Munich : Day 0

Having spent the last weekend in Douai, I was determined to go somewhere this weekend. Specially so when you realise you don’t have classes on Thursday or Friday! Now, if you tell anyone in Europe that you want to go to Munich, during Oktoberfest on a 3 days notice, on a tight budget, they’d most definitely call you crazy, and rightly so! People plan anywhere from 1 month to 8 months in advance! That’s how you get the best deals, but well, I made do with what I had…

I started with the most important thing : transportation. Combining EuroLines and Megabus, I could go to Munich via Frankfurt, with a 5 hour layover in Frankfurt, which was pretty nice to tour Frankfurt. However, there was a catch with the return: Saturday afternoon : 3 Euros, Sunday afternoon: 30 Euros. So, well you can see what I chose! Saturday ofcourse!

I then chose to stay a day in Frankfurt as well. This covered my journey from Paris to Frankfurt to Munich in a cool 65 Euros, return included! Sounds very good on paper.

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Getting to Paris

Next : Accomodation. Where I almost lost hope and was kind of close to cancelling my plan. But the fact that I had already put in a few hours wanted me to keep going. Any hostel in any place in Munich: sold out. The minimum I found was 70 euros per night! THATS INSANE!
This is when, for the first time, I turned to Couchsurfing for help. How counter intuitive is that? If you have something that costs 20 Euros normally ( hostel) and something free ( Couchsurfing host) , you’re going to go for the free stuff first, right!? Turns out, you pay in terms of time for CS. There’s a chemistry, a chord you need to strike with the hosts for an acceptance. 8 hours of work later, with a very bright streak of luck, I found a host for my first day. Phew. Thanks so much, Muhammad! I planned to sleep in McDonalds for the second night, it couldn’t be that bad, right? And renting a hostel for the night in Frankfurt.
That pretty much covers it. Transportation and Accomodation.
Wednesday afternoon, after an exam in college, I completed my packing and left for the train station at Douai, at about 4:30 PM. You know the story, buy tickets for Paris, ( 20 euros each time. Sigh.)get to Paris and then onwards! I reached Frankfurt, an hour before scheduled time, at 5 AM! What was I going to do here, so early, in that cold? I helped a fellow traveller, who met me on the bus to find a hotel, as he couldn’t speak English / German, but we spoke Hindi. Worked for me as I didn’t have much to do. We parted ways soon after, and I went on to get some breakfast.

The first thing that struck me as odd about Germany was that the shopkeepers were really rude and arrogant! He literally waved his hand and said Go, bye to me while I was in the middle of ordering. Unbelievable! ( I saw the same thing at many shops with foreigners) probably because they don’t accept cards anywhere, only cash and I had asked if I could pay by card. Having a small breakfast with the sunrise, I decided to go see the city.

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Small, but pretty!
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Really pretty

I’d cover Frankfurt on my return, that’s better! Otherwise I risk making this post too long to read ๐Ÿ˜› ( I didn’t do much anyways during these 5 hours. )

Onto Munich! In the bus, at about 5:30 PM, I started to get restless. It had been more than 24 hours, I was on the road, hadn’t slept properly at all, didn’t have a lot of energy or a lot of water left and I felt like going back. Like that’s it, I’m tired! I felt like calling grandma, and my ‘marrain’ here in France, Juliette. But well, airplane mode was on, conserving battery, and I decided against it. That’s when I thought to myself, it’s going to be worth it, it always is. And I thought about this blog, about writing this, about how beautiful this journey is. That was a sickly sweet moment. At 7, I finally reached munich! Woohoo! Looking at so many  pretty faces( and other stuff) already gave me the energy to venture on! Haha! The number of people here was incredulous! I followed everyone, knowing there was only one place they could be going, wearing that lederhosen and Dirndl.
: Oktoberfest!

Worked, because my host lived nearby. what insane luck!!!

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Not sure if the guy was looking at me..

Okay, I’ve been to Disneyland in the states, ocean world in Hong Kong, but this was insanely more awesome, as a theme park and a beer garden! Albeit much smaller. What’s really crazy is that they built rollercoasters in this temporary installation! German engineering :’)

There are 12 major tents, hosting about 5000 people each, and ofcourse the rides for everyone ๐Ÿ™‚ The energy is amazing! It takes you over! I toured the place a bit, moving in the direction of my host.

I went on to Muhammads place, for my first ever Couchsurfing experience. I was instantly touched by his hospitality! Here I was, a stranger, at his place, and here he was, offering me milk and a bed for the night! We talked a bit, about how open the culture in Germany is, and a bit about our religions: which I’m not very well versed with. Probably because I am agnostic. Also, today was Id, a muslim festival, so he had to go to his fest, while I thought this was a great time to check out Oktoberfest, sans my heavy backpack! I’d probably go over more details in the next post, as I did more the next day!

That night, I requested Muhammad to hopefully extend my stay by a night, to which he agreed, and I am forever grateful for that! I could rest in peace, knowing I had a place for tomorrow night as well.

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En route to Muhammad’s.

