Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Paris - A Tribute to Style

No travel blog would be complete without mentioning Paris. Paris continues to be one of the most popular destinations in the world attracting over 10 million visitors per year. We can well understand this fascination. Having lived in France for many years and visited Paris many times, we still enjoy the prospect of visiting Paris any time.

The city itself has a very modern and stylish look. Refer to the pic below. You can see that although the houses are old-fashioned, they are very well maintained.


Paris from Eiffel Tower
City of Paris from Eiffel Tower

Transportation


The public transport in Paris, as in most of Europe is very efficient. There are public transports connecting all major touristic attractions from the Airport or Train stations (note there are more than one).

From the Airport to the City: It is very much recommended to take the RER connecting the airport to the Train stations. Taxi are not only very expensive but the traffic in Paris can be almost as bad as Kolkata/Mumbai - and the meter keeps running while waiting. There are of course shuttle buses which are cheaper but the traffic problem remains. The only scenario when a Taxi/Bus might be recommended is when you have a lot of luggage as you usually have to walk quite a bit to reach the Metro station from the Airport 'Arrivals' or Train stations (even though technically they might be in the same terminal/building). RER is a special type of metro which costs more than a normal Paris metro ride, so buy the right ticket.

For commuting within the city, once you have dropped off your luggage in the hotel and are all set to explore the city, a more enjoyable and scenic (though of course, slower) way is to take the ferries running over Seine river. Seine river flows through most of Paris and you can take the ferries as Hop-on/Hop-off touristic buses getting off at a touristic spot and then taking the next ferry from that stop. There are also more romantic options where you can enjoy a candlelight dinner while cruising the Seine river.


River Seine from Eiffel Tower
Seine river from Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower



Eiffel Tower

Irrespective of whether you consider Eiffel as one of the 'Wonders of the World', it remains one of the most remarkable and recognized structures in the world.

It is easy to reach by public transport and while walking to the Eiffel from the Metro stop, you will encounter many people selling Eiffel replicas and souvenirs yelling 'Namaste', 'Shah Rukh Khan' and 'Amitabh Bachchan' to you to get your attention (if they notice that you are Indian). Guess this is testimony to the growing number of Indian tourists visiting Paris nowadays. 

You can either climb up or take the elevator (costs more as expected). The elevator ride is worth it as Eiffel is quite high and you will have to climb a lot of steps - can be very tiring for the average Indian (like us) who does not believe in wasting time in exercising. You can take the elevator to 3 possible levels, so the best option is probably to take the elevator to 2nd highest level and then walk to the top. Note that it can be really windy at the top and is definitely not recommended for people suffering from Vertigo - but the view is really worth it. So please try but of course keeping your safety in mind. As they say (who?), there is no point in discovering something incredible and then not living to tell the tale.  

Louvre Museum (in French: Musée du Louvre)

 

We are also not the 'Museum' going type of tourist but Louvre is of course no ordinary museum. A day is probably too short to visit all the exhibits here. There is no need to buy tickets in advance on the internet. You can buy them at the reception or at the many automated kiosks available to avoid queues. You can also pickup audio guides at the reception.

Even with its impressive collection, the most popular resident here is of course the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. The museum itself is huge but there are clear pointers to Mona Lisa everywhere, so shouldn't be difficult to locate.

For the uninitiated, the inverted Pyramid inside the Louvre is also the place where the Christian Holy Grail is buried (according to the bestseller 'Da Vinci Code' by Dan Brown ). Such was the popularity of the book that they now have an Audio guide chapter dedicated to the book, describing the museum artifacts described in the book.
  

Louvre Museum (black & white)
Musée du Louvre
Musée du Louvre

Moulin Rouge


Having grown up on Helen's cabarets (not to mention the item songs in our current films), it makes sense to visit one of the original cabaret houses. From cabarets, the shows here have now diversified to theme based broadway kind of musicals. The themes and stories are mostly in French so you will in all likelihood not understand much but the shows are still enjoyable. 

Word to the wise, the show girls do get topless (nothing more though), still viewer discretion is advised. It is located in the Paris redlight area, however is usually very safe to visit at night as well (and the surroundings are not uncomfortable at all).

Champs-Élysées 

 

Paris is one of the fashion capitals of the world. So a trip to Paris would not be considered complete (at least by the fairer sex) without visiting Champs-Élysées.

Champs-Élysées is the main shopping street in Paris. The good news is that it s not some kind of huge shopping mall, but a street with many cafes, restaurants and theaters along with than the luxury branded stores - which makes it rather enjoyable even if you are simply window shopping. 

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