On the top of the world on Eiffel tower second floor with cold and strong wind blowing on my face. Above, La rive Seine in Paris, view from Eiffel tower.
Arc de triomphe, the imposing structure built by Napoleon Bonaparte during his tenure. I was going to Champs Elysees right on the next corner.
Evening sun shining on the clouds from Eiffel Tower.
Masion de Napoleon, or Les Invalides. Muse de L’Armee.
Late night 1:00 AM outside the Pyramid at Lourve, after 9 hours of visiting ALL the rooms one by one in one whole day. Real dog tired as you might expect. Still being a tough guy, went for some drinks. My legs thanked me then.
This memoir is divided into 3 main parts –
How to pack/What to pack?
How to go about and where to go?
What to expect?
::: B A C K P A C K I N G :::
How to pack if you like travelling is a great question especially for us travellers. I think of it as a military exercise in a civil environment and also as something like art, always striving for that perfect composition. Though there are as many bags styles and designs you could wag a tail at, the fundamentals are quite the same. Like a good pair of pants, it has to have 2 hoses to put your legs into, everything else is an afterthought. I myself have travelled using 3 flight cases, 2 backpacks, electronic studio equipment, food, and Tote bags in the past. Booking cabs just to carry luggage was something I was admittedly and stupidly proud about. It had more to do with my relatively posh upbringing, lots of logistical support and bad habits. Now I see through all that in retrospect, I realize how much I could have saved in terms of time and money if I only carried lighter.
Fast forward nowadays for a couple of years now. I am travelling really light. Just 1 backpack. After tons of literature reading and practical assessment I figured a way to quench my preppers like enthusiasm with my quest for comfortable travel. This science and art of packing is something that comes with experience as even toothbrushes are the domain of debate for every individual. However, I do recognize and so will you that a few key items are indispensible in a modern world especially for travel in developed countries like Europe. These are my tips after my travels abroad for a while.
1. One 35L backpack is all you need. Really.
2. Two indispensible things in todays world would be – Communication Electronics + Clothes.
3. Survival Bug Out Bag essentials can be added to the above to make it more rounded in case of an actual emergency.
You can find, buy, improvise or steal food or even eat your fellow travellers if needed, so no need to put those in a bag (MRE’s are a good option for a 3 day Bug out Bag, not EU travel). Grooming and hygiene items are found everywhere (and how much does a guy need anyways?). Skip or skimp on these to reduce excess baggage.
a) BUG OUT BAG = COMMUNICATIONS + STORAGE + CLOTHING
(Top to bottom anti-clockwise-
camera, 1TB usb drive, adapter, camera charger, umbrella, headlamp, foldable daypack, Victorinox laundry nylon drawstring black bag, LED winding torch, medicine ziplock, sony xbass earphones, Gunnar RPG Gunmetal, iPad mini, LG iPad Keyboard, waist pouch, hip pouch, Samsonite neck pouch)
b) Gucci and Tommy Hilfiger daily shirts, clothes cube (mid sized) with Arrow sports jackets and Puma Evospeed polyester hoodies water proof windcheater;
grooming kit (clothes line+batteries, Victorinox 3 bottle TSA pouch, sanitizers, groomer, shaver, pocket mirror, nail cutter (souvenir from Tettnang, Germany), small packing cube)
c) Weighing scale and American Tourister CITIPRO Blue with(out) Rain Cover
A brief rundown on the kinds of bags available in the market that you have to choose from –
Traditional backpacks, duffel bags, daypacks (my choice), roll on bags, simple sacks, pouches.
You could carry anything in just a sheet of cloth and dump everything in the middle and tie it up. However, the rigours of modern travel mean that you need to be more decisive.
You need something that can contain, not allow bulging beyond capacity, durable and water proof. Every compartment must have a couple of zips for security. Every such compartment must be locked with padlocks or combination locks.
Traditional backpacks which you might use for hiking is not really suitable in my opinion for city based urban travel and even bug out scenarios. You don’t want to reach out through multiple layers BEFORE you reach your intended item.
Think of your bag as a well designed website. The content may be same or similar, however the least number of mouse clicks required to reach your target page wins the contest for better design.
It makes sense, for portability, looking for a place to keep your things as you sift through does not make much of a convenient packing scheme.
Duffels are not good for long term walking as the weights are not distributed evenly with the body and will actually hamper your stride. Roll ons are good at the airport, however you would certainly look out of place if you enter and exit every avenue with that. It is also cumbersome over long distances to hold out one hand behind and keep dragging the thing. Daypacks on your back is the best thing you can do for yourself. If your main bag is safe in a hotel or hostel locker, using smaller carry pouches certainly help organize your daily items for your plans for the rest of the day. However, they will make you stick out as a tourist every where, so try to be discreet with them.
Modularizing each category of travel equipment immediately lends itself to better experience from cabs to airports to hotels and especially on foot.
Packing cubes are a great thing, they usually come in packs of 3 ranging from small, medium and large. You could arrange it as – small cube for grooming gear, medium for shirts and pants, large for dirty laundry.
