A Summer Weekend : Cannes/Monaco/Island of Sainte Marguerite

 

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During the 18th century when the British upper class was holidaying and chilling under the warm skies of the French Riviera, they couldn’t have imagined that in the 21st century, these spots would turn into holiday hubs, and people would fly in from all over the world, every day, every hour, crowding these beaches along the Mediterranean. The Cote d’Azur, known in English as the French Riviera, is definitely one of the most popular summer holiday destinations of our times. With the Cannes Film Festival pretty much endorsing it every year, tourists are buzzing around all year long. One among them, I finally booked myself in for a southern delight this summer.

Almost the peak of summer, I flew in to Nice on the first weekend of August. Although summer was at its peak in Paris too, but the sun in the South has its own feels. So I landed in Nice, and took the bus to the center from the airport, and took in the sight of people walking their dogs and running along the Promenade des Anglais. The first thing that really struck me was the architecture, which was nothing like what I’d seen before in France. Of course I wasn’t used to seeing house with huge balconies and terraces, because my home city in France, i.e., Paris is known for its almost non existing balconies. Which has its own charm, but let’s not get to that. Nice, on the other hand, was very, very different from Paris. I just couldn’t stop staring at the pretty houses, sometimes painted bright yellows and pinks, looking onto the beach.

But Nice wasn’t the place I was staying the night. I was somehow more excited about visiting towns other than Nice, mostly because I didn’t want to go to super hyped places. But yeah I know Cannes and Monaco aren’t less hyped either. But after a small walk around Nice, I headed straight to the station and boarded the train to Monaco. A cheap ticket, a short ride, but amazing views of seaside towns as the train passed along the French Riviera, towards Italy. Pretty much every small stretch of sand was packed with people. Somewhere hidden on tiny hills were houses, mansion rather, looking like a bird’s nest far from the hustle and bustle of the city ; looking out on to the bright blue Mediterranean, a perfect escape from the world so full of life and troubles. But like dreams, these houses passed out of sight, and soon the train entered the Gare Monaco Ville.

Of course, I should have known that this was another touristy little place. A small country, surrounded by France and the Mediterranean. Monte Carlo- a town straight out of a Hollywood movie set. With its yatch-lined harbor, the belle-epoque casino, and streets filled with high-end fashion boutiques, I did feel for a moment that I was in the wrong place. Monte Carlo is for the rich. But these days you don’t need to be rich to travel. SO, I was pretty happy not spending euros and euros like a typical tourist, but taking in the sights and observing a new place with keen eyes of a traveler. Not concentrating much on spending lavishly, I concentrated on walking around. But the most crazy (in a nice way) thing about this place was that most of it was hilly, and quite interestingly there were public lifts to take help you climb up! It took me 20 minutes to figure out where my airbnb was – even though it was just on the street next to the station where I got off! I thought I was pretty good with maps, but a new realization is that map skills work differently for hilly towns!

Well, I didn’t do much in Monaco except walking around in the old town, in narrow streets, admiring the architecture, window shopping brands that I had never even heard of, climbing till the highest point of the town for an amazing view, and visiting the entrance hall of the casion of Monte Carlo (You can’t go in to gamble unless you’re suited and booted and look rich enough). Drinks and dinner by the harbour, ofcourse, and that was the end of my time in Moncao. Next afternoon, I boarded a train to Cannes, and eager for a day at the beach!

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Post Office in Monaco.

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A view of Monaco.

Cannes, though still a rich people city, had its own charm. Much different from Monaco, Cannes was all about the beach life. I got off further away from the central station, and walked alllll the way from Cannes La Bocca to the hotel, along the beach. Pretty exhausted by the time I reached the hotel, but the beach had to be done. So poof! I was at the beach in no time! What I noticed there was that from where I had started walking, the beaches were pretty empty, but reaching closer to the center, it was a bazar! The beaches at the center seemed no fun – it was just tooooo packed! There was literally no place to sit. These are the beaches of La Croisette. So if you go to Cannes, avoid these touristy beaches and walk further away from the town, where it’s much nicer and peaceful for a beach day.

