Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Short tour of Kali-sthan, Henry, Frazergunj, Bakkhali, Patibunia (Mousuni Island)

19.11.2020 (Thursday) Kolkata - Diamond Harobour - Namkhana - 10 Mile - Kalistan -Henry's Island - Bakkhali (4 hrs)

20.11.2020  (Friday) Bakkhali - Frazergunj- 10 Mile- Patibunia- Mousuni Ferry Ghat- Kolkata

Mode of Transport  - Car - Maruti Alto

Tour map -

19.11.2020 (Thursday) Kolkata - Diamond Harbour

   Namkhana (via Cable stayed bridge - no need for Barge ride) - 10 Mile

The local club through which Subrata distributed Amphan materials. We learnt people got many relief materials during Amphan - in fact there was over whelming response, they told us. But relief of Rs 20,000 per person was usurped by party workers. 


The person in the left (standing ) is a student of Plastic technology, studying in Haldia. The person in the middle works in Kerala as construction worker - earns Rs 700 per day (gets it at the end of the day). A mistry gets Rs 1200 and a mistry with lower skill gets Rs 1000 per day in Kerala. He was in Kerala (stayed there for 5 months) before Covid . Now he is selling snacks to the tourists who come to Kalisthan. There is not even a single home stay here. We encouraged them to do it.

- Henry's Island (Closed due to Pandemic) - Bakkhali 
(4 hrs)

                                                      We had it for Rs 140 per piece

Yudisthir Mandal (and his wife Lajjabati Mandal) owns huge tract of land behind his house - he wear many hats: he is a mason cum carpenter cum fisherman cum agriculturist cum musician !

                                           Home stay @ Rs 500

This is the only place in Bakkhali from where the Rath yatra starts. He was greatly pained since this year it did not take place.

20.11.2020  (Friday) Bakkhali

The 16 bigha (= 320 Cottah = 230,400 sq ft) paddy field he owns after working 24 years as Sareng in a fishing trawler. Before cutting down the paddy Yudhisthir worship Basumata (Mother Earth). So the colors of his hands become red with Sindur before first cutting starts. Most of the people here use tractor (hires it from a person) for farming - but not Yudisthir, since cow drawn plough goes much below the soil than a tractor and resulting in more oxidation in the soil.

The paddy is harvested only once a year. Rest of the year nothing happens due to lack of irrigation water. Labourer gets Rs 400 per day from 8 am - 6 pm (?) for field work. Most of the people are fisherman here. During this time of the year (harvesting time) people do not go for fishing or go less than normal. They go for 3-4 days at a stretch and goes to sea 4 times a month generally. The helpers get Rs 3,000 per Lakh (Rs 100,000) of the catch. There are 11 helpers per boat.

 - Frazergunj

- 10 Mile - Patibunia- Mousuni Ferry Ghat- Diamond Harbour - Kolkata

Friday, August 7, 2020

French Revolution and Ruins of Pompeii

Tour diary of France & Napoli


01.10.19 Kolkata (20 30 hrs - IST) -Delhi (22 45 hrs - IST) 
02.10.19 Delhi (02 00 hrs - IST) - Kuwait (04 05 hrs) 
02.10.19 Kuwait (07 15 hrs) - Paris (CDG) (12:40 Hrs) 

03.10.19 stay in Paris
04.10.19 stay in Paris
05.10.19 Paris – Versailles - Paris
05.10.19 Paris to Lyon by bus (Bus)

06.10.19 stay in Lyon
07.10.19 stay in Lyon (Tour – Beaune/Dijon)
08.10.19 s
tay in Avignon-St Remy de Provence- Lex Baux de Provence - Arles - Avignon
09.10.19 stay in Marseille -Aix-en-provence- Marseille (Bus)
10.10.19 stay in Nice (Bus)
11.10.19 stay in Nice

12.10.19. Nice to Naples by plane (Plane )
12.10.19. Stay in Naples – Pompeii (Bus)
13.10.19. Stay in Naples : Sorrento –Naples (Bus)
14.10.19. Stay in Naples
15.10.19. Naples Centrale-Roma – Kuwait
15.10.19. Naples Centrale-Roma (Train)

15/16.10.19. Kuwait-Delhi-CCU



Kolkata (0830 hrs) - Delhi (1045 hrs) by Air India ( Rs 6245 with return fare)  

Delhi (0200 hrs) - Kuwait (04 05 hrs) (4 hours journey - difference due to time zone) by Air India

Kuwait (07 15 hrs) -  Paris (CDG) (1240 hrs)  -  6.30 hours journey) by  Kuwait Airlines


 We (Sanjit-da and I) left my office at 7.05 pm for the airport and were almost missing the plane, since I was standing in the queue of Indigo Airlines instead of Air India! Initially they were not allowing us - later after lot of commotion they allowed us !

After reaching CDG or Charles De Gaulle (Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle was a French army officer and statesman - a hero of World War I ,
  who led the Free French Forces against Nazi Germany in World War II in order to re-establish democracy in France. In 1958, he came out of retirement to become President of the Council of Ministers. He rewrote the Constitution of France and founded the Fifth Republic after approval by referendum. He was elected President of France later that year)  in North East of Paris, at 12 40 hrs we  needed to go to a place near Orly airport (in South of Paris - where our Airbnb apartment is located). There are 3 terminals in CDG. When we were exiting the airport, it was already 1.30 pm (almost 1 hour has passed. You should keep 1 hour, for all the formalities to get over after landing.  From Terminal 1, we went to Terminal 3 (free transfer - in a "transfer" train - similar to the one in Rome). From Terminal 3, you get RER (pronounced as Ayrreahr) or local train service within Paris. There is no Metro line upto Airport. Regional Express Network or RER has 5 routes. This network is operated jointly by RATP (Métro and buses) and SNCF (French National Railways). We have to take RER B. The RER B station is named as "Aeroport Charles de Gaulle - 1" - this is a misnomer – since RER B actually serves Terminal 3 (terminal 1 is connected by a free shuttle from Terminal 3) and Terminal 2 , and not Terminal 1.The train takes around 35 minutes to reach Gare du Nord - a very important station - from where you can go anywhere.

We bought Visite Paris pass for 25.25 Euro - which is valid for 1-5 zones.  Mobilis Pass (17.5 Euro) is also valid for 1-5 zones - which is much cheaper. But since we have to take an “airport Express” from Orly Airport (and not CDG), we had to buy Visite Paris and not Mobilis pass. It is valid only upto 12 midnight. This is a big mistake - which we learnt later!. We should have bought Navigo Pass. For that
you must bring a Photo and fill up a form of Navigo Pass at the CDG airport and pay 25 Euro for 7 days. You have to write your name on the card like Belgium. Mobilis or Visite Paris pass is quite expensive.

Always keep the ticket handy, as the SNCF officials sometimes check for tickets, and if you are without one ,  you might be fined €40. Be extra vigilant when using the RER B. Gangs target travelers for  pick-pocketing especially as the train gets absolutely packed around the centre. They also engage in  forceful snatch-and-run operations. For comfort and safety, especially with multiple people and multiple luggages , consider taking the bus or a car. Later we learnt this in a very hard way. The SNCF (French national railways) practically operates  all trains within France. 

After almost an hour's journey, we got down at Antony RER. Very near to Antony RER is Orly Airport. Then we took Orly Val (after a little walk from Antony RER,) - three compartment, driver less "monorail type" tram (transfer service) to get down at Airport de Orly (Mobilis Pass will not allow you to avail this special tram).

From there we went to the tram stop and took Tram T- 7 to get down after 1 stop (the last stop of the tram route) and took bus no. 292 from the terminal station of tram (both Tram and Bus) to reach our host's house at Place de Republic after 7-8 stops. The name of the road is Gabriel Peri. The door beside the garden (not the door of the house) is automatic and it opens with remote control. After we pressed the bell , the door was opened automatically by our host by pressing a button. 

The host's husband was there. The host will come at 8 pm and her husband will go to office at 9 pm. We used Google translate to chat with him. He told me there is a big super market called Intermache - you have to walk for 8-9 minutes. 

The whole area is very peaceful. Each and every house is really nice. 

It is not a touristic area. The price is quite reasonable here - Fatty Salami at 10.5 Euro (Rs 850) for 1 kg is quite reasonable. It is similarly priced in Kolkata , if not more. It really tastes good. Sausage is 10 Euro per Kg. We bought some Olives by weight. We bought big Bread (Multi-grain) for 1 Euro. There was another bread (around 1 Pound) for 65 Cents - but it is not multi grain. We bought some juice (2 litres for 1.3 Euro !) and sauce. We bought cheese (for less than 2 Euro), 3 Pizzas  for 1.50 Euro (very cheap ) and 2 Peperoncino Pizzas for 1.8 Euro !  Really Cheap ! What we bought (thinking) as Wine, later turned out to be Apple Cidar ! We paid 17.5 Euro and made provision for the 3 days, we were  in Paris.

After that we returned home and did not go out.

Understand France

France has a large number of decorated caves from the upper Paleolithic era. In 600 BC, Ionian Greeks ( Greeks from Izmir of Turkey ) from Phocaea founded the colony of Massalia (present-day Marseille), on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. This makes it France's oldest city.  

At the same time, some Gallic Celtic tribes penetrated parts of eastern and northern France, gradually spreading through the rest of the country between the 5th and 3rd century BC. The concept of Gaul emerged during this period. The borders of modern France roughly correspond to ancient Gaul, which was inhabited by Celtic Gauls. Gaul was then a prosperous country, of which the southernmost part (e.g. Modern day Nice) was heavily subject to Greek and Roman cultural and economic influences. Gaul was a region of Western Europe first described by the Romans. According to one theory Iron Age inhabitants of Great Britain and Ireland should be regarded as Celts.

Around 390 BC, the Gallic chieftain defeated the Romans and ransomed Rome. The Gallic invasion left Rome weakened, and the Gauls continued to harass the region until 345 BC when they entered into a formal peace treaty with Rome. But the Romans and the Gauls would remain adversaries for the next centuries, and the Gauls would continue to be a threat in Italy

Around 125 BC, the south of Gaul was conquered by the Romans, who called this region Provincia Nostra ("Our Province"), which over time evolved into the name Provence in French (E.g Nice, Cannes are in Provence - South East France. My friend said it should be pronounced as Provos.Nobody will understand,if you pronounce it was Provence). Julius Caesar conquered the remainder of Gaul and overcame a revolt carried out by the Gallic chieftain Vercin-getorix in 52 BC.  The Gallic Wars resulted in 1 million men sold into slavery and another 3 million dead in battle. Celtic Gaul was divided by Roman King Augustus (27 B.C. - 14 A.D.)  into 3 Roman provinces: Lyon, Belgium and Aquitaine.  Many cities were founded during the Gallo-Roman period, including Lugdunum (present-day Lyon), which is considered the capital of the Gauls. These cities were built in traditional Roman style, with a forum, a theatre, a circus, an amphitheatre and thermal baths. The Gauls mixed with Roman settlers and eventually adopted Roman culture.

From the beginning of the 5th century, the Barbarian Invasions resumed in Roman Gaul. and independent petty kingdoms arose in this region. The first leader to make himself king of all the Franks, was Clovis I, who began his reign in 481, routing the last forces of the Roman governors of the province in 486. Clovis I was the first Germanic conqueror after the fall of the Roman Empire to convert to Catholic Christianity. France was given the title "Eldest daughter of the Church"  by the Pope.

The name France comes from the Latin Francia or "realm of the Franks", originally applied to the whole Frankish Empire. Frankish Empire, was the largest post-Roman barbarian kingdom in Western Europe. The Franks embraced the Christian Gallo-Roman culture and ancient Gaul was eventually renamed Francia ("Land of the Franks"). The Germanic Franks adopted Romanic languages. Clovis made Paris his capital and established the Merovingian dynasty, but his kingdom would not survive his death.

The last Merovingian kings lost power to their mayors of the palace . One mayor of the palace, Charles Martel, defeated an Islamic invasion of Gaul at the Battle of Tours (732) and earned respect and power within the Frankish kingdoms. His son, Pepin the Short, seized the crown of Francia from the weakened Merovingians and founded the Carolingian dynasty. Pepin's son, Charlemagne, reunited the Frankish kingdoms and built a vast empire across Western and Central Europe.

Proclaimed Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Leo III , Charlemagne tried to revive the Western Roman Empire and its cultural grandeur. Charlemagne's son, Louis I (Emperor 814–840), kept the empire united; however, this Carolingian Empire would not survive his death. In 843, the empire was divided between Louis's 3 sons, with East Francia going to Louis the GermanMiddle Francia to Lothair I, and West Francia to Charles the Bald. West Francia approximated the area occupied by, and was the precursor to, modern France.

 The Carolingian dynasty ruled France until 987 AD, when Hugh Capet, Duke of France and Count of Paris, was crowned King of the FranksHis descendantsthe Capetians, the House of Valois, and the House of Bourbon—progressively unified the country through wars and dynastic inheritance into the Kingdom of France. French Renaissance (1400–1650) saw a spectacular cultural development and the first standardization of the French language. It also saw a long set of wars, known as the Italian Wars, between France and the House of Habsburg. French explorers, such as Jacques Cartier or Samuel de Champlain, claimed lands in the Americas for France, paving the way for the expansion of the First French colonial empire.

The monarchy reached its peak during the 17th century, during and the reign of Louis XIV. By turning powerful feudal lords into courtiers at the Palace of Versailles, Louis XIV's personal power became unchallenged. Remembered for his numerous wars, he made France the leading European power. France became the most populous country in Europe and had tremendous influence over European politics, economy, and culture. French became the most-used language in diplomacy, science, literature and international affairs, and remained so until the 20th century. Even Russian Czars used to learn French. Louis XVI, Louis XV's grandson, actively supported the Americans, who were seeking their independence from Great Britain (realized in the Treaty of Paris (1783)).

The financial crisis aggravated by France's involvement in the American Revolutionary War was one of many contributing factors to the French Revolution.

