In mid June of 2011, I made a weekend trip to Paris with my close friend Chirag. We have done a lot of trips together while I lived in London. I have been on many trips on buses but not across the channel so I decided that we will do another adventure on a bus, going from London to Paris on National Express. Because Eurostar is too mainstream!! (budget being the other reason 😉 )
After finishing work on Friday, Chirag and I headed to the Victoria coach station in London which was very close to my office. Our bus was at 10PM and we were all exited to experience this ride. It started on time and we reached Dover in 2 hours. Buses do not go through the tunnel but on a ferry. So everyone had to get off get the immigration done and board the bus again. Then the bus had to go on the ferry to the other side and then continue on road. It was around midnight and we were asked to get the immigration checks done. After immigration, we boarded the bus and waited for our turn to board the ferry. After a while we boarded one of the P&O ferries and were asked to get off the bus and spend time on the ferry, as you can’t be on the bus while on the ferry. Strange rule. All this meant we could not sleep that night. After just over an hour we had to get on the bus again and then continue on to the road from Calais. I was regretting the decision to come on a bus already. Anyway we reached Calais and continued on to Paris reaching in morning on time.
This was one of the cheapest trip I did to a foreign country. Thanks to Francesco, our mutual friend from Italy who was working and living in Paris during that time. He kindly invited us to stay with him for the weekend. Fra, as we call him is a friend from my MBA and a very jovial and funny guy. He is few of my friends who are still in touch after MBA.
Next to the bus station we went to the metro station to get on the underground and go to Fra’s place. They had an interesting ticket machine there. It took some time to understand how it worked. It looked quite retro and worked like that too. Some how we managed to get the tickets. Quite funny incident happened when two German ladies behind us were trying to figure out how that machine worked. They could not speak English or French which were the only two language available on that old machine. Since, I have lived in Germany for sometime, I picked up the language a little bit. I helped those ladies to get their tickets. Moving on to the tube (as we call it in London), it was also bit old. We reached our destination and to Fra’s place.
Fra greeted us with his typical good mood and jovial personality and of course a tasty breakfast. He had some work in the afternoon but decided to come with us and show us around for sometime. He suggested that the best way to move around in Paris is a bicycle. So we rented two, since he already had one.
We started with ‘Arc de Triomphe’, famous arch where all major roads converge in Paris. You can’t miss this. Its an architectural piece which honours people who died in french revolutions and wars. It was a busy place with many tourists around as well as traffic of the local commuters.
We clicked some photos and moved on to ‘Champs Élysées’. The famous road that leads to the Louvre. Made famous by many movies showing this and many luxury shops, cool cafés and theatres, we rode on our bikes on Champs Élysées. It was quite beautiful with slope towards the Louvre. So practically it was nice to ride on it.
We reached the Tuileris Garden looking out for many beautiful buildings around this area. We locked our bikes and decided to walk towards the museum. It was a nice walk in reasonably good weather. With backdrop of Eiffel tower it was a nice place to click some good photos. Before the museum there was a small arch where we again had some photos and spent some time outside the Louvre, near that pyramid. Since we were coming back to go inside Louvre the next day, we decided to move on.
We wanted to go to a Parisian Café and have french food. So Fra took us to a café, which I guess he knew about. We had good lunch and a good time with an old friend after a long time.
Since Fra had to go for some work, he left us after lunch. He mentioned that he has been invited to a birthday party in the evening so we can also tag along with him. We were fine with that.
After Fra left, we went to ‘Notre Dame Cathedral’. Since we were on bikes we left them on cycle racks near St. Michael square and walked towards the cathedral.
This being a famous tourist’s spot it was crowded. Many people waiting to go inside. We spent some time outside and then stood in the queue. Inside of the church was beautiful. It was very high and peaceful; no chaos of outside was in there. We admired the beauty of the place for a while before coming out.
No trip to paris is complete without the Eiffel tower.
No trip to paris is complete without the Eiffel tower. So we went there on a tube. Like good tourists we also posed and clicked many photos before getting a ticket and going on the top of it.
After a long wait we got to get on the lift to the top. The view from top was breathtaking. Not only because it was too high, but also it gives a panoramic view of the whole city and because the weather was perfect that day.
Paris being a romantic city we saw a guy proposing his girlfriend on top of Eiffel tower, which she accepted.
We roamed on all four sides and took a good view of the city. There was a champagne bar on the top too. We did not drink any, since we had a birthday party to go to. We came down and headed back to our base to get ready for the party.
Francesco told us that it will be quite fashionable party since the birthday girl and her friends work in fashion. Since we are always fashionable so we just went in the same clothes :). Or may be Chirag had to put some effort. We had few drinks at home before leaving. On the way we picked up some more for the party. At the party, there were many people and it was a loud event.
We reached around 11PM and it was in full swing. We blend in very quickly. I met many interesting people and had good long conversations. There was cake cutting.
We drank, we danced, we enjoyed. It was really late when we left and very drunk. I don’t remember much after that but surely we walked on Parisian streets at 3 in the morning before reaching home and crashed.
Next day, Sunday, was our last day and we had to see the Louvre and few other places. Alas we woke up at 2 PM and still not completely recovered from last night’s party. We had to drag ourselves to get the tickets from Virgin store on Champs Élysées. We got our tickets and went to the museum.
The Louvre is a very big museum and we could not see the whole place and still make it to our return bus. So we went straight to Monalisa. There was a big crowd to see it and take a pic with her. It felt as if some press conference is taking place.
We too went in and took that customary picture with the famous painting.
The ceilings were intricate and beautiful. The paintings were out of this world. I was mesmerised by all of them. There were different sections for sculptures, paintings and other arts. We saw whatever we could in the remaining time and the museum closed at 5.
We started walking towards Montmartre, which has a white coloured church on a hilltop giving good views of the city.
It was cloudy and it started raining. So we had to hurry to reach the top and see the church called ‘Sacre Coeur’. The church itself is unique in design unlike other churches. It looks more like a palace than a church.
We spent some time outside it and saw Paris from the hilltop. We did not have much time so decided not to go inside.
After a while, we climbed down and moved towards Moulin Rouge. This is a famous cabaret dance theatre, where cabaret was born. It has a distinct red coloured windmill outside it.
We couldn’t go inside due to lack of time. It was getting late for our bus back to London. So we moved on towards Fra’s place and packed our bags. We said farewell and thanked Fra for his hospitality. Then, we moved on to get the underground and reached the bus station to catch our bus back.
This was a short trip and there is a lot to see in Paris. I am sure I will get another chance to go there again and spend some more time. Until then Au Revoir!!