Choose your most favourite and well matching clothes and choose only 3 shirts and 2 pants in total. They could be of any type. 1 semi-formal trouser is good to have packed in, coupled with a multi pocket short for items carrying if needed.
Keep your tickets and documents in your waist or neck pouch, and please do check them periodically (not frantically…).
Laptops + charger must be carried in its dedicated bag (many daypacks come with a separate bag for your laptop, not just the laptop lining, get those).
Your cable pouch in the daypack is your best friend when it comes to cable management. Try to use your headphone or accessories mini-bags to hold things like headphone jacks and connection pins.
Get a USB to mini-usb adapter/USB to phone charger extensions so that you dont have to carry your phone charger. In total I carried only 2 chargers – laptop charger and the iPad charger. Rest of the charging of other devices could be done using the wall to USB adapter or the laptop USB ports with dedicated pin extensions and a spare USB cable.
Battery packs for travel charging is recommended though I did not use mine. You could carry one of them in your jacket pockets and charge your devices on the go.
Wear your most broken in but recent shoe that you trust will not give way on the cobble stone roads in Europe. You will be doing a lot of walking and you want your shoes to support your walks with minimum fuss.
I carried only 1 pair of walking shoes. I chose a local brand from India as I buy shoes every 3 weeks or so after demolishing them. However the logic behind this is that in Europe you wont be needing a separate bathroom slippers if you can manage the indoor walking using the same shoes or even barefoot at times in your room.
The bathrooms are well kept and clean at most places. You will not be taking your shoes off at the comode, however for a bath, the designated douche areas are usually elevated and curtain covered. So you will have to open your shoes and take a bath and then descend and wear your shoes again. You would not miss your slippers.
This results in less maintenance and more value use with minimal travel gear to carry.
However, do maintain your shoes if you are very concious of your appearance.
KEEPING THINGS WITHIN WEIGHT LIMITS –
Flights usually place limits on the amount of stuff you can carry on board (7-12 Kgs). But even without such restrictions, the best bags for travel are the lightest ones. You will never come back from a trip planning to take more next time, especially in Europe, where regular long walks is the order of the day.
Using a digital weighing scale will immediately bring things to a perspective of how weight gains accumulate. 1 iPad mini = 500 gms. Add 1 LG iPad Keyboard = 500 gms and the total weight is already 1 Kg. Mentally you have just 2 items that are meant for compatible use with each other. However the physical weight is already up one notch. 4 more such items and you have crossed the 5 Kg checkpoint.
Unlike food eating and unneccessary calories counting which can be surely subverted by a healthy diet and exercise, the weight check mentality must be developed for travelling enthusiasts. You will begin to automatically make accommodations to keep up a very good and comfortable daypack.
The worst offenders are cotton clothes and water. They increase weight like nothing. Pack them wisely.
Top things that I have needed during my travel –
-Samsonite Neck pouch (Passport and Docs).
– Pen/Paper Notepad
– Multi Pocket Water Proof Style Jacket (Arrow)
-Puma Evospeed sports wear jacket (great for layering, water proof, hoodie, great colors, compresses to a fist sized item)
-Gunnar RPG Gunmetal Gaming Glasses for style and comfort while interacting with displays (iPad/Laptop).
– Capable Phone or tablet (iPad/iPhone) and Kindle
– Multi adapter plugs and surge controller multi pin-point
-3 t shirts , preferably branded and best quality you can afford. (Gucci, Tommy Hilfiger, Lee)
– 1 short+ 1 full semi-formal trousers.
– Grooming kit – Electric ToothBrush, Electric Shaver, Electric Groomer, (batteries can be purchased later), 3 bottle TSA pack for conditioner,anti-dandruff lotion and moisturizer, sunscreen.
-Digital Luggage weighing scale (you won’t believe how this works psychologically). Travel baggage anorexia is actually a great thing. Of course travel baggage bulimia is also perfect if needed.
-1 Dual sim rugged phone, Nokia 101 (with flashlight, dual sim, radio, SD card 32GB).
-Wenger portable flat travel umbrella.
– LED lights by Go Design.
– Hip Pouch for daily travels if needed(umbrella/food bars/passes/cash/documents/camera)
– Laptop with Charger/Laptop bag. (This is optional as I need it for my work and data management, downloads etc). Its upto you, if on vacation and are satisfied with your work and no need for net connectivity full time, just skip it.
– 1 TB usb drive for data backup if you have the laptop.
– Small ziplock bag for medicines + water purifier + handsanitizer
MY PERSONAL ALL TIME CARRY NECK POUCH –
This is the lifeline of my travel bags. It has my passport, personal details in a USB drive(encrypted), Ubuntu Studio OS in 32GB HP pen drive, Internet Dongle, Credit/Debit Cards, train tickets, medicines, luggage keys and a lip balm stick. I just have to make sure this one sticks with me come hell or high water. This has been one of the most important investments for both domestic and international travel. I use a Samsonite neck pouch.
PACKING SCIENCE –
All of the above has to fit well for the main bag. For the same purpose I had to buy better quality materials for packaging and compartmentalization. This is what I did-
Laundry Bag from Victorinox (Comes with a TSA 3 bottle ziplock + 2 nylon bags for shoes and dirty laundry)
-The iPad and iPad keyboard + Camera Kit
– 1 TB USB Drive
– Wenger Umbrella
– Adaptor+Surge Multi-pin,
– LED torch(winding)
– LED Headlamp + pencil batteries.