Paris-encore : Day 1

Reaching Paris at 6:45 AM, 15 minutes earlier than the scheduled time ( Kudos, MegaBus! ) we were greeted by a deserted town. Too early for the working people to be out, save a few fitness freaks and too late for the drunken to be wandering the streets. However, the best time to catch the Arc de Triomph, sans all the traffic it is subjected to during any normal day! I am proud of this picture :

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Oh, another thing : Paris is not Barcelona. It isn’t cool to arrive in Paris wearing shorts and a shirt! ( Beach mode, remember? ) Haha, desperately searching for a public free toilet to change into warmer clothes, ย we found one after a 10 minutes walk, followed by an interesting maneuver : To change my shorts without letting my bare feet touch the ground. They claimed it was cleaned after every use, but I wasn’t taking any chances. Because of all this “automated cleaning”, it becomes really slow for 5 people to use it turn by turn, and we ended up spending 35 minutes waiting for everyone to finish.

We continued towards the Eiffel Tower, after all if you are coming to Paris, you have to visit it once and probably get disappointed by how small it is. ( Reaction of atleast 2 out of 5 people in our group: “Mere ghar ke peeche waala TV tower isse badha hai”. Translation : The TV tower behind my house is taller). I was interested in what was happening next to it.

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Where are you all going?

Sunday morning, half marathon! The number of people here was just incredulous! I sat down on the bridge just watching people run by! I saw a group of girls dressed as vikings, and another group as storm troopers! Talk about running in style.

Formerly, we had decided that we would go up Eiffel Tower, but seeing that it wasn’t free for us, and it wasn’t really that tall, we decided to skip it! ( Kick ass reasoning : ย On top of Arc de Triomph, we got our photo clicked with Eiffel Tower, now, on top of this, same view, with the Arc de Triomph. What’s the point? ) Hehe. By this time, we had all become really hungry, and began our search for the next Subway, which was pretty far away. To make things worse, it started raining and I didn’t have my umbrella. Just as we got into Subway, the rain got worse, pouring heavily, and we stayed in for about 2-3 hours till it subsided.( Free Wi-Fi, no complains! ). After this, we parted ways : I wanted to go to the Louvre, as that was the only thing missing, while the others wanted to take a bigger round to cover the Cathedral of Notre Dame, which I had experienced completely already. I had made plans with Dorothy to meet her at Louvre in an hour.

Now, just as I left, I felt this very sudden urge to pee. Haha, it’s like I wasn’t paying attention to it earlier. Well, with no toilet in sight, I ventured on till I reached Invalides and I just happened to glance at the ticket rates.

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Free for me! It’s a really big place, and so I figured there must be a toilet inside. So, I went in, showed my visa, got the free ticket and entered into a very awesome war museum. The toilets were right there after the first gallery, and I got to relieve myself, finally. Ah, what a relief! The gallery was really interesting, with real armour and weapons used in the wars! I found it so interesting, that I actually went through the entire museum ( much quickly though! As I had a r.d.v. with Dorothy! ) They said it would take me 2.5 hours, but I did it in one hour. In fact, Napoleons tomb is also present here! Just right beneath the golden dome.

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Where are you all going?

Out, and to the Louvre! I called Dorothy, but her phone is a fucktard. She couldn’t call me and I couldn’t call her. I didn’t get to contact her, so I went and stood in the line on my own, which starts right at the characteristic pyramid! 30 minutes hence, I was inside the Louvre, admiring it’s sheer enormity! So, the first thing that struck me to be different from Rijks was this: I can’t do this in one day. Let alone 3 hours.

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Where are you all going?

The amount of paintings and sculptures inside is insane! I think there are 3 floors and a basement, and I only got to explore one floor. I made a detour to see Mona Lisa on the 2nd floor, but that doesn’t count. Mona Lisa. Aphrodite. Original Egyptian Sacrophagus and Heiroglyphics! I had just heard about them, but I got to saw the real deal! Ah, so amazing! Definitely going there again soon. There’s too much to discover!

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However, if you’re paying to go in, it might make sense to download the museum app beforehand, and decided what all you want to see, and then go see it! I was in this gallery, while all that you see is the Louvre. 3 main sections, truly grand!

It closes at 6 P.M, and I got out about 5:30 PM. At the exit, there’s free Wi-Fi! That’s when I got to see Dorothy’s message, that she was here the whole time. Haha, damn. Met her for 10 minutes,<skips writing about the awkward part> then had to bid goodbye to catch my train back to Douai!

Happy Weekend!

Barcelona : Day 1

Waking up to the alarm of my room mate, I got up, got dressed, all ready to venture forth for our last (and sadly first proper day ) in Barcelona. We had the bus for Paris leaving at 4:30 PM. Haha, yes, I know, not a lot of time, but that’s how it is. On the other hand, the 28 hours in Barcelona were so full of experiences! I don’t think I would have been able to keep up had we stayed longer.

This day, I was determined to attend the tour, to find out the true story behind yesterday’s spectacle. This was the only aim for the day. Sumit, the same college-mate who went out with me last night, decided to join me; while Puskar followed his calling : Camp Nou, Barcelona! ( Football stadium, for the ones not into football ) and while the rest 2 were creating a hilarious story, which you’d hear about soon enough.

