Thursday, July 19, 2012

Eurotrip Part-3: Interlakken-Paris & Paris

In Deo confidimus
We left for Paris the next day at about 10. It would be a long drive to the city of love, but before we set off there was a little bit of last minute shopping to be done. A watch for mom, and a chance for me to try my French on the shop-lady. We set off and I said goodbye to the city between the two lakes- atleast for now. We reached the French border soon enough and as we crossed over to France we noticed why the Swiss landscape is so famous. I mean it is more or less the same landscape once you cross over, but while the Swiss side looks like a never ending post-card the French side looks like the same postcard has been given to a pup, who well took it for a rip here, a toss there. But personally, I love the French countryside, what if it is without the prim and trim look the Swiss side has?; it has a beautiful feel to it. After watching 'Flyboys' life has never been the same for me, and my love-story with the French countryside has been quite selfish and unending since then. So it was that we watched brooks winding across farms, across the countryside, saw sheep dotting the meadows, gazed at the hedges as they flew past. Me and Fatso got back to playing the 'predict-the-brook-game'. Simple really, all you had to do was predict when the brook would reappear again. I won that one. Fatso was good with the cars, and me, I was predicting brooks. Was I losing out on a life? I made a study which showed that I spent more time in my lab than anywhere else. If that time resulted in anything worth is another matter altogether. I was lost in the beauty that was slipping past. No wonder Wordsworth and Coleridge wrote those beautiful lines. They had the likes of this infront of them and the leisure to relax in this surreal environ for as long as they liked. So as farms and meadows sped past, dotted here and there by quaint farmhouses, I mused in the silence of my mind. My thoughts on several things- on life, on the blessing incurred, on what lay ahead. We passed ruins, of houses it seemed, standing forlorn, holding back their stories. Where these WWII ruins? seemed like it. I doubt any of this area was bombed seeing that the Nazis didn't face any resistance coming in. Maybe this happened on their hastened exit? I don't know. We stopped at a KFC somewhere along the way, in a small town. Nandana got talking to a local who turned out to be quite a nice guy; we spoke for a long time. He talked of his life thus far and we told him about ours. We spoke of the people there, their relationships, their fleeting nature, of how marriages were rare and took place after a series of relationships usually. He spoke of his life, job, village and we told him about our lives too. It was a very nice conversation and I got to test my French again. We said goodbye to the gentleman and were on the road again. We reached the suburbs of Paris at sundown and after a quick dinner at an Indian restaurant (I am getting tired of Punjabi food following me everywhere), we did a quick city tour and saw Paris at twilight. It goes without saying that I was spell-bound by the city, its buildings, their architecture, its cafes, the crowd in them, the lighted Eiffel, the Seine flowing by. We turned in at the Holiday Inn was it? near Charles de Gaulle airport. Slipping in and out of consciousness, after a failed attempt to place a call at IST 5:30, I fell asleep.

The next day, we had a quick French breakfast and drove over to the Seine. We were to go on the Seine river cruise, on the Bateaux-mouches, and the city was blanketted in a thin fog. There was a huge group of school children (kinder-garden mostly) with us on the boat and we were lost in the chatter. As the boat cruised down the Seine the famous monuments on either side were explained but again most of that was lost in the chatter. I couldn't help trying to remember what it was like when I was their age. Life was more carefree, there was never ending chatter, fun games. It was more simple I guess, except for those class-tests which I thought I could be free of when I became an adult. What a dream that turned out to be! There were teenagers too on the boat and I couldn't resist smiling to myself when I saw their 'we-are-different' airs and how they were looking at the smaller children, the 'oh-these-kids' looks  and the general indifference they give to the general populace. Such teenage trends. On that boat I had time to take an assessment of where my life was going. Of how uncertain my future looked even though it was all clear on paper. There are some things which you can control and some that you can't and the latter ruled my thoughts at the moment. We passed the Eiffel on the way. I noticed that the tower has, on a girder at the first level I guess, written in golden letters about ten names- names of famous french scientists of the time I'm guessing. I'm saying this because I did notice Lagrange and if I'm not wrong Dirac too among the names. We saw many famous monuments including the Notre Dame Cathedral with its twin towers, the French national assembly building and the likes. Some of us were lucky to get ourselves photographed and bought our snaps with the Bateaux-mouches emblem on them, when we got off. After a quick lunch we got in queue for the Eiffel and after a long wait we got onto the elevator to take us to the top level. We were lucky that overcast conditions of the morning were gone and a splendid view awaited us o the top. Every which way I looked Paris spread itself out infront of me. The Seine winding along, the presidential palace, the cathedral of Notre Dame, the renaissance architecture was evident on most buildings, the network of streets spread out like a carpet infront of us. We peeked into the apartment that Gustaav Eiffel had built on the top level and saw the wax figures of him, his daughter and Edison in there. A scene depicting when Edison was invited for tea and gifted Eiffel his latest invention- a phonograph. I tried my best to get the shirt-blowing, bare-chested, photo atop the Eiffel I had promised myself. But given the crowd and mom's stern looks that was not to be. Instead I had to be content with a jacket-blowing-in-the-wind photograph atop the Eiffel. It was gusty out there and I loved every moment. Then there was the moment when my hanging-from-a-girder-on-the-Eiffel photo too didn't come out the way I would have liked it to, but hey that's life.We bought souvenirs and apart from the few tense moments when dad went 'missing' there was not much action at the Eiffel. We were given one more tour around the city and along the way we passed through the tunnel where princess Diana died. It seems so long ago but Diana with her social outlook was one of my favourite people and I still fondly remember her. We passed by the Louvre and it was disappointing we couldn't take a peek inside. But we didn't have time and that's for another visit. We then went perfume shopping and even though I am a sucker for perfumes, I had to be content with learning new brand names as I had used up all my Euros. We left for Charles de Gaulle international airport the next day quite early in the morning. I was lucky to be seated with quite friendly old ladies on a vacation to Sri Lanka. I tried my broken French and even though I forget the name of the friendly old gal next to me I do remember that she was quite a nice lady. We pieced together what the other was saying and her friends sitting next to her were very friendly too. My new friend told me they were on a vacation and we discussed ordinary things like her fear of flying ( all in my broken French and her purely local slang), our families. She showed me pictures of her grandchildren and I showed her my family. I said goodbye to her friends and her when we landed at Colombo- nice old lady she was. Apart from the 7-hour-or-so wait for the next flight at the crappy hotel Air Srilanka reserves for Indian travellers, there was nothing special about the wait. The people Negumbo (near Colombo or in Colombo, whatever) dress in an Anglo-Indian style. Must be what is left of the Dutch culture in the area. The Negumbo beach was deserted apart from a coconut-seller whom we didn't see, trying to sell coconuts at the price of gold-biscuits- to Malayalees no less. What a joke. When we landed back at Kochi I had to say goodbye to all my new friends- both old and young. Thanks a lot people. The trip wouldn't have been this fun without you making it fun. I shall the remember the old songs we sang, the pennu kaanal stories and many incidents in this trip forever. Wish we could go someplace again soon. I remember the talks I had with Gina ma'am, Albert and many other people on this trip. Those will be memories I cherish.
P.S: anyone in touch with Gina ma'am? Almost everyone else I have located on FB.