Sunday, February 18, 2007

Paris - III

Second half of the day and we are at Concorde. The place where Queen Antoinette and King Louis were executed during the French Revolution.

The gold markings you see are real gold and it comes from various French victories in Egypt.

The 'Concorde' square. On the right is the entrance to the palace.

The french parliament.

Plaque which signifies this is the place where Queen Antoinette and King Louis with the exact dates of execution. Just realized the significance of the place I am standing at . Reading in history text books in school I never really thought one day I would be at that exact place. Phew...

View of 'Arc de Triomphe' from Concorde. This is the road we normally see in television. The road goes straight to La Defense, the commercial area of Paris.

2 Snaps of Notre Dame Cathedral. This is the 'zero km' mark in Paris. So all distances in Paris are from a stone near this cathedral.

Post Notre Dame we drop Naru off to the railway station as he takes his train back to . On the way we manage to eat Samosas at a Pakistani sweet shop and a 'Veg' sandwich at a Turkish meat shop (essentially we ask him to just take the bread, add a bit of cheese and cabbage and thats it).

The famous 'pyramid' of Louvre - one of the largest museums in the world. We were told that if you planned to spend 1 minute in front of each item on display, it would take one 3 months to fully finish off the museum.

The museum where 'Monalisa' is smiling peacefully and also the place where bulk of the action in the book 'Da Vinci Code' happens. Unfortunately it was due to close in an hour so we did not have too much time. But I did manage to take a glimpse of the Monalisa.

This might give a sense of how big the museum actually is. What you see above is just one of the three sides of the museum and that too partially. So the actual length of the museum (three sides together) is at least 4 times what you see here!

Just outside the Louvre, crossing the river.

One fascinating thing - there are islands within the river. So what we see above is an island within the river and we were told, one of the most expensive places in Paris.

Another view of the Notre Dame as we begin our journey back to pick up our bags and on to the bus station. We walked for about 1.5hrs from Louvre to pretty much up to Eiffel tower and didn't feel it at all. The weather was pleasant and all around we had new things to absorb.

Concorde in the evening.

This building above we are told, is what the 'White House' is based on. Only difference, the White House is 7 times bigger than this. Americans copying French???? Sounds very far fetched today...

Beautiful Paris roads in the evening.

This is the flame from the Statue of Liberty and is meant to be a symbol of French-American friendship(!?).

Also, below this is a tunnel and coming out of this tunnel, Princess Diana had the fatal car crash few years ago. So this site has also become the de facto memorial for her.

One last view of Eiffel Tower before we pack our bags. Paris was beautiful, very beautiful. I leave Paris with a promise to return again. Vaibhav heads to Düsseldorf and I am back to London. Almost forgot to collect some cash from him for my return journey. I am still cashless you see... :(

But this was one unforgetful trip not least because Paris is extremely beautiful. I ended with the thought (a la Arnold in the Terminator) 'I'll be back'

Paris - II

Day 2 of our weekend trip to Paris and we start of with a visit (2nd time) to Arc de Triumph. Since this is the first sunday of the month, we get a free ride to its top, to the musuem and the view of Paris from Top.

As with most things in Paris, the musuem was all in French so all we could do was stare at the artifacts without appreciating the context. I get a feeling (post this and Louvre) that French do not want english speaking (and non-french speaking) people to appreciate their history. Such a shame, anyways...

What you see in the distance is La Defense, the commercial part of Paris (where we had gone last night). The other end of this road goes to Concorde.

Eiffel tower. Wish the sky could have been more clearer but this was early winter morning (not even 10am)

Another view of the road leading to La Defense

In the distance is Sacre Coeur. Now one realises that that (Sacre Coeur) is indeed the highest point of Paris

Memorial for all those who lost lives in the first world war. Arc de Triumph doubles up as a memorial for all martyrs (a la Amar Jawan Jyoti in India).

We now head to Eiffel Tower.

The queue to get to the top of Eiffel Tower was about 45min long. And while we stood there, guess what we were discussing? Financial planning. At the base of Eiffel tower (perhaps one of the more romantic places on the planet) three MESsengers were dicussing financial planning and that too in Hinglish! Obviously none of us had any great success in our respective love lives, at least not till that time! - things are unchanged with me since :(

The man after whom the tower is named - chief engineer of this construction.

There are three levels on Eiffel tower. The photo above is from the first level. Captures the river and one of 36 bridges (over that river) in the city of Paris. There are also islands in that river!

