If there is one thing thats impeccably French, its grooming, if there’s a second thing, its style and if there’s a third, its attitude! The three things apply to every thing in the French capital, Paris, everything, including the trees, the pavers and the weather! The trees are groomed! Without so much as a hair out of place, I mean a leaf! With the three I believe love comes naturally. You cannot help but fall head over heals in love with the French Capital.
Armed with warm sunshine and cool winds we started on our journey to unearth our version of Parii. Say it with the double i ;), and the s stays silent. The air is Paris is filled with art, with every whiff one’s sure to up the art quotient about a hundred notches. Let me not get started about the fashion or the haircuts. A singly dischevelled guy sits on his balcony and strums his guitar singing by the planter flowers. For what you say? Well for nothing. For simply the love of it. It shows! The music fills the air and lightens up the clime and am sure the worst dreary soul too. It was so ironic to hear that the french beat every other capital to anti-depressant drugs. With so much art around and the pressure to be perfect it kind of makes sense. But for those who dont live in Paris, are tourists, or simply not French its perfect, dreamy and utterly romantic.
The french work for 35 hrs a week. Not an hour more. The rest of the time, they spend on grooming, perfecting art, living the life and having fun. Walking on the pavement I nearly jumped off my skin when a man dressed as a cow threw himself right out of bus of equally crazy people. They were hollering and laughing, scaring the wits out of naive pedestrians. Its all in good humor I suppose but at that moment I ran for my life! Another thing one would notice on the streets of Paris is how smoky the streets really are. Its not the oil combustion smoke like in the Asian cities but the tobacco filled cigarette smoke. Tons of ciggarette butts all over the pavement explain it all. Its upper-class and elite to smoke in Paris. One cigarette on your lips and youre apparently ten times more stylish. Paris I tell you!
But for the two, Paris is magical. I paused for 2 minutes before I could find the word, the one word to describe Paris and here it is, its truly truly magical. The hope, the romance its all in the air, in the dewy eyed people and everything French. Women spend on two things in France I am told foremost, lipsticks and lingerie, pearls, diamonds and fashion come in later. But they are all there. Walking across the city however many miles keep the people here in shape. And here my friends, circle is not a shape, its nowhere to be seen! There is so much I have to say about Paris, so without mulling over people more am going to get straight to the point, architecture!
In Paris the first place we had to be was yes the Eiffel Tower and two the Louvre Museum. So, the Eiffel Tower. Absolutely divine. It shuns all the rules of beauty, defies the laws of gravity and stands tall. In brown paint, it looks ugly you may say. Well thats what the city mayors said in the 1900s too. But one look at the tower from under with the breeze in your hair and am sure you will beg to differ. On the tower the urbanscape of Paris is seen with much clarity. Hausmann’s Paris as it is called is deeply lauded and celebrated by the urban designers all over the world. The sprawling gardens, the uniform houses, the uniform complexes and the ultra wide roads stand out. The city landmarks can be seen and identified, even appreciated. The green is very green and the Seine can be sighted in all its glorious splendour. The vistas, the avenues, collonades, everything that we are taught is architecture schools about a perfect city are found here. But as we know a urban designers dream is often an architect’s nightmare. When Paris was being rebuilt at one point, the Paris we see today the city’s building bye-law codes were extremely stringent. As far as the buildings are concerned they look all pretty but mostly the same. But for ofcourse the landmark differents that are really built without the code.
The Louvre for example, built by I M Pei, its the most well-designed retrofitted building in the world. Its my favorite in Paris. The glass pyramid, the glass covered courtyards, are simply breathtaking. The corridors of art tell a story and heighten the sense of delight as you actually see priceless pieces collected over time. The Mona Lisa, after reading so much good and bad of Da Vinci’s most written about portrait I finally got to make my mind up about it. And I simply loved it. Its smallish considering all the speculation around it. Though I dont think Mona Lisa is beautiful, her smile is definitely mysterious and borders on enigmatic. Spending ample time with the true-blue diva I posed to capture a treasured moment in the house of Treasures. Another irrestible part of the Louvre is the private quarters of Napoleon Bonaparte, the Great. Walking through his bedroom, his study one’s dizzy with the gilded encounters. If Napolean was not French he would definitely me South Indian I think!!! What an amount of gold and carvings and art. He puts even the sheikhs of the Middle East to shame. Its certainly an overdose. Napolean! I say!
After the Eiffel Tower during the day we simply had to go back up there at night. Midnight at the tower is a scintillating experience as it is then that Paris dazzles, the city of lights, like its called. Am still waiting to watch Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris.
After the Tower the next best architectural experience in Paris is the Seine River Cruise. The many bridges across the Seine, the embankments along the river, and the river itself are all UNESCO conserved sites. The embankments are not only a wonder but also marvellous. In the midst of the river are two islands of the old town where Paris had its humble beginnings. The church of Notre Dame along the river has the finest Rose windows in the world. The flying buttresses, the gothic dark appeal make the church give a completely novel experience of the trademark French churches. Dining on the Seine is an added benefit. Foie Gras and French wines are on the menu. Veganism is the latest entrant to the French checklist of the style quotient. With french music playing in the background and a historical intervention one gets to see Paris at its best. Walking along the Seine and off it sometimes we stumbled upon the Shakespeare and Company book shop. What a wonderful surprise it was. Hard bound books handed down generations stock the shelves. The informal nature of the place is a stark irony to the nature of the city.
Then it was time to head to the next big destination on our list, The Versailles. Hop-tropping through the city on its chic train system we found our way through the knots of the trains and reached Versailles to the South-West of Paris. Housing blocks, city quaters and untouristy on the train, we got a glimpse of what the Parisian life actually is. The string of clothes on balconies, the whiff of home-cooked food made me think that similar notions of living bind people all over the world. Versailles was another story all-together.
An expansive palace with large gardens the place is luxurious in all its might. The scale, the proportions all are ultra-glamorous. Architecturally the Versailles palace is supposed to be stupid. Carbon-copied from Greece and Rome, the open big verandahs and quarters did not suit either the climate or the lifestyle of the French and it resulted in cover-up measures. The statue crowned chimneys or the glazed verandahs have been covered in every architecture texture and critisized for being artificial, and sometimes downright foolish. That assured the art in the palace is immense. Sometimes it borders on gaudy but more or less is very intricate and stunning. Complementing the architecture of the palace are the vast expanse of gardens, groomed to perfection. A stroll in the park could really mean a couple of kilometers!
Versailles pretty much sums up the kingly quality of France, the opulant nature, the arty influence and the like.
Paris is but a heady concoction that stirs the senses and offers a sumptuous intake of what we call the fine life, with fine architecture, finer music and finest art.