Once upon a time in Europe – Part 8 – Paris City tour
Continued from Part 7
After dinner, bro and I stayed back at the lobby for a game of air hockey. It should have been a real bad day for my brother, because, for the first time in his life, he lost to me at a game. Ok, let me put this way, I had never been able to beat my brother at any game, be it video games, board games or these kinda indoor games and it was indeed a moment of pride for me
But that was just the beginning for my brother. It was worse the following day !!!!
Before going to bed that day, we saw bro searching for the rooms safe box. He wanted to safeguard the only valuable he carried along with him- his SLR camera, which apparently he loves more than any of his family member. He even tried to squeeze in the bag of the camera, but the safe didn’t have enough space to accommodate it. For that matter, with his camera and its accessories inside, there was hardly any space left for anything else.
We decided to spend the following day roaming in and around Paris city and visit Disneyland Park the day after, that is, on the last day of the Paris trip, which incidentally was my second last day in Europe too.
After our morning breakfast, we got ready for the trip and boarded a metro to Versailles to check out the famous Chateau de Versailles. During the journey, when I got my camera out of its pouch to click a few snaps, my brother intervened and asked me to use his SLR saying I would get better quality pics. He opened his SLR bag for the camera and ‘DING DONG’ – he realized that the camera was still ‘safe’ in the hotel rooms safe and had been happily carrying the cameras empty bag on his shoulder right from morning. We had already come half the distance and there was no point in going back. It was time for me to retaliate to all his frequent insults on my camera. He really hated my camera and had been asking me to get a new one ever since I set my foot in Europe. Just so you all know, I was carrying a really old digi-cam which, I believe, once belonged to Queen Elizabeth who had brought it during her first visit to India centuries ago. With this medieval camera on one hand and with a smirk on my face, I said, “Oh, I guess, now the only option to capture Paris is with this stupid camera.” My brother looked really dull and irritated, because this is the kind of mess up which I am famous for! Though I pulled his legs, I felt bad deep down! No, not for my brother; I knew the limitations of my camera and I was hoping for some real good photographs of Paris city. Sigh !
We got down at the Versailles-Rive Gauche station and the palace was like a 10 mins walk from there. On the way, we came across a few private agents selling the entry tickets to the Palace and the gardens. The tickets were charged extra but I guess Bro had a fair idea of how the crowd was going to be and so purchased them. I am glad he did it; the queue at the palace counter was too long and it would have taken us more than 2 hours to get to the ticket counter. But, we still had to stand in a long queue to enter the palace after all their security measures.
Chateau de Versailles is a magnificent estate with a palace and a garden spread over 800 hectares of ground ! That’s right 800 hectares; we couldn’t even see the end of the estate, it was that huge! It is one of the most accomplished achievements of the 17th century French art which was started off by King Louis XIII as a hunting lodge and then was transformed and enlarged by his son King Louis XIV, who also installed his court and government here. Once you are at the palace, do not forget to use the free audio guide that is provided to you at the counter. The audio guide would help you a lot in understanding the history behind the different sculptures and paintings inside the palace and also gives you a brief lecture on the importance of each rooms, about French Revolution- when, why and where it was started, how it affected the inmates of the palace. They also show you a small room through which the Queen tried to escape during the revolution. It was a great experience for me; whatever I had learned in history just flashed in front of eyes. Chateau de Versailles and the attached gardens are a must see for all history lovers; highly recommended. Check out the snaps of the palace and the grounds in the slideshow that appears towards the end of this post.
Our next plan was to catch a metro and reach the city for some sight seeing. We got into a metro and the destination was Champ de Mars tour Eiffel – a station quite close to the Eiffel tower.
We all wanted to get on top of the Eiffel tower, but the queue was so long and they had some kind of display above the counter which said it would take us 90 mins to reach the counter and then go up. We didn’t want to waste one and half hours standing in the queue and moreover we were feeling hungry. We just took a few snaps of the tower and decided to hop over a tour bus that would help us sightsee.
