Romancing The Swiss Alps#8

Good morning!

After a rainy day saunter I woke up to a sunny day next morning. I opened the window and the sunlight brightened my face. My entire surrounding was glowing with a youthful exuberance. I must confess something here. After reaching Marignier I was only exploring the nearby attractions and I never took a walk around the locality. My host had already left for skiing and I was scheduled to leave for the site seeing later in the morning, so, I decided to enjoy the early slice of the morning.

The morning view of the same place.
The greens.
The striped sky.
The trees with green leaves and blooming buds.
The bumpy road.

Though it would be redundant to say how breathtakingly beautiful Marignier was, I would like to describe that particular morning. There were a very few houses and nobody to be seen on the road. I took a downhill and reached a wide valley not very far from my host’s house. There were traces of snows here and there, but mostly they got melted due to the powerful sun rays. I saw green grasses for the first time after my arrival on the mountains. For the first time I discovered trees other than the pines. I noticed some unknown flowers were popping out from the bunches of green leaves. Winter could not stop them from blooming. I could see a series of overlapping mountains got assimilated into the blue sky. The sky was blue and clear with a sudden stroke of white stripes of clouds. I didn’t know that the whimsical clouds could be that artistic too! We generally tend to associate the raw beauty of a place with the description of wilderness, however, in Marignier the untouched beauty lurked with an innocent glory of tenderness.

Little red dress.

My clock was ticking fast telling me to move on from that enticing beauty in order to go ahead with my journey. That day I planned to visit Switzerland. I already described how I had to cross a Swiss town while coming to Marignier. So, Switzerland was not far from that place. Once again my Hindi-film-stricken-alter-ego made an appearance. As a generation who has grown on the staple diet of Bollywood platters, Switzerland represents the epitome of beauty and romance to them. A Hindi film fanatic could only fathom how much the Swiss Alps mean to me. Those postcard views with snow capped mountains and small scattered wooden houses on the vast green valleys are the features of Switzerland that I had only seen in those romantic Hindi songs earlier. I had this long cherished dream of dancing around the Swiss Alps wearing a red chiffon saree like a Yash Chopra (a very famous Hindi film director and producer who was a pro in making popcorn romances) heroin. I was even carrying a red saree with me. But what I didn’t know was the winter in the Europe. I had no idea how freezing cold the Alps could be during that time of the winter. So, with a heavy heart I had to drop the idea of being a Yash Chopra heroine. But how could I let my filmy soul die there without realising the Bollywood dream? I wore a red hot dress instead. The famous director had heroines who had romanced the Swiss Alps in red hot dresses too!

Snow players!

Geneva Lake.

The boy I met while collecting the pebbles.

The colourful pebbles.

So, I was once again on the road with dreams in my eyes and songs in my ears. I saw people enjoying the snow in groups. The scene started to change very soon. The more I was approaching Switzerland the more preserving the beauty was becoming. The roads were widespread and the valleys were vast than the valleys in French Alps. I entered Geneva. What I found astonishing about Switzerland was that it is an impeccably well maintained land. Everything in Geneva from the trees to the artefacts on the roadside were well maintained and in tune with one another. Unlike France which is more of a careless beauty, Switzerland is one conscious woman who knows the value of her beauty and thus always aware of how to maintain it. I crossed the United Nations’ building. I saw cyclists racing fast and I could only capture a flickering image of them. The name of the place was Publier. I reached the Geneva Lake which is locally known as the Lac Léman. It is stretched from the busy city till the far end of the remoteness. I saw houses on the opposite side of the lake and thought how lucky those residents were to have a view like this everyday! There were casinos too and I wondered who visited those! The scene around the Geneva Lake in the morning was quiet and solitary. I reached almost the fag end of the lake. I got down from the car and went down to the lake. The water of the lake was crystal clear. There were tranquil waves coming up to the banks and the continuous sound of the waves made a musical note of its own. There was a boy collecting pebbles from the lake. I joined him. The pebbles were so colourful and I discovered them floating under the water in a variety of colours like white, orange, green, yellow, purple. The water was tremendously cold. There was a white swan swimming alone. I could see the mountains far away and also the city. Then the mother of the boy came to receive him. I said goodbye to the boy. In Switzerland people talk in multiple languages. French and German are widely spoken languages there.

The symmetrical line of trees and the empty benches.

I walked towards the road. A line of aligned trees was standing alongside the lake and there were some empty benches. I stayed there for a while.

