Saturday, 3 September 2011

Paris- The city of my Dreams

Paris- The City of Dreams

 Before I left Rome, I dashed off an email to my friend John Kuruvilla, an artist working in Paris. He had now specialized in painting pictures on the bodies of people and had a wide circle of clientele including a few minor French actors! We had studied Journalism together and later worked for an advertising agency in Bangalore. I had not seen him for years and was looking forward to meeting him.

    My travel agent in Rome had booked me at the Hotel Migny Montmartre walking distance from the famous Opera de Paris. Every evening, I hung around the grand marble staircase of the majestic building; admiring Parisians walking leisurely or taking pictures of people. The Opera is a hot spot of French theater and music. John and I arranged to meet at the Opera and when he did; I hardly recognized him! He spoke English with a French accent and had transformed himself into a Parisian with streaks in his hair and a French Goatee beard!

     I had promised my self that the first thing I would do in Paris was to open a bottle of Dom Perignon (it costs a bomb ranging from 68 USD to 1053 USD) in one of the best restaurants in town! It had looked terribly romantic then but now that I was there in Paris it looked quite silly. John might have had Champagne a million times and I felt a little shy to mention it. We strolled towards a fashionable area of the city and entered a charming little restaurant. The first thing he said as he sat me down was “Pourquoi pas ouvre une bouteille de Champagne pour célèbre notre reunion de nouveou le Cheri? (“Why not open a bottle of Champagne to celebrate our meeting again my dear!”) And I blurted out my wish quite unwittingly. John had raised an eyebrow and ordered to the serveur: “Dom Perignon pour la dame s’il vous plait.”

   The next day, I did the usual touristy things like standing in a long line to see the ‘Mona Lisa’ at the Louvre museum, and then walked through the Arc de Triomphe to later climb up the Eiffel Tower. I bought some very fashionable clothes that I would never wear in India and generally spent a lot money buying accessories I did not really need!

   On day two, I took a coach, seating eight; to see the Palace of the Sun King Louis XIV at Versailles. There I met and bonded instantly with Dave and Margaret, a charming couple from Manchester in England. We had great fun clicking pictures of each other. We are still in touch and exchange emails very frequently. As we strolled through the vast gardens of the palace, I opened my sun umbrella to protect my skin from the very harsh rays of the afternoon sun! (I am allergic to it) Margaret laughed so hard and so long that I was very embarrassed. She wrote to me later that it was very unusual and funny for an Indian to do so! “Cela aussi a Paris Mon Cheri?” (That too in Paris my dear?) She has pasted a picture of me with the sun umbrella on the back side of her kitchen door, and she told me that it never fails to bring a smile on her face!

    Then it was time for some fun and frolic, I went to see the most wonderful and the most thrilling of all adult musical dance performances- the Moulin Rouge. It is a modern version of the traditional French Can-Can dance-cabaret superbly choreographed and well staged. The acrobatic tricks, the squeals and the shrieks, the high kicks, holding the legs in the air to show heavily frilled undergarments to the audience by a group of beautiful but very gaudily dressed women! A must see.

    The last thing I did in Paris was to go in search of the remnants of the Bastille prison in central Paris. It is the symbol of France’s first stirring of democracy. There is nothing left of Bastille, only a column called La Colonne de Juliette that dominates La Place de la Bastille. In the subway station (called Bastille) beneath the square, a few stones from the Bastille’s foundation are kept. The grand notions of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity in France started with the destruction of the Bastille prison; which had long stood for the oppression of the common people by the French monarchy!

   Then it was time for me to move on to my next destination, surprisingly it was the only place in Europe I felt most at home! You guessed it right- London. The city of kings and queens, and parliamentary democracy! Bon au revoir pour le moment.  (Pardon my atrocious French.)

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