PARadise It iS

For all my readers who dint quite understand my effort to show the name of the place by capitalizing the letters in the title, I shall make it simple.. PARIS it is :)

Paris, formerly known as Paname in the mid 19th century, is the capital of France and one of the biggest metropolitan cities in the world and in Europe specifically. I will surely not be wrong when I say that it IS definitely everyone’s MUST VISIT destination!

While some people save this place for their honeymoon destination and few others for their summer vacation, we saved it for no reason :) As we booked the tickets well in advance (only to be sure we get the tickets & decent hotels at a good deal) , the only work for us now was to pack our bags and board the train! Thalys it was :)

A definite thing which we wanted to do was to go to Paris and to go by Thalys :) Though we chose Comfort 2 tickets, it was definitely a comfortable journey. We could also connect to wi-fi with costs as low as 13 euros for unlimited access time! However, first class would fetch us a muffin and some snacks + wi-fi for free :)

Many parents, friends and relatives had come to the station – some to see the Thalys I guess, and some others to wish Bon Voyage to their dear ones :) It was surely a nice feeling to see so many people so eager to go on this train :) Was it “Paris calling“or Thalys train which made them all this excited, I still wonder :)

We had an amazing journey from Cologne to Paris (Cologne is the start point of Thalys, though there are odd hour trips which start from Düsseldorf). The train is so fast that the scenery outside our windows seems to be flipping faster than the wink of an eye! I remembered the school game of drawing pictures on different pages and creating a manual animation effect by flipping the pages fast :)

As we reached Gare du Nord station of Paris, the facts that we saw on the net became vivid to us :) “Gare du Nord – the busiest station in Europe“, indeed!

Though the official language is French, it is really not difficult to manage with English. So with ease, we enquired about the transport passes, museum pass and about tour guide booklets at the station’s information center. There are multiple options to choose from – day passes to 3,4 or 5 day transport pass. It is definitely a great buy since it saves our time from repeated ticket purchase on consequent days! And from here, we took the bus and headed to our hotel.

Parisian hotels have one thing in common – small rooms! Thanks to the crowd in the city which leaves no option but to build small rooms to accommodate the swarming tourists :) However, we still managed to get a good deal and booked a hotel with very decent room and breakfast package !

All this was the prologue to my actual content. Now, quickly I will lay down our itinerary here:

Day 1: Check in to the hotel. Rest for a while. Head out to explore the hotel surroundings. Some shopping.

Day 2: Disneyland, Paris. Be back by 6 pm. Freshen up. Head out for some shopping and dining

Day 3: The museums Louvre, Musee d’Orsay. Go on top of the Arc de Triomphe. Go to Champs Elyses street. Some shopping

Day 4: Notre dam church, Saint Chapelle, a Seine river cruise, Le Pantheon . Some Shopping

Day 5: Palace of Versailles. Back by 6 pm. Eifel tower in the night. Some shopping

Day 6: Montmatre- Sacre Coure, and left over shopping :)

Inspite of the brow raising “Six day trip in Paris” , our itinerary has still fit in only 2-3 museums of the many in this city of museums and palaces (I am not wrong when I named Paris that way, am I?)

Paris city is rich in its culture, heritage and the way the monuments of past is still maintained to glorify the city it is today. With our itinerary in place, we began our tour.

This post will surely not be sufficient to explain everything we did, everyday. But I will surely give the highlights of some places I loved the most.

Louvre Museum– For those of you have read the Da Vinci Code or watched the movie, this place aint anything unknown. And for all others too, this isn’t some name you are hearing for the first time! Yes, this is the famous museum which houses the glass pyramid.

Louvre museum

Apart from the fact that Louvre is one of the biggest museums in the world, it also takes credit for being the most visited art museum in the world! Formerly, this was a palace – the Louvre palace. As we neared the museum, and as the first glimpse of the museum fell on my eyes, with no control on myself, I literally jumped with joy!

It is stretch across a vast area with an amazing landscape surrounding it- a beautiful garden in front of it, across the road which only adds more glory to this magnificent edifice. With its exteriors this great, I could manage to imagine how its interior exhibits could be :)

The Mona Lisa, the nude statue of Venus & the great Sphinx are mostly the things that people look out for in this museum. However, to give you an idea, you can find art, sculptures, antiquities of the civilizations which spanned from the east to the west, etc – literally anything that you name! The Egyptian, Roman & Greek antiquities & sculptures caught my attention more than others, for no particular reason!

Mona Lisa

Venus statue

In my honest opinion, there are several other beautiful paintings which are much better than the Mona Lisa which are less or never noticed in the urge to see the MONA LISA. But yeah, the claim to fame of this master piece is an evergreen & debatable topic :)

Musee d’Orsay – The less hyped, fantastic museum is not too far away from the Musee du Louvre. It is mostly a house of the French art work. It is said that it was formerly a railway station , Gare du Orsay.

