Paper Anniversary

Yes!!! Its one year that we got married,the year was quite eventful for both of us. On this day we went to Ramkrishna Mission.The hour long train ride to outskirts of Paris was very scenic with fall color.Winter was breathing on our neck with its chilly wind. Durga Pooja and Diwali is just over, but celebrations in Paris goes on.We went to Salon du Chocolate. It was some thing not to be missed. There were chocolate stalls from all over the world and they were giving away so many chocolate to taste for free.

Rome (Sep 5th-7th)

We wanted to visit all the top attractions of Italy in one trip but due to vacation time (for Parisians) and taking off from work and with Pamela's school we could not do. So, we planned for only Rome. We flew with Alitalia from CDG this time in early morning. It was much better than Ryan Airlines in terms of access to the airport. But the initial fun started when just before checking-in we have to run 3 terminals to collect our tickets from Air Traffic office. But other than that running, every thing was smooth. Luckily, we had nothing to check-in.

We started our days visit from Colosseum - just to check if all gladiators have gone home or not. I still do not know how to express my feelings about this magnificent achievement of mankind and engineering, which dates at least 2000 years back. After having lunch we walked along Via del Corso from Colosseum to Roman Forum and all the major attractions to Fontana di Trevi which refers to the three roads. Needless to say, the famous custom-to throw a coin into the fountain over your shoulder to ensure you return to Rome. A second coin will have you falling in love with an Italian, and the third marrying him or her. But we didnot took a trial. Anywayz, on the way we got the taste of traffic rules of Rome. From there we walked towards Spanish Steps (Piazza di Spagna) with all the big brand designers shops around it. After strolling at Piazza del Popolo square we walked to the top of the hill towards Pincio - a nice garden to take some time off under shady trees. From here we went to Pantheon via Piazza Navona another city square with fountain of four rivers and Egyptian obelisk in the middle. WOW !!! extraordinary dome of pantheon is the largest masonry vault ever built. Its really magnificent to see that. Finally, after hectic day of walking day long we decided to move towards Metro-Colosseum for our hotel.

Second day, we planned to visit opulence of the Vatican. So, started with Vatican museum and went to Sistine Chapel. It is must if you want to see the work of Michel Angelo and Raphael the great artists of Italian Renaissance. Better start this way as museum gets closed early around 2PM. From there we went to St. Peters Basilica the main Vatican church. We went to the top; the lift takes up to 3rd floor which is quite at height and from there it is 320 stairs more for the top. The view from the top was worth with those narrow stairs.

Last day, we spent again the whole day for one more last time in ancient Rome. We went inside of Colosseum and Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill. Those big structures with columns still standing just as it use to be really takes you back to history. After doing a final round of walk which included a late lunch close to Pantheon and walking towards Piazza del Popolo on Sunday when most of the road is taken by pedestrians we decided to pack-up. That road is really crowded and you need to watch your belongings that time. And, thus our trip to eternal city came to an end.
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Stockholm (Aug 14th - 17th)

While browsing through web sites for summer travel deals I found there was a very attractive deal by Ryan Air to Stockholm.We went there middle of August when Paris was burning with summer heat. It was a great escape to Scandinavia. Stockholm was very clean and very beautiful. Although, the weather was not at its best as it rained for first two days.

We stayed in the centre of Stockholm (Drottninggatan) one side of this pedestrian street with full of shops.Our first day, highlight was Old town of Gamla Stan, Skansen and Vasa museum. We walked all day and it was a great way to get feel of Stockholm.

Second day we spent most of the time on boat seeing archipelago; it is very unique to see all those tiny islands so near by and ended with bit shopping for Sweden glass work at City center. All these glassworks are so nice but expensive too I wish, I had more money for them.

Third day the weather was all clear with very blue sky. We visited Mills garden and around - it was great!

Air tickets were only around 19 Euros. But when two of us calculated later we spend much more than that including the Shuttle and Airport Taxes. Sitting on those long shuttles it seemed like we spent more time in bus compared to flying time. But one thing for sure Ryan air was very punctual and their services were good for the price. I may fly again with all these known complain for the price.

