Mukti and I just came back from a trip to Italy and France. It was wonderful. This is an overview of our trip. I’ll write more in the coming weeks.
Although the vacation was too short, and both the countries have so many beautiful places you can see, it was simply great to be able to visit Paris and Rome. It is only a matter of time before we go back, and check out places we missed this time.
In Paris, we took a bus tour to see the famous sites. Of course it included the Eiffel Tower, Champs-Elysées, Arc de Triomphe, the Notre Dame Cathedral, Luxembourg Garden, the Pantheon, the Latin Quarters, and Louvre. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to go inside the Louvre, and it was already very crowded in late May. But we compensated for that gap by taking a boat cruise along the Seine at night, and to see the Tour Eiffel lit up and glittering like gold was phenomenal.
[Author and his wife Mukti in front of Eiffel Tower]
Paris is truly a wonderful, artistic city, and we had a knowledgeable, young guide who helped us to understand the depth of history that the city offers. And the cleanliness everywhere — on the street, along the metro trains, Paris can definitely brag to be one of the most well-cared-for big cities in the world. And Parisians were, unlike what we often hear, were extremely helpful and kind. Many French people speak English, and those who do not also try their best to help you out.
Our second stop was Italy, where we spent one more day than we did in France. There, we depended on our walking skills to roam through the city of Rome. Rome has incredible history: from the Colosseum to the Forum to the Pantheon to some of the oldest churches including Santa Maria in Trastevere to the markets at Campo di Fiori. Rome was simply fascinating!
[Photo by author]
Our added attractions were to visit the city of Naples by a 300-kilometer per hour high-speed train, and then also take a local train ride to the ancient ruins of Pompeii. Unbelievable history, incredibly precious experience. Pompeii was destroyed by a catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius (which is still a live volcano!), and the skeletons of the little town houses, gardens, pools, markets, and streets still stand to tell us about that great tragedy. Even some of the bodies buried live in the mudslide and lava are preserved as “fossils”. A very touching, heartbreaking story we heard since our childhood in Calcutta.
[Photo by author]
In both Italy and France, we had many opportunities to taste their foods, beverages and desserts. Simply put, I have never tasted food so real, fresh, and delicious — outside of my own kitchen. Even at the moderately-priced hotel in Rome, the breakfast they served early in the morning was so normal and natural: the cheese and tomato and bread and fruits and yogurt were absolutely fresh.
France and Italy have done a remarkable job to keep their foods out of the clutches of food doctoring, preservatives, and artificial flavor- and chemical-producing companies. I remember when we went to Granada and Barcelona in Spain a few years ago, we had a very similar experience.
Whether it was the chicken dish we ate at a restaurant in the Trocadero in Paris or the crêpe in the Latin Quarters, or whether it was the pizza or pasta we tasted at small streetside eateries in Naples and Rome, they were simply high quality. And not pricey at all. Very affordable: the average people eat there all the time. Even the fruit juices we tried in both countries were pristine. The orange juice tasted like real, fresh orange.
And the countless gelato (ice cream) corners in both countries — so lovely!
So glad we took the trip. Short, but memorable and sweet. We shall return.
[Photo by author]