Trip to the western edge of eastern Europe: Chapter 8: The one in which we do not see the Eiffel tower

The road to Pula was long and winding and generally very uncomfortable. We barely slept throughout the night and reached Pula totally zonked. The decision to get some sleep and check into a hostel for a day was taken nearly instantly. On the way, we checked out the Pula Amphitheatre – a replica of the Roman Colosseum. It was slightly underwhelming – not as grand as I expected – but then it was 7 am!

We checked into our hostel and slept instantly – our host Zoran and his Vietnamese wife were very helpful. It certainly worked in our favour that he had travelled to India and particularly to Maharashtra – Mumbai, Pune, Nashik, and Ajanta – Ellora. We got a nice discount as well. A good nap later – we figured we should at least see the main city and eat some lunch – this was done extremely quickly as there really isn’t much to see in Pula. We worked our finances perfectly and were almost out of Kunas as we left for the bus station to take us to the airport. We had a bit of a problem with getting bus to the main stop for the airport shuttle as no one spoke English and directions was a big issue. Thankfully a Serbian guy who was working at the hostel offered to give us a lift in his ancient Nissan to the bus stop. A short ride to the airport and we were set to go to Paris. Enthu risked getting arrested at immigration by making the Cher, Bono, Jesus reference – but other than that we were fine.

We reached Beauvais in Paris and headed to the main bus station with the shuttle – there were suddenly more Indians everywhere[1] and we at once felt like mainstream travellers – but not for long as we had come for a totally hipster reason – to watch the last stage of the Tour de France.

We met our friends (Rahul and Gayatri) who were kind enough to host us for the night, at the station and headed for dinner – we had a lovely Senagalese meal (the highlight was the fish, the beef curry and a hibiscus rum concoction).  When we got to their place in Puteaux, we were lucky to see the Eiffel tower all lit up in the distance[2] (it happens every hour post-midnight)

The next morning, we woke up fighting the sedatives taken for sinus issues the previous night and got ready to leave for the Champs Elyssee. Getting there was fairly smooth and a shot walk later we figured out we were ridiculously early[3] – nearly no one was around. A meal of boxed salad, baguette with cheese and coffee (and painkillers) was had sitting outside Marks and Spencer (which was quite a surreal experience considering we were in the fashion capital of the world) and we took our spots near the Arc de Triomphe and waited.

Nearly 5 hours later, the race reached Paris. It was interesting to see professional cyclists go past at a distance of barely 5 feet, but this was more of a pilgrimage than anything else. And like all pilgrimages, this was not the best way to experience the event. Cycling is not the most spectator friendly sport, and is best enjoyed watching on TV, not standing on a road, waiting for 200 cyclists to zip past every 10 odd minutes.  But as far as pilgrimages go, this was quite a lot of fun.

We got back surprisingly smoothly with the metro and Gayatri treated us to a great home cooked meal – chicken curry, rice and wine (we were in Paris after all).

 

 

[1] Which meant we could not curse in Hindi / Marathi loudly as we had been doing all this while

[2] This is the closest we got to being touristy in Paris

[3] And thus all the info online about the crowds at the Tour de France is wrong

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