A Sunday stroll down the numerous nostalgia shops in Marche aux Puces, really makes one wonder about the transient nature of everything that surrounds us. Many people, traveling to Paris for the first time, never even visit the flea market and that is a huge mistake. Browsing through forgotten and discarded items, perhaps rotten garbage of the ages old that had become hidden treasures of generations new, I got lost. There is a sense of accomplishment in scrounging for value in junk, an ethereal pleasure, to find and frame a story through objects that were lost in time. It is your story to frame, your version of Paris and its inhabitants, an imaginative memory that is yours.
There is a sense of accomplishment is scournging for value in junk, an ethereal pleasure, to find and frame a story through objects that were lost in time.
After a glass of cold beer at one of the many terasses around the flea market, we head towards Montmartre to see the grand Sacre Coeur. The walk up till the Sacre Coeur might be a set back for most tourists, I was no exception. Full of tourist traps and cons, Sacre Coeur demands tourists to be aware of their surroundings. I myself suffered through a rather unpleasant memory when four Romani ladies mugged me off 20 euros. The saddest part of the encounter wasn’t how scared I was to be surrounded by four rather imposing ladies that I lost all sense of understanding, but the fact that I haven’t been able to look at Romanis the same way ever since. In my imagination, shaped mostly by Asterix and Tintin, Romanis were always queer, mystic, friendly people, but not anymore. As a tip, do not ever engage in conversation with a group of ladies holding a placard asking for a signature. This is one of the many common scams in Paris.
Like always, I drowned out my sorrows with sugar, a scoop of Amarino’s smooth ice-cream did the magic and I was good to go. A pleasant walk down the galeries lafayette, does a lot of good to the mind and body. And once the ever-spiraling walk through the tiny avenues and streets was over, we took an Uber to Louvre. After a hearty meal of beer and steak, as you can never have too much beer in Paris, we entered the Louvre. I would be writing another blog about the Louvre as there is just too much to be described and I can’t fit it all into this one. In a gist, while the Louvre might seem the most touristy of all the museums around Paris, it is also one of the most beautiful. While museums of Rodin and Picasso only have a few attractions, the Louvre has it all. One can get lost in timelines to be very honest, trying to find their way from Greek and Roman sculptures to Asian and Renaissance Paintings. I did. I found my way across a lot of exhibits, lost in the charms of Venus, awed by the grandeur of Zeus and trampled in the stampede for Mona Lisa.
As we left Louvre, it was time for an evening snack, and Angelina was just around the corner. My parents swear by Angelina’s hot chocolate, and so do many of the locals, and I wanted to know what the fuss was about. The staff there is extremely courteous, something you don’t expect in Paris, and though a bit crowded, waiting time is generally of only a few minutes. We sat down and a server came to take the order and after ordering a lot of desserts and croissants, I almost forgot to ask for the hot chocolate. In some haste, I said, “And of course, a cup of hot chocolate!”. The waiter, sensing my eagerness, replied, “But, yes, of course, sir, excellent choice, might I dare say the best hot chocolate in the world”. And I was not disappointed. The rich, smooth hot chocolate is a treat for the weary soul. It is like a warm hug in the inside, and since then, I have taken an oath to not have hot chocolate anywhere else.
After the rather extravagant, yet soulful meal, we head towards Champs Elysees. We figured, after such a heavy meal, a walk was ideal, and as I have always said, the best way to see Paris is on foot. So, with the sun still shining, at 8pm, we walked to the top of Arc de Triomphe as realised that there is no place as beautiful as Paris at night. With all it lights, cafes and people, as said in Midnight In Paris, Paris must have been “ the hottest spot in the universe”. As the sun began to dim, we made our way down and charted our course through the innumerable shops around Champs Elysees. Paris has changed a lot over the past few years. Ever since the Syrian crisis, it’s very common to see refugees scattered across the streets, with no government to help them out, they get stuck in the endless cycle of poverty. Their silent yet oppressive presence, a picture of what war has done to the world, makes you wonder at what cost safety comes to them.
“The glittering tower, when experience in silence, is a feast to the eyes, a song for the sight. And no matter how many times I run that memory in my head, it only becomes more beautiful.”
Since I hadn’t seen the Eiffel yet, we headed there after a quick bite at one of the many brasseries in the avenue. We walked till our way to the Eiffel, along the silent, beautiful streets and found ourselves at the foot of the marvel, full of noisy tourist and souvenir sellers. The Eiffel is a sight at night, the oppressively loud tourists do scatter around noisily, like pests, but every once in a while you observe it in a beautiful silence. You get lost in its beauty and forget about everything else. The glittering tower, when experienced in silence, is a feast to the eyes, a song for the sight. And no matter how many times I run that memory in my head, it only becomes more beautiful. Now I get what John Keats meant, how beauty can never pass into nothingness.