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Paris, Paris - Day 5

Day 5 was travel day, to Paris! We packed our bags, had an early breakfast, took an Uber and reached St. Pancras International promptly at 10 o'clock.

What did we miss to see in London? I wanted to see the Oxford and Cambridge universities, simply because they were centers of learning. Of course, I wanted to see the Srinivasa Ramanujan memorial plaque at the Trinity College Chapel. We couldn't make it to the British Museum either, their loot collection of 8 million items is one of the largest in the world. The National Gallery (at Trafalgar Square), home to some of the world famous artwork, also didn't make the cut. Shakespeare lovers can visit Stratford-upon-Avon, his birth and burial place. I had asked one of my colleagues about Stratford, and he told me that the people of the town wear a goofy 16th century costume. When I informed my family of this fact, it was instantly tossed out of the list, which also happened to be the only unanimous decision we made in this entire trip.

Our Eurostar pulled out of St.Pancras promptly at 11:31 AM.

Eurostar high speed (formerly TGV or Bullet Train!)
Have you seen the movie Mission Impossible, (the first one), released in the nineties? The climax scene, a favorite of the fans world over, happens inside the chunnel. I had wanted to travel this route ever since I saw the movie, now I can check this item off the bucket list.

Of course, the train ride itself was uneventful and anticlimactic. The chunnel was dark and the train crossed over in to France, in less than 20 minutes. We had booked premier seats, which provided enough leg room as well as a small dining table between the rows. They served hot meals and snacks. There was enough space at the end of the car to stow away our luggage.

Overhead monitor displays the speed
True to it's name, the train picked up speed and at times reached well over 300 kmph. We arrived at Gare Du Nord station in Paris in 2 hrs 20 mins flat.

This time there was no chauffeur waiting for us (our tour operator provided taxi service only from and to airports). After a 15 minute cab ride, we reached our hotel Castille Paris

Castille Paris!
We freshened up and headed to the Concorde station, about a 7 minute walk from the hotel. En route, I saw this church.

Why did I take this picture?
I was in tourist mode and clicked the photo involuntarily. Later I found out this was the catholic church of notre dame. Just like the temples of India, there are thousands and thousands of churches in Europe, many of them hundreds of years old, mostly with similar architecture. It told myself not to click a picture of all of them.

can you identify that steel tower in the middle?
Just before climbing down to the subway, I clicked the above picture. Eiffel tower is visible in the distance. On the left, behind the car and the statues, is Concord Place, a public park with fountains and shops, which we didn't visit.

We purchased an all-day pass at the station and boarded the train back to Gare Du Nord. Why? Because the street adjacent to the station was also home to a cluster of Indian restaurants. South Indian chains such as Saravana Bhavan and Sangeeta were situated there. I remember seeing a Kumaran Silks store too, but buyer beware! I don't know if it is an official branch of our beloved store in Chennai. We finished an early dinner at Sangeeta, and went back to Gare Du Nord to catch a train to Eiffel Tower!

First thing we noticed about Paris was that it was decidedly more blue-collar than London, hosting a more diverse population. Groups of jobless louts were sitting outside the station, smoking cigars and talking loudly. Once inside the station we asked for the route to "I-Fell" tower, but the employee didn't understand. A lady was heading to the exit; she was in a great hurry. He nonchalantly stopped her and asked her for directions. She didn't understand at first, and then realized that we were clueless tourists asking for directions to "e-fill" tower.

We took a train to Bir-Hakeim station, closest to Eiffel tower. We walked over and joined the long line to buy tickets. It was evening, but there was enough light.

A marvel!
Eiffel tower is more than 1000 feet tall, and weighs more than 10,000 tons. We took two elevators, from ground floor to 2nd floor and another one from 2nd floor to 3rd floor. Crowds tested our patience, while the kids started questioning the wisdom behind visiting Europe. We finally made it to the top and the view was worth it.
Trocadero Gardens with National Marine Museum in the backdrop
Seine river. Serene and more beautiful than Thames!
The view that completes the trip!
At 9:00 PM, the tower was brightly lit. It also hosted a dancing lights show once every 30 mins until midnight. Then we lost our way. Champ de Mars gardens (in which the Eiffel tower is situated) is huge and we were wandering on the side streets way past 11:00 PM. Luckily, we met with another Indian couple, Paris residents, who were also heading back to Bir-Hakeim. We tagged along with them to catch the train back to the hotel.

Comments

  1. Hi Shankar this is amazing.All your blogs are like those of a professional writer.May God bless you.

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