This is from the second level (taken from behind a glass window and hence the reflection).

Finally, we are right on top. There was some serious wind blowing.

In the centre above is the Arc de Triumph. Looks very small from top.

Paris landscape and almost half a dozen bridges.

Another view of Parisian landscape...

Notice the shadown of Eiffel Tower in the picture above

Finally the MEN in black, the three MESsengers on top of Eiffel tower.


Paris - I

3-4 March 2006 was when I was in Paris with two of my school friends who were coming from Germany. One was coming from Dusseldorf and was going to meet up at the bus stop (yeah I travelled from London to Paris by bus - saved a lot of cash!) itself as both our buses were supposed to arrive at similar times. The other coming from Wurzburg was going to join us late afternoon at Eiffel Tower.

Now this is where things get really interesting. Me and Vaibhav meet up at the Gallieni International bus stop and we set out to reach our hostel. We got off at Pigalle station from the metro and that is when I realised that I had no wallet in my pocket - some one had picked my pocket enroute somewhere!

After the intial disbelief and searching of bags, I resigned myself to the fact. The next step was blocking the cards and registering a police complaint, just in case my insurance covered this theft. So we went to the police station.

The police were very helpful, they took down my complaint, handed me 'evidence' of filing of complaint - which was in french. Additionally they handed me something they called 'my rights under french law' - which again was in french. Finally, they gave me Amex number to that I could block my cards (they did not have #s for Visa/Master card). Now I call up the Amex number and it is answered in French, so we put the call on speaker phone and the policeman translates what the operator says in English and we finally manage my corporate card. Then going to a cafe, we manage to block my other credit cards. And this is when it really dawns upon me.

All I had with me was my passport, hostel booking and return ticket. No cash, no cards - I had absolutely no money on me. If my friend was not with me, I would have had to rush to the indian embassy and beg before them!

Aside, we also realised, that nearby Pigalle (where our hostel was) is the Red Light district of Paris. hmm...

Now for the photos...

First photo on French soil. I have not yet realised that my wallet has been picked, I realise that just a few steps ahead :(

Our first 'tourist' stop - Sacre Coeur, a big cathedral. This is the highest point of the city.

Made of marble, its white and brilliant. Curiously, there were people around here who would make your sketch for a few euros. And many of them came after me - they do not get to see a moustache every other day, so they all wanted to sketch a face with a moustache!

Roads around Sacre Coeur.

Arc de Triumph. This was built by Napolean post one of his victories and now doubles up as their martyr memorial (a la Amar Jawan Jyot in India). The detail carving on it is amazing.You can go to the top of this structure but it costs and we could do there for free tomorrow (being first Sunday of the month, so we would come back here tomorrow)

This is the road we normally see on television whenever we see a glimpse of Paris. The road is long and leads to Concorde and French Parliament on one end and the other leads to La Defense, the commercial area of Paris.

Finally, the most famous place in Paris - Eiffel Tower and our third friend from Wurzburg joins us.

Although it was just about 6pm or so, it was frickin cold. It was soo cold that I had to buy gloves and had to spend €20 for that. €20 thats almost 1000 rupees - frickin expensive gloves to beat the frickin cold...

We took a boat ride which takes us around the city in a hour long ride. It was frickin cold and the hands would just shiver whenever I would take them out of pocket to take a snap.

River Siene flows through the city and terminates into the English Channel. We were told there are 36 bridges on this river just in the city of paris.

Pictured above is the palace.

We get to the La Defense area. This is the commercial district of Paris. The Arc at La Defense - It is huge and white... (do not know why it was constructed or what purpose it serves. It isn't particularly beautiful either, but then again I didn't find the Monalisa particularly beautiful/worth admiring either)

The building pictured above is the headquarters of Arcelor - the Arcelor/Mittal take over battle had just begun at that time.

Eiffel Tower in full glory. With lights on, it really is a very very beautiful sight. Of all the things I have read/heard about its beauty, I do not think there is one word of exaggeration.

Another snap with light settings on the camera slightly tweaked to allow for less light to come in.

Yet another snap taken from very close. It really looks like its made up of gold.

On the top of every hour different color blinking lights in addition to normal yellow lights go on. Plus there is a laser ray from the very top. If the earlier snaps gave an impression the tower is made of gold, this gives an impression it is studded with different color gems.

Visit to Eiffel tower at night was one seriously unforgettable moment. What a way to round off the first day in Paris?