Ask anyone who wishes to travel and Paris will definitely feature on the bucket list. Say its history, architecture, food or culture Paris has something to offer for everyone. I have always been in love with France ever since I started learning Art in my childhood and was drawn into the world of Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and other great masters. So, a visit to Paris is a must be if you want to experience the true essence of Europe for it is France that shaped the European history over the ages.
Me and my travel buddy Bharati decided to visit Paris this summer and everything happened in a frenzy. We decided to travel solo and not through any travel site and believe me it’s the best decision ever. It broadened our horizons, helped us to mix up with locals, and let us move the way we wanted. We applied for Visa from Kolkata and booked a one-way ticket to Paris through Air France. Our flight was from Mumbai at 2 AM and it was a non-stop flight to Paris.
Since both me and Bharati were allotted separate seats I passed the time watching movies in the flight somewhere trying to doze in between and sometimes relishing on the in-flight cuisine. I was full of apprehensions since we were seated separately and I had never travelled solo. However soon it was time for us to land as the pilot announced the descent. We landed at Paris at 8 am Parisian time. The Charles de Gaulle airport is one of the most advanced and beautiful airports of the world. On disembarking from the aircraft, I caught a metro which took me to the luggage belt. The funny part was both of us missed each other outside the aircraft since Bharati was struck inside and I couldn’t see her. However, we caught each other up in the luggage belt.
The Airport at Paris has also got the train station interconnected with it. So, we boarded the Metro to Porte del Lilas where we put up for our stay. The entire city of Paris is very well connected with metro and trams and one can avail city passes which are available in every airport and station. The French people are quite warm and seemed quite helpful whenever we asked them for directions.
After freshening up we decided to explore the city. We decided to visit the Louvre Museum since it was a must see for any art connoisseur. The museum is housed in the Louvre Palace which was the residence of the French Monarchs since Louis V. It is the world’s largest art museum and houses some of the best masterpieces ever made. A full day is needed if you wish to visit every nook and corner of the museum and we became nearly exhausted after exploring for an hour or so. So we decided to stick to the main exhibits which included the Monalisa, Madonna of the Rocks, The Last Supper and other paintings by Da vinci, Raphael and so on. There is also a separate section for Egyptian exhibits which included Sarcophagus, golden caskets and other items discovered during excavation. Famous European sculptures are also are part of the exhibits in a separate hall. For me it was no less than a dream as I remembered scenes from the book Da Vinci Code as well as the glass pyramid shown in the movie. We were awestruck as we saw some of the paintings we had all heard about to see with our own eyes.
It started drizzling by the time we made out of the museum. We saw roadside stalls of Crepes and we decided to try it out. Being in France and not having crepes is a sin. While Bharati tried banana filling I went for the meat filling. The Crepes are generally either sweet or savoury. Apart from Crepes, the French also take pride in variety of breads and bakery products. Moving from the Louvre Museum we took the local City Bus to the Eiffel Tower, the most famous city Landmark in Paris. The tower has three levels for visitors, with restaurants on the first and second levels. Tickets can be purchased to ascend by stairs or lift to the first and second levels. But the most noteworthy is the river cruise on Seine river. The one-hour cruise guides you through the entire river and also gives information on the various landmarks on both sides of the river. All the cruise ships also have a restaurant on the ground floor where you can buy snacks and drinks while enjoying the scenic beauty.
After returning via the City Metro we fell down like dead logs. The best way to explore Paris is by walking and you will discover the city like never before. The civilians are very well mannered and there is proper discipline on the roads with cars stopping at every red light for pedestrians to cross. We didn’t see any traffic policemen anywhere and it made us remember the sight back home. It made me wish had there been such discipline and civic sense in my countrymen back home. Not to mention the safety. The sun use to go down quite late not before 9 pm but we felt quite safe even when we use to walk back quite late.
After having a heavy French breakfast of Croissants, Scrambled Eggs, Juices and Café Au Lait (which means Coffee with milk or crème) we decided to visit the Notre Dame Cathedral. For book lovers you may remember it from the book The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo. The Notre Dame is the most famous gothic cathedral in entire France. The Cathedral was constructed and renovated and many additions were made over the years. But the most beautiful part is the stained-glass windows at the Cathedral. The Cathedral also houses many relics related to Christianity including the famed Crown of Thorns. The entire streets are lined with Bistros which is a common trait of Parisian streets and in the evening the Plaza is lined up with street artists of varied forms.
France is also known for its vivid countryside. The city of Versailles is famous for its Palace which was the home of the French monarchs till their fall during the French Revolution. After we boarded the train to Versailles and enjoyed the countryside view, we reached the city of Versailles. Unlike the hustle and bustle of Paris, Versailles is relatively quiter except the tourist destinations like the Chateau. The Chateau of Versailles is the most famous tourist destination not only in Versailles but for entire France. It was the seat of power of the French Bourbon kings and is undoubtedly an important piece of French history. The palace complex apart from the main buildings houses large gardens and Queen’s hamlet which is basically an English countryside built specifically for Marie Antoinette to help her escape from the daily rigors of the Courtly life. We took audio guides which helped us understand the significance of each room and the history behind it. However, one must expect to wait a good 2-3 hours to even get inside the Chateau because of the huge number of tourists.
So, this was the first leg of my experience in France. The next time I am planning to take down the route of Nice, Marseilles and Bordeaux. Till then au revoir!
Point for All the Ladies!
- France and overall Paris is pretty safe! So not to worry, however there are some areas which may not be safe to venture out alone if you are travelling alone. So dont rely on Google maps all the time do a homework on the area you are going and travelling.
- Water is quite costly in France so try to refill your bottle wherever portable drinking water is available. In hotels where breakfast is included try to refill your bottle from the dining room itself.
- Entire France is well connected with metro. There are also trams and bus service available. Use Google Maps to find out the easiest connectivity. If you are staying for a longer duration take a City Pass which is easily available in Airports and Railways Stations.
- French is the main language spoken and maximum people are not fluent in English. However the signage and all in public places will have English translation and even if you face a problem there go and ask any local decent people.Even if they cant speak English they love helping people out.
- For the main tourist locations you can book the tickets online in advance. It will save you time and maybe even a few bucks. In Versailles we discovered that online tickets were more cheaper plus you don’t have to stand in the queue for 2-3 hours.
- And lastly don’t forget to pack an umbrella in your stuff. Weather can be pretty unpredictable.
- And for those travelling for the first time, once you disembark from the aircraft at Charles de Gaulle Airport you will have to take the metro for the Luggage station. However don’t worry the police and security are quite helpful and immigration process is quite smooth.
What to try
- Crepes with different fillings, its cheap as well as filling
- Croissants trust me you wont find so soft croissants anywhere else!
- Different juices like lemonades with various flavours!
- Onion soup
- And no doubt the wine!!!
Best time to Visit
April to October