London 5days (July 29th - Aug 3rd)

We went to London the proper Bilayet (Foreign land -as mentioned by S.Rushdie ) for five days. We stayed as guest of Sampath, at his home bit outside of London. The trip would not have been so pleasant and memorable without his help and warm hospitality.

We reached around noon at Waterloo station by Eurostar. After keeping our luggage at cloak room we went straight to London Eye. It was a nice start to see all the monuments of London from birds view. After that we crossed-river Thames and went in front of Big Ben, Parliament and West Minister abbey. We walked through St. James Park and reached Buckingham Palace. On the way back towards 10,Downing St. we walked along the Mall. After that we walked to Piccadilly Square when it started to rain. It was a nice little welcome rain of London. At the end of the day we walked back to Waterloo. It might sound a lot of walk around Central London but, we did not found this walk as too much.

After finishing some top sights, we went to Windsor Castle very next day. We spend almost the first part of our day there. Then again we returned to central London to visit Tower of London. If you are interested in seeing all those big and famous diamonds you cannot miss this especially KOHINOOR. Around 3PM we went to HMS Belfast -II a WW ship turned into a museum now. It is just across the river. The walk along the river and London Bridge was worth as you get a good view of Tower Bridge. Most people confuse that with famous London Bridge but in-fact London-Bridge is a dull one.  After that we went to London Aquarium on the way we saw St. Paul Cathedral and traveled on those double-decker bus. In the evening, we met Avijit. We were meeting after 8 years after our college days.

After two hectic days of sight seeing we slowed down and started with Madam Tussaud. Thanks again to Sampath for advance tickets as that saved at least 40 minutes of long queue. After that we went to British museum. In the evening we were guest of Purbayan's concert at Royal festival Hall. He along with Kumar Basu made a very wonderful evening of Indian classical music in Sitar & Tabla.

4th Day we were really slow we reached London quite late spend around 2 hours with Purbayan. We went to Shri Swaminarayana temple in the afternoon and then went to Tate Modern. It's a great place to be if you happen to appreciate modern Arts. I personally do not understand much unless the art is described; there are lots of collections of Picasso to Pollock.

Saturday Sampath drove us to Stonehenge and Bath. They have respectively history of 5000's and 2000's years. What makes Stonehenge so special that there is no source of such big stones around. So, how those civilization people were able to carry those big stones and place them in the way they are today -its still a mystery to modern man. Similarly, for Bath famous for its Roman bath- surrounded by seven hills, the River Avon running through the heart of the City and the towers of Bath Abbey combine to create a wonderful first impression along with its hot springs.

Sunday we had our train to Paris, but before that we went to Greenwich. The trip was not long but gives a great view of London city. That is all for now with MIND THE GAP and Chicken Tikka Masala .

Heat wave of August

Oh! summer, it reached 40 degree cel. or 100+ F this week at Paris.The global pollution is taking its effect may be? 20 years back it used to snow a lot in Paris but now it does not snow any more. The houses, metro's are not designed for this kind of hot weather which makes it more unbearable. We are surviving with Pedestal Fan but it is still far from a rain. The heat wave is going to be there for another 10 days atleast from now. Not only this, here power failure is also there.We too faced the same, one fine evening it went off around 9.30pm & came back at morning 2.30am.

Cantal

The first trip to France countryside was to Cantal -central region for 3 days with Murali & Joydeep on July 14th. Cantal, in France's Massif Central, is the largest volcanic edifice in Europe. We went by car, Murali did a wonderful job by seating at the back of steering wheel & Joydeep at navigator’s seat while we two were enjoying sleeping (from time to time) at back seat. We enjoyed a natural landscape which was really worth seeing through own eyes- rolling hills, lush green farmlands, small mountains, forests & valleys.

We went to this trip for hiking but unfortunately we couldn’t as it was extreme sultry weather to do so. We tried to do in one of the mountain but after halfway we gave up because of strong sun overhead made it unbearable.The night stay at hotel (run by family) was excellent as they speak quite good English, there hospitality were excellent & food too was home made so of course delicious (5 course French dinner).

We went to Grandval Lake over which is constructed Bridge by Gustave Eiffel 584M in length. This metal bridge with only one parabolic arc was able to support the weight of the trains, resist hard and powerful transverse winds for years although now train doesn’t run over this bridge. Near to this bridge was one restaurant where we had our dinner. Here, for first time we had Confit de canard (duck) which was delicious and had mouth watering dessert at the end.

