Friday, September 30, 2005

Paris - It's just magic!!

Paris – It’s just magic!!

Well, I wont leave you’ll in suspense any longer about the trip to Paris. We thought it was almost going to be called off because there was some problem with the credit card credit limit when renting the car but we just took a car from a more expensive company and headed out to Paris from Brussels. We made the drive of about 300kms in a little over 4 hours, including 2 pitstops for fuel for ourselves. At a minimum speed of 80 and a maximum of 120, we were in the slowest lane most of the time.

The roads and the highway was, as expected, excellent. The drive was very smooth and the instructions on the boards very clearly given. There are pitstops every few kilometers. And just one toll gate. And the countryside was quite scenic – so all in all it was a good drive to the Charles de Gaulle airport.

We parked the car at the airport and took a train into the city. Sunil was staying with his friends and I had to call up my Mom because she was trying to arrange accommodation for us. We got of at the Nord station and our travails started. It took us more than 20mins to find a phone booth which accepted coins and not just cards. Then our money got stuck in the phone and none of the staff at the station were helpful about it. We gave up on the phones in the train and came out of the station to look for some other pay phone outside - and the first thing that struck me about Paris was that it was like a white Calcutta – very crowded, bustling with people and vehicles, motorcycles driving crazily about, cars approaching various roads from all side, pedestrians stopping cars and crossing roads, people everywhere – it was just crazy.

In all the havoc, it took us close to half an hour to find a place from where we could call. Then we got the number of a family friend who could arrange for our stay in a guest house in Paris and even take us around the city. At that, my hopes soared and my imagination ran away. But the man was in Nigeria and we couldn’t connect to his phone and after a very frustrating hour, we ended up at a rather expensive youth hostel, dumped our bags and headed for the Eiffel Tower.

Now Paris has a very efficient and initially very confusing public transportation system. Apart from the buses, they have trams (which we haven’t seen at all), metros and a subway line called the RER. While I shall not get into the intricacies and details, the problem with this is that the metros, RER as well as the Thalys and TGV trains between cities and countries all leave from the same station, though on different levels. So we spent quite a lot of our time in Paris getting lost in the stations and trying to figure out how to get from one level to another and finally on how to exit. Luckily, we took a pass which allows unlimited travel during the day so we could afford to get lost.

Well, the Eiffel Tower is much much better than I even expected it to be. We took a lift to the top floor and I was left gasping at the view. It is truly an amazing experience and worth every single cent spent on it. I strongly recommend to everyone who reads this to make a special effort to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower – it is an experience that cannot be missed. You actually catch your breath at the view in front of you. Neither photos nor words can describe how amazing and awesome and truly magical the experience at the Eiffel Tower was.

After we came down, I just wanted to sit down by the lawn in front of the tower and keep looking at it for a while. Mind you, I think the tower per se is a very ugly structure – it is the view and the way the tower is lit up that makes it so breathtakingly beautiful. I loved Paris by night. There is something about the way the city just pulsates with life in the night – it is completely different from the way the city is in the morning and it can charm the most hardened traveler. And yes, it is every bit as romantic as it is claimed to be, and then some.

After a good nights rest and a measly breakfast at the youth hostel, we set out for a long, hard day in Paris again. But I’m sleepy now so more about Paris in my next post.


Anonymous said...

i too wd love to tour all these places if i hav enuf funds to budge. i am really feelin a bit envious of all these kind of fancyful things in life becoming a reality!!!

Bleach The infamous strawberry said...

Hey i used to live in Brussels for a looooong time!
Now I study in Chile, but I read your blog and there are really cool places you should go!
first of all, THE place to go out on a friday night is les Halles st gery near the bourse, or schuman, it has an amazing atmosphere,during the week the best is at cimetierre d ixelles
near ULB
if you want to do some sightseeing, go to le musee de la musique, the national art gallery, the bozaar are fun too.

Anonymous said...

it sounds so very incredible..all the stories about paris bein the most romantic city must be true then. Well, someday I'll visit it myself..just to feel that magic. I sure do hope its as magical as u made it out to be.

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