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? 😛 “) 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 😉 ). 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! 😀 😀

For another day
For another day
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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 😮 . 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! 😉 that reminds me, it’s teachers day, I should wish him!

To another 4 eventful months in Douai!

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