Tour de France..Day 2

After an amazing day at Paris, we headed towards Versailles on Day2. Its super close to Paris, only an hours journey in train. Its definitely a place travellers visiting Paris can look foward to visit. Its also well connected on rails. The railway station is so close to the palace, its just a small walk to the palace.

                            ——————–Royal Palace of Versailles ——————-

As we entered the palace compounds, we found that the palace (also called as "Château de Versailles"), was closed for the day. After an hours journey from Paris, we felt like damn.. But we were told that the gardens were more interesting than the palace. After coming so far, we thought of atleast watching the gardens, and bought tickets for the palace gardens alone… The gardens turned out to be an ultimate one. Hehh.. thats the advantage of travelling in Europe, evrythings a worth watch :-)…


————–King Louis Gardens, Versailles ———————-

These are just a few pics, but there is nothing in these to do the slightest justice to the incredible gardens at Versailles. These French style gardens are a definite worth watch with lush greens around, fountains and all..All we did was wandered around in these incredible gardens for a few hours. Its so big, that it’ll take almost a couple of hours to go from one end of the garden to another. Apollo Fountain, La Colonnade, Latona Fountains, Grand Commande were all amazing..
We had our lunch at Versailles, did lots of shopping and we headed back to Paris.


————————La Defense, Paris——————————-


———————Grand Arch, La Defense————————–

After watching all the historic and cultural backdrop of Paris, it was a huge contrast when we reached the modern part of Paris – ‘La Defense’, which is a business suburb with lots of skyscrapers and modern buildings including the Grand Arch. Grand Arch is actually 2 huge buildings connected in a way that makes it look like a hollow cube. It looks small in the above pic, but it actually is gigantic..For a while we relaxed watching skateboarders who were doing tricks and filming in front of Grand Arch.
After La Defense, we took a metro to Notre Dame church. Since the line was huge, we skipped going inside the church. Instead, we walked on the riverbed for a while.
It was almost 5, and we had to make it to Eurolines bus terminal before 5.30. We had a quick bite and hurried. I almost slept all the while from Paris till Brussels. At Brussels, since we already had the weekend pass, we dint have to buy train tickets to Mechelen. We reached our apartment at around 12 and our good old roomie had prepared nice dinner for us :-). As I slept, I just  could’nt believe I’d been to Paris.
I still feel as if I am standing next to Eiffel Tower, Louvre and all..

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An evening in Paris..BonJour

We had a shaky start by missing our train to Brussels :-0 but somehow made it to the Eurolines bus terminal in the last minute. We reached Paris at around 11.30, got down near a metro station. Our hotel was only one stop away from there; we took a metro (Metro Line 3) till Porte de Bagnolet station. We spent almost half an hour searching for our hotel there. No one spoke English; we had a tough time locating the hotel.
The hotel which we stayed in was – “La résidence internationale de Paris, 44 rue Louis Lumière, Paris”. It was relatively close to Eurolines bus-stop; which made things easy for us, so we were able to rush and dump our baggage in hotel soon and have a quick bite there. We had a nice experience here, [we were even served free (Veg) breakfast in the morning & the hotel was situated in a convenient and decent location].
We got a free Paris map from the hotel and started off exploring Paris right away.

Travelling tips in Paris:
Firstly, of course the accomodation: There are huge amount of hotels, hostels or budget dorms available in Paris city centre. And the best way to book hotes is through http://www.hostelworld.com
Regarding mode of transport, Metro is a cheap and best option. And metros run till 12 midnight, I guess… It may be difficult to identify a metro station (for the 1st time), since most the stations are underground and difficult to find them. It’ll be fun travelling in Paris metro, implementing shortest path algorithm :-)…and I suggest travelers to buy 1.5 Euro metro tickets (Don’t buy daily/weekend pass).
Foods are generally expensive. However, backpackers can always buy foods and drinks from the local supermarkets which are a lot cheaper.
Purchasing gifts is a little costly, you can buy Souvenirs, books, posters (Specially the Mona Lisa and Moulin Rouge ones), perfume bottles from gift shops which are at almost all corners of Paris. You can also buy Eiffel Tower replica keychains from vendors who keep barging on you just next to the tower at a lot cheaper price.

Our 1st place of vist in Paris, The Louvre Museum- Undoubtedly the finest of all art museums, one of my dream destinations of Europe, especially after I read ‘The Da Vinci Code’. Louvre is actually a palace, which has been converted to a museum. The palace has a Louvre pyramid made of glass in the centre, which creates a magnificent view. Entrance to the museum is right below the pyramid.
Louvre is divided into different departments for display. There are eight displaying departments. These are paintings, prints and drawing, sculptures, decorative arts, Greek and Roman, Islamic Art, Near Eastern and Egyptian antiquities. It has a display of over 35,000 sculptures and paintings belonging to various civilizations.