That night, dinner was not touristy at all. Having taken some local advice from a friend from Cannes, I went to dine at a very fancy place, where apparently only the locals go. Situated in the heart of the touristy area, in a narrow street next to lanes full of exotic restaurants, this little restaurant, if you don’t know about it, you might never find. Its pretty much a local secret in the heart of the buzzing touristy quartier and is quite rightly called “Le Jardin Secret” – The Secret Garden. At the entrance, it doesn’t even seem like a restaurant. You go in, and you ask for a table, and then they take you in to the garden, which is decorated with candles, lights, and hippy stuff. A beautiful place to spend a summer evening, with French food and wine. And that was the end of day one in Cannes. But the next day was going to be the best adventure of this trip!

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At a beach in Cannes.

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Another one.

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View from the hotel room.

I was pretty convinced that all these towns along the Mediterranean are super touristy and with no peace and calm. I wanted to go somewhere quieter. I still hadn’t found a beach where I could just relax, away from the crowds. And then – an island happened. I have this habit of checking google maps all the time to see what is around. Before the trip, when I was looking at Cannes in Google maps, I saw an island pretty close to it. I wondered if one could actually go there. So when I reached the hotel, I made it a point to ask the reception about this island. And turns out – we can go there! Now this island is not an island where people live. So pretty much an island-island! It used to be inhabited during Roman times, and was captured by the Spanish at some point and then recaptured by the French. During the 17th century, the fortress prison which still exists on the island was constructed and it was the home to many famous prisoners including the mysterious prisoner called the Man in the Iron Mask, who has been mentioned in the works of famous French writers like Voltaire and Dumas. The prison was shut down in the 20th century. Today, most of the island is a reserved forest with tiny rocky bays, umbrella pines and ancient eucalyptus forests. And of course, beaches all around! Although most of the beaches are rocky, there is a long stretch of sand beach too. But what makes it even more exciting is that you can pick any small stretch of rocky beach and make it your own private beach for the day!

How to get there? Well, there’s a ferry from the Vieux-Port of Cannes to this island every 1-2 hours from the morning till the evening. A 15-minute ferry ride. But the last one back to Cannes is around 6 in the evening, so if you don’t manage to get back, you’re stuck on the island and you sleep under the stars. Although the rides go pretty full during the summer, the island still seems deserted when you’re walking in the forest. The island is almost 3 kms in length and 900 metres across. So you’re not running into people when you’re walking in the forest. But occasionally you see families setting up picnics, someone reading in peace, and people setting up their own private beach parties on tiny rocky bays. This was definitely one of the most unique places I’ve been to till now, and I couldn’t help but think of Kaho na pyaar hai while settling down on my own private bay. I walked quite a lot during the day spent on this island, but it was impossible to cover the whole island in one day. Not knowing what was next, it was pretty exciting to take random narrow paths, and so often, there was the road-not-taken moment in the forest. I also ended up finding a cemetery of soldiers, and that was really, really spooky. But as the hours passed, the challenge was to make it in time for the last ferry, which I managed and made it back in time for the last evening in Cannes.

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On the island – Read the signs!!!

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One edge of the island .

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Thats me 🙂

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On my private rocky bay , chilling in peace.

The next morning, the last morning before the flight back, I went to the terrace of the Radisson Blu, which has an amaaaaazing view of Cannes and the Mediterranean. Followed by a quick visit to the Palais des festivals where the Cannes film festival takes place every year.

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Rooftop of the Radisson Blu.

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But, well, the island being the highlight of my trip to the South of France, I am pretty sure I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much if I hadn’t discovered it on Google maps. Thank Google for that!

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Zebra Crossing : Culture shock in India

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Growing up in India, I never had a problem crossing roads. You know, you learn. You adapt. Before I left home for an experience of life in Europe, I never thought about these things – which were a part of my daily life in India. Greetings for example, about which I wrote in my previous post. And now, what comes to my mind is : Zebra crossings.

I had learnt about the concept of zebra crossings quite early in my school textbooks, but never saw anyone using it the city where I lived. I learnt how to cross roads, just like everyone else. It was never a problem – I could say so, because I’m still alive. Looking both ways on a one way road, turning your head left-right, left-right, and hoping to ace the timings once again. Smooooth! No dikkat at all! I was a pro, just like everyone else.

But when I first went abroad, I was alone, and too excited about everything. It was my first ever experience of living alone in a new country, and I certainly wasn’t prepared for the culture shocks! So I’m in France – during the first few days – and I’m crossing the road, as if I own it. A car comes speeding and the driver gives me a stare which clearly means “Are you stupid?” – And thats when I realize, they do have this zebra crossing thing going here in Europe, and quite seriously at that! So they weren’t talking about some fictional land in the school textbooks!

