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Old 31st May 2012, 20:21   #76
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Default Re: Travelogue – Country of low lands & the City of lights

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Originally Posted by samarjitdhar View Post
Excellent narration. I did a day tour of Amsterdam once while I was in Bonn in late 2008 or early 2009 I don't exactly remember. Since it was only a day tour it was pretty rushed and we did only the highlights as time could permit. Including the one below which you cannot speak of here

Know that very well. My friend finally pulled me into this museum as compensation for not going for a certain show in a certain district . I confess the whole experience was so hilarious. Now waiting for pictures from the rest of your trip.
Glad you like the TL, smarjit Well, it was a bonanza for us, because the Museum was celebrating their 25 anniversary. So apart from a discount ticket, we got several freebees including a chocolate and a pen. No prizes for guessing the theme of the gifts.
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Old 2nd June 2012, 00:54   #77
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Default Re: Travelogue – Country of low lands & the City of lights

Story of an angry young man

The following weekdays were mostly spent in train travels, some work, and some loafing around the streets of Amsterdam. However, I'd like to share an intesresting episode that happened one of those days when I reached my apartment sooner that usual.

I was back at my apartment early in the evening for the first time; generally I would roam around in the evening and get back home only at night. So, there I was sitting by the large window overlooking the street, and some some kids playing soccer. The following picture is taken (at at different time, of course) from exactly place where I was sitting and the view it had.

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Like I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, Amsterdam is home to several non-Dutch immigrants from other European countries, which also includes thousands of Dutch Turks. The apartment complex which you can see the picture was occupied mostly by these people. So, I was sipping my coffee sitting by the window, when a man (aged 30-35) jumped out of one the balconies from the housing complex and started walking towards our street. As he walked closer, I noticed that he was shabbily dressed with unkept hair and beard. I didn't give much attention, and back sipping my coffee and lost in my own thoughts, until an aggressive voice of a man shook me up.

I turned around to see what was happening. The man who stormed out of his balcony was now standing across the street shouting something at the peak of his voice, in a language I did not understand. The problem was that he was looking at me and shouting!! I was totalled perplexed wondering why some random guy was shouting at me for no reason. It wasnt that I was sitting and starting at their house or something. In fact it was the first time I was even home at this time of the evening. I had no idea how to react, I was still trying to figure out what was happening. The man then started shouting in English. It wasnt very clear, but from what I could understand he seemed very frustrated. He said how he was jobless and how others had taken up all the jobs and some such. But there wasnt anything that he was specifically saying to me.

As he went about with the shouting for almost 5 minutes, I sat there without a clue how to react. I figured none of his frustration was directed towards me personally, so there was nothing I could say to him really. I did not talk to him to question why he was shouting; at the same time I did not display any signs of emotions such as empathy or fear. Maybe I was so much in shock, that I just sat still while the whole hungama was happening. After a few more minutes of shouting he started walked away from the street, while I sat there still in shock trying to comprehend what had just happened. Luckily there werent any people around, otherwise they could have assumed things. The rest of the evening I spent wondering what this man's problem was? Was he just frustrated with his life for losing his job? Did he for some strange reason, think that I was in any way responsible for his job loss? Or was he high on something, having no idea why or what he was doing?

Anyways, after sometime I tried to forget the whole episode and carry on with the evening. Although I was home early, I was not in a mood to cook. So I decided to walk up the to the deli close by and pick up some food; it was approx 10 PM. As I packed my food and started walking back towards the apartment in the deserted street, I felt someone walking behind me. I turned around and bamm! Right behind me was the same guy, the one who did all the shouting earlier that evening! I just stood there petrified, scared to bits! In one second, all kinds of thoughts ran in my head. Should I run as fast as I can? Should I ask him what his problem was? Does he have a knife or gun on him?

We were both standing there staring at each other, when he finally started speaking in his broken english. "sorry about the evening. I was just really upset with some stuff. Sorry", he said. I immediately said "no problem", and left, as he too walked towards his apartmemt. Back at the apartment, eating my burger, I wondered what made him realise his mistake and apologise to me, when I had not even spoken or tried to reason with him. And I was also glad that the man's anger was not caused or not directed towards me. It was an interesting experience, nevertheless.