The Swiss train.

The road widespread.

The vineyards.
The name says it all.

The entire place at a glance.

I resumed my journey. I was heading towards the Col du Pillon. There situates the Glacier 3000. When I reached the point I could only see snow in and out of the horizon. The entire place was covered with a thick carpet of snow. With every step my legs were immersed deep into the snow. I was standing into a knee deep in snow when I saw two people skiing down from the peak. I saw women playing in the snow and when I got closer I discovered they were Indians. Most of the Indians are infatuated by the beauty of Switzerland and I guess all of them have the similar story to explain their infatuations. Throughout my tour Switzerland was the only place where I had the maximum number of encounters with my fellow countrymen. The train ticket to the glacier costed a bomb. The place was so cold that the battery of my phone died and as I was not carrying a camera I could not capture anymore photographs of the place.

Lake Geneva in the evening.

The moonlit lake.

The busy evening show.

The colourful sky.

After a whirlwind tour I was on the path of return. The return path was the same, so, I had the opportunity to visit the same places once again but that time it was in the evening light. I must say the beauty of the place against the backdrop of a setting sun was unimaginably stunning. The entire sky was dipped in a riot of colours. Never in my life I had this notion that the sky could be that colourful. I again stopped at that point of Geneva Lake where I met the little boy in the morning. This time the crystal clear water of the lake was reflecting the colours of the sky. I could see the moon was appearing between the mountains. It was completely a different scenery in the evening. I reached the centre of the town. And it was crowded. People were taking walks around the lake. Couples were busy in romance. The roads were filled with cars. And after enjoying the sun taking a dip into the water of the lake people were entering into the casinos. I got my answer actually when the doors of the casinos did open and opened for whom. The affluence of Switzerland was evident everywhere. And I could only imagine it from standing far. The sun receded completely and the moon appeared entirely.

I returned to Marignier.

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Rain on the mountain #7

Those who love mountains they are basically attracted towards  the fact that mountains can be treacherous. Unlike seas which one can gauge, mountains appear to be different with every single twist and turn, thus deceptive. So, after a sunny first day show it was raining again on my second day in the Alps. I was planning to visit Chamonix. My host already described the town to me. He shared how he once was mesmerised with the extravagant lifestyle of the town before finally shifting his base to Marignier. I wanted to go and see Chamonix as early as possible. The dampen weather couldn’t dampen my spirit. I was once again on the road on a rainy day. After a few kilometres of driving the scenaries on the both sides of the road turned into black and white again. It was gloomy outside.

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The Tripoint.

The road towards Chamonix passes through the border of France, Switzerland and Italy, a “tripoint” it is called. The geography of this place was notably different. The incession of gigantic mountain ranges made the road a little more difficult. There were several tunnels cutting through those mountains.

Passy.

The first place I crossed was called Passy. On one side of the road there was the glimpse of a large black mountain and on the other I could see a small town.

Les Houches, the way through the tunnels. 

Then I crossed Les Houches and the journey through the tunnel was long that time. I must say tunnels make me uncomfortable as I become restless in those dimmed light confinements. So, on that day particularly whenever I had to cross a tunnel I just highered the volume of the music and started counting the lights on the roofs of the tunnel. Blame it on my claustrophobia!

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The Entrance.

The melted snow with the rain water made the road dirty as well as risky. I saw many cars with chained wheels just to avoid skidding. Driving on the mountains comprises of so many technicalities. I was entering into Chamonix and from far I noticed the sign in red, Chamonix Mont Blanc. Yes, there stood my reason to visit Chamonix, to see the Mont Blanc. The Mont Blanc massif (French: Massif du Mont-Blanc; Italian: Massiccio del Monte Bianco) is a mountain range in the Alps, located mostly in France and Italy, but also straddling Switzerland at its northeastern end. It contains eleven major independent summits, each over 4,000 metres (13,123 ft) in height. It is named after Mont Blanc (4,808 metres (15,774 ft)), the highest point in western Europe and the European Union(source: Wikipedia).

Chamonix at a glance.