Three years in Europe, I’m pretty used to crossing at Zebra crossings. At the signals, waiting for the red light to turn green for the pedestrians. And where there were no pedestrian signals, I would uselessly wait, not knowing that the cars would stop themselves if I’m walking on it. So well in time, I learnt the ways of this blessing that is the zebra crossing!

But every time I came home to Delhi for the holidays, I experienced a reverse culture shock. The first time I came back during the summer, I actually started looking for zebra crossings. Something I had never bothered to observe before. To my surprise, we never notice the zebra crossings, because helloooo!!! The vehicles are ON the zebra crossing when the signal is red! And poor pedestrians are zig-zagging to cross the road. In some other places, the white lines are sooooo light that they are almost invisible. But who cares? Because we are experts in crossing roads – because we are, what they call, Khatro ke khiladi!

I noticed that near the Connaught Place area, they do have these pedestrian signals, which were quite a relief, but even in that case, the vehicles are still ON the zebra crossing. And then, this incident that happened just a few days ago : I was in CP, and had to go from one block to the other. There was no signal there for the cars to stop, but I saw a zebra crossing. A couple walking in front of me jumped right onto the zebra crossing, while the cars and autos were speeding towards them. For a second I thought maybe the vehicles would stop because pedestrians crossing on a zebra crossing where there’s no traffic signal. But no, they didn’t. Khatro ke khiladi managed to cross the road alive, zig-zagging and stopping at the right time, hoping another vehicle doesn’t crash into them!

On a very serious note, this is an issue of concern. Growing up in the capital of the country, I only learnt about road ethics and safety in theory, and never practically because nobody follows them! Since the last three years, everytime I’ve come home after an year abroad, I don’t venture out of the house alone at least for week, because I’m scared! And I’m not even exaggerating. I’m scared to cross the road. Scared because I might have forgotten the skills to watch both sides of a one way road, hoping not to die. Scared because I’m out of practice!

It is my request to every one who drives, to be more careful, and follow rules for the combined safety of everyone around! If today I managed to cross the road safely, there must be someone out there who didn’t, and a life was lost!

As a side note, I would like to add that we must also not be scared to speak up about these things. Personally, I too think twice before saying it now, because everytime I compare life in India with my experience abroad, they say “Haan zyada angrez ban gai hai tu. Bhool mat yahi se gai hai!”. Lol, I know that, and it doesn’t mean that I don’t like being in India anymore. In fact I am so happy to come back! But certain things make you think, and react! And that is why, I chose to write about it. Doing things because that’s the way its done, will not help us create a better space to live in. Together we can make a difference!

Be safe!

La Bise : Culture shock in Europe

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First experiences are special. First experiences of living in a new country can result in serious culture shocks too. Not in a negative way, but in a funny, ironic way. When you leave a country like India to go live abroad, the first experience can be full of eye-widening, thought provoking experiences. One of the major culture shocks for me, was La Bise: The cheek-to-cheek greeting that is so common in France. Growing up back home, I had only seen films stars do the cheek-to-cheek kiss, or maybe others belonging to the ‘elite’ class. Chez moi, when greeting an elder, say Namaste or Sat Sri Akal. Sorted. Look at the person, bow your head a little and say it. With friends, just a ‘hey’ or a side hug works. But in France, there was a completely different thing going on.

It took me a while to understand that the bise is a part of the everyday life, and it can be taken very, very seriously. One person would enter the room, and would do muah-muah to everyone sitting there. Sweet, I thought to myself. After a few days of observation, I realized that they also do it while leaving. Sweet again, I thought to myself. Such an intimate way of greeting and saying goodbye! And now, I thought I was ready to greet in the French way too! But then, I forgot to notice which side you have to go to first. The initial weeks of meeting new people was a struggle in my mind. Left first? Or right first? What if I bump into their face? Should I just shake hands? Or hug? Umm, no. But they’re French – they would go for the bise! So then left first? Or right first? The left and right struggle was solved in its own time – practice makes a man perfect! But there were more mysteries of the bise yet to be solved – It is okay to do the bise with youngsters that you’re meeting for the first time, but what about people older than you? This question still haunts me! I might have embarrassed myself a couple of times by doing the bise with a much older lady that I met for the first time. I always wondered if there were rules about how to do the bise with who!

