Europe has something to offer for all (or should I say “most”) kinds of people – history lovers, foodies, pahaadi ladkas, city explorers, leisure seekers, among others.
On June 8, 2018 (on the eve of my son Aarav’s first birthday), the five of us (mom, dad, wife, son and me) left for a 2 week long trip to Western Europe. The preparations began in Jan 2018 with the usual suspects (mom and wife) doing most of the planning and work related to the trip. The fact that we had booked a fully loaded package through MakeMyTrip helped ease the load a bit.
As the weeks rolled by and the start date of the much anticipated trip came closer, the excitement built up. I had only visited one country outside India before, and we were about to visit 7 countries in this trip (8 if you count Vatican City separately). Also, this was the first long travel for my one year old son; we were anxious if he’d be able to manage the conditions there continuosly for 2 weeks, outside his regular daily routine (sleep, eat, play, sleep, eat, sleep).
Our first destination of the trip was Paris (not to be confused with Parry’s in Chennai). We spent the first day at leisure, just going out for an Indian dinner and a lazy late evening walk in the locale surrounding our Hotel. We had a long day ahead the next day, June 10 (which also happened to be the day of French Open Finals).
“To your left guys, is the first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower” said our Tour Manager. The 324m tall wrought iron structure took me off guard while our Coach Captain slowed down the Bus for us to absorb the first look of the majestic structure. We eventually spent a couple of hours with the World Wonder, going up to it’s second level to get a bird’s eye view of Paris. Aarav had a good time chasing pigeons underneath the Tower, once we were back down.
We then moved to Louvre Museum, home to “Mona aunty”, the world’s most photographed and visited painting. As I walked on the corridors of the historic museum, I strangely recollected scenes from Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code.
The museum was HUGE! We had only about a couple of hours to spend there (limitations of booking a tour package). So we headed straight to catch a glimpse of the painting which currently has an insurance cover of $800M, the Mona Lisa.
I looked at Mona in the eye and said “You look beautiful!”. SHE WINKED, as if to say thank you. And then she added, “All credit goes to Thala da Vinci, for making me immortal”. I couldn’t believe it. Paintings talking and moving. Happens only in the Harry Potter world. I dismissed the incident as just an imagination in my head and continued clicking pictures when my wife came running. “Mona wants a selfie with Aarav” she said, unable to control her excitement.
We had enough time to barely cover only one section of the museum. There are 3 sections. Our Tour Manager told a stat “Even if you spend 1 minute in front of every exhibit in the museum, you’ll need about 3 months to view all the exhibits”. That put things in perspective.
Later in the evening, we went on a cruise on River Seine, the main river flowing through the city. During the hour long cruise, we got a glimpse of many a landmark of the city. There were bridges, bridges and more bridges for as long as we could see. Around the time our cruise ended, I got the news that Rafael Nadal won the French Open, yet again. Well yeah, Sun rises in the East. Delhi is the Capital of India. Nadal wins French Open. In 2009, Sun rose in the West.
After dinner, I was just walking in an area near the Eiffel Tower when I saw huge crowds gathering nearby. I didn’t know what the fuss was about, till I saw Rafael Nadal. He had apparently come to the Eiffel Tower for a photo shoot with the French Open trophy. I couldn’t believe my luck. I found my way through the crowd to reach Nadal. “Rafael, big fan! Can I have an autograph please?!”, I requested, panting for breath. “Ofcourse”, he said, grabbing my cap. While he was about to leave, I blurted out, “You are great Nadal, but Roger Federer is the Greatest Tennis Player EVER! G.O.A.T”. He smiled back, as if to say “I know”, patted my back and moved on.
To be continued…