– Waist pouch, Hip pouch
– Important docs in envelope.
-Sony Camera + Charger
All were arranged in the Heavy Duty Dirty Laundry bag from Victorinox which is good quality nylon and closing drawstrings.
This was kept in a Foldable Go Design small backpack. I love this bag, thin yet sturdy and very comfortable for the bag.
Further, I kept the waist pouch from Samsonite, the other bag from Victorinox for the dirty shoes and the hip pouch from Go Design folded flatly on the back outside the Victorinox bag but inside the foldable backpack.
With this arrangement I kept the filled bag which weighed about 3.5 Kgs containing the above list to the main compartment of my main backpack towards my back.
I call this first compartmented bag my Bug Out Bag (BOB).
It’s important that I can eject this from the main bag in its entirety if needed and still keep my communication electronics intact. I weigh more priority on these than clothes or grooming kit. That I can manage on the way. However, ideally the flat nylon bags lurking in the behind of this BOB are exactly for that purpose, if I need to take something right away, they can be filled with atleast 1-2 shirts for immediate use. The jackets are already on the same compartment as this so I can wear them instantly if I need to take this bag out.
This bag also has an envelope of important documents that might be needed during international travel.
Now the other two compartments of my main bag contains the Cable Pouch, Kindle and Laptop. 1 clothes cube and 1 grooming cube. Most of these things can be replenished if really needed and dont represent a dire emergency.
I use packing cubes because they help sub compartment things for better arrangement and bulk transport from one bag to another if needed swiftly.
Ideally I would also carry my Victorinox Hunter Pro Black Hilt Folding Knife, however airline regulations limit the carrying of such things. A blade itself can replace so many other tools.
So the main bag contains of –
MAIN COMPARTMENT –
– 1 modular bug out bag with essential communication electronics and lighting gear and rain gear
MID COMPARTMENT –
-Clothes packed in 1 medium cube.
-Grooming kits stored in 1 small cube.
– Laptop + Charger in its own laptop bag.
– Gunnar glasses in hard case
– Separate cables pouch (detachable)
– Compact neck pillow
I have also inserted a sewing kit complete with 4 needles and thread loops. Extra buttons all in a nice flat case.
MAIN BAG TYPE-
BACKPACK with DETACHABLE LAPTOP CASE and ORGANIZER.
CITI PRO BLUE – AMERICAN TOURISTER, with RAIN COVER.
I just love the kind of thought given to this bag, great stuff, and price – just 2700 INR, about 30 EUROS, a real deal for sure, one of the best and most durable bags I have had.
WHY YOU NEED WHAT YOU NEED?
Personal Hygiene :
I dont wear underwear, and I dont wear socks. I do wear condoms though. I think underwear are the worst kinds of garments made especially for a hot climate like India’s, it becomes redundant for me atleast in the EU countries. All that extra maintenance and weight for what exactly again? So that your balls don’t fall out you say? Weird. Mine never have till date.
Men dont have periods, and its good that way. Just wash when it starts to smell. Try to keep it clean, but dont sweat the small stuff when travelling. Cycle your clothes every 2 days.
Cotton is great for heat relieving. Bad for heat conserving. For modern airport travel, cotton is great, keeps you relaxed. Also safe if a fire happens. Wear only quickly detachable jackets or clothes in urban places, if fire catches it will melt the nylon and stick it with your flesh, needing extra surgery due to deeper burns. Rainy cold environment is the best place for polyester and nylon clothes.
Toothbrush is a must if you are sexually active (how can you kiss with halitosis?) or want to keep yourself attractive and healthy. Plus if electric it can also be used as a vibrator to stimulate your partners’ clitorises. It gives pleasure and cleans it at the same time. Great isn’t it? Small tubes of toothpaste are all you need. You can always buy new ones at the airports or local marche. The exotic brands of toothpaste in Europe are fun to buy and use (they even have a day paste and a night paste dual package (Aronal)!)
Floss is a must, the string can also be used for other purposes like tying things or cutting eggs.
Nail cutter is also important, a health hazard if kept too long and dirty. You must be presentable.
Electric shavers are better in my opinion as the use of an extra tube of shaving gel/foam is eliminated. the hairs are neatly collected for disposal and the battery is the only module that can be recharged or purchased cheaply. You only have to wash you face after the shave and put moisturizer.
The USB shaver from Go Design is something I am looking to buy (saw a lot of them in Frankfurt airport) but since I already have a shaver, I thought it would be waste of money at that point. However, I think that a USB shaver is a very good idea. I could plug it into my laptop and shave or the mains to USB outlet and shave. Nice one at that. This company from UK makes some creatively convenient stuff.
Groomers are good for body hair maintenance and nose hair removal. This is mainly for the metro sexual types. If you like manly chest hair and if your girl does too, skip this. I figured girls shave to look sexy, so can guys.
