March 30, 2010

Travelogue – Paris

The best data I lost from my blog was the travelogue. I had a detailed travelogue on Paris and Berlin. Luckily since I imported the posts to Facebook, I could retrieve the data from the travelogues (not the pics). So, here is the Paris day-to-day travelogue…btw the trip was in December 2008.

Paris Trip Day 0 – The Journey Commences

Blogging from the hotel in Paris..

First things first – Mom, Shilpa – I am fine, reached safely to the hotel. (They will be following my trip through my blog!)

Eiffel Tower clip_image001

It was a mind boggling day as my head is bombarding from inside..I am feeling that some one is playing a 10000 Watts music in the head. Partly because I couldn’t eat enough to sustain the entire day of my travel and partly because of the flight travel. The flight from Frankfurt to Paris was more like a roller coaster ride.

I started from office at 3: 15 PM and came to Korsvagen and took the Landvetter airport bus. After shelling out 75 SEK for the ticket, I reached the airport in just about 20 min. For this 20 min journey the taxis charge a sum of 500 SEK. Compared to this the Airport bus is a much viable option. Ok, after I reached the airport I had just about 1 hr to board the flight. Gothenburg, being a small city (though 2nd largest in Sweden) had less number of travelers which made my travel and the routines of air travel appear less rigorous. I got my foreign exchange in Euros and then got my luggage checked in.

After the most important thing of checking in the luggage without any hassles, I got my tax refund amount on the Canon XSi camera which I bought on my birthday. All non EU residents can avail this facility of TAX REFUND where the VAT that is charged as a a part of the price tag of a product, is refunded to you while leaving the EU region. You can get the amount in any currency you want.

The flight started at sharp 5:10 PM local time and reached Frankfurt in 1 hr 50 min. It was almost 7 PM, by the time I reached the next terminal. Frankfurt airport is good but it did not impress me as much as the Amsterdam one did 7 months back. But you get all that you’d expect of an International airport. The German culture becomes apparent in couple of minutes in the airport and the first sight of that for me was huge beer glasses in cafes all round :) .

I had 45 min to get freshen up and have some snacks before I board the connecting flight from Frankfurt to Paris. Being Tuesday I was a vegetarian, so just had a  Foccacia Mozzarella and a Cappuccino. Little did I know that it would be my entire dinner :(

The flight from Frankfurt to Paris took some 50 min and it was not a smooth one. Paris stuck me first time with its illumination when the flight was lowering down. The entire Paris was bedazzled in lights and it was looking like a collection of millions of fireflies that gathered together.Anyways, the flight touched down at around 9:30 and by the time we collected out check in baggage, it was 10:00 PM.

My accommodation is at St.Christopher's hostel and we had to get there by tram and metro. I took a Airport Shuttle which looked like a 22nd century future travel machine, and got down at Terminal 3. There I took a ticket for one way journey from Charles De Gaulle to Paris (RER + Metro) which cost around 8.4 Euros. So got that ticket along with a Mini plan which consists of the entire Tram and Metro lines network. The RER, going to St. Remy, took around 25-30 min to get me to Gare du Nord Station which was my link between the RER and the metro. We got down at Gare du Nord station and moved down to M5 platform to catch the Line 5 towards Bobigny-Pablo-Picasso. It was after 8 min, that we got into the tram and we got down at the Lumiere station. The Inn was at a walk able distance from the station.It was already 23:00 and the only thing that worries me was that I was carrying more than enough money in my pockets and the roads were eerily calm. But thanks to the directions we had with us, we reached the hostel less than 10 min and safely :) Least did I expect that there was a surprise in store for me ;)

After waiting at the reception for 10 min and in spite of booking well in advance, the hostel crew over booked and as a result they ran short of rooms for us. Luckily, they had an agreement with the Holiday Inn Express Hotel just beside them, so we were given the rooms there. It was more like an upgrade from Economy class to Business class. Even then it has its pros and cons:

  • The rooms which we got actually cost 160 Euros per night. We paid 100 Euros.
  • We can access the features of both the hotels..can have two breakfasts :)
  • The Luxury of a Hotel and the social interaction of a hostel.

We are planning to cover important attractions tomorrow. And in the evening we have booked a Christmas dinner and party at St. Christopher's.

 

Day 1 – Notre Dame and Tour Eiffel

Lack of sleep for 2 continuous days made me sleep like a sleeping beauty ;-) I thought of starting the tour as early as possible but by the time I got up it was almost 10:00 in the morning. But thanks to the sleep, my head felt lighter than the day before. I got up not because of any alarm but the room service maid entered my room with her master key!!! I don’t know if thought something might have happened as I was opening the door, little did she knew of my soouunndd sleep :-)

The hotels in Paris give you a complimentary breakfast which hardly breaks the fast, but atleast assists us till we have any other meal. The hotel where I stayed was serves breakfast from morning 7 to 11. I went down right in time time to catch a bite which consisted of 3 different kinds of bread (dumped in a basket) butter, ghee, jam, yogurt along with coffee. After the breakfast, I started off to the city. The best way to roam in Paris is by Metro and if you don’t know where and how to go, just take the Orange Carte pass in any of the main stations. The Orange Carte is valid for one week, typically from Monday to Sunday, covers all the buses, metros and RER. There are different combinations, like only Paris or Paris and Disney Land, which are priced accordingly. I took an only Paris pass which cost me 16.8 Euros. Try this, any single journey from one point to other costs you 1.6 Euros. So, you pay for 10 trips but can go unlimited number of times in that weeks time.

