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A second visit to Paris

France-Paris-Chosen-022There is not much I can say about Paris and its tourist attractions that hasn’t been said before. In fact I wrote about it myself when we were here in 2004. So instead of providing a daily report of what we did and saw, let me write about what was new this time.

We were in Paris for 4 nights and instead of staying at a hotel, we (mom and sister, Brother in law and nephew) rented an apartment about two blocks away from the Eiffel tower.   While the idea of staying in an apartment over a hotel has its pluses (very useful with toddlers and vegetarians) and minuses (no room service L) , we really lucked out because our apartment was at an amazing location. It was a short walk away from the Eiffel tower : in fact we could walk home after seeing  the Eiffel tower light up at night. And from my bedroom, I could even see the beams of light from the beacon on  top of the Eiffel tower sweeping across the sky.  One thing that we could do (and which I did) was actually visit the boulangerie for fresh bread and the fromagerie for a variety of cheese in the morning.  Thanks to the whole “living like a local” concept, we also visited the local grocery store and purchased milk and fruits and yoghurt – and it was fun. I always make it a point to visit a local grocery store when I am in a foreign country because I believe that it gives me a wonderful insight into the local cuisine and tastes and also introduces me to novel food items.

France-Paris-Chosen-052There were several restaurants and shops in the nearby lanes and so we got the chance to enjoy the ultimate French experience: sit outside a smoke-filled café and enjoy a meal and people watch!  (Thank you ,IMG_1614-wm mom for babysitting!) .  Sitting outside , with the Eiffel tower lights in the background was indeed a special experience.    As a matter of fact, this is my only must –see recommendation for Paris visitors—do not miss the lighting of the Eiffel tower. We loved it the first time and we still thought it was a stunning view to see those twinkling lights again.  Seejo loved it so much that he went there for three nights to photograph the lighting.

Another memorable experience was our rain soaked visit to the St. Michel’s chapel. Seejo, Asif and I preferred to walk to St. Michel’s from the Louvre while my mother, Dwiti and the kids took the cycle rickshaw. France-Paris-Chosen-049 As luck would have it, we got split up: the rickshaw dropped them at a slightly different location at St. Michel’s fountain –just about a block away.  We waited for some time near the chapel but then realized that they must be lost. As luck would have it,  Seejo had already entered the chapel  to set up his photography equipment while  a panicked Asif hustled about trying to search for the wayward rickshaw party.  To add to the confusion, it started pouring and we were caught in the rain with no umbrellas.  By the time we all caught up with each other, we were soaking wet and St. Michel’s had closed for the day.  Asif got a couple of dry t-shirts and whole bunch of umbrellas from a roadside vendor and then we went off to see Notre Dame Cathedral.

France-Versailles-Chosen-9-wmThis time around we did spend a day touring the gardens of Versailles. Even after being sort of saturated by chateaux and castles (we had spent some time in the Loire Valley the previous day), Versailles was simply magnificent.  Its not difficult to imagine a person living in that grandeur (as Marie Antoinette was ), not understanding the concept of poverty (and hence the Let them eat cake instead remark).  Pretty much the only structure that I have seen so far that competes with the Vatican in grandeur and sheer display of wealth!

France-Paris-Chosen-027Paris is not the easiest city to travel with kids. Very few train stations have elevators and getting up and down stairs with strollers isn’t a whole lot of fun. We stuck to buses as much as we could – that was quite easy to do.  There were really no baby friendly rest-rooms anywhere.  However, everyone that we met in restaurants or buses was perfectly nice to us and didn’t show any overt signs of disapproval when the babies misbehaved.  Also food wasn’t an issue at all—grocery stores carried many familiar brands and we didn’t have any difficulty in finding food for Annika.

Although we did manage to see most of the important tourist spots,  I still felt that there was lots to see that we had missed.  I feel pretty sure that even if we were there for two weeks, there still would be a lot more to see and do.  This is clearly a city that must be lived in to completely understand and enjoy its spirit.

Posted in Travel.

Copyright Deepa