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|7th October 2008, 19:22||#1|
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Rome and Paris Travelogue
Day 1 (26th Aug 2008): Pune – Mumbai – Paris
We started from Pune at 6:45pm, for a 0210 flight (AF 0135). We had hired a cool cab, since my in-laws were also traveling with us, till Mumbai. However, within 15 min of starting, our cab driver got a call that his aunt had expired. So he called up a replacement cab. We reached Wakad at 7:15pm and waited for the other cab to arrive. It finally came at 7:45pm, and we started our journey again.
We stopped just once on the way, to top up the fuel, and drove straight to Sahar airport. The renovation activity there has completely messed up the drive to the departure gates, and we crawled for 15-20 min before making it to the terminal. After seeing off the in-laws in a local taxi, we went inside (11:15pm). The check-in, immigration and security check were pretty fast, and this, along with the new décor, has given a true international feeling to the airport. So we cleared all hurdles and reached our gate at around 12:15am.
Thereafter it was a long wait – 1.5 hours. During that time we entertained ourselves with the passengers on AI direct flight to New York, and another AI flight, to Riyadh. Fortunately, our flight was called first, and we boarded the aircraft at 1:45am. We had the last row seats – 48A and 48B. The flight was overbooked, and we were offered an option to get offloaded, with some compensation. The vacation dates being at premium, we declined. Since I had opted for a window seat (which I always ask for), we were given the last row seats. I was worried that they would not be reclining, but it was a good Boeing 777-200, so the seats were not bad.
Within ten minutes of us occupying our seats, another couple walked up and claimed the same seats! The only difference was, our seat numbers were printed, and theirs were hand-written. So we went to the air hostess to resolve the confusion. She disappeared with the all four boarding passes. Five minutes later she came back and told us that we were allotted seats 7A and 9L, in business class!! We immediately vacated the seats, and proceeded towards the business class. Another mini-drama was in store there, because 9L was already occupied. Another air hostess, another wait for 5 minutes, and we got seats next to each other, 7A and 7B. Hushhh!!
This was the first business class travel for both of us, and we were quite excited! Looking at other seasoned passengers, we figured out all the different settings for the television screen, seats and foot rests, and also other small features. It was real luxury.
The flight moved away from the gate some 30 min later than scheduled, and spent another 20-25 min on the taxiway itself, before coming back to the gate. The captain announced that there was some technical snag, which will be corrected soon. So the draw-bridge was connected again, and a mechanic came on board. Around 3:30am, I dozed off. I don’t know when the flight finally took off!
At 4:30am, the dinner (?) was served, so wife woke me up. The food was delicious, and there was a range of wines and other beverages on the offer. I had to decline because I am a teetotaler. The peach mousse was excellent! After a good meal, I slept again, on a seat which reclined to give almost 180 deg bed.
Day 2 (27th Aug 2008) Paris – Rome
I managed to get about 5 hours of sleep before the lights came back on. It was time for some breakfast. My wife got the last omlette on the trolley, so I settled for date pancakes, and they were good, too. After breakfast, we switched on the TV, and the movie ‘RACE’ was being screened. We caught up a little bit of it, before it was stopped, and we landed at CDG, at 8:20am, just 20 min later than scheduled.
1 Charles de Gaulle 2F terminal
We had landed on terminal 2E, and our Rome flight was on 2F. It was a reasonable walk, and we encountered passport control on the way, as expected. Then a visit to the restrooms, and a stroll in the terminal, and it was time to board the next flight, to Rome. It was operated by Alitalia, and we boarded on tarmac, a shuttle taking us from the gate to the aircraft.
This was A321, a decent-sized aircraft to board from tarmac, in my opinion. This was somewhat boring flight, partly because I could not manage to sleep much. A chicken sandwich (option: cake) was served, with usual beverages, on board. The flying time was 2 hours, and it took all of that time, with another 15 min of trip of Fiumicino airport, on the taxiway. Finally we made it to the airport, got the baggage and started following the signs for the train to Roma Termini.
