Thursday, July 30, 2015

The other side of Paris

I have written a number of posts about Paris - a city of dreams of many, which I visited last September. I had high hopes about the city and it more or less lived up to its repetition. But that was as far its old architecture and well preserved buildings and monuments were concerned.

I am writing this post, prompted by a report in the France 24 online today and something that pained me to see too when visiting the many landmarks of Paris. Yes I am talking of overflowing trash cans and dirt lying around these and in open patches where tourists sat and rested.

The report says that Paris is classed down 24th in the world cleanliness ranking. And the ground facts speak exactly the same. 

Unlike Germany, from where I embarked upon a tour passing through Holland and Belgium, the trash cans in Paris are small with narrow necks and very little capacity to hold litter. With thousands and thousands of visitors visiting Eiffel Tower, the litter bins are not only extremely inadequate but in the absence of any 'smart cleaning' drive by the Paris municipal authorities, these over flow and tarnish the beauty of the city.

See the video below and see for yourself what a daily of Paris itself realizes and points out:

Paris: From the city of lights and glamour.... to the city of trash?
Posted by FRANCE 24 English on Monday, July 27, 2015

A lot needs to be done to keep Paris clean for the countless visitors and tourists from around the world whose one of the favourites destinations is Paris and off course the Eiffel Tower.

And a word about security - beware of muggers and car window breakers who find the thousands of cars parked around Paris land marks an easy prey and break the windows to snatch away anything valuable. The authorizes have only placed cautionary boards to caution tourists not to leave anything in the car - but there is no patrolling by police to ensure no one breaks in too.

I narrowly escaped such an attempt when the side window of my BMW was broken - had I left anything valuable, I would have been a loser. Read more about this in one of my earlier posts: I was robbed in France

So don't be surprised to see over flowing litter bins or trash thrown by road sides and on green patches around the Eiffel Tower - and elsewhere too. Enjoy Paris as it is!!

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Paris - Place de la Bastille and the July Column

The Colonne de Juillet (July Column) in the center of Place de la Bastille

There are a few landmarks in Paris that one should never forget to visit. While the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe are most often visited, the Place de la Bastille and the Colonne de Juillet (July Column) are generally omitted. But going back into the Paris history, one finds Place de la Bastille and the July Column to have very significant importance. 

I have already wrote about my visit to the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe in my earlier posts - and today I am writing about Place de la Bastille and the July Column before I wrap up my fist phase of Schengen Travelogue and go back to Germany.

I had heard of the place but never knew that it was located a few distance away from the Grand Hotel at the Voltaire Avenue. We were rather late in reaching Paris and it was already late at night and we were famished and the hotel restaurant was closed. So asking directions for nearby eateries, the hotel manager mentioned about the Place de la Bastille square. 

That was a big surprise and we hurriedly dashed towards the place and found the Place de la Bastille bustling with tourists and visitors with its mighty July Column lit adorably in the centre of the square. The July Column is made of steel and bronze standing 52 meters high and weighs 170 tons.

I made a mention of the Place de la Bastille and the July Column in my first post about Paris: Paris - Here we come. But this post is exclusive to the July Column for those who have little or no knowledge of this historic landmark, here is a little introduction to the place:

As per Wikipedia, The Bastille was built between 1370 and 1383 during the reign of King Charles V as part of the defenses of Paris, the structure was converted into a state prison in the 17th century. It began to acquire a poor reputation when it became the main prison for those taken under lettres de cachet issued by the King of France.

Adding more to its description, here is how Wikipedia continues to describe its history:
In terms of standards, there were many worse prisons in France, including the dreaded Bicêtre, also in Paris. However, in terms of popular literary accounts, the Bastille was a place of horror and oppression, a symbol of autocratic cruelty. The Bastille prison was stormed and was destroyed between 14 July 1789 and 14 July 1790 during the French Revolution.
On 16 June 1792, the area occupied by the Bastille was turned into a square celebrating liberty, and a column would be erected there. The first stone was laid by Palloy; however, construction never took place, and a fountain was built instead in 1793.
In 1808, as part of several urban improvement projects for Paris, Napoléon planned to have a monument in the shape of an elephant built here, the Elephant of the Bastille. It was designed to be 24 m (78 ft) in height, and to be cast from the bronze of cannons taken from the Spanish. Access to the top was to be achieved by a stairway set in one of the legs. However, only a full-scale plaster model was built. Victor Hugo immortalized the monument in the novel Les Misérables where it is used as a shelter by Gavroche. The monument was demolished in 1846.
In 1833, Louis-Philippe decided to build the July Column as originally planned in 1792. It was inaugurated in 1840.