Day after we reached Paris at afternoon as we changed our plan because of strong heat wave. On reaching Paris we had Japanese lunch near to Luxembourg gardens.

Trip to Amsterdam (June 7th-9th)

Our first trip in Europe, I decided about Amsterdam because of two reason Van Gogh and people of Amsterdam. To our delight it was really great and was a great escape from noise and crowd of Paris.The city is not so big compared to Paris but very clean and friendly. As most tourist books suggest Dutch people has unique and very efficient solution to their day-to-day problem. The streets are not crowded with car.We reached there on Saturday morning and visited Van Gogh museum followed by Albert Cuypmarkt. We had Surinamese for lunch and Indonesian for dinner. Both were great. Both these countries were Dutch colony but you get roti in Surinamese cuisine.Sunday we visited Rijks museum. The main part of museum was closed as they found asbestos in museum. But they had all the major work of Rembrandt and other great Dutch masters for display and the entry fees was reduced with free audio tour.Monday we rented bike and biked a lot. Yes a lot for 3 to 4 hrs and in that time we crossed the south canal belt few times. We had Falafel for lunch and Nepalese for dinner; the falafel was great I think the best falafel I tasted so far.Yes it was a great trip, which ended on Tuesday morning as soon we back to Paris with general strike for 2 week in a row.

Visiting Paris a Desi Guide

Me and Pamela are living in Paris for a while now and we are still enjoying going around and exploring Paris. Lots of my friends asked me about our personal opinions on the same before visiting Paris and France for a week or so. So here it is will all the best information that I can write down with out making it too boring for you.


A brief about Paris:Paris is divided in 2 main parts by the River Seine; the left bank and the right. Traditionally the city was divided just like a human brain left one for art and music where right one for money and power. Now there no such difference any more. It has 20 districts or arrondisement in a snail pattern starting at the center of Paris.
Top attractions: [Not in any particular order]There are lots of Photos from Paris in www.santm.com
  1. Eiffel Tower
  2. Sacre Coeur
  3. Arc de Triomphe
  4. Champs Eleysees - and Concorde
  5. Notre Dame and Saint Chapel - If possible a cup of coffee on the top roof of Samaretine (now closed till 2012) to have the best view of Paris Center. But you can try Institute de Monde Arabe .
  6. La Defense - Paris version of New York Manhatten.
  7. The Mega Stores - Galeries Lafayette and Printemps
  8. Boat Ride. This gives the best magnificent view of Paris architectures
  9. Pantheon
  10. Bastille - Best hang out place lots of bars and food place a happening place
  11. Moulin Rouge or Lido [Both French Cabarets] your choice ;)
  12. Tower Montparnasse
Museums:
  1. Louvre - home of Monalisa
  2. Orsay - best place to go if you like impressionism artists like Monet/Gaugh etc.
  3. Rodin - Sculpture
  4. Picasso - the name say it all
Outside Paris:
  • Versailles
Few Tips:
  • Be aware of pickpockets and small thefts.
  • Paris is a small City it is only 15KM by 10KM.
  • Ask for a metro Map when you get here.
  • It involves a lot of walking so get yourself a good pair of walking shoes.
  • There are not many public toilets and you need to carry change [coins] to use them.
  • Get yourself a phone card from "TABAC" [where you buy cigarettes] for calling inside and outside France. There are special cards for India or US if you need any.
  • Metro tickets you can buy the 10 tickets "carnet" or day pass depending upon your travel plan. You can use the same on any other public transport as long as you with in Paris.
  • Each Street corner will have road names and tells you which arrondisement you are in.

Getting a place to Stay/ Hotel:It is expensive when it comes to hotel in Europe and Paris in particular. The rooms are small and expensive. Personally I think if you get a hotel around Latin Quarter that is 5th, 6th is best as you are close to city center and the locality is nice. 7th, 8th are also good with 1st to 4th. Paris is very safe city in general. I personally do not like the area around the big Train stations of Gare de Nord and Gare del'Est The 18th,19th and 20th are should be avoided from my own prospective and you have happen to stay in 13th-16th make sure your hotel is not very far from Metro Station as these are more residential arrondisements with metro stations not very close by like center of city.
Food:Few lines about French food; if you do not take fish and a Indian vegetarian then there are not many choice for you L. Fish and Sea food is very common in French cuisine; it is almost considered vegetarians some times. But the pastry, bakery products and chocolates are delicious I am not joking.But there are lots of Indian place to choose from but make sure you ask for right amount of spices as it is very scaled down for locals.

