Thursday, May 27, 2010

My vacation - Part 4 - Onward towards Paris


To most people the name conjures up an image of a skinny pouty oversexed disinherited heiress but few know that it is also a city in France.

France, if you are a widely read person, you might know as a country in Europe but confusingly, it is also the name of a popular seafood hors d'oevre in Mysore (Chilly France, corrupted to Chilly Prawns in westernised Bangalore)

We landed in Paris (the city, not the heiress) from Uganda via the United Arab Emirates, which is a little story in itself, though not worth narrating. So here it is.

After Jinja, we tooled off to a charming safari lodge in western Uganda called the Paraa Safari Lodge.

Amidst all the three course meals, buffet breakfasts and high teas it was really hard to find time to go out into the wild and look at animals but we managed it. We saw deer, antelopes, giraffes, elephants, crocodiles, hippos and buffaloes.  Splendid experience actually. The only beasts missing were the lions. Probably had an offsite or something. But we're nothing if not resilient. We went back to the lodge and tucked into some Poulet Roti Provencal or something. The chef turned out to be a Kenyan. We went and met him and only the strongest exertion of will prevented me from kneeling before him and kissing his hand.

It was here that I noticed the curious phenomenon of belt shrinkage. My belt seemed to have shrunk gradually and I was having to wear it a whole notch looser. It must have been a combination of the atmospheric conditions with the ambient temperature causing a slippage in molecular adjacency resulting in an anisotropic x-axis dimensional variation. I can think of no other explanation. The missus only rolled her eyes when I told her my theory but then she's not the kind who appreciates deep scientific analysis. "You've become fat, silly!" she said and went off into a gift shop right there in the middle of the savannah grassland.

Well, perhaps she's right. Or the molecular slippage thing has affected all my garments as well. But I've been hardly eating anything.

By now the jolly old volcanic ash cloud responsible for the cancellation of our Europe plans had drifted over the Atlantic and the airline companies were back in business making losses. We re-booked our tickets and decided to take a pitstop in the United Arab Emirates, staying with some old friends in a place called Ras Al Khaimah. "No silly, ras al khaimah does not mean 'juice of khaimah'" said the missus, in response to my observation.

The UAE is an impressive place. From the sky as one lands, it looks like one big stretch of enormous malls and buildings in the middle of the desert but when you land you find that it is actually comprised of smaller stretches of enormous malls and buildings. In my childhood, I had heard the joke that the national bird of Khalistan was tandoori chicken. Well then, the national bird of the UAE is the construction crane. They are all over the place. On the ground. Atop towering skyscrapers. In the middle of the desert. Everywhere. But they do have the most staggeringly huge shopping malls, which the missus seemed to consider the one redeeming feature of the UAE. They also have excellent restaurants featuring every conceivable kind of cuisine. 

Our flight to Paris was uneventful and we landed in Charles De Gaulle airport. This is Paris' main airport, probably named after their famous president, Charles de Gaulle, as I surmised from my encyclopaedic knowledge of world affairs and my keen deduction skills.

Our luggage was late in arriving and we spent a funfilled hour with disinterested airport officials who spoke only in French.

My complete knowledge of French upto that time was Merci Beaucoup which means thank you very much but after about fifteen minutes of thanking everybody I realized I was no closer to getting my luggage.

Very soon the staff had me figured out for an obsessive compulsive thanker and would look the other way when I approached them. Just as I was beginning to despair, the conveyor started working and our luggage appeared quite miraculously. Flinging around a few more 'Merci Beaucoup's, we made our way to immigration, or passport control as they call it.

It was the quickest and the least intrusive passport control I've ever experienced. The chap across the counter was reluctant to make eye contact even. He quickly stamped my passport and flung it across the counter.

We were in Europe at last.


Aquatic Static said...

Love your travel series. Have learnt much about the world through it. Can't wait till I get to be in Paris (the city, not dumbass).

Spaz Kumari said...

i didn't know she was disinherited. you are highly up to date on your gossip! :D

RK said...

