After landing in Paris at the Charles de Gaulle Airport, we were promptly picked up by one of Monish’s cousins, Prerena. A little backstory: Monish’s aunt and uncle moved to Paris a couple decades ago, and proceeded to have six children. Due to being born and raised in Paris, all six of his cousins speak fluent French and some (though not all) speak additional languages, including but not limited to: English, Gujarati (Monish’s mother-tongue), Hindi, and Spanish. Prerena speaks fluent French and a little Gujarati mixed with some broken English, which made communicating with her a fun experience as neither myself nor Monish can speak French. It was an interesting car ride, to say the least. Thank god for Google Translate!
Once we loaded ourselves and our luggage into Prerena’s car, she informed us that we would be going to lunch as some of the family was free and wanted to meet me. I don’t remember the name of the restaurant, but it was a South Indian/Sri Lankan fusion-type of place. There were seven of us in total, so they directed us to a large table that was available in the back. This group included Monish’s aunt (Bhavna Foi) and uncle (Rohit Fua), his cousin, Bhavin, and his wife, Mayourika, and, of course, Prerena, myself and Monish. What I found to be both fascinating and beautiful about being apart of this group was that there was not one single common language that all seven of us could speak in together. Within the group, 5 out of 7 of us could speak English, 5 out of 7 could speak French, 3.5 out of 7 could speak Gujarati (the 0.5 is for Prerena as she is not completely fluent) and then there was also some Hindi that could be spoken and one individual (Mayourika) who could speak Tamil. So in order for us to all communicate, a bunch of translating back and forth was involved while many different languages were being spoken all at once. It was such a beautiful thing to get to be apart of!
As an avid people-watcher, I noticed that basically everyone in the restaurant was staring at our table at one point or another, and sometimes the stares would last for a few minutes at a time. The area that the restaurant was located in was heavily populated with Sri Lankans along with a small mixture of Indians, so I was a minority in this restaurant as most of the other patrons were either Sri Lankan or Indian. It must’ve been very odd for these people to see one white girl at a table full of Indians/Sri Lankans with a combination of English, French and Gujarati being spoken around the table! The looks that people were giving us gave me the impression that they were confused as to how we all knew each other/what the hell was going on at our table. I found it to be quite entertaining!
I had so much fun at lunch as I got to spend time getting to know Monish’s “Paris Family”, as we call them, who I now can officially call my family, too. His cousins all have such fun personalities and his aunt and uncle were a joy to be around. Although this was my first time meeting everyone, I felt right at home and I enjoyed getting to know more about everyone’s lives in Paris. After lunch was finished, we piled six of us into Prerena’s little five-person car as we were dropping off Foi and Fua at their house which was located right around the corner. It was ridiculous, but also a lot of fun! Bhavin chose to walk as the distance wasn’t far and there was literally no more room for him to fit into the car (see photos below).
While dropping off Foi and Fua, we also said temporary goodbyes to Bhavin and Mayourika as Prerena was now taking us to Vibha’s place, where we would reside throughout our stay in Paris. I was exhausted by this point as I did not sleep on the plane from the U.S. to Paris and it was now late afternoon. Due to this, I slept for most of the car ride despite how excited I was to finally be in this city that I’d long dreamt about visiting.
Upon arriving at Vibha’s place, she cheerfully and warmly greeted us, which felt so great! I knew then that we would have a great time staying with her. She quickly got us situated then we all decided to take a nap as it had been such a long day. When we woke up, it was time for dinner and Vibha made sandwiches for us to snack on as we weren’t too terribly hungry. Vibha then asked if we wanted to go out and explore the city a little or if we would prefer to stay inside and rest… I quickly responded with, “let’s go explore!”, without allowing Monish the opportunity to give his input. Thankfully he’s always ready for a new adventure, so the three of us set out to see the magic of Paris at night!
Technically, Vibha lives in a suburb of Paris, so we needed transportation in order to be able to walk around some of the infamous Parisian streets that I was excited to explore. She owns a Vespa but it could only transport two of us, so one of us would need to take the metro (known as a subway in the U.S.) while the other two rode on the Vespa. Monish volunteered as tribute since it was nighttime and he didn’t want me wandering around the subway alone at night as it could be dangerous since I’m a woman. Before Vibha and I set out, she first dropped Moni off at the “bouche de métro” (which is a French phrase that means the “mouth of the metro”) so that he could get a head start since public transportation would take a bit longer. She then came back to the apartment to pick me up and off we went!
We parked the Vespa on a street in the area near the Notre-Dame Cathedral as there was plenty to feast our eyes on in this section of the city. After snapping some photos in front of the infamous cathedral, we made our way to Pont Neuf, the oldest bridge in the city of Paris that crosses over the Seine River. I was fascinated to learn that this bridge was built in the early 1600s and is still standing today. Of course, there’s since been some restoration, as one would expect, but the idea that I was walking across a bridge that was older than the United States was so captivating!
From here, we continued walking the brightly lit Parisian streets. While I was under the impression that we were aimlessly roaming around, Vibha had a plan that she neglected to tell us as she wanted it to be a surprise… We began to approach a very large building, which turned out to be the Louvre! It was closed now as it was after 11pm, but we were able to walk around to the backside and take a few photos with the infamous Louvre Pyramid. Due to the time, the area was basically empty, which allowed us the opportunity to capture a few photos without people in the background. Such a rarity! Unfortunately for us, they had already turned all the lights inside the pyramid off so we didn’t get to see it in its blazing glory, but we were satisfied nonetheless.
Lastly, we made our way over to Pont Des Arts, also know as the “Love Lock Bridge”. The bridge got its nickname from the large amount of couples (typically tourists) who would write their names on a padlock, attach it to the bridge, then toss the key into the river as a symbol for their eternal love for each other. I did my research ahead of time, so I was fully aware of the fact that not only is it now illegal to participate in attaching a lock to the bridge, but it’s also frowned upon by Parisians as they are very prideful about the appearance of their city. Attaching the locks became an illegal act because at one point there were so many locks on the bridge that its weight became a hazard to the pedestrians utilizing it. The city of Paris has actually removed the majority of the locks, so the once lock-covered bridge is now scarce and empty, with locks remaining in only a few sections of the bridge, typically around lampposts.
By this point, it was past midnight and the streets had become bare with hardly any people in sight. We decided to end our exploration for now and begin again the next morning, when the sun would be shining bright.