A Holiday in Paris?

If my boss(who is also the sponsor of my trip)were to see the title of this post I am sure he would feel uneasy and wonder whether he did the right thing in sending me for the business trip! But then if you are in Paris you can not help linking it to fun and leisure.
Well,last week I had been to Paris on a business trip and it is virtually impossible not to talk about it! It is indeed a great retreat – a place where one can easily combine business with pleasure.

For reasons beyond anyone’s control,I could not get my French Visa. French consulate in Mumbai was in the process of shifting and so would not care to give any visa appointments.Therefore,I had to take a SCHENGEN tourist visa to Switzerland and reach Paris via Zurich.
As one enters the city,one thing that would strike any visitor is the amazing number of smokers – boys,girls,men,women of all ages indulge in smoking! It almost looks like a nation of smokers. Women indulging in smoking is certainly a ‘culture shock’ for most of us Indians. But I understand that is their way of asserting themselves – it is a symbol of freedom that women enjoy in the society. If it is really so,what an unimaginative way of expressing one’s assertiveness!
Another thing that is equally striking to an Asian visitor is that the Fench men(and women)hardly seem to speak in public places like trains,buses etc.They go about in a highly businesslike manner while travelling. Asians (Indians,Pakistanis and Chinese) are the only ones seen talking loud in public places. I realized this behavioural trait at my cost on the very first day at the breakfast table. As I settled down at the table,a waitress came up to me and whispered into my ears inquiring my room number. As if to grab the first available opportunity to open my mouth after nearly 12 hours of my arrival in Paris,I declared(almost thundered) that my room number was FIVE ONE FIVE,to the amusement (or more appropriately shock)of all around. All eyes in the room popped up in unison as though something untoward had taken place! Having learnt that lesson the hard way,I instantly decided to join the SILENT / WHISPERING majority. I successfully practiced the art of whispering for a whole day only to throw austerity(of words) to the winds in the evening when I conveniently landed at Saravana Bhava hotel for dinner. The moment I saw the familiar Indian crowd there,I was in my usual elements as I could raise my decibel levels without being noticed. My daughter who was making fun of me for going to Saravana bhava,of all the eating places in Paris,will now appreciate the reason for my preference! Of course I must also admit that the dish with 14 pieces of mini IDLIS soaked in spicy Sambar is another good reason to dine there.
The following day,I had an interesting encounter with a young American couple who happened to be my neighbours in the Hotel. Having identified the only English speaking person in the hotel,they found a desparately needed outlet to share their horror story in the Paris Metro. They were apparently caught by French cops with an invalid ticket in hand. As I learnt later a ticket becomes invalid if you happen to travel in the metro for more than an hour or so. And the punishment for this can vary from 50 euoros or imprisonment overnight(if they suspect you to be a terrorist or something it could really get worse!). Since they were white Americans who could speak a little bit of French,they got away with a relatively light penalty of 40 euros per person. That is still quite steep by any standards! I shared this important piece of information with all my Indian friends who were equally ignorant about this silly rule. I say it is silly because even if you genuinely lose your way in a metro(as a tourist is likely to),you will have to pay up.
There is another scary tale,Ifeel,I should share here for the benefit of tourists like me. This was when I found myself locked inside a loo in a museum where I was caught after the closing hours(7.30pm). Luckily for me one of the doors of the toilet opened after several violent bangings even as I was panicking.
Barring the two scary tales ,I had an otherwise great stay. I thoroughly enjoyed the cruise along Seine river one late evening,which was completely relaxing. The scenes on either side of the river were really breathtaking especially when the bridges and the Eiffel tower were beautifully illuminated in the late evening hours. Finally, a day trip to Versailles completed my sightseeing which was just limited to one saturday(I am sure my boss will be happy to note this!).

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Published in: on September 3, 2010 at 5:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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