Music @ Cite Universitaire

It was great that we just went there without any plan. Various kinds of musical instruments & on different themes were played by young student musicians. A nice place for free concert and music if you are around Paris. We spent quite a long time. But, we could not attend the final grand Jazz program, as it was already around 9 PM.
  • http://www.ciup.fr/
  • Purbayan and Satyajit

    Jaya(my cousin sister) and her hubby Purbayan visited us along with Satyajit on very rainy Sunday. They came to Paris for their own private concert. They were on a tour to Europe and playing Indian classical music. Purbayan(sitar) and Satyajit (tabla) are very talented in their own field.It was our great pleasure to have them as guest. Due to rain we reached the concert bit late but it was a great performance. An evening, which I will remember for a long time.A very bad week with Metro strike ended in delight.You can find lots of web sites...
  • http://www.purbayan.com
  • http://www.senseworldmusic.com/acatalog/News.html
  • Metro on Strike

    It started on Tuesday the 13th. My manager gave me a lift to work. On the way back I walked, it was long but nice walk through Bois de BoulogneWednesday, the strike was supposed to end; but it continued in a French way. So, I have to work hard to fix my bike and went by bike to work. In that process I got an ache on to my shoulder, which did not allow me to sleep for a whole week. And the strike continued till Friday. On Wednesday, Murly after realizing that there is no public transport, he walked 2 hours to reach work. On the way back some one showed him a shorter route.Thursday, Pamela after missing two classes decided to go to her French school and walked across Paris, which took her one and half-hour to reach only. Returning was not a fun for her either.On Friday things started getting better and on Saturday it ended for now.

    Second Titre De Sejour

    On the 9th of April we were supposed to collect our new Titre De Sejour (Long term VISA) from Cite Prefecture de Police. The interview was fixed almost 3 months ago and we reached there before our scheduled time to be make sure this time there is no big problem. But our turn came around 4o'clock which is almost one hour behind our scheduled time. And after checking all our paper she says oh! You need to pay 55 Euros now as you got a new passport. Then the trouble started - so I went to another counter to buy Notary Stamp for the same amount. But they only take cash which I did not had enough at that moment. So after asking them where is the nearest ATM I went out and on returning with cash....?The main entrance was closed so I tried to persuade a lady police to let me in as my wife, my passport every thing is inside and I am stuck in this "no man land". She didn't understand anything or doesn't wants to understand at all. But with repetitive appeal she understood or got bored with me to let me in. But to my surprise ? GOD!!! that counter got closed to give any Notary Stamp. So, trying to behave properly and without loosing any temper I asked that lady on the counter to get me some thing in written officially so that I do not become an refugee in France for next few days till I get my new visa. It again took some time and repeating the same problem she wrote it on paper that I need to come back on Tuesday morning after the long weekend of Easter. And best part was Pamela got her work done without any problem.The problem is French people cann't think other than French way and I sometime think they even don't know there are other way(s) to the same which might be better than their way. Just to say - to cancel your cell phone contract it takes two months after you send registered letter with acknowledgement but, taking a new connection it only takes an hour.Thankfully, no one asked for my passport during these past 3 days and I again had to wait for 2 hours in the same place for getting 9 month of Extension to stay in France.

