Introduction to a European Birthday Adventure
New Delhi to Abu Dhabi (Jet Airways First Class 777-300ER)
Abu Dhabi to London (Etihad First Class A380)
London to Rome (British Airways Business Class A319)
Hotel Boutique Nazional (Rome 1)
Mainson Tofani Guesthouse (Sorrento)
Best Western Plus Hotel Milton (Rome 2)
Hotel Palazzo Manfredi – Relais & Chateaux (Rome 3)
Aroma Restaurant (Rome Michelin Star Restaurant)
Rome to Paris (Air France Business Class A321)
Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel (Paris)
Paris to Doha (Qatar Airways First Class A380)
Al Safwa First Class Lounge (Doha)
Doha to New Delhi (Qatar Airways Business Class 787-8)
Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel
Paris has always been a strange city for me - we have a love/hate relationship - this is what makes this one of the tougher reviews to write. This is my 4th trip to Paris, and each trip has been either good followed by bad followed by good, etc - and this trip was back to 'Bad', so having landed I was hoping that it wouldn't be the case. My bags came quickly enough, and I headed to the taxi line, and after a quick wait, hopped in the cab and we were off to the Pullman hotel.
Being winter, I knew the sun would set around 4:30/5pm, and I had planned a room with a view. Having had one of the most amazing hotel locations previously, I wanted a hotel which also had a stunning view - which is why I chose the Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel, a 4 star hotel with a direct view of the Eiffel Tower, which is probably the most iconic building in the world - so I wanted this to be off to a good start. Hence, I wanted to rush in time to get a few pics of the sunset on the Eiffel tower before the sun dipped - since I was planning one night in Paris (hah!) only. There was a bit of traffic, but luckily we were making good progress, and as soon as I saw the Eiffel tower pop up from the car, I knew we were on the home stretch.
Once we unloaded the bags, after a 60 Euro Cab fare, I headed inside to check-in, and was unfortunately behind a small line, so I knew the sunset would be gone soon, but luckily the friendly hotel receptionist checked me in quickly and gave me a map or two, and told me my bags would be up shortly. I had decided to spend a little more and go for the Deluxe King Room, which was a decent 32 m² room with a King Sized bed, and more importantly - a balcony with a view of the Eiffel Tower. Once in my room, I rushed to the balcony and caught the last 10 minutes of the sun on the Eiffel Tower, and got a few nice pictures on my DSLR & phone.
Paris is an absolutely gorgeous city, from any angle, and having a room with a view is a stunning experience. The only down-side is that the Eiffel Tower is located in the 7th Arrondissement (area), which is more of a residential area and is lacking in much of anything touristy. But the metro is incredibly well connected. Having had my fill of pictures, I turned to the room to take a look.
The Room itself was nice, but not plush or anything. There was a King Sized bed, a small couch, a tv and a table for working, along with a Bose dock for playing music (no wireless/Bluetooth though). Interestingly, the room was a 'smart room' in the sense that the TV, lights, were controlled by the iPad provided in the room. It gave a nice touch, but ultimately meant that changing channels on the TV was very slow, so I settled for just listening to some Internet Radio to set the evening mood in the room, before I went out, as I was meeting a friend for dinner and drinks. At least it was simple enough to use.
Annoyingly though - the charging port next to my bed didn't work, so I had to leave it on the table.
The chair wasn't exactly comfortable for working, but good enough to sit on if you needed to. It's nice to have a desk though in case it's required, but it was overly large and took up quick a bit of the right side of the room so a bit unnecessary. Surprisingly though, there was a spare phone charger in the room by Samsung, which was either provided or had been left behind by someone - but either way it was useful for charging both my phones at the same time.
There was also a nice Nespresso machine for a relaxing cappuccino, although there was no milk anywhere to be found, and I really didn't feel like ordering any milk - but yet it's nice to see a coffee machine.
I really liked the look of the bathroom though - the grey walls with white sink gave for a very many vibe, and calming as well. It was large enough, but there was no way to close the shower door completely - as it was just a glass partition which is as you can see in the image above. I have always found that extremely annoying, as water will always splash out, even if not enough to floor the place, but enough to make a mess.
