Wednesday, September 5, 2012

My Paris Diary- Part-1

Le coup de foudre- oh! you all must be wondering what? It means love at first sight in French. Yes we fell in love with Paris,at first sight that we don’t know but we did eventually or were destined to do so.And it’s a kind of a feeling that keeps growing inside us, even after the so called rendezvous ended couple of weeks ago.So, before I almost forget everything about kind of that "Eureka trip", let me start typing it all from the beginning.Actually whenever we travel, we like to roam around just like this post and the one which will be followed after this post.This time I am going little overboard about Paris, reasons hopefully understood.You all have to be little patient with me this time.Hope you will like reading this as much as we like visiting and roaming in Paris.
Alrighty!! see even my English is going over-board here, talk about French influence.
From walking down the narrow streets of Montmartre or climbing up the steps that lead to Sacre-coeur or sitting quietly in place des Vosges, admiring the old architecture and strolling past the Maison de Victor Hugo. Or just enquiring about the roads/bus in Paris to locals. Little did we realize that these were slowly getting encrypted into our memory database.Oh! yeah our memory is just like a database and it's up to us how we want to make use of it.

( Gare Du Nord Train Station)

When we first set our feet in Paris, there was utter confusion in our minds. First of all the language which we were not familiar with, and then we were traveling with kid. I started having doubts over our decision of not traveling in groups or taking up a tour service. We were confused but not clueless. We treated it as our opportunity, more to do with being adventurous, to explore the city with a fresh approach- our own approach.

The way we would other wise like to stroll in our home city Kolkata. But then if you really want to feel the vibes of the city, you have to live like locals. It says if you are in Paris live like a Parisian. We rented a service apartment and it was like just extending our home and carrying our home to a holiday. So, each day when we came back to our apartment, we knew we have some time to relax and prepare meals which we like to eat and it also serves the purpose of understanding the life of local Parisians.

(  A street across Gare du Nord station)

While traveling in Euro star which saved our time, a kind of a thrilling experience gripped us, crossing English Channel and that too in 20 mints and deep into the sea. Now it gives me chill just thinking about it, but when we were in the train, we didn’t even felt like we were doing kind of,some out of the world stunt. It appeared very usual, just like crossing a normal, dark tunnel while traveling in trains back in home.

That historic path crossed in utter euphoria. There was this young girl probably in her late teens in our coach; she was clicking every moment travelling in Eurostar. The moment it entered the English Channel and the moment train entered French Border and probably even more with her father, her brother and her mother. Even the food which they were sharing, talk of excitement, I guess as compared to her zest, ours was very little though. Wow! It must have been some kind of special moments in her life. I, on the other hand was sitting, watching the world go by, my old habit. There was two lovely lovey-dovey couple drinking red wine in true spirit, slowly whispering to each other, cracking jokes and then smiling to each other. Then there was a helpless mother and a confused father, with two cranky kids besides them. So each time whenever there were pressure gap ( very few times though) our ears would tend to get blocked, and then those cute kids would go loud, crying their hearts out. A look into parents's faces, and I can see our past years in them. Well friends you will also cross this stage, don’t bother, hang on, we understand.

And then an elderly couple, on an unspoken cold war which developed probably after their children left in search of job, married life, home etc. I can see the empty nest-syndrome there and it was so evident. Husband while digging his head deep into his laptop for the work, looks like he was going to attend some official meeting. And while wife trying to strike a conversation, offered a cup of coffee, and somehow it ended up spilling all over that poor husband. That made me; somehow wonder was it an accident or a deliberate attempt to seek attention. It left him murmuring in pain and then the teenager boy sitting right in front of them, with a burnt foot; well some of the hot beverage did spill on his poor feet. And then a frightened aunt of that teenager, sitting right in front of me, awe struck what should be done now, or was she recalling why she took the initiative to pick her nephew and then go ahead on a holiday with her sisters family members. Well that was some kind of experience unusual of travelling in European trains for me. Our holiday had already started even though we were yet far away from Paris. Every body had their own reasons to be in Paris, they all need a good holiday break to revive, relive and replenish energy.

