May 07, 2012

If Love Was A Language

It would probably be French. Translate a movie name like “Wrath of the Titans” and see for yourself how romantic the name sounds. You probably would experience it yourself if you try to say Moulin Rouge in Indian English and then like a French.

And if there was a city for walking around hand in hand with the lady of your life, it would probably be Paris. Though such privileges come with a price; e.g. the lady might not appreciate the fact that a Baguette is actually a sandwich and would ask a hapless French waitress for chilli flakes, pepper, ketchup and hold your breath, toasted white milk bread. As a result you would then go baguette-less for the whole stay in a city that travels around with a bag in one hand and the baguette in another.

But once you iron out these small issues, along with the fact that rooms in Paris hotels can compete with Singapore in terms of the tiny size of the rooms, you will probably start falling in love. But wait, you need to learn basic French. Else you do run the risk of thinking escaliers mean escalator. And trust me; it is a costly mistake to make at the Eiffel Tower; especially when second floor in the Eiffel means at least 30 floors in a Mumbai high rise.

This is how it happened. The Eiffel has two lifts and one of them was under repair. I looked around and saw that at the Eiffel one could also go up to the second floor on the escaliers. So in one of those moments when you want to act ‘macho’ in front of the lady I suggested let’s take the escalator up to the second floor. And damn me for not knowing the language, we walked up more than 700 steps. But at the end it was worth every creaking bone in my aching body. You could see the entire city spread out beneath you and if you cared to look far, the golden dome of Les Invalides shone brightly.

In one of the very rare gestures, the then monarch of France had dedicated a palace for the soldiers who became wounded in the battles, which even today houses the tombs of the fallen soldiers of France, including Napoleon. It houses some of the most interesting museums on warfare ranging from the middle ages to the present. You can actually look at the transition in the attire of the knights over the centuries.

Once on top of the Tower, you can see the Seine flow below you and you can see the multiple bridges across the river along which quaint bookstores stand and on the rails you can find the locks; testimony to love for generations of Parisians. The most famous amongst them had always been Pont des Arts, near the Notre Dame.

Our high point in Paris; beyond the walking around aimlessly on its streets, listening to the occasional musician and getting into a nice French cafe to eat; was undoubtedly the Notre Dame. Ever since I had read the classic by Victor Hugo, I had imagined it to be scary, heartless building, devoid of the grace of God. But once inside Notre Dame, I felt a sense of peace and heavenly grace I did not even feel inside the St. Peters. The grandeur, the silence, the flickering candles and the hymns, all contributed to an atmosphere beyond words.

While it would be foolish to try and speak about the Louvre, one must leave behind a note for fellow travellers. Once inside, have a full day to wonder (not just wander) around at your own leisurely pace with an audio guide and just before leaving make the customary trip to view the Mona Lisa. Else you might just as well view the Mona Lisa and be off; you never wanted to know about Spanish Medieval Art anyway.

Viewing the Mona Lisa is a funny experience. There’s a sea of people who have come into the Museum just to look at her. And there she is on one wall of a room, protected by what I presume to be bullet and glare proof glass. Few people care to turn around and look at the other marvels in the room as everyone is busy taking their own pictures with the lady in the background bumping against each other, fighting to get closer.

It’s actually funny when you realize that most of the people in the room are not in Louvre for the art, but to tick mark a destination point as a tourist.

If you are tired of wandering about the halls of the Louvre, there is nothing better than to walk to the Champs Elysees. The Arc de Triomphe, the Grand Palace, The Petit Palace, all lie within walking distance from one another but our favourite was Place de la Concorde with its two famous fountains and the Obelisk from the Luxor Temple in Egypt. Surrounding it are the Tulleris Gardens, beautiful and serene and the museums nearby.

While you must do the Latin Quarters that house the Pantheon and of course the Versailles, the last stop in Paris must be Place de la Bastille. Nothing remains today of the infamous Bastille, only the July Column stands as a memory to remember the storming of the Bastille and an idea that forms the basis of much of human individual freedom as we know today. If you live anywhere in this world, where you cherish your freedom, pause for a moment under the July Column and remember the Revolution that made us all free.

For others, the French represent art, beauty, love, for me they represent liberty, equality and fraternity. 

No comments: