Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Paris

Bonjour! Greetings my blog readers (if there's still any left). I have been on a hiatus, and I do apologize for that. It doesn't take much to update a blog but I have no shame in admitting that I've been a bit lazy and putting this off far too long. So on the eve of my return from Paris is as good a time as any I suppose, to finally update this thing (I wrote this post at the airport). So my first step in the world of research in the form of a research publication at a conference in Paris finally happened, and I got to meet some great people in the Software Engineering community. Hopefully, the next time they run into me (in another part of the world), they would remember me. Needless to say, the conference was an extremely rewarding experience, but enough about that. What better way to set your first foot in Europe than to visit Paris hanh? First of all, what an amazing city! So so rich in history, and elegance. Also, it is super-old, according to one record as old as 500 BC! Just as you marvel at the amazing skylines of some of the American cities like Chicago and New York the first time you visit them, you marvel at the astonishing architecture and history of the buildings in Paris. From King Henry to King Louis to Napolean, the city has loads of history and an extremely rich cultural heritage.

The only downside is perhaps that the French people speak little or no English. But the similarity between English and French helps sometimes as both languages share common words. For example, you can figure out street names with ease, although you might get the pronunciation wrong. I managed to survive on Bonjour/Bonsoir (Good morning/evening), Parlez-vouz anglais? (Do you speak English?), Je ne parle par Francais (I don't understand French), not to mention Merci (Thank you). I was somewhat surprised to see so much in Paris. First of all, there were lots of Muslims and plenty of restaurants serving halal food (awesome!), but generally speaking, it seems there has been a lot of migration here from other French-speaking countries (from Africa mostly). I liked that I did not stand out in the crowd like I do in the US (just saying).

Paris also has an excellent transportation system. The underground metro network is quite extensive, and there are stations everywhere in Paris, and I mean everywhere! I think someone there told me that the maximum distance you can walk in Paris without a metro station is half a mile, which is ridiculous considering the size of Paris. Buses are also very frequent and go everywhere. The metro system was a piece of cake to figure out, and I was really impressed with the number of people that use the metro (thousands!) and the frequency with which those trains run.

Paris attracts the most tourists of any city in the world (estimated at 1 million per year!). Going to some of the famous sightseeing spots like the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, and Arc de Triomphe; I saw a sea of people. Amazing! No wonder Parisians are known to be a little rude, they have to contend with hundreds and thousands of tourists throughout the year and most of them do not speak French! Speaking of touristy places, I was surprised to find so many desis in Paris, mostly around these touristy places where they're selling miniature versions of famous Parisian landmarks. I certainly wasn't expecting that. Who knew I'd be haggling with an Indian vendor in Urdu in Paris, and asking him for cool spots to go to, and the closest desi restaraunts - a pleasant surprise indeed.

Lastly, and frankly expectedly, Paris is an expensive city. Despite the euro being stronger than the dollar (1EUR~1.35USD), the prices of the same food items is the same or, in most cases, even more. A large pizza at Pizza Hut costs 16 euros (although they did have a nice deal going on). Gas (petrol) is pretty expensive too (1.4euros per litre). In the US (at least in NC), it is 2.7 per gallon (where 1 gallon = 3.78 litre). So if you ever end up going to Paris, and plan on doing some shopping, be prepared to spend exorbitant sums of money :). Overall, it was quite an experience for me. Europe is pretty different from the US. In some ways, it has a "desi" touch to that and life is somewhat slower than in the states. I really liked that. If you ever e an opportunity to go to Paris, by all means do go ... it'll be a memorable experience for sure!

The Pictures (from top to bottom): Me at Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe (built by Napolean to commemorate his military victories), and finally the Louvre (home of the Mona Lisa among other famous artworks)

4 comments:

Nikki. said...

Wow what an insightful post :) felt as if I was roaming around in those streets ;)

Sonia said...

Paris is a beautiful city, hope you were not delayed by Iceland volcano ash cloud.

Waisybabu | artsyHANDS said...

Masha-Allah! My dad has been to Paris. And his opinion on the place mirrors yours.

And khudaya, do update this blog with regularity :P (even though artsy hasn't really been updated in a while #boardexams)

Razz said...

@Nikki
Thanks!

@Sonia
I made it out 2 days before the volcano spewed that ash cloud. Although I'd have loved to have been stuck in Paris, but I had classes to get back to, so I'm glad I made it in time!

@Awais
yeah yeah ... will try :)

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