Our destination was Gare du nord.Nord rail station has one of best gothic architecture. There are streets; I mean cobbled streets just along the station, and where one can catch many city buses which will take you to every corner of city, but let me warn you, buses do take lots of time as compared to metro.And in case you are not in hurry, and would like to have a view of the bustling city life , then hop on to these buses.These even will let you know your destination prior of arriving there, flashing next stop and time to reach up there.So sit back and enjoy the ride.

( A good old bistrot- Au Baroudeur, just across the Gare du Nord rail station, start your day with morning cup of tea or coffee here and a simple breakfast)

Across the cobbled street, there are numerous bistrots and brasseries to start off your day with a hearty breakfast or end your day with a hearty meal, chatting and relaxing with friends and family.
French people love to mingle with each other in these brasseries before they call that's  it , "it's the end of day".Dining in Paris gives you many opportunities to explore local cuisine and food.There are many bistros - these are very simple places with  wooden chairs or rather cane chairs, in or around a zinc bar, and there will be a blackboard placed just outside to let you know the menu, but it will be all in French.The main criteria which works for these bistros is creating a homely atmosphere.
Then there will be many cafes where one can pick up a quick coffee or relax with various cold drinks, even a mug of beer or a glass of wine.
Then are the brasseries - with all the show and glitz, so you may occasionally catch wearing white apron waiter  serving the signature dishes of that brasseries.They retain their splendid lamps, glass cupolas and brass coat racks and the food being served is very traditional, picture below.

( One of the many brasseries in Paris,actually is a very popular one "Cafe de la Paix"- you can even find more Here in wiki)

We did our grocery shopping from the "Leader Price" just three to four blocks away from Gare de Nord.I was excited to pick and feel the local produce, my better half S says he has relished one of the best Pears so far, all tasty and juicy. It was little difficult to find things we were looking as all things in French. I asked for help from one of the locals about cheddar cheese, and she pointed to a pack of three shredded cheese pack, I again asked – pizza/pasta , with this she burst into a sweet smile, and nodded her head. Walking past the dairy aisle, I was confused, my better half S asked one of the helper who incidentally was from Pondicherry, well many have migrated to France from Pondicherry, as we all know Pondicherry was couple of decades ago was a French Colony. So, milk became – plait, and Yogurt became – yourt. Once we did finish our grocery shopping, it was time to go back to our apartment. We did this time with metro.

Paris has one of the most well networked metro services. What makes it easy to navigate is that they have numbered their metro line service- from line-1 to line-14, and then the RER service also in main alphabets- A, B, C, and D, all we need to remind ourselves about the direction. A day pass called as mobilis day –pass gives you ample opportunity to explore the city unlimited time. But since we were traveling for more than one day, we were told that Paris Visites pass might come handy for us. And yes it did. It saved our morning effort of again and again purchasing day pass. Paris Metro is like a mirror to Paris, once you step inside a metro station or train; you come across the diverse ethnic and multicultural face of Paris. After our mean of traveling and getting around was sorted out, now it was time to explore the city with our own pace and method.And also there are other means to roam around in Paris - see these cycles parked neatly.

(  Cycles to explore the city, actually many Parisians prefer these over traveling in car or bus)

Day -2 we were tired, and yes still sleepy, but we knew the entire day that we will be going to spend in Disneyland will be one life –time of our opportunity to feel and live those cherished moments, especially for our kiddo. I made a quick breakfast of green bell pepper/onion and tomato scrambled egg, and also was croissants, cereals +milk  which S picked from a nearby Monoprix,

( Monoprix- a departmental shopping store and our saviour )

when he went out later in the evening solo ,to know more about the local place  while we ( me and our daughter A) stayed back in our apartment. Then in the morning,  assembled a quick, whole meal bread sandwich with tomato and olives red sauce, tiered up with onion/potato sabzi (I had already chopped the vegetables the other night) with loads of shredded salads- carrots, lettuce, celery and purple cabbage, and shredded cheddar cheese. To be honest I was not interested in eating out much, occasional cold coffee, croissants and pastry or ice-cream or a simple breakfast was fine for us but we avoided eating out our lunch or dinner.And  so we packed in our lunch every day, and it was convenient also, as we were on the go most of the time and it saved our time.