Several months later, while reading this book called "The new earth" (my all time favorite) by Ekhart Tolle, I noticed an incident described in one of the chapters, which seemed very similar to the incident that happend with me. I was able to relate to that evening in Amsterdam, and what happened later that night, thanks to the author's explation to such behaviour.

I'd like to quote the section from the chapter "UNHAPPINESS - BREAKING IDENTIFICATION WITH THE PAINBODY" here:

Quote:
One of the first such awakenings that I witnessed happened many years ago. My doorbell rang close to eleven o'clock at night. My neighbour Ethel's anxiety laden voice came through the intercom. “We need to talk.

This is very important. Please let me in.” Ethel was middle-aged, intelligent, and highly educated. She also had a strong ego and a heavy pain body. She escaped from Nazi Germany when she was an adolescent, and many of her family members perished in the concentration camps. Ethel sat down on my sofa, agitated, her hands trembling. She took letters and documents out of the file she carried with her and spread them out all over the sofa and floor. At once I had the strange sensation as if a dimmer switch had turned the inside of my entire body to maximum power.

There was nothing to do other than remain open, alert, and intensely present –present with every cell of the body. I looked at her with no thought and no judgment and listened in stillness without any mental commentary. A torrent of words came out of her mouth. “They sent me another disturbing letter today. They are conducting a vendetta against me. You must help. We need to fight them together. Their crooked lawyers will stop at nothing. I will lose my home. They are threatening me with dispossession.”

It transpired that she refused to pay the service charge because the property managers had filed to carry out some repairs. They in turn threatened to take her to court. She talked for ten minutes or so. I sat, looked, and listened. Suddenly she stopped talking, looked at the papers all around her as if she had just woken up from a dream. She became calm and gentle. Her entire energy filed changed. Then she looked at me and said, “This isn't important at all, is it?” “No, it isn't,” I said. She sat quietly for a couple more minutes, then picked up her papers and left. The next morning she stopped me in the street, looking at me somewhat suspiciously. “What did you do to me? Last night was the first night in years that I slept well. In fact, I slept like a baby.”

She believed I had “done something” to her, but I had done nothing. Instead of asking what I had done to her, perhaps she should have asked what I had not done. I had to reacted, not confirmed the reality of her story, not fed her mind with more thought and her pain body with more emotion. I had allowed her to experience whatever she was experiencing at that moment, and the power of allowing lies in non-interference, nondoing. Being present is always infinitely more powerful than anything one could say or do, although sometimes being present can give rise to words or actions.

What happened to her was not yet a permanent shift, but a glimpse of what is possible, a glimpse of what was already within her. In Zen, such a glimpse is called satori. Satori is a moment of Presence, a brief stepping out of the voice in your head, the thought processes, and their reflection in the body as emotion. It is the arising of inner spaciousness where before there was the clutter of thought and the turmoil of emotion.
So, me not reacting (although unconsciously) to the man's shouting was a good thing after all.
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Old 4th June 2012, 23:40   #78
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Weekend in Paris

Friday arrived in no time and I was all set for my weekend trip to Paris. I had planned this weekend trip a few weeks earlier, back in India as soon as my business trip was confirmed. I'd bought myself Amsterdam-Paris return Eurolines bus tickets for 96 Euros. Eurolines connects more than 500 cities in Europe and offers a very cost effective mode of transport. I initially wanted to travel my train (TGV) but decided against it due to the very high rates. I was lucky I even found these bus tickets, given that it was the busy holiday season.

My bus was to depart at 9 PM IIRC, from the Eurolines bus depot, which was right outside the Amstelveen train station, a place I had gotten very familiar with by now. From my apartment, I took the direct tram and reached the bus station an hour before the bus departure time. When I entered the office, I found several ticket counters catering to passengers heading to destinations ranging from London, to Prague to Moscow!! I was amazed to find buses plying to so many countries, having been used to only inter state buses back in India. Anyways, I was given my boarding pass after checking my ticket print out and passport etc. I was told the journey would take approx 8 hours; with 2 pickup points at The Hague & Rotterdam, and another refreshment break somewhere in Belgium. The bus reached the station on time, and within a few mins all passengers were aboard.

