Paris- a series of unfortunate decisions
I grew up in a small town at the east of India. In the 90s internet was not a big thing in every household and you only knew about the world through an Atlas. I was always fascinated with the globe and atlas. I would wonder there is so much out there in the world and they are so very out of my reach. When I was 12 years of age, my father travelled to Europe. I remember how happy he was when he called me from Paris and Venice and Rome. He told me someday he would show me the world. This was the era of kodak cameras and camera films that needed to be sent to a shop and weeks later they returned you the photos. My dad sent me a photo of him in front of the Eiffel tower and a tiny metal Eiffel tower memorabilia about 15 cms tall. The first time I looked at it I was in love, utterly, irrevocably in love with Paris.
Growing up over the years we could not afford to go to Europe on a holiday. I stared at my tiny Eiffel monument in my bedroom every night and imagined seeing the world. So when opportunity arose due to my job getting relocated, I was on cloud 9. I moved to the UK for a year and my mission began to visit Paris. I looked back at the photo my dad had sent me years ago and decided this is fate- I need to go to Paris, but I need to take my dad with me. Only then can my dream come a full circle.
I booked tickets for my parents to come over and I made all the arrangements to Paris. I had no idea how to travel, where to stay and how to manoeuvre my way in a foreign country, but I was determined to make it happen. This is where it all went wrong.
To travel anywhere, it is extremely important to research well. Read blogs, talk to people who have visited the city, find out about weather, culture, transport and make an itinerary that you can roughly manage in the time. Needless to say- I did not.
I booked an airbnb apartment just because it said it was near the Eiffel tower and was cheap. Big mistake- it turned out to be extremely small and cramped and not for 3 adults.
I visited in the mid of August- second mistake. It was extremely hot, there was a heat wave across Europe, and apartments were not air conditioned.
We took an early morning flight from London to Paris. We reached Paris about 10 am and went straight to the apartment, left our luggage and I insisted we immediately go to the Eiffel Tower and climb it. My worst mistake in travel ever. We were tired from an early morning flight, famished from skipping breakfast and dehydrated due to the heat wave.
I wore a pretty red dress and pretty red shoes and with a skip in my step we started walking towards the Eiffel Tower- a 15 minute walk under scorching sun. When we reached the Eiffel tower there was a 30 minute queue to the ticket counter- with no shade. Finally we managed to take the elevator to the top of Eiffel. It was here where the trip turned into a disaster. The elevator was packed with as many tourists as it could support. With no food, water and now no air, I fainted.
I could feel I would pass out and barely managed to say "I'll faint now" and then I dropped to the floor of the elevator. Next I know, security guards were pulling me up and dragging me to the security room at the top deck. They put a fan right on my face and gave me water and biscuit. My parents looked horrified thinking their child is probably dying. I stayed put for 20 minutes as other security guards popped in to check on me. I could feel I would not be able to stay up for too long and need to head back to the apartment and eat and lie down. But I was at the Eiffel tower. I've dreamed about it all my life, slowly walking around the tower admiring its beauty, maybe singing le vien rose.
I walked out to the deck, meanwhile assuring everybody I was fine. I received as much attention from tourists there as the tower itself. I struck a pose to have at least one photo and then we left-back to the apartment. No siene cruise, no catacombs, no notre dame.
At night, after having stuffed myself with food, I took another attempt to see Paris. I went to the Arc de Triomphe and stood in front of it a good 15 minutes just staring. Next we took the metro to Eiffel tower at about 9pm. Every hour the Eiffel tower shimmers like magic for about 5 minutes. I looked at the shimmering lights, feeling betrayed by my first love. It told me you can love someone all you want but never have them unless they love you back. Eiffel tower was not in love with me. I have to win its love.
The next day we had a train to Zurich. I was adamant that I would not leave without seeing the Louvre. Maybe day 2 my luck would be better. I woke up early and made food and stuffed myself. I carried two bottles of water in my bag and hailed a cab. I was not going to faint today. The Louvre was everything I dreamt of and more. It was breathtakingly beautiful inside and out. The dreamy glass pyramid is where you enter from. It takes a good few hours to visit every hall in the Louvre and soak in all the art around you.
The most famous painting of the house is ofcourse the Mona Lisa. At every few metres there is a sign leading you to the masterpiece. The Mona Lisa is heavily guarded. It is the only painting under tamper proof glass and nobody is allowed near it. There is a section cut off by velvet ropes from beyond which you are allowed to look at the painting. No flash photography is allowed and there are security cameras all around as well as a security guard always stationed.
However the Mona Lisa is not the only gorgeous piece at display. The Louvre is filled with so many unbelievably amazing pieces of work that it makes you grateful and humble to share the same genetic code as the great artists who have created these masterpieces. The history and culture in the rooms draw you in and transport you into a moment where you feel you are a living part of the art around you. If only I had studied art and worked in the Louvre!
Thus ended my 1.5 day trip to Paris. I made it alive and richer in soul. I still did not get to have the Champ Ellesys photo op with the Eiffel backdrop, neither did I get to sing la vien rose, and I missed out on a lot of architecture and food. But it only keeps me wanting to go back for more. Mon amor Paris!
Stay hydrated, always carry a small bottle of water.
Always carry a small umbrella.
Always have a snickers bar in your bag.
Research about weather and transport.
Research about best time to visit both on and off seasons.
Do not skip meals, try to carry portable food to munch on the way.
Do not be disheartened with a bad trip, its always a learning experience to make the next one better.