My first trip to Paris was fun and memorable. The romantic in me has always wanted to visit this beautiful city. Infact, a few years back I learnt rudimentary French in anticipation of traveling to Paris, someday. That stood me in good stead as people in Paris speak only French and ALL signboards are in French too. I just about managed to make my way around town, phew!
My flight was very pleasant inspite of all the horror stories about Air France. And guess what, the airline went on strike while I was in Paris affecting hundreds of domestic flights. I wished the strike affected international flights and therefore I would have gotten to stay in Paris for a little bit longer than my week long trip. I went there on work but I managed to explore the city quite a bit.
I stayed at the Hotel Gabriel (http://hotelgabrielparis.com/m/en/) on Rue du Grand Prieuré not far from where all the action in Paris is. The hotel is small but cosy and the staff is very helpful.
It was on the suggestion of the staff at the front desk at the hotel that I discovered a wonderful little restaurant called Le Pharmacie. It is across the road from the hotel which was a boon for me as I didn’t find it at all easy to navigate Paris inspite of being armed with a map and decent map reading skills. I liked this restaurant so much that I had my first and last meal in Paris there. They serve a delicious beer called Loirette – an absolute must-have.
As a part of the cultural immersion we did a couple of interesting things. Aaaah, sometimes I do love my job. The first was a trip to Alaine Ducasse’s chocolate factory. Yes, chocolate factory! I was in seventh heaven sampling all the different kinds of chocolates. Delicious. And a great gift to bring to people back home. This fabulous tasting was followed by wine tasting. I must admit that the quality of French wines I sampled was superlative.
Just when I was thinking that nothing could top this wonderful tasting experience, the next day I was blown away. The evening started with a trip to the Palais de Tokyo, a wonderful modern art museum. After seeing some of the thought-provoking art on display we walked along the River Seine that runs alongside the museum. We then crossed over a bridge that offered the most magnificent views of the Eiffel Tower. Walking along the Seine some more we practically walked right beside the Tower. Then climbed into a private chartered boat for a ride up the river. Onboard we had champagne, strawberries and cheeses. Given that this was summer and it was bright out till about 10pm in Paris, I didn’t get to see the Eiffel Tower lit up. Oh well! We disembarked to go to Wanderlust, one of the coolest places to be seen at in Paris. After some Rose wine and dinner we called it a night.
I had the following day, a Saturday, all to myself to explore Paris some more. I decided to take the hop-on-hop-off yellow open-top bus to see the city. That was a good decision as I saw all the main tourist attractions in about 3 hours. I don’t get off anywhere as the crowds are thick on weekends and I really wanted to optimize my time doing EVERYTHING I had planned to do, including some shopping at Collette, Printemps and Les Galeries Lafayette.
I absolutely adored Paris. I found most people to be friendly and helpful, even going out of their way to help me when I was lost walking around alone on my first day in the city. A server even sang Bollywood songs from me when he found out I am from India! I would love to go back to Paris again some day, even if to just see the Eiffel Tower lit up at night.