So, we made the reservations ( not taking chances today!) and checked out at 9 AM, to reach the tour point at about 9:40 AM. We got our tickets and waited for the tour to start. Haha, my tour guide turned out to Tommy! I thanked him for his advice last afternoon and we went on to cover quite a bit of history. Starting at the Barcelona Cathedral, to the eternal flame, to the infamous La Rambla! He talked a bit about the Catalonian movement, the million flags, Aragon and the Prince of Madrid and the sieges. The Catalonian flag, with 4 red stripes, actually comes from a symbol during the war. <Some important guy> fell, and <another important guy> dug his hand into the other’s wound, and used the blood on his 4 fingers to draw 4 lines on his shield, paying his respects, which came to be known as the coat of arms! <Sorry, don’t remember the names of the guys>.

We stopped in a pretty indoor garden of the Viceroy’s Palace.

With all my gear
With all my gear
Oh, and it’s moderately hot in Spain! Hence the t-shirt and shorts. En route, we also apparently crashed a wedding. ( Technically not, the church is open to the public. But it was fun to catch a glimpse of it)

The Wedding
The Wedding
The tour soon ended, and we consulted the map for our next destination : The famous Barcelona aquarium, which was slightly far, but we had about 3.5 hours to get to the bus. So we might as well go. On reaching there, we saw that the ticket was 20 Euros. Haha, we went back faster than we got here! ( Not really.) We ditched the idea of the aquarium, reasoning, that there should be a cheaper aquarium somewhere someplace, and I chipped in, I’ve seen these fish live, in the ocean, in their habitat. This can’t beat that any day. Interesting how the mind spins things off to suit your needs. Anyways, we moved on, checked out the harbour which had a lot of really cool ships! The kind with sails, not the modern ( slightly ugly?) ones.

Boats, boats everywhere but not one to climb
Boats, boats everywhere but not one to climb
Not really, there was a really huge one specifically for the public to check out! Ahaaan, the number of ropes on these is just incredible!!IMG_1363

Moving on, we were greeted by one of the best sights in Barcelona : Unloading of supercars on the port for super rich people.

Look at this beauty
Look at this beauty
I clicked this one ( not allowed to come any closer) but Sumit clicked them all! Here’s another awesome picture he got :

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Feeling tired, I wanted to go back, but on Sumit’s persistence and that awesome quiche, we decided to go to the beach! Thanks a lot, Sumit, for helping me acquire this experience as well! The beach here, was entirely different! I loved it. Even with all that gear, we got out our swimming trunks, prayed that no one took our bags while we changed and were into the water! Crazily enough, just an hour before our bus left for Paris. ( If we missed it, we would have been completely stranded!) This, almost completed my Barcelona experience. Almost? what else is left? Just one small thing. When we packed up, took a shower, and started moving back, I was on the look out for restaurants serving the Barcelona speciality : seafood. Tommy told me that they got the best seafood here, and wasn’t he right! In a little restaurant around the corner, in an unknown street ( We were just walking in the general direction : I have a good sense of direction) Wait, that reminds me!

Pro Tip : Whenever you’re going to a new place, try and memorize as much of the map as you can, mainly important monuments and your hostel. It usually just takes one glance to obtain a general idea, but very helpful in navigation!

Oops, yes, so, there was this store selling fried codfish with lemon : 8 pieces, 2.95 Euros. That sounded like a bargain, and we went ahead to have the most amazing fish I have ever had in my life! Wow, those 4 pieces I had were simply extravagant! Haha, I wish I’d taken more! Yes, Barcelona experience, complete.

We reached the bus, to hear about Puskar’s Camp Nou experience and ofcourse, the hilarious story: The other two, unaware of the legend of La Rambla, ventured in to find someone throw paint all over their bag, point them to a place to clean it, and, then elope with that bag. Okay, probably not hilarious for them ๐Ÿ˜› But the good part is, they found their bag again, with nothing missing. We think that was because there was nothing inside to steal. We decided, not to let Animek and Tulika venture out on their own ever again.

To the next adventure!

Barcelona : Day 0

After that insane bus journey, we emerged next to the Arc de Triomf in Barcelona. ( There are quite a few around the world! There’s one in India too, in New Delhi! That’s what I thought when I saw the Arc de Triomph in Paris. Ha! That’s just like the one back home )  Just as I entered the city, I could feel something was up. There were a lot of people on the streets, waving this peculiar flag that I had seen before, but I knew that it didn’t belong to Spain. Something like this :

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It was really energizing to see such a crowd! My first reaction was : maybe this place is even more lively than Paris! We moved to our hostel, which was about a half an hour walk, checked in, utilized the free Wi-Fi to search for the Sandeman’s Free Tour in Barcelona! (Ha Ha, yes, again! ) The time right now was 1:00 PM, and the tour started at 2. Good timing, man! The others wanted to rest in the room for a while, so I was off again, solo, map in hand, to the start point of the tour! Reaching at 1:55 PM, without a prior booking, I saw about 90 people in line for the tour. Reservations only. What? Seriously? I literally ran all the way here so I could be on time. I talked again to see if they would let me join in, but unfortunately not. Still not welcoming the idea, I followed one of the guides to the first spot on the tour, about a minute from where we started, keeping my distance, but I could feel that this wasn’t the experience I was looking for. So I went back to the start point and talked to the representative standing there. He was nice enough to tell me what was going on : It was 11th September ( Now I know two 9/11 s ) which is the National Day of Catalonia. The day they lost in the Spanish Siege of Barcelona, 1886. Right now, they are protesting for their independence from Spain. It felt really exciting to hear this, and the representative, Tommy pointed me to the general direction of the crowd, where all the action was. That’s where you’d find the most number of people, that is where it’s all going on.

The disappointment of not being able to attend the tour this day didn’t last very long! I figured, today is the National Day! I should be experiencing it while it happens, I can find out all about the city the next day, on the same tour! ( Right now, I feel really grateful for this, that I couldn’t find a place in the tour. ) So, “on y va!” Let’s go there. The flag? Catalonia. The people? Speak Catalan. This was an entirely different experience I hadn’t been exposed to, yet!

The eternal flame to respect the dead
The eternal flame to respect the dead
En route, I ventured into Citadel Park, as well as El Born, a preserved ancient market here in Barcelona. The park had a really huge fountain, which looked something like this:

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I climbed up because it seemed like a cool place to see the city from. Indeed.

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Moving on, I again reached the Arc de Triomf. I would later find out, that it looked like this only on this day. Glad I got a photo!

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On other, regular days, sans the white stalls, sans the flag of Catalonia in the middle. Here, I checked out the stalls to find something to eat, as I was famished! Hadn’t had lunch, yet. It was slightly difficult to communicate, as my vocabulary in Spanish was limited to “Gracias, Por favour, Hasta la vista, Chickos!” Haha, I tried this amazing chicken pizza, and tried to ask them their speciality, was pointed to the most expensive item, and I had to pass ๐Ÿ˜›

I went to where all the crowd was heading. This busy boulevard to the north east, at the place with the Wavy building. En route, I could feel the energy, the music and the chants of the catalanians! Someone handed me a flag, I joined in! I still have it, safely tucked in my suitcase! Ah, I just realised wordpress doesn’t let me upload videos. But you got to see this. Youtube, to the rescue!

I didn’t realise how far I’d walked, and when I did, I was like oh, crap! I’d have to go back a long way, and my phone was about to die. 1%. (There was no working charging port on the bus) The tiredness was starting to kick in, and I wanted to go back, rest for a while and venture out again during the night for round 2. There was a concert scheduled at the Arc de Triomf for the night. No way I was missing that!

Consulting the map, I realised that the Sagria Familia would fall on the way. Why not check it out as well? Contrary to what I’ve heard about it, seeing it, I wasn’t impressed.

Intricate, kind of.
Intricate, kind of.
True, that design is very intricate, the detailing is insane, it is a construction marvel; but why are there cranes on top? Why are you still building it? I don’t think it’s useful, building it now. It’s like, going back to the ages using the modern tech to complete what was left unfinished. But what’s the point of it? What are you going to achieve out of it? I’d have preferred watching it without the cranes, left the way it was when the chief architect, Antoni Gaudi, died. ( Or maybe a hundred years later, because that was a long time ago)

Moving on, I finally reached my hostel! Sat down in the common room, charged my phone and interacted with the people over there. It’s always fun to do this. Making new friends. This time, I met a girl from Iran, who was also on vacation. It was really nice talking to her ( and solving that Sudoku together ๐Ÿ˜‰ ), learning a bit about her story. ( Do you remember this site? I’m not sure if I mentioned it ๐Ÿ˜› )

She left after a while, and I finally met my college mates. They had gone out to the beach and had just returned! I wasn’t very much in the mood for beaches as I’d been to Andamans just a little while back. After resting for a while, I decided to leave again, and only one other guy decided to come with me.

The concert was awesome! There were a lot of people, a lot of bands lined up, the only catch being : they were spanish / catalanian. I didn’t understand what they were saying. But judging by the number of people that were singing along, I would say the band was really famous. Or they were doing a cover. Oh, and there were a lot of pretty girls around. ๐Ÿ˜€ In between artists, there would be certain quotes for Independence by various political leaders. Have you ever seen such a mix of political cause and music? Fantastic!

We decided to check out the Barcelona Casino, as we had a voucher for a free drink in it, thanks to the hostel. What we didn’t know was that, it was way too far. We stopped mid way to witness a true sense of the city : A street soccer match. Oh my, that was just like playing street fifa! I loved watching that a lot. A real taste of Barcelona. After about half an hour, we walked back home, for a much needed good night’s sleep. Extremely eventful Day 0. Thanks, Barcelona!!

Walking back home, after the parades.
Walking back home, after the parades.

Paris encore : Day 0

What happens when one fine wednesday, you realise that Thursday and Friday is a holiday?

I don’t know about you, but I spent the entire day figuring out how to leave tomorrow for a cheap vacation! Yes, that’s what happens when you’re travelling, unlike when in a “normal” college. 20 hours later, at 11:50 AM, having considered 7 crazy options, I found myself with my 4 college-mates waiting at the platform for a train scheduled to leave at 12:54, to Paris.( What? Again? Paris? Why?… Hold on! )

Getting a bit hungry, we decided to go back to the hostel ( 20 minutes walk), have lunch, take any stuff we had forgotten, and come back. That would give us about 20 minutes for lunch? Ambitious, but it meant we were going to save on paying for lunch in Paris. ( Phew!) If only, all of us could eat in time. Having heard about the punctuality of the trains here, we finally got to experience it. Only 3 of us made it to the train on time. Damn, the other 2 had to take the next train, but it also meant they would not be able to the extra bit of sight seeing that we would be doing.( For the others, this was the first time to Paris)

Moving on, I decided to do what I had left the last time : Sacre Coeur ( Sacred Heart, a Cathedral to the North) which is pretty impressive! Really grand, situated on top of a hill. However, it pales in comparison to Notre Dame.