( Yeah we reached finally to the main park, crossing main street USA- well that too in France!!)
My daughter A was excited when she first saw the Disney –pick-up bus from Gare de Nord( can see in the picture above in background). The short journey towards Disneyland was even more enticing; because of the route- it passed along the banks of river Seine with many astonishing and breath-taking Gothic architecture, monuments and modern buildings.

( Palais de Justice across River Seine)

While our pick-up bus was heading towards the highway, we were again feeling sleepy; when we woke up after our power nap, we were delighted to see the giant entrance from where it goes towards the Disneyland.
Moments of fun, what maddening crowds surrounded us; it was like a never ending vast sea of people, coming all across the globe. We decided to start our journey from main Disneyland Park. We crossed the Main Street USA, along both the sides are many eating joints. We were enjoying a scoop of Ben and Jerry Ice-cream each, which we picked up from Gibson Girl Ice-Cream parlor and then we started slowly walking towards the main castle entrance.

( Entrance to Fantasy-land in Disneyland Park )

We did spin around in Le carousel de Lancelot, and then the Mad Hatters tea cups, and then last ride was “it’s a small world” which was beautiful amalgamation of decorated dolls from around the world. All the rides had some waiting time of 30 to 45 mints to 1 hr. And we were running short of time. We did our lunch while sitting in one of the Park benches just right next to Rapunzel podium, watching the maddening crowd to get a picture with Rapunzel.

Our visit to fantasy land ended on a park train rides, which took  us to adventure land. There are more stories about Disneyland, and if I keep on writing about it, it will not finish. One last prominent , kind of cherry on top was meeting personally with Minnie the mouse, our daughter A was delighted, little shy of course , but when "Minnie the mouse" called on her to come near and stand next to her, it was one life-time moment for her. I am sure once she grows up, she is going to remember may be even some day,will recall this splendid moment.

                                                                                (  Disneyland Train)

Walt Disney Studio Park, is more to do with adventure and thrill, if you are into Cinema and the art of making cartoons, it’s one of those great experiences one can never let go. Fun-filled thrilling adventure - The Tower of terror which we didn’t and of course Studio tram Tour- behind the Magic. But we really and thoroughly enjoyed “Animagique”.

(Walt Disney Studios Park)

While coming out of the park exit/sortie we look behind just to remember all the moments, and all of them flashed in our glittering eyes.
No doubt about why people flock to these dream lands created by Walt Disney, a mere cartoon film and cartoon creatures can fill in so much happiness in millions of hearts across the globe. So, when we sit back in a dark theater with a bag of popcorn to watch these cartoons films, we now know how much efforts goes into making a cartoon film.And we have started appreciating the art of making cartoons which is a very creative work.

Day-3 – While we were tired and exhausted by the walking and then queuing, waiting periods for rides in the Disney Park yesterday, I had a quiet moment all by myself early in the morning, while S and A were deep asleep, I happen to get a lovely early sunrise view from our apartment window.

I stood there, resting my head and shoulders leaned over the arched wall of the window, just admiring and absorbing the view.

( Sunrise view from our apartment)

On one side was this highway, very busy all day and night along and the other side was this magnificent sunrise view.Even the night view from our window was splendid especially the highway.

While we were getting ready to go out exploring Paris even more.
 I prepared our breakfast and then hurriedly pack our lunches – this time it was hummus and zucchini/potato/onion sabzi -veggie burger with loads of shredded and chopped salads which we picked it up while grocery shopping.

( our lunch- Hummus- zucchini/potato/onion sabzi veggie burger)

We took metro towards Champs the Mars and got off at Bir Hakeim.The Eiffel tower quarter is the most visited place of Paris, and why not.An engineering masterpiece by Gustave Eiffel.The tower was inaugurated in the year 1889.