The Eurolines Buses

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Inside the bus

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A few minutes into the journey I dozed off. I woke up after what seemed like a few hours into my sleep, to find the bus parked in a "Total" fuel station somewhere in Belgium. This huge gas station also had washrooms, a supermarket and a cafe. The bus stopped here for almost an hour, waiting for another driver, who would take over from the existing one for the rest of the journey. EU has very strict driving and rest time regulations for drivers. So, generally depending on the duration of the journey, there will be one or two drivers on the coach. As soon as the bus started moving, I went back to my sleep; I had to get proper rest, to be able to roam around the city over the weekend.

It was approx 4.45 AM when the bus arrived at Paris. The large Eurolines bus terminus here is called the Galli้ni Bus Station. It is located at the terminus of the subway line 3. My friend had given my proper directions to get to his place, Cergy le haut, from the bus station. I had to take the Metro line 3 to get to a station called Opera, and take the RER A train to Cergy le haut. There are 2 types of trains in Paris; the Metro and the RER. The Metro is the subway system within Paris. It covers pretty much the entire city. The RER (R้seau Express R้gional) on the other hand, extends to the outer regions of Paris. I reached my friend's place, the students' hostel at Cergy le haut, after an hour of local train journey.

My friend, who by now had spend more than a year living in Paris had already chalked out a 2 day sight seeing plan for me in such a way that it covered all the must-see places. I could not wait to get out and explore the city, put my French skills to test, and of course bite into some yummy french snacks!!
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Old 5th June 2012, 00:01   #79
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Weekend in Paris - Day 1

Within an hour, I freshened up, had my breakfast, packed my backpack with camera, some water and fruits. Plan for the day was that my friend would show me some places, such as Arc du tromphe, champs elysse and the Eiffel tower. By this time I would have gotten an idea about the basic Metro/RER lines; I would explore the rest of the city on my own. First thing I did was buy myself a 2 day pass which would give me unlimited access to RER, Metro and local bus routes.

We took the RER and got off at a station (cant remember the name) after a few stops. Apparently, this was not a typical tourist spot, but a very beautiful and serene place with the river flowing by. It was a 15 minute walk from the train station. There were hardly any people around, except for few morning joggers.

Some pictures from this beautiful spot, notice the wonderful modern French Architecture

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On the way back to the train station, I noticed a boulangerie!! Boulangerie in French is equivalent to something like a bakery in English, serving several varieties of breads, croissants, donuts, quiches, tarts, savories etc. Had my first "real French chocolate eclair" here!

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Next stop - The Arc de Triomphe...
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Old 5th June 2012, 00:26   #80
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Weekend in Paris - Day 1

Arc de Triomphe

A train ride of 30 minutes later, we were at the Charles de Gaulle—ษtoile station. We walked for a minute to The Arc de Triomphe, which is one of the most famous monuments in Paris. The monument honours those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. Beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.

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Champs-ษlys้es

With its cinemas, caf้s, luxury specialty shops and clipped horse-chestnut trees, the Avenue des Champs-ษlys้es is one of the most famous streets and one of the most expensive strips of real estate in the world. Several French monuments are also on the street, including the Arc de Triomphe and the Place de la Concorde. The French also claim (among other things ) that this is the most beautiful avenue in the world! The street is lined with several expensive outdoor cafes, which are very typical to French culture and cuisine. I had always wanted to eat at one of these cafes, but today was not that day!

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Found this huge mall selling only Perfumes!

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Next up - Peugeot avenue...
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Old 5th June 2012, 12:52   #81
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Default Re: Travelogue – Country of low lands & the City of lights

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Arc de Triomphe
I lived 5 mins walk from here. If you visited between 2009 and 2011, we missed an opportunity for a tbhp mini meet. Hope you went to all the car showrooms

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Originally Posted by chikkars View Post
The French also claim (among other things ) that this is the most beautiful avenue in the world! The street is lined with several expensive outdoor cafes, which are very typical to French culture and cuisine. I had always wanted to eat at one of these cafes, but today was not that day!
Er, I agree this could be the most beautiful avenue in the world. But the place is quite notorious and not really considered to be a posh place to live. Off this avenue is ok apparently.