Facing financial troubles, King Louis XVI summoned the Estates-General in May 1789 to propose solutions to his government. As it came to an impasse, the representatives of the Third Estate formed into a National Assembly, signalling the outbreak of the French Revolution. Fearing that the king would suppress the newly created National Assembly, insurgents stormed the Bastille on 14 July 1789, a date which would become France's National Day.

In early August 1789, the National Constituent Assembly (earlier called National Assembly) abolished the privileges of the nobility . In November 1789, the Assembly decided to nationalize and sell all property of the Roman Catholic Church which had been the largest landowner in the country and cancelled the authority of the Church to levy taxes. In September 1791, the National Constituent Assembly forced King Louis XVI to accept the French Constitution of 1791, thus turning the French absolute monarchy into a constitutional monarchy.

The National Convention, was chosen in the first elections on 20 September 1792, and succeeded the Legislative Assembly and on 21st  September abolished the monarchy by proclaiming the French First Republic. Ex-King Louis XVI was convicted of treason and guillotined in January 1793.

Political disagreements and enmity in the National Convention between October 1793 and July 1794 reached unprecedented levels, leading to dozens of Convention members being sentenced to death and guillotined. 

Napoleon Bonaparte seized control of the Republic in 1799 becoming First Consul and later Emperor of the French Empire (1804–1815).  European monarchies wedged war against the French Republic - on Napoleon's Empire. Napoleon’s armies conquered most of continental Europe with swift victories. Members of the Bonaparte family were appointed as monarchs in some of the newly established kingdoms. These victories led to the worldwide expansion of French revolutionary ideals and reforms. In June 1812, Napoleon attacked Russia, reaching Moscow. Thereafter his army disintegrated through supply problems, disease, Russian attacks and finally winter.

After the catastrophic Russian campaign, Napoleon was defeated and the Bourbon monarchy restored. After his brief return from exile, Napoleon was finally defeated in 1815 at the Battle of Waterloo and the monarchy was re-established (1815–1830).

In 1830, French troops conquered Algeria, establishing the first colonial presence in Africa, since Napoleon's abortive invasion of Egypt in 1798. In 1852, the president of the French Republic, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, Napoleon I's nephew, was proclaimed emperor of the second Empire, as Napoleon III. Napoleon III was unseated following defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 and his regime was replaced by the Third Republic

  Understand Paris

Paris is one of Europe's largest cities, with 2.2 million people living in the dense, central city and almost 12 million people living in the whole metropolitan area. Paris has the reputation of being the most beautiful and romantic of all cities, brimming with history and capital of culture, art, fashion, food and design of Europe. It is home to the world's finest and most luxurious fashion designers and cosmetics, such as Louis Vuitton, Dior, Yves Saint-Laurent, L'Oréal, etc.

A large part of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city has the second highest number of Michelin restaurants in the world (after Tokyo) and contains numerous iconic landmarks, such as the world's most visited tourist site the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Notre-Dame Cathedral (Notre Dame is French for "Our Lady" and refers to the Blessed Virgin Mary. There are many Notre Dame in France, just like there are many Kremlin in Russia), the Louvre Museum, Moulin Rouge, making it the most popular tourist destination in the world .

The city of Paris itself is officially divided into 20 districts called arron-dissements, numbered from 1 to 20 in a clockwise spiral from the centre of the city (located at the front of Notre Dame). You might stay in the "5th", which would be written as 5e in French.

 The Layout of Paris by district (important ones only) :

• 1st (1e) : The geographical centre of Paris and a great starting point for travellers. The Musée du Louvre, the Jardin des Tuileries, Les Halles, Palais Royal and Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel are all to be found here.

• 2nd (2e): The central business district of the city

• 4th (4e): Notre-Dame de Paris can be found here.

•5th (5e): Jardin des Plantes, Universités, La Sorbonne  are located here.

• 6th (6e): Jardin du Luxembourg, Place Saint-Michel and Saint-Germain des Prés can be found here.

• 7th (7e): Tour Eiffel and its Parc du Champ de Mars, Musée d'Orsay can be found here

 • 8th (8e): Champs-Elysées, Arc de Triomphe, Place de la Concorde, le Palais de l'Elysée can be found here.

• 10th (10e): Gare du Nord, Gare de l'Est, Porte Saint-Denis, can be found here.

• 12th (12e):Opéra Bastille, Gare de Lyon, 

• 18th (18e): Montmartre can be found here.

Those on the west of Paris are wealthy residential communities. Those to the northeast are poorer communities, often populated by immigrants.

Paris started life as the Roman settlement on the Île de la Cité, the island in the Seine, currently occupied by the Cathédrale Notre-Dame. It takes its present name from the name of the dominant Gallo-Celtic tribe in the region, the Parisii. At least that's what the Romans called them.

The Romans held out here, for as long as anywhere else in the Western Empire, but by 508 AD they were gone, replaced by Clovis of the Franks, who is considered by the French to have been their first king. After Clovis Carolingians dynasty  held onto the expanded Lutetian state for nearly 500 years through Viking raids and other calamities. The Capetian Duke of Paris was voted to succeed the last of the Carolingians as King of France in 987 AD.

The medieval period also witnessed the founding of the Sorbonne - as the "University of Paris", it became one of the most important centres for learning in Europe - if not the whole world, for several hundred years. 

In the late 18th century, there was a period of political and social upheaval in France and Europe, during which the French governmental structure, previously a monarchy with feudal privileges for the aristocracy and Catholic clergy, underwent radical change. Notable events during and following the revolution were the storming of the Bastille 4th arrondissements, and the rise and fall of Napoleonic France. Out of the violent turmoil, the French Revolution, enlightened the modern day France.

Hitler's order to burn the city was thankfully ignored by the German General von Choltitz who was quite possibly convinced by a Swedish diplomat that it would be better to surrender and be remembered as the saviour of Paris, than to be remembered as its destroyer. 

Following the war, the city recovered quickly at first, but slowed in the 1970s and 1980s when Paris began to experience some of the problems faced by big cities everywhere : pollution, housing shortages and occasionally failed experiments in urban renewal.

During this time however, Paris enjoyed considerable growth as a multi-cultural city, with new immigrants from all corners of the world, including most of northern and western Africa as well as Vietnam and Laos. These immigrants brought their foods and music, both of which are of prime interest for many travellers.

Immigration and multi-culturalism continues in the 21st century with a marked increase in the arrival of people from Latin America, especially Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil. 

Paris is well connected to the rest of Europe by train. There is no central station serving Paris and the 6 different stations are not connected to each other. You need to know in advance at which station your train is arriving, so as to better choose a hotel and plan for transport within the city. So if plane fare to a particular country is expensive, one can buy plane ticket to France – where rates are lower  and go there by Flix bus or train.

Gare du Nord - TGV trains (Fast Train)  to and from Belgium, the Netherlands, and Cologne, Germany (Thalys), and the United Kingdom (Eurostar) and regular trains from Northern Europe. Passengers coming in by train from Charles de Gaulle Airport, can also get off here.

Gare d'Austerlitz - regular trains to and from the centre and southwest of France (Orléans, Toulouse), Spain and Portugal and arrival of majority of the night trains.

• Gare de l'Est - ICE/TGV to and from Luxembourg, Frankfurt, and Stuttgart, Munich in Germany.

Gare de Lyon - regular and TGV trains to and from Southern and eastern France,  French Alps, Marseille, Lyon, Dijon, Switzerland (by TGV Lyria): Geneva, Lausanne, Neuchatel - Bern - Interlaken, Basel - Zurich, and Italy.

• Gare de Bercy : Overnight trains from and to Italy

• Gare St Lazare - trains to and from Basse-Normandie

• Gare Montparnasse - TGV and regular trains to and from the west and south-west of France (Nantes, Bordeaux, Toulouse the fastest way and Spain).

All these are also metro stations. The SNCF (French national railways, like Indian Rail) operates practically all trains within France. The SNCF website allows booking and buying tickets up to 2 months in advance. There are significant discounts if you book weeks ahead. 

There are a number of different kinds of high speed and normal trains:

TER: The regional trains (Train Express Régionale); cheapest tickets, though prices are variable on the time of the day of departure. RER are slower, stopping at almost all stations. (RER is a network operated jointly by RATP (Métro and buses) and SNCF. It is different from TER)

TGV: The world-famous French high-speed trains (Trains à Grande Vitesse) run very frequently to the Southeast Nice (5-6h), Marseille (3h) and Avignon (2.5h), Geneva (3h), Bern (4h30), Zurich (4h) in Switzerland and Dijon (1h15), the Southwest Bordeaux (3h). 

Thalys A high-speed train service running daily to/from the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. It can be a bit expensive compared to normal trains, but cheap enough if you buy in advance.

Intercity: Intercity trains leave for all parts of Europe, including overnight trains to San Sebastian in Spain, Porto and Lisbon in Portugal.

Eurostar: The Eurostar service connects Paris with London St. Pancras directly and Brussels indirectly, as well many other destinations indirectly. Travel time between Paris Gare du Nord and London St Pancras International currently averages at 2 h 15min, following the opening of a new rail link in late 2007. Eurail and InterRail passes are not valid for this train

• CNL: The overnight services (City Night Line) by the German operator Deutsche Bahn 

By bus

• Eurolines,  A trans-European bus company that offers trips from across Europe and Morocco to Paris. Generally offers prices significantly cheaper than the train at the cost of much longer journey.

. OUIBUS, part of the French transport network, now offers bus service to London. I have used it number of times.

FlixBus, offering routes from Paris since summer 2015 from the station Paris Porte Maillot.  I have used it number of times and it saved lot of money for me !

 Get around

The best and cheapest way to get around Paris is on foot, and secondly, using the Métro.

On foot

To get a great orientation of the city on foot while seeing many of Paris' major sights, you can do a West to East walk from the Arc de Triomphe to Notre Dame. This walk takes about 1-2 hours without any stops.

 Start at the top of the Champs Elysees (at the Arc de Triomphe) and begin walking towards Place de la Concorde. On the way you'll see the major stores and restaurants of Paris' most famous avenue, Petit Palais and the Grand Palais to your right. At Place de la Concorde, you'll be able to see many of Paris' major monuments around you. In front of you are the Tuileries, behind you are Arc de Triomphe, behind you to your right are the Tour Eiffel/Eiffel Town and Musee d'Orsay. Continue straight ahead and enter the Tuileries Gardens passing by fountains, flowers, and lovers in the park. As you continue straight ahead and out of the garden, you'll see the pyramid entrance to the Louvre directly in front of you.

With the pyramid directly in front of you, turn to your right and walk towards the Seine. Now you can walk along the Seine (eastwards) until you reach Pont Neuf. Cross Pont Neuf and walk through the Latin Quarter, cross the river again to reach Notre Dame Cathedral on Ile de la Cité.

Another interesting walk in the city let you discover the top sights of Montmartre in a few hours. The smartest travellers take advantage of the walkability of this city and stay above ground as much as possible. A metro ride of less than 2 stops, is best avoided, since walking will take about the same amount of time and you'll be able to see more of the city.

 Paris and its surrounding areas are served by different rail systems:

• Métro - Look for the Métro stations, marked with a large "M" sign 

• RER - Regional Express network used by suburban commuters and services to airports (CDG) - RER A, B, C, D, and E.

While sharing a single system of tariffs, you have to take care to validate your ticket when switching from one system to another.

 Keep your ticket or pass with you at all times as you may be checked. Otherwise you will be forced to pay on the spot between 35-50 euros.

• However within the city of Paris, there is little functional difference between the RER and Métro (there are numerous transfers between the two networks, and a ticket for the Métro is also valid for the RER within the city limits ).

There are 16 Métro lines (lignes) on which trains travel all day at intervals of a few minutes 05:00-00:30 (Saturday night/Sunday morning: 01:30), stopping at all stations on the line. Trains usually come 2-3 minutes apart during rush hour and 5-10 minutes apart during other times.

For the Metro, a single ticket  costs €1.90. A pack of 10 tickets (carnet) can be purchased for €14.90 at any station.  RER + Métro &  Bus + Tram are 2 separate systems, but they use the same tickets. This means you have to use a new ticket if you transfer from Bus to Metro or vice versa. 

Strikes are a regular occurrence on the Paris public transit system. Generally during a strike, there will be reduced or no service on certain lines but parts of the network will continue to operate; however, in some cases the entire network may shut down completely. We faced this problem every day and keep this in mind, before going to airport by metro– you might even miss the flight. It occurred to us  - not once , but number of times. So the metro is very unpredictable – you must have a back-up plan.

 Landmarks with Metro Stations :

• Arc de Triomphe (8th) — Métro/RER Charles de Gaulle-Etoile (1, 2, 6, A)

• • Château de Versailles (Versailles) — RER C : Versailles Rive Gauche

• The Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel) (7th) —  Métro Bir-Hakeim (6) or RER C : Champ de Mars-Tour Eiffel . Eiffel Tower staff held a strike on May 22nd, 2015 as a result of increased pickpocketing gang activity in the vicinity. Paris is nightmare for tourists because of pickpockets. Be very very careful. We have been targeted twice. I have never seen such an unsafe metro in my life.

• Sacré Coeur (18th) —  Métro Anvers (2) or Abbesses (12)
• The Louvre (1st) — Métro Palais Royal - Musée du Louvre (1, 7)
• Musée d'Orsay, (7th ) — RER Musée d'Orsay (C) or Métro Solférino (12)

• Rodin Museum, (7th) — Métro Varenne (13)

• Picasso Museum, (3rd )— Métro Saint-Paul (1) or Chemin Vert (8)

• Musée Marmottan-Monet (16th)—  Métro La Muette (9)

• Giverny - The inspirational house and gardens of the Impressionist painter Claude Monet are a day-trip away. The gardens and its flowers are the most interesting part of the visit, so avoid rainy days.

By bus

Since the Métro is primarily structured around a hub-and-spoke model, there are some journeys for which it can be quite inefficient, and in these cases, it is worth seeing if a direct bus route exists. A bus ride is interesting if you want to see more of the city. When boarding the bus, you'll have to validate your ticket, like any other place in Europe. 

Be aware that you cannot transfer between the Métro and the Bus with a single-ride Ticket, like, say, Budapest. However, you can transfer from bus to bus or between the bus and the tram, within 90 minutes of validating the ticket.