Wow, I love Paris (and all things French!). I know most people find the French from France (as opposed to the ones from Quebec) snobbish but I can't help but like them. They know the good life and know how to live it up! May be the fact that a desi speaks French to them appeals to them and they treat me nicely:) Looking forward to reading more of the escapades.

deepak said...

guess chennai heat is more

Giribala said...

:-)) Your Paris visit reminded me of these guys:

Anonymous said...

A riot as usual.waiting for more.

PS : Paris was that woman who was very impressed(putting it mildly) when you were quoted in mint, right? :D

Ashwin said...

Loving this series so far! Your little travails in travel are making a nice travelogue.. :-)

Anonymous said...

Been reading your travelogue, relating and laughing along the way. I have a "missus" who understands me oh too well.

Deepak Misra said...

Any plans of returning to India ? Let me add one more phrase to your french vocabulary -> "Ooh la la la" (pardon the accent)

French Chicken is a popular dish in Sherlock Holmes Pub in Bangalore. it is made by adding 50% chilli + garlic + ginger and 50% chicken. We can try it when you are here next.


The Cloudcutter said...

Hey Naren!
LMAO @Chilly France. Took me right back to Chennai where they do the same. Although, it's pronounced "Frons" mind you!
Btw, have you ever had stupid paratha? with sexy chicken? I have...where else? In Chennai! I think I should do a post on all the funny names I've read (and eaten) in a "meenu" card.

Looking forward to more travel tales from you :-)

mentalie said...

here's another phrase that'll get you places in other places - domo arigato gozaimashta. meaning merci beaucoup in japanese. domo and merci very much to you too. your post made my weekend :)

Drenched said...

LOL @ the oversexed heiress bit! How did you soothe your nerves (with the missus invading all the malls) in the Sheikh country? Is it dry?
Also, I noticed that unlike our Indian airports, CDG offers no people-watching fun. It only has 4 kinds of people besides the disgruntled officials - the omg-it's-Paris! tourists, gay-looking French men carrying stupid ladies' purse style of bags, women in 6-inch heels and 4-inch thick make-up, the clicking Japs of course taking a pic of the runway et al.

More to come up about the Louvre and Lido, I hope?

Faiz said...

sir, been following ur blog for some time now .. u're the best :)

Saumya said...

Don't worry Mr. Shenoy. What weight you gained in Uganda, you will lose in Paris. After all we all know about French cooking, and make sure you look after your health there (wine wine wine)

Have a blast!

R.A.Krishna said...

Mr. Shenoy you have a wicked sense of humour and you write well too. Keep going. I will follow you on your travels. I can relate with your travels and travails, being in the UAE at present. Yes the malls are awesome and great timepass. However, most Indians like me send a good part of their income home rather than keep it here or spend it here.

Am also going to France this month. Luckily for me the Mrs precedes me and she is an expert in French, as she has been teaching it in Bangalore for three years at Alliance Francaise no less! So Bonjour and Merci Beaucoup Monsieur and will meet you in Paris if you are there in the middle of June!

Am sure your wife must be chuckling silently at your blog!

LEB said...

What can we say Naren...they do not make good quality belts anymore. I am with you on the juice. Who would have thought otherwise !! Love the travelogue !!

Cynic in Wonderland said...

you slould try fot nat geo i say..the first para itself should do the trick...

:P said...

Ooh you took that pic in front of Eiffel tower?

Vaish said...

First time on your blog and it's total hilarious to read. LOL @ Belt Shrinkage!!!
Have lots more fun in Paris.

Spaz Kumari said...

ok please blog now. seriously. :(

Anonymous said...

Hey there, Mr. Shenoy...where are you ?

During our Paris visit couple of years back, we were sucked into a blackhole on Pigalle street..deprived of 100 Euros when we were finally out.

Hoping you were not sucked in too.. Otherwise, why would you not blog for so long now, eh? :)

kim said...

WOW!!! i wish i can travel the way u do... :)

Really loved your travel experience.