We made it to the railway station at about 1:10pm, and bought tickets (€11 pp). The next train was at 1337 HRS, and we managed to board it well in time. The train coaches are most unsuitable for a train connecting to airport, in the sense that it has narrow doors and aisles, and the train floor is a good 3 steps above the platform level. It is a touch difficult to carry all your baggage up.
The journey from Fiumicino airport to Roma Termini is non-stop, and is covered in about 25-30 min. On reaching Termini, we went straight to a restaurant in the station itself, and had a light lunch of a salad and gnocchi. We were booked in Hotel Kennedy, and it was hardly 3 min walk from the Termini. After referring to google map printouts, we found it quite easily.
We checked in, had a shower, and then slept for about an hour. Around 5pm, we started out for exploring the area around the hotel. We went to the termini station, checked out the shops, and bought a calling card worth €5 (which was a mistake! More on it later.) Then we went to the Termini bus stop, and checked out the 110 Open bus tour.
2 First impressions of Rome
On the way back to the hotel, we had dinner at a roadside restaurant, pizza and grilled vegetables. It was a quick dinner, and we turned in early, to catch up on the lost sleep. The bodies were tired, and were still in Indian time zone, so lights went off quite early.
Day 3 (28th Aug 2008) Rome
After breakfast in the hotel, we started off with our ‘110 Open’ tour (€16 pp).
We boarded the bus at 9am. The first two stops we skipped, and got down at Collossium. We roamed around and then bought tickets to go inside. We chose to skip the museum, and spent more time in looking at the magnificent structure in front of us. It was bright and sunny, and we clicked quite a few photographs. The edifice is amazing, and we ended up spending 1.5 hours there.
After a wait of 15 min (incidentally, our longest in the day) for the next bus, we boarded the 110 Open again, and after skipping one more stop, got down at Piazza Venezia. It is a very large square (currently marred by construction activities going on in the middle of it).
4 Piazza Venezia
Piazza Venezia has a huge monument on the SW side, the name of which is translated to ‘Tomb of Unknown Soldier’. It is a majestic structure, but fairly modern. We spent quite some time there, climbing all the way up. Again, it was basking in bright sunshine, and I got into clicking merrily.
5 Tomb of Unknown Soldier
Piazza Venezia also houses a very attractive water fountain, a drinking water outlet, but decorated like a fountain. It provides a continuous stream of pure, clean and cold water all the day (and night) long. We had heard about this facility in Rome, but this was the first time we had seen it, and the experience was very refreshing, pun intended.
After spending another hour at Piazza Venezia, we boarded the bus again. Once again, after skipping two stops, we came across the Victor Immanuel II bridge, which leads to Vatican. This is one of the 20-odd bridges on the Tiber river, which separates the Rome city in two different parts.
6 Victor Immanuel II bridge
The next stop of 110 Open is Vatican, which I don’t think needs any introduction. We got down, and roamed around. However, it was a long queue at the security checkpoint, and we decided to give it a complete tour only tomorrow.
7 Vatican - St Peter's Basilica
We still enjoyed the fountains, atmosphere and surroundings. Again, water fountains were aplenty. We also found one (apparently government-run) information kiosk, which was offering guided tours of St Peter’s Basilica and Sistine chapel. However, the tour timing was 1:30pm, and it was already past it when we reached there. So it vindicated our decision to visit Vatican tomorrow.
So aboard the 110 Open again, and this time we got down near Via Tomacelli, because we were interested in visiting the Official Ferrari store. It was a good 5-7 min walk from the stop, and finally we got it. However, all the stuff was quite expensive, and we satisfied ourselves with just browsing. Once we were out of the shop, we decided to walk to the next stop – Fontana de Trevi (Trevi fountain).
The route was along Via del Corso, and it was one of the good shopping districts. We found a Disney Store on the way, and we spent quite some time there, picking up a few things for our daughter. The walk to the Fontana de Trevi was a long one, around 15 min, and finally we reached the monument. There is a legend associated with this fountain. It is said that if you throw a coin in it, you are bound to come back to Rome again. Well, we did not spend any Euro cents there!! It was quite crowded, and we somehow managed to reach the fountain sills, but the structure did not enthuse us much to spend a long time there.
