Christmas of 2010 was great for me. I decided to make a weekend trip to Paris. 2 nights and 3 days.
Somethings we booked before we went there was the hotel, obviously. We booked this budget hotel near the Notre Dame cathedral called Hotel Des Boulevards here. We also booked the Eiffel tower lift service from their own website. You get to select the time you want to visit the tower; saves you a lot of time waiting in the queue.
We took the Eurolines bus from the Netherlands to Paris, cost us 40 euros each way and the bus was worse than the Volvo intercity buses in Bangalore. A slightly expensive alternative would be to go by the Thayls train from Holland or Deutsche Bahn. Of course, there are these budget airlines as well.
I should mention about the Belgium chocolate milk I had at one of our rest stops. The machine ones you get are truly amazing. For a mere 0.75cents, it's pure chocolate pleasure. It was perfect given that we were travelling in cold December.
It was 6am when we reached Paris. A chilly, windy morning and we had no place to go. One of the sad things bout these hotels are their check-in and check-out times. I don't understand why they can't let you stay when you've paid for that day. So we had no where to go to freshen up till 1pm. So we decided to get out of the station and find one of those modern WC's that we've all heard about specially in Paris. It's actually a pretty clean and big place. A good breakfast was beckoning and we decided to eat at one of the cafes in the train station. A mediocre vegetarian sandwich and a small cup of coffee kept us happy for a while. Louvre was the first thing on our list. So we went there even before it opened and took some pictures of the immaculate place. At 9am, they opened and we were one of the first people to get in, that too for free. If you're a student under 26 years, you get in for free.
We were not quite the connoisseurs but I can appreciate the art work and take interest in it. We spent close to 3-4 hours inside. Some of the paintings and sculptures were pure magic. On the other hand, the much hyped Mona Lisa was disappointing. We had to walk almost a kilometer to get to that painting within the building and what you see is a 10x12 sized painting in a bullet-proof glass, heavily guarded and heavily crowded. The lights around the painting is simply annoying. I guess the curator didn't consider the simple science of multiple reflection before installing the painting or the lights. I was just happy to see the painting after having read the Dan Brown books and hearing about it over and over again.
The Greek sculptures are a must see in the Museum.
After a tiring half-day in the Louvre, we couldn't wait to have lunch and check-in to the hotel. We did the latter first. Although the hotel is located quite close to the Notre-Dame cathedral and is well connected to the rest of the city, our rooms were quite disappointing. Clean, fresh but torn bed-covers and a small bathroom was more than welcoming after a tiring day. The staff of the hotel were quite nice to us. Just outside the hotel was a Pakistani/ Indian hotel. We knew where we would have dinner.
So the first day ended with a visit to La Chapelle , which is quite close to the main station, Gare du Nord. Loads of Indian stores, restaurants there. If you're an Indian staying away from home for a long time, you'll certainly enjoy this visit. We also had idlis and vadas at Saravana Bhavan, Paris. We also packed some pakoras and unwinded with a bottle of Merlot.
Shall write about my second day in Paris soon...