Back on western soil after 7 months - what did it feel like?, what did we notice?
Passing through Dubai airport is a shock to the indianised system, where there is nothing non-designer in the plentiful, busy shops (obviously the recession has not hit duty free Dubai) and the ladies drip diamonds out of their burqhas. But it serves as an introduction for a re-entry to the western world.
As we arrived into central Paris from CDG airport on the RER, the first thing that struck us was how empty everywhere was, where had all the people gone? In central Paris, in the rain, a woman and 2 kids pulling their own suitcases - no-one looked twice. In Bangalore - white folks pulling their own cases - plenty of stares!! How clean the streets, how quiet, how cold!!, how bland, how purposeful the people, how organized and regulated the traffic, how drab the colors of the stylish clothes, how pale the skin but how many female shoulders, knees and cleavage exposed....not normal reactions to central Paris, but to us fresh from India our first thoughts.
To blog or not to blog? I had thought that I would only blog our impressions of europe from the expat perspective but Adam pointed out "Towers take a trip" should include our Trip to Europe, so this will be, I think a sort of halfway house.
I always thought when we left the UK, in 1997, that I would really miss Mediterranean Europe and I have. To be back in Paris was wonderful, there really is no place like it - I have an enduring love affair with Paris, but then who doesn't? To sit in a cafe, sipping real coffee, munching a real French croissant watching Paris wake-up.......
But talking of love and Paris, what is new since my last visit is the "Love Padlock" - no this is not about to get X-rated!! Couples buy a padlock, write their names on it, lock it on one of the bridges over the Seine, declare their undying love and jettison the key into the waters below. Sounds romantic but apparently there are issues - how much weight can the bridge carry, does this spoil the view etc.etc. On a more personal basis, what to do if your true love ceases to be - do you come back unlock (having kept a spare key), erase and recycle? Near the bridge were folks conveniently selling padlocks, some with three keys, menage a trois? -no lets not go there!
This was the first time I had visited Paris with kids so it was a tad different from my previous visits. Cafe life was somewhat curtailed once the food was consumed. We actually went up the Eiffel Tower which I'd previously always shunned as far too touristy. Now we were tourists we had to take the cheesy pic. A better pic would have been all the would-be photographers squirming and repositioning to try and get the angle right for this one!
The main things that struck us was the way we could sit and watch the world go by instead of the world watching us, the independence and ease of getting about - hopping on and off the Metro, not too mention the BateauBus. Highlights of Paris for both boys was the food and the Metro tho' Adam did expand his top hits to include the architecture!
Our hotel was cheap for Paris, so a bit down market - chipped furniture, wall paper peeling and paint flaking and hardly enough room to turn around but it was central to the Gare Du Nord, facilitating our entry and exit to/from Paris and our getting about. I couldn't believe how expensive Paris was, but then I had arrived after a 15 year absence via the US and India! We had breakfasts and dinners in the same cafes a few yards away from the Hotel, so the waiters got to know us and were patient with mine and Adam's french. I was quite amazed at how I could easily I could remember, speak and understand basic french conversation and also how Adam did try and use his even more basic french! Picnic lunches, those fresh baguettes, cheese, peaches, cherries did not actually last until lunch time! The ease of buying and eating street food without thought, drinking water out of the taps and for Adam milk by the beaker was truly wonderful.