Monday, April 13, 2009

Bonjour Paris!

Ile St. Louis, ParisErnst Hemingway once wrote, “There is never any end to Paris, and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other”. So here I am, making my own memories of a city which has been showered with superlatives through the ages. With me are my family: my wife and daughter. We usually stay in hotels or resorts during our family vacations, but this time we decided to do something different and rented an apartment for 15 days. Three days into this trip and we are absolutely loving it!

Louvre ParisLike the other major cities of Europe, Paris has much history. Every neighbourhood, street and square has a story to tell - stories kept alive by the many historic buildings, monuments and statues that have survived through the years. The quays along the Seine are among the prettiest places I have walked on. But what makes this city truely unique is how serious they are about their food! While all foodies know about the high-end Michelin starred restaurants here, what really astonished me is the variety and number of places dedicated to food. There seems to a restaurant, cafe, bistro or brasserie at every turn. The city abounds in boulangeries, patisseries and fromageries that specialize in breads, pastries, and cheese respectively.

Bicycles in Paris
Marketplace in ParisWe landed in Paris on a bright, sunny morning - the temperature a perfect 20C. There was a car waiting for me, and after spending a minute at the ATM to pick up cash, we were on our way.

The outer suburbs from the airport didn't seem much different from any other large city - say Delhi - until my wife excitedly pointed out the Moulin Rouge with it's large red windmill adornment. The character of the city slowly emerged as drove into the heart of the city. We arrived at my new apartment on Rue Moliere, at the footsteps of an impressive statue with fountains. Moliere was the stagename of a famous playwright and actor from the 17th century who performed for the king at the Louvre, which is within walking distance. The statue of Moliere is flanked by two white maidens representing tragedy and comedy. While Moliere loved writing tragedy, it was his satires that made him famous (and sometimes controversial).

The apartment itself was in an old building which had been modernized from the inside even as its exterior proudly displayed its old-world heritage. The small but comfortable apartment with modern kitchen and bathrooms will be our home for the next two weeks.

Tulips bloom in Paris springtime
Cherry Blossoms in Paris springtime
Musicians play outside the LouvreWe strolled along Rue du Richelieu and finally sat down at a cafe, the Cafe Zephyr right next to the Hard Rock Cafe. We ordered a salmon steak with flavored rice, a chocolate crepe, and cafe au lait. Simple but excellent stuff! While my wife loved the salmon, I enjoyed my first Parisian crepe immensely - made of wheat flour these are much more softer than the Indian dosa or appams.

Cafe Zephyr Paris
Salmon in Paris
Crepes in ParisOn our way back, we stocked up on some essential groceries, wine and chese so we could make our own breakfast and an occasional dinner when we didn't feel like venturing out. The half bottle of 2006 Blaissac Bordeaux turned out excellent with St. Benoit brie.

Day One had just ended in Paris and we were feeling refreshed already!

Buying Groceries in Paris
Our kitchen in Paris
Our living room in ParisNext: Walking the Quays of Paris.

Travel tips: We used Paris Attitude to locate and book our apartment and used their recommended car pickup too; so far, the experience has been excellent. While credit cards work at larger establishments, keep cash handy; France is in the middle of moving towards credit cards that have an embedded chip. For travellers from India, a Forex card may be the best way to get cash; ATMs are available all over the city. Get a couple of photos if you expect to live in Paris for over a week - you will need them for the Metro pass.


Rahul said...

Hi Shantanu! Good that you are enjoying your time in Paris. I also live in Paris; Feel free to contact me if you need any information/help.


Aathira Nair said...

Oh how I miss Paris!

If you do get the chance, visit Giverny, Monet's house. Its a quaint little place and you can see the resemblance to his works the moment you come to this small town north-west of Paris. It is just 2 hours by SNCF.

Have a wonderful vacation

Vamsee Modugula said...

Hey Shantanu,
I am so jealous that you are spending 2 full weeks in Paris. Sigh!!
I am so looking forward to reading your restaurant reviews from Paris.

Most likely Saru and I will be going there in June, so all this information will be very useful for me!

Cuckoo said...

How I miss Paris now !!

Well, it's such a big city that 2 weeks will be less for you unless you want to cover only the touristic places.

Don't forget the Disney land !!

Looking forward to reliving Paris once again.

Anonymous said...

@Rahul: Thank you for the offer! Oh yes, we are having the time of our lives. :)

@Aathira: Not sure we will travel to Giverny, but we expect to check out Monet's masterpieces at the Musee d'Orsay. However, we will make a day-trip to Versailles.

@Vamsee: June should be a splendid month too, but with more tourists in town and a little warmer.

@Cuckoo: We had kept Disneyland as a backup option for the girl. However, she's having fun and so we may add Brugges in Belgium instead.

Anonymous said...

hi Shantanu,
I have visited Paris several times, and did have trouble finding a balance between room rates and conveniences. Thank you fro letting us know this wonderful resource for finding apartments. It seems so much more convenient for stays around a week.

Enjoy your springtime in paris!


Bong Mom said...

Shubho Nabo Borsho. Looks like you are having a great time

Anonymous said...

@Anish: Glad you found this useful. Yes, apartments are a good option but only for trips that last a week or more.

@Sandeepa: Subho Nabo Borsho to you too. Hope you had fun with the family!

Kedar said...

Hi Shantanu,
Nice photos & travel tale.
I appreciate your inclination to the city-architecture and food as well..
I find a great similarity in inclination.

If I may ask you for details on apartment details - I want to explore a tidy family European dream vacation for 3 of us - and keen on knowing good ways to do it realistically.

Would appreciate your opinions/suggestions.


Unknown said...

I strongly recommend a lovely and peaceful B&B next to Notre Dame and the Seine River... so charming and restful! please, visit Private Homes who publishes it

Herve Mc Mahon