Sacre Coeur
Sacre Coeur

We roamed around a bit, and then decided to check out the red light district here, and the famous Moulin Rouge. Oh, this was the first time I entered a sex shop. Mixed reactions, let’s just say I would have tried to figure out what people do with the stuff if the scent in the shop hadn’t been so suffocating. Haha, some other time perhaps!

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Moving on, we walked to the Arc de Triomph. If you trace this journey, you’d see that we never ventured into the city center. From the Gare du Nord, we simply walked west. To Sacre Coeur, Moulin Rouge, and finally Arc de Triomph. It’s a long and tiring walk, but there’s a very specific reason why we chose this route. ( Hold on.)

This time, the line to venture to the top of the Arc de Triomph was pretty small! Oh, and it’s free for me! Simply because I’m a legal resident in France with < 26 years of age.

Pro Tip : When you buy the tickets for Arc de Triomph, Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Invalides, show your visa to see if you’re eligible for a reduction in prices! My entry was free to the Arc de Triomph, the Louvre as well as the Museum of Invalides.

We ascended to the top, where we spent about 2 hours, taking in the atmosphere and getting ourselves clicked with the Eiffel Tower! This is also where we finally met the others. They walked directly from the station to Arc de Triomph. ( Why buy a metro ticket when you can walk? ๐Ÿ˜› )

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And one with allย of us :

With Puskar : The Selfie Expert
With Puskar : The Selfie Expert

Okay, now for the real reason why we took this peculiar route. Another kilometer to the west of the Arc de Triomph, is the bus stand. The bus stand for buses going all sorts of far off places, like London, the South of France, and the even more southern countries. We were to take one of these buses, at a reasonable 40 Euros, considering we booked it a night ago, to :

Barcelona!
Barcelona!

A 14 hour bus journey, but we were prepared for it. Prepared to sleep through the night as the bus got us to Barcelona at noon. See you over there!

Paris : Day 1

After that very eventful and tiring day, and a broken nights sleep, which was weird as I woke up because my legs were aching. What the? It is kinda nice, that feeling. Have you ever felt it?

FIAP Jean Monnet
FIAP Jean Monnet

Getting out of bed, bidding goodbye to my hostelmate, I ventured down, had breakfast, checked out and sat down in the lobby, using the wifi and figuring out the days plan. It didn’t take very long as I already had a faint idea in mind. The girl I met yesterday and I had made plans to go to the Catacombs, during the afternoon. She isn’t a morning person, but I wasn’t going to spend my morning in bed ( because I had 1 day and she had 1000). So, I decided to explore the Cathedral of Notre Dame in further depth. Come back for the Catacombs and then see how it goes.

The Grand Cathedral de Notre Dame
The Grand Cathedral de Notre Dame

Remember how my timing had been so perfect? Well, add another perfect to it! That’s how lucky I got. Just as I ย reached the Cathedral, I realised there was something on. It was a Sunday morning. What do Christians do on a sunday morning? Mass. Yes, that’s what I witnessed. The high priest followed by his 4 disciples advancing slowly through the path, cleansing their surroundings, to reach the podium from where the high priest performs the sermon. Correct me if I’ve used the wrong word somewhere, I’m not very well versed with the terms. I sat through it all, which was in French(duh!). Understood bits and pieces, and was so amazed by the beauty of it that I forgot / decided not to take any photos. In the middle I took a short video just for souvenirs sake. There were a lot of complicated procedures in between, involving the Golden Bible and a Chalice. (Judas Chalice?). In the end, I was offered the serving, a weird circular disc, which I ate seeing others do it. Interesting.

Energised with the experience, I left to explore the gardens outside.

The Gardens Outside
The Gardens Outside

Pro Tip : There’s a public toilet (free) right inside the garden next to the Cathedral. Fulfill all your city center needs.

Oh, look at what I found on this bridge! ( not the love lock bridge)

I don't know who you are, I don't know where you are.  What? It's just a statement.
I don’t know who you are, I don’t know where you are.
What? It’s just a statement.


Moving back, I reached the Catacombs at 3, standing in line waiting for Dorothy. She arrived at 3:45 (sigh) and our turn arrived at 4. It was decent-ish. Pretty boring after you see the first few bodies, because it’s simply the same thing over and over again for 1.2 km. Well, we did get to go into the catacombs, so there’s that for the 8โ‚ฌ ticket.

It was about 4:30 or 5, and we hadn’t had lunch! Famished and tired as hell, we took the metro to the subway next to Cathedral de Notre Dame. When you don’t know what to eat and don’t want to spend much, go to subway! We took our subs on the go, sat on the bridge over the water, next to the cathedral. During this time, the place transforms! The Cathedral closes, and performers take over the square to showcase their talents! Roller skaters, dancers, musicians! I witnessed them all. Bloody brilliant! Soon after this, we parted ways and I was sitting at the Cathedral, listening to some amazing music, looking at the beautiful sky and the beautiful monument next to me. Oh, and the million tourists trying to get a nice photo clicked.