Another option for travellers who want to see the sights of Paris with a stop on every street corner is the Paris L'Open tour Bus, an open-topped double decker hop on hop off bus. You can purchase tickets at the bus stop. A one-day pass is €31 for adults.

By boat

There are several excellent boat services which make use of the Seine. You can buy a day or 3 day ticket and hop on and off the boat .

There are trams too in Paris.


Generally French is spoken at all the tourist places. For most Parisians, English is something they had to study in school. 

When in need of directions : find a younger person or someone reading a book or magazine in English, who is obviously not in a hurry; say "hello" or "bonjour" (bon-zhor) and then start by asking if the person speaks English, "Parlez-vous anglais?" (Par-LAY voo on-glay?) ; even if the person can read something in English, speak slowly and clearly; write down place names if necessary. You will probably get the cold shoulder if you stop someone in the métro (such as a middle-aged person in a hurry), fail to greet them and simply say "where is place X or street Y". It happened to us more than once.

If you speak French, remember two magic phrases : "Excusez-moi " [ex-kuh-zay moowah ("Excuse me") and "Pourriez-vous m'aider?" [por-EE-AY voo may-DAY] ("Could you help me?") especially in shops; politeness will work wonders. 

This is not to say that Parisians are in fact, by nature, rude. Parisians' abrupt exteriors will rapidly evaporate if you display some basic courtesies. A simple "Bonjour, Madame" when entering a shop, or "Excusez-moi" when trying to get someone's attention, are very important; say "Pardon" or "je suis désolé" if you bump into someone accidentally. Courtesy is extremely important in France. This level of extreme politeness is about the closest one can come to a magic wand for unlocking Parisian hospitality. If you know some French, try it! However after I went to Naples, things became much, much less formal.

Cabaret shows 

Cabarets are traditional shows in Paris. They provide entertainment, often towards adult audiences, with singers and dancers or burlesque entertainers. The most famous one is at the Moulin Rouge. The tickets usually cost from €80 to €200, depending if you have dinner before the show.


Paris is one of Europe's main culinary centres. It may, however, come as a surprise that Paris isn't considered the culinary capital of France; Paris has long been considered by some people as second to Lyon for fine dining. 

Take-away falafel or Sawarma usually goes for €5 or less. Lebanese food is by far the cheapest in France. We have been to these shops number of times.

Phone cards are available from most "Tabacs" or Tobacco shops.  


We had our breakfast with the food, we had bought yesterday from the supermarket. After that our host (physiotherapist) dropped us at a convenient place - from where we went easily to Louvre museum, by taking metro (Palais de Royal). She goes to her parents’ house near Central Paris- which is also her chamber. We had bought the Louvre museum ticket in India. There is a grace time of 30 minutes from the appointed time. After that time, you have to stand in the normal queue. We reached little late. But we were lucky, since there was no queue.

The Louvre is one of the world's largest museums and houses one of the most impressive art collections in history. This magnificent, baroque-style palace and museum — sits along the banks of the Seine River in Paris. 

The Louvre was originally built as a fortress in 1190, but was reconstructed in the 16th century to serve as a royal palace (that is why the name of the nearest metro is so named , Palais de Royal). In 1546 , Francis I, who was a great art collector, had this old castle razed and began to build on its site a royal residence, the Louvre. Under Francis I, only a small portion of the present Louvre was completed. Like many buildings, it was built and rebuilt over the years.  During its time as a royal residence, the Louvre saw tremendous growth. Nearly every monarch expanded it, according to In 1682, Louis XIV moved the royal residence to Versailles, and the Louvre became home to various art academies, offering regular exhibitions of its members' works

The National Assembly opened the Louvre as a museum in August 1793 with a collection of 537 paintings. The museum closed in 1796 because of structural problems with the building. Napoleon reopened the museum and expanded the collection in 1801, and the museum was renamed Musée Napoléon. It was Napoleon Bonaparte who created the foundation for the museum the Louvre, as it is known today.

The Louvre's collection includes Egyptian antiques, ancient Greek and Roman sculptures, paintings by the Old Masters and crown jewels and other artifacts from French nobles. Its works span the 6th century B.C. to the 19th century A.D. 

The displays are divided into 8 departments: 1. Near Eastern Antiquities; 2. Egyptian Antiquities; 3. Greek, 4. Etruscan and Roman Antiquities; 5. Islamic Art; 6. Sculptures; 7 Decorative Arts; 8 Prints and Drawings.

Without any question, the Louvre's most famous work is Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" .This small, iconic painting — it is only 21 inches by 30 inches is covered with bullet-proof glass and flanked by guards. This protection is the result of it being stolen in 1911. (It was recovered in 1913.) The line to see the Mona Lisa can get quite long. 

Apart from that there is  "Venus de Milo" ,  "Winged Victory" , the ancient Greek sculpture - also known as "Nike of Samothrace" . Other popular works include the Code of Hammurabi, Leonardo da Vinci's tragic sculpture "The Dying Slave" . Eugene Delacroix's "Liberty Leading the People," which depicts the bare-breasted Liberty goddess leading a charge in the French Revolution and is thought to have inspired Victor Hugo's "Les Miserables" .

The Louvre’s paintings represent all periods of European art up to the Revolutions of 1848. The paintings after that date that the Louvre once housed, were transferred to the Musée d’Orsay, upon its opening in 1986.

We saw many pictures of Raphael, Boticelli. There are some Monet also. The Egyptian collection is huge. I think I have missed one floor. It seemed to me that the Hermitrage museum is equally good, if not better. We finished at 3 pm. Before leaving Louvre, we went to the museum courtyard. Architect  I.M. Pei designed a glass pyramid structure in the courtyard. We bought some key rings of Eiffel tower infront of Louvre from the hawkers.

From the window of the museum
                                                                          From the window

Then we took metro and went to CDG Etoille  - named after Charles De Gaulle. It is the largest roundabout of the world – numerous roads merge into this plaza . We took a sub way to reach in front of Arc De Triomphe. It was made by Napoleon to celebrate his victory. But he could not finish it. It was finished in 1720. You can buy ticket to go to the top and have a wonderful view of the city and the best view of Eiffel Tower.

Then we walked up to King George V Metro station and got off  at Concorde Metro station  to see the Concorde. It was gifted by an Egyptian general to the French. At  the heart of this square is a 3300 year old Obelisk. Obelisk is a memorial stone (monolith). You can see hieroglyphics written on the Obelisk. We had some wonderful barbequed sausage Panini at Concorde from the food truck. We crossed the Siene (pronounced Seen) river to take pictures and came back to the Concorde metro station.

Then we took the metro to see Monmarte. It is on a hillock. You can use mobilis pass to use the funicular, free of cost and go to the top. There is a Basilica at the top of the hillock. The artists do not sit in front of the Basilica. The place where the artist sits - is to the left of the Basilica. When we went there it was already dark. So we could not see much. But we did see the cafe where Van Gogh, Picasso used to come. Even Theo Van Gogh used to the stay here. I expected lot of artists to be painting. Since it was dark, not many artists were there. Vincent Van Gogh stayed in France from 1886-1890 in 4 different places (Paris, Auvers-sur-Oise, Arles, St Remey) - one of them being Montmartre in Paris.

                                          The Place where Van Gogh used to visit regularly

Today there is an electrical snag (due to the huge crowd inside the metro, the door would not close) in the metro and there are strikes in some of the lines. So we were in a huge mess. A Tamil lady (Manoranjitha Mary) from Pondicherry helped us a lot and went with us upto Anton and then she left for the opposite direction towards  her home. She appeared to be an angel to us. But at Anton, the airport shuttle Orly Val was no longer plying. It was already 12 pm. So we were forced to take a taxi. For 14 Km distance, we paid 27 Euro. Initially the Taxi driver said it will be approx Rs 60-70 Euro. He is from Albania.

 We had some pizza in our apartment - which was already there in our room and went to sleep !


We took bus no. 385 and RER C (local train) combo to go to Versailles. In the RER , we met a Bangladeshi, who is running an Indian restaurant, with his relatives for many years. Tamils work either in shops or do proper jobs, unlike Bangladeshis who mostly do odd jobs. Actually only RER C goes to Versailles. After getting down, you have to walk for 5 minutes to reach the place. We left home at 9.45 am and reached Versailles at 1.15 pm .

We already bought the Versailles entry ticket in India. It is not very far from Paris. It is a suburb. Still we had to stand in a huge queue. We entered Versailles after standing in the queue for  45-50 minutes or more.

Versailles is the principal royal residence of France from 1682, under Louis XIV, until the start of the French Revolution in 1789, under Louis XVI. There is a huge garden - for which you have to buy a separate ticket. We did not buy the ticket for the garden. We took a free audio guide. The complex is huge. The most spectacular is the mirror room. But I must admit that Medici house in Florence, Vatican museum, Hermitage museum in Russia or Belvedere museum in Austria or Museum at St Marco, Venice are equally good. Louis XVI used to stay here, until he was thrown out during the French Revolution and guillotined in 1793.

Here we met an Indian (Goan - works in Mumbai) - Rudolf  D'Souza, who is Chief Knowledge Officer, from Afcons. He comes to Kolkata for East West Metro Rail work. As luck would have it, my wife joined the Co. in 2020 !

Then we left for Eiffel Tower.  For that, first, we have to go to Champ de Mars Metro station. There is no ticket required to go inside the Eiffel Tower area. Though there is a security check to go inside. There is a long queue. You need a ticket to go up. We did not go up, since you cannot see Eiffel Tower from the top of Eiffel Tower!!  When the French government was organizing the International Exposition of 1889 to celebrate the centenary of the French Revolution, a competition was held for designs for a suitable monument. More than 100 plans were submitted, and the Centennial Committee accepted that of the noted bridge engineer Gustave Eiffel. It is a 324 metre (1063 foot - about the same height as an 81-storey building) tower built almost entirely of open-lattice wrought iron. It took 2 years to construct.


                We saw rust all over the place in Eiffel Tower.

After spending some time there, we went to the other side of the Seine river, from where you can get a grand view of Eiffel Tower. When we were done with the tour , it was already 8 pm. So we left for our home by metro. Then we took bus 385 and reached our home around  11 pm. We went to a Chinese restaurant, but it closed just before we reached. Then we went to a Lebanese cum Greek restaurant nearby run by a Syrian and brought home the food. We had Moussaka.

There are a lot of Tamils (mostly from Pondicherry, due to their French connection) in Paris and some Bangladeshis too. Most of the Bangladeshis are either from Sylhet or Comilla. We met a girl from Pondicherry, who helped us to find our way, since we got down one stop earlier (as it was the last stop of the bus). She learnt French after coming here. 


We left our house at 9.05 am for Sobuj's house near La Courneuve (which is another extreme end of Metro route– Pink line – line 7) to keep our luggage, since our house is quite far. Here (La Courneuve) there is a metro connection too, unlike the one where we were staying. We could go to St Michel Notre Dame or Musee De Orsay - two very important central metro stations of Paris, easily from here. We would go to Lyon by taking night bus at 10.30 pm.

We had to change at Gare de L’est to go to Sobuj’s house. Few Black people started pushing me from both sides. After 10 seconds, I realized that it was not normal. This is because of   numerous stories   I have heard about the pickpockets in Paris.It is more than what meets the eye. I somehow managed to flee from the scene. Sanjit da was not so lucky. He was pickpocketed. Luckily the loss was not that much - he lost only 30 Euro and 2500 INR and Income Tax card - PAN Card.

Sobuj (he is a Bangladeshi working in a departmental store. I met him in Kolkata) was waiting for us at the station. With the help of Sobuj we bought Lyka Sim for 10 Euro - unlimited call and good amount of GB for the remaining period of our stay. It is probably the cheapest among all the companies.

After having coffee at Sobuj's house, we left for metro. There is a little India near his house.

Again we had a close shave with the pickpockets today. But we were able to outsmart them this time. These 2 incidents left a very bad impression on us and we almost had fear psychosis throughout the rest of our tour.

This is what Wikitravel says about Paris :

Be extra vigilant when using the RER B. Gangs target travelers with pick-pocketing especially as the train gets absolutely packed around the center. They also operate forceful snatch-and-run operations. For comfort and safety, especially with multiple people and/or multiple luggages, consider taking the bus or a car.

First we went to Sainte Chapelle  or St Chapel church (Entry fee Euro 10 – we bought it online in India). The Church is quite unique. Sainte Chapelle is an exquisite stained glass chapel. The Sainte-Chapelle is a royal chapel in the Gothic style, the residence of the Kings of France until the 14th century. Construction began sometime after 1238 and the chapel was consecrated on 26 April 1248. The Sainte-Chapelle is considered among the highest achievements of the Rayonnant period of Gothic architecture. It was commissioned by King Louis IX (1214-1270 AD) of France. Inspite of the online ticket, there was a big queue to enter. By mistake we stood in a line where you buy the ticket. But the volunteers announced (probably because it is a common mistake) that there is a separate line for booked tickets. So you should ask whether this is the one for ticket holders – since there is a huge queue and you cannot see the entrance.


Then we went to  Conciergerie – which is beside St Chapel. We were bit reluctant to enter inside after the incident. We did not want to spend 10 Euro again. At the reception, there was a Nepali lady (Sunita Singh Tharu) at the counter (married a French). We told her our story. She kindly allowed us to enter the place free of cost, hearing our story!! 

It was a royal residence, later turned into a notorious prison. The Conciergerie is the oldest remaining part of the royal Palace - Palais de la Cité. It  is believed to have been founded in the 6th century by Clovis, the first French king. It was the seat of the French Parliament between the 10th and 14th century.

The Kings of France abandoned the palace at the end of the 14th century to settle in the Louvre . As a dreaded “antechamber to the guillotine”, it became a symbol of the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution. Hundreds of prisoners during the French Revolution were taken from the Conciergerie to be executed by guillotine at a number of locations around Paris. The last queen before French Revolution , Marie Antoinette's (wife of Louis XVI ) cell was converted into a chapel dedicated to her memory. She was imprisoned here before she was guillotined. She apparently provoked the popular unrest that led to the French Revolution. ‘Let them eat cake” is the most famous quote attributed to Marie-Antoinette. As the story goes, it was the queen's response upon being told that her starving peasant subjects had no bread. The place looked like "underground" Basilica Cistern of Istanbul in front of Blue Mosque.