Conditioner is more useful than shampoo because you can wash your hair with even soap if required. Most hotels provide a Douche Gel that can be used on both the body and the hair. However, conditioning is the main step which keeps the hair maintained instead of washing all the oils without any replenishment. Anti-Dandruff lotion keeps the thing in check if the weather is affecting your scalp.
Sunscreen is absolutely essential if you want to stay younger longer as the Sun is the main arbiter of skin damage and aging. Both a friend and a foe. It supports life and kills you slowly as well.
Neck pillows are good for waiting and sleeping in terminal gates, as well as in buses.
Water can be drunk straight from the tap, so don’t go searching for filter or asking for bottled water.
The toilets don’t have a floor drain so dont pee or drop anything unsavory on the floor. It’s funny but yes it’s like this, even in Germany, except in some hostels where they know from experience what can drop out in the toilet. The douche is the place where you would be doing your washing and all. Most of the time a blow dryer and shaver connection would be available in the bathroom so look for it if you want to dry your hair or shave.
iPad absolutely rocks for travel geeks and enthusiasts.
Please do get one.
You cannot lug your laptop around and your phone won’t be of much use beyond the photo taking with one hand.
Things I did with iPad –
– Tickets display during boarding.
– Composing songs in Garage Band/Playing/discussing music with musicians during travel
– Camera for taking pictures and videos
– Paris metro map
– Clocks app for time zone sync
– Museum details, audio walks
– iBooks – the main text place for me- full color pdf and epubs. Lonely planet guides, French language texts, comics, novels, magazines, technical books, philosophy etc.
– Wi-Fi logging in for net surfin, emails, skype, downloads, dropbox, google translate etc.
-iTunes music player
If you are travelling on the same route you won’t be using this too much. It’s the image cataloguing and connectivity options along with information retrieval when needed and transference of the images from the camera to the iPad for better display. Also good as a style accessory.
Get Lycamobile as the cheapest in EU zone sim card for your dual sim mobile. 7.9 Euros only with the cost in full for the sim card and the full talk time. You get your own EU number for 700 INR. Great deal . Calls to and from India are from Airtel and Vodafone are exorbitant – 25 for sms, 150 for outgoing, 100 for incoming. I did not have to give any personal details or anything, just buy a card and you are ready to go.
LED lights are not really the first thought in a well lit city like Paris, but travels dont always happen in rosy towns and in case of an emergency, knowing how to get light is one of the main reasons every travel and survival bag must have at least one such resource. Headlamps provide hands free and directed access to light, great for reading or searching for something or walking at night. Having a rugged mobile phone which can also provide light is a great help is immediate use is needed without the proximity of a bag, as people normally carry their phones with them at most times. Prevention is better than cure. Now where did I first read this? Hmm………………………….
Multi pin adapters are essential for using the plug point in Paris and all over Europe in most places. The voltage is the same as in India 220 Volts. But they dont have an earthing line and the live and neural wire consist of 2 small openings for the plug pins. To charge your USB devices like iPad as well as connect a 3 pin multi plug for connecting many devices I recommed getting a good one with these features- USB output, surge protection, muti-pin socket adapter. There are many brands and the one I use is a mix and match of the ones I got free while working in one of my previous companies and a multi pin I bought from Chroma store in Hyderabad. They work till today. And it takes just the space of a 5 inch cylindrical pipe.
::: D I R E C T I O N S :::
From the experience I had in Paris, the accommodation is quite value for money. Don’t expect 5 star service without paying for 7 star fees as the stars turn differently in Paris. Expect to pay 20 -35-65 Euros range depending on the level of service you can expect. The rooms are not that large but the room in Hotel Bristol situated in Gare Du Nord, 5 Rue Dunkerque, on the 6th Floor was the best take as the rates are low 35 Euros but the view of the street was good. The bed was comfy. Had 3 white fluffy towels provided. In room heater and a sink with warm and cold water inside the room. The bathroom was shared, but very clean. Bars of neutral soap is provided as well as Douche Gels. Free WiFi and very fast at that (I downloaded 10 GBs by morning :)) . Separate working table and chair near the big window pane. Lamps and reading lights as well. I would say excellent. Morning breakfast consisting of Baguette, Cafe, Butter and Strawberry Jam is provided. It’s not that much or even healthy but you do have a starter for a long day ahead before you move out. Luggage is kept safe and check-in and checkout is at 11:30 AM. They close at 1:30 AM so be sure to be back or have an alternative arrangement if late.
Hostels like St. Christophers (2 main locations, Canal and Gare Du Nord) have lockers facility in the basement that you can use for the day. It’s around 4 Euros from morning till evening. Small and Big locker are provided. For most backpacks the small lockers are just fine and are quite big actually. Ask for the Resurrection breakfast which is quite good for a morning meal. The Toads Bollocks beer is something that I find the name of amusing. Ask for red wine with the breakfast.
