Well, that's back to back travel posts right here, and I could remember nothing but Paris when P stared out from my desktop back at me this morning.
Paris happened a couple of years back, a fall out of a work trip to Amsterdam. And, I have sworn to myself I will settle down in Paris some day.
What I love most about Paris is that mix of hustle and bustle of daily life with culture and architecture peppered across the city. It is as if the Parisians know that bustle is important, but they think they may as well build a cathedral or citadel or some kind of ornamental building, while on their way to living their busy bee existence. All the press I had read about Paris had made me ready myself for a city where people didn't work round the clock, demanded wages for less work, and whiled away their time otherwise. I realised my naivety and foolishness as I stepped into the Garu de Nord station. There were the people, running about their daily tasks, and it only reminded me of our very own Churchgate or VT stations on a normal day.
I had really made the trip only for the Louvre, having read so much about the beauty of the Venus De Milo and the Monalisa. Oh, not just that, Dan Brown has imagined and created such a parallel Universe about the Louvre that I really thought I might find clues to secret passages leading me to the Holy Grail. Frankly, the Louvre was strictly ok. It is just too huge and so we had to spend half hour planning and marking out things we really didn't want to see. Trust me, no matter how much you may love museums and art, there is only so much sugar you can handle in a day!
Palace of Versailles was a one day affair. Opulence and extravagance were of course in the face but it wasn't only the opulence of the gilt-rimmed palace and the insides ripe with beautiful furniture, libraries of books and drapes from an era gone past. For me, the opulence actually came through in the large palace gardens, lush green and full of life, despite those early days of winter. The palace grounds stretch for miles around the palace and it is easy to get lost in them, sitting and writing reams and reams of poetry.
My most favorite memory from Paris though is an unplanned one. We had planned out our days for all the touristy stuff like Eiffel, Versailles, Louvre, Notre Dame etc. A colleague I met in Amsterdam added one more to my list saying, no less in her Italian accent, "It is so romantic! You should not miss it." As a result, one evening found us trudging up a short hill towards Montmartre, that houses the Basilica. Montmartre is an idyllic village up a hill, resplendent with white walled houses and a cafe alternating every house. The lanes are filled with artistes ready with pencils, waiting to draw pictures of you with the Basilica for backdrop. The Basilica itself is huge and beautiful. But, what's most alluring is the life within those cafes. I do not know whether it was the time of the day or the day of the week or whether this is how Montmartre is every single day of every single week. But, there was some beautiful live music coming out of every cafe, mixed with the tinkles of laughter. We finally found one which had some vegetarian options, but we weren't disappointed otherwise. Coupled with the live music was a happy family of father, mother, daughter and grandparents, all singing along with the music and letting themselves go.
Was I a tad jealous? I was, I was. But, I was also happy to experience pure joy, a memory that a visit to no museum can replace.
P. S. This post is the sixteenth in the A-Z blogging challenge series for April.