I took a single journey ticket to Gare du Nord for 1.6 Euros, and took an Orange Carte pass valid for one week. One irony I faced here is that even in the information centre, the people hardly speak english. Anyways, it was a bit easy after I got the pass as I can get on any metro i want and get down if its not right..a good way to know the city :)

From Gare du Nord, I went to Pont Neuf, where the famous Pont Neuf bridge is located and the islands are located. I headed directly to Notre Dame Cathedral.

The Miniature version of the Cathedral

It was breathtaking – the Gothic Architecture and the presence of the cathedral is so imposing. First took some pics of the Cathedral and then went inside, there were summons going on inside and we were not supposed to disturb that. All the tourists are required to remove their head wear before entering and no photography (but all were taking pics as they liked) I got a mini guide book and went on the Cathedral taking some pics at some good places. The bronze Crucifix and the gold cross are the most striking must see things of the Cathedral. I couldn’t climb up the cathedral as the entry was closed. Will cover that in the coming days. Took some pics there in front of the Virgin Mary and the flying Buttresses and that as the weather was pleasant, I thought of completing the Eiffel Tower, so off I went to the tower.

The Eiffel tower was simply magnificent…France is the head of the European Union, so the entire tower is drenched in blue lights and the torso of the tower bears the stars of the EU.

I took the ticket till the top floor. We have to go till he second floor and then from there should change the lift. I was already starving, so as soon I reached the 2nd floor, I went inside and had a Cappuccino, Eggs and  Bacon. After the small bite, I went on to the deck and took some pics of the beautiful Paris city from the 2nd floor of the Eiffel Tower. After some 15 min of waiting in the line to go up, I got my chance.In the top floor, the distance from that point to the to various Cites. I saw Hyderabad, Bangalore, Delhi etc

After the Eiffel tower, I started to my hostel and on the way, in the metro met a Tamil guy. The Tamil guy who sat beside me, suggested me an area where where I can find some Indian restaurants. Off I went there and found that the area should be named after India, coz its like being in India.

After the dinner, just came back to the hotel and slept. One thing that I have realized is that I don’t have stamina like those of Westerners'. Backpacking for me is long way ahead.

 

Day 2 – The Walking Tour and Champs Elysees

After just one day I realised that this is not going to be that easy like a trip in India. Here you have to walk a lot to get the feel and vibe of the city and walking is the one thing we Indians do not tend to do much. 6 Months of Sweden and walking there I could do bit ok but not to the fullest – still a long way to become a backpacker.

The Louvre clip_image001[12]

I took the free walking tour as it was Xmas and most of the locations will be closed. The walking tour is a great chance to get the gist of the places you can cover and some historic significance. It’s like a preview of the places. You can pick the places which interest you more or the places you want to dig in more and come at a later time to see them. The walking tour is also a great ice breaker, you get a chance to meet fellow travelers and the guide makes you play some games to initiate interaction.

We met at St.Michel, a big fountain with a history behind it.  From there we caught a Metro and went to the Islands. We went to the Pont Neuf and the places near to that. After a brief history of France in about 10 min under the Pont Neuf bridge, I slightly understood the importance of the bridge and the faces that were chiseled on that. After the history we were told about the curse of the temple of knights. We walked along the notable places while learning about their significance from the guide. We walked over the wooden bridge over the Seine and reached the Louvre. Being Xmas, the Louvre was closed, so we just walked past along the Great Axis through the Tuleries (not sure of the spelling!!) gardens and the Musee de Orsay (even it was closed!!). Then we walked along the Champ Elysees and reached the Palais de Royale and the Petit Palais which were once the execution cells. The walking tour came to an end here and so was my energy. I was totally sapped even when the tour was for just 2 hours. After the tour, I continued my walking along the Champs Elysees seeing all the hustle of the Christmas Markets. When I walked up the road towards the Arc de Triomphe, I saw the Head Quarters of leading Brands of the Fashion World. I could see the Arc de Triomphe from a distance and it was much like the India Gate at a first glance. As I neared it, I realized why it was so famous. The sheer size of the Arc moves you. After seeing the amazing monument for some time from a distance, I started realizing how hungry I was. I just had a light breakfast which hardly broke the fast and then I walked almost 4 hours. I started to see for some cafes on the Champ Elysees, when I realized that it was a Thursday and I was again a vegetarian :-(

I went into McDonalds but could hardly find any vegetarian stuff there and the mad rush there made the task of asking the boys there impossible. So what did I do? back to La Chapelle. I got the taste of South Indian Cuisine after 7 months. So it was hard to resist not going there again. The fact that I can have only vegetarian stuff made it more compelling ;-)

 

After the Lunch cum snacks I went to the room and thought of going to the evening tour of Montmartre. So after going to the room I had a nap, little did I know that the small nap would indeed be long one. After getting up and realizing that I wouldn’t be doing much today, I just went to the Belushi’s Cafe and just lazed out the time.

