The flight from Madrid was short & peaceful for all those aboard – except me. I glanced at my family – my wife and both the children – the happiness of having already been to Greece, Italy & Spain apparent on their face. Yes, the journey so far was good and very enjoyable. But here I was, like a winded up clock, though more with anticipation.
It was almost after seven years that I was about to see her. Seven long years! It was business that had brought me to Europe in August, seven years ago. I was on my way back from Venice to home at Mumbai, when I sighted her first during a stop over. Now, this could have been an after-effect of my having had an early morning lovely ride in the Adriatic Sea. Yet, despite having very little time at hand on that stop-over that I could spent with her, it was enough for me to remain hooked on to those lovely memories.
The pulse was seriously beating rapidly now as we disembarked, the feet moving faster so that I can see her. And then that first look at her and all misgivings just disappeared. She still had the same alluring charm and intrigue around her which had mesmerized me seven years ago. In fact, if anything, the passing of time had done wonders to her.
And at that moment I was ready to let the whole world know that I fell in love again - with the City of Romance – Paris!
No one really knows why Paris alone is called the city of Romance. I am sure there are places as good if not better. Yet, it is Paris which has been bestowed this honour since ages. And justice it does to this honour. There is a palpable attraction in the city that weaves its own magic – like an enchantress from the old magic fables – and keeps one hooked on.
Behind the enigma of Paris lies its being at the centre of some of the greatest events that have resulted in change of course for the entire European history. Having been established by the Gauls, attacked and invaded by Julias Caesar, civil wars, religious struggles between Protestant & Catholic movement, Marie Antoinette, Napoleon, destruction in both the world wars, taken over by Nazis in 1940 and liberated again in 1944 - Paris has seen it all. It has been caught up amidst some of the most fiercely fought wars & political /monarchial skirmishes. Each time, Paris rose to a glory, there were setbacks, and like a proverbial Phoenix, it again rose from its ashes to even greater heights.
To me, as we traveled through one of the most tourist friendly city, the charm of this city lies in its deep rooted love for art, culture and freedom. The Renaissance period in Europe and the French Revolution in late 18th century coupled with the ever modern outlook of the Parisians has created a mystical aura for the city.
A series of monarchies have undoubtedly left its impact on the city’s architecture and yet there is continuity. Despite being a modern Megapolis, the Notre-dame and the Louvre made during 12th to 14th century still look in sync with the the Arch-de-Triumph and Pantheon of 18th Century.
Even, La Madeleine – a Greek Temple in the middle of Paris built in 18th Century by Napoleon with Corinthian columns – and an Egyptian obelisk in the centre of Place De la Concorde, covered, with hieroglyphics depicting the great life of the pharaoh Ramses II, just makes the city that much more interesting.
Towering above all these is the Eiffel Tower, reaching out to the clouds in the sky – a perfect vantage point to experience the city.
Paris has a superbly developed infrastructure – capable of taking you with ease from any one place to another. But essentially it must be experienced on foot.
Walking through the streets lined with open air cafes, browsing through varied re-prints of art and cityscape,visiting some of the most beautiful parks full of Parisians and the tourists enjoying the summer warmth, one can but not help breathing in the city’s vivacious energy.
Various statues & sculpture all around lend their own magic to the city and yet are unable to draw your attention away from the marvelous facades of the buildings around which mesmerize you in.
And like statistics, what these building hide inside is even more interesting. A must visit on any itinerary are the Louvre, Musee-de-Orsay and a number of other museums – including the ones dedicated to art of eroticism and fake articles!
Though it is Mona-Lisa which is one of the chief attractions for everyone visiting Paris, I found the city a real treasure trove for art lovers. Rodin’s sculptures, Salvador Dali’s abstract forms, Van Gogh’s poignant history through his painting and Da Vinci’s genius are only a tip of what lies inside these museums – an inspiration always to the current generation of artists.
As if the days spent in visiting all these are not exciting enough, the evenings of Paris make it further interesting. Sitting in the open air bus and passing through – by now – a well illuminated city – is another sight that cannot be experienced elsewhere in the world. Adding to this is a must visit to any of the well-known cabarets, including Moulin Rouge – the birth place of Can Can dance, to actually experience the meaning of word “Effervescence”.
While, we, the adults, were going gaga over the city, and kids were getting treated to a history and culture lesson, the high point for the kids were the 2 days spent at the Disneyland Paris. In fact, though distinctly not Parisian in style, the Disneyland still manages to be an extension of the city. Roaming inside Disneyland with all kind of joy-rides available around you can bring a child out of an adult too.
For me, despite having spent one full week in Paris, it was just not enough. But for the time being our itinerary was already chalked out and there was no option but to take off to our next destination. I was still hooked on, and yet trying to decipher why Paris is so romantic.
I think the answer lies in the city’s attitude to life - everything in life is a celebration – and a celebration at a grand scale but without pompousness. Hemingway had written if you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a movable feast.
Small wonder that another five years have passed since I last saw her and yet, I can still close my eyes and feel the vibrancy and the unmistakable sense of pulsating joy. I am eager to see her again, be with her, explore her nuances, understand the enigma, because for me, my romance with Paris still lingers on…