Rriiiinnggggg!! The alarm blared at 7 a.m. It felt as though we had gone to bed only half an hour ago. We had landed in Paris the previous night at 8.30 p.m. and it was quite an adventure finding our way to 3 Ducks Hostel. We had checked in around mid night. Our backs were shocked from carrying backpacks for the first time in our lives and needed overnight recovery. Wasn’t it a wee bit early for the alarm to ring? Doesn’t matter. It was our first day in Paris and I was excited as hell.
I got out of bed as fast as I could and went over to the small wash basin in our room, which was right next to the door. It was pitch dark outside. First time in Paris and I took it for granted that the sun probably rises a little late. I was getting ready and my husband was still lazing in the bed, with no signs of getting up. I decided to go down to the common shower and give my husband his few extra minutes of snoozing time. I walked out of the room and something felt terribly wrong. There was not a single person outside in the courtyard or in the reception. For Gods sake, aren’t backpackers supposed to be starting early and making the most of travelling time. Suddenly, I heard a voice calling me ‘Apu… Apu…’ and I turned around to see my husband with a very sheepish look on his face. ‘Its only 3.30 a.m. and I forgot to change the time on my watch when we landed in Paris… Its 7 a.m. Dubai time.’ Yes, that’s how we started our trip… I went back to bed making a mental note to change the time in the watch every time we travel out of the country.
I woke up at the correct 7 a.m. to see the hostel was already bustling with activity. We went to the common breakfast room to gorge on our free breakfast. There was a huge basket of bread, 2 types of jam, coffee and tea. Eating French bread is an art in itself. It’s 4 times harder than any Kadak Naan could ever be. Enjoying every tough bite of our breakfast, we set out of the hostel with an ambitious agenda of seeing most of Paris on Day 1 itself. We just had 3 Days in Paris.
We started with Arc De Triomphe, which is the Paris equivalent to Gateway of India. Only difference we are allowed to climb up the arch and experience the panoramic view of Paris from the top. From there, we drew out a Dot to Dot of Paris monuments, deciding where to start and where to finish our sightseeing. We purchased our 1-day Museum pass, which basically allows us to visit all Museums we wanted to in a day. We could have gone for the 3-day pass, but we decided against it because, after a day, all painting start to look the same in any case. First museum we went to was the Louvre and someone had told us that it would take a good tourist 3 days to see the Louvre. After 3 hours at the Louvre and searching through thousands of paintings and finally standing in front of the Mona Lisa, we seriously felt like recommending to Paris tourism that they should have 3-hour museum passes too. We wouldn’t have minded if someone forcefully threw us out in three hours. At least, we wouldn’t feel guilty about purchasing a full day pass and giving up on museums in the first half itself. OD on art already.
After the Louvre, we went to the Conciergerie, the Notre Dame Church, the Pantheon, ate more bread for lunch and wandered around like any other tourist would do. Luckily, we had purchased the Paris Visite pass, which allowed us to take any metro, bus or train within Paris. I was completely amazed that the metros ran on Michelin tyres. The Paris metro would do if I cant sit on a Mc Laren Mercedes Benz.
The thing about Paris is that you can never get tired. It gives an energy filled tourist more than what he can handle. There is something to be discovered in every nook and corner of the city. Yet, with so much to see, do and experience, Paris still has this welcoming nature of making you feel at home in less than 24 hours.
Two days in Paris and I was already confidently giving directions to other tourists. We had already visited the Cemetery where Jim Morisson was buried, the Sacre Couer church in Montmarte neighbourhood (a Virgin Mary church strategically located next to the Red Light area of Paris) and the Bastille (a historical place known for the fact that it does not exist anymore – there is just a traffic signal there). We had also been on the Seine River cruise, which shows you all the tourist places along the river. I had also picked up 10 – 12 words of French. Of course, my husband loved to pull my leg that the reason why most people in Paris were suddenly speaking English was because they were terribly afraid tourists like me would ruin their romantic sounding French to something which sounded more like a sputtering engine.
Third day in Paris, there was no way we were going to miss the Eiffel Tower. However, on reaching there, we realised that the queue to take the lift was as long as the Eiffel tower placed horizontally. Instead, we headed to Chateaux de Versailles, which is slightly outside Paris. A beautiful palace it was, from the outside. They were charging some hideous 22E per head to go inside. It was a question of eating bread for lunch and dinner for the next 4 days, if we spent that amount on seeing the Chateaux. It is obvious what we decided to do.
The last evening in Paris, we packed our bags and headed to a hotel on the outskirts of Paris, closer to the airport, from where cheap airlines took off. We had a ticket to Nice on a cheap Airline called Easy Jet. When we purchased these tickets on the net, we had not realised that the airport for these airlines would be halfway to the destination. But, these uncertainties what make the trip completely unpredictable, uncommon and fun.
Paris is probably the best start to a European tour. That’s definitely how we felt. The first few days of a backpacking trip matter a lot. You can do with dirty showers, hard mattresses, a noisy bar at the hostel, slightly sour jam for breakfast, but Paris makes up for all that. It just catches you off guard and brings out the curious traveller in you, the romantic in you, the book reading coffee drinker in you, the silent thinker in you and definitely the struggling writer in you.
Paris left us on a complete high, the hangover of which still has not left us. In a strange way, I guess we have carried a bit of Paris with us, which we have been distributing to people back home in the form of stories. This is just a slice…