We were standing at Place des pyramides next to the golden statue of Jeanne d’Arc, waiting for our tour bus to arrive. Though I had done almost all the bookings by myself, but we were told (by a tour & travel company) to book sightseeing in advance for hassle free travel. Since, it was our first trip and we had no idea about travelling hence, we had booked Bus City Tour, Seine River Cruise and our ticket to Eiffel Tower in advance. Well, Eiffel visit was an absolute eye opener and I will tell you about it later.
So, the bus came and it was a huge double decker. I remember, Me & My Wife rushed to the upper level for a better view. Forget better, the view was actually the best but the pictures I had clicked were shitty as hell. I had borrowed a DSLR camera from my friend. It’s lense was a bit loose. He had told me put the settings on automatic, which I forgot and kept it on manual, which lead to my constant struggling between focus and defocus throughout that tour.
Anyways, we saw Notre Dame Cathedral, Avenue des Champs Élysées, Arc de Triomphe, Place de la Concorde, Musée d’Orsay and many other places. Then took the Seine River Cruise for an hour. Almost everyone was sitting on the upper deck, enjoying the cool breeze gushing through the hair. I am not proud to say but we did the infamously famous Titanic pose as well.
The cruise enended somewhere near to Eiffel Tower. We were told to follow the guide as he was taking everyone to the Eiffel. The moment I heard that, I ran towards him and said
“Hello, I have to ask you something?”
“Yes!” the Guide replied.
“Well, I have the tickets to Eiffel but they are only till the 2nd level, and not to the summit. So what should I Do?”
He said “You can purchase the tickets at the counter there.”
I was relieved but not much, as I had no idea how much it was going to cost. Back in India, we had booked sightseeing through some reputed tour & travel company and for some reason they ended up booking our Eiffel tour till 2nd level only. They had also taken additional 10,000 INR from us to book the summit, which has never been refunded. Now, I went to the counter to purchase the tickets. I said
“Hi, I need to buy two tickets to the top level, How much it would cost?”
“13 Euros for both” He replied
I was stunned. I had paid additional 10,000 INR for that which comes around 110 Euros, when it was only for 13 Euros which is around 1,100 INR. This was a huge difference. That was an eye opener for me. At that very moment, I swore that I will never book my future travels through any agency.
Now we were on the summit, it started to get dark and then we got to know why Paris has been known as “The City Of Lights”. Whole city was lit as if there’s some festival going on. I could see so many monuments from the top of Eiffel. It suddenly started to blink the way I had seen it for the first time from Marine’s kitchen window, but this time I was on it. That feel was unmatchable. We were hugging and kissing on the summit, when we heard “Bagh na, Mi tula kaye saanghto?”!!!
It didn’t feel good. A big Indian tourist group was there. No offense, but I had never been a fan of Marathi language, as it sounds harsh to my ears. Though back then, I was living in Mumbai and was in love with the city but being among locals (there in Paris) killed my feel. We had taken a brave decision to spend everything we had to escape the reality and come to the far foreign lands. We quickly took a 360 degree view of the city and took the lift to go down.
There were people selling beer around late-night. I asked for 4 bottles, so they took me to a manhole where they had kept the cold ones. The moment I heard they have kept it in a manhole, I was septic about buying it. They removed the cover and showed that it was totally clean. We bought 4 beer from them. Then booked a cab to go back to Blanche, sipping on those lager. Anchal had one and I gulped down the remaining bottles.
Now around 11pm, it was chilling cold and we were outside Mathilde’s place. She had told us, that she would be staying at a friend’s place and we have the house to ourselves. she had shared the codes to the security gate and had given us the spare key as well. I reached the main gate of the building, dialed the code 1376, it opened itself. Now we were in the lobby and there was another door that required “touching the key to the censor”. That door was of a different design, it didn’t have any handle on it. It looked like the door was fixed in it’s casing. Anyways, she had given us a spare key, so we touched the censor. The door didn’t open. We tried it again, the small buzzer went on, indicating that the censor had accepted the key, but it didn’t open. We were doing it turn by turn. It was buzzing, but was not opening. Then we tried, the censor and pushing the door, many times.
Now it was already half n hour and we were stuck outside, in that freezing cold, I was three beer down with a desperate urge to “PEE”. Anchal was fine with controlling it, but for me it was going to get unmanageable. I started to get restless! We didn’t even had internet or international calling pack to contact Mathilde.
I went outside, there was no cafe, no restaurant open at that time. There was almost no one on the streets, but there were CCTV cameras everywhere. That was the only time when I was missing India, badly. I was thinking if it would be India, I would had never faced such problem. To be specific, my problem was not to be stuck outside but to not be able to find a place to “PEE”.
I went out on the street and waited for someone to come, so that I would ask for help. I saw an old couple coming, I said “Excuse me, do you speak English?”
They shook their head in disapproval.
I waited for some more time, then saw a guy coming. As he came closer, I asked him straight away “Do you speak English? I have a problem!”
He looked at me then said “Yes, tell me”
I said “Well, the thing is we have the key to enter building, but we couldn’t as it’s not working. The owner of the house is also not here. Can you please help us to open the gate?”
He gave me a suspicious look, didn’t say a word and walked away. I couldn’t believed I said such stupid thing and expected him to help me.
That time, all the beauty of Paris started to fade away. All the French Architecture, the Culture, those Big Safe Gates, that Dialup Technology to enter into premises, those Cafes, Restaurants, The Seine, The Louvre, even The Eiffel Tower was of No Interest to me. I started praying to God, to help me find a way out of that torture.
Now it was already an hour since we were trying to get in, suddenly I heard Anchal screaming “It’s Open!”
I ran inside, she showed me how it happened. We were trying to PUSH it, but all it needed was a PULL.
The casing (frame) was actually a part of that door. We were pushing the gate through it, but we had to hold the casing and pull it to open.
We went inside, Anchal pressed the button for the lift. I didn’t wait for it, I took the stairs, opened the apartment, went to the toilet and WOOOOOSH!!!
That was the time, when I understood what William S. Burroughs actually meant by “Perhaps All Pleasure Is Only Relief.”