I realised just yesterday that it has been nearly 3 months since my last post on a Ancient Roman theme- and so I thought it was highly imperative that I correct the situation :)
It doesn’t take an expert to know the Roman town of Lutetia- you only needed to have read Asterix to know that Lutetia many many years later became the modern Paris!
Unlike many other cities with well preserved Roman ruins (and also because Lutetia wasn’t a very big city) there is not much of a Roman Paris left for visitors today. Yet there are little things that one can visit and observe.
1. Amphitheatre of Lutetia/ Les Arenes de Lutece
As I have mentioned before in my older posts most Roman towns normally had a Forum, a Basilica, a temple to the main deity, public bath(s) and amphitheatre(s). Lutetia was no exception and had an amphitheatre which could hold an estimated 10,000 people.
However almost nothing remains of the original amphitheatre today but for some traces.
But this was how it might have looked originally
There is a nice modern inscription placed at the entrance which reads roughly “It was here in the 2nd Century AD that the municipal life of Paris was born. 10,000 people could easily be accommodated here at the Amphitheatre of Lutece where nautical games were played out after gladiatorial combats. ……”
2. The Cluny Baths
Now a wonderful museum about the Middle Ages, the Musee de Cluny stands upon the remains of a public bath. Inside the museum one can still see the remains of the Frigidarium- which also currently holds in display certain other Roman artifacts that were dug up in other parts of Paris.
3. The Crypts under Notre Dame
This area is an amazing walk through history- one can see not just Roman ruins but also visualise how the Ile de la Cite developed through the ages layer on layer. One can see Roman underground heating installed- you can’t miss the hypocausts once you know them.
Lutetia was not a very big town as opposed to what Paris today. But what is there today is in no small part influenced by the Roman settlement with its standard layout and features.
However this is hardly the only interesting feature about the temple. I was also quite fascinated by the large panels of bas-relief carvings on the outer walls of the temple.
These carvings give us a glimpse into the war that Jayavarman VII fought against the Chams who had for a brief period of time got control over the region. The Chams are identifiable by their inverted lotus hats. The Chams had used the river to launch a boat attach and boats also featured in Jayavarman’s battle and hence the details in the large panels.
But the panels, done in three tiers also show us brief glimpses into the ordinary lives of soldiers, camp followers and regular people.
I first started going to Vivanta by Taj: Fisherman’s Cove (on the outskirts of Chennai, India) in 2008. It was and continues to be a great beach resort- a place where you have access to a nice, clean and private beach- something you don’t get any longer in the city. However over the years the way I perceive this resort (not always in a bad way) has changed due to a number of reasons.
The Rooms: Fisherman’s cove has a variety of rooms for all budgets- from the bedrooms in the old block to the uber modernly furnished rooms in the new block to the garden and sea view villas. Every room has its advantage and disadvantage. If you want immediate access to the sea and have money to splurge you should choose the sea view villas. If you’re on a budget then you can choose the sea facing rooms in the old block. If you don’t mind being away from the sea but have great views of the lawn- you choose the rooms in the new block. I have noticed that the hotel often has a tendency to give you an “upgrade” when you check in. Mostly it’s just their way of dumping you in a room that they find easier to manage. Once they dumped us in a sea view cottage (when we had booked a room in the old block)- this cottage smelt musty and the hot water and shower didn’t work. This time as well (last weekend) they tried moving us to the new block when I had specifically booked a room in the old block. I later noticed that the new block mostly had Indian visitors whereas the old block had foreign visitors- this smacks of racism and maybe they really had a good reason, but I don’t know. But whatever room you are in (unless it smells musty and that really is an exception) you are assured of a comfortable and memorable stay. They are very strict about check in times. I have almost never managed to get into my room before 3pm.
The Beach: This is not a beach for swimming- the waves are violent and the surface uneven and there are strong currents, rocks and whirlpools- so really this is a beach where you stand and jump around on the edge, build sandcastles (if you’re into that kind of thing) or photograph crabs (I’ll cover that a bit later). But the beach is clean and there are lifeguards always herding you to the safe bits of the beach if you tend to stray and security guards patrol the beach 24*7- so 10/10 for safety. It’s a great place to view sunrises and also stars on a clear night.
Swimming pool, Spa, Restaurants: The resort has a very beautiful swimming pool- it is quite large, but only four feet deep and has a sunken bar. Given that the temperatures in Chennai go above 35C on most days the pool is warm afternoon onwards. It is cool only in the mornings- there is almost nothing the hotel can do about it I think- so just laze around on the deck chairs and read a book. I don’t know much about the spa- I’m not a spa person so will leave that alone. The resort has a couple of restaurants- breakfast especially over the weekends tends to get extremely crowded. They flatly refused us entry and moved us into a dull conference room on Sunday morning- which was a bit uninspiring- the message being get there early. Being a vegetarian I have never tried the sea food restaurant. My advice is to stick to room service- the menu has a good variety, the service is prompt & efficient (except to clear the trays- they ask you when you want them to clear the trays and then never turn up) and best of all it’s cheaper than dining in (esp if you’re going for the buffet).
Flora & Fauna: As I had mentioned before I initially started going to Fisherman’s cove as a beach break but of late (and especially after they opened the new wing) I find plenty of opportunities to observe flowers, birds, insects and all kinds of other things. I have photographed Kingfishers, woodpeckers, bee eaters, geckos, squirrels, loads of flowers, butterflies and even the odd snail. The lawns near the new block are divine. Even on a sunny day you can take a book, spread a blanket under a tree and just relax. Must do that one of these days.
Service: Of late I have noticed that you don’t automatically get the Taj level of service until you actually complain or demand something and then you get an excess of it. Overall the service level is still much better than what you would get at a regular hotel anywhere in the world.
Verdict: Definitely worth a visit- it’s hard to go wrong with the Fisherman’s cove (especially considering other choices in Chennai).
Little crabs are normally hard to photograph on a beach- they are nimble, quick to go under the sand at the least hint of movement- not just because of humans but also because of crows scooping them up and having them for breakfast.
This little one seemed to have a lot of attitude. It insisted staring at me and my camera for quite a while before deciding to go underground.
To be honest, I had never even heard of the Danaid Eggfly until I actually saw it this last weekend. I was quite drawn to it because of how the butterfly looked completely different- and I mean totally completely different when looked at from the top and when looked at from the inside. Almost like a person who has two completely different personalities.
When I did some research I also found that the females of this species come in different forms- some look like their male counterparts whereas others look like Tiger or Monarch butterflies (who incidentally are toxic to certain predators because of the alkaloids they eat when they are caterpillars- hence the interest in other species to mimic them so predators avoid them thinking “Ugh! Food poisoning”.
Oh and btw their scientific name is Hypolimnas Misippus.
I was photographing this flower on Sunday morning- when I was almost done, I noticed this small butterfly standing still on the flower right next to it- I could have easily missed it – it was that still.
I spent a lot of time trying to identify what this butterfly was- I’m not an expert. I think this is the Plains Cupid but do correct me if I am wrong.