to the signature buildings at each intersection of grand boulevards, gothic style churches, royal palaces, fountains, gardens, bridges connecting the Seine river. There is so much history in Paris and is very rich in architecture. You can't help but fall in love with this beauty. By the end of the trip, I sure did learn about French revolution and Baron Haussmann, the visionary behind the reconstruction of Paris.

Fountain of Notre Dame intersection
          Paris is very well connected with metro/TVG/buses. If you are flying in to the international airport CDG, follow the directions to go to metro. It will not be a pleasant experience to take the RER/metro all the way to Eiffel tower with many luggage.  The metro stations usually have stairs and you will have to hand carry all the luggage. Also remember to use the same ticket at the entry and the exit stations. I would recommend taking taxi or if you have phone access try uberpool which turned out to be a very economical option. It is daunting at first but you will get a hang of it. You need to make sure you take the train that is going in the correct direction i.e. usually check the final destination. For example from CDG to eiffel tower, you need to take  RER B until St Michel Notre Dame and from there take the RER C yellow line towards Versailles. pdf -

      Journey in the metro is enjoyable, you will forget all the travel hustle bustle in metro with the accordion music playing in the background, guys singing peppy tunes. It is quite common to find musicians entertaining in busy streets and intersections for tips.  Parisians dress in style, they are a bit reserved.  But once you engage in a conversation with them, they can be very friendly, helpful and welcoming. Simple french phrases can help you long ways - "Bon jour", "Se il vous plait".  Service at the restaurants is not that friendly and made me very uncomfortable. On the other hand, I got very friendly service and recommendations when visiting the bakeries, sandwich places, cafes. Paris city is visited by many tourists and can't stress enough "beware of the pick pocketers". Always keep an eye out/hand on your belongings.

     Best way to explore Paris is by walking. Wear comfortable shoes and get ready to explore. I would highly recommend the free walking tours offered by Sandeman's new paris tours/Discovery tours if possible.  Free walking tours are a great way to get introduced to the city and get some insights by the experienced local guides (tip based on your satisfaction).  Contrary to the popular belief, best view of Paris is (not from Eiffel tower but) from Montparnasse tower with the Paris city set as a back drop with Eiffel tower in it. :)  You will love the sight of Eiffel tower once it is lit up in the evening and do not miss to watch the light show at the top of every hour. When Hitler visited Paris during his reign, he marvelled at the engineering of Eiffel tower.  He so much wanted to take the lift to the top of the tower but he couldn't as it was not working that day. (Rumour is that Parisians made sure that the lift doesn't work). However, Hitler went to the best spot to get the best view of Eiffel tower in Paris i.e. Trocadero. Eiffel tower can be best viewed from Trocadero.

Obelisk at La Concorde
        Walking in the Paris along the Seine River, overlooking the boats, beautiful bridges connecting the left and right banks, each one of these bridges  with each one has its own character, taking a stroll in Champ de Elysses, enjoying the roasted chestnuts and watching sunset next to the Eiffel tower from the historic La Concorde intersection, its just a great feeling. Pay a visit to Louvre, it has literally tons of exhibits and you can not see all of them but do not miss to the most important ones. Pay a little extra to get an audio guide, it will be money well spent to guide you to the ones you want to see else you will get lost in the Louvre. Louvre is originally the palace where the French kings resided before Louis XIV moved to Versailles. 20km away from Paris, a trip to Versailles is  a must do to visit the royal Palace and to experience its extravagance.  Tuileries are located right next to the Louvre to relax in the gardens and from there you can walk down to Concorde intersection which is a significant place in French Revolution. This is where Louis XVI was executed during the revoultion. This is a very large public square and the tour de France ends here. My other recommendations to visit are Notre Dame Cathedral (Hunchback of Notre Dame fame), boat tour on Seine river, a trip to top of Eiffel tower.
Apollo de Gallery at Lourve

Sacre De Coire
Paris is filled with artists who aspire to find their niche and become famous. A trip to Montmarte is a must to experience the tales of the world famous artists like Vincent Van Gogh, Picasso, Monet who lived and worked in the studios. Montmarte has its own character and the streets speak to it. Our journey started from Moulin Rouge, going up hill exploring Picasso's workshop, a stop at cafe where the movie Amelie was shot, taking the steps to the narrow streets of Place de Abessess, to the statue of Montmarte, the lucky statue of Dalida leading up to the top of hill and ended at the Basilica of Sacre de Coire. The view from their is amazing and just enjoyed watching the guy doing incredible feats with the ball entertaining the visitors. The Basilica is just beautiful and had a splendid time there.

Yumm...the chocolates!!
            Now comes the food part, I just love love, loved Paris for that. You can get a baguette sandwich as an inexpensive yet delicious meal, the best crepes on the go. Who knows the best falafel place in the world is in Paris, definitely a trip to La's Du Falafel is worth it.  Near Notre Dame there are tons of places with several choices of food to eat, if you try French style fondue, Mediterranean food, Indian, Chinese, Italian you name it... When in Paris how can you not taste the best Baguette, check out the Grand Prix de la Baguette winner, it is usually etched on the glass in front of the store. The macaroons, chocolates, croissants, ahh I started drooling already.

           That is PARIS, who can not fell in love with this beautiful city!!

Happy Travels!!