“If you think adventure is dangerous,
try routine, it is lethal” – Paulo Coelho
This is a short story of a simple personal adventure…
Every year atleast twice I get this itch to go on a vacation and I start prodding my friend to help me plot our next expedition. And Jan’15 was no different. I kept harassing her to close down on one place and plan everything, yes I am that lazy and yet proudly pestering.
Then one fine day she called and said she has a conference coming up in Reims, France and I can come along too but it will be just for 3 days. Hmmm… France + trip + just 3 days didn’t seem to add up well, so next came the suggestion “Why don’t you travel alone and go see Paris and nearby villages/ towns on your own for 6 days before reaching Reims?” My reply – “aaaa whaaa?!” ” OF COURSE I won’t travel alone! What if I got bored with myself?”
Yes, Yes even though I know that I am pretty awesome but still that came out of my mouth, may be I was afraid of going to Paris alone because you’ve heard all these mugging stories or because this was something I had never done before, out of my comfort zone like WAY OUT OF MY LEAGUE o_O. A lot of people said that it will be foolish to go all the way to France and visit just a few small towns here and there. But if my life had background tracks, then this would have been playing then ” hai apna dil to aware, na jane kis pe aayega” and so it began – 10 days 1 big city & 3 small towns/ villages in France 🙂
Whatever thought went behind my decision but yes I borrowed a Lonely Planet, downloaded offline maps for Paris, Reims, Amboise & Strabourg , Paris subway app with routes/ train durations/ schedule, found a friend’s friend staying at Paris, booked my first hostel experience, got all my required belongings under 12kgs packed in a backpack, put on my first pair of colourful gum boots and off i went Woot Woot!
So here is your small little pictorial tour to a small part of France – Paris, the city of love 🙂 On the way you might also realise the level of happiness you can get while traveling solo :
DAY 1 of figuring out life in Paris
Landed. Checked in at my hostel – St. Christopher’s Inn, Gare Du Nord. Bang on the subway/ train station of Gare Du Nord. Dumped my luggage under my bunk bed and started walking with Emilien, the friend recently introduced by my other friend.
The first morning walk and sunshine 🙂 which took a lot of internal cajoling …
A freak road cabaret/ play right opposite that beautiful bridge. All I needed to get comfortable in a new place freezing at 6 degrees with a cup of coffee in my hands , which I had stopped feeling by now !
The first bite of salted caramel crepes at Arc de Triomphe Paris and I have not been able to recover from that mind blowing taste till now!
You might not enjoy the touristy vibe around the place but the sheer liveliness of these sculptures draw you in – at Arc De Triomphe
While I was trying to fit that pillar and me in a selfie, Emilien who was helping me get acquainted with the streets and subways, was trying to tell me quaint little stories about these places.
Avenue des Champs-Élysées is a 1.9 kilometres long and 70 metres wide street full of tempting sinful luxury brands. So even I went on a budget shopping and dragged poor Emilien along for buying warm leggings 😛 By god it is difficult to survive in Paris in the month of Feb without one of these! Yeah yeah, I am that Indian who went to one of the most expensive shopping streets of the fashion capital of the world and bought stuff on sale! Took a pic too, SUE ME!
Next stop – Mosquée De Paris – The tea room inside the mosque is filled with humdrum of the flowing crowd, people chit-chatting, uncountable rounds of mint tea, sweet pastries in blue tiled rooms and big golden tray tables
Till now, I had gotten acquainted with the dos & don’ts of subway, buses & street walking in Paris. And so my tired half-dead body was dragged to the place of Resurrection – La Rhumerie. aka The Rum House
Yes! I like Paris at night way more than in the daylight 😀 specially when I am at a place called the ‘Rum House’.
And that is how Day 1 ended for me 🙂
Day 2 of everything colourful & vibrant on streets
This was by far the best day of my trip – Flea Market, street art, Salvador Dali and Jim Morrison – all in one!
By now I had realised that subway will become a part of my life in Paris, so every morning started with plotting stations nearest to my planned spots of the day but if the places are close to 3-5 kms apart then of course WALK, because there is no other way to know a place better than talking with people while walking on the streets and eating the local food 🙂
You turn my world (Duniya) upside down ! a small light projection of ‘DUNIYA’ written in Hindi on the ceiling of some random subway station in Paris. I was falling in love already 🙂
Get down at Porte de Clignancourt and start walking towards the Paris Flea Market – Marché aux Puces St.-Ouen de Clignancourt.
From antique furniture to Cartier watches to beautiful paintings to old comic books to dresses from the bygone era on quite an expressive bunch of mannequins to beautiful brooches and an alien spaceship bang in the middle of this world of flea market.
All the time I was at Marché aux Puces and when I was walking towards my next stop – Montmartre, the artists’ village , this big grin won’t leave my face 😀 Guess others noticed it, may be that’s why I received friendly hellos & smiles on the way 🙂 I was getting comfortable…
Somewhere on the way, naak mein dum! Told ya – Walking is fun!
3 kms from the Paris Flea Market is Montmartre, a village on the hill where Salvador Dali and many other artists used to stay and it still has that corner with street artists painting live portraits and showcasing their splendid work.
An artist and his self portraits on the streets of Montmatre. Or is it a painting in itself?! So many colors , so much of life , so much to do , so little time …
Don’t forget to grab your lunch on the way and drift towards museum of Dali’s subliminal work …
The thing I loved about museums in France is that every piece has a story and they won’t shy away from telling you that story with the same passion over and over again through texts, through voice, through sound or just visually.