The road was bifurcated, one side was for the entry into the town and the other was for the exit. My host was absolutely right, Chamonix was indeed a busy town. It was populated too. I first time experienced a traffic jam in Europe that too in a mountain town. There was as usual a Christmas market in the middle of the town and people were busy in buying fruits and vegetables. Everywhere I could see the trekkers and the mountaineers with their equipments. It was apparently clear from their appearances that they were hailing from the different parts of the world. I came out of the car and started walking towards the market. The rain water made the road slippery and I had a moment where I was trying to balance myself from a fall just like a toon character. I was standing in the middle of the town and the Google map was telling me that the  Mont Blanc was right there in front of my eyes. But what I could manage to see was a curtain of clouds. Alas! I could see the lower mountains, I could see the roapways in rest, but not Mont Blanc. I was definitely heartbroken. For the first time in my life I didn’t like the rain. I strolled here and there for a while only with the hope of catching a glimpse of the Mont Blanc. But soon I realised it was an implausible idea and returned to my car with a forlorn face. Needless to mention that it was my second regret on the Alps and still it remains the same.

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Sallanches.
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Magland.
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Balme.
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Scionzier.
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The little did I know that this superstore would play an important role later in my trip! Scionzier.

The return was on the same path. While crossing Passy again, I decided to take an off route. So, I followed the path the car navigation was showing. This time I entered a town named Sallanches. On that gloomy day, the view was breathtaking. Then came a town called Magland. The road sign was showing I was on the right track. I crossed a secluded yet beautiful place called Balme. Then I entered a town named Scionzier. It was a big town with tall buildings and superstores. Finally I reached Marignier. My host had already arrived from the upper mountains with a similar story of not being able to skiing due to the rain. We shared our mood offs. It was around 5 o’clock in the evening, so I have got a plenty of time to sit in the living area. There was a nice and cozy fire place. It was all comforting in that cold temperature. My host was a fan of hard rock. He always kept his music system on whenever he was at home. I requested him to change the music to a comparatively softer one and he was nice enough to give me the charge. He was cooking mushroom curry. He served me a glass of white wine. Ahh! The French Wine! What more can I add! They taste heavenly!

The rain soaked outside.

I was in the backyard of his house. He told me how he wanted to make a garden over there. I found the European men to be very articulated and artistic. They always seem to have an eye for beauty. My host has a very simple house which he has made extraordinary with his interesting ideas and innovative interiors and that too very neatly. I suddenly heard a noise. I saw a big fat brown cat. It was my host’s. The only company he had there when he did not have a guest. So, we had many discussions on the dinner table ranging from our respective childhoods to our respective heartaches, from our respective cultures to the politics of our respective nations. I could not remember for how long we had that conversation going on. We could have some informal yet insightful discussions with people whom we might never meet again in our lives.

The fireplace, the music, the rain soaked outside all these created such an ambience that I felt content. I took the Europe trip in order to have a soul searching journey after the loss I recently experienced in my family, so,  barring a few people I didn’t feel like telling anyone about this trip. I just wanted to be able to get back in my life. That day I first time shared my experience on a social networking site, I made it public. Because after making so many journeys and meeting so many people thousands miles away from home I was finally expecting my scattered emotions were coming into one defining place.

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A full plater after a long time!

That night I had the most gastronomic dinner ever in my entire tour as I ate without any inhibitions. Earlier I had heard that having sumptuous foods could uplift people’s mood, that night I realised how a full meal could work as a mood enhancer. Thus, a Bon appetite led to a Bon Nui!

 

Mountains can be fun too #6

On my way I was informed by my host at Marignier that it was heavily snowing up there. It was around 6.30 in the evening when I reached his place. He was a nice man in his early 50s and upon arrival I discovered that he was waiting for his guest at the balcony with a glass of wine in his hand. No. That was not for me. But he was a courteous man whose hospitality offered me the comfort to experience a feel at home stay at his place. He had a modern a three storey house, the cozy yet voguish ground floor was for the guests and the first floor was brilliantly designed with a kitchen and a living room and his bedroom was on the top floor. The guest room was neat and clean and he left the wifi password on the pristine white bed. He knew that it was a long drive and I did not have any energy left for cooking, so, he invited me at the dinner. We did a little chit chat. I came to know that although his profession was of a constructor, his nursed his passion in skiing only. He said how he works during the summers and reserves the winters only for exploring his passion. He told me that he would be going for skiing early in the next morning and handed over a tour plan for the next day.

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The morning. 

Next morning when I woke up I went to the kitchen upstairs and found my breakfast was ready. It was a sunny morning indeed. My host had gone and once again I had the opportunity to be in a French house soaked in a luxurious ease and relaxation.

The black and white scene on my way. 

