October 17, 2018

#TheBlindList: For the love of Paris

 "If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast." 
- Ernest Hemingway

I recall standing at the window in my hotel room, a huge glass facade separating me and the city I loved the most. The city I was visiting for the first time, but which had ironically visited me in my dreams ever so often. 

The wonderful sight of the Champs-Elysées, stared back at me, in all its glory.
Gai Paris!!!

It was just minutes since we had reached (after a two and a half journey via Eurostar from our last stop at London), but the cheerful nature of the beautiful city had already started warming the cockles of my heart. 
There is this whole different vibe to Paris, something you will find in no other country in the world.
Those who have visited it will testify for the overwhelming feeling one experiences while watching the city especially in the night time. It can make a romantic out of anybody.

Reluctantly, I tore my eyes away from the mesmerizing lights outside my window and jotted down a quick list of all the things I had wanted to see, a travel itinerary (very similar to #TheBlindList ---a concept now introduced by Lufthansa and Indiblogger.)

My mind was trembling with excitement, trying to visualize all I had seen in Hollywood movies and travel magazines (the only source of information on Paris I had had until now). 

"Patience," I told myself. "It's real. It's happening."

I couldn't wait to know the city of (my) dreams up close and personal. It felt so much like a blind date.Here was a part of the world I had long since admired from afar but never met for real.

A little backdrop for this memory: Until a few days before, I had absolutely no idea about this surprise trip that my family had planned for me. So you can imagine my surprise when my folks, at the end of our stay in London, enthusiastically announced that our holiday wasn't over. It took me a moment to realize that London was just the first half of the two part journey they had planned. 
The surprise on my face that had turned to elation quickly escalated to ecstasy when they revealed to me our next destination. 
"Paris," they grinned, and I jumped to hug them. It was almost the same kind of excitement that a child feels when she is told she is being taken to Disney land.

So cut to a few hours later, I was recollecting this beautiful turn of events in my hotel room in Paris.

Next morning, I woke up even before my phone snooze alarm was set for. We had planned to make an early start, so that we could make the most of our three-day staycation. 

It was my idea to visit the Champs first. It had already tempted me with a sneak peek, and also was the central point to all the other attractions we wanted to visit. 
Champs-Elysées is a beautiful promenade, known for its architectural symmetry and style, surrounded by rows of Elm trees and flower beds in a symmetrical fashion, this street has been rightly described as 'heaven on Earth'. It further leads to Arc De Triomphe. At its western end, there is a bevy of cinema halls, designer stores, and cafes. After a little shopping (that included lots of window shopping), we proceeded to our next destination, promising to come back here again before leaving.

Arc de Triomphe
A close-up of the Arc

Next on the list was the Louvre.
Visiting the Louvre was an experience in itself. It was fascinating to experience the works of Renaissance artists and sculptures. Although I got a far view of the Mona Lisa, the thrill of being in the throng of so many besotted lovers of art takes the experience to a whole different level. While standing there admiring the famous works of famous men, a powerful realization hit me. The only reward of true art is its immortality. I was struck by the magnanimity of the sculptures and paintings. The age old adage, 'A picture speaks a thousand words' was definitely created with these paintings in mind. Art was indeed ageless. 
Unfortunately, due to the teeming crowd, I could not capture pics of good quality (sharing the best ones here). But nevertheless, they are imprinted on the mind.  

The Louvre

Add caption

The Mona Lisa

Aphodite also known as 'Venus de Milo'

By the time we left the Louvre, it was already afternoon. My stomach was rumbling with hunger. So we made a quick break away. Lunch consisted of a delectable meal at a small little French restaurant. While my folks feasted on Normandy pancakes, I ordered Chestnut crepes and instantly fell in love with the taste of Chestnuts. 

Later in the evening, we visited the 'Shakespeare & Company' bookshop, a quaint book store that was once the haunt of luminaries like Voltaire, Rousseau and Verlaine. 
As I touched the walls adorned with author-signed title pages, I could actually feel their palpable presence, an experience I wouldn't have wanted to miss for anything. As I inhaled the air infused with the smell of books, I wished I could save it all in a bottle and take it back home. In that one moment, I felt as if the whole world had shrunk to fit itself in that one room. After all, isn't that what books are supposed to do?
I literally had to drag myself away from that place, consoling myself with the fact that I could revisit it every  any time I wanted; all i had to do was pick up Hemingway's book titled, 'A moveable feast'.

On the way back to our hotel, on the suggestion of a local I met at the book shop, I bought myself some freshly roasted chestnuts, a quick evening snack that I enjoyed very much. So far, my taste buds were happy. So were my eyes. There was so much in Paris, to be devoured by both. 

The next morning, after a delectable breakfast of some wonderful French toast, and pancakes, 
we headed to see the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Representative of gothic architecture, this is a magnificent masterpiece that is a sight to sore eyes. There is a long spiral stairway that leads to the Cathedrals most scary gargoyles, the thirteen tonne 'Emmanuel' bell and a breath taking view of Paris. The three rose windows of the Notre-Dame Cathedral is one of the greatest masterpieces of Christendom known to mankind, and a sight to behold. Somewhere in between, I stopped clicking pictures because clicking too many photographs meant a distraction from the spell binding effect of the Basilica...an overwhelming and enlightening experience. 
Notre-Dame Cathedral
Stained glass windows  

If you have been to Paris and not seen the Eiffel Tower, then you haven't been to Paris. We had specially reserved an evening for the visit. 
I had always imagined standing in front of the Eiffel and getting clicked in a thousand different poses. (Yeah, I was young and impressionable back then.) .But when I actually reached the Eiffel, I was so mesmerized by its beauty, that I forgot all about the poses I had practiced. I just stood there, awestruck, devouring the beauty of the illuminated tower. It's majestic framework, its magnificent architecture. There it stood towering over me in all its 300 m tall monumental glory, gleaming and glittering with pride. 

