Monday, 11th Feb 2008, it was finally confirmed that I have to leave Paris by next available flight after I got an official mail. JiWon left to Korea around 11 am. After saying goodbye to him, I finished the formalities and other miscellaneous things related to work. By 3 pm, I was all set to explore Paris for the last time.
First I decided go to Roland Garros Tennis Stadium. With partial information from stadium’s official site and google maps I got to know that the stadium is somewhere in south-west of the city and the nearest train station is Porte d’Auteil. The trains I took to reach the place CDG-2->St. Michel(RER-B); Cluny La Sorbonne->Porte d’Auteuil(Line-10).
Meeting with a French Lawyer
While traveling from CDG-2 to St.Michel I met a French elderly gentleman, a lawyer by profession. He was talking to someone on phone in English. After he ended his call, I just broke the ice by asking “Are u from England”. He reciprocated with humoristic response and the conversation continued. He asked me "Are u from India ?" and expressed his desire to tour India. He talked about Goa, Rajasthan and Coconut trees on sea shore. I was amused that he knew so much about India. He talked about Gandhi to latest personalities such as Lakshmi Mittal and also talked about India’s recent breakthrough in automobile industry – Tata Nano. Then, we discussed about France, French language. He also asked me the reason for me to be in Paris. Finally, he got down at Paris Nord station and wished me all the best.
After two stations, I got down at St. Michel station, came out of the station and took some snaps around Notredam. After that, I walked upto Cluny La Sorboune station and took a train to Porte d’Auteil. I came out of the station and discovered that the landscape was completely different from the homogeneous architecture of heart of Paris. Besides exit(sortie), I saw a board Musee de Roland Garros and followed the direction indicated by it. After walking a km, I reached the stadium entrance. With enthusiasm I asked the security “Is this the museum of stadium”. A frank reply came "Monday close, come tomorrow". I told him I am flying tomorrow morning, so he allowed me go inside the premises to take some photographs. In the campus some construction work was going on for the forthcoming French Open Championship. The museum and the merchandize shop were closed. One of small court was open and I took some pictures in it. After spending 5-10 minutes, I came out the campus thanking the security.
Then I returned to Porte d’Auteuil station. The problem with Porte d’Auteuil is that it has one-way line so I had to do a round about. I took following trains to reach Montparnasse. Porte d’Auteuil->Boulogne Jean Jaures(Line-10); Boulogne Jean Jaures->La Motte Picquet Grenelle(Line-10); La Motte Picquet Grenelle->Montparnasse Bienvenue(Line-6).
Outside the station there was a huge skyscraper atop which one can witness 360 degree view of Paris. Before going to the mall I entered into the adjacent mall and did window shopping for a while. Majority of the items in it were expensive and I gave up plans of buying. Then came to the base of the building and bought ticket of Paris 360 for 9.5 Euro. The automatic lift took me to 56th floor shielded with glass. The view was good but I couldn’t capture because of reflection from glass shield. For ten minutes I saw lighting of Eiffel and it was third time in a week I was observing the hourly evening spectacle. Later, moving around on the same floor, I came to know that I can go up further. By stairs I ascended 3 floors to reach open terrace of 59th floor. The night view from there was just amazing. But I had to bear cold winds while witnessing the breathtaking view. Then one funny incidence happened.
59th floor - 'Ki Ki' incidence
In order to capture the view in my cam I had to put my camera in self timer mode. As soon as pressed the button the “ki ki” sound started and the security person in a cabin on the same floor became very conscious. He ran towards me to observe what I am doing. Looking at expression on his face I made out why he was cautious like that. He would have suspected the “ki ki” sound and the flickering light of the camera to be some bomb. Oh my god, these Parisians have become very paranoid about terrorism they are suspecting each and every Asian. I ignored him and carried on with my business of capturing the view. After many trials I was successful. After accomplishing the thing I came down and out of the building. I searched for a retail store around the place and found a big store by name ‘Monoprix’. There I bought chocolates for my colleagues and friends.
Then I took following trains back to CDG Terminal-2. Montparmasse Bienvenue->Paris Nord(Line 4), Paris Nord-> CDG-2(RER-B). I came back to hotel by shuttle and had ready-to-eat for dinner. After that I packed my luggage partially and slept for the day.
Journey back to Bangalore
The next day, I got up very early and checked out at 8.30 am by completing the formalities. I took 8.40 am shuttle and got down at 2E terminal. I was very much afraid of luggage being overweight, courtesy chocolates which I had bought from Monoprix. Thankfully the weight was around 23 kgs and the correspondent didn’t tell anything as my cabin bag was small.
I took automatic train to reach the boarding terminal E57. Before boarding I did some tit-bit shopping in duty-free shops. The scheduled 11 am take off was delayed because of ATC strike. I had got a aisle seat, middle seat was empty and next to next was a lady. She was traveling US from her daughter’s place and had transit in Paris for 4 hours. She asked about my trip and other details which she was curious about.
I didn’t get sleep in the entire journey. In the beginning I read International Herald Tribune. In that I read tragic news that Seoul’s mourns loss of its national heritage - Namdaemun Gate. It was a shocking news for me. In later part of the journey I read Feynman’s ‘Surely u are joking’. At 1.15 am IST the plane landed in Bangalore. I had to wait for my baggage for 30 minutes and by rented taxi I was back in home at 2.30 am concluding short and sweet business trip.