Question of the day: if you are a tourist, what is the first thing that pops in your head when you think about Paris? Is it the macarons from those charming little delis or is it the eccentric mime never falling out of its character? Well, when my out-of-town friends visit me – all they really want to see first and foremost is the Eiffel tower.
The main purpose for coming to Paris for them is to climb the Eiffel tower and click pictures. I always indulge them but never actually enjoy them. I guess considering the time-gap between the last tourist to Paris and this had been too long because I had a good time running about from one thing to another and truly answering the question why I love living in this city so much.
The ‘must dos’ on our Paris list were the Moulin Rouge Show and a Seine Dinner Cruise: more off-beat experiences included a trip up the Montparnasse Tower and a perfume-making class.
The first evening we had dinner at a local restaurant, but the second night we had booked for a Seine Dinner cruise. There are lots of different Paris dinner cruises but we since we both are die-hard foodies, we just picked the one that seemed to have the best menu. Some cruises start and finish early so that guests can go on to some other activity. However, we chose one that began later in the evening and went on longer, so we could linger over the meal and enjoy the glorious sight of the Paris monuments lit up at night. One of the rules I set in planning this trip was that we would try not to cram too much into the little time she had but would let ourselves relax and absorb the atmosphere. My sea scallops appetizer was delicious and the duckling filet excellent. My friend, who loves seafood, enjoyed a guacamole with fish ramekin followed by sole and asparagus.
The third night we had booked for a Moulin Rouge show. Oddly enough, my friend wasn’t too keen but I insisted, since I love the idea of Belle Epoque Paris with Toulouse Lautrec and his arty bohemian friends hanging out in Montmartre.
We just booked a package which included dinner and transport. We were shown to our table and as we sipped champagne I was transported to late 19th century Paris. Around us the plush decor and subdued lighting created a suitably decadent atmosphere and it was possible to imagine the mixed gatherings of down-at-heel writers, louche aristocrats, corseted actresses and chorus girls that must have thronged the Moulin Rouge theater in those days.
The show was as always fantastic, it somehow never ceases to amaze me despite my multiple visits with local friends and those from overseas. Dazzling costumes with swathes of beads, sequins and feathers, as you would expect. It is not for the prudish. The girls are topless but it’s all done so tastefully – one always ends up getting charmed instead of creeped out if first impressions were to be believed.
There is a lot of dancing including the famous high-kicking Can Can, breath-taking acrobatics and a talented ventriloquist. The giant aquarium where a woman swims with snakes is a show-stopper. Even my friend (who is a tad bit conservative), agreed that she would have not missed the evening for anything.
A word to the wise: if you are thinking of seeing a Moulin Rouge show, then do plan well ahead, as the tickets sell out weeks in advance.
Our off-beat activities were equally successful. Everyone goes up the Eiffel tower but the views from the Montparnasse Tower (210-meters high) are even more spectacular. From the 56th or 59th floor of Montparnasse Tower, you can see for 40km. Landmarks that are clearly visible, include the Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides, Sacré Coeur, Musée d’Orsay, the Arc de Triomphe and many more.
And our perfume-making workshop was a treat for the nose, as well as a lot of fun. We learnt about the origins of Eau de Cologne, created not in Cologne or in Paris but in Florence in 1221 at the convent of Santa Maria Novella. We learnt to smell and describe the ingredients of an Eau de Cologne and to recognise the characteristics of different families of odors. After educating our noses we were shown a simple way to create our very own perfume.
A great trip, I should probably be doing this more often as I may just never get bored of it.
Post written by: Vikram