By the way, these cafes are hyped and you get much better food elsewhere. So I dont think you missed much. The Parisien experience is to sit outdoors and sip on a coffee, which I hope you did somewhere

Edit: adding a link to my incomplete TL in case you want to see some pics or have reference to some logistical details
http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...itzerland.html (Paris, Black Forest, Bavaria & Switzerland)

Last edited by selfdrive : 5th June 2012 at 12:55.
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Old 5th June 2012, 13:19   #82
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I lived 5 mins walk from here. If you visited between 2009 and 2011, we missed an opportunity for a tbhp mini meet. Hope you went to all the car showrooms

Er, I agree this could be the most beautiful avenue in the world. But the place is quite notorious and not really considered to be a posh place to live. Off this avenue is ok apparently.

By the way, these cafes are hyped and you get much better food elsewhere. So I dont think you missed much. The Parisien experience is to sit outdoors and sip on a coffee, which I hope you did somewhere

Edit: adding a link to my incomplete TL in case you want to see some pics or have reference to some logistical details
http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...itzerland.html (Paris, Black Forest, Bavaria & Switzerland)
I was there the weekend of 28/29 Aug 2010

Regarding the cafes, I went back there the next day on my way back from Louvre, just to have the meal (pictures in the next posts). My next post will have pics from the car showrooms.

Thanks for the link, I'd seen it back when you published it; but saw it again, especially for the pictures of baguette, cakes and all!!
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Old 5th June 2012, 13:24   #83
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I was there the weekend of 28/29 Aug 2010
I wasnt in Paris that weekend so we can console ourselves saying it would not have worked out. I had gone for the Belgian GP to Spa. Unforgettable weekend that. You should have stopped at Belgium for the race

Last edited by selfdrive : 5th June 2012 at 13:43.
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Old 5th June 2012, 23:10   #84
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Weekend in Paris - Day 1

A little further down on Champs Elys้es is the Peugeot Avenue. Walked in to take a look at all the nice cars.
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Old 5th June 2012, 23:37   #85
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Weekend in Paris - Day 1

La Madeleine

After taking a stroll around the beautiful avenues of Champs Elysee, we visited the very famous Church of St. Mary Magdalene. The church is known by several names, such as La Madeleine, L'ษglise de la Madeleine, and L'ษglise Sainte-Marie-Madeleine. The church was designed as a classical temple to the glory of Napoleon's army. The Madeleine is a parish of the Archdiocese of Paris. Masses and other religious services are celebrated daily. Funerals and the most fashionable weddings in Paris are still celebrated here.

The pediment is adorned with a sculptured relief of the Last Judgment by Lemaire, as you can see the picture here :

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The interiors of the church

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Some pictures of the neighborhood. This one's one of my favorites!

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The beauty about the city is that any building you look at is worth clicking a picture!

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Next - The most royal looking department store I've ever seen!
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Old 6th June 2012, 00:15   #86
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Weekend in Paris - Day 1

Galeries Lafayette

The Galeries Lafayette is a HUGE French department store company. Visitors to this massive, absolutely magical department store can find brand-name items of nearly every variety. Well, I did not have much time to do shopping so decided to just take a quick tour of the store. I've never seen a palace-like looking store before!

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The store also acts as 'a bathroom stop' with its clean and free toilets, otherwise very difficult to find in other places. One of the store levels also has a large food court with a MCD outlet. We picked up a meal from here and walked up to the terrace (open to public) to enjoy our lunch with the nice view of the city.

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Old 6th June 2012, 23:06   #87
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Weekend in Paris - Day 1

Notre Dame

After lunch at Galleies Lafayette, we visisted the Notre Dame cathedral. Notre Dame de Paris, as it is known in French, means Our Lady of Paris. It is popularly called in short as just Notre Dame. The church contains the cathedra (official chair) of the Archbishop of Paris.

Outside the cathedral we noticed major crowd, but after getting closer noticed that they were not really in a queue to enter the cathedral. Upon inquiring, I learnt that they were all waiting for some french pop star who was scheduled to arrive there any moment.

