Aug 12 – 16, 2016
“You are not going to die, are you?”
This was from our pool ride driver to Dee. She was having a fitful cough all through our journey from the Orly airport to our Airbnb home. A gentleman in the pool was kind enough to translate this to English for us, we weren’t even trying to comprehend French. An uninteresting start.
We collected the apartment keys from Salim’s parents, our Airbnb host, settled our stuff and the first place we headed to was a pharmacy, definitely wasn’t something in our itinerary. The quintessential evening with brimming Parisian cafes, boulangeries and flower shops did little to elevate our spirits. Idling the streets on our way back home, we spotted this Indian restaurant – Le Palais de Raja Maharaja and were grateful for the comfort food. Though the night was restless, we were determined not to let the changing weather or our cold dampen our vacation. The fact that we could wake up to these flowers at our window and the sight of this just minutes away from our home did help!
True to our commitment to live the Parisian way these 4 days, we registered in velib for our day passes. Their website is utility at its best with stations’ map and real-time bike availability. While we were impressed by their concept, Dee was excited about biking in Paris and I was skeptical about the bike height. I at 4” 11” am very conscious about the bikes I ride. Also biking in crazy traffic wasn’t new to us, thanks to Bengaluru, we didn’t find it much of a hassle googling our way to Saint Chapelle. Long lines, but so worth it…those stained glasses…Ahem!!! 2 floors of flamboyance, the stained glasses were beautiful even in the ridiculously zoomed pictures. We were left wondering about the painstaking effort of these painters to create perfected art even when these intricacies could easily be missed by the beholders’ eyes. The light, the space, the colors in harmony with the silence of the chapel, was indeed a unique experience even amidst the tourists vying for camera angles. I think the allure to Paris is that these places have survived destruction and are living to tell their stories. On a deeper note, this probably applies to most of the historic sites.
Done gazing, we left to Notre Dame, a breezy walk along the Seine. This cathedral was in our must visit list, not merely by trip advisor recommendations, but by ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ by Victor Hugo. I haven’t read the book, but I’ve known that the plot is set here and it has a significant presence, its architecture referenced all along the story. The magnificent towers, the stained glasses, the organs, the grotesque gargoyles were quite something. And so were the long lines to enter the cathedral. We stayed long enough to attend mass and headed out for lunch to the nearby café. A subdued touch, we weren’t checking out reviews in yelp anymore.
By the time we reached Musee d’Orsay, I was cranky with my bike and Dee with me. This museum was formerly a railway station, the clock overlooking the great hall stands testimony to it I believe. I realized it here that I am the type to be awe inspired by the three dimensional depth of art, that’s what Bernini’s sculptures had done to me! Among all the masterpieces, the Monet series on Rouen Cathedral was the most interesting. Am sure, I’d be scorned for using the term “interesting” for the impressionist work of art, but that’s how I felt! We left pondering on why we both weren’t able to decipher what makes people ardent admirers of these paintings. We wrapped up our day 1 with an overcast sky.
Day 2 and we meant business, the day of the Eiffel Tower!! Few picture stops at Champ de Mars and we were standing in line with our passes to climb the tower’s stairs! The excitement there was contagious and rightly so, the tower was resplendent, and it was all ours while we were there. The panoramic views of the city, the sashaying Seine, the Lilliputian people on the ground seen from the glass floors of the observation deck, while we just couldn’t get enough of it, our lunch at the 58 Tour Eiffel restaurant was well within our budget, economical than the one we indulged ourselves at Rome’s Piazza Navona.
We descended the tower as happy souls and biked to the Musuee du Louvre! People weren’t kidding when they mentioned that the Louvre warrants multiple visits to observe all that it houses, let alone truly appreciate it. We knew we were making a futile attempt, but we were overly concerned that our Paris trip would be incomplete without it. ‘The Coronation of Napolean’ by Jacques-Louis David did the magic which ‘Monolisa’ couldn’t, the sheer size of this painting took my breath away! Thanks to the couches placed in front of it, we spent quality time listening to the audio tour. Way back home, we pampered ourselves at the Eric Kayser bakery while it was drizzling outside. Some summer :((
A trip to Paris wouldn’t count if shopping isn’t in the itinerary, so day 3 of ours was at Champs-Élysées. Few minutes was all we took to comprehend their public transportation system – the Metro and RER, no wonder Paris boasts about its efficiency! We weren’t the ones to complain about the grouchy fellow commuters, it isn’t easy to tolerate the overwhelming horde of tourists’ day in and day out, we were just smug about how we figured it all out. Cozy cardigans on, we started from the Arc de Triomphe and weaved our way through the boulevard checking out the upscale shopping stores. The entry line for the Laduree house felt like a museum one, unfortunately the macaroons didn’t live up to the hype, at least not for me, though Dee picked a dozen home. I am picky about petite sizes, thankfully Zara was a breather and the fact that we only pay what we see in the price tag was refreshing. Californians would understand the hassle of taxes 🙂
Our next stop was the much awaited one, an evening at the Eiffel Tower! While at day, the tower exemplifies magnificence with all the wrought iron, at night it transforms itself to a dazzling one. We settled at Trocadero with our cappuccinos and thank-yous, absolutely no energy or care for coffee etiquette or for the Mercis. But when the tower lit up with its golden radiance, we sat there spellbound – the fatigue of the fortnight forgotten, the regret that we couldn’t make it to Sacre Coeur insignificant, the disappointment that we didn’t pit stop at the Pont de Arts bridge for the love locks immaterial, it was just us and the Tower. We couldn’t have asked for more, it was a perfect wrap up for our vacation! Hmm… would calling this our odyssey be an exaggeration?!
The next day, we left Paris with heavier bags and lighter hearts. Goodbye hugs at Newark done!
Nothing could be more seductive than a treasure cove of rich memories. We do fantasize work sabbaticals, month long vacations, backpacks and shelter under the stars, but for the present moment we were just happy with our squeezed in holidays and airbnb rentals!!
And Dee – these memories go to our pensieve 😉