Saturday, May 03, 2014

Paris in a drizzle

Did a lightening tour of Paris on the way back from the awards ceremony at Caen of Chansons sans Frontières. Actually, the only way to get back to Lyon from Caen is via Paris. And when I learned that the train station (Gare de Lyon) is just a stones throw from Champs Élysée, there was no way I could miss using the time between trains to check out the sights – even though Blandine hated the idea. Blandine hates Paris, but for me, it has always been this mystical place that I had to see once before I die. Blandine said we would do Paris later, properly, when she has vacations. But what I say is, who has seen the rain? At the rate Blandine and I fight, there is no guarantee that day will ever come. So I hopped out of Gare de Lyon, dragging a muttering and cursing Blandine to knock off one more item from the list of things to do before I die.
The most beautiful city in the world… The city of dreams… My lasting impression of Paris is cold, grim faces packed into the metro. Paris is the only place in France where I saw cold, grim faces.
We walked all the way from Gare de Lyon to the Eiffel Tower, along the Seine, taking in all the bridges over the Seine.
I did so want to see the bridges, having seen a lovely program on TV5Monde on the bridges of Paris – les ponts de Paris. In reality the bridges were… well… bridges. Possibly they look more romantic in bright sunlight. I had the misfortune of seeing them in a cold, gray drizzle.

We made detours on our riverine route for Notre Dame, Louvre and Champs Élysée. Notre Dame and the Louvre were overflowing with tourists – half Indian, half Chinese. Between swatting off Nigerian touts selling Eiffel Tower souvenirs, and dodging camera wielding tourists, I got a glimpse of these iconic buildings.  The pyramid of the Louvre seemed a lot more mysterious within the pages of Da Vinci Code.

I’d been dreaming of seeing chic Parisiennes clicking down Champs Élysée on stilettos, possibly smoking slim, disdainful cigarettes. I saw hoards of badly dressed tourists eating hamburgers from the lone McDonalds outlet. Champs Élysée looked a bit like good old MG Road in Bangalore. Possibly a bit bigger, very possibly a bit cleaner. With great difficulty Blandine pointed out a chic Parisienne with a Hermes bag, which Blandine said would have set her (or her dad or her lover) back by nothing less than 20,000 euros. It was a kind of hideous red contraption – like a leather shopping bag. I swear I could have gotten the babe an identical bag at Chandni Chowk in old Delhi for something like 300 rupees. They would even have put a Hermes stamp on it, for an extra 50 rupees. But I enjoyed going down the side streets and checking out the embassies and Prez Holland’s joint in Élysée palace.
Eiffel Tower was – I dunno – kind of small. Yes, yes I know – it’s pretty big. But I’d somehow always imagined it was bigger. But it looked exactly like the souvenir on my study table as a kid – the one dad had brought back from his foreign travels – so I suppose I can’t complain.
After that we had a cold lunch from an excellent Boulangerie down a shaded side street, away from the touristy areas. That was one part of my Paris trip I really enjoyed. I had a Hot Dog à la France – as remote from the standard US version as a chiwawa is from a mutt hound. A crisp baguette with a grilled Toulouse sausage with camembert. Followed up with a coffee éclair. Blandine had a big chocolate meringue bombshell kind of thing.
And then just enough time to catch the metro back to Gare de Lyon to catch the TGV to Lyon.
And was Paris all I expected it to be?
I dunno… I guess it was a bit of a disappointment. Possibly I was in a blue funk after the excitement of the awards ceremony. Or possibly it was the gray clouds and constant dull, cold drizzle that made the whole experience a trifle unromantic. Or possibly it was Blandine going through the whole exercise with the general air of a schoolboy undergoing punishment.
Or very possibly I was expecting too much. I suppose no city on Earth could live up to the kind of expectations I had of Paris.
Here is the compulsory photo of me posing before the Eiffel Tower, to prove I’ve been to Paris.

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