In 2005, we went to Thailand for the New Year Celebrations. Then I went to
London alone, and then to Sydney and Melbourne with my wife Sunny, but in all
these trips I missed my 13-year old son Sidak. So this time, I decided to take
him along as well.
Our flight stopped at the Istanbul airport for two hours, where we enjoyed
free samples of 'Turkish Delight'. After a few hours from there, we finally
reached Paris-the mecca of glamor and fashion.
But it started on a sour note, as the taxi driver who was supposed to pick us
up (on behalf of Cox and Kings), never turned up. After a long wait of three
hours, we decided to hire our own cab and reached Hotel Mirifi Opera (supposedly
a four star hotel arranged by Cox and Kings) with a dingy room.
We enjoyed Paris as if there was no tomorrow. We had free coupons of Cityrama
City Tour bus service, so we went to Pyramides by metro. The city tour was a
good introduction and guide to know what to explore further and what to avoid.
We also had a hearty meal at McDonalds-but the menu and the prices were totally
different from that in India
|The Singh family
|Inside Madame Tussauds with Ash, SRK, Tom
Cruise wax statues
The places I visited:
- Eiffel Tower is seen in lights of different colors and sparkles (every
hour between 10pm to 1am).
- Louvre Museum is at a walking distance from the Cityrama office.
- Les Tuileries Garden-the most central park in Paris-is surrounded by
Louvre Museum. The garden is spread with basins and statues, including that of
Julius Caesar. There are several cafÃ©s here, ideal for a rest in the middle of
Paris. The place is close to Metro station.
- As you get out of this garden, you reach the octagonal Place de la
Concorde, located at the eastern end of the Champs-Ã‰lysÃ©es.
- Obelisque de Luxor (a 75-ft tall granite monolith) presented by the then
Viceroy of Egypt to Louis Phillipe is the center of attraction at the
octagonal Place de la Concorde.
- Champs-Ã‰lysÃ©es (pronounced as Shawns-e-leezey) is one of the most
happening shopping zone. The place does not have any trees because they do not
want to conceal the beautiful French architecture.
- At the western end of Champs-ElysÃ©es is Arc de Triomphe-a monument that
stands in the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle.
- Place Charles de Gaulle is a large road junction in Paris and is also the
meeting point of 12 straight avenues (hence the name 'Star Square') including
the Champs-Ã‰lysÃ©es, which continues to the east.
- Not too far is Place Vendome where Hotel Ritz-the most prestigious hotel
of Paris is located. Here you will find no benches and trees-only expensive
shops and fashion boutiques. There's also a statue of Napoleon at the top of a
41-meter tall pillar made of bronze square. It is surrounded by buildings with
pillars on the ground floor and walls on top of them, covered by the typical
steep, Paris roofs.
- National Academy of Music is a must visit place.
- Enjoy the Cruise ride.
- Crazy Horse (cabre etc for adults, not vulgar though)
- Lido Cabaret dance shows
- Mostly you don't need to pay for kids in the metro and local buses.
- Beware, purse snatching is quite common.
- In a country that is not your own, make sure you buy bus/metro tickets.
- Try the food at those open-air cafes, for instance, 'CafÃ© Brasseries'-it
is a good change.
- Shengen Visa takes longer to get from the French embassy, so apply to the
much faster Netherlands (which is also a Shengen country) and the same visa is
then valid for France as well. Shengen is pronounced correctly as Shenjen and
not as Shen-e-Gun. Gosh! It is such a pain when I pronounce it correctly as
Shenjen and people try to correct me saying, 'No boss, it is
|Napolean statue standing tall at the top of the green pillar
|Arc de Triomphe
|Sherlock Holmes statue
|Madame Tussauds entrance gates
English (even Hindi and Punjabi) was not so uncommon (as compared to the
mostly broken English in Paris). Despite being a Sardar, I was not looking like
an alien in London. In fact, when I went to South Hall, I had to look hard to
find a gora. I saw some shops that gave me the impression that I was in
Hoshiarpur (a small town in Punjab). A store called Iceland in South Hall was
offering more for a rupee than what you could buy in India.
Madame Tussauds was another fun-filled place where we had a long photo
London Eye is like a merry-go-round with huge capsules accommodating roughly
20 people each. a ride in the flight (it is owned and operated by British
Airways, so they call it a flight) gives you a bird's eye view of the city.
Hyde Park shows you the liberal culture of the Londoners. The best thing is
to keep hopping on and off from the original tour bus. Other attractions are
Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square, Oxford Street and Piccadily Circus.
This tour originates from Bakers Street (near Tussauds). Ask for the Regent
Street, and you will find Hamley's, the biggest toyshop-your kid(s) would love
I enjoy local cuisines of the places I visit, but strangely I found Chicken
Tikka was the 'local cuisine' here. The original 'fish and chips with beer' seem
to have taken a backseat (if you want to enjoy it though, you should go to
Learning to read Tube Maps from any Indian is a great idea-it is like matrix
(quite simple). The best part is that if you are traveling with very little
luggage, it is easy to take a Tube to the Heathrow Airport, and it will drop you
inside the airport at the terminals 1, 2, 3 or 4.
- Take a 'Matrix International Card' from India.
- Travel light! Otherwise don't use the Tube for travelling.
- Take the traditional black London cab for a taxi.
- Do buy some souvenirs from Bakers Street (near Tussauds).
- Avoid getting into strip clubs-they supposedly dupe and even rob you by
forcing you buy beer, etc at exorbitant prices. And buying is compulsory if
you enter them.
- The best way to go to London from Paris is by Euro Rail (two and a half
- Get some pictures of yours at the iconic Piccadily Circus.
- Carry extra batteries for camera.
- Must experience South Hall, the small Punjab in London.
- Hop off from your original tour bus to visit the Tower Bridge and see
- Big Ben (you can see enough of it sitting in your Hop-on Hop-off bus).
- Try the white chocolate Walls Magnum ice cream bar that is not available
in India yet.
- Try some new flavors (like Rocky Road Chocolate) at Baskin Robbins.
- Visit the Buckingham Palace (again this is a stop for the Hop-on Hop-off
bus). On some days and certain times, you can see the parade, etc.
- Hamley's toy shop at Regents Street (two minutes walk from Oxford Circus)
- Do some shopping at Oxford Circus.
- Leicester Square (pronounced as Lesters Square). You will catch sight of
some romantic couples and a lot of cinema halls there.
- Non-vegetarians, for some authentic Pakistani gosht, may go to Lahori
Karahi at South Hall.