It was my birthday, last May. And Paris - was my birthday gift from S <blush blush> Paris has always been known to have lured people since a very long time ago. Paris reminds me of those English movies with a lazy violin and jazz music in the backdrop ; a woman in perfect shape walking around the streets in red lipstick and high heels. And ofcourse, The Eiffel tower. But then, I always thought it was a little overrated. Not until I saw her myself!
S and I had gone as a double-date trip to Paris with Nishnee. (That's both of them together, a combo name we came up with :D) It was my first time to Paris. It was love at first sight. We spent our 5-days wandering through the must-sees, enjoying music and arts, stopping for crepes, cafe lattes, pastries and macaroons, and generally loving every corner of this gorgeous city. Even after five days, we still haven't covered a lot more! It is especially for this reason, that I just cant wrap them all up in just one post. So I will be splitting and writing them, so you feel, just like how I did :)
Walking around Paris:
It is one thing to travel around using your car/ take a rented one, and a totally different experience walking around with maps. Although its tempting to take the Metro around Paris, I think the best way to explore Paris completely is on foot.
I woke up the next morning, to see more surprise! There was this glamorous peach and white MARC-PICARD handbag, lying close to the dressing mirror! "Happy happy birthday P...s " said S :) <*I somehow always loveee surprises, and especially on your birthday all the way here, why wouldn't you be delighted?>! We all then got ready, finished our complimentary breakfast and rushed out.
We started walking towards the Center of Pompidou, through Rue Montorgueil (Rue stands for street, thanks to my highschool French classes - which reminds me a lot more than French: I should write on this next in HSWD <*notes it down - wink wink>. It was a complex building, built in a super hi-tech architecture. Seems it holds a vast public library and the largest museum for modern art in Europe! We never went in though .. the mere sight of it made it feel we would need a minimum 4 hours to finish it up. o.O. Oh and then, there is this Stravinsky Fountain, which has sixteen whimsical moving, mechanical and water-spraying sculptures. They were all super intriguing: it takes a minute or two to see how all the wheels and pulleys were used and how the pumps actually work.
After a few photographs, we came out of this Pompidou center, and started towards our next to-go. All the while I was walking around Paris, the streets were so calm, with tall beautifully stacked buildings, yet with a mid-European touch, linearly-arranged scooters and bikes, some of those that looked like autos, back in India o.O, amazingly stylish and dazzling men and women: in the best of Fashion - my God, how could one dress so well! and grey clouds hovering over us.
Later after visiting the Notre Dame, we decided to finish off the Louvre Museum. We took the route along the riverside. And as we walked the banks of Seine River, I could see Eiffel tower standing high above me with bummming sounds of huge ships passing by in the Seine River. When my parents had visited us, sitting on one of the several benches, munching the pastries from 'Paul' was one of their favorites. I should tell you, the buildings and architecture that's around the banks are breathtaking. The bridges when lit up at nights were all not only beautiful, but quite romantic I would say, peeps! S and I have humpty pics around Seine. My favorite was standing over the bridge. <*hmm..what a view from here! Hey I can see..., ah there's Eiffel tower, Notre Dame and Louvre.. S shows "look, there's the Museum d'Orsay and Napolean's Tomb too!">. Just then, the batch of visitors taking a cruise tour on the river looked up and waved at us. The distant ships, an overall view of the city, music from somewhere, the summer breeze - late in the evenings, quacks of the ducks lazily swimming .. it was just so enchanting. Hmm..but seems there's also a darker side to this enthralling river - also a popular site for suicides during French Revolution days. <*Maybe even now? .. could be :(>
Okay, back to the happy times :) Walking along the Seine on either side itself was such a sheer delight! S and I were walking hand in hand, strolling along the river banks. Coming to the other side of the street - the roads were all outlined with dense trees, shops, cafes and bookshops on both sides.
These cafes were those typical cafes, with an umbrella top and where all the seats are placed in a row, looking on the street. The small round tables are so close to each other that one can hardly tell where yours end up and your neighbor's begin. People were enjoying the sun, with bright shades, of course looking chic and sipping their coffee. We stopped by many such cafes, admiring the city's movements, its people, its charm .. what could be more Parisian than that?
Later while we were passing by a bookseller, I noticed the parking lines of rental bikes and exactly when we picked our bikes for a ride, came the first drop from up above the clouds. I seriously, cant seem to find words to describe how I felt as S and me pedaled side by side <blush blush>, past the bridges and streets. Shades of the dusk, those cobblestone streets, hot pastry smells and bright red/green cafes every corner, spectacular views of the Palace, Louvre and Notre Dame and of course Eiffel following you everywhere - and with heavy downpours all over you. <*exactly like they show in English movies!> Scintillating. As the time was done, we started looking for return park-slots. The parking lots were full everywhere (maybe because of the rains people dropped off their bikes asap), so it took us a while before we could find four free spots, and finally parked them off here. By then we were drenched completely :) Unforgettable!
Another favorite of mine was the music all over Paris. From the classical musicians and opera singers, to the jazz bands in St Germain des Pres, to hip-hop dancers, to the street musicians in Montmarte to the buskers (street performers are termed this way) in the Metro, and every variety of world music, particularly from Africa and North Africa, street music filled the air of Paris. They were found wherever people gathered. The musicians who perform in the tunnels of Metro belong to a special category though: because of limited space, they must audition and are selected for assignment to particular locations itseems o.O. All throughout the trip, I was totally amused by the music almost always everywhere. The best was the one in front of Eiffel tower, enjoying the music and lying just below Eiffel on the green grass of Champ de Mars with finest of French wines, oh no .. it was the live performance up above Sacre-Coeur, or no..the one near Opera .. *huh I soo can't seem to pick one>
World's best shopping destination:
We had been to Galeried Lafayette, one of Paris's old department stores which dominated Bouvelard Haussmann grandeur. There were top designer collections for men and women, gourmet food shopping, home design, jewelry and even hardware was a labyrinth of consumer delights. It should look even more beautiful in the winter months I think, with these "grands magasins" decked with lights and holiday decors. There is also this Panorama terrace which we can access through the mall itself. I spent hours in the perfume section - I seem to never get bored of adding up a new fragrance to my closet :D! We were roaming the mall, baffled by its beauty and went up to the panoramic view, chilling with the ice-creams and refreshments available in a small cafe up above.
It's impossible not to fall for that sheer beauty that emanates from every brick this city was built on. I kept going back every day, sometimes even twice a day, only to Eiffel! I went yet again last August, and I can't wait to go again. I know most of my acquaintances who book a package for three days and try to see the highlights of Paris, but then I feel you definitely need more time than that - say, atleast five days: to see the bare minimum of what this City of Lights can give you, and why it sure is called The Romantic City! There are tons of monuments, museums or squares still on the list. Whoever tells you "I've seen it all in Paris" is just lying. That's simply impossible, the city will always surprise you! :)