SOME HIGHLIGHTS OF PARIS FROM MY EXPERIENCE –
Streets are cobble stones, very nice to walk and the air is fresh to breathe. Women are cute and pretty and beautiful, the full spectrum. Many of them with messy updos as the most visible hairstyle. Guys are muted and reserved. Blacks and other ethnic peoples have the worst jobs. Metro is not as clean as can be, but very efficient and not expensive. Food is very high quality. Restaurants are packed table to table, the space is not really large in most places. People watching is fun. There are many parks in Paris. The cars are very cute out there, some with just 2 seats but with a hood, looks more like a scooter. People are kind and interesting. Gendarmies(police) are serious but charming. Desserts are just amazingly out of this world. Really really really good. My god just like sex seriously! Traditional specialties like tarte tatin (apple tart) and macarons, as well as the best Sorbet in Paris, souffle among others and what to speak of the variety of cakes. F*** the names just eat them all. I loved the foie gras (duck/goose liver with a rich layer of butter and sauce packed in cans, seriously sophisticated food!)
Cheese of course, but then that’s a world of it in France itself, let alone Paris. And then the wines, where do we begin (Burgundy and Bordeaux obviously).
Ask for in a restaurant (if you really don’t want to dig in too much and just eat) –
La Carte – The menu
Plat du Jour –Plate of the Day.
Carafe de l’eau – Tap water in a pitcher
Vin Rouge – Red WIne
Vin Blanc – White Wine
Les Toilettes – The toilet
25 tips for Paris first timers –
1. Prepare in advance on the key places of interest and the overall geography of Paris. Though you wont get the true picture of the transport system from Youtube clips and short descriptions or over long tomes it does not hurt to get a glimpse of what it might be to actually be there. Visualization is a powerful technique used in all competitive and creative domains. Use yours for travelling.
2. Take RER B from CDG airport to reach mainland Paris. Though a carnet metro ticket might be a better buy, I bought the Paris Visite metro pass which is for 3 days unlimited travel and personally I think that the kind of journeys I was making was completely improvised and that freedom of having only 1 ticket to travel anywhere in 3 major zones in Paris. You can always renew or buy a local ticket if you want to.
3. Before leaving the airport visit the Tourism and Information office at the airport. They will also provide a good set of pamplets, the Museum Pass and the Paris Visite pass.
4. Eat at Pauls bakery at the airport. Very good cakes, I took the Tuna Salad as well.
5. While exiting CDG, don’t feel lost or overwhelmed, it’s just another airport, albeit with a lot of fame and hype. Enjoy the circular structures around and exit gleefully. Look at the signs on the top if you are getting lost. Simply ask people around you especially the airport staff for any specific directions. They are very helpful.
6. RER B has to be reached by going up stairs and exiting to an outdoor platform. Its a little different than expected for first timers.
7. Board the train and stand or sit. The RER trains look just like the trains in Germany and you have to be patient while people accommodate their baggages. On the way to Paris you will see the Stade du France football stadium where the French won their world cup.
8. The best station for first timers would be Gare Du Nord. You land in the busiest train station in Europe and also get to the hub of accomodation that is quality for Parisienne travel. The earlier you do it the better, 6 PM and later should be the ideal time if getting late towards the evening.
9. Hotel Bristol in 5 Rue Dunkerque just 1 minute from Gare Du Nord exit and St. Christophers Inn at the adjunct building are good takes depending on your need. The second one is a hostel but is good and very new with a Bar and Chilling Basement. There is also a cybercafe on the road left toward the main road. Look for the large ALBERT INN neon signs if you get lost. They are on the road just beside it. Costs 35 E to 25 E for hostels per night.
10. With the base secured. Now you could visit the following sites in the first few days in my opinion.
Notre Dame Chruch.
Saint Chappelle fountains and sculpture.
Saint Chapelle Church
Musee Louvre .
Jardin du Luxembourg
Arc de Triomphe
Palais de Tokyo
Just wander in the streets and see the shops and eat where you like.
I found a great Chinese food restaurant (I ate roast pig’s leg, awesome) in St Rue Denis just by walking around for hours.
Also check the restaurants and bistros around the museums, very good for quick lunches.
11. Do not travel by taxi or motorized rickshaws or even the bus, you will miss all the fun. For actual transportation use the metro or RERs.
12. Do not engage in the street 3 card/tumbler/disc monte games. They are deft at their craft and will rip you off the money. Very few actually win at this given that they do the sleight of hands and not you.
13. Do not stay out too late at night unless with friends or part of an event. It’s not very dangerous but the isolated atmosphere can be encouraging for miscreants.
14. Definitely take a camera + iPad/iPhone as both have their pros and cons. Take a multiple pocket jacket and keep the valuables in the inside pockets. A waist pouch in front side can be useful if you plan to keep things like food bars/camera/umbrella and mementoes from you travel day.
15. Get a very good pair of shoes that are already broken in, you will love to walk around and this should not be the deterrent.
16. Taking audio guides to museums downloaded before saves the extra money and time needed to book one at the place, and there may not be any more for that day, also you can customize your walk and know beforehand what you want to see and know about. Rick Steves iPad audio guide apps are great.