After living, working and studying in France for three years, I learnt a lot about the French culture and was quite comfortable with the greetings. I didn’t have to think left or right anymore! But outside of France, the mysteries of the bise were new, and more embarrassing! Once upon a time, I went to Belgium, and a friend introduced me to his friends. Friends of friends = do the bise. I did the calculation in my head. Went for it, but was left hanging in the air on the other side. Because, as I would learn later, they do one cheek kiss in Belgium! Ahem. One of the most awkward moments of my life, but a useful lesson learnt. ‘Next time onwards, I would be careful about the nationality before thinking one or two, instead of left or right’, I told myself. But when I met an Italian (Roberto! Yes, you!), I realized that the left or right also had to be taken into consideration: because for Italians, it was opposite to that of the French. We met so often, but never came to the decision as to which side to go to first!

After several awkward greetings and meeting people from different parts of the continent, I realized that the bise was a greeting which is similar everywhere in Europe, but distinct in its own style: quite similar to what we have in India, in the sense that the greeting changes from Namaste to Sat Sri Akal to Vanakkam to Khamma ghani, but the bow of the head or folding of the hands remains similar. However, the most annoying part of the culture shock is that it can linger on for a while, and become a part of you if you live in the place for too long. So now the greeting queries have started working the opposite way: I had never put so much thought into how to greet a person while I was living in India, but now my head starts doing the greeting calculations for handshake/hugs/Namaste on its own.

Italy – Part 3 – Verona

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“There is no world for me outside the walls of Verona, except purgatory, torture, and hell itself. So to be banished from Verona is like being banished from the world, and being banished from the world is death.”

– Shakespeare, Rome and Juliet, Act III, Scene III.

This is a quote engraved on one of the walls in Verona. And this is also the first significant thing I remember seeing, as I walked through the streets of Verona with a map and a suitcase in hand, trying to find the hostel I was booked at. The memories of this city are now fading with time, and I must write them down to preserve them better.

This was February 2015. I have already written the first two parts about Rome and Venice, but somehow completely missed out on Verona.. Maybe I was lazy to pen down all my feelings about Verona, or maybe I thought I shouldn’t ruin the feelings by penning them down, because really, Verona enchanted me and no blogpost can do justice to that enchantment. But let me still try, because I want my favourite city in Europe (till date) to be a part of my travel diaries.

Verona.. Oh Verona! (Shakespeare much!) .. The only reason why I ever wanted to visit Italy was Verona.. and though it sounds stupid to me today, it was because of the movie “Letters to Juliet” that I had watched years ago when I was naive. I do now understand that there is a major difference between movies and real life (actually I still sometimes unbelieve it and slip into dreamland). Of course I didn’t end up finding the love of my life in Verona, like the actress does, but well, I did fall in love with the city!

Verona was different from Rome and Venice. Quite different. The latter being majorly hyped and for that reason, loses its charm when compared to Verona. Though Venice too enchanted me, for the same reason that Verona did.. the “slipping back in time” vibe that it gives. There is something about Italy and its narrow streets, its houses, its architecture, its food, and its people!

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So.. On our 8th day in Italy, we reached Verona via train from Venice. Smooth journey. Bought a map at the train stations, figured out where the hostel was, and started walking towards it. By the time we reached the hostel, we had already seen half of Verona – It was that far! And why we didn’t take a taxi or bus? Because duh! Save money!

After checking in at the hostel, we headed straight to where I had been dying to go ! Juliet’s house ! Even though its not Juliet’s house for real, it looks like something close to what it could have been. And so it has been converted into a monument for Juliet. Apparently, it also has links to the Capulet family. Well, I don’t know how true that is, but thats what they say ! Okay, now I had no idea that the Juliet’s house wasn’t just about Juliet’s balcony, but there was also a museum inside, which had paintings, antiques, and quotes from Romeo & Juliet on display. That was quite a treat for a history buff like me ! And coming to the main point – Yes, people do write their letters to Juliet, and there is a post box where you can put them in. There also a million notes stuck on the wall and of course love locks ! The ghost of Paris is everywhere in Europe ! I am pretty sure they can build an iron bridge with all the love locks hanging everywhere in Europe.

I wouldn’t say I was disappointed with Juliet’s house.. it did have quite a lot of tourists and wasn’t quite like that in the movie, but I was pretty satisfied with the experience – the credits for which go to the museum. I wondered if the letters were answered back though ? The answer to which I found later, when I met a Swedish girl at the hostel who had lived in Verona for quite sometime. She told me that there is indeed a group that writes back, and she herself had worked there. If I had a little more time in Verona, I would definitely have wanted to do it !