My first destination was Praz de Lys. It happens to be a popular ski destination. Skiing is a very popular game and a recreational activity in Europe. Almost everyone from every age groups indulge themselves in this sport. As I told earlier that Marignier was  a very quiet place and the nearest store was almost a 30 minutes drive from there. I stopped there for a while to buy some groceries and foods. I never found the stores empty or less crowded although the roads were seemingly more or less lonely. However, on my way to Praz de Lys I noticed that almost every car had ski gears on it’s top. Everybody was going for skiing. And once again my journey through the white Alps began.

The ski trip. 

Praz de Lys was a small point with only a few ski shops around. I looked at the mountains and watched people going to the top by roapways. They were the seasoned skiers. There were many people practicing ski on a much lower platform. To my utter surprise I found children as small as four years of age trying to balance on their ski boards. The little dare devils they were. The entire place was covered with snow- the roads, the small shops, the pines , so much so that it almost looked like a black and white picture. I roamed around for a while. Then I started heading towards Les Gates which is a big town popular with travelers who like to explore the Alps during winters with an extra dash of skiing and shopping.

The locality with beautiful structures.

The market.

When I reached Les Gates, it was snowing. I would like mention here that before that I had seen snow falls in movies only. So, it was the first time when I was witnessing snow falls. My eye lashes, my nose, my lips started to feel the cold touch of snow flakes. I couldn’t even open my mouth. But by that time I had become accustomed to the winter vibes of the European land.

The hard working locals and the hyper-active tourists.

The local scene there was no different. People were shovelling the ice from the roads. At the heart of the town there was a market with restaurants, hotels, a boutique, a wine shop and other stores. The hotels were showcasing beautiful architectures. There was a Christmas market. I saw old people as well as young couples with their cute children. I discovered a movie theatre. I saw the locals doing their daily chores.

Where the town ends.

I was walking alone and walked away a little far from the parking spot. I lowered my pace. I reached almost at the end of the market. I found an ice skating rink. At the one end of the rink there was an amusement sport area and at the other there was a memorial buried in snow. Thr ambience of the skating area was very jovial. As age seemed never to be a hindrance to the people there, the rink soon began to fill up with revellers of all age groups. I saw an old lady doing the skating more cautiously, I saw a little child experiencing the skating being a little shy. And I saw a very young couple enjoying the skating while teasing each other. The girl seemed to be a pro at it and she was literally leading the boy. With peppy music and childish giggles the place left me enchanted for long.  My enchantment was suddenly broken by the sound of a bus. A bus on that high was not an usual sight. Then I noticed that the bus had a female driver. “She must be a good driver with impeccable driving skills”, I murmured. And then there I was who didn’t gather the courage to experience the fun of skating. I consoled myself by telling that it was a wise decision since I should not retire hurt before the conclusion of my entire tour. Better be an adeventure junky in a cushioned platform than feeling the ouch in a distant  foreign land all alone. The distance and the cost made me wiser I guess, only for a while though. By the way I still have this oh-damn-it feeling whenever I recollect how did I struggle to restrict myself from a never-done-before experience in my life on that specific day. I should have been on that ice skating rink actually.

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The bravo moment!

While walking back to my car I was stopped by a rather interesting sight. I saw a brother and a sister were playing in the snow. The little boy had climbed up a place and the little girl was trying to do the same, however, an obstacle of a snow barrier was proving to be a huge impediment for the success of her mission. The mother was standing right there cheering for her children to overcome their challenges. They were talking in French and I had already expressed my inability to understand and communicate in that language. But language can never be a barrier among people.  Seeing their enthusiasm I also started cheering for them. The mother and I started communicating. The little girl almost climbed up but suddenly fell down. That didn’t make the mother dissuade her daughter  from the task. She showed her daughter how to break the snow barrier with her legs. The little girl while watching these two women cheering for her became determined enough to finally reach her goal. ” Bravo!”, all I had to say to the little girl and also to the mother for never stoping her children from achieving their goals. One should always believe in their children then only a child could grow up to be a fulfilled human being. I nodded at the mother, we waved a smiling-goodbye to each other and again I started walking.

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The exit.

My first day on the lap of the mountains was a relaxing one. Earlier whenever I visited a hill station I always found people divided into two groups- the overly enthusiastic tourists who only seemed interested in clicking photographs of themselves ( and I was no exception) and the ever hard working locals. Never in my life earlier I enjoyed a day out in a busy hill station in such an unwinding way. It was an experience worth living and worth  sharing too. With my each journey I was discovering a new aspect. This time I discovered the adrenaline rush that people could have in mountains. Mountains are not essentially about scenic beauties; they can be fun too!