After a quick shower and a rest, I headed out the Champs-Elysees for a quick but of browsing and shopping, as all other shops were already closed by 7pm, and I had an hour or so to kill till I met my friend. It was a quick 15 min metro ride to the imposing Arc De Triomphe, which I always stop by to snap a picture of every trip.
After a quick stop at my favorite Macaron store, I headed to meet my friend in the 11th Arrondissement for dinner, which is of course when this trip turned from good, to bad, to hell. See, this is actually a delayed report, it's just taken me a long time to get to it. The date I was in Paris was the 13th November - which was the date when Paris was attacked, and it's a night which will never be forgotten for sure, by many.
We had decided to stop in a bar before dinner, as the place we originally wanted to stop by had an hour wait. When we exited, we came out to a chaotic scenes with Cops and Firetrucks everywhere. We were told 'someone had been shot'. We though, okay no biggie, it can happen, we'll just go elsewhere.
We kept walking, and the more we walked, the more cops we came into. Not normal cops, cops in swat-like battle gear. At this point we were getting a little uneasy but we kept walking - keeping in mind that no one had any idea what was happening at this point, the news hadn't exactly broken out. 10 minutes into our walk, we heard what sounded like train tracks, but it sounded very light and we didn't think much of it. It was at this point a cop started shouting at us to walk the other way (in French, my friend translated), but we thought he was trying to keep the area safe - so we obviously continued to the restaurant.
5 minutes away from the restaurant, we heard the definite sound of rapid machine gun fire, in small bursts for a few seconds. We knew something was wrong at this point, and people are around us were suddenly very concerned with moving away from the area. Considering the restaurant was just around the corner, and that we were hit by Adrenalin (not fear), we thought the safest idea would be to move to the restaurant indoors, and off the streets. It was a strange, festive, and normal mood in the restaurant, so we ordered food as normal. Halfway through dinner, news started filtering in to everyone just how bad the situation outside was. People were rushing off the streets everywhere, and suddenly the mood took a dive, as the restaurant owners decided the safest thing to do was to do a lock-in, roll down the metal shutters and act like the restaurant was closed - which was for the best.
We kept the music on, and in true French fashion, we continued to sip Wine as we slowly lost our appetites and left our dinners half finished. I think the worst part was not knowing what was going on outside - having the rely on Reddit/Twitter/News outlets to update us. The mood has really dulled at this point, and people were talking in lowered voices - Adrenalin having been replaced by worry and slight fear. This was Paris, not Baghdad, and we didn't know if we were safe or not.
We stayed locked up till about 2:30am, roughly 5 hours after we first came to the restaurant. When we saw some normal foot steps outside, we figured maybe it would be better if we got out of the area, rather than stay, as news reports had slowed down. 3 Uber's cancelled on us when they saw where we were, but one amazing Uber driver wouldn't give us till he picked us up (even though most roads around were closed) - however the closest spot he could find was 1km away so we had to walk (or walk really fast) to get to him. At this point the fear was palpable - we still didn't entirely know what was going on outside, but we really wanted to get out of there.. was the longest 1km of my life, but we finally found the cab and jumped in. We saw a few more relaxed cops in the area, and figured things had started to calm down. Paris was a ghost town on the way back, I came across very few people that weren't cops on the street.
I got back and the hotel and blocked the entrance out of safety, but someone let me in eventually.
I don't really remember much of the next morning till I got to the airport - it was a blur, not sure I had slept much during the night. My friend whatsapped me our location of where we were in relation to all the attacks, and it really hit hard just how close to everything we were. Sadly, we heard that there was a shooting just behind our restaurant, where 5 people didn't make it, along with the rest of the tragedies.
A Terrible tragedy, so unfortunately this is a curtailed trip report and more of a situation post as well, with everything going on, I only had 4 hours of review time of the hotel. Perhaps I'll be back again in the future, and give it another try.