Then we went to see Notre-Dame de Paris  meaning "Our Lady of Paris" or simply Notre Dame Cathedral. Notre-Dame, is a medieval Catholic cathedral, consecrated to the Virgin Mary and considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. The cathedral's construction began in 1160 under Bishop Maurice de Sully and was largely complete by 1260, though it was modified frequently in the following centuries. In the 1790s, Notre-Dame suffered desecration during the French Revolution.

Part of it (back side) was burnt recently, resulting in the collapse of the roof and the spire. Restoration work was going on. So  entry was not allowed. We bought some pictures, coasters etc from one of the stalls. We heard from the coaster seller (when he heard our  pickpocket story) , that the pickpockets do not spare even 85 year old blind men. Japanese and American are often their target. He has seen it all. I was lucky not to be pick pocketed. The situation is really grim. Even after hearing these 100 times, it was difficult, not to fall into their trap. Almost every travel group had a story to tell. We had crepe in front of Notre Dame. You will see crepe everywhere in France. It is the most important street food and is a variant of our pati shapta. This impressive Gothic cathedral was the inspiration for Victor Hugo's novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame. 

After that we went rushing to Musee d Orsay. Actually I found it better than Louvre. 

I found Louvre somewhat similar to Hermitage museum and  Vatican Museum. But if you love Impressionist art, then this is the place. We had only 2 hours to see it. It is much smaller than Louvre. I saw Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, CézanneSeurat, Gaugin, Van Gogh. This museum built in 1900 holds mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1914.  

A temporary exhibition of Degas was taking place in the ground floor. I saw his famous Ballet series .

I had seen those very pictures in Orsay - which I have grown up with. Sanjit da was  tired , he preferred to sit downstairs. I almost ran from one section to another. I missed only Rodin. It is pronounced as Hawda and not the way we pronounce in India. In fact people will not understand if you say Rodin or Rawda. (R is like a guttural H/KH in French. Even merci (thank you) is pronounced like mekh-si)

In fact it is walking distance from Louvre - less than 3-4 minutes walk.

There were again some disruptions with the trains. There was a huge crowd inside the train and train door would not close, then the train developed mechanical snag. My head stopped working. Somehow with the advice of one passenger, we managed to reach Sobuj's house and immediately left for the bus station by metro to catch Flixbus just in time.We were very tensed. Be very careful of trains in Paris. The Flix bus (@ 5 Euro) is a double decker bus. 

They do not serve dinner in the bus. It went near Orly airport to pick up more passengers and left at 12 pm and we reached Lyon at 5 am.


We got down at the main bus station / Gare de Lyon-Perrache  at 5 am and started walking towards the apartment. The Google map was of great use to us. We crossed the bridge across Rhone River and followed the direction of Google map to reach our destination. Lyon is shaped by its two rivers, the Rhône River and the Saône River. It is on the main road. It is just 5-7 minutes of pleasant walk. Since we reached before the check-in time, we waited outside the house , inside a cafe for 2 hours and called the host every half and hour. The cafe was open even at 5.10 am. We had excellent Croissant and coffee. I never had such a wonderful Croissant. Absolutely fresh from oven. Finally the host picked up the phone and we were told he would come soon by taking a tram to the apartment, to hand over the key. We took the help of café assistant to talk to him – since his English is very poor. When he reached our room it was 8 am ! We had hired a studio apartment in Lyon. It is on Avenue Berthelot.

Understand Lyon

It is quite an old city with a history 2000 years . During the last decades of the first century B.C., a certain number of decisions made by Roman King Augustus (27 B.C. - 14 A.D.), gave rise to the rapid growth of Lugdunum (the Roman name of the modern day Lyon). Augustus divided Celtic Gaul into 3 provinces: Lyon, Belgium and Aquitaine. Lugdunum became the capital of the province of Lyon. The site of Lyon is at the strategic confluence of the Rhône and Saône - which placed it on an important axis of the Rhône Valley. All periods of Lyon's 2000 years history have left visible traces in the city's architectural and cultural heritage, from Roman ruins to Renaissance palaces to contemporary skyscrapers. It never went through a major disaster (earthquake, fire, extensive bombing).

Early traces of settlement date back to 12,000 BC but there is no evidence of continuous occupation prior to the Roman era. Lugdunum was officially founded in 43 BC by Lucius Munatius Plancus, then Governor of Gaul. The first Roman settlements were on Fourvière hill and the first inhabitants were probably veterans of Caesar's war campaigns. The development of the city was boosted by its strategic location and it was promoted Capital of Gauls in 27 BC by General Agrippa, emperor Augustus's son-in-law and minister. Large carriageways were then built, providing easy access from all parts of Gaul. 

Lugdunum became one of the most prominent administrative, economic and financial centres in Gaul, along with Narbonne. The main period of peace and prosperity of the Roman city was between 69 and 192 AD. The population at that time was estimated between 50,000 and 80,000. Lugdunum consisted of 4 populated areas : the top of Fourvière hill, the slopes of Croix-Rousse (a hill 254 metres (833 ft) high) around the Amphithéâtre , the Canabae (around where Place Bellecour is today) and the right bank of the Saône river, mainly in what is today St Georges neighbourhood. 

Lugdunum was the place where the first Christian communities of Gaul appeared. It was also where the first martyrdoms took place, most notably in 177 AD when the young slave Blandine was killed in the Amphithéâtre des Trois Gaules, along with 47 other martyrs.

The city lost its status of Capital of Gauls in 297 AD. Then, in the early years of the 4th century, the aqueducts, which brought water to the top of Fourvière suddenly stopped functioning. This was due to lack of funds for their maintenance and security; the lead pipes which carried the water were stolen and could not be replaced. The city was completely deprived of water overnight. This triggered the end of the Roman Lugdunum , which lost a large part of its population and was reorganized around the Saône river. 

In the Middle Ages, the city developed on both banks of the Saône. The name "Lion" or "Lyon" appeared in the 13th  century. The early Middle Ages were very troubled politically. Since the political geography of France kept changing, the city belonged successively to multiple provinces. It then belonged to the Holy Roman Empire from 1018 to 1312, when it was given to France at the Vienna Council. At that time, the city was still of limited size, but had a large religious influence.  In 1078, Pope Gregory VII made the Archbishop of Lyon the highest Catholic dignitary in the former Gaul .

In the Renaissance, fiscal advantages and the organization of numerous trade fairs attracted bankers from Florence and merchants from all over Europe.  The city became more and more prosperous and experienced a second golden age. The main industries were silk weaving, introduced in 1536 and printing. Lyon became one of Europe's largest cities and its first financial place, helped by the advantages given by King François I who even considered, at one time, making Lyon the capital of France. Around 1530, the population of Lyon reached 50,000.

During the French Revolution, in 1793, Lyon took sides against the central power of the National Convention (Parliament), which caused a severe repression from the army. Over 2,000 people were executed.

In the early 19th century, the silk industry was still developing, notably thanks to Jacquard's loom which made the weaving work more efficient. Social crisis, however occurred in 1831. The first revolt was harshly repressed. The workers were protesting against the introduction of new technology, which was likely to cause unemployment.

The traditional silk industry disappeared at the end of the century because of diseases affecting the French silk worms and the opening of the Suez Canal which reduced the price of imported silk from Asia. Various other industries developed at that time; the most famous entrepreneurs of the late 19th century were the Lumière brothers, who invented cinema in Lyon in 1895. It is also the birthplace of cinema.

During World War II, Lyon was close to the border between the "free zone" and the occupied zone and was therefore a key strategic place for the Germans and the French Resistance alike. Jean Moulin, head of the Resistance, was arrested in Caluire (North suburb of Lyon). On 26 May 1944, Lyon was bombed by the Allied aviation. The Liberation of Lyon occurred on 3 September, 1944.

In the 1960s, the construction of the business district of Part-Dieu began; its symbol is the "pencil" tower, the tallest building in Lyon.

In 1974, the first line of the metro was opened. In 1981, Lyon was linked to Paris by the TGV (high speed train) line. In the 1980s and 1990s, a huge number of buildings in Vieux Lyon and Croix-Rousse were renovated. The landscape of Lyon is still evolving, notably with the new Rhône banks promenade or the construction of new skyscrapers in Part-Dieu.

The southeastern suburbs of Vénissieux and St Priest host large automotive plants, such as Renault's truck and bus factories. But as in most Western metropolises, the service industry is now dominant. Many large banking and insurance companies have important offices in Lyon and the IT services industry is also well developed. From an economic point of view, Lyon is the most attractive and dynamic city in France. This may be explained by the easy access from all over Europe (second only to Paris in the country), the availability of qualified workforce and research centres, and cheaper real estate prices compared to the capital.

Lyon is the third largest city in France and centre of the second largest metropolitan area in the country. It is the capital of the Rhone-Alpes region. It is known as a gastronomic city with a vibrant cultural scene. Lyon has many preserved historical areas. It is in a strategic location between Northern and Southern Europe.

The city itself has about 480,000 inhabitants. However, the direct influence of the city extends well over its administrative borders, with the population of Greater Lyon (which includes 57 towns/communes) : at about 2.1 million. Lyon and its metropolitan area are rapidly growing because of their economic attractiveness.


Lyon is shaped by its two rivers, the Rhône River (to the East) and the Saône (to the West), which both run North-South. The main areas of interest are:

Fourvière hill - Also known as "the hill that prays" due to the numerous churches and religious institutions it hosts. The hill was also the place where the Romans settled. 

Croix-Rousse -  The area, especially the traboules, may be worth taking a guided tour. Croix-Rousse is known as the "working hill" but for centuries, it had been as much of a "praying hill" as Fourvière. The name "Croix-Rousse" comes from a limestone cross which was erected at the top of the hill in the beginning of the 16th century. It was then destroyed and rebuilt several times. 

Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon) - The Renaissance area, along the right bank of the Saône. It is divided into 3 parts which are named after their respective churches:

• St Paul, north of place du Change, was the commercial area during the Renaissance;

St Jean, between place du Change and St Jean cathedral, was home to most wealthy families: aristocrats, public officers, etc;

• St Georges, south of St Jean, was a craftsmen's district.

Presqu'île - between the 2 rivers, the real heart of the city. For the people of Lyon, Presqu'île is the place to go for shopping, dining or clubbing. It also represents a large part of the city's economic activity.

Place Bellecour - The largest clear square in Europe. In the center stands the equestrian statue of Louis XIV (usual meeting point for locals).

Fourvière, Vieux Lyon, Croix-Rousse (a hill 254 metres /833 ft high ) and a large part of Presqu'île are classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site. 

Lyon has 9 administrative subdivisions called arron-dissements (similar to Paris), which are designated by numbers. 

On foot - The city centre is not big and most attractions can be reached from each other on foot. T The rule of thumb is that metro stations are generally about 10 min walk apart.

Metros and trams run approximately from 5 AM to midnight. Some bus lines do not run after 9 PM. The prices are: €1.90 for a single journey (valid for 1 hour after the first use on buses, trams, metro and funiculars, unlimited number of transfers), €5.80 for a daily pass.

A boat trip can be a good way to see Lyon from a different point of view. Night trips available on Fridays and Saturdays -  €9, child €6. 


The traditional restaurants in Lyon are called bouchons; the origin of the word is unclear (it literally means "cork"). They appeared at the end of the 19th century and flourished in the 1930s, when the economic crisis forced wealthy families to fire their cooks, who opened their own restaurants for a working-class clientele. These women are referred to as mères (mothers); the most famous of them, Eugénie Brazier, became one of the first chefs to be awarded three stars (the highest ranking) by the famous Michelin gastronomic guide. She also had a young apprentice called Paul Bocuse. Eating in a good bouchon is certainly a must-do.

They serve the typical local dishes:

• salade lyonnaise (Lyon salad): green salad with bacon cubes, croutons and a poached egg;

• saucisson chaud : a hot, boiled sausage; can be cooked with red wine (saucisson beaujolais) or in a bun (saucisson brioché);

• quenelle de brochet: dumpling made of flour and egg with pike fish and a crayfish sauce (Nantua sauce);

• andouillette: sausage made with chopped tripes, usually served with a mustard sauce;

• gratin dauphinois: the traditional side dish, oven-cooked sliced potatoes with cream;

• cervelle de canut (cervelle' = ' brain): fresh cheese with garlic and herbs.

• rognons de veau à la moutarde : veal kidneys in a mustard sauce.

 A local association awarded the "Authentique bouchon Lyonnais" label to 22 restaurants all over town (but mostly on Presqu'île), considering the quality of their food and wine, their decor and the owner's strong personality. But like Saktigarh’s Lyangcha in West Bengal, most of the Restaurant’s claim to be Bouchons !


We saw the term Bouchon everywhere in Lyon – which serves traditional Lyonnais cuisine. Compared to other forms of French cooking, such as nouvelle cuisine, the dishes are quite fatty and heavily oriented around meat. Typically, the emphasis in a bouchon is not on haute cuisine but, rather, a friendly atmosphere and a personal relationship with the owner.

The region of Beaujolais, north of Lyon, is famed worldwide for the "Beaujolais nouveau wine”. Lyon is certainly a great starting point to explore the French vineyards: Beaujolais, Burgundy, Rhône Valley and the less known Jura, Savoie and Bugey are all within 2 hours drive. It is therefore unsurprising to see an increasing number of wine bars in Lyon.

First we went to Vieux Lyon or Old Lyon. We did not use Public transport. It is just beside the confluence of Rhône and Saône. We were staying in the Eastern side of Rhone River. First we crossed Rhone river and then Saône river  - which are only 300-400 Metres of each other. 

On the way, we saw a Sunday market for books.

Then after crossing the river, we saw a marathon race going on - for which roads were cordoned off and after finishing the race, they assembled in a very big square

Then we saw a weekend farmers Market beside the river. They were selling Salami, Sausage, Oyester, Pickles, Crepe , Fruits etc. We had some mixed (Orange+ Banana etc) smoothie (a big one for 7 Euro - but it was divided into 2 for us - it was really great; the smallest one was selling for 3 Euro), Pork Wellington (they weigh it before selling) and sausage from the market. It was around 12.30 pm then and they were closing. 

Finally we reached Old Lyon. First we saw Lyon Cathedral or  Saint-Jean Cathédral. Since it was raining outside, I took a quick short nap inside this wonderful Cathedral, before we left for Fourvière hill in front of it. 

Built between 1180 and 1480, Saint-Jean Cathédral is mostly of Gothic style with Romanesque elements. Officially, the cathedral is dedicated to both St John the Baptist (St Jean-Baptiste) and St Stephen (St Etienne) and has the title of primatiale because the Bishop of Lyon has the honorary title of Primat des Gaules.

One can take the funicular to go up the hill, from Vieux Lyon metro station, or you can walk. This is a 150 m (500 ft) vertical ascent approximately. We however walked to reach the hill. 

It is not at all difficult. Fourvière was the original location of the Roman Lugdunum. In the 19th century, it became the religious centre of the city, with the Basilica and the Archbishop's offices.

Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière was built in 1872 and dedicated to the Virgin Mary, saint patron of Lyon. This massive church made of white marble has been compared to an elephant . It is a typical example of the 19th century "eclectic" style - antique, classical and Gothic style. The Byzantine-style interior decoration is extremely exuberant.

Next to the basilica, is the panoramic viewpoint, with the best view over the city. If the weather is clear, Mont Blanc can be seen.  

After we were done with the Basilica we went down to Presqu'îl - Centre of the city via Vieux Lyon. It is the place to go for shopping, dining or clubbing.

When we reached Place des Terreaux at Presqu'îl  it is already dark; it is a large square - completely redesigned in the 1990s by the artist Daniel Buren. On the East side stands the City Hall. On the North side, you will find the fountain sculpted by Bartholdi, the 'father' of the Statue of Liberty of USA

The Old Lyon is just like any old town of Europe, say Austria - with Cobble Stone road. Lyon is the gastronomic capital of France. We had famous bun of Lyon - Pink praline brioche (Praluline) - which is really good. 

We then went to the nearby St Paul Church. At that time it was raining. 

We later met an Indian (Telegu), who has come here to study hotel Management. He told us there are 60 Indian restaurants here in Lyon. He was dressed like a Maharaja in front of the restaurant (Lal Quila - owned by a Pakistani). There is an Indian restaurant (Namaste), owned by a Bengali, Raju. It was closed, since he had gone to Bengal ! There is another Pakistani and also India restaurant nearby. The food over  there is not very expensive - Tandoori Chicken is 5 Euro.

We bought some Lebanese food (Kebab with wrap) for 5 Euro and took it home for dinner.

We bought some Bordeaux wine too from a departmental store near our apartment.


We were very tired and slept upto 10 in the morning and then suddenly we decided to go to Beaune (before that I did my research, that it is possible to go there from Lyon). It is little North of Lyon and South of Paris. Since the communication between Beaune  and Paris is not good, I had decided not to go to Beaune from Paris, on the basis of input my friend Eric - who is originally from Lyon - but now staying at Rouen , North West of Paris. He told me, unlike India, “you don't have good inter-connectivity everywhere” - in other words sometimes you need private car to reach a place.

Understand Burgundy

The French Wine region of Burgundy  may be small in size, but its influence is huge in the world of vino or wine. It is home to some of the most expensive wines in the known universe, but there are also tasty and affordable wines. The other famous region wine Bordeaux is in the Western part of France.

The easiest way to wrap your brain around Burgundy is to understand that there are only 2 important grape varieties to remember: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. There are others too, like Aligoté, Pinot Gris, Gamay, and Sauvignon Blanc but the primary focus of Burgundy’s production is Pinot Noir for Bourgogne Rouge ie Red wine and Chardonnay for Bourgogne Blanc ie white wine. 

To the Burgundy winemaker, the region is not only the original home of these grapes, but the terroir (“tear-wah”) that best expresses their character – elegant, aromatic, and complex.

Burgundy has 5 primary wine growing areas (not including Beaujolais and Châtillonnais):


Côte de Nuits – the night slope - The area begins just south of Dijon 

Côte de Beaune – the slope of Beaune

Côte Chalonnaise – the Chalon slope

Mâcon region 

The Côte de Beaune area is the southern part of the Côte d'Or, that is home to the great names of Burgundy. It is pronounced as Bone and it is the unoffical capital of Côte d'Or wine. Not very far is Dijon - which is also very famous for wine. It is also world famous for Mustard. The fare of the train (2 hours) is quite expensive - 27 Euro one way. We took train from Gare de Lyon-Perrache and got down at Gare de la Part - Dieu (pronounced as Purdue) – also in Lyon. From there we took another train (1.30 pm) to go to Beaune.

We reached there at 3 pm.


Since ticket counter closes at 7 pm, we decided to buy the return train ticket at 8 pm. It is a very small charming town. It is possible to cover the whole city by foot. Almost the whole city (at least the part the tourists normally goes) has cobbled stone road. Each and every house is very charming.


While walking towards the city centre, we had some nice Croissant (0.95 Euro), Lemon Tart (2.25 Euro), Palmier  (which is nothing but famous butterfly /Projapati Biscuit found in Tea Shop / Chai dokan in every street corner in Kolkata ) for1.40 Euro, Quiche Lorraine (which includes lardons/ bacon and cheese for 2.15 Euro) from a Patiserrie shop - Aux 3 Epis  ( - the food here is cheap and really good). Since it was time for Siesta, most of the shops were closed. I loved  Palmier the most. 

We had coffee (we mostly had Espresso or Americano in France) for 1.5 Euro at another café . So coffee is relatively cheaper here, compared to Belgium or Austria.


Then we reached Hospices de Beaune. The centre of the city is The Hospices de Beaune or Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune. It is a former charitable almshouse in Beaune. It was founded in 1443 by Nicolas Rolin, chancellor of Burgundy, as a hospital for the poor. The original hospital building, one of the finest examples of 15th-century Burgundian architecture, is now a museum.  We did not enter the museum since we were running short of time.

There is a tourism office just in front of Hospices de Beaune.


Many wine tours take place from here. There are many houses where there is wine cave (or wine cellar) in the underground. We were told  (at around 5.10 pm) the last tour has already left, but we can opt for a wine tasting tour, at the nearby wine cellar at Marché aux Vins for 11.50 Euro . You can sample either 5 or 10 wines. We opted for tasting 5 wines for 11.50 Euro. It closes at 5.40 pm.

After walking around the place, we reached Marché aux Vins at 5.30 pm.


They said it is closed. When we insisted that at the counter, they said 5.40 pm, they then let us in. We were given a wine glass (free) and went to the cave/cellar. The history of wine in this region, wine regions in a map, the process of making wine - was shown in a big TV . The wines are freely available for tasting. You have to pour it from a wine bottle. You can refill it as many times you want and see the documentary on the TV. The wine cellars are quite dark. There were 3 white wines and 2 red wines to be tasted. The white wines are initially greenish colour , but  with age it turns yellowish colour. The cheapest one we had is 19.5 Euro and the most expensive one is 85 Euro. The most expensive one (85 Euro) is distinctively better (yellowish colour) and has nice aroma. 


When we went to the counter to return the glass, they told us to keep the glass as souvenir !  It was a very nice experience. 

Then we explored the city for some more time. There were many houses where it is written Cave de Vin i.e. wine cave. I saw many BMWs. It seems they have made lot of money from wine.


We reached the station in time. We met a person in the train - who was explaining us how  to pronounce the French word. If "t" is at the end then it is silent. So Gare de la Part-Dieu is Gah ( r is h) de la Par Du. We reached Lyon around 10 pm. The train Station ( Gare de Lyon-Perrache) where we got down, is the place where we would take the bus, tomorrow at 5 am to go to Avignon. So we tried to find out, where is the bus station located (bus and train is more or less in the same place).

We could not try, unfortunately, all the famous foods of Lyon. We had our dinner from the Lebanese restaurant near our apartment  (open till 3 am) - boisson (drinks), Taco, Burger, Falafel - everything is available. We went to sleep at 1.30 am.


We left the apartment at 4.40 am for catching the bus to Avignon . We were a bit late. Somehow we reached at 4.51 am, in time (partly running) exhausted, gasping for breath. However the bus left little late at 5.15 am. It was going to Marseille and on the way it would drop us at Avignon. It takes around 3 hours to reach Avignon. We reached there after 8 am.

Avignon is one of the major cities of Provence (pronounced as Provose), in Southern France. It is on the banks of the Rhône river.  There are many wineries around this place.

Avignon is very famous, as it is the city to which the Popes fled when leaving the corruption of Rome in the 14th century. The palace they built, 'Le Palais des Papes' or the palace of popes, is the world's largest Gothic edifice. It was largely emptied over the centuries and its vast stone rooms are filled with little more than old frescos, but it is still an imposing building. The Ramparts themselves were erected to keep the plague and invaders out during the turbulent middle ages, when Avignon belonged to the papacy and not the French crown.

 Its early history is much older than the popes. Avignon occupies a strategic location for several reasons - it is at the confluence of two once-mighty rivers: the Rhône, still one of the biggest rivers in France, and the now largely-dammed Durance. Rhone river is there in Lyon also.

Both were important routes of trade and communication even in prehistoric times. 

It is estimated that about 200,000 people lived in Avignon, out of  which 16,000 within the ramparts built in the 14th century. The city is now sprinkled with buildings and monuments ranging from the new to the old.

Avignon has been continuously inhabited since the Stone Age, when people built caves in the Rocher des Dames, rising over the banks of the Rhône.

The Romans had a presence in Avignon, though the walls they built lie buried somewhere under the modern streets. Then, in medieval times, the town grew to an important centre of communication and trade.

It was undoubtedly for its strategic location and ease of travel, that it was chosen by the papacy as home, within the then kingdom of Provence. The presence of the papacy made Avignon into a city of great political and economic activity. The old city wall, now visible at the very center of the town was much too small and a larger wall, is still visible today. The city teemed with activity and building as architects, builders, artists flocked to the town. At that time, within the city walls there were over 100 churches and chapels - many of which have been transformed since then into everything from shops to a movie theater! The wealth and activity generated by the presence of the papacy spilled out into the region, so that even small villages nearby boast a rich architectural past.

Get in

By train : Avignon lies on the TGV or high speed train line from Paris to Marseille, about two hours from Paris, Gare de Lyon Station. It is also served by numerous local and regional services. But Bus is far cheaper. After getting down, we took bus no. 2 from the bus station, as suggested by our host, to go to our Airbnb apartment (2 Km from the bus station) and then walked for 7-8 minutes. This airbnb is amazing. The location is also very good.


Avignon North is the best place for the Palais des Papes, the famous half-bridge, the old part of Avignon or the more modern huge shopping area. Avignon South (Sud)is more convenient for the TGV (high speed train) or Avignon airport.


First we went to the Papal Palace (Palais des Papes) in 15 minutes walk from our Airbnb apartment. On the way falls one super market.

This is where the Popes of Avignon ruled during from 1309 to 1377. Most of the statues and frescoes were destroyed at the time of the French Revolution, but the main structure is still impressive. The Palace and the Post d'Avignon are a UNESCO World Heritage.  

I walked from the square in front of the Palace to go to the top of the Hill to go to Rocher des Doms . It has 270 degrees views, including the famous Pont d'Avignon, the Rhone River and acres of agricultural lands.

Pont d'Avignon is a ruined bridge - not far from the Palais des Papes. The bridge was built in the Middle Ages - before the arrival of the Papacy - perhaps partly to allow the local bishop to cross the river to Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, where the church authorities had installed themselves because of Avignon's then-infamous lawlessness.

The legend of the bridge's building is that a local shepherd, Benezet (a dialect form of Benedict) was inspired by angels to build a bridge. When his appeals to the town authorities proved fruitless, he picked up a vast block of stone and hurled it into the river, to be the bridge's foundation stone. Convinced by this demonstration of divine will, the bridge was swiftly built. The poor shepherd boy was canonised, and his chapel remains on the surviving portion of the bridge. Originally, the bridge had 22 arches. Only 4 of the 22 arches now remain.

It is possible to do wine tours, Olive tours and ‘Van Gogh tour’ and other tours from Avignon. When we reached the tourism office, the bus had already left.

Before Arles, falls the charming Saint-Rémy-de-Provence - typical Provencal village (This is the place where the artist Vincent van Gogh painted his famous masterpiece “The Starry Night”, in his mental asylum and is home to the ruins of the ancient Roman/Gaul city of Glanum) , which has inspired many artists, including Van Gogh. There is no train station in St Rémy. It is possible reach St Rémy by bus from Avignon. There are two train stations in Avignon, namely the TGV train station and also the main, central train station. The buses to St Rémy leave from the bus depot, which is near the Avignon central train station, i.e. not the TGV station. The bus No. 57 goes to St Rémy.  -   and within 10 Km from St Remy is Les Baux-de-Provence ( it has been named one of the most beautiful villages in France). So ideally one should keep one day for going to these two places from Avignon. We did not go to any of these places for want of time. Do not make this mistake.


After that we walked  to the Avignon train station, to go to Arles. We paid 8 Euro (one way)  to go to Arles for a 18 minutes journey. It is a small town which can be covered by walking.. It is a very nice town indeed, somewhat like Beaune. It is a very charming place - worth staying at least 1-2 days. We bought some souvenirs from here.

Arles is a town and municipality in the region Provence –Alpes - Côte d'Azur. It is a town which has a history of 2500 years, is also known as “Gaul’s Little Rome”. It has some impressive Roman monuments, amphitheatres including Colosseum. 

Then we saw the nearby Roman Theatre.