8 Fontana de Trevi
On the way back to the bus stop, we checked the restaurants on the way, but finally decided to go back to the termini area for lunch. So on board 110 Open again, and we reached Piazza del Cinquecento. It was 3pm already, and it was high time for lunch. So we found a pizzeria and ate a pizza, salad and pasta. The food was not too great, and we decided to avoid pasta immediately!
Post-lunch, we had two options – go back to the hotel and take some rest, or go to Time Elevator show. We chose the second option. Since the Time Elevator show theatre was close to Piazza Venezia, we got on to 110 Open again, and now went straight to Piazza Venezia. The show was some 10 min walk from the square, and it was in a small by-lane off Via del Corso, very easy to miss! We got there by about 5pm, and the next show was at 5:30pm, so we were well-placed.
This show was recommended by our travel agent, for yesterday evening, actually. It is about the history of Rome, and it is shown on three screens side-by-side, and the seats arranged in multiple boxes, which also move to-and-fro, and some more special effects (which I will not spoil!). The history of Rome is shown in a form of a scientist traveling back in a time machine, and it was pretty good, for 45 min. There were two more shows as well, Dinosaurs and something, which we obviously skipped.
A walk back to Piazza Venezia, and on board to 110 Open again. This time we came back straight to Piazza del Cinquecento. On our way back to the hotel, we entered the internet café. I wanted to check a particular post on Team-BHP, which I managed to do in 15 min. (€0.50). Here I found a series of booths, for net telephony! The cost was €0.10 per min for India calling, and we immediately used the facility. This was where I realized our mistake in buying the calling card the previous day. This was a much cheaper option, and later I found at least 4 such café shops in the vicinity of my hotel. This is obviously the most convenient and cheap mode to connect back home. Furthermore, this café was operated by an Indian (Bengali Muslim) guy! So all our conversation was in Hindi! The point to note here is, for net browsing, you need to carry a photo-identity card with you, preferably passport.
All done, back to the hotel for some much-needed rest for the tired limbs. We had a rest for an hour or so, and then we stepped out for dinner. We chose a pizzeria restaurant on the sidewalk right in front of our hotel, and had bruchettas and pizza. We were debating whether to take the ‘Rome by Night’ tour on 110 open at 10pm that day, but the service in the restaurant was so slow that it was already 9:30pm by the time we finished dinner. So all the further plans were called off, and we retired to our beds.
Day 4 (29th Aug 2008) Rome – Vatican
We started the day somewhat leisurely, because we had planned to reach Vatican by 1pm, to catch the guided tour. So the first destination was Discoteque Laziale – a music and books shop, just opposite Termini. We reached there about 10 min to 9, and it opened the doors at 9am sharp. We were interested in some western classical music CDs, and were ably assisted by two ladies in the shop. Finally we walked out with two sets of CDs, 2 each, one by Beethoven and one by Mozart.
Thereafter we went to Piazza del Cinquecento, and bought a BIT (Integrated ticket for bus and metro for one day). Next on our agenda was Pantheon, and we started investigating the bus routes to go there. There were two options, route 40 and route 64. Rome.info > Rome tourist information, Ancient Rome travel guide has strongly discouraged taking route 64 “at all costs”, but the vestibule bus on route 40 was very crowded, so we chose to take the next n.64, and we got to sit, though it also crowded as we went along. Finally we got down at !!FIXME!! del Argentina, to go to Pantheon.
Pantheon was quite close, within 5 min of walking, from this bus stop. Pantheon is again a very old and magnificent structure, and we easily spent an hour there. Afterwards we started out to explore the shops in the surrounding area, and we found some interesting shops in the neighboring by-lanes. We also walked to the Piazza Nuvona, about 10 min from the Pantheon. This is another big square, with a lot of shops and vendors on the sidewalks, another fountain in the middle, and buildings exhibiting typical Roman architecture all around.
We walked back to Pantheon. It was about 12 noon, and we started out our search for a good restaurant for lunch, because our target was 1pm at Vatican. We located a restaurant recommended by Rome.info > Rome tourist information, Ancient Rome travel guide, but it was going to open at 12:30pm, and we did not have that much time to spare. So we picked another restaurant and ordered pizza and salad. The pizza was just okay, though the salad was good. After lunch, we got onto another n.64 and reached Vatican.