This museum houses the works of several artists, who probably, can be called the Tier 2 artists, only a relative term I use on the basis of the hype :) This museum is a vast one, however not as vast as the Louvre. Yet, I loved every exhibit here since they are more eye catchy and modern. The themes are also different compared to the exhibits in the Louvre. It is surely not “Ah, yet another art museum”. The flavour of art here is definitely different from that in Louvre. To tell you, when you visit the Louvre, you kinda feel like you are in those ancient civilizations and living in those times.. But in the Orsay, you feel younger because the art is relatively newer :)

Arc de Triomphe – It is a look-alike of our India gate , no doubt and is erected for a similar reason – a war memorial. It honors those who died in the French revolution & the Napoleonic wars. It houses the names of each of those who died in these wars. It is a 50m tall structure with about 323 steps which lead you to the top from where you can get a panoramic view of the entire city of Paris. The Arc de Triomphe faces the Champs Elyses street – a street where all the top brands have a store and is definitely a shopper’s paradise :)

Arc de Triomphe

Palace of Versailles – is a huge palace which is about 20 km away from the heart of the Paris city. Being located outside the zone 3 (in the transport terms of Paris), it necessitates you to buy separate tickets to get there. Known for its beautiful botanical garden and musical fountains , this palace covers area more than the Louvre Museum. Hence, it requires that you carry with yourself maximum energy and enthusiasm to see every nook and corner of this never-ending stretch of land :)

Palace of Versailles

Botanical garden, Palace of Versailles

It is like a village in itself – having palaces (mini) scattered in different directions & large areas covered densely with tall trees and green grass. What I loved the most was the sparkling waters of the pond which is laid in the centre of the garden. I guess I have no words to exactly describe my feelings after I saw the pond there :)

Some facts about this place – it was the home of king Louis XIV, who lived here with his wife and daughters. The palace shows some original and other restored artifacts and paintings of the royal family – each one neatly laid in the rooms of the respective inmates. This was also formerly the centre for political powers in France (in 16th century).

Another interesting thing is that you can see the virtual tour of this palace in Google Art Project @

Disneyland, Paris – Ever since I was a tiny toddler, I wished to go to the Disneyland. And, in this trip, my wish was fulfilled :) From Paris city, we need to travel about 45 mins to reach to Disneyland – which has an exclusive (last) stop for itself. Needless to say how big it was!

The Disneyland is divided into 2 parks and one Disney Village which has only restaurants. The 2 parks are – one which has the Disney Studio and the other which has the Disney theme park.
The Disney studio park has everything related to animation and movie making – basically all the behind the scenes stuff. And, the Theme park has all recreational stuff – including the Disney Castle. Now, till March 2012, there is a carnival going on in Disneyland. And on each day end, there is a show or a parade with all the Disney characters. It is surely a must visit place in Paris (of course, if you havent been to the Disney parks elsewhere in the world).

Disney Castle

My childhood friends- Mickey, Mini, Donald, Goofy, Aladdin, Jasmine, the Little Mermaid, the Lion King – everyone was there and I relived my childhood as I saw all of them under one roof!

Mickey & Mini in the parade

Snow white & the 7 dwarfs

Walt Disney & MIckey

Genie

Some of the rides like “It is a small world!“, and the “Pirates of Caribbean” are must go things to catch a glimpse of the amazing layout and set up done by the Walt Disney studios.

The entire day – from 11 in the morning to 11 in the night was spent wonderfully in the Disney park, with a memorable Magical Moments with Mickey and his friends show to close the day!

Eiffel tower– The 324 m tall tower is one of the 7 wonders of the world and the iconic structure of France. It is the most popular and most visited tourist attraction in Paris. This classic structure’s view is breath-taking, particularly when seen in the evening when it is all lit up. It looks so decked up and gorgeous that it doesn’t let the cameras stop clicking :)
We ascended the tower and went to the top of it at around 11 pm. It was chilly on top and was getting difficult to take pictures. When I walked around there catching a glimpse of the night view of Paris city, I felt like the stars had now come down to earth! The entire city was glittering with the well lit lights and it simply looked marvelous.

Eiffel tower

From the top, through the telescope, we could spot some of the Parisian attractions – the Le Pantheon, the Arc de Triomphe and the beautiful aerial view of the several bridges across the river Seine.
There is a small bar counter on the top of the Eiffel, and we saw many enthusiasts raising a toast – celebrating as if they had conquered the world :) I felt nothing less than that !

Our trip was almost as in the itinerary, sans the exaggerated Shopping part which was my addition to the list :) We bought some souvenirs and some classic photos of Paris..

“…the whole of Paris is a vast university of Art, Literature and Music…it is worth anyone’s while to dally here for years. Paris is a seminar, a post-graduate course in Everything.” James Thurber

Well, nothing to disagree in the above quotation! It is indeed a paradise for artists, a home for literates & a museum by itself!

Our trip was almost as in the itinerary, however, sans the exaggerated Shopping part :)

14 Comments

  • Mahesh Semwal says:

    Once again with a beautiful / colourful / informative post. The entrance of Palace of Versailles was amazing.

    Your post will be a great help for the follow Ghumakkars.

  • Virag Sharma says:

    You missed Opera House Musee da Army , Moulin Rouge ….. :). 1-2 Day not enough to see all section of Louvre , at least week needed. Nice highlight.

  • Archana says:

    Virag,
    We have actually seen nothing in Paris in spite of the 6 day trip!! The city needs multiple visits and then probably we can claim to have seen a part of it :)
    We have combined a lot of things in our trip. Infact, I got the idea later that we should do “food trip”, “museum trip”, “Shopping trip” and the like , which gives us time for one thing at a time!!
    What do you suggest?

    • Virag Sharma says:

      Agree , Paris need multiple visit, specially for art, history and wine. Food and shopping are side by side activity of any tour. Honestly not found Paris great for food because am pure Veg and had hard time to get food :-) , but enjoyed roadside cafe very much.

      • Archana says:

        True Virag.. Being a completely vegetarian myself, I faced similar hardship :) The savior was the panini , crepes etc street food :)
        The vendors near the Eiffel tower especially served good quick-grab stuff!!

  • Vibha says:

    I don’t know whether I’ll be able to visit Paris in the near future so I thank you Archana for taking us there. I have always heard that if you do not know French, it is difficult to travel in France. Am glad to know that it is not the same case in Paris. Perhaps it is because of all the tourists. About Mona Lisa, I frankly have failed to observe anything out of ordinary about the painting so far. perhaps, it is because of my limited knowledge of arts. But it is true that a lot of great paintings get overlooked because of Mona Lisa.

    Clever use of capitalization in the title. And a very engaging post with beautiful supporting pictures. Thanks once again.

    -Vibha

  • Archana says:

    Thanks Vibha!
    Anyone with the slightest taint of art with them will opine like you and me! I will agree with you that several art masterpieces get overshadowed because of the hyped works like the Mona Lisa.

    And yes, I hope that you find a chance to (re-) visit Paris, ASAP!

  • AUROJIT says:

    Hi Archana,

    Thanks for elucidating on this very desired, yearning to go to, destination of ours.

    I had a notion that Parisians are not wont to English normally.

    It is quite an educating post –

    Compliments,
    Auro

  • Nandan says:

    Colorful and fun. Thank you Archana for taking us to Paris and beyond. There is not a lot of Euproean tales at Ghumakkar so double thanks.

    I have never been there so no first hand experience but I also heard that Paris is not a very tourist friendly (safe) place. This doesn’t take anything away from the beautiful sights and the marvelous art scene but caution is warranted. Any thoughts on that ?

    Thanks again for the lovely pics.

  • Archana says:

    Hello Nandan,
    Thanks for the appreciation!
    What you have heard about the safety issues in Paris is partially right. Partially because, it is not that bad either :)
    Even we were told that Paris isnt too safe.. And were alerted to be back to the hotel before 10 pm (max). This is all because of the theft & pick-pocketting seen in the city – in metro stations & on the lonely roads.. The atmosphere was a bit eerie for us in the metro stations because it was really desserted .
    A word of caution for all the travellers will be to hold their belongings safely in their purse/bag – particularly their passports and credit cards, and to move in groups rather than to go alone anywhere.
    Though language isnt much of a problem, we can still be misled, you never know! So, alertness is always a handy thing!

  • Naveena Israni says:

    Dear Archana,

    Quite an engaging post! I visited Paris a few months ago, but I personally found Frenchmen to be quite rude and snooty. In fact, most of them stubbornly refuse to speak English even if they know the language! So I was quite surprised by the ease with which you seem to have communicated with them. Guess you were quite lucky :-)

    Regards,
    Naveena

  • Silentsoul says:

    Very good post ! thanks

    But I must tell all would-be visitors that after Rome, Paris is second dangerous place, specially for Indian tourists. Pickpocketing, baggage loot, cheating at pubs and robberies are very common.

    I remember a couple from Faridabad, begging people to help them, when their suitcase was robbed at the Charles D’gaule airport. Poor fellow had no money left to go to hotel or to the Embassy to ask for help. I had to take him to the Embassy in my car and given a night’s shelter.

    My own colleagues were robbed of their cameras at Barbes. Two guys by spraying a gas on their face, fled with their video cameras and a purse.

    Similar it is in Rome. When we Indians reach Europe, we think we have got to heaven… but wait.. Delhi and Mumbai are far safer than many European capitals, despite our bad reputation.

    One should be very careful, if they are not with a group

    thanks for sharing

  • Silentsoul says:

    And for veggies… there are at least 35 Indian restaurants /take away’s in Paris who cook veg food also… Rajma, Kadi, Pakode etc etc

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