17. Know that you won’t understand or remember all the metro exits and subway platforms as well as the names or paths at the very first day. Don’t feel lost or shy, ask anyone you think who can tell you. Ask the people in the subway as they are leaving. Don’t have a conversation in the train, for some reason, the occupants don’t encourage banter in the coaches and you may get irritated stares. Life is not all that easy in Paris and you don’t want to make their day a hassle just because you came here to enjoy briefly. However, if you can learn things fast, you will get the hang of it by the end of the day 🙂
18. While taking the metro remember two main things – Name of the Station ,and very important, the line number of the station. Most times just asking the line numbers will take you to your destination. The subway paths go high and low, don’t feel lost just go with the flow and retrace if wrong. There is an elevator at a few stations so you have to wait and jump in, there are no lines or platforms, the lift will take you to the platform.
19. Take a good metro map app on your iPad/iPhone. The paper ones are good as well if they are well marked.
20. Learn to think in Euros, its very simple and represents a lot of your cash. While you may be used to counting in thousands, the local expenses don’t exceed 100 E. A trick to round your total expenses, just add two zeroes at the end of the number for Indian Rupees conversion. Like 10 Euros for a meal equates 10,00 rupees approximately.
21. Flights are cheap if bought in time and smartly using the system. More on that in another article.
22. Don’t get putoff by displays of affection publicly, it’s part of their culture and pointing or giggling will only show how boorish you are. Learn to respect other people.
23. Talk to everyone you meet. Many of the locals will love to give you a helping hand and even give you a free tour of the street insider places if it’s on their path. Thank them and offer them a drink or something to eat if you are eating.
24. Start every conversation with Bonjour(day) or Bonsoir (evening). That breaks the ice.
25. In restaurants be patient and ask for what you want. Many of them speak English so ask if there is any confusion, however I recommend speaking in French. Its time you learnt it. Good if you do, now use it.
Understanding the Metro –
The main technique is based on what maze games are solved as, just trace and retrace.
Two main fields are needed to do that – The name of the station + The number of the line it’s on.
Gare Du Nord and Gare Du L’est are nearby and next to each other both in the chart and on the rail. These are the main stations. Other stations can be reached as – trace the paths from the destination to your current location/station. On the way you might see line changes, make note of that and follow accordingly. It’s really that simple.
Be aware in the train and look for the announcements.
They announce the station names 2 times – First when it’s the next stop and next just before stopping at the target destination.
I really like the tone of the announcements. The first time like – “Gare Du L’est” sounds factual. The second time it sounds intimating and personal, if a bit rushed, as if “hey hi, your station has come, are you aware of that?”
I’ve noticed the most popular lay hairstyles among the French women and girls are the messy updo, followed by the bun, and then fringe cuts. Messy updo’ with hairs falling at the sides and copious amounts of stray neck hair (the kitchen) looks so sexy and sophisticated, that you won’t be able to take your eyes off them. It’s as if the epitome of feminine sensuality. The French women have very good necks to boot.
Take time to let the local life pass by as you watch and wait. It’s addictive, but also puts you away for some time and time does not seem the same, as if you wake up refreshed without knowing it.
JARDIN DU LUXEMBOURG
The metro station Luxembourg is en route from RER B from CDG Airport.
Very big and very beautiful. Lots of sculptures of erstwhile queens. Lots of benches. Beautiful copper sculptures and the main building and the museum is grand to look at. Take a round, sit and relax, find yourself.
NOTRE DAME CHURCH
Victor Hugo made this the most famous building in Paris with his opus Hunchback of Notre Dame. Interesting architecture, very gothic. Inside its mainly dark and low lit. Lots of murals and painting and sculptures. Some great house models. The main alter and sitting area. I was walking towards a painting and while returning the lights were not very bright, as I was moving slowly another lady was also approaching we would have kissed as we were nearly 2 inches apart mouth to mouth till we both realized where we were headed. It would have been nice, but also embarrassing. She giggled and so did I, we both said sorry and moved ahead. You can visit the towers on the roof and marvel at the Gargoyles. Good view.
Best place to get down in is TOCADERO metro, just 1 minute walk to La Tour Eiffel.
You walk past a very beautiful garden towards the tower. Get the tickets towards your right at the base of the tower at around 5 Euros to go to the second floor.
That will be a tough walk as getting to the second floor required climbing lots of metal stairs. You will lose your breath if the weather is very cold. It’s good to take good glasses for eye wind protection as it can become very-very windy. Once there check the views from each point, you will love it. No need to pay for the telescopes in my opinion. Get a good camera and start taking pictures. Move ahead to the restaurant and have nice meal. Quiche Lorraine with Hot Chocolate was good for about 13 Euros. Then you need to pay 6 Euros to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. The top is a closed space with destinations to different countries given in terms of distances from the Eiffel. There is a small Champagne shop in just below. You can see the Arc de Triomphe, the Grande Palais, Champs Elysees, Notre Dame and the river Seine has a very good view from the top. I liked the South(Sud) part of the view. The way down is interesting as you get to actually feel the air pressure increasing, and the large panels let you see through the lift, it feels as if you are landing from a plane. Seriously.
It’s nothing much of an attraction once up, it’s very much fun though, but I am sure there are better views elsewhere in Paris. Montmarte and Montparnasse are better examples of great outdoor views. Still awesome experience for a tourist.
