This holiday, I was introduced to two pop songs. Now, I’m not very much of a pop music person. The only pop I ever listened to was courtesy a boy I dated some time ago. And then these songs happened. We Found Love. It’s a Rihanna track. The other one is called Titanium. It’s a David Guetta mix featuring Sia. And I mention these only because my second week in Paris involved a little jig in my step as I walked down Parisian streets with these songs playing in my head.
We got back from Barcelona Monday evening and ordered in some sushi and watched The Rebound. It was therapy. My cousin and I wanted to watch a trash, mush movie and do absolutely nothing until bed time and this worked perfectly.
My grandparents travelled extensively over Europe in the early eighties. And the one city they didn’t do was Paris. My grandmum sent me on this trip with strict instructions to not miss the Palace of Versailles and the Musuem at Louvre. One week into my trip and with only five days to go, two of which would be in Belgium, I had done neither. Woe be gone!
All of Tuesday was reserved for the Palace of Versailles.
Versailles is about an hour’s ride (public transport) from the main city of Paris and served as the location of the main palace of the royal family in France centuries ago. It is now a museum and the epitome of granduer and elegance.
I may make a horrific confession about museums later in this post, but for now, I’ll say I was stunned by the architecture and the detailing it involved.
I know that Lakshmi Mittal’s daughter’s wedding was hosted at the palace several years ago. And through the palace, and even at the entrance to the gardens, I saw works of art made from kitchenware – chandeliers from forks, spoons and knives, fountains made from champagne glasses and a pair of stilettos, the size of an SUV, made from pots and pans. It almost seemed as if the Mittals got some nice artistic people to build sculptures, after they were done with the wedding. Sure, I can appreciate the creativity that goes into all of this. But it just didn’t seem to to fit into the architecture, the period of history the palace represents and the already existing works – paintings and sculptures, at the palace. I could be wrong about how or why those works of art got there, so don’t come running at me with swords.
The gardens of the palace were vast. They stretch over five times the area of the palace itself.
And I spent four of my six hours at the palace, in the gardens. I walked through all of the sculptures, all the little lanes, the fountains, everything. I walked past the sail boats on the canal and I walked all around the canal, thinking the same old thoughts, thinking a few new thoughts… Feeling tired, yet almost rejuvenated, at the end of my walk.
Needless to say that when I met my cousin for crepes at Saint Michel that night, I looked exhausted and emaciated (yes, I did!)
Fake smiles for photographs, ftw! Also, apple cider, ftw!
La Crêperie des Pêcheurs or The Creperie of the Fisherman is this place my cousin has come to love over the past few years that she has been living in Paris. It is a five minute walk from the Odeon metro station, at the end of the little street called Rue de St. Andre des Arts, the same one that I walked down (and wrote about) during my first week in Paris. Wooden tables, bottles with ships inside them, a large wall-hanging showcasing different knots and in general, a very nautical, cozy feel. The cousin ordered the basic ham-cheese-egg crepe, while I picked a fancier chicken and mushroom crepe. Made with wheat flour, these savory crepes were so different from the ones that I’ve eaten in NYC. There’s nothing wrong with the ones I ate with G, but these, with apple cider, made for just the perfect amount of pampering I needed at the end of the long day I had had.
For dessert, my cousin went with her usual plain sugar and butter crepe. And what I ordered was my second dinner for the evening. I can debate that I deserved it, though my cousin might think otherwise. A crepe doused in honey. Four dollops of whipped cream. A pear, split in two and poached to perfection. And the most delicious peach compote.
I spent the two days that followed in Belgium. Well, technically I should have done a day in Bruges and one in Brussels, but I fell in love with Bruges and ended up doing both days there, with a quickie at Delirium Cafe, with just about time to change trains and take the Thalys back to Paris. But there’s a special post for that. I’ll move on to what my last few days in Paris were about.
When I was with my cousin at the Marches des Enfants Rouge, I saw a poster for a Time Burton exhibition at Bercy. So, I booked tickets for the exhibition for Friday morning. My uncle decided to accompany me. And I was only too thrilled to know he’s a Tim Burton fan too. And at the exhibition, while we gazed at all his works, I got my sixth or seventh “Oh, you *do* resemble Helena Bonham Carter, in the roles she plays and in how you look.” And to date, I’m not sure if that’s a compliment. Yeah, I love her. I love her hair. I love her work. I love that Tim Burton loves her. And yeah, ok, may be it *is* a compliment. But, she’s creepy sometimes, I will have to admit. Ok, I’m a sucker for her creepy side too. Moving on, the exhibition show cased *all* of Tim Burton’s works, from when he was a little boy until how he conceptualized his movies – macabre poetry, captivating drawings, sketches on tissue paper (probably sketched at restaurants), models of characters that later made it to movies, short films, everything out Tim Burton I would’ve loved to see. There’s a book, about him and everything about him… It’s called Burton on Burton and has a foreword by Johnny Depp (but, of course) and it’s on Flipkart for a little over Rs 800/-. And guess whose pay cheque for July found it’s first purchase! Yeah, it wasn’t available at the store outside the museum.