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The road less traveled. 

After the explore-the-activity-based-mountain-life I started heading towards my place. It became dark and the navigation led me to a road less traveled. The road was bumpy and the snowfall made the tires skid a little. Thankfully enough the Alps does not have dangerous turns like the Himalaya. So, I had been able to reach my place unscratched.

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The snowy night view.

My host was ready for dinner and so did I. And it started snowing again.

 

Journey to the Mountains #5

After the 3 days trip to Paris I started my journey towards the Alps at the Southern part of France. As I had always been obsessed with the idea of romancing in the “white” Alps, I placed Alpls in my bucket list after Paris. So, I said goodbye to Paris and started early in the morning. This time my destination was Marignier, a quiet countryside almost a 7 to 8 hours drive from Paris. I had no idea about this place; I just wanted to spend some laid back-peaceful days amidst the beautiful nature, so, my friend selected this place for me.

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Goodbye Paris!

I always feel that every City, every place has it’s own character just like a human being. As we feel attracted towards some of the specific characteristics of a person, we similarly get attached to a place while discovering it’s streets, rivers, buildings, foods, music and people. And like our human attraction this is also an instant connection that we build up while seeing a place. Paris is full of life. The city instead of it’s long past seemed to me like a young lover who never misses a chance to romance. So, leaving behind a drooling lover like this made my heart ached terribly. And every new exit signs on the road made me clinging onto the city more and more.

Finally Paris vanished from the road signals and I had to concentrate on the roads ahead. As  I was entering into the countrysides, the scenic beauty was becoming more natural. The uphills and downhills in the middle of the vast valleys, the long stretch of roads disappearing into the clouds, a fragmented line of houses built with stones uplifted my lonesome mood. I passed through many villages and small towns. The nature was in abundance.

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Jou-le-Châtel.

A very beautiful village appeared in front of my eyes, Jou-le-Châtel. It was bestowed with an old charm that no one could overlook. Then came an equally beautiful village, Chenoise. These villages were small in sizes laying on the both sides of the roads.

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Chenoise.

I drove past these villages. The journey was becoming more intense with an increasing curiosity about what coming up next.

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The road to Provins.

The road was beautiful and appeared to take me through the clouds. I entered another place named Provins. This place is known for the lavenders that it grows during the springs. The valley lurks in the colour lavender during that time. However, I missed that sight as it was winter at that time of the year.

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The spring makes it lavender.

Sourdun, the beauty!

Then I crossed another village, Sourdun. The sky seemed to be gorgeous and the trees were standing in symmetry to welcome me. It would be fair enough if I call it a small town. It was well decored and seemed populated to me. This place is known for it’s champagne production. Almost every corner of the town had a champagne factory, and some bars too. And the view of stables in the green horizon was mesmerising that I still cherish.

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The town and a dweller.

A beautiful town appeared, Saint-Parres-lès-Voudes. This town showcased beautiful architectural designs and seemed very modern in its attitude.

The stopover.

The drive was long, so the road ahead was. The car needed a refuelling and my stomach too. So, I stopped at a petrol station. This place was called Sainte-Colombe-Sur-Seine. The food joint there was very crowded with travelers and locals. I had a burger and a cup of coffee. Did some stretching and again sat inside the car.

As I was going closer towards my destination, the scene beside the roads also started changing. I was on a higher land. The green valleys were replaced by snow clad valleys. The houses, the trees everything was covered with snow. Suddenly everything became white. The navigation showed I was driving past Laperrière and Canceanx. The deserted roads compelled me to think that everybody had left those winter stricken villages. I then realised I had never been felt so much cold before.

Dijon and Tourmont.

The scene changed for a while. The  roads and the trees became golden as the sun was receding. There came a town Dijon which later appeared almost in every navigation during my tour in the French Alps. The white valleys were in sight once again after I crossed a place called Tourmont.

To my utter bewilderment I discovered that in order to reach the Southern part of the France I had to cross the Swiss town Geneva. So, when I entered Geneva, the sun had already set. I noticed that the surveillance in the  Swiss border is quite strict and the foreigners are required to buy entryway stamps which they have to stick on their cars.

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Gex.

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Geneva was not far from Gex.

I was a few miles away from my destination. I crossed Gex, a snow clad high altitude land from where I glanced off the lake Geneva. I was beaming with a childlike joy after discovering that the place I was going to inhabit for the next five days was surrounded by so many beautiful places. Ahh!! That only meant that I would have the opportunity to visit so many places at one go. My excitement was sky high and I couldn’t help but thanking my friend a thousand times for choosing that place. The long road journey could not mar my enthusiasm. So, I finally reached Marignier, a picturesque village situated at the Rhone Alps.

On My Own on the Roads of Paris#4

My second  day in Paris was about exploring the famous sites of the city. Though I have just started exploring the adventure of solo travelling, I have always been more interested in exploring a new place as a traveler not as a tourist. So, since the beginning of the trip I was waiting for the opportunity to get to know the city beyond those famous sites, to live as the locals live, to do things as the locals do.

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The beautiful neighbourhood.

It was raining since the morning and my host was also not at her home. The entire situation was such tempting that I could have spent the entire day in the house all alone appreciating the drenched beauty outside from the kitchen window while sipping the hot coffee. It could have been a perfect lazy day in a French house in Paris. I could have explored the opportunity of being able to enjoy a holiday as the heroine in a artsy film enjoyed. Writing an intense love letter to a long lost lover or reading a novel with all those paint the town in red kind of romance along with a melodramatic background music always in sync. But I didn’t come for all these; to confine myself in a cozy-comfortable-beautiful home. I told myself, “I should live the most of what my life offers me!” So, I decided to go out in the rain.

It was my first experience of rain in an European country. The weather was too damp and too cold for me to even take out my hands from my winter coat’s pockets. The extremely cool breeze that welcomed me just I when I came out of the house, frankly speaking the first hit of the extreme cold left me shivering like a person who got a malaria virus. So, being alone in a foreign land with almost a zero knowledge of the native language and in a weather like that only raised the level of my apprehensions. I remembered how some people reacted when I told them that I was travelling to Europe in winter. For them it was too bad an idea of Europe in winter. “Did I made a mistake? Coming all this long way..spending a fat amount of money from my savings?” No! I didn’t want to live with those regrets. I was determined to make it. A woman hailing from a small town of a third world country traveling in a big vast land all alone was not at all a good idea to imagine in the first place. Because I have always been told that to live in a “peacefull honour” in this “big bad world” I should always need a protection of a man then only I can dare to satisfy my desires. Yes, no matter how much experiences  in my life I have actually  accumulated in terms of achievements and failures, loss and gains, every time I embark upon a new “journey” in my life I alway need to fight these stereotypes in one way or the another. So every start for me is like going against this socially appreciated mindset.

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The courtyard was so enticing!

I stepped out on the road. And suddenly I felt the tinny drops of rain on my face ( as it was my only body part that I didn’t cover with loads of woollens) and I felt rejuvenated.  Instantly. “Oh! How much I love rain! How much I love to get drenched in rain!” My soul cried with exclamation!

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When Santa got through the balcony!

The place I was staying at was not at the heart of the city. It was a nice residential area with beautiful houses decked up with Christmas decorations and of course with lush green gardens. The flush of rain made the place more green. On my way to Paris I have seen sound barrier, my co-passenger had explained the utilities of those things to me. Now I could saw the graffitis on the sidewalks. Here I must mention that Graffiti is a wonderful expression of art that I saw in every city I visited in Europe during my tour.

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The art.

The more I was walking the more I was enjoying my walk in the rain. I walked past the metro station from where a day earlier I boarded my train. I went to a shopping complex. The place was quite. And the people were shopping in a disciplined way. Yes. Discipline is the most common thing that I found almost in everybody in Europe. And I also discovered ( with surprise) that the car drivers gave the priority to the people who tried to cross the roads. Let me share another thing that I discovered with my utter surprise which is the traffic signals. People did actually wait for the lights to go green before crossing the road! And even if they crossed the road before the light turning into green, the drivers would stop their cars and let them cross. And I won’t forget to mention the switch on each traffic lights on the crossing. Such a smooth public transport system.

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A bus stop can be fun at waiting! 

So, I was walking and the more I walked the more energetic I became. The roads began to get lonely. The rain was incessant. But I was happily enthusiastic enough to march ahead. Then I looked at my watch to see the time. It was 7 o’clock in the evening. People were returning from their works. I stood for long just to watch how they behaved in their way back to home after a hard day at their respective workplace. One thing I noticed that people there are generally calm. They are always in control of their behaviour. Are they content and happy? I don’t know. The day before I saw so many people of different ages, of different cultures across the city, while seating in a restaurant, while shopping in a departmental store, while visiting a shopping mall. But were they all happy faces? Was I happy since I knew that my rendezvous with this vibrant city won’t last for long and I had to go back to my mundane life once again? I realised I was carrying  too many emotional baggages with me. It’s true we should always come back to our roots. But with stories to tell. For that all we need is to live in the moments that life is offering us as they are never going to come back in the same way. Ever.

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The crossroads.

So many steps with so many thoughts actually gave me an opportunity to introspect. Finally, I decided to conclude the walk and started walking towards my place of stay. But guess what! Yes! I lost my way! I kept repeating to myself, “don’t panic!” I asked people about the direction with no success. I could not figure it out from the map too. My phone had no internet connection. So, again the damsel in distress appeared in the scene. But wait. There necessarily might not be a Prince Charming to rescue the damsel every time she is in distress. Sometimes she herself needs to be her saviour. Here I would like to share a personal detail about myself. I am good at chronologically placing things. May be that’s why people generally don’t win arguments with me as I am good at remembering things in order. So, I started placing things backwards. Which building I crossed, which turn I took, which bus stop I was seating at and so on. Trust me it took me 3 hours to finally reach my place. I lost my way for five times, I almost had a spooky attack and finally  I got relieved by watching a young couple in a car just the way I used to be after having a fight with my love. I was in the right path. The rain had stopped. And when I reached my place of stay, my host welcomed me with a delicious cake that she had made all by herself for her guest! I heard that French are astoundingly good at baking, I got the taste. Ahh! You could find care in thousands miles away from home in a most unexpected way. The world is not a  bad place to live on your own. Such a wonderful climax of a wet and damp day.

 

Tour de Paris # 3

The lady I was staying with was a nice old French lady. Air BNB was a whole new experience, so was interacting with a lady who did not speak any other languages  than French. I would like to inform you all here that French was my compulsory foreign language when I was studying Masters at Jadavpur University, but I am pretty bad at French. So, for me the situation was like catch the words and make sense(yes not sentences) and answer back. Thankfully she understood my poor condition and called up a young boy from her neighbourhood to interact with me in English. The mandatory formalities got over and it was late at night. I ate what my friend had packed for me and jumped on the bed. Because the next day was going to be the day what I had been longing for since a teenager, I wanted to save my energy. My only useful resource was a transport-map of Paris which seemed to me quite like a puzzle. Good Lord! I have got a friend there.

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Take a look at the map!

I got up early in the morning, it was a day after the Christmas. I got ready, fed myself a bowl of instant noodles and took the direction from my host to the next immediate metro station.

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A bust stand. 

The name of the station was Mairie de Montreuil from where I had to take a metro. My first destination was Notre Dame Cathedral. I bought a day ticket. The experience of using public transport in Paris ( Infact in the entire Europe) was extraordinary. As I live in Kolkata, underground train journey is a normal day to day affair here. The jostling, the run for seats, the loud voices were all I had experienced till that day. Metros in Paris are quite crowded, almost like Kolkata, but what amused me for the first time was the disciplined approach from the part of the commuters. My first first-hand taste of the European discipline.

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And I discovered my Kolkata metro smart card was somehow broken!

The walk to the Notre Dame Cathedral from the metro station was full of wow scenes. Everything I was seeing appeared more beautiful in the early morning lights. From the road to the bus, from the old buildings to the lampposts everything seemed enchantingly drooling for a first timer.

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The road!

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See, I told you all!

I stopped on the bridge over the river Seine. The view of Seine right through the city was as usual fascinating. And as I told you all beforehand how a film-buff I am, so this time my mood was “Before Sunset”.

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Seine and my Before Sunset moment!

Finally, I reached the Notre Dame Cathedral, my friend was already there. I was so happy to see his smiling face!Having a familiar face accompanying me has always been a relaxing experience while away from my familiar place. This time it was no different.

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The Cathedral. 

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The Gates. 

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Inside of the Cathedral. 

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One of the many sculptures inside. 

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Countries, Visitors and Currencies. 

Earlier I have visited many Cathedrals and Churches and as India had been a subject to colonisation from different European countries, so, India still have many of these European structures. However, visiting the Notre Dame Cathedral was an enthralling experience.