That evening, we treated ourselves to a lavish dinner (treat to ourselves for saving the taxi money) at a restaurant in front of the famous arena (which btw is the place where the beginning of Rockstar was shot). That evening, I tasted my favorite wine in the world for the first time – Prosecco – magical Italian white wine. That, and Lasagna. Life was at its best in that moment.

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The Arena where Rockstar (2011) was shot.

The sun in Verona was a breath of fresh air. The next day, we walked around the city and looked for things to do. We knew there was a castle somewhere on a hill, so we just ended up randomly walking towards it. We ended up walking up a hill with a forest full of ruins, and when we reached the top, the view was breathtaking. Verona from above looked gorgeous !

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Hey thats my back!

It was a chill two days in Verona. Went out for drinks with the Swedish girl and her local friends, walking around the city, contemplating by the river, and the like..

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At the end of it all, I was quite happy. I would have liked to stay longer in Verona, but I knew I would come back to this city someday. I had decided. I would come back to Venice and Verona, so I didn’t let disappointment set in, and said see you soon to one of my favourite cities !

Belgium!

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Belgium, a small country to the north of France. Every one who lives in Paris for a study abroad and wishes to travel Europe would 110% visit Belgium, for more than one reasons. The most important ones : Cheap trains/buses from Paris to Brussels. And one million (maybe I’m exaggerating) varieties of beers! Maybe not a million.. but thousand? For sure! Belgian beers are known world wide, and Belgians do love their beers, just like the French do their wine. If not anything else, I’ve definitely learnt a thing or two about wines and beers in Europe. You know, general knowledge that seems to be important when you’re studying abroad in Europe. So, let me not stray from the topic, and get straight back to talking about Belgium, and the two cities I’ve visited till now.. followed by some quick photographs.

It might sound insane, but I’ve taken a train from Paris to Brussels a couple of times already, but I’ve never been outside in the city of Brussels. I mean, yeah technically I have, the metro and a climbing place I recently went to.. But never really the town center. I know thats insane, but I’ll do that soon 😛

So, after getting down from the “izy” Thalys (read Thalys for cheap travels and for people who are lost between France and Belgium and wanting to call both of them their home), I’ve been to two cities till now : Gent and Leuven.
[Quick note, if you don’t know about izy thalys – its the affordable version of Thalys train, takes a little longer than the Thalys, but its a blessing for its extremely affordable!]

About the cities – I absolutely love how cute, tiny (compared to my home country in Europe) and pretty they are. I know these are such dreamy adjectives, but its true! I think Belgian cities have a very relaxed aura to them. For some reason, the air in Belgium is different from that in France. Definitely there are more bars than cafes – well, thats what I’ve noticed. Of course you find bars everywhere in Paris too, but somehow you find more bars than cafes if you walk around in Belgium. Not to forget your nose would be on alert all the time, because DUH! WAFFLES and FRIES! Let me not say French fries, as we know it. But Belgian fries- the original fries.. and ummm, my mouth is watering! THEY ARE DELICIOUS. You have to come and try them. But let me just mention on thing about them, and thats the major point of difference from French fries as we know them.. Belgian fries are not like the thin almost dead McDonalds fries, which are competing with a size zero girl.. Belgian fries are thick and and and and… DELICIOUS!!!!

And what goes best with them? A drink in a beautiful bar, with friendly waiters who happily speak English if you ask them to (unlike in France). Shit, I seem to compare France and Belgium a lot. But I’m stating facts. Belgian waiters > French waiters. Not just the waiters, but everyone there seems to have a decent level of English. Okay I’m not criticizing the French or anything, they have great qualities in their own way, but when it comes to being multilingual, the Belgians win! (I think I need to write a post about three years of my life in France too –  maybe then I could put down in writing my real views about the French culture.)

Well, since I was talking about bars, here is one I would recommend for sure. This one is in Leuven, a small student city, 45 minutes by train from Brussels. The bar is called “De Blauwe Schuit” and is not exactly in the center but very close to it. And, why is it amazing? They have a pet PEACOCK!!! Now thats something different. A bar/restaurant with a pet peacock on their terrace. It absolutely looks like a summer paradise!!! With all the greenery, and the peacock quite literally doing a free show! He is such a show off bird, really. He isn’t scared of so many people sitting around. In fact he knows that everybody loves looking at him, so he’ll show off his feathers happily!!!

