Friday, June 06, 2008

Paris Je t'aime

I have spent more time in Paris than in any other European city. I have been there 4 times, including one winter in 1998 which was my first ever trip abroad as a young consultant. I have always been pleasantly surprised by the city, and have never felt the rudeness that is attributed to the French.

I booked a train ticket from Augsburg to Paris, and was a little apprehensive about the 5 minute connection time in Stuttgart between the ICE and TGV. (Observation : when the ICE train came to the platform in Augsburg, I saw the driver. He was the poster boy of german efficiency, standing straight, no smile, eyes straight as he bought the train to a stop within 13 seconds of the expected arrival time) . Anyway, i think i should have know, the ICE arrived at the exact time in Stuttgart, and even the coaches were lined up so all i had to do was just step across the platform to the TGV. This was the "TGV Est", the pride of the French railway system, with top speeds going up to 320 km/hr on normal routes (It has been run upto 350 km/hr on tests). So there Dani, it does beat the ICE in some sense !! Traveled through some amazing scenery, which i tried to capture on the camera, with very disappointing results.

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Reached Delphine's house, which i found is right next to the Moulin Rouge. And the "La Loco", which is a club i went to, the second time i was in paris, in mid 1999. Used to be a really grungy club at that time, with great music. Now, just like any other snooty club. I also found out that the strip club section in Paris is also right there (Got the hint the first time a woman on the street tried to talk to me and pull me in. They are very aggressive in their marketing, the French).

Her place is on what she calls the "food street of Paris", with great cafes and food shops. And has great views, mostly from the staircase !!

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Some street festival in her "Rue"


Foodwise, i was trying to eat a little healthy, which meant switching from "litres of beer" to "bottles of wine" as the unit of consumption. (Observation : There is so much style associated with smoking in Europe. Which is probably the reason they smoke so much. This was at the sight of a woman sitting at a cafe, holding a Marlene Dietrich like pose with a cigarette in her hand).

Had an excellent french meal on Friday evening with Deplhine, Dorothy and Tibo. In an area which is mostly a student hangout, and as Delphine likes to point out, where she used to go all the time as a student. Had an option to go to Rolland Garros the next day, but nixed it in favor of a relaxing time with the sisters.

On saturday, walked down to the latin quarter (passing the river on the way). Bought back many memories of the 2006 summer that I spent there. Had mint tea at the great mosque, and then went to see "Darjeeling Limited", another one of Wes Anderson's great works. And noticed TP Abid in the credit lines. The first part of the movie, and Jason Shwarzman's dialogue with Natalie Portman, is just priceless.

Delphine had a big dinner planned to that night at her house, so the evening was spent prepping for that. An excellent 5 course meal was had, with about 3 bottles of wine consumed. And as wonders never cease, Delphine actually asked for a second helping of the beer, and then two (yes) glasses of wine. We talked till 3 AM, when I realized that I had a 8.24 am train to catch.

Woke up next morning with the alarm at 7.00. Snoozed will 7.30. Realized that i was supposed to be OUT of the house at 7.30. Managed to leave the house at 8.00. Now I realized that I had NO subway map, very little change, and very little money overall. So taking a taxi was also not an option. But I did manage to dig into the deepest pockets in my bag and discover just enough Euros to pay the 1.50 fare.

Was very very lucky to catch both my subway connections. The right ones too. Reached the station still drunk, but did manage to get on. Will this ever end ? The entire melodrama of trying to catch an early morning train/flight after a long night of drinking ? I hope not !!

And I was off to Zurich.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Images Of Augsburg

Dani Apt Detail
In front of Capitol
Town Square
In front of Capitol

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Ze Deutscheland : part4

The last evening was supposed to be a quick beer and hamburgers. Dani and I started a little earlier, as usual, with vodkas at home. And then comes this dude with the most infectious laugh. Hello Gerhard ! Who might have singe handedly changed my opinion of german humor (or the lack thereof)

You have to laugh at all his jokes. Because he himself will lead the charge, and there is no way you can avoid a hearty guffaw. So the four of us (inc Tobse) continued with some beer on Dani's balcony (now feeling even smaller), and then repaired to the cafe across the street. As our first Kleins came out (i ordered a normal lager for once, having already had 2 weissbeers at the plaza in the afternoon), we noticed this rather strange looking guy park himself on a table next to us. He heard us talking in English, and surmised (quite correctly) that at least one of us was not german. So he started talking to us in broken english, and enthusiastically recommended that I, as a visitor to this land, try the Hefeweizen. I explained that i had already had 2 in the afternoon, but he insisted that he buy another one. I don't know what passed between Tobse and him, but i assumed that he had been informed of this, and it was kinda confirmed as after a while he left the place (without having a drink himself). He looked a little drunk, very much like a san francisco bum.

Then when we ordered our next round, we were quite surprised when the waitress told us that he had bought that round for us. Now things like this simply do not happen in Germany, where people might have to wait for several years before feeling the need to buy someone else a drink ! So i guess we can consider ourselves lucky, our only regret being that we were not even able to thank that dude !

So we had our excellent hamburgers ( i assumed they were, because after 2 vodkas, extra strength, and 2 beers, most all food tastes good ). And we were joined by these 2 folks we had seen in the beergarden the previous evening. They were part of a local band. But only the drummer and keyboard dudes, because we could have used their vocalist. Because by now Gerhard and me had bonded over our common love for singing while drunk. And cheap one liners (me more as a listener)

So Gerhards favorite pickup line : These pants must be space pants, because baby, your ass is out of this world.

more (probably) bavarian sayings from the very same person:

One man : one word. One woman : one dictionary

Hard liquor makes you drunk quicker (when dani ordered a whisky sour instead of beer)

Better sitting in the wet than celebrating in the dry (when it was about to rain) (dry is a euphemism for no alcohol)

There were more, and I have Gerhard for them, but he says that he will another six beers to be able to remember them. I am waiting man. I am assuming your next six beer night should not be far away. Here is a moment that dani was able to capture.

Gerhard and I

So we were talking about this girl who was in Tobse and Gerhard's class, called Mela. And how she never needed to study hard, as she was quite pretty. And who had been around the place, as they say. All four men were exchanging knowing smiles (now pardon me if i got this part wrong, because by now we were all quite drunk, and conversation by now was strongly leaning towards german). Suddenly, the woman herself walks by. With her boyfriend. She did accept our invitation to sit down and have a pint. or 500 ml, as they would have here. The boyfriend did not seem very friendly, and she was also kinda uncomfortable (so it seemed) to have her boyfriend sitting at the same table as her old college buddies.

Anyway, as Dani said, this was a very atypical german evening. But greatly enjoyed by all. Total alcohol consumed by yours truly : 2 vodkas (large), and 5 beers. including 2 free ones. Cant complain !

Next day Dani took the morning off to drop me off at the Hbf. And thus ended the greatly enjoyable german leg of this trip. I will be writing about the first 2 parts later. Promise.

Update : I forgot to mention, that at one point of time, the song "Noorie" (remix by Bally Sagoo) was playing in the bar. Talk about just adding to the weirdness of the evening.