The famous Le Cafe Van Gogh is not very far from the Colosseum of Arles-


                                                                         source : above website 
Arles (1888-1889)

Arles is also the first city, which Van Gogh discovered when he settled in South France. His artistic career was extremely short, lasting only the 10 years from 1880 to 1890. During the first four years of this period, while acquiring technical proficiency, he confined himself almost entirely to drawings and watercolours. His first major work Potato workers was drawn in 1885. in Belgium. He briefly stayed in Brussels and Antwerp and finally went to Paris in 1886. There he met  Henri de Toulouse-LautrecPaul Gauguin Camille PissarroGeorges Seurat and others. After 2 years he was tired of city life, physically exhausted, and longing “to look at nature under a brighter sky and left Paris in February 1888 for Arles. Last 2 years : 1888-1890 were his most productive years.

On Christmas Eve, 1888 he argued with Gauguin and, reportedly, chased him with a razor and cut off the lower half of his own left ear. The 21st-century art historians Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans, however, examined contemporary police records and the artists’ correspondence and concluded it was actually Gauguin who mutilated van Gogh’s ear and that he did so with a sword. Van Gogh took responsibility and was hospitalized; Gauguin left for Paris. We went to the Hospital where Van Gogh stayed in Arles after this injury. I was not too sure that it was  indeed the Hospital where Gogh stayed. I asked a student (around 15 years) whether it was indeed that place. He misguided me. Little later he came running, after he checked the facts, and informed me that he was wrong and I was  correct !!

Saint-Rémy (May 1889 – May 1890)

He later went to the mental asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence in May 1889 in order to be under medical supervision on public demand. Van Gogh stayed there for 12 months, haunted by recurrent attacks, alternating between moods of calm and despair and working intermittently. Here he drew his famous paintings The Starry NightGarden of the AsylumCypressesOlive Trees. Finally he arrived in Paris in May 1890.

Auvers-sur-Oise (May–July 1890)

Four days later he went to stay with a homeopathic doctor-artist, Paul-Ferdinand Gachet, a friend of Pissarro and Paul Cézanne, at Auvers-sur-Oise. This phase was short, and ended in quarrels with Gachet and feelings of guilt at his financial dependence on Theo and his inability to succeed. Van Gogh shot himself in July 1890 at Auvers-sur-Oise.

 We could not go to Van Gogh Foundation for lack of time.


Then we went near the Rhone River from where Van Gogh drew Starry night (different from the more famous The Starry night at St Remy).

We then took the 7.58 pm train to come back to Avignon. We met our host and on their recommendation, went to a restaurant for the dinner by using Google map. We had an interesting carrot soup (divided into 2). Along with that we had breads, 2 pcs cheese, 6 pcs salamis and another salami type of item. We also had tea. The total bill came to only 13.8 Euro for 1 plate - which we shared between two of us.  It is a theme based restaurant.

A map of the city, lists of hotels in all price ranges, restaurants, ideas for nightlife, and daytrips to the surrounding countryside can be found at the Office de Tourisme, at 41 cours Jean Jaures (on the main street).


We left at 7.00 am for catching Oui  bus at 8 am to go to Marseilles.

We first took local transport to go to the station.  However bus left little late. We reached Marseilles at 9.30 am.

From the bus stop, the host's Airbnb apartment is only 2 minutes. The Google map is again of great use to us. They allowed us to keep our luggage, but not check in, since check in is at 2 pm. We had our breakfast and left for walking around the city. First we went to the Tourism office. We got to know that it is possible to go to Arles, Avignon, Aix en Provence (a former capital of Provence – 30 Km from Marseille and is famous for Paul Cezanne  - here you can have that uniquely authentic, vivid and intimate experience of Cezanne - by bus (same day tour by paying 110 Euro) from Marseilles itself. So we could have made Marseilles our base instead of going to Avignon. We learnt that there is no tour left for the day. It is possible to do a wine tour also from Marseille. It is possible to do any tour, only if you stay at least 2 days in a city. First day you should ideally book the ticket and tour on the next day. 

Marseille or Marseilles in English is the second most populated city of France, the biggest Mediterranean port and the economic hub of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur (one of the 18th administrative regions in France) region. Marseille has a complex history. It was founded by the Ionian Greeks ( Greeks from Turkey ) from the Greek city of Phocaea, now Foça, Izmir in modern Turkey, in 600 BC and is the oldest city in France and one of the oldest cities in Europe. With around one million inhabitants, Marseille is the second largest city in France in terms of population and the largest in terms of area. Its population is a real melting pot of different cultures. It is also said that there are more Comorian people in Marseille than in Comoros Island (between Madagascar and Mozambique). Indeed, the people of Marseille have varying ethnic backgrounds, with many Italians and Spanish having immigrated to the area after the World War II.

From colourful markets (like Noailles market) that will make you feel like you are in Africa, to the Panier area (the oldest place of the town), to the Vieux-Port (old harbour) and the Corniche (a road along the sea). The soap or "savon de Marseille" (Marseille soap) is very famous here.

The town is a far cry from the Cézanne's paintings. Famous painter Cézanne made this town his base. We could not go  to his house for want of time. 

From Marseille there are direct connections to Barcelona, Prague and Tangier. The bus station is next to the main train station, the St. Charles Station at Rue Honnorat. There is  bus , tram and metro in Marseille. 

From the tourism office (at a strategic location) we went to the nearby Le Vieux Port (old harbour) walking. Here watching fishermen sell their stock by auctioning is a must. 

The famous Canebière Avenue goes straight down the harbour. I had read that Canebière is not that interesting, despite its reputation. Le Panier, old city is right next to the Vieux-Port. 

At the Vieux Port we bought a boat ticket (for 16 Euro) to go to both The Château d'If and Frioul islands , which would leave at 1.15 pm. Then we killed some time by walking around the Corniche, before the boat ride. The place was soon filled with some acrobats. 

We  also had a quick lunch; Sanjit-da had Caesar salad (there was bacon and chicken in the salad). I had some snacks from Steak and Shake restaurant. 

Tourist boats leave from the Vieux Port for a 15 minutes ride to the Island. The boats do get full, so if you want to leave at a specific time, you have to arrive an hour before the trip to buy the tickets (they are issued for a specific time). 

Château d'If is a small island, off the city, used initially as a defensive structure and was later used a prison. It is most famous for its place in the novel, Le Comte de Monte-Cristo or  Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.

Both the islands are small and everything there could be seen and photographed in 30 minutes. But due to the boat schedules you would have to spend at least an hour there, until the boat picks you up.

The entrance to the Castle costs 6 Euro. The whole exhibition is focused around the Count of Monte-Cristo novel. It is based on a true story. It was serially published for 2 years in a newspaper. It became very popular. The whole background behind the story was given in the exhibition at Château d'If. Three Musketeers is the other masterpiece of Dumas. I learnt, he had a bad reputation of employing Ghost writers, sometimes. He was infamous for serial writing. The boat ride was quite memorable, with the city looking quite charming from the sea.

From Château d'If  we went to Frioul islands – which are bigger. The view from Frioul islands is exceptional.

Then we came back to the Vieux Port, after waiting for some time for the next boat.

Then we went to see Notre Dame de la Garde -the big church which overlooks the city. Old fishermen used to have their boats blessed in this church. From there it has one of the nicest views of the city. 

From the Vieux Port to reach the church - it is about 15-20 minutes steep uphill walk. 

Since the Church was closed (before time), I climbed the Church wall, to go inside. Some other people were also doing it. Sanjit-da did not do it. 

It is like Eiffel tower of Marseille. It is visible from most parts of the city. 

You can see both the Islands from the church. There are several narrow roads from the church/ hill , which fall into the Corniche.

It is a very cosmopolitan city and better than what I thought. It is also the city of Zidane !

From there we went to Noailles Market. The area is one of the city's most interesting parts. Lined with Arabic and Indo-Chinese shops, some of the streets could be part of a bazaar in Algeria. But we reached a little late. The shops were closing down. Most of them were closed. It is really dirty - more so, since there were left overs from the market. The cleaning was not yet done. The roads in the old city are quite narrow - slightly hilly. We did not see any Indian tourist either in Avignon or Marseille. We had various snacks along the way.

There are some Tunisian (modern day Carthage) shop selling Jalebi or Amritti ! It came from Middle East to India.

 We had dinner from an Algerian shop - beef kebab was really good; Sanjit-da had  chicken kebab - the price was also good. We reached our airbnb apartment little late - it is owned by a Senegalese guy. The location is terrific.

Unsurprisingly, Marseille's cuisine is focused on fish and seafood. Its two specialties being the famous fish broth "bouillabaisse" and "aïoli", a garlic sauce served with vegetables and dried cod.

La bouillabaisse is an excellent fish-based soup served with la rouille (a garlic-saffron sauce) and bread similar to crostini. La bouillabaisse cannot be enjoyed at any budgetary level. If you are invited to the home of someone making bouillabaisse, then you are in safe hands. Never eat cheap bouillabaisse at a restaurant; only eat, it out if you have to reserve in advance. Bouillabaisse is a meal : first the soup, then the fish.


We took Flix bus at 6.35 am to go to Nice. As usual it left late. The scheduled time was 5.55 am. But with such low fare, I cannot complain ! Flix bus is not famous for punctuality. The bus is very comfortable, though. There is a toilet in the bus too. We sat at the front seat of the upper tier of the double decker bus. On the way to Nice, falls Cannes! 

It is not very far from Nice. We reached Nice at 10.00 am, instead of scheduled time of 9.30 am.

From the bus stop, the host's house is only a pleasant 30 minutes' walk. We had some breakfast with nice juice on the way to our Airbnb apartment. 

The check in time is 3 pm. But since we requested, the caretaker came little early to open the door for us. (Actually we reached the house at 11.30 am and caretaker after waiting for time, left. When we called the owner, he asked the caretaker to go once again to open the door for us. He is an African guy).  So after one and half hours (actual distance is 30 minutes without halt) of pleasant walk, we reached our Airbnb apartment. On the way falls famous Garibaldi Square. 

After keeping the luggage, we left to explore the city. We had famous Trouchia (3.5 Euro) near our apartment. 

Our house is in the old city or Vieux (pronounced as View - x is silent) Nice. It is just like any beautiful old city of Europe with cobbled stones and small tables by the side of the road. There is sea, mountain all around Nice. 

Understand Nice

The origin of Nice can be found among the Gallo-Roman ruins of Cimiez. Leafy Cimiez is an upscale residential area in Nice, known for the Musée National Marc Chagall and Musée Matisse uphill.

Musee Chagall – on famous French Russian painter : It includes stained glass windows by the artist. It has one of best collections of Chagall.

Musee Matisse : Charming collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures. What Marseille is to Cezanne , Nice is to Matisse. Many of his famous paintings were done here.

But nowadays, most of the city's inhabitants live closer to sea level. Nice was part of the Roman Empire and then the Kingdom of Sardinia (large Italian island in the Mediterranean Sea), until it was ceded to France in 1860 by a rigged ballot, against the population's will. The ancient local language is Nissart, but of course, everyone speaks French. Nice has a typical Mediterranean climate similar to other cities in the French Riviera (Marseille, Cannes, Monaco etc.).

Nice (pronounced like the English word "niece") is a large city in France on the French Riviera. Cote de Azur and French Riviera mean same. Azur comes from the colour of the sea. It is well known for the beautiful view on the Promenade des Anglais, its famous waterfront.

Some people were sunbathing and some were swimming too. The beaches of Nice consist entirely of large flat stones. Showers are provided ( free) on all public beaches and there is a beach volleyball area.

Much nicer beaches exist in other towns close by, such as Villefranche-sur-Mer, Antibes and Cannes, which are far more sandy. Villefranche is a preferred beach.

Nice's main shopping street Av Jean Medecin is home to two giant music/entertainment stores, Virgin Megastore and the French FNAC. Jean Medecin is well worth an explore! It is a very important landmark of Nice.

Then we went to the Colline du Chateau - it offers a spectacular vantage point overlooking the city. Climbing up the stairs to reach the platforms 90 metres above Nice, is well worth the view.


Then we walked along the promenade and reach the harbour area of the city - where lot of luxury yachts had been stationed. The bus stop to go to Menton, Monaco is nearby.

Nice is a large, sprawling city of 300,000 population, but most of the tourist and historical attractions, outside Cimiez, are within the centre - a radius of a twenty minute walk at the most.  Nice is also known for several museums. 

Since we had some time, we went to the tram stop to see, from where our tram will leave to go to the airport. We tried in vain to buy some “pet toys” for Sanjit-da. They were closed.

Then it was time for dinner. We planned to try some Niçoise Cuisine. We had it from Le Petit Resto. 

Some of the famous foods are - "Socca", a charcoal grilled chickpea and olive oil generously sprinkled with black pepper (type of Crepe), Salade Niçoise (lots of raw veggies including tomatoes,  peppers, radishes, artichokes, baby broad beans and tuna, anchovies and/or hardboiled egg), the "Pan Bagnat" sandwich, which is basically a Salade Niçoise stuffed in an olive oil soaked round crusty bread. Other specialties include Soupe de Poisson (Fish Soup, made with chili aioli, croutons and grated cheese).

As may be expected, seafood features prominently in Niçoise cuisine and several restaurants specialize in sea-urchin and oysters.


We left for Menton, by bus no. 100 from the harbour area. On the way, falls Monaco - which is a separate country. We reached Menton (pronounced as May-taw) after 1.15 hours journey by bus. It is the last stop. After that there is Italian border.

Long distance buses connect Nice with other major European cities, Marseille, Toulon and Aix-en-Provence. Each main town on the French Riviera has its own local bus network : for Nice it is Lignes d'Azur (Cannes has “Palm Bus”). However inter-urban network, the TAM, connects all the Eastern Riviera towns between Cannes and Menton. Bus fares are only € 1.50. The journey from Nice to say Cannes by the bus no. 200 at € 1.50 is considerably cheaper than the train, which is currently over €5. We paid € 1.50 for 1.15 hours journey to Menton. It is really cheap compared to Belgium or Netherlands (3 Euro even for 1 stop).

In the late 19th Century Northern Europeans with TB, came to Menton either regain their health or to die. As a result its cemetery is filled with the graves of notable Englishmen, Germans, Russians. Previously it was under Monaco.

The road from Nice to Menton is somewhat like Amalfi Coast.