The first thing we did was to go to the information kiosk where we had gone yesterday, and we checked on the guided tour. However, the cost was too high - €42 pp! After a small discussion, we decided to go on our own, and off we went.
The serpentine queues we had seen yesterday were absent today, probably because it was lunch time, and we got through the security pretty fast. Once inside, there was a long queue for going to the Cupola, and we decided to give it a miss. (Today I checked youtube.com, and I realized what we missed [FONT=Wingdings]L[/FONT]). We went straight into the hall with tombs of different popes and came out of that room directly in the center of St Peter’s Basilica. It is a masterpiece of Roman architecture, with lots of paintings and murals adorning the walls and roofs, everything preserved in excellent condition. We admired the beauty of the structure for a long time, before filing out with the crowd.
10 Inside St Peter's Basilica
After the visit to St Peter’s Basilica, we started following the signs for Sistine Chapel, and it was a long walk (~20min) in blazing sun. At the end of it, we entered the Vatican museums. After buying our tickets, we scanned through the Egyptian and ancient Roman sections quickly, and entered Sistine Chapel. The entire roof and all walls are decorated with ancient paintings, ‘Creation of Adam’ by Michelangelo being the highlight. Other parts of the museum just failed to interest us after Sistine Chapel, and we were out of the place by 4pm.
11 Creation of Adam
Once out, we were tricked by ‘Metro – 50m’ signs, and only after we started following the signs did we realized that it was actually close to 500m! Finally we managed to locate the station Cipro – Musei Vaticani. Using our BIT, we were able to get through, and the train arrived fast enough to deposit us back to Termini by 5pm. Another quick round near the Termini, and we came back to our hotel for a rest.
After some rest, we were again out by 7pm, in search of a restaurant suggested by the front desk of Hotel Kennedy. We found it in 10 min, but it was still very early for dinner, so we went round the adjacent 4 or 5 blocks. Here we located Pizza Rustica, recommended by a Team-BHPian. However, since we had made up our mind to follow the recommendation of our hotel front desk, we skipped it and went back to the original selection. Some pizza and omlette was what we picked this time, and it was quite good.
We were done with the dinner by 8pm, and the next item on the agenda was ‘Rome by night on 110 Open’. This tour starts from Piazza Venezia at 10pm. So we had enough time to kill, and with various sources warning us about thefts in Rome, we were somewhat apprehensive about coming back from Piazza Venezia after 11pm, by bus. Another doubt was that the Piazza Venezia was a big place, and we did not know the bus stop for coming back to Piazza del Cinquecento. So I came up with a brilliant idea (well, it appeared brilliant at that time!), it was to board the bus n.40 and go all the way to St Peter’s Basilica, and then come back in the same bus, to get down at Piazza Venezia. This way, we would have been able to spend time, and would also find the bus stop on the way back easily! Further, since we had a ticket valid for the whole day, it was not an issue either.
So we put this plan into action immediately, and we got on board of a n.40. It took us to St Peter’s Basilica, but then the driver made us get down, and then drove away! Now we were left alone on the roadside, with not many souls in sight, and without knowing where the starting point of the return bus was!! So we started walking in the direction in which the bus went, and within 2-3 min of walking, we found the bus waiting for other passengers to board! With a huge sigh of relief, we got on board again. If the driver had noticed us boarding the bus again, he did not bother to ask. In another 10 min, we had got down at Piazza Venezia again, and it was just 9pm.
So we walked to the bus stop, and the bus arrived some 10 min later. The conductor lady also appeared at 9:20pm, and we were on board by 9:35pm. By 9:45pm, all the seats were occupied, and the tour started on time, at 10pm. It was a one-hour ride, following almost the same route as 110 Open, the only difference being that from Republica it went straight to via Nazionale, instead of going to Piazza del Cinquecento. The tour was non-stop, and hence it offered very few photographing opportunities on the cobblestone streets. Still, it was a great spectacle of all these monuments, and we ended back in Piazza Venezia at 11pm.
