Friday, December 15, 2006

Paris Trip - Day 1

How could anyone pass an opportunity to go see Paris? It all happened quite suddenly as my husband was going to Africa on a business trip and we decided to hook up in Paris on his way back and spend a few days there. I was in Paris for a total of five days but the first day is mostly a blur. My flight got to Paris around 9am local time but since I did not sleep during the flight, I had missed a night’s sleep and was feeling like a zombie. Due to some airport construction work, our flight landed somewhere (that seemed like as far away as Africa!) and there was a bus to take us to the terminal. There was only one bus there at a time and if that bus is full, the passengers will have to stand on the flight steps till the next one arrives. There was no announcement about what we had to do and so there was quite a frenzy while getting off the plane. I followed what the rest of the group was doing and got on a bus and it turned out to be a wild ride. I think that the bus driver thought that he was a driving a race car and made fast turns and even hit and broke the side-view mirror of a parked car near the terminal. Several passengers gasped at this but there was no apology or anything from the unknown driver. I was meeting my husband at the airport and he had landed in Paris a few hours earlier and so I was anxious to connect with him as soon as possible. So I went through the immigration and customs stuff and saw my husband through the glass doors and all my jet lag vanished (for some time at least). We had to have croissant and cafĂ© au lait at the airport (this is one of the many times we had them) and then took the train to get into town. While I was waiting with the luggage when hubby dear was getting our train tickets, I saw people of all cultures in that area and that was heartening. However, everything seemed to take longer. We waited in line to get the tickets from the automatic vending machine but then realized after some time that it is only for metro train tickets. So then we had to go stand in line in a different place and get the tickets.

Anyway, we got the tickets and made it to the area we were staying in. We stayed near Bastille but took one of the farther exits out of the metro station and so had to roam around with our luggage before we found the right street for our hotel. We went and asked a cab driver to take us there but he refused as it was too close. You have to admire him for his honesty. We finally went to our hotel which was in a very old neighborhood and so it was laid back and relaxing. The hotel corridors and rooms are much smaller than what we have in America but that is not a problem, once you are used to it. I slept for a few hours and then we decided to venture out around 4 pm. Since we had not eaten anything since the croissant in the morning, we wanted to eat first. But since it was 4 pm, most of the restaurants were either closed or not serving food at that time. We saw a sign that said Ganesh Indian Restaurant and decided to try it. I’ve to admit that I was surprised to see an Indian restaurant in Paris but then we saw two or three more during our trip. And there were a lot of Indians around as well…and quite a few people were talking in Tamizh as well.

So we walk into Ganesh and were looking at the menu, and then we hear Tamizh. How about that? The guy at the restaurant was playing some movie dialogue (we later found out that it was from a movie called thenkaasip pattinam which I’ve never heard of) and I was delighted. So we started talking to him and learnt that he was from Sri Lanka and then ate our food (which was only so-so) and left. We walked around the neighborhood some and went and saw the Bastille (which is nothing more than a tall tower with some sculpture on top) and walked back to the hotel. On the way, we stopped to buy some fruits at a fruit and vegetable stand (just like in India) and managed to give him the right amount of money after some effort. I’ve to say that I don’t know much French and even the words I know, I’ve difficulty pronouncing them right as I believe all the letters in a word will have to be spelled out (otherwise why are they there?). But my able companion knows some French (more than I had expected) and so we managed well (most of the times). We went to a grocery store and saw that wine is one of the cheapest items there (you can get a Bordeaux for less than 2 euros). There were several people at the grocery store that seemed to be returning from work. Unlike in the US, people there like to buy groceries everyday. We walked around a bit even though it was raining to see boulangerie (bakery) and fromagerie (cheese shop) and just to take in the spirit of a new city. After that, we returned to the hotel and I just crashed even though it was early in the evening. I remember waking up once in a while but nothing more and ended up sleeping till the next day morning. And then our real Paris trip started.

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