Date of Trip: July 2009
Hi guys & gals,
Ever since I entered my teens and became acquainted with the city through photos / movies / articles in magazines / books, I fell in love with Paris. It became a life-long dream to meet her in person.
This may seem simple to westerners. But for an Indian it was a herculean feat. I will try to put things in proper perspective – an ordinary budget hotel in Paris costs upto euro 100 which on conversion translates to around INR 7000 ( indian rupees ). This price of Rs. 7,000/- will get you a one night stay in a genuine upmarket luxury 5-star hotel like the ITC Maratha in Mumbai ( Bombay). Further,an amount of euro 350 ( around Rs. 24,500/- ) will enable you to stay at Hotel Oberoi Udaivilas, Udaipur ( rated as one of the TOP TEN hotels in the world by Conde Nast Traveler in 2009. ) . Would I be able to afford a stay of 3/4 days in any of these two hotels – ” No “. My point is that a Europe trip is extremely costly for an ordinary middle-class Indian.
For years I saved money and when I had enough funds to make the trip I did not have the wherewithal to go about it ( It was the age prior to the Internet ,guide books were general in nature and the only way was to book air / rail / hotel tickets through some travel agency at exorbitant prices without really knowing what type of a hotel you will land into. Then came the wonders of the internet and I did extensive research for getting the best deals.Just when I thought I was through,some family matter or the other came up and I had to keep postponing.
Finally,everything seemed to have clicked and I applied to the Austrian Embassy for Schengen Visas for my wife and myself ( for visiting 6 countries in Europe for 40 days ).The rules here are that one has to make prior CONFIRMED return air bookings,hotel bookings and take out a medical insurance policy before applying for a visa. I spent a packet on it. But barely 8/9 days before my flight date the Embassy rejected our visas on technical grounds. I then desperately searched the internet for knowing the Schengen Visa norms and only then represented my case to them stating that I was right in applying to their Embassy and not to the French Embassy ( my first port of entry was Paris,France and hence the Austrian Embassy had rejected our applications stating that per Schengen norms I must apply to the French Embassy;for which I had no time left ). My stand was that we were going to stay for the maximum number of days in Austria and hence had applied correctly. I kept sending reminders every day. Just when I thought that everything was lost I received a phone call from the Austrian Embassy saying that they had approved our visas and we received the visas only 2 days prior to our flight.
Hectic purchases of travel items,Eurail Passes and pre-paid Forex Cards had to be accomplished.
Finally,finally, my wife and I boarded the early morning Air France flight-Mumbai to Paris-and our plane touched CDG on 31 July 2009 on a bright,sunny,cool day. BONJOUR PARIS.
As regards L’amour, and the magic of Paris I will let you know later.