So, thus was my day 2 in Paris. Till now I covered:

  • Eiffel Tower
  • Notre Dame – 80%
  • St. Michel
  • Pont Neuf
  • Tuleries gardens
  • Palais de Royale & Petit Palais
  • Champs Elysees – in day
  • Arc de Triomphe – 10%

 

Day 3 – Notre Dame (Stairs), Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees (lights)

After a good rest the previous night(thanks to the Belushi’s cafe :)) I was again ready for a good walk. After finishing the same breakfast (Did I tell what my breakfast was? It was bread, butter, cheese, jam, milk, orange juice, 3 types of flakes (corn, chocolate, don’t know the other one) and coffee) by 10:30, I went directly to Notre Dame as I could not climb up the stairs to have a good look of the city. So thought of finishing up that as soon as possible and strike off that from my list. Could do that after an hour.But I also realised that it was not that worthy to shell out 7.5 Euros to go up..I read that there were some 400 steps..didn’t get a chance to count though ;-) The view was good.The pic beside shows the blend of past and present of Paris. It includes the Eiffel tower and the new sky scrapers. Also the another striking feature which is worth the money you spend is the large bell and the gargoyles that stand up there.

The Gargoyles on the Cathedral

After coming down conquering the Notre Dame and have a sandwich, I moved directly to Arc de Triomphe to complete that as well. The Arc de Triomphe is at the centre of six ways making it the point of intersection of six busy streets. So we have an underground channel to reach the Arc. The ticket costs 9 Euros for an Adult. The first thing that we notice in the arc is the flame of the unknown soldier. The flame is lighted every evening at 6:30 and it commemorates the sacrifices of the French Soldiers in the War. After capturing the Arc from different angles I went up the Arc where I could see the remains of some of the statues and the history of the Arc. There were huge screens set up for the history and one could learn the importance of the Arc in the French History by spending some 10 minutes at the screens. It shows why the Arc was built, the important events that happened near the arc and the leaders who visited the Arc. One thing which really impressed me was a miniature version of the Arc with screening capacities. There is a mini Arc standing on a revolving dais and a handle for the same in the same shape to revolve that. As we revolve the Arc, a small block of light focuses on the Arc and the details of the focussed part are reflected on to the screen in front of us showing the carvings and their significance. It is indeed a great way to learn the details of the Arc without any guide.

Arc de Triomphe

After touring the Arc and taking enough pictures there, I went to nearby McDonalds for a bite. After stuffing myself with a burger and some fries, I jumped onto Champs Elysees and started window shopping. Paris is a place where you can shop and spend lavishly. You can splurge money like there’s no tomorrow. I went to the Merc and Citroen Car showrooms where they exhibited some big boys toys. I got some good pics of the Arc and the Paris wheel by standing in the middle of the road.

The Champs Elysees is a place which must not be missed. Also, it had the festive charm which poured lot more people on the road which made the road even more lively and with festive spirit. I went to the eyewear shops which hosted the likes of Armani, Versace, Police ..

Champs Elysees

One kind of shop which never went before is the self defence shop which sold a range of goods which helps in self defence, spying, mystery solving..there were secret cameras, walkies, secret mics and voice recorders, spy cam detectors, different kinds of knifes, guns, etc I spent a good amount of time there seeing the different purpose tools that were present there.

After strolling the entire length of the Champ Elysees, I went towards the Eiffel Tower to see the glittering of the tower which happens once every hour. It was a scintillating view. The entire length of the tower, immersed in blue, flickering with light.

I couldn’t get a very good shot because of the hand shake. Then I understood the importance of a tripod and a remote for my rebel. I will get them as soon as I gain a bit more proficiency in photography.

Eiffel Tower

Anyways, walking for some 10 kilometres sucked out all of my energy and I just wanted to go sleep. So, off I went to La Chappel to Anjapper hotel and had poulet(chicken) biryani and then headed back to the hotel.

Thus ended my day 3 of Paris – I covered..

  • Notre Dame – 100%
  • Champs Elysees – 100%
  • Arc de Triomphe – 100%
  • The Police Head Quarters

Day 4 to Day7

Well I did not complete the travelogue for the next three days in detail, so writing down just the highlights.

Covered the World famous Louvre especially the Monalisa, Venus de Milo and the Victory of Samothrace (my personal fav)

 Monalisa

Venus de Milo

Victory of Samothrace

I have also visited Montmartre and learnt the history of Picasso and saw the place where he lived.

Overall, the trip was a great success considering the cold weather in Paris.

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