For an average middle class Indian (oh yes, middle class in India has nothing to do with you being in the middle of economic classes but more of an emotional attachment and mindset for almost 60-70% of the population).
So yes, for an average middle class Indian, mention of a trip to Europe is enough to keep them enthusiastic, high hoped and sometimes even envious. I was thrown all of these emotions by everyone who got to know I have a work travel to Europe that keeps me in Paris for a week (this included a day in Frankfurt in transit). I am not sure if I know how to respond to emotions in general, and being not a very typical traveller, I am not very confident of how much justice will I do to share excerpts and experiences for my week of adventures and explorations in this new city in the new country and continent (but very much the same earth and universe – which we often forget!)
Let me organise my thoughts and reflections in three parts –
- Typical favorites of the City
- Not-so-typical but surely treasured
- Add ons – typically in all my travels
Typical Favorites of the City:
If you are going to Paris, there cannot really be another start to your story than the Eiffel. In all its grandness, the tower stands tall between the old and the new city with a pure sight of River Seine flowing next to the same. There is no good time to go see Eiffel Tower, all the time is a good time – Mornings or Evenings! It amazed me to know that the tower was originally constructed only as a temporary arrangement for a city fair. I only wonder, that may be our construction aptitude is deteriorating over time because we know the world doesn’t really have a lot of time of human existence so durability doesn’t really matter!
Monmartre and the Moulin Rouge Show
This place is a cultural hub and a living paradise or anfy art lover – here is where the artists from the city and from many other cities and countries and continents thrive – enjoy and earn while celebrating art. This is also the most talkative and friendly part of the city, unlike the usually composed and contained French. I was mesmerized by a beautiful youth band playing Christmas carols on their saxophone; and the splash of colors on the streets; and the amazingness of how artists will engage with you in a very friendly conversation and then pull you into an offer that you can’t refuse, you becoming their piece of art!
Musee Du Louvre
This place is Cosmic, Unbelievably Vast – physically and metaphorically. There is no way that I can capture it in words. All I can say it, is that it is a symbol of French conquests of art, history and glory. The place is quite chaotic in its everyday affairs. While it does not have much signs and many trails around; but once you begin, whether with or without an audio guide, there are little chances for you to not get lost. I was quite sad that I could not really explore their Egyptian (it was closed on that day) and Islamic collection (got too late and lost in the other ones!). What I did come across was their sculptures (of characters we have read in our English and History lessons!), their history and French and Italian paintings sections – it took me 5 hours to just take a quick glance through this. And this is pure truth, that this is Just a Glance.
According to the personal account of Joan of Arc (about 1412-31), at the age of 13, she heard the voices of the saints Michael, Catherine and Margaret telling her to deliver France from the English.
The renowned Greek Military strategist Philopoeman was wounded in a battle against the Spartans in 222 BC, to return to the fight, he bravely pulled out the javelin that had pierced his thigh. #ExpressiveforcecharacteristicsoftheRomanSpirit
When Napoleon’s ashes were returned to France in 1840, the sculptor Francoise Rude produced a bronze monument in honor of the emperor who ruled France from 1804 – 1815.
As punishment for stealing fire from the gods to give to the mankind, Zeus chained Prometheus to a rock where each day an eagle pecked at his liver. Here, Pradier depicts the moment of liberation; Heracles has killed the eagle and Prometheus’s body eases from the terrible suffering.
In Green mythology, Aristaeus was the son of the God Apollo and the Nymph Cyrene. He is standing wearing a crown of flowers and resting one elbow on a tree trunk.
Laius, King of Thebes, was warned by an oracle that his own son would kill him; he therefore ordered one of his officers to kill the baby Oedipus, who was hung from a tree by his ankles and left to die. Here, the shepherd Phorbas has just unties the baby and is attempting to revive him. According to the legend, Oedipus grew up to fulfill his destiny.
Fashion on the Go.
Paris, is not exaggerated to be the Fashion Capital of the world. My account of this comes from where people of every age – the youngest and the oldest are in sync with the latest trends. You see it more explicitly when you actually move out of Paris and you realise people do wear loose jackets and track pants in public too. Because in Paris, you will rarely find people wearing anything but Coats and Heels. But none of this stops them to walk. It is truly a walking city – with its great infrastructure, beautiful sights and fast walking youth.
Merry Christmas at Frankfurt!
You have to see it to believe that Christmas Markets and Feasts are no less the Connaught Place metro station in its peak hours. It was one of the most colorful, happy and jammed place I was at, in my last one week. Just photographs are enough for this account.
Not-so-typical but surely treasured
The city breathes Love.
