Tuesday, August 26, 2008

One go Paris

What do I say about my weekend in Paris that would do it justice?

I’ve been to Paris only once before. Exactly 7 years ago to the month, with V, even then on a train, although it was nothing like the Eurostar. It was an overnight train journey in a train exactly the 3 tier Indian railways, with their rexine berths. We shared our compartment with a gaggle of Japanese people, small and precise in their movements and speech. In Paris we stayed at a friends empty Bastille flat, were joined by V’s eldest brother and wandered around in cabs and the rare metro, ticking off the most basic sights in our 3 short days: mona lisa and venus de milo at the Louvre, Champs Elysee with it’s Arc de Triomphe, a boat ride down the Seine with view of the Notre Dame and climbing to the very top of the Eiffel Tower to have our picture taken by a very friendly Bengali man. We bought our way into a packed Moulin Rouge where I got very drunk on a bottle of Champagne while watching the can-can. I remember the cab ride home way past midnight with a Sri Lankan cabbie who insisted on showing us ‘Diana’s tunnel’ and the beautifully lit up Eiffel. We stood in wonder watching as its lights went off for the night. I remember nothing till nearly midday next day when I got up and wandered around the markets of Bastille with my head threatening to explode all over the pretty stalls of artisan food.

As we prepared for this weekend I pulled out my scrapbook/ album (which has not been updated since Madrid in 2005 {I better get to it!}) and looked back at our pictures from that trip. We look so different, younger of course but that’s not what I mean. We look more unsure, not quite certain how we got there together, our smiles broad as can be as we realise that this IS OUR WONDERFUL LIFE. LOOK AT HOW LUCKY WE ARE? WE ARE IN PARIS! You can see it in our eyes. That melded joy and innocence. After years of traveling/ living alone on work abroad here was the sudden broadening of our lives together. We had had a few magic days in Florence before, just V & I, but this was more. Wandering with V’s brother, in my mind an acceptance of me into their tight-knit hilarious ranks. It was a memorable trip, it still makes me smile.

Now I feel more jaded, older and in more comfortable skin. Well traveled by my own standards. But I never went back to Paris. Not once in all these years of living in London. Not once in the many many times that V has gone on work. When V suggested it last month, it suddenly felt like the right time.

So on Saturday, after a rather early morning nearly empty tube ride to central London, we were quickly checked-in and security checked and walking to our coach under the St.Pancras domes. Two&abit hours on the Eurostar later we were at the fabulous Gare du Nord, buying a carnet of tickets to navigate the metro. We checked into our room with high ceilings, its tall windows flooded by sunlight in a quiet street just off the glitzy shops of the Place Vendome. We walked a few minutes away to a lovely buzzy square (recommended by real people on Trip Advisor) with loads of little café’s to eat in for our first Parisian meal. We had a big spread which in its many forms was all bread and cold meats and coffee and milk which suited us fine. Then we walked from our hotel up toward the Arc de Triomphe, sitting on a bench by the Avenue des Champs-Élysées for a break. And then back along the river towards the Eiffel Tower. We wandered below the looming tower and then ice cream in (his) hand we found ourselves a quiet bench to sit on. A wander through a local supermarket for some water and then we headed back for an afternoon nap – a luxury not to be found even on a slow London afternoon.

Refreshed for a night out we legged it to see where Nicholas Sarkozy and his bride live (impressive) and then on to our dinner reservation at La Cantine du Fauberg. We had a long and splendid dinner in this beautiful basement restaurant, surrounded by tables of glamourous people, listening to French music. Then we wandered back towards the Eiffel to see it lit up at night. The Champs-Élysées was jam-packed with tourists whom we left behind as we turned onto a side road and wandered to the river to Eiffel watch. It was blue. Nice but not fabulous. A cup of coffee at a nearby café rounded off a long evening of our long first day.

On Sunday we took the train to the suburb of Bercy, which is home to the relatively new Frank Gehry designed building for La Cinémathèque Française, which in a cinephile’s dream city like Paris ought to be a grand building. To be honest I was more than a bit disappointed by it. I’ll put up pics later and you can make your own choice. We wandered around the Palais Omnisports and the Bercy park. Watching dogs run after balls, a group of young adults play football and a purpose built ramp park being skated and cycled on. We wandered over the up-down bridge across the Seine towards the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Then it began to drizzle so we retreated to the safety of a hot coffee in a café. When the swift drizzle abated (and V had finished reading his all important article about 3 sailors drowning – macabre material for a pleasant weekend), we walked to Cour St-Emilion which is host to Bercy Village. Cour St-Emilion and Bercy are lovely, with wide streets lined by stone houses and modern flats. Bercy Village is a set of old wine warehouses that has been converted into a shopping village with swanky shops lining two sides of a short gated cobbled street. We wandered in and out of shops including the divine O&Co where I had to get V to physically restrain me from buying my weight in olive oil and related products. Found an Alsacien place and proceeded to devour an overly chees-y flammenkuche. V pronounced it ‘OK, but not as good as in Alsace or even as good as the Heidelberg one’.