A walk back to the bus stop, 5 min wait for the next n.40, back to Piazza del Cinquecento and then a brisk walk back to the hotel, and safe and sound at 11:30pm!!
Day 5 (30th Aug 2008) Rome – Paris
A long day began by waking up early and packing up for check out from the hotel. After breakfast, we walked out (9am) from the hotel to Termini. We bought tickets, and were expecting a train to Fiumicino airport at 9:22am. However, the train was nowhere to be seen. It finally arrived at around 9:40am, and apparently they combined two trips, because it started only at 9:52am, when the next train was scheduled! This obviously resulted into getting the train really crowded.
The train finally made it to the airport at 10:20am, and we started the long walk back to the terminal 2. Our flight was at 1150, so we were comfortably placed. We checked in, and made our move towards the gate. It was a gate on the ground floor, so finally it was time to board (11:30am), and we were back to another A321, with green livery of Alitalia.
The flight was, however, delayed, and did not take off till 12:45pm, and after another sandwich/cake and glass of juice, landed at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris two hours later. Another bus ride to the terminal and baggage claim took another half an hour, and we started following signs for ‘Paris by train’. It was a sufficiently long walk – about 10 min, before we reached the train station. Another 5 min or so in the queue for tickets, and we were all set to board the train, except that we were really hungry! It was around 3:15pm, and we had close to nothing for lunch. So we enjoyed a sandwich each, and some juice for lunch, and then boarded a train at 3:50pm.
The train was scheduled to depart at 3:57pm, and there was another train on the adjacent platform, due at 4:07pm. However, the 4:07pm train was non-stop till Gare du Nord. So as soon as it arrived, we changed the trains, and boarded the fast one. The journey till Gare du Nord took about 30 min. This was RER B line.
From Gare du Nord, we walked through the underground tunnel, to La Chappel metro station (Metro line #2). After a couple of stairs and escalators later, we were on M2 train, towards Porte Dauphne. Seven stations and 10 min on that train, and we got down at Place de Clichy. Again, changing lines to M13, involved lugging the baggage on stairs! We did not board the first train, because it was going to Saint-Denis-Universite, and caught the next one, going to Asnieres-Gennevillers. After another two stations, we got down at Porte de Clichy, where our Holiday Inn was located.
Once on the ground, we started walking, and found Holiday Inn without any difficulty in next 10 min. There was a group of people checking in ahead of us, so we had to wait. By the time we reached our room, it was 5:30pm! We were very tired by this time, and we just decided to have some rest.
However, we somehow pulled ourselves out by 6:00pm itself, and went downstairs to the reception. Our travel agent had suggested the Seine river cruise for today evening, and my research on the net had revealed that the cruises started from the base of the Eiffel tower. So our question to the reception was to how to get to the Eiffel tower. My impression was that we would have to change 2 Metro trains again to reach there, but after a chat with the front desk executive I realized that I had ignored RER C line completely, which has a direct train between Porte de Clichy and Champ-de-Mars. So it was easier that I had thought!
So back walking to Porte de Clichy, a return ticket, and on board another train, RER C this time. After a journey of 15 min, we got down at Champ-de-Mars, and started exploring. We walked through a bye-lane, and it just ended on the West side of Eiffel tower!! It was our first look at the tower (from the close, of course. We had caught a sight of it from the aircraft earlier today, and also got a glimpse of it from the train.). We walked around to the front of the tower, and then roamed around, collecting pamphlets of information.
At 7:30pm, we walked down to the pier, where the cruises were starting. We bought the tickets for Bateaux Parisiens cruise and got onto the cruise ship. The cruise started at 8pm, and was one-hour long. From the Eiffel tower, we went all the way past Notre Dame and came back. It was an enjoyable ride. On our way back , as we approached the jetty, the Eiffel tower was brilliantly lit by blue lights, and also by sparkling and blinking white bright lamps! It was a sight to savor.
The lights went off after 10 min and we started dragging our feet back to Champs de Mars. It was already 9:30pm, and by the time we boarded the train and got back to Porte de Clichy it was 10pm. Majority of the restaurants have already closed, but we found a good Moroccan restaurant open. It was a touch expensive, but the food was very good, and we, after having a minimal lunch, were in no mood to complain! After a sumptuous dinner, we retired back to the Holiday Inn and hit the bed quickly.