——————Me in front of the Louvre Museum——————

They provide us a free direction map of the museum at the ticket counter. My travel-mate guided me well insdide the museum, since he had been to Louvre before, but even then we were able to explore only about 70% of museum, covering Egyptian section (Egyptian mummies), Greek and Roman art, sculptures, paintings….
You can see display of Vases, bronzes, ceramics, glass works, of different civilizations all over the museum. And we dint miss the most famous of all ‘Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa’.
We spent about 4-5 hours in Louvre museum and off we headed towards, the wonder of the world – The Eiffel Tower.

The Eiffel Tower:
We colud see it standing tall to the west of Paris, (infact while travelling n bus, when I woke up and looked around, I could see Eiffel Tower from bus window, only then I realised that we had reached Paris.. :-))
I walked in that general direction, coming upon the Champs de Mars after a few blocks from the metro station. The Champs de Mars is a large park that is built to one side of the Eiffel Tower, with long grassy areas. When I came upon the Eiffel Tower I was struck by the size of the crowds, and the amazing structure. The line was a lot shorter for stairs so we opted for it , stairs is much cheaper, and gives you a bit more freedom to move around . We bought tickets for 3,10 euros, and started the ascending. Hmm, the Eiffel Tower is a lot taller than it looks. By the time we hit the first floor we were exhausted. I wandered a bit around the interior portions and came across a interesting motor, which is used for the lift. The view from the first floor was impressive. Its well above tree-line, and most buildings in the city. You could see for miles in every direction. Particularly clears were Sacre Coeur and the Arc de la Defense. After about 10 minutes we continued up the stairs. Higher, and steeper, getting more and more tired, but we dint feel the tiredness as we felt more and more excited. We kept counting how many stairs as we climbed along the stairs. Till the second level, it’s around 660 steps.
The second floor was just as amazing as the first. Buildings were a bit smaller, but you could see even further. We were lucky as it was a clear day.  From the second floor I could clearly see the Arc de Triomphe, something I hadn’t been able to see on the first floor. 

————View of Arch de Triumph, from Eiffel Level2———-

From the second floor, we again had to buy elevator tickets to go to the top level. The line was not a very long one, lucky for us..And as we reached the top floor of Eiffel………………………………………………………………
Wooow!! You just cant describe in words, a superb breath taking panaromic view of amazing cityscape of Paris, we just looked on and on and on… We just looked down to see the tower, such a marvelous tall architecture and a truely wonderful construction, u just cant imagine it was built more than 120 years back. We saw the sunset from Eiffel top, spent about an hour on the top level.  The descent was a lot better than the ascent, but I was surprised to see how far we’d gone. And then as walked back on the Champs de Mars, we saw the Eiffel sparkle and it twinkled for a while, fabulous it was..

———-Eiffel Tower at Night——–
It was already 11 PM and we had to have dinner yet. I had read in blogs about some nice Indian restaurants near Eiffel, so we tried searching one..soon we did find an Indian restaurant ‘Taj Mahal’, we had mouth watering delicious North-Indian cuisines. And headed back to our hotel in the metro rail.

Oostende

Today we had been to the kite festival at Oostende beach. We travelled from one end of Belgium till another to watch the festival. It was a 3 hour long journey in a Benelux [Belgium Netherland Luxemberg] train.
It was a nice hot windy sunny day all along, a perfect day for spending time at bay, we had a nice time watching 1000s of colourful kites and kite-flying competetions. We roamed around in Oostende city for sometime, and one more thing ..got onto surfing boats and all…
AND not to mention, our eyes kept popping all the time out watching European babes on da beach ;-).

 

———————-Colourful Kite Festival—————————-

19:00: I’m currently updating my journal from an Internet café; I have come here to double-check my Paris hotel bookings. Righto…tomorrow I’ll be going to Paris. We have a holiday on Monday (Pinsterrin), we got to know about it only on last Thursday,  so we sketched out our plans, booked travel tickets and all in a  hurry on Thursday itself. I’ll update about my experiences in France shortly.

Exploring Mechelen

This week, I had lots of work at office. We had plans to go to Paris this weekend, but later in the last minute; we had to put it off since we were given assignments at office and we couldn’t take a leave on Friday. We cancelled travel tickets, hotel room bookings and incurred a loss of around 50 Euros :-(. Our weekend was rather relaxing, I shopped a bit in Mechelen Vee Market, Grote Market and at Carrefour. We played cricket on Saturday and visited nearby parks

 

It was raining heavily on Sunday. So, we watched few hindi movies at home, prepared Chapatis and sabjis. Had a nice relaxing weekend, which I definitely was in need of.