A bit more of a wander and then we took the metro to Absesses, from where we climbed the 225 stairs up to Basilique du Sacré-Cœur instead of taking the funicular. Relished the view for a few moments and then walked down the terrace steps amidst the swarming tourists and souvenier sellers of Montermarte. Walked down through Pigalle and Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, the tourists thinning till we were once again on abandoned, quiet streets. And then just as suddenly we were in tourist centric Opera again.

That evening we went to Cite for a meal. We ignored a recommendation and chose a small middle-age knights themed restaurant. Not a great choice for either food or ambiance. A bite from V’s chocolate crepe while walking to Notre Dame was worth it though. Notre Dame was gorgeous, lit up against the fading light, each of its facades more beautiful and ugly than the next. It’s a strange building, impressive in its scale and minute in intricate design, and both beautiful and ugly in equal measure. We sat in the square in front for a while, enjoying each others company while watching the camera flashes punctuate the falling darkness. Then we walked through the busy Latin Quarter for which I did not much care. We got stuck in the rain on our journey back and got soaked in the 2 minute run from station to hotel, hand in hand.

On Sunday we drank coffee and had a croissant at the Partie de Campagne near us, whom I love all the more for their cute bee theme (when I put up my birthday gift post you’ll see why). Then we wandered to the Opera (which was swarming with tourist buses of Indian people) and then on to the Galleries Lafayette. The Galleries Lafayette is like Selfridges, brand after brand strutting around for attention and money. We did not pass go, or collect $200, instead we went straight to the food hall and bought cheese, mustard, wine and almond biscuits. Then we were off with our bags to a friends’ light and airy flat in Republique. Lunch with her at a delicious Tapas place (yes I know that's Spanish food - its just made for a refreshing change!) close by and a walk along the Canal St. Martin to a local coffee place before it was time to head back to London.

We had a packed weekend of doing nothing but wandering and taking in everything without any of the fuss of tickets, queues or waiting times. With its lovely (if unprouncable) French accent and beautiful shuttered window buildings Paris is a feast for both ears and eyes. We walked a lot, hand in hand, grinning and talking like teenagers again, taking random pictures and indulging myself in self portaiture. We lingered on park benches and in café’s - reading, listening to music and talking animatedly about life and our plans for the future. We smiled a lot, our innocent youths seemingly given back for this short interlude.

No matter what I write I can’t describe how much fun this trip was. I want to come back and read this post when I feel low or old. But really, no words can do it justice, and so I hope instead that when I do come back to read it I can manage to conjure up this feeling.

13 comments:

  1. Post pictures! Sounds beautiful and romantic!

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  3. Excellent. Good read resulting from a good trip. Pictures would be great to see.

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  4. Anonymous7:29 PM

    Very nice

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  5. Paris is the perfect place for a relaxed weekend. Your weekend made me so nostalgic. sigh!

    I love your idea of coming back to this post when you are down or low. I should nominate one such post on my blog too.

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  6. Oh wow! I went there when I was 17 with my parents. Needless to say, it doesn't count... :(

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  7. Anonymous5:40 AM

    Pea: Spooky. We recently went back for a weekend after quite a few years. Needless to say ... I loved it just as much. It is definitely my favourite city... don't think I can ever get bored of Paris!

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  8. Nice! You do live life king-size, don't you? Sounds like you had a great time. Pics? Wish I could spend a weekend in Paris. Or anywhere away from home :(

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  9. Awww...How sweet it all sounds!Did V take "the most perfect pic of Eiffel Tower" for you ??!!! Hehehehe.And yes, flammkuchen can never be as good as the one in Heidelberg..it's the company, you see:)))

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  10. You're making me nostalgic. It's been a while since we went to Paris...

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  11. Anonymous12:33 AM

    Ooo...I want to go back to Paris too. Jane Sunshine

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  12. Iz and Parth: Your expectations are high! I still haven't even posted my india pictures from, um, 6 months ago....Ok, Ok, I will try. I cannot promise, but I will try.

    MG: Very!

    Chakli: Nominate one now. I've nominated two actually. I should put them in my side-bar....

    Ro: No it still counts, though not as a romantic getaway!

    Pea: Write already woman!!!!

    Ceekay: We had a super time. Pics...see above...

    B: Of curse he did, although he was wilting in the heat a little and I kept snatching the camera our of his hands and making him do self-portraits which he hates!

    Mallika: Well, impiration is always the basis for a trip no?

    Jne: What can I say but go go go...!

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