After reaching Menton, we were waiting in front of coiffure (salon in French) for Isabella to pick us up. I initially thought it was a coffee shop !!  My friend Isabella, who stays in Menton, came to pick us by her car and took us to a place beside the sea, from where there is a wonderful view of Monaco. Then she took us to a place near the hills, where she does her morning walk twice a week. It is a coastal path along the cliffs. 

Then we went to the border of Italy and France by her car. French part has still border control (probably because of illegal immigrants). But the Italian part has done away with the control . 

From there we went to the Vieux or old Menton. It has similar features like any old town. The old town is largely pedestrianised . But the number of shops is much less compared to Nice. So it is less touristy, but equally stunning. We saw a nice Church. 

During Monte Carlo car rally many people stay here, since it is much cheaper than Monaco. It takes around 30 minutes to reach Monaco by bus no. 100.

After that we went to her house. She has been to my house in Kolkata a number of times. But this is my first visit. We met her mother. She is quite lively. Since she stayed in England when she was young, she speaks unusually good English and reads English novels too, which is not so common in a small French town We had a nice lunch. She made Pasta Neapolitano (similar to Pasta Pomodoro, with Anchovis, Olive etc). We had some homemade bread and homemade Tiramisu with lots of cream. We also had cheese, salami and ham. It was a very sumptuous lunch with wine. 

Then we left for the bus stop and took bus no. 100 to go to Monaco. We got down near the famous Cafe de Paris. We saw a Rolex shop near Cafe de Paris. Its door was locked, like jewellery shops in India. Sanjit da said he would buy a Rolex, even if it is 100 Euro. We were told, the watch which Sanjitda liked is 10,000 Euro !!

Then we saw the famous Grand Casino. At the Grand Casino, gambles  the world's rich and famous. You'll need your passport to enter and the fees for entry range widely depending on what room you are going to - often from €30 right up into the hundreds. You can also visit the casino, without gambling, but also for a nominal fee. The dress code inside is extremely strict. We did not go inside with our vagabond like dress! This is the place where Monte Carlo rally takes place around April or May. During that time some roads are blocked. Monte Carlo is not the capital of Monaco, but a government district. We went to the back side of the Grand Casino building , where there is Opera house - from where there is a wonderful view of the sea. This is the place where the super rich stays. 

We walked along the sea to have a look of the town. We saw the house of King at the top of the hill. We did not go there, since it was quite late. The Palace also offers a breathtaking panoramic view, overlooking the Port and Monte-Carlo.


It is a separate country with its own flag. This is the second smallest independent state in the world (after the Vatican) and is almost entirely urban. There is a famous Oceanographic Museum in Monaco. 

After spending some time, we left for Nice by bus no. 100. Today we went to a Turkish Restaurant. We had Yeprek Sarma (they say Sarma only) - which is basically a spring roll rolled by grape leaves. We also had Greek Moussaka. 


One can go to some other places from Nice. One can go to Eze. It is a small village on the way to Monaco. The village is situated on a small mountain and there is a beautiful cactus garden with a spectacular view .There is also Fragonard perfume factory which you can visit for free. To reach Eze by bus, take the 112 to go to Eze Village (not the 100 which stops at Eze Gare, a 90 minute steep walk away from Eze Village). There is a path that goes down the mountain from Eze Village to Eze Gare. This is the Path of Nietzsche (named after the famous German philosopher Friedrich W. Nietzsche), with some fantastic views and a waterfall. Walking downhill through this path takes about 40 minutes. The best views of the coastline are found in the lower third of the path.

Buses run from Menton through Eze Gare to Nice every 15 minutes or so and vice versa, making trekking back up the hill to Eze unnecessary.

Some other important places just to the west of Nice include Antibes, Cannes and Saint-Tropez; in the foothills, you'll find Grasse, with an extensive history of producing essences of French perfumes; it can be reached by bus. Grasse is considered as perfume capital of the world. Kannuaj, a small town only 2 hours away from Lucknow is known as Grasse of India. Akhilesh Yadav went to Grasse to make a cooperation agreement between the 2 cities. 

East of Nice is Monaco and Menton in France, and then Ventimiglia and San Remo in Italy .


We left for Nice Airport at 8.30 am. It is one of the busiest in France and has frequent daily flights to Paris and direct flights to most major cities in Europe and a number of destinations in North Africa and the Middle East. It is cheaper to go Tunisia from Nice / Marseille. 

A new tram route Tram Line 2 between the airport and Magnan station (close to Nice Centre) opened on 15th December 2018. Alternatively there is the airport express bus . We went to the tram stop walking. The tram stop is in the basement. It can well be considered a subway/Underground Metro  too. After some time it started moving on the surface with sea on the left. We reached airport in time and took only 20-25 minutes. We took 1.30 am Easy Jet flight (nothing to do with our Jet Airlines) to reach Naples. 

Naples Airport is not served by any rail system. From the airport you can take a bus for €5 (called Alibus) which has 2 stops only : Stazione Centrale (Central station), where there is a subway station and Piazza Municipio, near the main ferry port (molo Beverello). 

We were received by our friend Angelo at the airport. He came with his car. His steering has a lock so that the car is not stolen !!

Our Airbnb host cancelled our booking at the last moment. Without OTP, I could not book any other apartment (since the Kolkata SIM will not work). Rossella (wife of Angelo) had already talked to the new host (who we zeroed on) to tell him, that we are genuine guests. So the host blocked the dates of our stay, although we could not pay. Angelo took us straight to the Airbnb apartment, where we made the payment and kept our luggage. Later it turned up to be a Bangladeshi neighbourhood. There is a Mosque-  written in Bengali ! There are at least 3 Bengali restaurants serving Bengali food ! One of them is Bhai-bhai restaurant. 

We saw one Sri Lankan shop too.

Then we left for the house of Rossella and Angelo. They were ready with lunch. We had wonderful Pasta with Cherry Tomato with Parmesan Cheese, Ham, Sausage, 3 types of Cheese, Anchovies. They have made their terrace into a kitchen. They have a very nice little girl (around 3-4 years).

Know Naples

Naples or Napoli in Italian is the capital of the Campania region. The city is the third most populated municipality of Italy. It was founded between the 7th and 6th centuries BC by the Greeks and was named Nea-polis, which means new cityThe Greeks first established the city and inhabited the region long before Roman times. 

The city of Naples is thought to be one of the oldest continually inhabited cities on the planet, but its recorded history began when Greek settlers established colonies in the area during the second millennium BC (2000 BC -1000 BC).  Later, another colony, called Parthenope, was founded by more Greek colonists from the Aegean island of Rhodes (Island very near to Izmir, Turkey) during the 9th century BC

Parthenope eventually declined, however, and the true beginning of Naples (as such) was found in the new Greek settlement called Neapolis during the 6th  century B.C.

Neapolis became of major importance within the Greek Mediterranean empire called Magna Graecia (Greater Greece) and an important centre of trade. It allied itself with Rome against Carthage during the Punic Wars and again during the war with the Italian Samnite tribe. Ultimately, Naples (Neapolis) became a Roman colony. In fact Roman conquest around the world started from Sicily (which lies South of Napoli) which was under Carthage.

After the Western Roman Empire fell to the Germanic barbarians in the 5th  century A.D., Naples fell first to the Ostrogoths, then to the Byzantines. By 763, it had fallen under Papal control but regained its independence around A.D. 800.

Around 1266, Naples became united with Sicily as part of the new Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, and soon, it was made the capital of the new kingdom. Sicily and Naples were then divided and reunited several times over the next few centuries. Therefore they had separate existence. Around 1501, Naples came under Spanish control, but after passing again through numerous masters, it was finally became the independent Kingdom of Naples. Naples later became a strong proponent of the Italian unification movement, and joined modern Italy in 1861.

Much of the cityscape of modern Naples was built under Mussolini's fascist regime and also during the reconstruction era following World War II. Although Naples never revolted against Mussolini, it was the first city in Italy to rebel against the Nazi occupation and was also the most-bombed city in all of Italy. The city was liberated by American and British forces on October 1, 1943.

The historic centre of Naples has earned the UNESCO World Heritage Site denomination. It has one of the biggest historical city centres in the world and its pride is the 448 historical and monumental churches, the highest number in the World for a single city.

The most widely spoken language in Naples is Italian or a mixture of Italian and Napulitano (or Neapolitan). Neapolitan is sometimes described as an Italian dialect, but may be considered a separate language and can sometimes be unintelligible to the general Italian speaker. Neapolitan has strong Spanish and French influences originating from their occupation of the area. Therefore, more Spanish and French words are understood by the locals than in other parts of Italy. English is the most commonly spoken foreign language, although the average knowledge of English is not good.

Naples is the most densely populated metropolis in Italy, having over 8,000 people per square kilometer.

 Naples' population is relatively homogeneous, with foreign-born population accounting for less than 10% of residents. According to a 2017 survey about 55,000 foreigners live in the city, and their most common countries/regions of origin were as follows: Sri Lanka, Ukraine, India, China, Romania, Philippines, Bangladesh and Poland and newer immigrants from Northern Africa and the Middle East.


The people of Naples enjoy a per capita GDP of  $18,749, which is the 4th best in Italy, as to purchasing power. Although unemployment, corrupt politicians and organized crime have haunted the city for decades, Naples has managed to see significant economic progress in spite of these problems. One of the main sources of Naples' economic importance is the Port of Naples, which is one of the largest and busiest in the Mediterranean Sea. A second major driver of the local economy is tourism.


Pizza comes from Naples. Look for pizza margherita, the original one, with nothing more than fresh tomatoes, basil, fresh mozzarella and a little olive oil. Eating a pizza in Florence or in Rome is not the same as eating it in Naples! Here the dough is thicker (than in Rome, for example) and is a little chewy.

In Naples apparently most pizzeria makes a decent pizza. Some places display the label “Vera Pizza Napole-tana” [“True Nea-politan Pizza”] with a Pulcinella mask baking a pizza in a stylized Vesuvio, which indicates that the pizzerria follows the standards of the Associazione Verace Pizza Napol-etana .

If you want to try the authentic Nea-politan pizza, go to Pizzeria Brandi, where the pizza margherita was born (a stone is exposed outside the restaurant explaining the history of the first pizza).

Some other places that are very popular among the Neapolitans are almost all the pizzerias in Via (Road) dei Tribunali, in particular Di Matteo, Sorbillo, and his sister, a few doors away , informally known as “la vecchia” [the old lady], a very small place with only 4 or 5 tables — very hard to find.


The city and region are also famous for their pasticceria (pastries), including:

• Babà — found in virtually every cafe, bar and pasticceria in town

• Sfoglia-tella — often filled with ricotta cheese  or cream with citrus flavor. The best sfoglia-tella is served at Pintauro in Via Toledo 275.

We tried Baba, but could not get time to  Sfoglia-tella . However Angelo highly recommended it.


The city has a bad reputation concerning the Mafia, trash crisis and many parts of the city are impoverished and really dangerous. You will see garbage/trash in the streets. The roads are not that well maintained. Coming from Kolkata I felt at home !  It is more of a shock, since we are coming from France. Here people are not very formal like France. You do not need to greet them (unlike Bon Jour) every time you ask something. You can ask them directly. What a relief !!

Then we went to see the city with them, walking. Their house is not very far from the city centre. We saw Duomo on the way to the pedestrian street. Duomo or cathedral has 2 luxurious chapels - one is dedicated to the city's patron St. Gennaro. His blood liquefies on September 19, the so called Miracle of San Gennaro, which is a big celebration in Naples. If the blood does not liquefy it is believed to bring very bad luck to the city. 

We walked along a long pedestrian road - that went upto the hill. There are souvenir shops on both sides of the street - Spaccanapoli. It is a very narrow road.

On the way falls Underground city of Naples or Napoli Sotterranea . Forty meters below the, you will find a different world, unexplored, isolated by time. The 450-kilometer subterranean network was formed by the Greeks in the 4th century BC to build what was then named Nea-polis, or “New City.” The Romans later used the chambers and pathways to build aqueducts that provided water for many centuries of Neapolitans. 

We had coffee in one of the shops. It costs only 1 Euro for one Espresso. There are many figurine and pictures of Maradona in the shop. The owner of the shop has a picture with Maradona. We were told there is a Maradona temple also. Here Maradona is considered as God.

Since the daughter was not feeling well, Rossella decided to leave us and go to the Doctor's chamber for consultation. 

We bought the tickets for Pompeii +Vesuvius (25 Euro) from a travel agent for an organized tour. We met a Bangladeshi hawker on the street; he told us that since it was dark then, not to take that narrow street to go back. He told us to take the main road. Else you might be mugged. He showed us an Italian, walking past us, who is apparently a mugger. So we took the main road. The poverty in Naples is much more apparent from other places. We were told that the place where we are staying (near Garibaldi Station) is not very safe at night. While walking along the main road, we met a Bengali (Muslim) from Kolkata, for a change (and not a Bangladeshi !). He lives near  Park Street. He has export and import business. He would go to Kolkata next year. He was telling us that many aristocrat Italians stay in Napoli. But we did not go to that side. I saw some Africans too.


In the morning we checked out of our Airbnb apartment to shift to another Airbnb - which is even nearer (40 seconds) to the Garibaldi square. It was cheaper than the previous one. Today we went to Pompeii and Vesuvius. Our bus left at 9.30 am (scheduled time was 9.05 am) from a place near Garibaldi station and by 10.30 am we are in Pompeii. There was a huge queue for the entry ticket ( @15 Euro ).We should have bought it online.

Pompeii was a settlement since the Bronze Age. Romans took control of Pompeii around 200 BC and it grew to become a large town. On October 24, 79 AD, Vesuvius erupted, burying the nearby town of Pompeii and Herculaneum in ash and pumice, killing around 2000-3,000 people, the rest of the population of 20,000 people having already fled, and preserving the city in its state from that fateful day. So most of the people survived. This site is considered to be one of the few sites where an ancient city has been preserved in detail - everything from jars and tables, to paintings and people were frozen in time. Neighbouring Herculaneum town suffered the same fate. But first it spread to Naples, then to Herculaneum. Herculaneum was a wealthier city than Pompeii and remains better preserved because it was destroyed it in a different manner: lying along the coast and to the west of Mount Vesuvius, it was sheltered from the worst of the eruption thanks to winds that appear to have blown ash southwards towards Pompeii, rather than Herculaneum, which is nearer. So people in Herculaneum had more time to flee. The majority of them survived Vesuvius' catastrophic eruption.