Magic
Magic

At 8:45, it was time for me to take the metro to the train station, and again I reached pretty fast. I prefered being earlier than late. This was the last train to Douai. Not. Taking. Any.Chances.

Since I had a lot of time, I played the free piano on the station, which felt really nice. I got a place to rest my aching legs and exercise my fingers. Over the course of these 2 days, I’d walked 50 kms! That’s right, fifty!

Budget tip: This whole trip, including travel to and from Douai, took me 100โ‚ฌ. 20โ‚ฌ to go, 20โ‚ฌ to come back, 20โ‚ฌ for the night stay, 8โ‚ฌ for the catacomb trip, 20โ‚ฌ on (unnecesary but worth it(that’s what I’ve been telling myself)) cullinary experiences and 12โ‚ฌ for breakfast, lunch on Day 0 and Day 1. So, if you want to experience Paris like I did, once you get here, all it takes is about 35โ‚ฌ for 2 days! Some people pay that much just to get their photo photoshopped next to the Eiffel Tower ๐Ÿ˜‰

Cullinary Experience #1 : That late night dinner at a chinese restaurant with tricky prices. Ah, well. Be careful about what you order! Confirm prices before hand to be extra sure ๐Ÿ™‚

Cullinary Experience #2 : waffles and ice cream at Hรคagen Dazs.

Paris : Day 0

I would call this Day -1, but I think that would get increasingly problematic as it isn’t a very definite convention. I was woken up with a loud banging on my door, which turned out to be my neighbour who had lost his room key, at 6 AM, en route to Brussels. Due to some complicated and not-interesting stuff, I couldn’t go with them ( 4 of them ), and I was here in my room, at 6 AM, still deliberating whether I could go to Paris. The earlier day, Friday, I’d tried to book a hostel and the train tickets, but to no avail. So, I had virtually nothing, and I was slightly apprehensive about going on such a journey.

I packed my bags, ate the apple I had saved from last night’s dinner and figured, I might as well go to the train station ( a 20 minutes walk), see if I get the ticket, and we can see how it goes? Once I reached the station, all my apprehensions vanished during the 2 minutes I was talking to the lady at the ticket counter. I purchased a ticket for 15 minutes from now ( I checked the timetable before hand, my timing was awesome) and also an nonexchangeable return ticket for the next night at 10 P.M. Haha, talk about fighting fears!

In short, this was the best decision, ever!

The voyage lasted 1 hour 17 minutes, and I was in Paris at 9:08 AM. So exhilarating! So, the hostel I had decided to check for a room was on the other side of the River Seine, and if you know where Gare du Nord ( Train station) is, let’s just say it is very far! 1.5 hours walking, but 20 minutes by the metro (which I found out later). Since I wanted to experience the city rather than just taking the metro, I decided to walk. From north to south, covering pretty much all the differences  in between the two parts of town. The premier walk from the station till the river was pretty shady. I wasn’t sure if I made the right decision walking through it, but I realised it finished pretty soon, commemorated by this :

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A little further, I found the Cathedral of Notre Dame, which is on the River Siene. I went past it, and onwards to my hostel, as I thought it was important to first  find a room to stay for the night. The earlier I reach => More chances to find a room. I would have had to try somewhere else otherwise. As luck would have it, I found a room right there, in FIAP Jean Monnet hostel, 30 Rue Cabanis. And yes, I would recommend it any day! It really is an amazing hostel, I loved it! ( More on this later). I was told that I could check in by 12, and at that time it was 11. I used the irritatingly slow Wi-Fi over there, thinking out my day, when a stroke of brilliance hit me! Remember the Sandeman’s Free Tours in Amsterdam? Yes, they are here in Paris as well. And yes, the next tour left at 1. Yes, the starting point of the tour was an hour away. Yes, the Garden of Luxemborg falls in between the hostel and the start point of the tour, (which is St. Michel Fountain, right next to the Cathedral of Notre Dame,if you want to go. Tours leave every day at 10:00, 11:00 and 1:00.) Even more good timing.

Filled with excitement about the plan, I got up and told the reception I’d be coming back late to check in, stowed my bag over there and was off. Say hello to the entrance of the entrance to the garden.

Fountain just outside the garden.
Fountain just outside the garden.
and the Garden:

Gardens of Luxemborg
Gardens of Luxemborg
I sat here for a while, and then was off to reach just in time for the tour. This tour was, just like the previous one, very amazing! Bruce covered a lot about the history and the war, and how it affected Paris, or rather, how it didn’t. We went through most of the amazing sights in Paris, starting with the Cathedral of Notre Dame, to the Louvre, to Place de la Concorde. The most amazing bit was, that I could understand French! Learning a new language is truly the best way to immerse in the culture! The names of the streets, the buildings, the jokes in French, the inscriptions, felt really cool. It could also be the fact that I was the only one who understood even a bit of French in the tour group. I practiced a bit with Bruce, who was nice enough to help me out. He even clicked a photo of me at the Louvre! ( I’m not much into selfies)