Today, the square is home to the Opéra Bastille. The large ditch (fossé) behind the fort has been transformed into a marina for pleasure boats, the Bassin de l’Arsenal, to the south, and a covered canal, the Canal Saint Martin, extending north from the marina beneath the vehicular roundabout that borders the location of the fort.

We were to pass by the Place de la Bastille and the July Column again when visiting the famous Paris Museum Louvre and had a closer look of the July Column and the inscriptions on it as can be seen in the photos below.

The inscriptions, on the base, are known as Trois Glorieuses — the "three glorious" days of 27–29 July 1830 that saw the fall of King Charles X of France and the commencement of the "July Monarchy" of Louis-Philippe, King of the French. 

On top of the July Column, stands a colossal gilded figure, Auguste Dumont's Génie de la Liberté (the "Spirit of Freedom"). Perched on one foot in the manner of Giambologna's Mercury, the star-crowned nude brandishes the torch of civilization and the remains of his broken chains.

A clearer photo of  Génie de la Liberté [Photo: Wikipedia]

On one side of the base (as seen above) is written "The Law of December 3, 1830" and "The Law of March 9, 1833". These two laws state that a monument will be erected in the Place de la Bastille commemorating the events of July. Besides on the column itself, names of the 504 martyrs are inscribed. In 1848, the 196 victims of the 1848 February Revolution were buried along with those who died in the 1830 uprising, in the National Library garden.

July the 14th is observed as the Republic Day (Bastille Day) in France and an impressive military parade takes place the  on the Champs Elysees.

For those who want to go up to the top of the column, there are 238 steps which allowed access to the top of the column. This spiral stairway is, unfortunately, no longer available to the public [Source].

With this post, I come to the end of my visit to Paris and my next post will be saying good bye to Paris - the Lovers' city and going back to Kiel, Germany through Viersen where a friend awaits us with his sumptuous and warm hospitality.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Kalabagh Dam: When would be the consensus reached?

The monsoon and the floods are here yet again. Beside the devastation these would cause, a large amount of water - millions in cusecs, would be wasted away in to the salty Arabian Sea and lost forever. Pakistan is one of the few acutely water starved countries as it does not have even the bare minimum number of water storage reservoirs to conserve the rain water of Monsoons for later use for agriculture and power generation. As per an estimate, once built, the Kalabagh Dam can generate 3,600 megawatts (4,800,000 hp) of electricity - which can address the nuisance of daily 12-18 hours load shedding in the country.

Despite the yearly loss of millions of cusecs of rain water, which brings along with it natural manure to nourish our cultivable lands, we have yet not achieved that 'consensus' we have been listening by successive governments on the Kalabagh Dam. The ANP is hellbent not to allow its construction for it would endanger Nowshehra.

When Mangla Dam was built, the entire Mirpur city was submerged for the sake of future of Pakistan. Now we stand at crossroads since decades with no one willing to give way to the other.

It is time now that what ever reservations of the ANP are about the design of Kalabagh, these should be addressed through a board of competent dam builders (may be from around the world) and even if some modifications are to be made - these should be made now and save the water going down the drain. Even if the redesigning means 50% of designed storage capacity to be achieved, it should be done to save at least half of the water going waste and in the process produce cheap electricity too. 

The problem of royalties can also be settled by having all stakeholders on board for the larger interest of the country rather than one province. The bigger provinces should give in their rights to smaller provinces and help the country from starving.

I have not gone into many technical details as these can only be relevant if everyone is willing to solve a problem rather than beating about the bush and shutting the doors shut for any sane discussion and via media. 

Let the sanity prevail and we rise above the caste and creed and become Pakistanis!!