    Welcome to Paris an unofficial guide by Malc

    Here is a set of stuff about flat hunting, contributed from many sources. One note. Most of this is for finding a flat on your own.Don't go near
  • Hestia.fr (many a tale of woe has originated from here) Get your 'dossier' together straight away. Needs photocopy of
  • Present employment contract
  • Last 3 pay slips
  • Last 3 rent receipts (or in my case my 1 year mortgage statement from the UK)
  • Last 3 utility bills (I put in my quarterly bills for water, Electricity and gas)
  • Birth certificate (Not a must)
  • Passport
  • RIB (i.e. bank details)
  • Last years Tax statementIt's like a competition; the person with the fullest dossier gets the flat.Sort out your guarantor. Due to French tenant law, it is not legal for a landlord to kick you out during the 3 main months of winter. Thus you can stop paying and they can do nothing ?till spring. In Paris landlords protect themselves by demanding a guarantor who will pay your rent if you default. To be eligible the guarantor must be on the French social security system. For most this is a parent.Foreigners can look to French friends, but beware, there is a big stigma to this. Since it is generally your parents that do this, asking someone else suggests that your parents are poor. Generally people will be shocked to be asked.Another alternative is 1% lodgment. 1% lodgment is really looked down on. Makes you seem poor. Poor people do not get flats in Paris.Last option is get your company as guarantor. Personally I?d push this. If you are family members in France talk to them.Apartment sites
  • www.acheter-louer.fr
  • www.explorimmo.com/static/figaro/ (Monday paper) Check regularly through the day
  • www.locat.fr
  • www.proapart.com
  • fr.123immo.com
  • www.alouer.com
  • www.pap.fr Des Particuliers a Particuliers (Thursday paper get it by 7:30am)
  • www.immostreet.com
  • www.immostreetpro.com/etude_saint_lambert/hab_spe.php
  • uk.seloger.comcheck regularly through the day (_en is English)
  • fr.classifieds.yahoo.com/fr/rn(tends to be a bit far behind, pretty much everything is gone by the time it appears)
  • The American Church (Quai d'Alma, go in person to notice board)Sites if you want to share. Not very common in France: -
  • www.coloc.fr; www.colocation.fr; www.bonjour.fr;www.fusac.fr they sometime say they are looking for English speaking flat mates on colocation.fr. Fusac has both short term contracts and share ads. Best to get the Magasine, has more in it than the website.Finding where it is - Maps
  • www.maporama.com
  • www.ismap.com
  • www.mappy.fr
  • www.france.com (metro/RER/SNCF maps etc)Understanding the classifieds
  • www.paris-anglo.com/housing/guide/housing_word.htmlMight be worth checking the Fusac site. Fusac is a free magazine mostly for the ex-pat community. Great for buying second hand furniture etc, but apartments will be expensive, because most will be short-term.
  • www.fusac.frFurniture, etc.: -
  • www.ikea.fr (the classic)
  • www.habitat.fr
  • www.conforama.fr
  • www.mezzaline.com (seems to be pretty kiddy orientated, but there is furniture)White goods: -
  • www.darty.fr
  • www.conforama.frOther things to note:
  • You pay the insurance on the Flat.
  • The difference between furnished and unfurnished is pretty big. In general it is more than 250 euros per month for a 1000 euro flat.
  • The notice period is 3 months, for an unfurnished flat. 1 month for furnished (I think).
  • The deposit is between 2 and 3 months
  • You pay the agency fees, all of them. These vary. Can be up to 12% of 1 years rent.
  • For unfurnished the standard contract period is 3 years.
  • For furnished the standard contract period is 1 year.
  • You can escape your contract without penalty if you leave the country.
  • You must have a bank account. Can be awkward, as you need an address before you can have a bank account.
  • If your French is poor, try running these through Babel fishbabelfish Specify the address in the web site box.Drinking and eating: -
  • www.parispubs.com
  • www.theauldalliance.com
  • www.mooseheadparis.comArrondisementsGet used to the Arrondisement (district) numbers. It?s like a snail; the 1st is the very centre of Paris.And it winds out in a spiral to the 20th.Good areas are the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 11th, 15th. Though of course not the whole of them, they have their bad and their good parts.However, the 16th and 17th are only good if you happen to like little old ladies wearing fur and dragging ratty little dogs around (you know, the types with tartan jackets and yap lots, constitute a light bite for a proper dog).The best areas that you are likely to be able to afford are 3rd, 5th, 6th and 11th. Families might prefer the 15th The 5/6th is the Latin quarter. It is probably the liveliest part of town, it doesn't have a bad part.Lastly: Think about buying. The loan rates are pretty reasonable. The housing costs are much cheaper on the purchase side than on the renting side. You can get English speaking notaries to make life easier for you? Down side. Even after you find a place, it will be 3 months minimum before all the paperwork is sorted out.