As with most things in the life of THIS Know-All, travelling for leisure is also something which I have started pretty late in life. But, at least I got the opportunity to start!!
Last year, I went on my maiden voyage abroad which sort of emboldened me to try a repeat this year. But, this year’s trip to France had its genesis way back in 2013. How?
When I decided on a whim, to learn a foreign language and zeroed in on French. Over the course of the next 5 years, I made some amazing friendships and generally, had a fantastic time! I learned many things, including the true definition of Feminism, the latest chart toppers in Western Pop ( before this, my clock had stopped at MLTR and Celine Dion and Cold Play), all the gruesome details of what comprises a make-up kit of any girl (the trauma of having primarily girls in the class) and of course, the latest restaurants in town ( the only topic, in which I also contributed) Well, the only thing I did not do was the learning French part…but, as I keep telling my friends, give me 2 months in France, and I will be as fluent as anybody!!! Anyway, that’s a different story.
So, few months back, 2 of my friends (who did the learning French part damn well) got selected as English Teaching Assistants in France, and that’s when they said to the remaining group- Why don’t you guys plan a trip to Paris? We can go around France together! Well, to cut a long story short, I stuck to the plan, and ergo, this post was made possible.
But, if you know Know-All, you will know that no Know-all story is possible without its fair share of drama (and melodrama)!
So, we had people spread across 4 continents actively involved in the execution of activities (and threats, coercions) leading to my trip. So, just to give an idea…to me, it was absolutely reasonable that I should be rewarded for having booked the flight tickets (flights were selected by someone sitting in New Jersey) and I also felt it was reasonable that I should rest for a few weeks after this back-breaking activity (booking flights). But, I obviously hadn’t reckoned the aggression of a certain lady (hereby referred to as, My Mom in France) who was taking lessons in Salsa in a certain South American country named Colombia. She did not let the geographical distance come in the way of some old fashioned threats to bash me up, if I did not fill up the Visa application before her next dance class ended! What does any self-respecting MAN do in such situations? Quietly switch on the computer and do the job!
Then there was the task of booking the all the hostels in Amsterdam, Brugge and Brussels AND the bus tickets for the respective journeys! Of course, as is expected, I delegated the entire responsibility to “Mom in France”. So…there she sat in front of her laptop, checking out all the hostels and then finalizing the ones which she felt were the best of the lot! On top of that…to ensure that I did not overshoot my budget…she just made a few calls in Paris…and before I knew it…a boy in Amsterdam was connecting me with 2 boys in Paris (all genius level doctoral students) and I was told. I could couch-surf in their apartment in Paris!!!!
So, the trip flow was- Calcutta- Paris (4 days)- Amsterdam (1.5 days)- Brugge (1 day)- Brussels (0.5 day)- Toulouse (0.5 day)- Carcassone (1.5 days)- Montpellier(1 day)- Rodez (4 days)- Paris- Mumbai
All tickets and hostels were booked. Except for the flight ticket from Brussels to Toulouse which would enable me to reach Mom-in-France, which was the easiest thing…or so I thought! A quick search of the flight options left my throat dry! The regular flight fare was more expensive than my Calcutta- Paris flight fare!!! I must say, I didn’t sleep too well that night! But, in came my adviser from across the Atlantic who is an expert in finding the cheapest airfares, and within 5 minutes, he had helped buy me tickets which were in sync with my schedule and more importantly, pocket!
And then, there were the orders to get stuff from Calcutta…ranging from the humble Boroline antiseptic cream to Holud Guro (Turmeric powder- frequently used in Indian cooking)! I protested vehemently but, those were shot down without mercy…and of course…I procured all the stuff!
And then came D-Day…21st October…I reached the Airport very early, only to find that the counters were not open yet! I kept expecting that the Immigration Official would reject my visa and send me back! But, no such event occurred, and soon, I was on the flight to Abu Dhabi. The changeover at Abu Dhabi was quick, and finally I was aboard the A380. Started reading Murakami’s “Norwegian Wood” only to realize later that my neighbours on the flight were 2 Japanese girls!! Anyway, I read a bit, slept a bit and then watched the latest Spielberg movie, “Ready Player One”. Strongly recommend both the book and the movie!
Anyway, after an endless flight, we finally landed in Paris. Tired but excited, I headed towards the Immigration counter….