There is a shuttle service that starts right in front of the Eiffel Tower, does a complete tour of the city and drops you back at the tower. They also provide you free audio guides inside the bus to help you understand the city and the importance of the different architecture seen in the city. The bus stops at prominent places, you could get down at any of these stops, move around and then hop onto any other bus that provides this same shuttle service. How convenient, huh? Well, we got down at one such place, filled our stomach, took a small walk, clicked pictures and stood at a stop waiting for the tour bus. By then, it was almost evening and Bro looked at the bus guide to know about the shuttle service; there were only two more of such buses left and one of them was on its way to the stop. That’s when he went to look for the tickets in his pocket; he searched, searched and searched, but could not find them. The second last bus came and we had to see it leaving in front of our eyes. Simultaneously, S-i-l and I also started searching for the tickets; we even looked for them on the way to see if my bro had accidentally dropped them. Nope! No where in sight! My bro said that it must have fallen from his pocket in the first bus itself. He looked really disappointed with whatever was happening that day; it was so not like him !!
The only thing left for us was to explain the situation to the driver of the next bus and see if he can accommodate us in the bus without the tickets. We waited and the bus arrived. I could listen to my own heart beat when my bro went up to the driver to ask him. The driver said its not possible and he needs the tickets to let us inside! But then, I guess, I was blocking his view from Dhwani and her pram, because when I moved to the side, the drivers eyes fell on the lill one and he said, “Ok, hop on!”
I always wanted to travel on the top of an open air double decker bus, infact one of my other dreams. Since we kept moving, I couldn’t click pics; but managed to take a couple of videos. The below 8 minute video is a compilation of all those videos and also a few pics and was created exclusively for the readers of V-Lokam. People who are really interested in seeing the city are advised to watch the video; the others can skip it.
After spending enough time at the Eiffel tower seeing it glitter, we decided to call it a day and returned to the metros. Bro wanted me to be incharge of our return journey through the metros (which, I believe, is the biggest risk he took in his life) and so I took full responsibility of getting all of us back home. Well, it didn’t turn out bad at all. I did get confused initially, but we all got into the right train at the right time.
It was almost 9pm when we reached Marne-la-Vallee (that’s the place where Disneyland is and that’s where we stayed, remember?) We were sure that we wouldn’t get our dinner at the hotel. These crazy Europeans shut their shops by 7 pm max and here we are in India complaining that our shops close by 11pm !. We had to literally run inside Disney Village to see if any of the outlets are opened. To our luck, Mcdonalds was open and was about to close for the day. Quickly ordered what we required as a take away and went back to the bus stop for our shuttle buses to the hotel. We waited for like an hour and finally got to know from a cab guy that the shuttle buses were only till 9pm. We had no other choice than to travel to the hotel through one of those cabs even though we knew it was going to turn out to be really expensive. As soon as we reached the rooms, my bro checked the safe for his camera and yes, it was indeed safe! That night I don’t remember any of us speaking to each other; either we were really tired or we were pissed off with all that had happened. We had our dinner and hit the bed in no time.
The next day, that is day 3, was spent totally at Disneyland Park which I shall put up in the forthcoming post.
Meanwhile on day 4, that is, on our way back to Switzerland, we had the entire morning to spend at Paris city as our return trains were at 2.30pm. Since I liked museums, my bro wanted me to visit the Louvre Museum – the largest museum in the world. I mean, whats the point in going to Paris if you cant get to see Ms.Monalisa! 😀 But things didn’t turn out as we planned. By the time we got to the city, it was 11pm and there was a long queue again, for the tickets. If we were to visit the museum, there would hardly be any time for us to reach back at our station. Moreover, I couldnt take the risk as I was leaving back to India the next day. Check the below slideshow for the pics in and around the museum (as mentioned somewhere above, the slideshow also has the pics from Chateau de Versailles) :
When it was time for us to leave, I looked at the museum one last time and said in my mind, “ I WILL BE BACK!!”
My return flight to India next day was from Zurich airport at 3.30 pm. Theres a train from Basel at 12 noon which reaches the airport by 1pm and we all planned to leave in that. I sat with the packing that night itself to avoid any kind of confusion in the morning.
To be continued…..
Also read :
Once upon a time in Europe —