The Great Pyramid of the Louvre
The Great Pyramid of the Louvre
The tour ended at Place de la Concorde, at about 3:30 P.M. Now, I hadn’t had lunch and was very hungry. Bruce was selling tickets for their other tour of Montmarte, in a cafe where I found decent enough food, next to the Place.(pronounced Pl-aaa-ce : Meaning Square in French, because Place de la Concorde, is a square. Look carefully! The biggest in fact, with the characteristic Obelisk, which was gifted by Egypt, and the gold on top added by the French)

This is what I'm talking about
This is what I’m talking about
Oh, and you can see the famous Tour de Eiffel from here! I sat here for a while because I was tired, and yes, you can easily guess where my next stop was going to be! I could see it from here! The Tour de Eiffel.

A cool photo
A cool photo : That’s a groom waiting for his bride, who is on the right side of the frame.
And, after another half an hour, I reached the Tour de Eiffel.IMG_1097

Too tired to do anything, I sat on the first bench I could find, and I think I was there for about 2 hours. After about 1 hour, a girl came and sat next to me on the bench, while I was contemplating how beautiful this is, and how right I was to have come here and earned this experience. She looked kinda French to me and I thought about asking her something in French, ( “Are you French? ๐Ÿ˜› “) but I forgot about it after about 5 minutes ( which is a long time) because she seemed occupied, and I was back to my comtemplations. Half an hour later, she got up to through something in the trash can, and I realised she was still here. I smiled at her and was about to ask her the question when she asked me the same question xD. (“Where are you from? “) and that started a pretty amazing friendship. Turns out, she’s from Scotland ( and she’s not a redhead ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). We grabbed something to eat, and ended up at the Arc de Triomphe. Haha, exactly like India Gate in India! Except a few beautiful statues in front. Even the flame underneath the Arc, exists in India. We stayed there for a bit, didn’t go up because the line was too long, went to Place de la Concorde, encore, and after that, ended up at Eiffel Tower again. It was night time, and seeing it light up was even more amazing!

Almost underneath
Almost underneath
We spent an hour( or two?) here, looking at all the people and taking in the atmosphere. It really left me spellbound. After that, we parted ways for tonight, and I had already walked 30 kms today, I couldn’t anymore, so I took the Metro, which I might add is very convenient and super fast! I was surprised when we traversed 12 stations in 12 minutes. Oh well, I had dinner in a small restaurant close to my place. This had you choose what you want, with price per 100 gms written, which made it seem cheap, but when he filled the plate, I had had 11 Euros worth of food. Sigh. It tasted good though, so can’t complain!

Another piece of awesomeness awaited me when I went to the hostel, to check in at 11:30 PM. I was upgraded because the room that I’d earlier booked for had been filled. Personal bathrooms, personal washrooms, complete with towels and a personal charging port. Ah, is this even a hostel anymore!? I reverted my decision of not taking a bath ( because I didn’t bring my towel, I packed really light! ) because of the welcoming hot shower, which I needed after all that walking.

Best end to the best damn day!

…. I just re read it again. It isn’t even half of what I experienced! There’s so much, but damn it, I can’t write it all here! ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€

For another day
For another day

Douai

Damn it, I sped too fast! It kind of broke the flow, how did I end up in Paris straight from Amsterdam, but I was too excited and I had to write about Paris before I forget. But well, I am going to delete it and add it again, when the time is right.

Douai is a small town, next to Lille and Paris, with this grand ecole, or school, Mines Douai, which would be my home for the next 4 months. As of this moment, I’ve been here for 9 days, been introduced to a new culture and a new schooling system that doesn’t focus entirely on grades. I really like the idea of it, but let’s see how it fares. Since I’ve got here, there has been a party every night, and an after party after every party every night on one of the residence floors, which makes two things very clear : People here like to party hard, and they love their booze! Douai even has it’s own signature beer, called the Goudale!

Even though I don’t drink, and have never had the energy to stay for the after party, I think these parties are really amazing, because they help you meet new people, to mix in!

Another really amazing thing is the presence of other foreigners. I’ve met people from all over the world now! And, just like me, they are learning French. This epic realisation occurred when I was talking to a Chinese girl, with French being the only common language between us. It gives you a lot of power, to be able to talk to people like that, who don’t know your language even remotely! We were two foreigners talking in a foreign language. That sounds perfect.

Another peculiar thing I learnt is, there are 3 kingdoms in China, and their languages are slightly different. These dialects are so different that they don’t understand each other sometimes! ( when from different regions, ofcourse! )

This makes me realise, that I haven’t talked to the Brazillians much. I don’t know much about them ๐Ÿ˜ฎ . I should get on it, soon!

Oh, and I ought to mention, I’m not alone here. There are 4 other kids with me from India, from IIT itself. It’s nice to be able to talk in Hindi once in a while, oh and very helpful when it comes to understanding shiz in French!