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Paris Disneyland - the Spectacular Fireworks and Sound & Music Show

Finally the evening was in sight and all tourists and visitors were asked to leave for an d reach Le Château de la BELLE au Bois Dormant - "Sleeping Beauty's Castle" - the venue for the spectacular Firework and Sound & Music show that was to rob us of our awe and leave lasting memories of it for the years to come.

We too joined the crowd and started moving towards the Le Château de la BELLE au Bois Dormant - "Sleeping Beauty's Castle" which was visible from everywhere one was. While moving towards the venue, I could spot a commercial airliner leaving behind a trail of fumes just overhead the castle - and I froze the moment as can be seen in photos above and below.

 My wife (above) and son (below) settling down for the show

 The silhouette of my sone (above) as it started to get dark 

And then slowly and gradually light started to illuminate the Sleeping Beauty's castle and brought it to light from its sleeping silhouette. 

From here on, it was an awe inspiring show of lights and fireworks - something that was too amazing and spectacular. i wish I could explain it in words!!

The music was incredible - the many stories of all Disney characters following and the awesome firework illuminating the sky again and again. We were all spell bound!!

These sudden bursts of fire (as seen above) generated so much of heat that one could feel it even while standing almost 500 metres away from the castle. But in the cold evening, these provided much needed warmth and comfort.

Then by and by, the lights faded away and the fireworks stopped. The almost hour long show came to end end amidst claps and happy shouts of the the onlookers specially the children. The castle once again shrouded into darkness and we left the venue with life time memories of this incredible show - or should I say the greatest show on the earth (remember the movie?)

 My sons posing before saying goodbye to the Disneland

Everyone started to leave and so did we - but not before getting us photographed as the last souvenirs and reminders of our visit to Paris Disneyland.

Just before laving, my sons had the last photos with the huge Mickey Mouse statue as can be seen in the following photos:

But before I close and wrap up my Paris Disneyland chapter, watch herein under a video shot by me (also shared on YouTube) which is part of the hour long fire and sound show - something that is as fresh in my memory as it was when I was watching this spectacular show. Although the video cannot replicate the actual show when seen live, but one can imagine how would it look like when being there in Paris Disneyland. Watch the video now:

I am sure you must have enjoyed my posts on Paris Disneyland and if you haven't been to this wonderful amusement park, include it in your travel plans if visiting Paris next time.

If you haven't seen my earlier posts on Paris Disneyland, here are the links for you:

My earlier posts on Paris Disneyland:

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Paris Disneyland - the rest of the day till the incredible night fireworks show

After watching the spectacular star parade with Mickey Mouse disappearing away, everyone dispersed to explore what remained of the Disneyland and so did we. However, from here on, me and my wife got separated from our sons as they wanted to explore the rides and the adventurous parts of the park, while we the couple settled for much easier part for my sciatica did not allow me to walk any further from the venue for the evening fireworks and sound & light show.



We also took two elderly-friendly rides: one of the elephant and the other in the cups. In the photos above and below my wife is seen enjoying the park from the elephant ride.

 The aprk as seen from the above while taking the elephant ride

My wife in the cup above - while I sitting close to her in the same cup 'shot' her

This was the part of the American landscape that we got a glimpse of while taking a leisurely stroll - my sons got a closer look while they were away.

My sons were more interested in rides that required youth stamina to bear the stress and were eagerly exploring their way towards the rides from where the cries of the riders out of fun and fear were audible from much farther distance.

 The Pirates of the Caribbean 


 A ride in the awesome roller coaster - something that amused my sons - my son in the third row from the front on extreme right

By the time my sons got back, it was already evening and all avenues were being closed and tourists and visitors were directed artfully to the venue of the fireworks and sound&light show. The venue was Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant - "Sleeping Beauty's Castle".

We were rather late as the arena was already full, though mu wife was lucky to find a bench to sit as the waiting period was more than an hour. For me and my sons, the concrete pavement was our sit-on place.

As the evening fell and the darkness set-in, the fireworks and the sound&light commenced. While the day tour was memorable, but the last segment of the day was so incredible, absorbing and full of aesthetics that I would cherish its memories forever.

I will share its incredible coverage in my next posts along with a compiled video that I have also shared on YouTube.

My earlier posts on Paris Disneyland:

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