I had planned to check the inside of the Notre Dame out, later during the day. But just stayed home, watched another stupid movie (The Accidental Husband, this time. Don’t ask me how these movies found their way to my cousin’s movie collection. I have no idea, at all. Really.). Dinner was with my aunt and uncle at their apartment, some 30 minutes of a walk away. Red wine. The most scrumptious tuna salad with sprouts and veggies and greens and so wholesome, that’s all that there was for dinner. Ok, that and some arugula with baby tomatoes. (So, arugula is called arugula only in USA, every where else, it’s called rocket salad. My cousin cannot stop making jokes about what an American I am, even now. *grumble*
Saturday, my aim was to do the inside of the Notre Dame and a touch-and-go visit to the Louvre. Now, as a twenty six year old and someone who claims she’s in the process of living life to the fullest and all that tripe, I’m not big on museums. That’s not what us cool folk do. We listen to Lana del Ray’s Born To Die, smoke weed when we can and blow up all of our savings on two-week trips to Europe. Alright, one or more of those things I said may or may not be true. But yes, I needed pictures. To tell my grandmum that I was there. And that I wasn’t entirely interested, but I mean it when I say it was beautiful. Besides, I’ve read enough Dan Brown to know what The Louvre looks like, on the inside and the outside. Can I say The Mona Lisa is a over-rated? No? Ok. Here, picture.
The Notre Dame, on the other hand, was almost surreal. Stained glass with the kind of intricacy one may never have seen before, an unparalleled serenity and a beauty that not only overwhelms you, but also urges you to come back to it.
I wish I could have gone up to the top of the tower, the bell and all of that to get a feel of the story I’d read several years ago. But I couldn’t figure how to get to the top. Oh well, the doors were pretty pretty too. So I got a picture of those as well.
Here’s a view of the outside of the Notre Dame from the side that you can see from the Seine.
I saw the little bridge with the million locks when I took the cruise on the Seine. And then I saw it again when I was walked around St. Michel. And then I saw it again when I was walking from the Notre Dame to the Louvre. And it’s cute. You can’t really miss it.
You can’t not see the love and hope that the world runs on. That, and cakes and pies, of course.
My cousin insisted I eat duck confit for dinner that night. The restaurant that I ate the snails at, my first evening in Paris should’ve been the place I ate my last dinner in Paris too. But it was shut. So we moved to plan B. The duck confit was a little salty for my liking. it tasted great, though. The idea of the leg of a duck being marinated in brine and spices for months is good enough reason for it to be tasty. The potatoes that duck confit is usually served with, fried in duck fat, are wayyyyy more delicious than the duck, if you ask me. And carafes of red wine, of course. So, at the end of two weeks of living in Paris, it’s not only Cabernet Sauvignon that I’m love with. It can be a nice Brouilly. It can be a house wine that’s a mix of Merlot and Cabarnet. As long as it’s red wine, I guess.
We shouldn’t have ordered dessert. We also left dessert unfinished. A massive ring of whipped cream, some custard and three profiteroles. No single person could’ve finished that dessert.
Dinner, in all, was some 60 euro, two duck confit at about 19 euro each, 11 for dessert, red wine, taxes.
Post dinner, we walked to the Eiffel Tower, to see the tower by night. I think I like it better by day, the walk up to level 2 inclusive. It gives me a sense of achievement. After sundown, every hour, the Eiffel Tower breaks into a little light dance, thousands of teeny-tiny lights (Ok, bulbs, since I climbed all the way to the top during the day and saw them on my way) glimmering and shimmering randomly for one whole minute. Blog post title, anyone? Sitting on the lawns, though, was a different niceness altogether. It made me want to be with a someone whose company I appreciate beyond words, I wanted to be back home, so that I could show pictures, drink beers, laze around and be happy (not including anything even remotely work related, of course).
I thought of @unrudhshastry’s phone call to me from New Year’s Eve a couple of years ago. About him going to the top of the tower. Sigh. Happy times.
The high point of the day was riding back to my cousin’s apartment. A little past 11 pm, a light rain… The awesome part is, locals are allowed to rent bikes. Not so much, tourists. That’s when awesome cousins come handy. And instant 150 euro deposit. And a bicycle to ride home on, through (more) cobblestone streets and breezy nights and happy highs.
I woke up to the smells from a brown paper bag, fresh in from a bakery. And I had the most fluffy, most sumptuous croissants I’ve ever had. Eggs. Rye bread. Black coffee. And I left home with butterflies (and the croissant and the eggs and all that) in my tummy, sad from the fact that two beautiful weeks were drawing to and end. And two bags heavier.
Yes, I blew up everything I’ve ever saved on shopping for everything that means anything at all to me. Yes, I’m stupid.