“If travel was free, you would never see me again!”
To all those that shared this juvenile status on various social media I say this -
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” - Proust
I waited until Cologne felt like home before travelling. My trip to Frankfurt did not count I think, because I was somehow very India-sick then, and went to visit a familiar face. I did like the city, a strange mix between fast paced financial capital and measured German lifestyle. The ‘Alte Oper’ and the ‘Hauptwache’ right in the middle of the financial district, surrounded by high rises is a great example of this country’s ability to restore the past to blend it into the future. I must admit though, I enjoyed the smell of Indian spices, the comfort of a big sofa and a bigger TV, the bathtub and conversation more.
Paris is a different story. To begin with, my ‘chaddi buddy’ was there. Even if it was the Sahara desert it would be great! So I didn’t plan too much, I just got into the train and was received there by my bubbly bundle of love - T! We had tickets to Disneyland, and I resigned myself to a day spent being aloof and judging T and all the others like her who oohed and aahed at the mere mention of a Disney princess. I couldn’t hold on to this attitude for more than 20 minutes in this place. If you forget the long queues (which is a challenge) it really is like being in a fairytale! The castle is breath-taking and a real life version of the logo. The parades are so precisely choreographed and all the performers look SO happy! The music is cheerfully on cue and even the crowd control team is good-looking and/or friendly – always waving their Mickey hands at kids and grownups alike. I summoned all my courage and logic (I’m SURE it’s safe) my first ever roller coaster ride and it was mind-blowing! I screamed my lungs out (after being advised to do so by T) on the 360 degree loops and I clutched on for dear life at the swerves. Of course my sense of achievement was rather short lived, as we decided to watch the auto show, with stunt daredevils on bikes and cars zooming around. Among other shows, the best was the sound-light-water spectacle at the very end of the day – a medley of Disney characters prancing around on the backdrop of the castle, accompanied by perfectly coordinated songs and laser lights. I realised how far gone I was when I left that place regretting not buying myself a silly Mickey hand!
The next 2 days zoomed by so quickly. T has been in Paris for years now, and speaks fluent French, so I just followed her around as she deftly navigated the veins of public transport. This was the same girl who didn't know whether to go left or right after exiting my house that she had been visiting for years - so I am proud at how well she has integrated and the star she's become! I stuffed myself with crepes and other drool-inducing French food, the names of which I won’t dishonour by trying to pronounce, complaining all the while about the German palate. We went down into the catacombs and climbed up to the Sacre-Coeur. Ogled at the blinking Tower by night and the stunning architecture by day. Ah! Paree. The city that even Hilter loved(!) The terrible, rainy weather did nothing to dampen my spirits, not until it was time to board the bus to go home.
My next trip was to Brussels. Since it can in no way stand comparison to Paris, the highlight of this trip was a slight improvement in my map reading skills as it turned into a day of solo travel since my phone died. Coming from a place where I can either ask one of the billion people in the country how to get somewhere, or just get into an autorickshaw when I am lost and have wandered too far – maps aren’t (yet) my forte. And I’m talking about the real thing here, not google maps on the phone – for all those sniggering and judging me. But with a little help from the natives, I did find my way to the flea market and to Mannekin Pis! The Automium is pretty cool as well, and Belgian beer and waffles totally live up to the hype. It was a beautiful, sunny weekend – so there were lots of street performers out and about. I spent the night at a cute little place I found on airbnb, and the trip overall was quite successful.
Every place I go to, every stranger I exchange words with, adds a little piece of colour to my memories, and takes a little bit of my heart. I send out a post card and hope to come back one day to share it with the ones I love. My next adventure is playing host. Köln is a different place in the summer, and the Germans are blooming! My parents come to Europe next week, and I can’t wait to show them around, and travel with them!