( The famous Eiffel Tower) 

There is river Seine across the road from Eiffel tower flowing south-west out of Paris. And then is Trocadero quarter which lies on the elevated northern bank of the Seine River. There is Champ de Mars – is an open green field that starts off the Eiffel tower corner. We sat there about half an hour, feeling and then absorbing the vibes. We then took a bus towards Arc De Triumph.

( River Seine)

While it was such a lovely sunrise to start our day, we didn’t know that it was going to rain heavily later on that day. It started pouring heavily and we waited while sitting under the Arc de Triomphe,admiring the intricate and minute work on the walls of the arc.Actually under the arc, is the grave of unknown soldiers who died during WW-I, a undying flame is always put on to remember their sacrifices, reminds me of "Amar Jawan Jyoti" in Delhi.

( Arc de Triomphe)

The Arc de Triomphe, is in the middle of Charles-de-Gaulle, better known as place de l’Etoile, a giant roundabout. The arch was begun by Napoleon in 1806 in homage to his Grande-Armee, completed by Louise-Philippe in 1836.

( Such intricate carvings on arc)
 We really were very tempted to climb up the 234 steps to have the Paris aerial view from top of the arc, but somehow we let go off the idea.
While walking towards the George V metro station in avenue des Champs- Elysees- towards western end ,we came across a Nespresso Café, where we cooled off with iced cappuccino and our daughter with three flavored ice-cream sundae which obviously had Belgian chocolate as one flavor. That street is the most bustling quarter of the area with major clothing brands outlets, top fashion boutiques.This quarter or the Champs-Elysees is used mostly for all the celebrations.Parisians celebrate new years eve and also military parades are held here.

( Notre Dame)

We caught the metro and then went to see Notre-dame cathedral in Ile de la Cite.The cathedral with its well intricate carvings, Gothic architecture, stands out firm against the blue sky. What magnificent view it has.

( Notre- Dame Architecture)

This cathedral began in early 1160 under Bishop de Sully and was completed around 1345.Napolean crowned himself as emperor here in 1804.If you have time then don’t miss the carvings on the façade- the depiction of “Day of Judgment”, “crowning of Mary by Christ “ and right one “depiction of Virgin enthroned”.There is also very prominent is the gallery of kings- 28 statues of Judean Kings.
After going inside, there is striking darkness which gets interrupted by stream of purple light, whenever we would cross the fabulous stained glass windows.

Our dear daughter also lighted a candle just to eradicate all the darkness that surrounds us. May be someday she will go back again there and light another one. You may not know that Notre-dame is heart of paris.There is a bronze star at the west door, “kilometer zero”, from where the distance of all the main roads in France is calculated.

We sat there probably half an hour just to imbibe the pulses. And from there we started walking towards left, crossing the bridge (probably there are many of them) that connects Ile de la Cite to other parts of main land Paris. We kept walking until we reached this fountain.

From there we started walking straight towards Jardine du Luxembourg. Meanwhile walking, we came across this book outlet and many more like these.

People throng to these places to purchase many books, mostly in French, wish some of them were in English but why expect that in France.
On our way walking towards the magnificent Jardin du Luxembourg, we came across these also.

"Au Pains",now if you are in France and you haven’t tasted these pains, you have done nothing.And have a look at those giant Croissants, with almond flakes, now who would resist such temptation.

Have a look on the neatly stacked baguettes with different types of fillings. A normal working class Parisians survives on these and who says these are boring. They are very versatile and easy to pick as you go or are in move.

On our way walking towards the magnificent Jardin du Luxembourg, we came across these, Au Pains in one of local bakeries. While we picked up Pain au Raisin- a popular French breakfast food, we kept walking, relishing these Au pains ( actually it’s a buttery pastry to be precise) and if you can believe me, they are not greasy at all, kind of light , ok don’t want to go into details now, makes me feel hungry again. And on other day picked millefeuilles , another yummylicious pastry And coming to chocolate au pains which are pains filled with dark chocolate are another popular pains especially with kids, and who says with kids only , even we enjoyed it a lot. Every day we would have our freshly baked French Pains/pastry and croissants as part of our morning breakfast menu which we would pick daily from Monoprix near our service apartment.