The French speak fast. It takes a lot of mental prowess to comprehend what they are trying to say. But in the end, I believe I’d get used to it. I really love the fact that I’ve been learning for only one month, and I love to flaunt it! Why? Because it’s just been one month and I can say that in French! B) haha, this builds a lot of confidence. I can learn any language. Also, it has been a great relaxant. I’ve been coding and studying mathematics since a long time, and the past summer vacation, I turned down all internship opportunities because I just couldn’t do it anymore. I wanted to take a break. Stimulate my brain with something else. I think this has proven to be the best way to do so! Thanks Bade Bhaiya for the advice! ๐Ÿ˜‰ that reminds me, it’s teachers day, I should wish him!

To another 4 eventful months in Douai!

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Amsterdam : Day 2

Waking up early, at 8, whilst the others sleep in my room, I packed my bag ( just a sling, I’ve fallen in love with these! So practical and easy enough to carry anywhere! ) and headed out for the long walk to the Rijksmuseum, which opens at 9. I could have rented a bike, but that was just unnecessary for me.

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can’t see the ticket line from here, it’s inside the 4 arches.

When I reached at about 8:50, I was surprised to see a small line outside, because it’s generally packed and Kor advised me to go through Rijks first. Well, more space for me, I guess! I already had a ticket, so it was much faster. i could just go in without standing in the ticket line! I got a map of the museum and thought about the best way to go through all of it. I soon realised it was too big to go through everything in a day, let alone the 3 hours I had estimated for Rijks.

Pro Tip : there’s an app for the Rijksmuseum that has the same tours as the iPods being rented at the museum for 2 euros each! Save money just by downloading the app! Even if you forget to download it before hand, there’s free wifi in Rijks to do the same.

Moving on, I first decided to see the special collections on the 0th floor, moving up to the 3rd floor. The special collections included Ship models, which really caught my attention, as well as the gun collection from the XXth Century. I can’t remember the number. It suffices to say, it was big enough to take up one entire room! I skipped the clothing and porcelain and delftware. Not interested.

What a beauty!
What a beauty!

This is just how long I could wait. I skipped floor 1 and went directly to what you have been waiting to hear about. The painting(s). Rembrant. Vermeer. It’s placed in a Hall called the gallery of honour, overlooked by the great hall, called Voorhal with tinted glass paintings, the kind you see in ancient churches and cathedrals. Only, these had painters instead of the saints. Amazing.

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I used my phone for the tour of this gallery as I didn’t want to miss anything important. And boy, what I saw left me spellbound! You could tell where the famous paintings were, simply by the number of people standing in front of them! I decided that in order to judge how great a painting really is, I would compare the nuances and the little things that the guide was telling me about the painting with the painting next to it. Not the best way to go about it because some neighbours were starkly different, but it worked most of the time! I got to train my artistic eye and learn a bit about the history. The floors are divided by centuries, and after having explored the floors, After 3 hours, I decided to call it an afternoon.( Get it? ๐Ÿ˜‰

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The NightWatch

I ventured forward to the Van Gogh, which is close by to meet a line 1 hour long! Ah, damnit! At this point, I started to regret buying the ticket for Van Gogh as it’s just another painting museum. I’d already seen Van Gogh’s self portrait, the most famous one, in Rijks. ( He drew a total of 13 self portraits to practice various techniques) The line soon ended and I was inside. 3 floors, 1000 paintings( I think? ) but more than that, it was a life story that engulfed me completely! This was a totally different experience, the museum is thought out really well! You can see the difference, when he started and how he ended up where he is, and how his last painting is not his best, and how he painted the most in his last year. Who inspired him, where all he went to seek inspiration and ofcourse, his most famous works. Sadly, I was not allowed to take pictures inside. So, I can’t show you. If you get the chance to go, don’t miss it! It’s well worth the 17 euros!

Tired beyond measure, I decided to first grab lunch at an eatery next to the famous I AmSterdam sign, followed by a relaxing walk in Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s version of New York’s Central Park! Less skyscrapers around, more birds and ducks! I even got to see a sweet purple heron. After an hour or so, I decided to make the long walk back home.

Vondelpark
Vondelpark

since this day would be my last day in Amsterdam, and I had already purchased the RLD tour, I decided to get home, rest for a while and go out for this tour! I reached on time for the tour, thankfully sans rain, at the famous Dam Square. I got lucky with the iPhone:

Dam Square
Dam Square : Nearing the storm.

The places this tour covers, are mostly where you would have already been, if you’ve ever ventured into the Red Light District. However, just by looking around, you can’t find out about what’s going on and how it works. After all, there aren’t any sign boards like in museums explaining whats happening; just pretty and some not so pretty women all around. I found it to be really insightful. Interesting stuff going on here. It’s 100% legal, all have proper work permits and there are systems in place to ensure that they aren’t forced into it. They rent the “windows” for 8-12 hours, for about 100 euros, and earn about 20-50 euros per customer, meaning they need atleast 5 customers to break even, which may not sound like much, but consider the fact that there are 400 such windows in a small area. Tough competition.

Towards the end of my tour, it started raining snakes. This time, pythons and anacondas! Damn it, I had the wind resistant jacket, but even that couldn’t save me. Drenched to the core, cold, I ran back to my hostel, once we parted. I forgot to get dinner, which I realised when I got in. Ah, f**k it. I made do with some dry fruits. Took a bath. Hanged the clothes to dry, and checked the route for – after I take the TGV to Douai, the route to my university.
The hostel was nice enough to pack me a decent early breakfast. So, off to college!