At the Espace Dali museum – Galipette – a work of light cinematography in an unending mirror inspired by the turbulent relationship between Dali and Gala. It represents the positive energy and strength created by the loving bond. The lovers reflect one another to infinity. (Part of the Description as mentioned at the gallery)
And after dreaming about owning a beautiful tiny house with a balcony covered by viny creeper plants and a small little red coloured cafe down the street stairs (sigh…) I walked back towards the subway station to get to my next stop – Père Lachaise Cemetery and meet my beloved James Douglas Morrison aka Jim Morrison.
Like a blue eyed man standing at the Center of the city, looking over everything and nothing … Even this grey winter afternoon made me happy 🙂 – while walking from Montmartre
From Clignancourt take the subway to Pigalle station and you arrive at the largest Paris cemetery – Père Lachaise Cemetery
And I met him…
The best way to explore this place is by knowing which all out of the hundreds of tombstones/ graves would you want to visit and start putting them on the pre-downloaded offline city map.
You can read more about the story behind each of these larger than life tombstones, here – Is France obsessed with graves?
Ofcourse it got late and of course I was escorted out by the cemetery guards as I kept asking them to let me see just one more grave (psst…freak alert)
And if you are wondering how my hostel St. Christopher’s Inn was 😉
My hostel’s common bar area at night, with live band and the solo travellers’ table where I got invited to sit, chat and drink 😉
Day 3 of Shakespeare & Love Cruise
Started off on the day’s first subway journey to St. Michel station to visit Notre Dame but after disembarking from the train so quick was my decision to go towards Shakespeare & Company bookstore that I felt dizzy with joy (floating in the clouds, visualising ‘Before Sunset‘ ♥♥)
That warm overwhelming feeling you get while visiting a place you have been wishing to … for long … Stuff that dreams, stories, fairy tales are made of … Shakespeare and company bookstore. Past meets present to make future…
With my content filled heart I did visit Notre Dame but it didn’t give me the same exhilarating feeling as did this bookstore 🙂
So I walked a few kms in search of the next best thing to books – FOOD! Suggested by a friend of mine who spent quite a few years in Paris, I headed towards Berthillon, supposedly the best ice cream/ sorbet in the world at Ile Saint-Louis island.
If it deserves to be eaten then I shall eat it! Even if it means having an ice cream on a day recording 3degrees temperature. Berthillon at St. Louis island . My bad luck, the original shop was closed but this one said they ‘sell the Berthillon produce’ . Ohh yea and salted caramel is officially my favourite flavour 😀 It was quite a treat to just take a stroll around the island itself…
Love lock bridges made me feel love lost… These symbolic bridges are being treated as vandalism by the Paris municipal authorities and the ritual might come to an end very soon.
During the river cruise in Siene, the guide said “we will be passing under the bridge of love now. Make a wish and kiss… And blah…” They have a bridge of love too?!! how much love is there in this city?
And so this day came to an end too.
This day I gave more time to chit-chatting with other solo travellers back at the hostel while gorging on to a huge plate of FOOD called the ressurection 😀 fried eggs on top of roasted roll with bacon (bliss), sausages, mushrooms, baked beans and hash potatoes … Of course some rum and coke to end the long day … Somehow my appetite improved a lot on this trip
Last day in Paris : Day 4 of Louvre stories
Subway to Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre, a pre-bought pass and a sneak away non-crowded entry to Louvre B-) Thanks to Emilien again for showing me the cheat path to avoid standing in line for 2 hrs atleast!
It is said that you need around 3 days to walk through and see Louvre Museum, so don’t forget to again mark what all you want to see there and listen to each and every story behind that piece of art. Get involved, get to know it, live those moments.
Greek goddess ,Nike (winged Victory) – This sculpture took my breath away for it’s sheer grandeur and was a bit intimidating at the same time…
Psyche revived by Cupid’s kiss – Venus, the goddess of beauty was jealous of Psyche and asked her son Cupid to enamour Psyche and then leave her. Later Psyche was made to go through a lot of ordeals to be reunited with Cupid and during one such, she was asked by Venus to get a jar from the underworld but not to open it. But Psyche, out of curiosity, opened the jar and fell into a deathly sleep. To be woken up by Cupid by the touch of his arrow and a kiss.
A beautiful nymph in pain who was stung by a scorpion and knew that her end was near.
The Death of Sardanapalus – Murder of concubines ordered by the king when he got to know of his military defeat, while he lies in the midst of death.
The Raft of Medusa – Hope & fraught panic of shipwrecked sailors who can see a rescue boat in the distance but can’t catch it.
So ended my trip to Paris, and I took the train to Amboise then Reims and last but the most beautiful little town of more than 5 Michelin Starred Restaurants, Strasbourg.
Hope to give you that nudge to just pack your bags and walk 🙂
What you should know?
Not everyone gets mugged in Paris
People are friendlier than expected here 🙂
Always have a hearty breakfast before starting your day
Keep an offline map of all the planned cities pre-downloaded with you
Stay at some place near a subway station
Always carry enough change for subway tickets
Stand on the right if you are not planning to walk on the escalators
Buy comfortable, light and warm gum boots for all those long walks
Get to know the stories behind everything you see to live the moment
Don’t waste your time visiting the touristy places only, get to know the city even if takes a day or two more
WALK & WALK & WALK & EAT!
P.S. Thanks a tonn Bhooshan, Niyanta & Emilien for everything 🙂
All the pictures were taken by me so don’t use them without giving credit. Pliss 😛