The small town guy
I was a small town guy working in a big office in Parrys. Not Paris, France: but Parrys Corner, in Chennai India. Paris, France was a distant paradise.
One day that changed. My office acquired a business in a small town called Troyes in the Champagne Province and decided to send me there for a short assignment. VIA PARIS! In my busy work schedule, I manoeuvred to get a free day in Paris and also planned to make the best of the evenings in Troyes.
It was the most chaotic plan I had ever executed. I was like a kid in a humongous toy store, drooling at every toy. I jumped hither and thither with my modest camera, performing “shoot-at-sight” all over. I was fully charged, but my camera batteries frequently ran out of charge. The result is this eccentric pictorial essay — high on love, low on technique:
It was Christmas season when I reached. Troyes was beautifully lit up and the streets were bright and vibrant -– I felt that the Gods had divinely arranged it just for me!
Troyes: where Jeanne, not Helen is the heroine
Troyes may not be in the average tourist map, yet it is a place of significant historic importance. It was an important trading centre in the Roman era. The standard measure “Troy Ounce” which is used to weigh gold is said to have originated here. Even now, the old quarter of Troyes has some quaint 16th century buildings where people actually live! Here are some heritage buildings, under the moonlit Emile Zola street:
Remember the history lesson about Joan of Arc (French: Jeanne d’Arc ), the female military commander? She proclaimed the French King’s son as the heir to the French throne in contravention of the treaty of Troyes signed with the English. According to folklore, she rode on horseback right up to the altar of the Cathedral of St. Peter & St. Paul, and made the proclamation. I can believe it, considering high ceiling and huge dimensions of the church.
This Gothic style church has lovely stained glass windows and some finely carved statues. Unlike other churches of its period (13th century) it has one tower instead of two. The reason? It took a long time to build and they ran out of funds in the interim. I can believe that too— I have dealt with bureaucracy before!
Soon it was time to drive back to Paris. On the highway I notice a beautiful medieval fort and ask my driver to stop. He is puzzled— he is a Serb who understood little English. Finally he figures out that I want to shoot pictures. I later found that the Provins medieval castle was a UNESCO Monument!
The Louvre at Dawn
With just one and a half days at Paris, I squeezed in whatever site I could. The budgeted time for Louvre Museum was half an hour and this was at dawn(bloody insane!). All I could do was take a few pictures of sunrise over the deserted Louvre. I had a few curious crows for company!
What is Paris without the Tour Eiffel? Anything I say about it would be an overkill. Here are the pictures. I managed to capture both dawn and dusk at the Tower, and a few pictures in the wintry sun as well.
Scenes of the Seine
By far the most intelligent thing I did was booking a cruise on the R. Seine. I boarded the craft at Quay de La Bourdannais. Wasn’t La Bourdannais the famous military commander who fought many brave battles for the French in India? My guide is clueless! I am not surprised. French politics of those days was complex and La Bourdannais was actually imprisoned in Bastille on his return to France— he died an unsung hero. From fearsome foe in India to condemned commissar in France— somehow his name survived to be recognised by an odd Indian (me)!
Here are the magnificent sights from the river. Don’t miss the Place de la Concorde and the Eiffel Tower….
Notre Dame cathedral
At first sight Notre Dame cathedral looks unimpressive, don’t let that fool you: it grows on you.
The stonework at the entrance is spectacular….
…And the view from the River Seine is something to die for!
Arc de Triomphe, Place de la Concorde
The bas-reliefs on the Arc de Triomphe are amazing (right)
I wonder what an Egyptian obelisk is doing in the Place de la Concorde. Then I remembered: ever since Napoleon’s reign, France has generated a huge interest in Egyptology. This obelisk was a gift from the ruler of Egypt.
The divinely beautiful church of Our Lady of Sacred Heart is on top of the Montmartre hill. On the way up is the Artists village — here is where Picasso, Monet, Dali and several talented painters had studios (you may like to see my post Dali-ghtful: the Maya of Salvadore Dali ). Even now the place is full of street-art.
When I arrived at the church a Christmas carnival was in full swing; the place was brimming with joie de vivre. (do see my post The Juggler of Montmartre)
I lingered on at the church to enjoy a panoramic view of Paris….
… and stayed there long enough to watch the moon-rise over the Montmartre hill. Amazing!
Ironically, the Church is in the middle of the nightclub district.Naturally, I move from the spiritual to the sinful: I bought a ticket for the floor-show at the Moulin Rouge.
The ticket entitles me to a bottle of champagne. I have nobody to share it with. Most of the audience are couples. Then a hearty Russian joins me in the table with his own champagne. He has no companion either. We drink to each other’s health. Neither of us can speak French but we have a pleasant conversation— he in Russian and me in a mix of English and Tamil. With free floating nymphs on the stage and free flowing champagne on the table, language hardly matters!
Paris! One day I will come back for more! Dieu voulant. Au revoir!