Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Europe Day 11 - Paris

Paris is a city of the arts and the artists. We explored this beautiful city today. We started off with a city tour, in which the famous buildings were revisited by daylight. Paris is a romantic city and the romance continues onto the day with the Champs Elysees being lit up during day time as well. Each building in this city has its own character and effervescence amongst the Parisians. Paris can have a maximum of 9 storey buildings and nothing modern to preserve the sanctity of this historical town and its landmarks. However, one of the buildings was built in a modern way with dark glasses on the outer edge. The Parisians are so disturbed by this development that they wanted it to be brought down. The guide was so upset that the gentle French guy started an emotional outburst, terming the building as ugly and a huge mistake and a black mark on the city. It was funny at first, but behind the words, I could sense a deep pain inflicted by their passion being hurt. The guide was so proud that Paris has become a clean city in the last decade due to some government initiatives that he just repeated it a mere 25 times in 5 minutes. Again, the pride of the French was in ample display. Paris actually has a network of underground sewers that cleanse the city of the waste.

Paris is really a city of the arts, with more than 100 museums. The biggest and most famous museum is the Louvre, which can rival any Indian palace for its size and structure. It houses the famous smiling beauty Mona Lisa, which catapulted the imagination of millions worldwide. I couldn’t believe my eyes or eyes when I heard that all the big queues outside buildings were for some art exhibition by a Polish painter, some theatrical by a French group and a comedy by another French group. I have only seen such lines in India when Rajni film opens or in Singapore when they are giving away some goodie bags. They even have a museum for the sewers and they charge an entrance fee due to the high demand. They say that your lifetime is not enough to go through all that is on display in these museums, which does say a lot.

Paris is a very vibrant city with a lot of traffic, about 10 million people and a lovely atmosphere. It has a beauty and symmetry in its designs and structures that I have not seen elsewhere. An example is the Arc de Triumph, which Napoleon Bonaparte wanted to be built so that he can ride into the city through it when he won a war, and ironically did not live long enough to do so. However, the arch was completed and he stands proud looking at the Champs Elysees all day long. The building is majestic and stands tall at one end of the biggest road in town. The Champs Elysees itself derives its name from the palace on that road which houses the French president. 12 roads lead to the Arc de Triumph making it look like a brilliant star when looking from above.

We had lunch in a Chinese restaurant after which we took a few photos of the Eiffel Tower by daylight. I should confess that I was not all that pleased with the big piece of metal that reached out to the clouds as compared to its glittering beauty at night. In fact, I heard that the Parisians had termed this tower built for an exhibition by Gustaf Eiffel ugly at first, but later it became a symbol of the city. Another interesting fact was that he actually lived on the Eiffel tower for 4 years after its completion before he died there, possibly due to walking up and down the 1700+ steps everyday.

Then we proceeded to the Chateau di Versailles, or the palace of Versailles, which was built by Louis XIV and home to two subsequent kings. The magnificence and grandeur of the palace cannot be described by words, but can only be witnessed in person. Photos cannot fully replicate the splendor of the palace built by the sun king. We had to wait in a long queue for about an hour to get into it in the biting cold winter, which tells you how popular this place is with locals and tourists alike. Starting with the gate adorned in gold, Louis XIV ensured that the entire palace can place anyone in awe. He had so many rooms, each one dedicated to a specific thing like welcoming visitors, rooms for the royal family, king and queen, the guardroom, the library, the study room, the hunting trophy room, the war strategy room and so on. Each room was decorated appropriately with full size portraits, the ceilings covered with beautiful drawings with some dedicated to the Roman gods and others from scenes in the bible. The long hall of mirrors with fantastic chandeliers, sculptors and paintings was meant to intimidate any visitor before he is allowed to see the king. He had corridors full of sculptures of his knights, kings, gods and intellectuals. The gardens outside the palace were as beautiful as the palace itself and spread far and wide, with symmetrical greenery and lakes. This palace really takes an entire day to explore, but we had to rush everything in 2 hours, which was a bit sad.
Once the palace tour was done, we went to the Galeries Lafayette, which is for shopaholics. We went into it thinking of buying some cheap leather bags, but it turned out to be worse than Takashimaya in Singapore, with prices in 3 or 4 digits. We did a bit of window shopping before going out to hunt out some food outlets to have dinner in. We had crepes, fries (frites) and cappuccino for dinner before coming back to the store to find our tour mates carrying numerous bags of Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Lacoste. Some of them were so much of a shopping freak that they skipped Versailles to start shopping! I heard from the husbands and boyfriends that its more of a peer pressure that drives these women to procure these status symbols.

We would be starting for London tomorrow, but I felt that of all the cities I have been to this tour, Paris is the city that seems to have so much more that I haven’t touched upon. I don’t know if it’s the lure of passion and art or the mystique around the history of this city or the romance in the air, but I definitely want to be coming back to this place again to explore more of the city. Bonsoir Paris!

Random Access
The search has just begun !!!

No comments: