Sunday, December 20, 2009

The European Adventure, Chapter 2: Paris, Je T'aime!!

So I've finally gotten around to writing about our next destination Paris!! Last I left off was that we were knackered from our trip to Bath, Windsor Castle and Stonehenge. Well, our trip to Paris first started off as rushing to the airport at the crack of dawn almost feeling that we were surely going to miss our flight. It felt like deja vu, probably because we were rushing the same way yesterday when we were trying to catch our day bus tour. It was chilly and partly cloudy. Secretly, hoping that our flight was delayed but of course it wasn't. Not only was our flight not delayed, we managed to get there with ample time to even grab a nice English breakfast at the airport lounge. I, as usual, got distracted by Burberry while my friend ran to the loo for the third time! Sadly enough, I didn't buy the watch I semi fell in love with because now we really needed to board our flight. Soon we did and off we were to the land of crêpes, French onion soup, boeuf bourguignon and well Tour Eiffel, Louvre and hot French men avec croissants et cafés.
Bonjour Paris!! We landed at Charles De Gaulle Airport and I kid you not, the gate we exited out the plane from was literally on the other side of the terminal from where we needed to exit and take the RER train from! After trying to manhandle the machines pour les billets (tickets) we gave up and stood in line to get our Paris Visite tickets which we later found out that the machines were not working. For those who don't know, the Paris Visite tickets are basically a ticket with unlimited rides of subway, buses, and RER trains-- the sweetest travel deal for any outsider! Once we got to our station we were convinced that even though Paris is known for its well-connected subway system, we knew they had to have some sick twisted sadistic mind to make every train track situated so far apart from each other within the train stations. It was probably our tiredness speaking and the fact that our luggage seemed heavier than it actually was at that very point but nonetheless the thought or observation if you will was just as correct.

We finally made it to our hotel, the Idéal Design Hotel. The ultimate minimalist hotel, one could ever find. The funniest was when we saw the size of the elevator. My friend, I and our suitcase barely fit through, though it was quite the squeeze. Now we're not big girls so I wonder what happens when a fat person comes through. Clearly they have to send the suitcase alone and then them alone otherwise there is no other option! We walked out of the elevator and was greeted by a hot handyman who directed us to our room. My friend and I couldn't stop smirking at each other because we both were thinking of how we've seen this scene play in front of our eyes in many movies or tv shows that were filmed in Paris or with a French guy period. We were amused that it was happening to us. Granted, we didn't break into a passionate kiss with the man but he nonetheless smiled and left. We plopped on the bed and took a 15 minute power nap before we headed out to experience Paris. After getting ready and seeing our handyman yet again because our hairdryer was genuinely not working, we finally hopped on the train and got off on Saint Michel to first get some lunch; We were starved!!!
We walked around the little alleys which were nestled with little restaurants but then finally found the one we liked. It was an open restaurant that allowed us to enjoy the warm weather but also people watch. We ordered our food with excellent pairings of wine which we later found that wine was cheaper in France than regular drinking water. Not complaining and thoroughly amused! We were in Paris, so we had to taste French wine! Our waiter complimented on our fine choice and chatted us up because we didn't look like we were from there. Luc was quite friendly, flirtatious and most importantly CUTE!! As we ate away our scrumptious lunch, (french food is by far one of the yummiest cuisine, probably because it's not shy of using BUTTA' and lots of it!) we were looking at the map trying to to plan of action as to where we were going to start and finish for the day. Luc pulled up a chair next to our table and helped us out!
Once we were done, we headed out to Notre Dame Cathedral. Absolutely exquisite and utterly speechless! The detail on all stained glass paintings and the carved sculptures kept my mouth shut and in awe for once. There was a sermon going on at the time we walked in, so we decided to take a moment and hear it even though my friend didn't understand a word of it since it was in French and only I understood French. We then prayed and made our wishes to God, which hopefully will be granted this new year, and walked out towards the grounds. But of course the turds that we are, and the fact that we were on vacation we had the urge of being silly, in other words the french would call stoopid Americains. My friend dared me to ask the information where the statue of the Hunchback of Notre Dame was located. I know...tres istoopeed but when you're on vacation, all is well...or how Aamir Khan says it in 3 Idiots, Aall izz well So after the Notre Dame, we trekked down the Seine River...and what a view... We walked and walked in search of the Eiffel Tower...and we walked....we saw all the side attractions the Petit Palais, Grand Palais, Concorde, Musee D'Orsay, Assemblée Nationale to name a few...
As we walked down Champs Elysee, we finally saw our first siting of the Eiffel Tower! So even though our feet were about to fall off from all that walking, immediately we got a burst of energy and excitement! We were on a mission to find the Eiffel Tower! We continued to walk and even managed to take several buses but still could not reach to the tower! Finally we just got off at one stop (thanks to my knowledge of French and being able to communicate with them) we got a block away from our destination. There it was standing pretty fully lit from top to bottom. As we crossed the bridge to get to it, we were followed by a smirking old man. Of course I noticed this and nonchalantly told my friend to walk faster no matter how much it pained to even walk at that moment. We got to the tower finally and was completely enamored! How can the French find it ugly!?!So intricate in its own way! Anyway we walked around and feeling our stomachs turning and craving for food we finally made our way to dinner back in St. Michel! We decided that it was going to be crepes night! We searched and found La Crêperie. If we could sum it in one word of how it tasted then it would be " mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm" That's still a word! After it all, we barely made it to our hotel, showered and crashed immediately as we were heading to Versailles early next morning.
Once we were all ready the next morning, we picked up two small café au lait and croissants avec beurre (two small coffees and buttered croissants) and headed to the train that was going to take us to Versailles.
As beautiful as we thought the tower was, Versailles was breathtaking, and that adjective is an understatement of what it really was. Speechless!!!! Our tired eyes were awakened by its beauty and we hadn't even gone inside yet. It was 10 am and the lines were already long!! As we walked along the path of the palace from room to room, our eyes beamed through the windows looking at the vast endless gardens. If only we were there during the spring or summer time when the flowers were blooming!! But even then it was an attractive sight. After doing our rounds around the palace and buying gifts for the family, we headed back to the main city to finish the rest of our touring and most importantly have tea with the Mona Lisa!

We went straight to the Louvre and covered most of the museum in 4 hrs. It wasn't hard to find the Mona Lisa at first because not only were everyone going to see her, were surrounded by Calcuttans calling out in their heavily accented Bengali, "Dadaa!! Mona Lisa dekhben na!?! Uni bolechilo okhhaaney aachey!" (Translation: Brother, Wouldn't you like to see the Mona Lisa, He was saying it is over there!) Amused as we were, hearing bangla from aged ladies in their cotton saris and sneakers, we enjoyed being secretly directed to Da Vinci. There were so many stairs going up and down but managed to see the exhibits that were most important to us! Already our foot was swollen from all the walking and going up and down the stairs but we held strong and continued on. We took the bus from the Louvre and headed over to Montmartre to see Sacre Coeur. It was such a cute area...little alleys with cute stores and cafes. Yet again we were lost and walked endless to see the Sacre Coeur but every time we were on a mission to find what we were looking for, we were rewarded!!! From the top of the Cathedral, we could see the entire view of Paris. What a site it was and luckily we had reached just before sunset! There were music artists playing their guitars and the French accented songs of Michael Jackson. Soon enough I got a call from my old high school friend who just got out of work and will be meeting us for dinner around 9:30ish near our hotel as she lived close by and since we were still looking around, it just seemed ideal. We walked around even more at a slower pace this time to see Moulin Rouge. Of course, as we walked the street, we were hounded by even more sleazy men than we had already met during the past two days since we were there. That is one thing... French men have no fear or shame and full of confidence! If we were in the US, most men would think twice about randomly hitting on girls of the fear of rejection. Whereas Frenchmen, if they are rejected by one, they immediately move on to the next with even more perseverance. This trait of theirs was truly an amazing site to see. I would even call it a French attraction that should not be missed, but I guess it's something hard to miss anyways.
Soon after we returned back to the hotel, freshened up to meet my friend and her sister for dinner to which I found out that I was allergic to pork. How did I find that out when eating pork is against my religion and the fact that i find the smell slightly revolting? Well in the dark restaurant to what it seemed like a tomato was a thin slice of jambon (ham) that i had no idea of. Later, I was itching all over and found red splotches all over my hand. We couldn't figure out what it was from, so the next day when we went out again to meet my friends who were visiting from London for a day, I walked over and checked the menu on the wall and found that it had pork in it and i had no idea! Oh well now I will never be curious about pork anymore. We soon enough met our friends in St Michel yet again which became my friend and my favorite place for food and hang out. We had breakfast and then went off to continue with the sightseeing. Some as ever, each attraction was just as exquisite. but the best part of the day was when we went up the Centre De Pompidou and enjoyed a bottle of wine at Georges Restaurant and just as Sacre Coeur relished yet another panoramic view of Paris! What a sight it was. Our waiter was again very chatty and jokingly asked about our trip because clearly we were out-of-towners. Once we were done, we at the end of the day were girls so how could we come to Paris and not do some shopping, so off we were to drop some Euros! We went to the famous wholesale designer markets and got all the things we wanted. Bags and Shoes. This was one thing my friend and I noticed. Not a single female in Paris carried an ugly bag of which we see lots of in New York. Finally we capped our wallets for the night and headed our own ways. The Londoners headed back to London and we continued our touring of Paris. We walked around checking out the final important places that we wanted to catch this trip around knowing that we wont be able to capture the entire of Paris in one trip because at the end of the day we also wanted to relax and enjoy Paris as well! Waltzing around town, we were getting slightly hungry so we headed back to the hotel and explore for a restaurant nearby where we could just relax our last night there to which we did. We found the cutest restaurant to which i think had the best meal the entire trip so far. We stayed there for over 3 hrs just chatting and and reliving the three days that we had been there and of course had heart to heart and somewhat philosophical conversations about life and the future of our lives as to where we want to be and what we want in life. it was almost 1am and was surprised to see that the restauranteurs didn't even budge us out. If we were elsewhere I'm sure we would have been getting dirty looks well into our first our there! The culture there is to really enjoy life which is what we really talked about. We are all soo busy to go to the next stop that we hardly enjoy the day we are living in! We returned back exhausted from our day and plopped on the bed planning our final day in Paris as in the evening we had to catch our flight back to London which also meant soon enough we will be back in New York and our vacation would be over. For once, we woke up late, enjoyed a proper breakfast and headed back to St. Michel. We still had some sightseeing left over so we finished that and decided to end our trip with the ultimate dish that I refused to leave Paris without eating it. Boeuf Bourguignon... As we enjoyed our meal, the gentleman that was sitting next to us was enjoying his meal alone to which i know we both thought we would never be able to do it ever! Not only did he order what we had, he also ate a bowl of soup and a dessert and a cup of coffee and yet he was not fat. Where did all the food go behind that sharp suit he was wearing?? and he was there even longer time than we were, and no, he was not jobless either? He occasionally was looking at his blackberry and putting through deals! Can you imagine taking a 3 hour lunch break? Surely you'd be fired if you were anywhere else!?! We moved on and because we still had a few hours to kill, we decided to go on the boat ride. around the island! I recommend everyone to take that bus ride because not only was it exciting, it was relaxing, informative and most importantly scenic!!
After the ride, we headed back to our hotel and off we were to get to the airport and of course our train luck, there were some mechanical difficulties and as usual had to run for the terminal once we got there. We said our goodbyes to Paris where the immigration officer taught my friend her first french words. J'aimes Paris! YES...I truly J'AIMES PARIS! Julia Child once said, "France was my spiritual homeland: it had become part of me, and I a part of it, and so it has remained ever since. [It] reminds me that the pleasures of the table, and of life, are infinite — toujours bon appétit!"
Couldn't have said it better even though we were just there for four days. It was love at first sight and it was Paris that made a lover out of me forever...
À bientôt, j'espère!!

Edit: Because i didn't have much more to say on the conclusion of this trip i decided to combine my next post on the time in London here. Hope you guys don't mind!

The European Adventure, The Final Chapter: Back in London!

So as exhausted as we were, I still had a few more days before I had to head back to New York. The next day, the day I will never forget, came in a whirlwind. We stuffed our face with Nandos Peri Peri Chicken and the other fixins and off we were to do our necessity final shopping at Marks and Spencers. As always after marks & spencers we headed to the next store called Dune which is where my bag got stolen. All my prized possessions which included my recently acquired Bvlgari sunglasses, Ipod touch given by my friends, my friend's camera, phone, my disposable camera of all our Paris pictures were gone. This incident dampened the rest of my trip and erased all the good memories we had captured via our camera! The rest of the trip remained a little uneventful which i didn't mind because i was tired and just needed to relax catching up with friends that i didn't get to see when i first arrived in London! Oh well SHIT HAPPENS I guess...

The best of it all I guess was how cooperative the London Police was. Not only did they meaning Detective Michael called me to check on me several times, he called me in New York, in addition with a written letter, that they could not find the perpetrators and that he is having to close the case a month later...How sweet of him! What can I say but say C'est La Vie!

And now that I'm done recollecting this trip, i can now go back to writing all the things I've been meaning to write about all this while.