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Some pictures of the cathedral from outside

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Notre Dame was among the first buildings in the world to use the flying buttress (arched exterior supports). Per Wikipedia, The building was not originally designed to include the flying buttresses around the choir and nave. After the construction began and the thinner walls (popularized in the Gothic style) grew ever higher, stress fractures began to occur as the walls pushed outward. In response, the cathedral's architects built supports around the outside walls, and later additions continued the pattern.

The east end of Notre Dame showing the flying buttresse.

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Some pictures of the interiors

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Old 6th June 2012, 23:25   #88
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Weekend in Paris - Day 2

Next major city attraction on the agenda was the Eiffel tower! But before that we walked around the streets and also took some rest at one of the gardens.

Some random pictures of the buildings and the neighborhoods clicked while walking around.

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Notice all the beige colored structures? Notice how they are different from the brick colored buildings in Amsterdam, like I'd mentioned in one of my earlier posts?

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The Jardin du Luxembourg is Paris' favorite place to sun, stroll, picnic, and play. The gardens and their striking palace were occupied by the Italian monarch Marie de Medicis during the Renaissance, and the elegant formal gardens still bloom each year looking beautiful!

The Luxemburg Palace and fountain at the heart of the park is a preferred spot for most of the visitors. Children can sail toy boats here; they are available for rent.

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Old 7th June 2012, 23:39   #89
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Default Re: Travelogue – Country of low lands & the City of lights

Weekend in Paris - Day 1

We were near the Eiffel Tower, one of the most recognizable structures in the world, by around 5 PM. According to Wikipedia, the tower is the tallest building in Paris and the most-visited paid monument in the world. It is named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower. The tower has three levels for visitors. Tickets can be purchased to ascend, by stairs or lift (elevator), to the first and second levels. All the options were ruled out, thanks to the serpentine queues at the counter.

We spent some time relaxing at the lawns, which were also crowded with people everywhere. There were several hawkers here selling all kinds of suvenirs. Whats interesting is that most of these guys looked like Indians, and were speaking in Punjabi/Hindi with each other. I decided to check out some nice Eiffel tower themed suvenirs like key chains etc from one of the guys. Upon inquiring he confirmed that he was indeed Indian, and so were most of the others. Anyways so I was looking at all these suvenirs which he had stuffed inside his backpack, holding some of them in my hands, when all of a sudden he started runnning away. I looked around and found that all the other guys too were running. It took me a few minutes to realise that the cops were spotted by cops, perhaps because selling here was illegal? Apparently some of these guys come on student visa, discontinue their courses and start working, staying even after their visa has expired.

The thing is that the cops dont come into the lawns chasing these guys or anything, because it would disturb the visitors. They keep cycling around the perimeter of the park and wait for the right moment to enter. Well, our seller had run away leaving behind most of his stuff with me. I had no choice but to sit there and wait till he returned. After 20 minutes or so he came back, I did some hard bargaining, and made a wholesale purchase.

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After Eiffel, my friend went back to his hostel while I continued with my city seeing. He recommended that I take the Bateaux Mouches boat excursion later that evening. I planned to take the boat after sunset, to be able to experience the City of lights in all its glory! I had a few hours on me, so decided to so some more walking around and capture some pictures.

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Old 8th June 2012, 23:25   #90
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Default Re: Travelogue – Country of low lands & the City of lights

Evening in Paris - Day 1

As the evening progressed and the sun started to set, I walked up to the Bateaux Mouches boat cruise ticket counter. Bought myself a ticket for the evening's last open excursion boat cruise. The ticket cost me 11 Euros I reckon, for a typical cruise which lasts about one hour. The company offers lunch and dinner cruises as well, which can cost upto 100 Euros!

The term Bateaux Mouches is a registered trademark of the Compagnie des Bateaux Mouches, the most widely known operator of the boats in Paris. But because of the success of the company, is also wrongly used colloquially to refer to all such boats operating on the river within the city.

I got on the boat which could seat several hundred people, and had an open deck. I found myself a nice seat with a good view. The tour included a recorded commentary (in more than 4 languages) on the sights along the river. The boat started sailing a little past 9 PM.

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The dinner cruise

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These tickets can cost more than 100 Euros

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9.45 PM and the sky is still not dark!

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Boats and more boats

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