Day 6 (31st Aug 2008) – Paris
After the adventures of yesterday evening, it was not a very early morning for us. By the time we went to the breakfast lounge, it was 8:30am. The breakfast was excellent, and we helped ourselves to a stomach-full. After the breakfast, we walked to Porte de Clichy train station, and rode the same RER C train to Champs de Mars.
At the base of the Eiffel tower, the L’Opentour bus was waiting for passengers, and after paying €32 per person for two days’ ticket, we hopped on. It was past 10am already, and the weather gods were very kind. It was cloudy, but not raining. After going round the Eiffel tower, through Invalides, Place de la Concorde, Magdalene Church, we finally got off at Louvre museum. (11am).
We spent two hours at Louvre, locating the familiar artifacts using their comprehensive guide. It took me a while to get acquainted with the maps, but once I got it, we were moving fast. We were out at 1pm.
We boarded the bus again, and this time got down at Notre Dame. It is a really beautiful piece of architecture, with stained glass windows the highlight. Another hour at Notre Dame, and we started looking for some lunch. However, the restaurants close to Notre Dame did not offer much variety. Most of them did not offer anything vegetarian. So we decided to try crepes, which were highly recommended. We tried cheese, and choco-coconut crepes, but were not highly impressed.
Abandoning our search for lunch, we proceeded with the tour. Boarding the bus again, we moved on to Place de la Concorde. This time we got down and clicked some photographs. Then we rode through Champs Elysses and got down at Arc de Triomphe. We spent another half an hour there, and then started discussing further plans. It was about 4:30pm, and we had decided to go up the Eiffel tower later in the evening, so as to catch the evening lighting of Paris. So we had some 3 hours to spare. We decided to take the Montparnesse tour of L’Opentour. So far we have been riding only on the grand tour of Paris, which is only one of the four L’Opentour rides covered under our ticket.
The transition point to the Montparnesse tour was Invalides, so we boarded the bus from Arc de Triomphe, and again passing through the Eiffel tower, reached Invalides. It was 5:45pm, and the other tour bus was already waiting. We climbed up immediately.
The Montparnesse tour was 1 hour long, and it presented a somewhat different aspect of Paris. There were not too many monuments, and we had decided to take the non-stop tour anyway, without getting off. The audio commentary was good and interesting, and overall experience of the tour was quite good.
The tour ended at 6:45pm, at Invalides again, and now we had to walk back to Eiffel tower. It was a 15-min walk, really, but we walked at a leisurely pace, and covered the distance in 25 min. On our way, as well as after reaching the Eiffel tower, we were scanning the restaurants for an early dinner, but the results were same as in the afternoon. We did not find anything remotely interesting. Even the kiosks under the Eiffel tower could not provide anything. So we gave up again, and joined the queue at the North pier, to buy tickets of Eiffel tower, upper deck. (7:45pm).
The crowds were much lighter than yesterday, and we got the tickets in next 15 min. We boarded the first elevator and rode to the lower deck. There was a viewing gallery here as well, but we were more interested in going to the upper deck. This time, the elevators were smaller, and consequently, the queue was longer. This ride was faster, and we reached the upper deck quite fast. The lower floor was covered by glass windows on all sides, and though it offered a good view, we soon climbed up the stairs to go to open deck. It was very windy and chilly over there, but we were committed.
The view was simply breathtaking, and we enjoyed the all-round view before settling on the East side of the tower, where the wind was obstructed by the tower itself. It was 8:15pm already, and we were waiting for the dusk to turn into night. The wish was granted soon, and the Paris under us started dazzling in lights. We were able to locate the major landmarks we had visited during the day, and they were now glowing in the night. Even the Eiffel tower lights had come on.
It was not possible to get satisfied with the view, and finally we started our descent at 9pm. Another set of queues and we touched terra firma at 9:15pm. Back to Champs de Mars station, now familiar ride on RER C, and we were back in Porte de Clichy at 10pm, about the same time as yesterday.
