The UK’s August bank holiday always falls between C’s and my birthdays, giving us reason to do something interesting every year. For the 2015 one, we planned Paris. It was the first trip C and I made together after our wedding. There were two primary reasons for doing that – C really liked the city (after his two previous trip there) and France was a relatively easier embassy when it came to granting the Schengen visa. This was before the attacks last November.
I was not particularly fascinated by the fascinating Paris and agreed to go if C managed the visa process. I had obviously not recovered from the mammoth UK visa process from early in the year.
And so he did everything – visas, Eurostar tickets, Airbnb, and the works. I took on two responsibilities – planning an evening to watch cabaret and a day out in the Champagne area. The first one wasn’t bad. Moulin Rouge was very clearly an expensive deal. And they know they are expensive, so they recommend another cabaret in the Moulin Rouge Group, called La Nouvelle Eve on the same website. It is more affordable and I conveniently booked a table for the both of us.
Read on to know more about Champagne.
We arrived in Paris on the night of Friday, August 28th. The city was quite filthy. My I’m-in-Europe-for-the-first-time eyes were surprised. But Paris is known for it. Next step: finding young English-speaking kids employed by the transport authority to help tourists navigate the train system. It was a bit sad, but I was happy that at least they had some kind of a job.
|St. Pancras, London|
|Because C thinks I’m like those in the background|
I had a disappointing goat cheese wrap at McDonald’s for dinner and we retired at our beautiful Airbnb for the night.
The next day was dedicated to Reims to see the wonderful, romantic world of Champagne. We took a high speed TGV train which got us to Reims within two hours. The moment we reached there I realised I had made a huge blunder. Reims is a small town with various champagne brands having their original war-time cellars located in the area. For a real, green tour through vineyards (what I had in mind), you need to be able to drive a few miles into the countryside from Reims. C hated what I had done. I hated what I had done. We’d spent a significant amount of money on those trains. But we swallowed the stupid emotions and started walking. It was a hot day. I really didn’t want to walk. On the side I was still trying to check on my phone if there was a way to get to a vineyard somehow. But it wasn’t going to be. We landed at Taittinger’s champagne house and decided that we should, at the very least, take a tour of their cave cellars. That didn’t disappoint. We bought a couple of bottles for friends, tasted some of our own, and came out a couple of hours later wondering again what to do in that place.
|We managed first class tickets on our TGV|
|Various available bottle sizes|
|Clearly, this happens everywhere!|
We whiled away some more time, took a late afternoon train back to Paris, went home to change and get set for our evening in Monmartre for the cabaret.
Reims remains, and will remain, a sore point in our relationship for times to come.
The cabaret venue, La Nouvelle Eve initially looked a bit sketchy, especially the entrance to the halls, but I was comfortable soon after. C wasn’t. Unbelievably, he enjoyed the filler acts more than the actual show. I thought that the beginning was slow and bumpy, but it only got better with time and the closing was superb. It’s a shame photography wasn’t allowed, but I guess it’s good so people can actually enjoy being there.
|One did have to visit and click this picture!|
The next day of our trip was dedicated to typical, touristy Parisian things. Notre dame, the Louvre, the Seine, crepes, Champs Elysees and the Eiffel Tower. The day was scorching hot at nearly 35 degrees. I hated it that C was making me walk. I felt like shite and behaved like shite too. There was nothing romantic about the trip and we couldn’t believe we were upset with each other on this first, supposedly fancy trip. Of course, it didn’t help that I couldn’t find decent vegetarian food anywhere. Yes, I could have punched someone in the face and come back to London if I could!
But I clicked a few pictures and took breaks every 30 minutes like an old woman.
And then arrived the evening. My head and my nerves calmed. I could finally begin to see the romanticised side of the city. We decided it was a good time to buy my birthday dress (ala the annual tradition of wearing something new on the birthday). C picked a dress I never would have, but I tried it and loved it.
Unsurprisingly, the mood improved.
Clicking photos of Arc de Triomphe was fun. I was happy.
We then took a boat tour which was another one of the disappointments of the trip. It wasn’t an open top boat, the commentary was very dry, and there were way too many people around us. Now I was grumpy.
And then we finally went to the Eiffel Tower. Yes, we had actually saved it till our second night in the city. Don’t ask why. I was over the moon at the sight of the glittering tower. I distinctly remember being excited like a child. The shimmering lights at every hour added a 100 times to my excitement. I think I almost danced. I definitely jumped. It was also a full moon night (or maybe a day short) and the moon sat symmetrically by the tower. I changed lenses on my camera. I had ice cream. I kissed C. I did everything one does when they see the Eiffel Tower for the first time. I didn’t care to go to the top. I just didn’t want to give up the view of the Tower! So I walked back and forth, left and right, just to make sure I didn’t miss the best views of it. We later lay by the river, with the Eiffel towering over us, until all the shops shut down and it was time to take a late train home.
On our final day in the city, as we typically do, we took it easy. We strolled in any direction we liked. We focused on getting some good food. I did want to see the Statue of Liberty, so we went in its direction. The weather had either improved or I had begun to get used to it but I was definitely more comfortable. I got a drink or two. We got a dessert or three. I chanced upon the Wall of Love. I refused to do a steep walk and C made his peace with it. We were okay.
|A rather awful font for train station names|
|For the love of breads!|
We reached Gare du Nord and figured something was wrong. Trains were delayed. There was no sign of our train. But we had cleared immigration and there was no way of turning back. We sat. We waited. We learned it was because refugees had blocked the tracks in Calais. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. The number of people piling up at the station platforms was increasing with every train that wasn’t showing up for its return. We were almost certain we won’t be able to get back when suddenly there was an announcement. The last few trains of the night were being combined to go back to London and we had a chance there after over four hours of wait. We returned without further delay and Eurostar offered to compensate us by giving us a set of free tickets for a similar journey in the coming months. We were certainly not going back to Paris. Belgium, maybe.
It took nearly a year before we did. Details to follow.