There are couples, lovers, expression full ladies and posters and most importantly the spirits of the city that just pushes you to be expressive, to be slow and to be appreciative of the treasure of love that we humans can share with each other. What I captured on camera was a physical shot, much more is in the spirits of the City’s crowd and conversations. An old lady I met in the bus, gave me a detailed (a bit gross to me at first instinct but surely gelled with it soon!) account of how he fantasizes brown Indian men. Another french guy with Algerian roots shared his love for Indian women, in words that we find odd in our common conversations. The Algerian-French Guy said that it is always his dream to get to drop Indian women in her cab. I was flattered and scared by one sentence!
An Evening Walk to the Park beyond what they anyway walk in the city
This place is almost in the centre of the city; and is a big surprise and a delight for a countryside lover. It was a bit late as I was walking through the woods. Whatever country, city or colony; I have a lot many stories in my ears that keeps me anxious at nights while travelling alone. So I decided to stay and sit at one of the chairs and just witness the magnificence from wherever I was. From my 3 days of experience, I was not expecting any local to pay heed and engage with me in a conversation. But then, that is life, it gives you what and when you least expect. A French man with Egyptian origins stopped by and said something to me in French. When I expressed myself in English, he quickly said, “Why are you here if you don’t know French? You should go to England if you know English; and not come to France.” My quick reflex was offence but I calmed my thought, put a small smile and tried to explain how I am not settled here and neither planning to, but only for a short visit. Pleasantly, he greeted and then asked me questions about where do I come from – India or Pakistan? (This was a very common question I was answering everywhere. And I truly enjoyed the feeling to be associated with both the countries!) Soon, he started telling me how this was the best spot to capture sunset and he visits this place every week for taking a newer angle, a more beautiful shot.
Transiting Countries – French to German – It could have not been more fun!
On my connecting flight from Paris to Frankfurt, I witnessed a complete contrast in two cultures of Europe. I was on a flight with frank German airhostesses accompanied with flight boarders that were mostly Composed Sophisticated People of France. And this is when I realised the divide. French people as I saw generally are slow, graceful, sophisticated talkers, eaters and walkers. I was sitting beside a French couple. They called for the hostess and were trying to ask for a glass of water in French. The air hostess replied, “I only understand German and English, can you now tell me what you want?” In many countries and cultures, this may seem rude, but I guess that’s what you get in a frank country. The couple finally was able to use enough sign language, annoy the German lady in the process to finally manage the glass. As she was serving food, she handed me a sandwich which was quite visibly meat based. I asked if there are veg options and here is how she responds, “In short distance flights, there are no options. You take it or you don’t, your choice.” I was amazed at her confidence, clarity and lack of any apologies. I was just stuck at the degree of frankness in her attitude. Some minutes later, a person sitting diagonally to my seat called for a passing by hostess, and the hostess didn’t slow down but responded, “ I am sorry, I don’t have time anymore to host you.” The plane was about to land in another 5 minutes. But what if the one who called needed something in emergency. But yes, that’s the degree of frankness and care-freeness of the country, no offence!
Hauptwache was the nearest promising spot at Frankfurt which I could cover in my 9 hours layover. And here I met Colleague-cum-Friend-cum-Dada-cum-Yogi. Hauptwache was a spot where we could see the old and the new town together. There were very old buildings that got renovated after being destroyed during World War II. And then there were very new age glass tall towers – representing the financial capital of Germany. I made a Moroccan acquaintance; had another frank experience at a Vegan restaurant with their owners; and witnessed the popular “bridge and lock” traditions of this continent; and the not-so-popular but our very own Feminazi movement. Here are some snapshots.
Add ons – typically in all my travels
There are always new things you learn when you travel with knowns or un-knowns. So, how Zeenat is cleanliness freak; and at the same time instill a bit of panic to check your memory on where are they keys, which is the right road. Not surprising. And How Gitika can always be enthusiastic and energetic to explore one more place, one more photographs despite her long hours of work. And How Mayukh, can be so carefree that he doesn’t really care if we take the wrong train but would always try reaching out to written instructions on the wall, instead of confirming from any real person around!
Cozy apartment without any traces of the owner
We got a really cozy, french apartment to stay; White base, subtlety of colors, warm heated rooms; and small washroom. We also never really met the owner; took a key from a lock box in the bike stand, kept it back there. Strange to have your keys at the apartment left just nearby and not to worry of the robbery – explicitly first world!
Here’s a bit of what I ate. But What I will never forget is a bowl of boiled vegetables that I ordered on the first day of the conference for my lunch. I was sitting on the table with three other people, one of which also eating the same veg platter as myself. She finished till there were just 2-3 pieces of vegetables left while I was struggling to eat a small portion that can make the bowl look like someone has eaten at least something! Quite embarrassed, I rushed for the place to dispose it off, as soon as I could. I am just not evolved enough for a bland food pleasure, too much Punjabi blood in veins. I have never been happier to have a sight of Indian dry crunchy spicy ladyfingers served with rice for dinner; on my Air India Flight from Frankfurt to Delhi.
Totally Random Snapshots
A genuine mix of culture, love, art and nature, that has been Paris (: