Paris Revisited

I was in Paris last week taking part in an International Conference after  nearly 2 years. I reached Paris by Air France on a Sunday morning and was keen to unwind during the day in a Hotel before the start of a hectic week. I had a taste of French English in my very first encounter itself. I took a taxi from Charles Degaulle Airport to the Hotel I had booked in advance. I found my room ok in all respects except that it was  a little too small for my comfort. So I asked for a change of room and the Hotel reception readily showed me an alternative room. Here is how our conversation went:

Myself: The room is bigger alright but it is facing a busy street. It could be noisy

Reception: May be – it depends – if you are sensible, yes sir

I was slightly taken aback and said: Yes, of course, I’m sensible and sensitive to noise too, if that is what you meant!

Reception (smiling) : Yes – that is what I meant, sir.

Only then it struck me that the French translation for sensitive is sensible! Of course, it does make  sense  considering that only the sensible would be sensitive!

Here is another little known piece of information that I gathered about Paris from a chance encounter.  I was happy to see a number of cyclists cycling around the city. Since the city has well-marked lanes for cyclists, it is a safe and quick mode of  commuting within the city. As I always enjoyed cycling, I was keen to experiment. This was when I happened to meet a cycling enthusiast from India (now studying in Germany) and asked him how to go about it. The guy said: ‘For heaven’s sake don’t do that sir. Cycles get stolen routinely in certain parts of Germany and Paris and what is worse it is not even considered a crime!! It just comes in handy for a guy who is in a tearing hurry to go from one point to the other. He would take (steal?) a bike parked nearby, take a free ride, reach his destination and leave it there. Finished! In that sense he is not stealing but merely using it temporarily. But then the guy who hires it in the first place  ends up losing his deposit and rental fees!!’

Strange logic and strange ethics for a country which takes pride in their high standards of personal integrity! I checked at my Hotel reception and they confirmed the story saying that it happens in North-East Paris.  Doesn’t it remind us of our country where giving/taking petty bribes is not considered a crime by many in the society?

Are the French men tolerant of other races? While I don’t like to generalize, I had two encounters  with Moroccans (living in France). The shopkeeper asked me: ‘You French – Arabic.?’  I said: ‘No, I English- from India’. He said: ‘No – Go’. He refused to serve me. I was shocked. In contrast, another Moroccan shop keeper was very courteous and patiently tried to communicate with me .

Is it necessary to take woolen cloths while visiting Paris in August? Many, like me,  would say it is not needed. Before leaving for France my daughter asked me whether I was taking woolen clothing just in case the weather turned hostile. I said it was summer time in Paris. She warned me saying there is always a ‘wind chill factor’ which is unpredictable even in summer. I ignored her warning and did not pack anything special. As if to endorse my decision, on the day I landed in Paris there was plenty of sunlight and it was almost as warm as Mumbai. There was no wind, no chillness and therefore no ‘factor’ to be considered. However, on the day I chose to do some sight seeing (on Friday) this ‘factor’ turned out to be too strong to be ignored. The bad weather lasted till lunch time and I realized my folly of not packing any woolen clothing much against my daughter’s warning.

So, at the end of the conference, I had just a day at my disposal for sight-seeing. What can one see in one day in Paris? The city has lots to offer in terms of fine arts, architecture, ancient churches and world-renowned museums etc. One French acquaintance told me that Paris is #1 in the world in terms of  ‘Creative Output per Square Kilo meter’. The guy is pretty creative to come up with a new measure for creativity! Isn’t he?

I chose the to visit Museum of Modern Art (named after Pompidou) in the morning and go for a very relaxing cruise along Paris Canals in the afternoon, if the weather showed some mercy. The museum has both  Contemporary and Modern Painting sections. I had taken some photographs of  stunning paintings of Picasso which I will try to share in my next blog.

The canal cruise was great as our boat passed through a 2 km long man-made tunnel. It was an out-of-the-world experience.  See the picture below taken as we  cruised through the pitch dark tunnel with ventilators positioned every 100/200 meters to let in light and air:

Published in: on September 3, 2012 at 1:02 am  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Simply educative and interesting.

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