Overview of the city from the tower terrace

Such is the magnific glory of this city of love, this city of dreams, this city of fashion. We had only one more day here, and there was so much to do, so much more to see. So we did the next best thing. We wined and dined...the French way. On cheeses of every kind, especially Camembert, Chèvre and Roquefort. I ate so much cheese on that trip, my family jokes that I had gained 5 pounds of cheese weight.
Also the crepes and pancakes were not very polite and proudly flaunted themselves in the extra inches around my waist. 

I was baffled. How on earth do the French keep themselves so well maintained when there is so much good food around? All around me were floating (they seemed so light) bewitchingly attractive Parisians, with their perfect patrician noses, delicately carved (although stiff upper) lips, and slender bodies  Was the 'wining and dining' only limited to the tourists I wondered. Did the fine wine and champagne; the Bordeaux, and the Burgundy, the gateaux, the black truffles, beckon only us guests? 
However, it was a bit challenging to find vegetarian options, but we did find our way around it. We also visited a local farmers market and armed ourselves with lots of fruits to snack on during our day trips. 

Healthy options

Eventually, I gave up wondering and blamed it on my metabolism. The brasseries and cafes around the Montmartre neighborhood were too good to resist. Every macaron tasted different from the next. 

Paris Macarons from 'Pierre Herme'

While we were at Montmartre, we stopped at Place Du Tertre---abound with painters, artists and art aspirants were showcasing their talent. Surrounded by easels, canvasses, paints, and other paraphernalia, they sketched portraits of eager tourists in the medium of their choice. 
Mom and the sibling was busy buying some souvenirs from the trip. Dad had found some friendly Parisian who was could speak a few words of English. And I...I was standing there soaking in the joy of that random moment with my favorite people in my favorite city in the world. 
Bustling with creativity, beauty, passion; a melange of myriad emotions coming from all directions, Paris was making me fall in love with life...with the world. 


With my heart bursting with an incomprehensible kind of happiness, I checked my list again. There were so many things still left to be seen. But I was happy. Satisfied that I was soaking in all the joy each moment here brought me. 

We gave the Catacombs of Paris a miss, because...err...I freaked out a little. It takes a lot of courage to walk in dark tunnels lined up with heaps of bones and skulls of six million dead Parisians. "Next time, maybe?" I told my amused folks. 
The sibling was a tad disappointed but all was forgotten and forgiven when my Dad brandished tickets for the night show of Paris's most famous attraction...a lovely evening of music and dance.

The last day was spent visiting the Palace of Versailles and the Place De La Concorde. We also visited the Paris Opera House, Opera Garnier, where 'The Phantom of the Opera' (movie) was filmed. On our way back Mom and we (my sibling and I) had a little last minute shopping to be done, and so we stopped at Le Marais, one of Paris's famous shopping precincts, while Dad rolled his eyes and passed some of his favorite one liners about how the three women in his life were still not done exploiting his emotions and emptying his wallet. We ignored him and continued shopping.

Opera Garnier

A lovely French Cafe

We had an early flight next morning. Our brief stay in Paris had ended, but we had created loads of wonderful memories of new sights, new tastes, new experiences. 
There is something about this place. The air itself is infused with so much of beauty. Everywhere you go, you will witness beauty and art in some form or another...in the monuments, places, architecture, people. Paris makes sure you take with you memories to reminisce about and stories to regale. 

That night, I made notes in my diary about all the things Paris taught me---
1) Take risks. Explore. Sail away from the harbour.
2) Every moment is an enriching experience. A learning experience. Go with the flow.
3) You will find beauty everywhere if you look for it.
4) Be open minded about accepting other people, their culture and habits even if they are different from yours.
5) Last but not the leart, always #SayYesToTheWorld

While on the flight back home, the sagacious sibling suddenly remarked, as if she was sudden making a poignant revelation.
"We are going home," she sighed, mixed feelings in her voice. The disappointment of a holiday ending, evident on her face.

Putting one arm around her neck, I tugged at her gently, knowing exactly how she was feeling.
Then looking outside the airplane window, I thought of the famous lines from my favorite movie. Humphrey Bogart to Ingrid Bergman; Rick Blaine to Ilsa Lazlow.

"We'll always Paris..."  
I smiled, as the plane took off homeward.

This post was written for #TheBlindList - A blind date with the world, a contest by Lufthansa and Indiblogger. All pics used in this post are courtesy yours truly.
If you liked what you read, please vote for it here.


aditi said...

Both loved and envied as I scrolled down your article ❤️
NivN one!

Esha Chakraborty said...

Loved seeing Paris through your eyes

Preeti's Panorama said...

Your narration of the journey made me also excited. It felt as if I was with you on this journey to Paris. Very well done!!!

Pri said...

@ Aditi
Thanks Aditi. I'm glad you liked it:)

Pri said...

@ Esha
The pleasure is all mine, Esha :)

Pri said...

@ Preeti
Thanks dear. I'm glad my post could do justice to Paris :)

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Unknown said...

Your blog made me relive those precious 4 days of my life in May 1999 when we went for a 4 day trip to Paris. Just awesone

soniachat@gmail.com said...

I felt as if I traveled to Paris through your post. Paris and Greece are two places we have been planning a trip to for a while now. I guess it's time to execute the plans.

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Pri said...

@ Unknown
I'm glad my post brought back fond memories! :)

Pri said...

@ Sonia
You should plan one as soon as possible. Paris especially is a place to die for!

Pri said...

@ Anonymous
Thank you :)

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