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And here’s a photograph for you!

As far as architecture and scenic beauty is concerned, I don’t think I need to compare France and Belgium here.. Both are equally rich in scenic beauty, history, and architecture. But there’s something about Belgium.. something unique.. The few times I’ve visited, I always tried to understand what it was.. In fact, every time I visit a new city, I always try to notice difference from the ones I’ve been to. Almost all the European cities might seem to be rich in culture, history, architecture and scenic beauty, but there is something different about the cities of each country. Maybe I need to walk around Brussels to figure out what it really is.. the capital is of course a must visit. But from what I’ve felt till now, I think its the happy faces and the difference in the lifestyle that makes it different. There’s a relaxing feeling, a happier feeling, a feeling that I never got while walking around in Paris.

 

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Watermael-Boitsfort.

 

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Gent city center.

 

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Me and my friend Yoko who lives in Gent.

 

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On the train from Brussels to Gent.. Probably the most famous coffee shop in Brussels?

 

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Paris is not all that Befikre!

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I’ve been dying to write this review ever since I started watching this movie. Just 10 minutes into the movie, and I knew this was another typical Bollywood movie set to destroy the brains of an easily influenced audience (read teenagers who are learning the language and dreaming about love).

Only a few weeks back I had written a blogpost about how Bollywood movies ruined my life, since I was a huge fan of this genre of movies when I was a teenager. And I’m not surprised that they’re still making bullshit movies like these in 2016, alongside some sensible ones like Queen, The Lunchbox and the like. And here I’m going to make a comparison with Queen the film as well, because they’ve shown Paris too. But not like in Befikre!

First of all, let me tell you that Paris is not all that ‘Befikre’ : ‘Carefree’. No, you don’t see people kissing like that everywhere! The movie starts with a song which is about the lips and people are kissing everywhere. People kiss in public, yes, but not like they’re horny and they don’t have a room. Then, hellooooooooooo? You think you can get away with slapping a cop in public, stealing a mannequin’s underwear, sleeping in a hotel room that’s not yours et crap? If it wasn’t a bollywood movie, Dharam would have paid well for slapping a cop and next time Shyra had said ‘I dare you’, he would have begged her not to. But well, it’s a bollywood movie, and anything can happen in Bollywood movies.

Next : I don’t understand how he managed to get an appartment in a beautiful neighbourhood in Paris when he is only a standup comedian? Do these people have any idea how difficult it is to find an appartment in Paris? Go read the desperate posts on the facebook group of Indians in Paris and you’ll understand how difficult it is to manage roti, kapda aur makaan in this ‘city of love’. So either Dharam is rich as fuck, or the filmmakers are joking with us.

Also, isn’t Shyra born and brought up in Paris? How can her Hindi be better than French then? Her French sounds like she just heard the sentence from someone and babbered it in the next shot, without appropriate expressions or tone. I honestly think she could have done a better job with the French. Ofcourse the Indians wouldn’t notice that because it would sound so exotic, but for those who really know the language and live in France, then hellooooo – they don’t talk like that! Trust me, I’ve heard little Sikh kids in the Gurudwara in Paris (who are actually born and brought up here), and their accent really is French. So that was such a failed attempt by Vaani Kapoor.

Another important thing : It gets cold as fuck in Paris. But for our Bollywood actors, its always sun and bikinis and shorts weather! So either the actors in this film are sleeping through the winter months (because they don’t show that) or the year long skirt weather is a lie. Ofcourse you know the truth!

Apart from that, as I read in another review of the movie, I totally agree that there is no chemistry between the two lead actors. There was no point where you could feel the love between them. Because guess what? There was none. It would have been a better end if they just decided to be friends, because that’s what they were better at. But the whole haath thaamna for shaadi and all in the end just ruined the whole movie. Umm, which is already quite ruined? And not to forget, Dharam doesn’t know how to swin and he jumps with her from a cliff in the end? I am pretty sure he’s dead by now. Tsk tsk. R.I.P Dharam.