This has resulted in an unprecedented opportunity to see how the people lived two thousand years ago. There are some bodies which look like a mummy. The famous life like poses of many victims at Pompeii— seated with face in hands, crawling, kneeling on a mother's lap—are helping to lead scientists toward a new interpretation of how these ancient Romans died. Some of them were taking a nap or bath. Until now it's been widely assumed that most of the victims were asphyxiated by volcanic ash and gas. But a recent study says most died instantly of extreme heat, with many casualties shocked into a sort of instant rigor mortis.

On the Circumvesuviana Napoli-Sorrento line, the train takes 30 to 40 minutes to reach Pompeii from either Naples or Sorrento. One can also avail SITA bus for similar fare. 

Pompeii is a walking site only. You have to walk on uneven cobblestoned ground. First we entered a museum and moved on to the city. First comes the forum.

Forum : This was the center of public life. It was surrounded by many of the important government, religious and business buildings.

Temple of Apollo: This is on the western side of the Forum. Apollo was a major Greek (and Roman) god who was associated with the bow, music, and divination. The epitome of youth and beauty, source of life and healing, patron of the civilized arts, and as bright and powerful as the sun itself, Apollo was, arguably, the most loved of all the Greek gods

Theatre: Theatre built in the hollow of a hill for acoustic advantage; it seated 5,000 people .

Lupanar an ancient brothel with pornographic frescoes over the entrance to each room, presumably indicating the services on offer. Even allowing for the smaller size of ancient Romans the beds seem rather small. There is a huge crowd which gathered in front of this.

Basilica : This is to the west of the Forum. It was the most important public building of the city where both justice was administered and trade was carried on.

Forum Granary : Artifacts like storage jars are stored in this building, which was designed to be the public market but may not have been finished before the eruption.

Baths : The Baths are just north of the forum . They are well-preserved and roofed. Close to these are the Stabian baths which have some interesting decorations and give a good idea of how baths used to function in Roman times. The water used to come from Vesuvius. The concept of Thermal bath was present during those times. There was separate bathing area for male and female.

House of the Tragic Poet : This small atrium house is best known for the mosaic at the entrance depicting a chained dog, with the words Cave Canem or "Beware of the Dog" . The Italian marble is clearly visible. We saw number of fontana or fountain. The water used to come from Vesuvius. 

We saw number of Taverns. You will walk past where the bakeries once existed. The bakeries’ ovens look similar to the oven seen in a pizzeria Today. The House of the Baker has a garden area with millstones of lava, used for grinding the wheat.

There are 2 amphitheatres (Grande and Piccolo). It comes at the end of city. The bigger one was completed in 80 BC, and could hold about 20,000 people. It is the earliest surviving permanent amphitheatre in Italy and one of the best preserved anywhere. It was used for gladiator battles, other sports and spectacles involving wild animals.

Gymnasium occupies a large area opposite the Amphitheatre. The central area was used for sporting activities and there was a pool in the middle. On 3 sides are lengthy internal porticos or colonnades.

House of the Vettii : This is believed to have been the home of two brothers who were freed slaves and became very affluent. It contains many frescoes. In the vestibule there is a striking fresco of Priapus, God of Fertility and among the frescos in other parts of the building are illustrations of couples making love, of cupids and of mythological characters.

We saw many frescoes in the city houses. So it would be wrong to say Pompeii is just a ruins. Some of the things are nicely preserved.

House of the Faun :  This is named after a statue of a dancing faun found on the site. It is considered to be an excellent example of the fusion of Italian and Greek architectural styles and occupies an entire block.

Our last bus from Pompeii to Vesuvius left at 2.30 pm. So we had to rush to the exit and got the bus just in time. Vesuvius is nearby - few Kms only.

Mount Vesuvius is perhaps best known for its eruption in Roman times, described by Pliny the younger, when Pompeii and Herculaneum were destroyed. The eruption left a large crater which has grown and shrunk with subsequent eruptions and this can still be visited today. It is  currently a dormant volcano that emits streams of lava (the last eruption was in 1944).

There is an entry ticket (10 Euro) to go to the top. 
If you trek to the end,  till  the top of the mountain, it will be around 1.5 Km. 

I went till the end. There is a wonderful cafeteria cum souvenir shop, where you can get a cup of coffee for only 1.7 Eruo.

But since we have to catch the bus, I skipped it. Sanjit da did not go to the top. It was not a very easy trek.  At the top of the volcano, is a crater rim that affords a view into the crater that still fumes slightly. You can see the yellow colour stone (sulphur), red stone (Iron) inside the crater.

Besides that, you will have (only on clear days, but the mountain is notoriously covered in fog or clouds) a stunning panorama overseeing the Bay of Naples, Naples, Capri, the edge of the Amalfi Coast. Most volcanoes have their peaks covered in fog due to condensation.

Outside the Vesuvius entrance they were selling various kinds of stone - just like the way they were selling in Morocco.

In the bus we met a Bangladeshi couple, who had come from Ireland for a conference. We took them to Bhai Bhai restaurant near our apartment, after getting down from the bus.

We went for a stroll near Piazza Garibaldi ( or square ) and then dinner beside the square. In the square (which is 5 minutes from our house) we met an educated Bangladeshi Abdul Halim, who has a shop here. He had a well paying job (Marketing deptt) in Bangladesh and used to travel to Nepal, Bhutan, Singapore for his job. His wife was an accountant in a Power Co. (used to earn 50,000 Taka per month). It was a mistake (according to him) to come to Italy for an uncertain future. Somebody needs to sponsor you, in order to come to Italy and they give you a “green card” (for the sake of understanding). But now they are more or less settled, for more than10 years. You get permanent residency only after staying for 10 years. They have a son and daughter. They are studying here and doing well. His wife was wearing a hijab. Lot of Bangladeshis come to this square for a chitchat. Some of them were already waiting for Mr Halim. 

Then we had sea food Risotto and Bolognese pasta at the Garibaldi square. 

We also had some Espresso coffee (Espresso + water = Americano coffee - which is less concentrated unlike Espresso) for 1 Euro only . We bought some Funghi (mushroom) Pizza - 12 inches for 5.5 Euro (for tomorrow's breakfast) from the Piazza Garibaldi. The place from where we had bought Pizza yesterday is closed today. It was really cheap (4 Euro for 12 inches Margherita Pizza) and very good too.


Our initial plan was to go to Amalfi by Circumvesuviana Train. But on the way to the station, we saw some Tour Company's counter selling one day Bus tour to Amalfi coast for 40 Euro only. It is more of a hop on hop off bus. So we opted for it, considering the convenience. Otherwise we would have to get down at Sorrento (goes through Pompeii and Herculaneum) by Circumvesuviana and then take SITA bus to go further upto Amalfi coast. SITA buses go along the coast from Sorrento to Amalfi and also from Amalfi to Salerno (last major stop on Amalfi Coast). In fact my friend Saikat and Arun took SITA bus to visit Amalfi,when they came here - which is more common.

The bus was supposed to leave at 9.10 am, but left at 9.30 am. We got down at Amalfi at 11.30 am. We dozed off on the way. But the view along this Amalfi coast is amazing. You will move along with Mediterranean sea, almost throughout the travel. But it must be at least 100-150 below the road.

The Amalfi Coast is stunning with its steep sloped lemon tree gardens, coloured terrace houses, stunning views overlooking the azure sea. 

It is in south east of Naples : starting from Sorrento stretching upto Salerno. Along the Amalfi coast you will find places like Sorrento , Positano, Amalfi, Ravello and Salerno - each of them uniquely beautiful, with much to offer. In the Amalfi Coast,  prices are high compared to nearby Naples.

We got down at Amalfi first. Amalfi is one of the biggest and famous towns on the Amalfi coast. We saw some tourist buses going to Ravello - but for want of time , it was not possible for us. 

For lack of time it was also not possible to go to the famous Capri Island. It is possible to go to Amalfi (and Capri) from Sorrento (1st major stop in Amalfi Coast). Coop Sant'Andrea run the ferry service from Salerno to Amalfi, Amalfi to Salerno, Amalfi to Positano, Positano to Amalfi, Positano to Salerno, Salerno to Positano. In fact Capri is nearest from Sorrento. May be next time !!


For going to Capri there is a fixed time schedule which has to be maintained.

We walked along the wonderful coast above the cliff, overlooking the azure sea for quite some time. Then we went to see the famous Duomo (the cathedral) of Amalfi. The Cathedral was built in the 10th century. We did not go inside, since they were asking 3 Euro to go inside. 

While walking along the charming city, we saw an interesting sea food shop - where they were selling different kinds of fried sea food (Octopus, Prawn, squid, Potato,fish). We really liked it. While we were having it, we met a Guajarati Indian from London, of East African origin (mother is Kenyan Indian).

Amalfi region is famous for limoncello - an alcoholic drink - because of its famous lemon. The picture of lemon is seen everywhere around the town. It is like a mascot. There are numerous souvenirs of the famous lemon. Unfortunately we could not market Gandhoraj lemon of Bengal, like them - although it is unique. According to famous restaurateur of India, Anjan Chatterjee, Gandhoraj is God’s gift to mankind. Nothing comes closer. He must have it with every meal – even with his beer! I saw a lemon tree which looks exactly like our Gandhoraj. May be it tastes similar. Who knows ? I did not like limoncello though - but I am not qualified to comment, since I am basically a teetotaler, like the famous Charles Sobhraj ! The only thing I somewhat enjoy is red wine.



Among the most famous beaches of the Amalfi Coast is Marina Grande in Amalfi. The beach of Marina Grande is among the most extensive and thanks to its central location, is also the busiest in the summer from June to September. From the dock of largest beach in Amalfi, boats depart to many bays accessible only by sea. 

We went to the beach and then left for Positano by our (hop on hop off kind of ) bus at 3 pm ( actually bus comes in regular interval). Positano falls in between Sorrento and Positano. I have been told Sorrento is not that interesting. So Positano seems to be the better choice for our next stop. 

     We got down at the main road. From there, one road leads to Positano.

Positano is the perfect walking city!

We walked along the tiny, winding roads of the village, lined with restaurants, shops and boutique hotels, that leads you to the beach that hugs the mountain. Every turn brings something new and exciting into view. As you meander through this winding road, the charm of this town is intoxicating. 

The Church of Santa Maria or Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta (in Italian) is picturesque,  located just a stone’s throw from the beach - and it falls on the way to the beach.

When we reached the beach, it was 5.30 pm. It was a pity we could not stay a day here. We had to rush back to the bus stop. 

The bus instead of going towards North to Naples, went South towards Amalfi to pick up passengers and left for Napoli, finally.

Sanjit da wanted to buy some gift items like chocolate from a departmental store (The Bengali couple yesterday suggested this one , where you can get good value for money). Then we took the metro to go Via Cavour stop to go to Rossella's house : we had left our small backpack by mistake in their car, day before yesterday (yesterday they went quite far, to attend a friend’s wedding) . Later I understood that we could have easily walked to their house from Garibaldi Station, instead of taking the metro. Interestingly we found our Lyka mobile (bought in Paris) was working also in Naples. But only “data” was working and you could not receive a call. We were waiting in front of a Sri Lankan restaurant. In fact there was more than one Sri Lankan restaurant nearby. We chatted with the Sri Lankan owner. He was a captain of a ship - we were told. He came in the year 2001. Initially he did not like it and went back to Sri Lanka; he came again and stayed back. Since they hardly talk in English here, their English is poor. They speak in Sinhalese.

Angelo did not find us initially because of their (Sri Lankan) incomplete direction. After a lot of effort, we finally met him at metro station with our bag pack. He said ‘do you want to meet Rossella’ ? We said, ‘why not ?’ So we three, were riding his scooter without a helmet ! He said since it was dark, it should not be a problem - we would take the side lanes though !! We gave some chocolates to their daughter and had some Limoncello in their house.  Then we walked all the way to our apartment from their house. It was quite risky, so late at night. It appeared to us that some African people were following us (or they might be taking the same route). Somehow we managed to flee, with some trickery (walking diagonally along the street). It was around 11.30 pm. We saw some Pizza shops, which were still open, near Piazza Garibaldi. We bought a Pizza from there. They are open at least till 12 pm, we were told. We bought some banana from a Pakistani departmental shop nearby.

Getting there and away

It is possible to go Tunisia, my dream country, from  Palermo, Sicily (by taking a train from Naples) to Tunisia in 9 hours by a ferry for Rs 3500-5000, one way.

L.N.G. has a ferry/hydrofoil service that connects Naples with the island of Capri, along with Sorrento, Positano and Amalfi. Schedules and timings could be found on its website.


Our train was at 5.10 am  from Garibaldi Station. We left at 4.30 am from our hotel. You can go to South towards Sorrento from Garibaldi Station - which is in the basement. But for Rome you have to take Napoli Centrale. The train left on time. The train was absolutely empty - maximum 10 people in the whole rake. But when we reached Rome at 8 am it was more or less full. Our plane is at 1.50 pm. We intentionally reached a little early, so that we can see Spanish Steps, Colosseum (Sanjit da has not been to Rome). We got down at Roma Termini and then took metro (at the basement of Roma Termini) to reach Spanish Steps (Line A - Metro station Spagna - only the 3rd  stop from Roma Termini). I had not seen Spanish steps last time I came here. With its irregular butterfly design, the beautiful “Scalina Spagna”, or Spanish Steps is a great example of Roman Baroque Style. It’s a great place to just sit down and enjoy the atmosphere and views of the Eternal City. There are 138 steps placed in a mix of curves, straight flights, vistas and terraces. They connect the lower Piazza di Spagna, with the upper piazza Trinita dei Monti, with its beautiful twin tower church dominating the skyline.

The Spanish steps were built in 1723-1725 by a rather little known architect Francesco de Sanctis. It was built in order to link