Now it was another problem, restaurants had closed down, and we did not want to repeat the yesterday’s Moroccan restaurant. Finally, unable to find anything, we got back to Holiday Inn, and tried the in-house restaurant. The first signs were not encouraging. We were asked to sit in the lounge, because they had started preparing the main restaurant area for tomorrow’s breakfast. Then, our order for omlettes was cancelled because they were out of eggs. They could not deliver pizza either. So finally we settled on salad and spaghetti, and what a choice it turned out to be!! The spaghetti, especially, was delicious, and we were back in the room with a satisfied mind and stomach!
Day 7 (1st Sept 2008) – Paris
After yesterday’s experience, we decided to take the breakfast first, because it had got really crowded yesterday, at 8:30am. So we got down for breakfast at 8am itself. Another fulfilling breakfast, and leisurely morning meant that we were out of the hotel by 9:45am. Again, we located another net café/telephony joint, and put some calls back home first.
Today we had decided to take the third, grandes avenues/Montmartre tour of L’Opentour, and the start point for this tour was near the Opera station. So we ditched our favorite RER C line at the very next station – Pereire-Levellois. Here we changed to M3, straight to Opera. We got down at Opera, and started exploring the area around the Opera. For the first few minutes, we were completely disoriented, and after walking down the wrong roads, finally got on to the correct street, rue Auber.
We were looking for Les Galeries Lafayette, a big superstore. We located it quite fast, and it is certainly huge. It is spread across 7 floors, and two blocks separated by a street, and connected by skywalks. We were interested in the kids’ section, and found it on the fifth floor. However, everything was very expensive, and we gave it a miss. We still decided to carry on to the seventh floor, to go on the terrace. It offered a good view of Eiffel tower, and while climbing down, we found a good food court on the sixth floor. We decided to come back for lunch, and stepped out of the store.
The start point of Montmartre tour was quite close, on rue Auber, and as usual we found a bus waiting for us. We jumped on, and completed the 1.5 hour tour without getting off. It covered Montmartre, Pigalle, Gare du Nord, Gare du East etc. Again, it offered another perspective of Paris, and we were happy!
It was 1:45pm by the time the tour ended, and we walked back to Galeries Lafayette for lunch. There was a wide choice of menus on the offer, but we settled for sandwiches, salads and finally, desserts. It was filling, and the desserts were really tempting. It was a much better lunch than yesterday!
Post-lunch we had multiple options – we had Bastille-Bercy tour to cover, wife wanted to visit the flea market, and we could visit the Academie Nationale de Musique. However, the flea market closing time was 5pm (it was 3pm already), and I was not in a mood for another museum. So we zeroed down on the fourth tour of L’Opentour.
The change-over point for the Bastille – Bercy tour was Notre Dame, so we hopped on to the grand tour bus as rue Auber. When we reached Notre Dame, the next bus was already waiting, but by the time we took a U-turn and reached the stop, it had moved on! However, the next stop was just across the square, and I could see the bus waiting there. So I jogged all the way and got onto that bus. Again, we had decided not to get down and complete the tour non-stop, and with the entertaining commentary, it was a good tour to have. It lasted for an hour, and we were back to Notre Dame at 5pm.
There was a tourist information kiosk at Notre Dame, and we used its services to locate some more superstores close to Notre Dame. They recommended TODO, which was just across the river, and we found it in about 10 min. This visit was more fruitful, and we got what we were looking for. A walk back to St Michael – Notre Dame station followed, and after a ride on our usual RER C, we were back in Porte de Clichy by 7pm.
This time, we ended up taking a different exit from the station, and we found ourselves in a completely unknown neighborhood. It was a residential district, and we did not have these streets in any of the maps that we had. Based on instincts, we started walking and after 10 min we could find the now-familiar landmarks. After a stop in a grocery shop, we were on our way to Holiday Inn. We decided to finish dinner before going back, and stopped at a sandwich bar. He served us good egg sandwiches, and we were done for the day. Back to Holiday Inn, some packing for the early morning start, and we retired for the day.
