Tuesday, June 26, 2012

4 days in Paris

4 days... one day with an old friend, one day as a tourist with friends, one day at an amusement park and one day by myself.

A beautiful Saturday morning to wake up, pack a backpack and take a train to another country. No, you can't just go to another country in a couple of hours on a train! Well apparently you can.
I gazed through the window occasionally, taking my eyes off the economist I have so begun to love as a part of traveling on weekends. I waited. Sunny and bright it was outside my window. Then a long tunnel so dark I fell asleep. When I woke up it was all a bright and sunny country side. There was no difference except for an occasional hoarding in french. And so I reached Paris.
I went down to cité universitaire to meet an old friend from college. The place was beautiful calm and peaceful. They had a festival on with each country house showcasing their local culture in different forms. I ate Egyptian food and watched some Japanese drumming. My friend and guide (and not yet a philosopher given he isn't pursuing a phd) took me to Louvre, not inside. We walked along the Seine, we walked the narrow lanes of Paris, we crossed bridges, we talked about old times. And in the end, I wondered why I don't stay in touch with my friends enough.
I left my friend to his thesis and waited at my hostel for my friend to turn up worth whom I had planned my Paris trip. She and her three friends finally turned up. Late in the night we hear that Champs Elysées is still open. So we went up there saw the Arc de Triumph and walked down the Avenue des Champs Elysees without realising the historical significance of the place being built my Napolean to mark his victory and to ride his soldier down the Elysian fields of Greek mythological to walk to heaven. So literally the stairway to heaven, not to mention one of the most expensive real estate in the world. Yet we didn't know it. And walked back for the day.
We were excited in the morning to go up the Eiffel Tower. On first site we were disappointed when we approached it. My friend would not even believe that this metal scaffolding is actually THE tower, much like all the Parisians when Gustav Eiffel built it. We stood in the queue for a long long really long time to get up to the third floor in the lift. We eventually did. And suddenly everything was worth it ! Paris looked beautiful and the Seine was twisting and turning through the city under the bridges in the sunshine.
We got off the tower and went back to St Michael's crossed over the bridge to Notre Dame de Paris. It is by far the most fascinating building I have seen. Vast, impressive, Gothic, Roman. Some sacred buildings are built to make you feel small and remind of the powerful existence that is beyond. This is one of them. The we walked along the Seine to Louvre, too late it was closed. But the glass pyramids were there, such an eyesore compared to the rest of the massive Louvre which was a magnificent palace once.
After a tiring day all over the place, what could be more apt than to sit down and relax at cafe on the road on Seine and discuss the concept of true love.
The next day was a trip to Disney Land, where it rained most of the time, all the thriller rides were fun but gave me a bad headache especially when we went 360deg twice, we didn't want to wait 90mins to take a pic with a princess and Sleeping Beauty's castle was far less impressive than inside my head. But the thriller rides were pretty good actually. The one where we fall down vertically in an elevator and the one roller-coaster with Aerosmith singing-shouting in your ears were particularly awesome.
On my last day in Paris, I woke up lazy and relaxed, my Canadian roommate was still there while my Vietnamese roommate had left the city. I had a peaceful breakfast, a long hot shower and went on to the Sandeman's walking tour of the city. This should have been the first thing we did! We started at St Michael's and walked all over. We walked along the Seine, past Notre Dame, across the bridge of locks, through the Louvre, into the Jardin des Tuileries, to Place de la Concorde where the Obelisk was placed in the middle.
Something so fascinating about the Obelisk, everything rather! It's just there, piercing through the sky!  As our tour guide mentioned, it is the melting pot of cultures so symbolic of Paris, the Greek Champs Elysees to one direction, the Roman Parliament building and the Church of Mary Magdalene to two directions and the French palatial gardens of Tuileries final directions, the center itself being Egyptian Obelisk from the Valley of the Kings. We walked on more, but the Obelisk stayed with me. Paris to me remains this point, the octagon of Place de la Concorde.

But that's because I haven't seen Montmarte, which I should. And Versailles as well. Another trip to Paris is required. For now, 4 days in Paris was all I ever wanted.

When I got back to Gare du Nord and thought back at my 4 days, the one thing I will take back is the hospitality of the French. Once when I was traveling in the bus by myself, an older man got up to give me a seat. Said I was a guest to his country and he must be courteous to me. Where else would I encounter an incident of this kind ? An Indian village may be. Not a metropolitan certainly ! Ah Paris !

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