As a child caught up in my romantic fantasies, I had always envisioned my honeymoon at Paris. I could think of nothing more romantic than taking a cruise down river Seine at night while the ferry cruises past the illuminated Eiffel Tower, the embellished Renaissance buildings dating back to the 17th century, under the arching bridges and by the gothic towers of the majestic Notre Dame with its giant church bells striking hourly. By the time I was 16, I had already seen the 2011 movie Midnight in Paris, could sing along to the Disney songs of the animated movie – The hunchback of Notre dame, recite the dialogues and sing the musical scores of my favourite musical of all times – Les Miserables. A novice admirer of Classical, Christian and Impressionist art, I always wondered what it’s like to stand in front of an original da Vinci, Van Gogh and Monet. Paris holds the key to such life time experiences while creating vivid memories that linger in our senses for years to come. Even with the good and the bad and the ugly, Paris is still an abode of love and romance, of wars and revolutions, of dreams and fantasies, of wealth and opulence – of art, architecture and aesthetics.
Over the years, I have visited this city of charm and glamour a reasonable number of times. A particularly interesting outcome is that I have my own little itinerary that combines elements of the city I both love and adore. A short distance away from the main town centre is Montmartre, a narrow and winding alley of artists, vintage shops, old Parisian posters from the fifties, sixties and the dazzling white marble walls of Sacre Coeur. While some might argue that it’s a tourist trap, one cannot take away the simple joy of walking down the road and spending a minute or two looking at postcards, art and movie posters, exchanging an occasional friendly greeting to the artists at work – all while eating a baguette or two at the family run bakeries. Situated on a hill, Montmartre overlooks the city of Paris and offers wonderful views of the Parisian skyline.
A trip to Paris is incomplete without a visit to its art galleries. Paris thrives on art and the city hosts some of the best masterpieces of the Impressionist, Classical and Renaissance era. I remember my very first time at Louvre. Being the largest art museum in the world, making the best use of its 17 euros ticket is next to impossible! A former residence of the French kings, it houses around 38,000 exhibits and is home to some of the most renowned artworks such as da Vinci’s The Monalisa, The Madonna of the Rocks, Botticelli’s Venus with Three Graces, Eugène Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People, 1830, and grand eloquent marble statues such as Venus de Milo, the Winged Victory of Samotharace and Cupid’s Kiss. However, the art museum that satisfies the art lover in me will always be Musée de l’Orangerie. A very small art gallery of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings, l’Orangerie displays the oil paintings of Claude Monet, a French Impressionist painter. The paintings are hung in large oval rooms and bask in natural sunlight coming from the roof. A master of his trade, Monet’s extraordinary talent is manifested in water lilies, weeping willows and the many reflections of the sky painted in various shades of blue and green.
Like many others, I too was devastated by the news of the fire that shook Notre-Dame on 15 April 2019. Seeing the medieval cathedral and one of the iconic symbols of France engulf itself in flames is one of the saddest events in the history of human civilisation, artistry and craftsmanship. A site of numerous coronations, revolutions and worship, Notre-Dame de Paris is deeply rooted in the history of France and has long withstood the tests and trials of many centuries. The stained-glass rose windows, the illustration of the last judgement on the west facade, the majestic organ and the mythical figures of gargoyles and chimeras adorn the outer facades of the cathedral. The cathedral is detailed with events from the life and times of Christ, the fall of man, figures from Ovid’s poems and allegorical sculptures from medieval science and philosophy; the cathedral also protects many other artefacts that are sacred to European christendom. At night, the cathedral is beautifully lit and perfectly complements the river Seine that creates jubilant reflections in deep waters. As a well wisher, I pray for Notre Dame’s quick restoration to its former glory.
My visits to Paris are incomplete without a genuine appreciation of the Eiffel tower; as for me, it’s true beauty is revealed from a distance and I greatly enjoy looking at its towering structure from the top of Arc de Triomphe. Along with great views of the brightly lit Eiffel tower, one can also get stunning panoramic views of the city of Paris. The busy crossings, the dazzling streets of Champs-Élysées, the Paris eye at a distance and the Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance architectural style of buildings makes Paris one of the most beautiful cities I have ever laid eyes on.
“A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of Life.” – Thomas Jefferson
When the evening falls, the city turns into an enchanted kingdom where the air is magical, the city lights are bright and the people gather along the banks of the river singing songs of happy times. If someday, I get another chance to go back to Paris, I wouldn’t miss it for the world !