It was night by the time we got off at Paris after much debate as I was convinced that the announcement in the train, ‘Pariee di Nooaahha’, didn’t sound one bit like the city I intended to go to. In spite of the French and their complete disregard for phonetics just to make their language sound cute, the Metro is very comprehensible and easy to follow even for a dumbass. The precise instructions got us on the wrong train only 4 times on the first day of arrival. The bus system, I must admit is quite confusing and we used that only as a means to see the city after which we had to take the train to get to where we wanted.
‘Mmm..what do you think? You like it here? You can live here?’ Simran would spring this precise question every time we landed in a new place. This would be before we even embarked from the station, before I could even breathe the air. And I had this uncanny way of exasperating her by saying, ‘Yes of course, Lovely, isn’t it. I could live right here on his escalator. Always wanted a moving home.’ Same answer in Amsterdam, Brussels and Brugges. She never tired in trying to find out if I hated any place.
Holding up the map to locate our hotel from the Metro station was no easy feat. Follow a Street called Rue that intersects another street called Rue. ‘Hey hey, guys, I found it. Here is Rue. Come follow me.’
Thankfully the other two had higher IQ to figure that Rue means Street and if they were to follow me, we’d be going around in circles and we would get lucky if our feet gave in eventually.
The three of us had some great Japanese dinner with hot sake that put us in a nice mood. Remind me to eat some French food while I am in Japan. We had more wine while relaxing in the room where we would be reminded (by Pierre or Pyo downstairs) from time to time to keep our decibel levels a little lower and shut the eff up. Or in his dainty words- Shhhhh!
Conclusion about Paris after Day 1- If you want a quiet place to live in Paris, this hotel is it!
Took off by myself in the morning as I felt it would be prudent to leave the lovebirds by themselves in the romantic place while I could spend some quality time exploring this city alone.
‘Are you sure you’ll be fine all by yourself?’ Sims asked out of concern.
‘If I can’t deal with myself, who else will!’
I went whichever way my fancy took me. Yes, towards the Louvre. Especially since our hotel was a block away from it, it seemed the right thing to do. Wow, the Louvre looked quite grand. Took a million pictures. It looked very different from what I had envisioned. Slightly smaller and someone had stolen the glass pyramid, I concluded after walking around it. Walked inside to realize that it was the Opera House and that the Louvre was probably somewhere else intact with the Pyramid and Mona Lisa. Must remember not to mention such honest mistakes to the others. They would never believe me if I said the Opera house was worth a visit and that it was close to a lovely mall that I was intending to go to anyway.
Somehow by midday, I reached the Louvre to learn it was closed on Tuesdays (which happens to be the very day I happened to be there). So I got to see it from the outside without the bustling tourists. This time the Louvre looked every bit like I had expected it. Historic ochre monstrosity that would have been grandiose but bland if the resplendent pyramid right in front of it didn’t add a factor of surprise. Walking into this quadrangle gave the sense of being in a place that was worthy of only the royalty, of valiant heros and regal maidens…of Abishek Bacchan and Lara Dutta. The serenity of this place was shattered by loud Bollywood music. I rubbed my ears in disbelief and looked wide eyed to see a crew dancing to some song from the new blockbuster Jhoom Barabar Jhoom. I forgot all about Louvre and the Pyramid and ran with all my might towards this new Parisian Wonder. My day was made while I clicked away pictures trying to get the attention of Abishek’s make-up man. Was about to send an SMS to Narsim and Simran when I saw that I missed an SMS from them earlier- Come to the Louvre ASAP.
So they were here before me. Darn, I get no bragging rights for this one. Ms. Dutta, your clothes are going to be a rage at the red light district in Amsterdam. They'll take anything remotely from Paris. I'm so thankful for these photos, because none of the other pictures of Europe held the same sanctity for my relatives and friends back home.
Moved on to Notre Dame and came across many more majestic buildings and churches that looked as historic and important as the Louvre, but since I had no clue as to what they were, I wowed and continued my journey. That’s the thing about Paris. There is this grotesque display of history at every turn, wilting away with dignity or majestically mocking at you for not knowing what it is. A statue here, a fountain there and then you are faced with the eternal dilemma... to photograph it or not. Graciously greying without ever losing her sophistication and youthful glitter, Paris makes you fall in love. I walked along the river Seine, supposedly the most romantic walk in the whole world. I didn't pine for Luc, though I must admit it was very dreamlike. I am in head over heels in love with myself again. It was quite secluded and since the weather was wet, the book sellers that would have normally lined up their books in little green boxes had locked up and left much to my disappointment.
I crossed the river to St Louis Island (Ille de St Louis) and bought myself a pair of earrings. It’s impossible not to wander into the little stores in Paris. The women are stunning in a very casual way. The tights and boots combo that you’d see in runways and lunatics sat on these women with ease. The women are so well dressed and if I couldn’t get myself to look like that in a million years; I can at least try by buying what they wear and end up looking like the lunatic I had mentioned before. I walked in and out of book stores looking for anything English. A few hours later, I had nothing to show about Paris other than Abishek Bacchan. No museums covered, no Eiffel Tower, not even the famous sewer tour of Paris. But oddly enough, I was enjoying every minute of my time doing just this. I spent three hours in a coffee shop teaching the woman English. I know I know, I should be the one learning Bonjour, Comment Allez Vous etc…but she is the one who gets English customers. I’m here only for four days…who cares if I learn this language or not as long as I was getting my hot chocolate. She taught me a few things in French too… but seriously, what good is that now? Maybe if she had taught me how to make that lip smacking apple pie. Whoever said Parisians are snooty. They are proud, but not rude. It’s a good thing not to know the language sometimes. You can just smile when they’re ridiculing you at this store for trying out a sweater over your T-shirt. A truly general example.
It got dark and that’s when I opened the map for the first time. I had to know how to make my way back. Jeez, I had walked quite a bit around the Latin Quarter. It’d take me a while to get back to the Hotel and the thought of how much more money I would spend along the way brought in a new set of jitters. Maybe a cab would turn out cheaper than walking. Got back in time to have dinner with my friends. They had cabaret plans for the night and I declined the offer to go and see women in feathers kicking one leg in the air. On exchanging notes, by God, they had covered a lot of ground in one day. They had seen the Louvre, Notre Dame, Eiffel tower, the Grand Arch, Champs Elysees, Arc de Triomph and now they were going to this cabaret. To think my legs were aching and I was planning on retiring for the day.
‘Where did you go?’ they asked and I answered.
Going by their reaction, I might as well have said I slept in the hotel all day.