Dose the Seine, in Paris, stink? Well, an unambiguous answer to that is that it can be odoriferous, intermittently but unmistakably.
The evening sky over Paris is not yet dark. Splashes of pink and blue denote a twilight sky. We board the ferry Bateaux Mouches for the River Seine cruise that departs from Pont de l’Alma.
There are tourists from all over the world sitting on the upper deck as it chugs along providing interesting views of the city. We view folks playing music, or enjoying an early drink along the long river banks. As the more important landmarks come into focus as a run-up to the Eiffel Tower, bit by bit, Paris is lit up.
The Notre Dame spies at us from the distance still under massive renovation ever since its top towers went up in flames.
We cruise past Musee d’Orsay, a former railways station, today housing mostly nineteenth century French art. This evening it is bathed in the last glow of the sunset but also enables us to catch the huge models of the back-lit hoardings of the two fashion labels – Vuitton and Gucci.
We also pass the Louvre and go under several bridges. And just as the last natural light of dusk fades out – voila – the Tower is lit up in all its golden splendour! Couples kiss, people clap and everyone is taking pictures with their cell phones, reminding one of a Taylor Swift concert.
The reflection of the Tower built by the French engineer Gustave Eiffel on the waters is the unexpected bonus. We do Eiffel Tower by day too.
In the searing September heat we walked but missed out on the view from the Trocadéro. We walked and walked, one day at a time, and did the Latin Quarters where Notre Dame is located, the old parts of the city with its bridges and grand buildings that lead us to the iconic Shakespeare & Company store that made and broke writers.
What bliss to stand in front of it and then go inside to browse through the titles of well-known books, mostly in English! For French titles, there are a row of tiny shops, almost like kiosks, that line the street opposite to it reminding one of College Street.
A week in Paris is quite enough to do the landmarks of which there are several. We travel from the suburban by local train and did the city on metro on one single ticket. Mostly footloose and without any particular guidance, my college friend and I cover enough ground, with our friend and guide Cecile.
We had no French and her English was non-existent but we connected emotionally. After sauntering around the grounds (note not the museum) of Louvre, we went past the Concorde cordoned off due to World Rugby Tournament, before resting inside the beautiful and huge Tuileries Garden with soothing greenery in ample measures. We ate crepes in one of the cafés located on its flanks.
The Obelisk gifted by Egypt to France is not to be missed either.
We walk right up to Champs-Élysées past the Arc de Triomphe in honour of French martyrs.
Now this long Avenue we are told has lost a lot of its charms because of the surfeit of branded retail shops, MacDonald and souvenir stores. One half day is reserved for The Louvre. Even then it is not enough.
You cannot travel all the way to Paris and not see Mona Lisa. In addition there is also the neo-realist Ingress and Romantic Delacroix housed within this museum. Montmartre is another hip place that offers a stunning view of the city.
After doing a few places away from the city, we return again to do Paris by night. Or should I say evening? Paris is done best by foot to catch and imbibe the spirit of the city after getting off the metro at appropriate locations. The various cafes serving coffee, croissant, baguette, chocolate éclair etc offer the small breaks. You can rest your tired feet while watching tiny pooches on the heels of fashionable Parisian women.
These are the details between the colossal edifices that make the city what it is.