If you are an easily influenced teenager (as I was some years ago) and you’re excited about Paris and the beautiful language that is French – then let me tell you that this movie is not what Paris is all about. It may be the city of love and beautiful sights, but unless you’re Ambani’s son, your life isn’t going to be like this here. Nor is mine. This movie is faaaaaar faaaaaar away from the reality of the lives of Indians living here. Sure, there must be some who can afford paying fines to the police, owning expensive cars, and getting married in the countryside, but that must be the reality of only one in hundred of them. So please, if you watch this movie, consider it to be a nightmare and forget it. And if you really wanna watch a movie about Paris, then watch Queen, which gives a more real picture of the whole Indian in Paris scene. You know what I mean. And here I’d also like to mention that Lisa Haydon had done a much better job with the French in Queen than Vaani in Befikre.
Phew, there is still some hope till we have some sensible filmmakers like that of Queen.

When Paris scared the shit out of me .

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Paris sounds all beautiful and dreamy, yes. But it can also be a scary place. As I had not imagined it to be. In India, I’m always asked to be careful with my belongings and also the men who stare. But it was quite stupid of me to think that Paris would be different. I was under the impression that it would be safe, and their won’t be thiefs and rapists walking around in the crowd. But well, somethings about the world you only understand when you’ve been there and done that.

So this incident occoured a few weeks ago, when I was going to a friend’s place around 9 pm. Me and my friend got off La Chapelle station, and as soon as we got out, there were men crowding at the entrance of the station, selling packs of cigarettes. I found that quite wierd actually. People selling cigarettes on the road!
Anyway, I wasn’t really paying attention to much around me since I was kinda low and lost in my head. We were walking towards our friend’s place and apparently these two guys were following us (as my friend later told me). He said that they had been pointing to your legs and passing some comments, but he ignored it, thinking that they must be just checking me out. Well, no, they were not interested in the legs, but the phone that I was carrying in my hand. I wasn’t carrying a bag that day, and my coat didn’t have a big enough pocket and I was wearing a dress, so no pockets, and thus I was carrying my iPhone 6s in my hand. Later I would regret using an expensive phones. Its literally like carrying 800 euros in your hand instead of a small device. Dangerous, dangerous I tell you!

So, well, this is what happened next – We crossed the road and my friend pushed me to the left, since he knew that the guys were behind us. But unfortunately the signal on the left was green, so we couldn’t cross the road and we stood their waiting. Within two second, one of the guys pushed my friend from the left, and said ‘pardon’, and I too looked towards him, trying to listen to what he was saying. Ofcourse all my concentration was on them, and within that moment, that weak moment, when my attention was to something else, the other guy on my right snatched my phone and ran.

It was dark and not many people were there, so nobody really paid attention to what had happened. I didn’t even waste a second in waiting their or telling my friend as to what had happened. I just ran after the guy on that dark empty street. My friend was still standing there, with the stuff he was carrying, not knowing what had happened.

I was running for sometime, not knowing what I was running for. Ofcourse I wouldn’t be able to catch him, I thought to myself. I was no runner. And I wasn’t wearing sports shoes either. I was dressed  up for a party, and I was running behind a thief. And I was shouting in English. Well, when your mind is blank and someone stole your phone, you even forget which country you’re in. But then I saw my friend running after him, and since he’s better at running, he quickly ran past me. Luckily enough, it wasn’t a straight road anymore. It was kind of a perimeter of a garden that we were running along, and suddenly when we got to the other side of the street, it was all lit up. There were people, bars, and lights, and everybody saw that three people were running after each other. And thankfully my friend was in his senses enough to shout in French. ‘Monsieur, s’il vous plait’, ‘Monsieur s’il vous plait’ (Sir, please! Sir, please!). I was quite pissed as to why he was saying please to a thief! But well, that worked!

After running non-stop for quite sometime, the guy stopped, turned back and handed the phone to him, saying ‘C’est bon c’est bon’, ‘its okay, its okay’. That when we realized that there was another crossing ahead. If he ran any longer, a car would have hit him, so he had to stop, otherwise we would have caught him anyway.

I was literally dead after all that running, but when I got back my phone, well, that feeling is inexplicable. Though, I couldn’t get this incident out of my head for daaaays, but I was really proud of myself for not becoming weak in that moment and atleast trying for it. You never know, sometimes the effort is worth it! As they say – God helps those who help themselves!

Well, now I am much more careful when I’m going out in Paris. Always carry a sling bag even if I just have a phone to carry. Always paying attention to who is walking behind me. Not taking out my phone in public if not urgent. Phew, quite a lesson learnt!