ARC DE TRIOMPHE
You can walk towards it from Champs Elysees, I did the reverse as I was coming from somewhere around it. Really imposing building, exactly 50 m tall. It seems like a transformer stationed. It’s got that kind of a vibe. There are lots of tall buildings everywhere but this one really has a bigness vibe to it. It’s a memorial built by Napoleon to dedicate the lives of soldiers who fell in battle. You can walk to the top and enjoy and pretty amazing view. Mind the stairs, just like Eiffel, you wish it were less. The traffic here is quite chaotic so be very careful when taking pictures. There are also street performers performing B-Boy dancing and miming and acting stoned with painting on their entire bodies. Pay an euro to the ones you like. The dancers are not too good. Its expected, in their life conditions the kind of practice needed to be really good at B-Boying will take some more dedication and resources. But its always nice to support such art. USA is a better place for real street talent. Just below is Champs Elysees. Walk down this famous street and visit some of the shops in this shopping complex. Many shops were selling 50% percent discount on clothes (November). I did not feel anything special about this straight path other than it is long and lots of shops.
MUSEE DE L’ARMEE
Napoleon’s house and military museum. Very impressive courtyard really large. Like you can play football if you wanted to. You can see a cute tank as you go around the halls in the ground floor. Nice restaurant to eat as well. Lots of cannons on display. You can read up on the history there. I did not feel like seeing the whole of this so I just went to the main highlights and then left. This was actually on my way back from Grande Palais and I was very tired as I was walking the whole day, my legs were asking me to stop.
You can get down at station Louvre.
Very large museum. You could enter from the Carousel gates however, I found the entrance near the Pyramid the best. Its best to go at night when the thing shines up and looks very good indeed. You pass security and inside you can take pamplets from the information desk which is at level -1, so you need to go up two floors to reach 1st Floor. The best things are in the second floor like Venus de Milo, Winged Victory and Monalisa. The Code of Hammurabi is in Richelieu which is in the other direction from the regular attractions, so you have to reach the main entrance and take the entrance from there.
As you might have read the Mona Lisa is not too big at all, like an A2 size paper. However it is beautiful and exactly what you can expect. In most pictures Venus De Milo is shown from the front, however I must say that her behind is as great as well. 3D is better in real life. Don’t miss the hall roof paintings which feature some awesome heavenly paintings featuring some really ethereal beauties. King Louis XIV’s belongings and crowns and the halls is nice to watch. Egyptian hieroglyphics and sculptures are very nice to see as well. You keep walking and you enter a large hall full of religious paintings featuring Jesus and Mary and other events artistically depicted. The Spanish art section is very unique indeed. Many of the nude paintings are just awesome. The painting of Pygmalion’s Statue where the sculptors statue becomes alive is just spellbinding, perfect Caucasian beauty, I wish I had a wife like that. You never feel titillated, just in awe of the amazing beauty the artists could conceive, all without Photoshop.
Towards the end of the main halls in the first building Dennon/Sully you get to a pots and pans section where the ancient Greek adorned cutlery can be seen. One of large vessels is damaged and broken but looks to me as if something bad was boiled in it for too long.
The best impressionist art is in Musee D’Orsay with individual artists having their own dedicated Museums like Musee Rodin, and Dali’s works in Pompidou and Picasso’s own as well.
After a really long evening and tired legs the Museum closes at 9:30 pm. You can exit from the main entrance and go up the stairs towards the Pyramid exit, out of which you can take snaps and enjoy the view. I would say while I did enjoy Musee D’Orsay, the spiritual paintings in Louvre really take the cake for me. I am not much into visual impressionist art so I can’t appreciate Van Gogh or Monet’s paintings which all look like badly digitized photos. its looks good and even heavenly from a distance, its when you go near that you begin to see the pixilation instead of more detail. I hated that. It’s a great style but it does not work for me in painting, as it does in music (Debussy, Eric Satie).
I loved it. Its more accessible due to its smaller size. The furniture sections feature furniture and interior decor of a bygone era of which I have absolutely no interest to be in. Mainly out of wood, stone, animal hides and iron. Looks opulent and full of mites. Plus a typical smell from such houses. I would hate to live in such a house. However it’s great to watch. The best room I liked was the Symbolism art room. Very sensual and dreamy fantastical paintings. I love this style.
The day I visited there was a Masculine art show going on in Musee D’Orsay. Mercurie by Pierre et Gilles would make every man a homosexual. A bare backed young male with a well toned figure, a winged helmet on his head, pressing the crown of a snake with his lance, all in great elan and splendour. Simply amazing. Lots of penis on display and well bodied naked men. I got turned on a little bit. Very unlike female oriented porn or nude art, guys looking this good really can turn a man on. It’s weird but I would have had sex with a few if I could get the chance. The one painting on Jesus with his young beautiful disciples (I can’t remember the name now..) was simply awesome to look at, I felt really turned on, all the guys had a very uniform androgynous look, fair and slim with red lips. I am sure the women who were looking at the painting were also a little worried about my facial reactions the initial glance. They could feel what I was feeling. But hey I am in Paris, who cares, it’s all part of being human.
