Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A piece of Paris


Sophie went on to divulge how they had ditched the conventional bandwagon on their trip to Europe and thoroughly enjoyed it. They had opted out of the clich├ęd tourist sites and set their hearts on 4 days and 3 nights stay at a cottage. A fishing trip in a yacht and adventure sports were thrown in good measure too, to raise the fun quotient. They had a unique lifetime experience and to top it all, my chatter box friend’s (myself included) were actually listening, all ears popped up. She had come armed with ample ammunition; quirky experiences, novel anecdote, and delightful snap shots. So we didn’t mind not listening to our own voices for a change.  The point I am trying to make here is more about travelling experience and less about our listening skills.  The clinched travel itineraries fail to charm today’s tourists. New age tourists (sightseer) have transformed into traveler - an experience seeker.  I read about the so called “terrorist tourism” not so long ago, with Sri Lanka attracting tourist wanting to have a peek at the places devastated by LTTE or counter terrorist troops. The morality and legality of such tours is again an interesting, wired and highly debatable topic. Where can the line be drawn for satiating a traveler’s curiosity? What qualifies us more as a trespasser than a tourist? Each individuals taste and circumstance dictate what they wish to undertake, so there are no easy answers to these questions.


Like Sophie we skipped the conventional and recommended “ Lido”  show  and “ The Moulin Rouge” on our trip to Paris. Unlike her we also skipped the energetic and spirited adventure bus. Our priority was to keep the young ones engaged, interested, while keeping our expectation about their energy levels strongly grounded. So we did take the hop in hop off bus to tour the grand city (Sacre Coeur, Champs Elysees etc) but planned on a 3 days stay at Disney World Paris. We enjoyed the detailed accounts narrated by the guide on the bus and turned a deaf ear to the kids squabbling for the widow seat in the open first floor of the tour bus. While touring the Louver we didn’t get worked up to see the kids complaining of leg pain, or happily engrossed with the huge exhaust vent , while we took  turns to run through  Leonardo Da Vinci ,Andrea MantegnaGiovanni, Raphael and Michelangelo. Let me assure you it takes a truck load of patient to see your kids so enthralled by exhaust vents at the Louvre while the “Last Supper” awaits a glimpse. I convinced my daughter to come see the Monalisa with me, and my fascination for the master piece received a cruel jolted with daughter quipping “All this push and shove for such a pint sized lady?.” To arouse her interest I told her all the fascinating facts and stories surrounding “Monalisa- La Gioconda”.
We thoroughly enjoyed our pigeon feeding activity at all stop points. The kids would invariably feel hunger at such stops and ask for snacks, which ended up being a feast for the uninhibited birds. We even took a detour to Grevin Wax Museum (touted as the Madame Tussauds of Paris) to humor the kids. We had gone with little expectation but ended up happily posing with wax repilica’s of Marlin Monroe, Elvis, Queen Elizabeth, Spiderman, Ray Charles, other greats and didn’t mind a very pallid looking Saha Ruk Khan.  
On our arrival at Paris we were greeted by the unpredictable August showers. We braved the rains and headed for the Eiffle Tower, encouraged by the fact that we had come prepared for such eventualities, with umbrella’s and raincoats. Waiting at the long queue didn’t bother us as we enjoyed the enthralling weather and breathtaking architectural marvel of Eiffle. By evening when we got back from the observatory the Eiffle was decked up like a new bride. As if to add to the revelry  a band of street dancers marveled all with their athletic ability and unique moves.


I was particularly impressed by the endeavor put to preserve the grandeur of the past, while incorporating elements of the present for convenience. Had we been travelling light i.e , without kids, we would have opted for the incredible cycle tours of the city. There is nothing like experiencing the city at an unhurried pace, stopping at whim and relishing the diversity it offers. Europeans not only respect the past they have an amazing sense of conservation and respect for the environment. People here prefer to walk and do not shy away from physical activity. The effect is quite apparent in the fit bodies that people double our age have. A plastic mineral water bottle is way more expensive than a glass bottle- a commendable move to discourage plastic usage.  In one of the shops we stopped by, I chatted up with a Sandra Bullock look alike cashier. She directed us to an Indian restaurant, as our system was frantically clamoring for some curry, dal, chapatti, riceee. The kids actually got cured of their pizza and pasta fixation at least for a few months following the trip. My love for muffins and pastries leaped and bound however, considering the divine delectable delicacies that enticed me at almost every food stop.



When we left for our Disney sojourn, I was sad that I couldn’t douse more in the culture and life of the city. Little did I know that the fantasy world would enthrall us so much. I feel no shame to admit that every bit of Disney land blew me away. We lapped up the night and day parades, the scintillating Fantalusia and the vibrant Fariytopia show. We sat with adept attention and unblinking eyelids savoring the gravity defying  car and motor bike stunts. We were completely engrossed in the train ride across Hollywood stunt city, screaming when the fire apparently engulfed us and screeching with closed eyes when the waterfall seemed to drown us. We delighted to see the kids enjoyed the Stitch and Tarzan acts and various 3-D shows. We accompanied my 4 year old as well as my 10 year old for their age appropriate rides with equal zeal. We clicked pictures with fairy tale creatures, from toy story and lion king. So there we unabashedly became kids again. When the lighting and the fire crackers transported the Fairy castle into another world we really lived in a celestial land in that moment.  I could fully identify with the feeling the kids reverberated, “We want to stay here forever.” I think three days was the right dose for this dream world, anything more and the fascination would have waned. We were now ready to lean with the Leaning tower of Pisa, sway in the romantic Gondola at Venice and explore the intriguing Colosseum at Rome. So with newer terrains and fresh adventures in mind we bid adieu to Paris. Like in every trip I wished I could pack all the moments, memories and experiences in a suitcase and take them with me. We tried to capture all we could through our camera, to relive them another day, but I knew a picture is only a memory not the actual experience.
 “We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.”
 Jawaharlal Nehru

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