Paris - A Romantic Illusion (part III)


My last day in Paris. I had planned to see a few places close to the hotel and train station. Before checking out of the hotel, I decided to go to the Sacre Coeur, the white domed basilica at Montmartre, which was very closed to the hotel. I stopped to buy a coffee and started climbing up the highest hill in Paris (130m). I had walked for about 5 minutes when I realized I had forgotten my camera. Bummer! I went back to the hotel and decided to check out and not worry about time. The hotel manager allowed me to leave my bag in the lobby of the hotel (my train was at 6:40pm).

I restarted my journey and reached the basilica in less than 10 minutes. I found out there were countless steps to get to the actual building and started climbing. There were a lot of black guys, braiding friendship bracelets for tourists. They tried to convince me to get one, but I walked away. Sorry, not interested. When I climbed the 200 steps, I looked back. The view was amazing. I could see the whole Paris, though some trees were blocking the view to the Eiffel Tower. I went inside and sat for a couple of minutes. My legs were a mess. I looked at the Parisian museums guide and found out the Napoleon's tomb could be seen in the Musee Les Invalids, the one I passed by so many times and so many times ignored. I wanted to see the tomb. The museum was in the opposite direction of my planned stops. I decided I had plenty of time to go there as well and left the basilica.

While climbing down the stairs, I decided to get a friendship bracelets. I had to bargain for a while though. Initially, they asked for 10 euros. I laughed and said I would pay only 1 euro. A guy appeared from somewhere, who knew several words in English. He told me they charged 5 euros for a bracelet and 1 was too low. "5", I said "he just asked for 10". Eventually, I agreed to pay 2 euros. I wanted specific colors and somehow I managed to explain this in French. I was happy by that fact. The guy had to find the colors from other guys and this caused a little commotion. While he was braiding my bracelet, we started talking in French. Well, he was talking, I was struggling to figure out what he was saying. Somehow, we managed to understand each other. His name was Hassan, he was born in Paris and never been abroad. He wanted to get my phone number, email, etc. The guy, who spoke English, reappeared again. He tried to help with the translation but we have really managed to understand each other. He asked for my phone number or email, as well, and offered to accompany me so we could get to know each other better. I declined and left.

I went to Gare du Nord. I wanted to see if I could leave my bag there for a few hours. I was not comfortable with my bag being in the lobby of the hotel, close to the front door. I did not want to have any problems the last day of my trip, not to mention my ticket was in the bag. I found out there were lockers and went back to the hotel. It was after 1:30pm when I locked my bag in the locker and left the train station. I headed to the Musee Les Invalides.

On my way to the museum I passed along Rue de la Paix, packed with jewelry and diamond stores. It was really interesting. The street led me to the Place Vendome, a really nice square with expensive hotels (Ritz) and stores. I was not sure why, but I imagined this place at night. There was an ice rink and people were skating. It was a nice and yet strange vision. I crossed the river and I arrived at Les Invalides, which houses the Musee de l'Armee.

I went to the Musee de l'Armee. There were a lot of weapons, armors, uniforms. I was not able to find an English guide, only a French one. Too bad. I quickly walked through the rooms and went to see the Napoleon's tomb, located in a chapel close by. The chapel had a stunning door and dome. The Napoleon's tomb was huge - a burgundy sarcofagus, placed on a green granite pedestal. It was so huge it occupied two floors (there was an opening on the ground floor that looked over the sarcfagus). There was a really nice sculpture of Napoleon, as well. In fact everything - the architecture, the tomb, the setting - was stunning. However, it was 3pm and I had to leave.

Since the Rodin museum was closed by, I decided to quickly check it out. It was closed and I continued on my way. A wrong turn (no surprise) took me to the French Academy and Paris Mint. I crossed the river and arrived at Notre Dame. I was tempted by the idea to get on the roof of the cathedral but reconsidered. I was at the top of the Arch of Triumph, Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur, no point to stay in line. It was 4pm and I was really tired. I continued towards the Place de la Bastille. I was excited to see the famous prison and check out the area. I was a little disappointed by the area as the buildings were in the same boring style. At last, I arrived at the square, where the French Revolution began. I sat on a bench and checked my notes. Very disappointed but somehow not surprised, I found out that the Bastille was completely demolished. A tall column was standing in the center of the square celebrating the Revolution of 1830, which established the constitutional monarchy.

It was time to leave. On my way to the train station, I passed by the Place de la Republique, another square in Paris with a very confusing intersection. I reached the train station just before the rain poured down. I took my bag and got on the train. It left few minutes later. I was not sad I was leaving.

I had a completely wrong concept of Paris and this perhaps influenced my judgment and opinion. I am sure Paris appeals and will continue to appeal to many people. It has a lot to offer, both as culture and history (mostly post 1879). However, I was not able to connect with Paris and I did not find the commotion, energy, or restlessnes I expected to find in a big European city. Au revoir, Paris!

Click here to see a map of my trip.


BHASKAR G said...

Nice concluding paragraph, Roddy !!!

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