The Eminem painting by Pierre et Gilles showing Eminem holding a big firecracker that is lit up already as his dick was very tongue in cheek. Their paintings have a very glassy quality to it, as if taken through an aquarium, with bright lights and good amounts of Photoshop. The videography on male movement during sports was interesting in black and white. Dead man figures the size of a doll but realistic with a rather overt penis was fun to watch. Men masturbating, black men nude with great abs, its gay paradise for some, but great art for all. I loved this time and this exhibition. Moving up towards the big clock, I took some pictures. You can see the river Seine flowing right below. After this I did a round again but did not really like all that I saw as much as the Masculine exhibition. Some of the female sculptures were truly beautiful. The male ones were gigantic and outworldly. The lunch area was full and I did not fancy the menu that much so I just thought I should leave for other destinations. I bought a souvenir which is a gold coin with the etching of the museum. Good quality and even better for finger practice.
After visiting Musee D’Orsay, just walk about half a kilometer to Abesse metro station. From there you get down at Montmarte right after Pigalle metro station. It’s a quiet walk towards the Church, enjoy the neighborhood shops, like the Beauteau Lavoir. They all have a green tone to that place. The main church is situated on the hill top. You can take the life or you can climb the stairs. Not wanting to automate everything in my on the foot experience, I just took the stairs. Great vibe, lots of tourists, with children story telling and street singer singing rock and roll songs in English. You enter the church and take a quiet stroll from your left and you exit towards the right. After a short walk you find lots of money making avenues like candles and souvenir dispensing machines – gold coins. I took one. Just like the one from Musee D’Orsay. They were all 2 Euros each (200 INR). Very beautiful roof paintings. Read the symbols charts to get the meaning of the paintings. There is a prayer room with a bowl of water that you see most tourist including myself walking through that room and touching the water surface on the bowl and making a cross. It’s the whole group behavior thing 🙂
You can pray at the benches towards the alter if you want. Appreciating the architecture and the holy atmosphere you will exit from the right hand side door. The area is in Montmarte and has some very famous houses where some very famous writers and painters lived there at some point in time. One them was where Vincent Van Gogh and his brother Theo lived there during the 18th century. As you walk down the hill and to the streets you can see the uniformity of the building structures.
Enjoy the walk and let it seep in.
Just next station from Sacre Coeur (Montmarte) is Pigalle.
This erstwhile red light district is now one of the most visited places in Paris. Moulin Rouge is a world famous cabaret and the iconic windmill can be seen as you walk down the streets. It’s a little seedy especially towards the evening. You will see women asking you to come for a drink. Don’t, based on other peoples description, they will charge a really huge balance for that one single drink. I’ts a pure ripoff that you don’t want any part of. Walking further down you get to see the Erotic Museum, it might be easy to miss but the entrance is open and quite explicit. Pay 10 Euros and you can go 5 floors of ethnic art and sculptures of sex. Many of them are from Nepal, Africa and India. Large posters of women sucking cock, sexual intercourse with animals and expanded vaginas and exaggerated penises as well as many paintings from Kamasutra are very nice to look at. The Ecstasy of St. Theresa is a well known piece of art, however here we have an animatronic arrow and an etched picture of the same with the arrow moving like a snake. It’s a bit queer to see an arrow move like that. Further up you get to see a tv installation with porn movies from bygone eras playing on loop. They cut before the actual sexual intercourse commences. Great, so its PG-13 in an Erotic Museum. It was fun.
I did not really get much of Pigalle/Blanche in terms of any sexy vibe or anything. I visited some sex shops, looked at the stuff they had and then moved on. Sex toys are expensive going for 100 Euros above for every single item from dildo to vagina cream and asshole plugs.
CHATEAU DE VERSAILLES
1 hour ride in RER C from Paris. Takes one full day to really complete it. Garden is large and beautiful, Marie Antoinette’s bedroom is opulent and the building complex is really huge, very well decorated and has to be seen in person to appreciate it.
ON YOUR WAY BACK TO CDG –
“After your beautiful days and weeks in Paris are over, you will still carry the dream with you like a long love making night with a beautiful girl who is also inviting and consenting, you won’t feel like taking a bath after that. You will cherish every sight and sound and smell and continually relive every moment. The taste of her, so musky and tender, so warm and alive will stay with you for the rest of your life. You will dream of her again from time to time and reminisce the days of youth, and hear her laughter and you will cry with joy and be proud of that moment, that souvenir. In the heart of your heart you know you will meet her again, as she is already a part of you, inseparable and the longing unquenchable. This is what Paris does to you.”
Visit at your own peril.
Take the RER B from Gare Du Nord (or wherever you are..). you need to buy a separate ticket for the airport. Paris Visite will expire on this trip if you try it (out of zone for return journeys). Will take around 30 minutes to get there, straight journey, so just sit and relax and ponder on the best moments. CDG is not as impressive as they write so much elsewhere. I think I loved Frankfurt airport for its sheer size and variety. Of course Heathrow/Kansai would beat it from their individual perspectives. Air France terminals are in terminal 2 Gate 5 as far as I remember, so finish your security checks and sit and fly to your next destination.
Bon Journee !