My next stop was the Louvre Museum. I was particularly excited about this attraction since it stores that famous piece of art which is the reason behind my name. Yes, my namesake, you all got it right!

Now the Louvre Museum was a grand affair and I had to visit it twice just to have a minuscule view of it. I genuinely feel that the words are not enough to describe the grandeur.

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Not a mandatory pose!

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A glimse of the grandeur!

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A corner view. 

 

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The Crystal Prism from below. 

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Spot the giant wheel. As seen from the museum. 

After experiencing the grand affair I along with my friend decided to go to the Champs Élysées to have another long walk. It was an overly crowded place, almost like Esplanade in Kolkata. But again the views in every detail were remarkably jolly. We had a long walk through the busy street. Suddenly we noticed that the Police was pulling away a car of a tourist for breaching parking rules, people gathered at that spot. Again I got a feel of Kolkata. In other places in Europe I hardly noticed people paying attention to anyone or anything happening on their ways, but Paris seems to share the same inquisitivity as the Kolkatans have.

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Champs- Élysées. 

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The display. 

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Time to take some foods and drinks on the go. 

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And I spotted an Indian restaurant. 

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Louis Vuitton. What women desire!

Finally, we decided to head towards the most obvious destination, the Eiffel Tower. As the sun had receded, the wintry breeze became  ruder. I was trying to keep myself warm, I was walking fast. Then I took a left turn and saw the tower right in front. I can remember that I bought a replica of Eiffel Tower with my pocket money when I was in school. Now, it was all real standing tall In front of my eyes.

 

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Both standing tall!

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The enlightened beauty!

I sat there with my friend for long, saw the sun disappeared and the moon appeared, then saw the enlightened Eiffel while sipping a beer and chatting about Life in general and Love in particular. A lovely way to wrap up an astoundingly beautiful day!

 

 

 

En Route to France#2

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The Journey Begins.

My friend picked me up from the airport. It was a wintry morning. Seeing me shivering in that cold he told me,”You have got a good luck! Today the temperature has risen to almost 7 degrees.” Dear Lord! It was more colder than that freezing cold! I guess finally the rising temperature pulled up my luck too! Luckily enough!

When I finally reached my friend’s place, he told me, ” Get ready, you have to start within a couple of hours for Paris.” Wait. You people must be thinking that after a long tiring journey for almost 24 hours how did she even agree with this torturous plan and how merciless the friend actually was! Well, let me assure you all that with the change of continents my energy level also had gone a sea change. ” Yeay..I am finally in Europe”, this feeling worked as an instant energy booster throughout the tour. I was convinced not to waste a single moment. So, after doing the necessary things I started once again. My friend explained everything to me. He gave me all the details about the routes, my place of stays ( as I had to stay in various places since it was a week long tour) and of course plenty of Euros. Similarly, I was all prepared with my gadgets-my playlist and my camera roll. It was a road trip. Infact I insisted on this. I must confess it here that a trip to Europe was a long cherished dream and if I am asked to give the credits (behind this dream) I would spontaneously mention our Indian film industry. Yes. You heard it right. And the European history comes a close second. I will get back to the details eventually. So, being a Hindi film buff I had this esoteric feeling that the first song that I should play from my playlist must be from a Hindi film shot in this land of Europe. “Na jane mere dil ko kya ho gaya..” broke into my ears and the engine of the vehicle also started.

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A view from the car’s window.

I just settled myself on the seat. And I looked out of the window. During my childhood days Baba (my father) used to bring those calendars that had beautiful pictures of various European countries, lush green medows, stone houses, old churches, stretches of riversides and so on. Now I could see them all in front of my eyes. I later told my friend while describing my experience, ” You know when you are hungry and you see foods, you just got stuck into your food as much as possible. My condition was such. I was literally gorging on all those beautiful picturesque views.”

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I stopped here for a cup of coffee and some quick grabs.

I did not have any jet lag. Let me recollect, was I even hungry too? A big No! All I could remember now is that I was so immersed into discovering the beauty with my own eyes that I even did not care the breezy rain as whenever and wherever the vehicle had been pulled over I ran out of it to see what was on the other side of the road.

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The Christmas Road.

It took me almost eight hours to reach Paris. But it was the most memorable and of course the most beautiful journey I have ever made. I was rejuvenated. I was more enthusiastic than ever. And Paris welcomed me all decked up with lights, candles, cakes and love because it was Christmas!