Jardin du Luxembourg, a magnificent garden with plenty of metal green chairs to sit and relax. This garden is perhaps can be coined as “lungs of Paris”. Many sculptures are scattered around the park.

( A Pond and a fountain in Jardine du Luxembourg)

Jardin du Luxembourg is towards south of St.Germain is located in 6th arrondissement and is near to Sorbonne University, is a magnificent garden with plenty of chairs to sit and relax. This garden is perhaps can be coined as “lungs of Paris”. Many sculptures are scattered around the park. These lovely gardens belong to the Palais du Luxembourg, which now houses the French senate, but this was originally built for Marie de Medicis, Henri IV’s widow. On glorious summer days they are crowded and flocked by people all across Paris. You can even see all the way round in the park green metal chairs where people do sit and relax. There is a café a few steps east of central pond in case you like to unwind with a cup of coffee at the end of day.

( Jardin du Luxembourg)

There are many rides for children and many other activities for children. Since we went there when it was almost dinner time, we just sat there for a while. The central pond is octagonal known as “ grand basin” where children can be seen with rented toy yachts or model boats and playing with them. This garden is also popular with chess players as we saw couple of them playing chess.And also Palais du Luxembourg standing high which now seats the French Senate presided over by President.

( The Palais du Luxembourg)
Well during French revolution this palace even served as a prison.

We spent some time admiring the tranquility and beauty of the garden and then from there we head towards our apartment. On our way towards metro, no wait actually we caught RER not metro, we came across Monoprix, where we did our grocery shopping, picking up vegetables, chicken, cheese and freshly baked bread for the morning rush hour.

After coming back to our apartment, we rested for a while recapturing day movements and memories. My better half helped in cleaning and chopping vegetables before he started checking his mails on a limited Wi-Fi, and our dear daughter engrossed herself in a ‘Enid Blyton” book and me, well what else started cooking pasta with fresh vegetables and breast chicken portions which we picked coming back to apartment. After heating up a saucepan, well all my life I have avoided cooking with a non-stick, but here I was there cooking in a non-stick pan.Period.
 I added just a tablespoon of cooking oil, then I started sautéing chopped chicken breast pieces which I had already marinated with salt and crushed black pepper ,after 5-7 mints, while it was still sautéing,sautéed all vegetables in cooking oil with chicken pieces, but before that added onions, garlic and little bit of ginger.Then added two plump tomatoes and also 3-4 tbs of pasta sauce ( ready-made pasta sauce which we picked up earlier on first day from Leader Price about 3-4 blocks away from Gare Du Nord).Actually I was trying to create the famous Chicken Jalfrezi type of gravy and indeed it was Just like Chicken Jalfrezi, although we didn't had rice this time so made penne pasta.The red colour of gravy is due to the addition of paprika powder, not the usual red pepper powder and the heat was added due to green chilies.

I put to simmer it slowly. Meanwhile cooked the penne pasta. At the time of serving, placed the cooked pasta first, then scooped the chicken-vegetable sauce over the cooked pasta.DD even liked having it with shredded cheese. Before going to, ok almost crash into bed, I prepared and chopped the vegetables for the morning breakfast and the lunch that we would be eating while touring other parts of Paris next day.

Rest of the story to be continued in Part-2 ...............


  1. Omg, Jaya u came to Paris, but you didnt told me about this trip, am not far away from jardin de Luxembourg, missed you this time.Dont forget to let me know next time in case if you visit Paris.Btw loved the way you have written this post about Paris,simply loved it.

    1. Dear Priya,
      yeah next time will definitely meet :-)..thanks for liking this post..hugs

  2. I am looking forward to the next part Jaya!
    Was tickled by your cooking ! :-D!

  3. nice post; looking forward to the next part

  4. Your way of presentation about Paris, is just wonderful. Some feelings and memories are incredible. I can guess how you enjoyed your Paris trip. Clicks are really excellent dear. Love it. Awaiting for the next part....


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