Europe Diary: Paris & Musee d' Orsay
Landing at Charles d Gaul International Airport in Paris, one is indeed a bit surprised. There are vast open spaces with practically no one about. The queue at the passport check is hardly a dozen persons. And before you know it you are out on the pavement hailing a taxi! Comimg from the labyranthine Mumbai airport with several levels and a milling crowd of several hundred passengers at any time of the day or night, one could be forgiven for thinking CDG to be some small provincial airport and not one of the largest airports in the world. A vietnamese taxi driver in a shiny citroen takes me to the hotel. The vast broad roads are empty. The scenery outiside the window is stunning by its characteristic vast emptiness. Suburban Paris looks spartan. No skyscrapers, maddening traffic or crowds. At a traffic intersection, a couple of people are asking for money. They carry a cardboard hoarding scribbled with letters in an untidy hand that says, "Syrian Refugee". Nobody is handing out any. The hotel is in the northern Parisian suburb of Aulnay de Boise.
On my first visit to Europe, the thing that startles me is the cleanliness, lack of crowds and a vast indescribable emptiness. May be Mumbai is indeed too crowded. Any other place would look empty!
The vietnamese taxi driver politely takes my forex card and swipes it in a tiny machine, and is done in less than 15 seconds. I check in the hotel.
Later I move out in the pleasant mild afternoon sun and decide to go toone of the landmarks of Paris, Musee d Orsay. I consult my Google Maps. The public transport rout requires a change from the bus to RER to metro. As luck would have it the RER is on strike! So much for french efficiency. I wait impatiently for the bus. I notice a small tent pitched behind the bus stop, and find a homeless person inside it. Soon the bus arrives and we make our way to the metro station. The bus takes "the Peripherique" - which is choc a block with the rush hour commuter traffic. For the first time i get a feel of the traffic in Paris. The metro ride is smooth and we land up at metro station near the Orsay.
Its onw of the most elegant and massive museums I have ever been to. While my understanding the european art is limited, a visit to the Orsay is a revelation. The impressionist painters gallery is stunning to say the least. But most endearing is the view of Paris from the balcony. The Seine and its beautiful structures on the right bank are panoramic. A visit late in the evening to Orsay makes one realise that one can get tired of art! We grab a quick bite in the museums cafe and walk to the Seine river bank just across the road. It is indeed on of the most leisurely and beautiful views. There are performers of various hues on the bank. There are chalk artists, dancers, acrobats. There is a group of joggers too. It is looking like laidback holiday destination rather than the urbs prima of the largest european country! We walk over one of the nunerous bridges on the Seine. There are hundreds of locks tied on to the railing of the bridge with lovers names. An indian is selling the locks.