Day 8 (2nd Sept 2008) – Paris – Mumbai – Pune
The day began quite early, and we were down in the lobby for the breakfast at 6:20am, even though they started the breakfast service only at 6:30am! After filling ourselves up, we checked out of the hotel at 7am, and started the long journey to Charles de Gaulle airport. It was an exact reverse journey – Porte de Clichy – M13 to Place de Clichy – M2 to La Chapelle – walk back to Gare du Nord. Once there, it took me two minutes to locate the platform #43 for RER B to Charles de Gaulle, and when we reached the platform, a train was already waiting with its doors open. We jumped in and it started. It was semi-fast, and we reached our station for terminal 2 at 8:15am.
A walk to terminal, check-in and security clearance took time till 9am, and then we started exploring the duty-free shops. We wanted to buy just some chocolates, which we found soon, and we were on our way to the gate. The boarding commenced at about 9:45am, and we were boarded by 10am. The flight was only 60% occupied, so no free upgrades this time!
An uneventful flight landed in Mumbai at 11:15pm (5 min later than scheduled), but the aircraft waited on the tarmac for next 50 min, because no gate was available! Immigration clearance was amazingly fast, partly because we were first passengers from our flight to reach the counters, thanks to seats in row 14. The wait for baggage, however, compensated for the quick immigration clearance, and we were out of the airport at 12:30am.
We had booked the passage on KK travels, and their representative was standing outside the arrivals area with a placard bearing our names. He led us to the parking lot where their Taveras were waiting. After another passenger arrived, we were on our way to Pune at 1am.
We reached the expressway food mall at 2:15am, and spent the next 45 min there, waiting for the next Tavera to arrive! The drivers wanted to swap a passenger! Finally they arrived, the exchange took place, and we were on our way. After dropping a passenger in Aundh, we reached home at 5am, after an unforgettable vacation!!
Note from support team: Post edited. It's difficult to read 6537 words without para breaks.
Last edited by Rudra Sen : 9th October 2008 at 17:21.
|7th October 2008, 19:54||#2|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: May 2007
Thanked: 245 Times
A long writeup with no pictures is too Claustrophobic to read (had to stop inbetween).
No line breaks and paragraph spaces makes this look like uninviting to your eyes.
Suggest you start again with some pictures and better formatting.(PS:mods can help remove this one)
|9th October 2008, 16:48||#3|
Join Date: Jul 2006
Thanked: 0 Times
I had visited Italy (Venice,Florence,Rome) last year & have used Rick Steves' travel tips Rick Steves is a US travel enthusiast who is a regular traveller & a tour organiser to Europe. His guide books are great for all travel. For more details see Rick Steves Europe Through the Back Door
His information is very useful for any type of traveller (Budget - Luxury).
|9th October 2008, 18:02||#5|
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Bangalore / Madras
Thanked: 14 Times
Nice read. Please put up pictures if you have them.
Giving your Indicas a well-deserved break, eh? If I'm not mistaken, one of your Indicas has clocked over 101K, hasn't it?
(that last sentence should tell you how we know each other)
|10th October 2008, 15:16||#7|
Join Date: Sep 2007
Thanked: 42 Times
Thanks for comments...
I had typed it out in a MSWord document, and then pasted it without changing the format. I am relatively new to team-bhp, and I am still learning the formatting styles. Another reason to miss out on putting up the photographs.. I am still working on them...
Sam, to answer, yes, I had carried my Nikon D70 with me on this trip, and I have clicked some 600-odd photographs... will post them soon.
|10th October 2008, 15:30||#8|
Join Date: Jul 2007
Thanked: 8 Times
Here go through this thread, so that you don't miss out on uploading amazing photos
http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/announ...-team-bhp.html (Uploading photographs directly to Team-BHP)
|14th October 2008, 17:47||#9|
Join Date: Sep 2007
Thanked: 42 Times
Thanks Hemant for the quick guide. Here are some photographs.
Admin, please watermark them as per the policy, thanks!
|16th October 2008, 14:17||#10|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Jul 2006
Thanked: 351 Times
Very nice Sameer. Good to see you had a great time . The hotel I stayed in, in Paris was a 5 min walk from the The Arc De Tromphe so love that pic
Last edited by sammyboy : 16th October 2008 at 14:20.
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