Paris Encore

Christmas of December 2007...was an amazing experience and it was so because I was in Paris with P. We were newly married and the stars in our eyes glittered so like the gems that lit up the city of lights.When we left paris after five glorious days I could not help feeling a bit down especially at the gate of Versailles for the palace was closed for Christmas and though beautiful, I knew it would be beyond compare in spring.. P told me we would come back some time and truly I did not believe him. Life took its course and things changed. Paris or any other city in Europe became a distant dream. Then we landed in Brussels which is just 1 hour from paris but somehow things kept coming in the way and we could never finalize on our dates.About 1 month back P suddenly came upon cheap tickets by Thalys to Paris and we jumped at the opportunity, but nothing comes easy in our life and the proof of it lies in the ill timed National Strikes in France.

As the one day strike turned into two, three and more days we kept wondering if we should just cancel the trip. After much gooogling and obsessing about the strike and transport conditions we just decided to go for it and I have to say we have no regrets. The three day weekend starting on 15th was one of the best I have even had.

As the saying goes "Pehele pete poja, baki sab uske baad"( First tend to your stomach/hunger and then everything else), as soon as we touched paris and checked into our hotel we headed to Sarvana Bhawan. yay! Yes,For those who did not know Sarvana Bhawan has opened a branch in Paris very close to Gare du Nord. Its a blessing for vegetarians like us. After a yummy meal we decided to take a stroll around the Montmarte and walk our way up to the famous white-domed Basilica of the Sacré Cœur. Though at first glance this part of Paris seems dicey and full of suspicious strangers, it soon grows on you and the crowded narrow streets with dirty corners weave a charm of their own. We spent some time on the steps of the basilica reminiscing and listening to an enthusiastic singer/guitarist who persistently wooed the crowds and sang cheerful songs.

Next stop was at Louvre and I loved the place. Though the first picture that pops in anyone's mind on the mention of Louvre is of course le Jecond or Mona Lisa....the truth is I found so many other paintings more impressive than her.It is kind of anti climatic to see the painting ( rather small in comparison to the others there) hang inside a glass cover and occupy one side of the wall completely. The wall over powers the painting and detracts the beauty from it. Having said that, I must say the rest out it was amazing. I have recently developed an interest in art and the visit to Louvre made me realize that I wanted to walk the entire halls with an audio guide and spend a whole day there. Anyway during this visit we spent about 2-3 hours there and headed towards Eiffel tower and stayed put till the lights came on and everything started glittering.

Saturday dawned bright and lovely and after a good sleep we headed to Versailles.The River gauche Staion was closed and so we had to take the train to Versailles chantries which is about 20 min walk from the palace. As soon as I saw the gates of the palace, memories of a cold winter morning kept rushing back and its amazing how different a place can be when the weather is better. We took the passport ticket and proceeded to spend the whole day roaming the palace and then the gardens. The music and fountains just made the day more beautiful. Not many people do justice to gardens during their visit and I implore to people reading this post to take the day and walk around the gardens and if possible take a trek to the Queen's hamlet in the petit trinion. For those who are with children or don't fancy walking, there are electric cabs/cycles etc which can be rented by the hour. So after a successful and satisfying day out we headed to our favorite sarvana bhawan and ended the day with crispy onion rava dosia's.

Sunday was our last day in Paris and we wanted to do something different and explore some offbeat options. Provins was ideal and suited our needs beautifully. It is a medieval city and has now be selected as UNESCO heritage site.Though getting to the old city center proved to be slightly difficult since we did not have a map, it was totally worth it once we found our way. The tourist information center is located at two point both very far from the railway station! Its rather dumb that they don't give out maps at the station! Apparently there are local buses that take to the tourist center but we did not know that and hiked our way up.The city is well preserved and does indeed look medieval. Since it was of season the narrow and winding streets had a haunting feel about them. The tourists were few and we ran across a couple or family occasionally. When alone, the sudden gusts of cold wind made the whole place if there were ghosts hidden in towers and attics of the old houses.We started out from Cesar tower. We came to know that the Cesar's Tower dates back to the 12th century, but the historians are sure a tower has existed on this spot for much longer, possibly since the days of Roman rule. During medieval times the fortification served as a watchtower, prison, and refuge should the city be attacked. We waked around the various rooms before taking the winding stairs to the top of the tower. The view was Fantastic. The town and surrounding countryside in the splendor of autumn. After this we walked to the near by church, museum and generally trekked around the place.By noon our stomachs were rumbling and all that walking had tired us out. We then had crepes at a small restaurant and recharged our dulled batteries. After lunch we visited the the Tithe Barn where there are displays of various merchants and activities.( Very life like dolls) We took an guided audio tour to learn more about the them and the what went on here during the height of the Middle Ages. Other than this we did some more strolling around and taking photos before heading back to Gare du Nord . In all it was a good day but I think the place would have been wonderful in summer with the medieval fare.

In all the three days proved to be a good get away. Last time, I saw paris though a haze of red. The romance and lights caught my imagination. This time round, Paris had a more mellowed flavor but just as magical. I looked at the city douched in vibrant colors. It seemed like every facet of this vast city had its own story to tell and intermingled with all these tales was my own, a small fraction of our lives under the light of Paris...


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