The French connection…

I sit on a TGV train as I write this. My journey started in Paris and I am en route to Zurich and have just passed Strausburg, it takes five hours to do this stretch. Snow capped , undulating valleys whiz past me as chalets with bright tiled roofs peek below the snow barrage. A plane journey could have taken me into Zurich in an hour but the pleasure of watching the landscape transforming itself from the brownish white countryside in France to a complete white one in Switzerland, where the coniferous trees are crowned in white is unsurpassable. The lakes are frozen and little brooks flow sluggishly meandering in between dense fir trees. The trees wear a barren look as brown twigs and stems branch out like the fine end of a paint brush as they are dipped in the orange gold of the setting far off sun. Vegetation refuses to grow at this time and farmland after farmland all merge into one big snow-capped valley. In the far off distance the valley gently metamorphoses itself into the alps which loses itself against the white skies. Dusk is fast approaching and orange light begins to emerge from the houses in the countryside, lanterns glow through the windows where families must be huddled together in their cosy living, warming themselves as the woods crackle in the fire place.

The last few days in Paris were splendid. A city that instills life and vigor even to the most laid back of individuals. The biting cold can freeze a few nerves but the Bordeaux wine, food and warmth of France’s richness and culture can thaw it all. A city with a splendid history that has grown from strength under various rulers, a city where it’s architecture under Louis XIV and Napoleon III had reached tremendous heights. The baroque styles used in architectural masterpieces from the Chateau at Versailles, the palatial Louvre, the arch de triumph at Champs Elysees all glorify it’s uniqueness. The Louvre is the abode to probably the world’s most popular lady on canvas, Mona Lisa whose creator Leonardo Da Vinci is said to have shrouded his work in a lot of secrecy and hidden messages. She remains in the sanctum sanctorum of the Louvre in a highly fortified area. I did spend a good time peering at the lady and tried to decipher the smile and the background images obviously to no avail. Not sure how Dan Brown placed it all together! Even one full day may not be enough to take in the thousands of paintings from every conceivable era including the sculptures and relics from extinct dynasties. The cathedral at Notre Dame resplendent in it’s gothic architecture has the world’s finest stained glass paintings and the Chateau at Versailles is an allegory of the lifestyles of the Kings and Queens of France. The ceilings of these historical places are breathtaking, every column, every arch is reminiscent of a foregone era. A few minutes from the city centre is the cathedral at Montmartre, a quaint rich catholic church which sits high atop the city and a birds eye view of Paris is possible from here. The Eiffel tower is splendid by night as she towers over the city and stands like a Colossus in the midst of the hustle and bustle of Paris. The river Seine meanders through the most glorious of landmarks from the Grande Arche de la Défense, the Louvre, Place de la Concorde and ferries chug along it’ winding course.

Besides the architectural splendor there are two shows that are extremely popular. One is the Moulin Rouge and the other is the Lido show where all time greats like Shirley MacLaine to Laurel and Hardy have performed. The Lido currently has a popular show that has taken cabaret to another level. Sipping on champagne and watching the colorful performers on stage is an experience. There was an Indian segment too which gave the sometimes monotonous sequences a nice break. The tables closer to the stage are recommended for men and women who want to savor the real taste of this experience, the memories are bound to linger. The fragrance of perfumes engulfs this vibrant city and every Parisian and the visitor is intoxicated by the richness of wine and food that this city offers. Fashion is of utmost significance and the favorite Jean Paul Gaultier is the pied piper for most Parisians. Every designer has made Paris home.There is a richness in the air which captures the senses. The passion for food, wine, perfumes and fashion makes Paris the seat of Venus. Affluence is regular and somewhere deep within there is a pang as thoughts of the less fortunate back home come flooding in. Can prosperity spread its wings from Paris to New Delhi to the seventy percent? I ponder over it all in a rather equivocal manner.

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7 Responses to “The French connection…”

  1. C’est magnifique! Merci beaucoup.

  2. Salman Shahid Alvi Says:

    Its a long vacation I guess……….Hope you are enjoying it!!!

  3. Veekay - Hong Kong Says:

    Sharmila

    I have started to get jealous by following your posts on your current holiday itinerary, as it appears to be an exact replica of our family vacation a few years ago…. London, Paris, Zurich and the exact spots we too visited over a 3-weeks period !

    …OK Just kidding…hope you enjoy your holiday to the fullest; if your itinerary allows, do consider leaving Zurich behind to see the smaller towns in Switzerland – Appenzell, St Gallen where you will find the local custom and culture so alive !!

    • Veekay – Thank you for the tips. I was able to do Luzern today on the way to the alps. It was a lovely town and they also had a carnival going on. You are right the local customs are indeed enchanting.

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