Friday, 17 January 2014

Little things that made my European honeymoon amazing

A lot of people often ask me, "why do you love Europe so much?" 

Well, although I spent a mere couple of days in all the European cities I visited, I can definitely perceive Europe to be gorgeous.

We all know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is very much subjective. It all depends on your taste and preference.

I'm mainly fond of the cities I visited in Europe because of a few things.

First of all, they have a unique identity. Each of them authentic in their own way, 

The architecture - the way they build and the way they preserve their buildings from long ago is pretty remarkable 

The unique culture - whether it be legal marijuana in Amsterdam, Siesta in Barcelona, Bull fighting and Flamenco in Madrid, gondolas, limoncello and cicchettis in Venice, as well as a variety of art forms in every other city, it has most definitely captured my heart.

As much as I fancy admiring city skylines and urban metropolitans, nothing takes my breath away more than these fabulous experiences :

A walk in front of Amsterdam central station entertained by the most amazing street musicians you can imagine accompanied by the pleasant harmony of chirping birds.

A stroll down the alleys of all the cities of Cinque Terre, observing the simple yet rich lives of the local.

A ride in the old subway systems that prove to be very reliable most of the time.

Gazing at vintage buildings all around me. An art form on its own wherever you go.

Entering a church/cathedral just because everything in it is crafted so beautifully.

Trying exotic cuisines which has a distinct taste like no other (though I tend not to be too adventurous)

Blown away by the passionate moves of a Flamenco dancer. It's like nothing you've ever seen before.

Stunned by the one-of-a-kind water city. Though to some, it may be unappealing and full of moss, to me it's absolutely something different, something that stands out amongst all the other cities in the world. Sure, many have constructed replicas which are considered more beautiful. But for me, beauty is authenticity. Beauty is original. Beauty is having your own identity, and that's what I found in this water city.

More than these experiences, I also really enjoy meeting or having a chat with the locals. We came across amazing people who made our trip so much more memorable.

The chilled wax museum staff who had the time and was eager to start a conversation with Sid and I, then telling us about the best pancake house in Amsterdam.

The friendly and extremely helpful waiter at La Pepita in Barcelona who made a great impression on us. A very genuine service.

Daniel, the chef of Tapeo in Barcelona who presented us with one of the best Tapas in the whole world, yet was very modest and eager to come out of the kitchen to have a chat.

Gabriel, amazing guy at Alfredo's Pasta in Venice. He was so full of life. He was very excited to know that Sid and I were on our honeymoon. He celebrated that fact by giving us two glasses of montepulciano (local wine) on the house. He seemed genuinely happy to see us. He had just enough sense of pride and confidence in the food served but was always very respectful and pleasant to all his customers. 

Warm, pleasant encounters with locals were a major wow factor in our trip to Europe.

I guess it was everything combined. We were in bliss after a great wedding, we were on our HONEYMOON, we were in new places every few days, we were pampered by the beauties of each city, we were blessed to meet locals who welcomed us with cheery hearts, so it's not that hard to say that, "I LOVE EUROPE"

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Magnificent Melbourne and Viva España

Wow, It’s been over two months since I set fingers on my blog. Too many things have been going on. 17th of October was pretty special. It was my husband’s birthday. We enjoyed a quiet dinner together at an awesome Italian restaurant called Enoteca Sileno. I love their authentic Italian cuisine. They also have a store that sells imported Italian groceries. Delizioso it was!! 

At the end of the month, we also went to the Gelato World Tour. This event was organised by Carpigiani Gelato University. Can you believe that there is a gelato university? It's amazing. If I join, I'll probably gobble up all the gelato everyone makes. hahaha!! So in this sweet event, there were sixteen gelato artisans from all over Australia promoting their best flavours and competing with each other to win the number one gelato of the tour. This event clearly screams "Siddharth Mansukhani". My husband wouldn't miss such an event as he is crazy about this thing called gelato. I can't really blame him though. I don't really remember who won the tour but you can probably find out more about it on their website. I have also put up some of the photos here. The gelatos were all so rich, creamy and yummy. I am lucky Melbourne pampers their residents well. 

Next on the list was the Diwali celebrations in Fed Square. Gosh! It was massive. They had a stage with a line up of performances and contests. In fact, Sid and I were chosen randomly to participate in one of their contests - a turban tying competition. Oddly, we won!! Why do I say oddly? Well, it's because I had never even touched a turban before and yet I managed to tie it really tightly on Sid's head that despite his dangerous and sassy dance moves, the turban actually stayed on. We clearly won due to our enthusiasm and got to bring home a box of Maharajah's Choice selected products. YAY!! Oh, and of course, we also enjoyed all the scrumptious Indian food from butter chicken, aloo chat, curries, to gulab jamun, masala chai, mango lassi and much more. Yumm!!!!!!!!

Enoteca Sileno
Risotto of braised lamb, sage and truffled pecorino

Handmade croxetti pasta with pesto genovese, potato and green beans
Lamb, ricotta and chilli meatballs, pancetta and lemon. 
Spicy cacciatore salami and young Tuscan pecorino

The Gelato World Tour Melbourne 2013
Deconstructed Kaya Toast ice cream - from N2 Extreme Gelato 
Cremino - Salted caramel with Gianduia fudge
Italian Immigrant - Salted caramelised milk ripple, baked Sicilian Biscotti crumble and roasted Macadamia nuts.
 Vulcano - Toasted Hazelnuts, Cocoa, Cereals, Chocolate Glaze

The winner of the turban tying contest Diwali @ Fed Square Melbourne
Scrumptious Indian food
Happy happy Diwali it was!

My favourite Indian Sweets
And before we managed to burn the calories from all that hogging, it was already November and my wonderful partner in crime had planned a little surprise for our anniversary. He booked us a private bath session in the well known Peninsula Hot Springs. Fortunately, our anniversary fell on a Sunday so a weekend getaway was simply what we needed. It was two days of bliss - soaking in the views of beautiful Blairgowrie beach, enjoying the fresh air surrounded by breathtaking scenic lookouts of Point Nepean National Park while licking away Connoisseur Cookies and Cream on a stick. It was just divine. To top it off, we enjoyed a relaxing massage and spa bath at the Red hill on Saturday evening. Obviously that wasn’t enough for us so we spent a few good hours relaxing in the hot springs. Ah - tell me if that’s nothing but pure bliss!!!!!!!!!!! Here are some of the photos from our mini anniversary getaway.

Our anniversary getaway
Can't believe it's been a year!
Colourful bright beach huts
Now I am rejuvenated enough to continue sharing to my faithful readers about my honeymoon. Our last stop was Paris where we were clearly museumed out. Paris was undoubtedly gorgeous but we had to move on to the next destination - España. Honestly speaking, I had not heard a lot about Spain and was very eager to see what the country had to offer. The only thing Sid and I were absolute about was Spanish soccer. Since we were heading to glorious España , we knew we shouldn’t miss out on watching a soccer match. During the time we were planning for our trip, Barcelona was scheduled to play against Benfica in a Champions League match which was to be held in the massive Camp Nou stadium on the 5th of December 2012. Although I am not a regular soccer spectator anymore, not since high school, I do watch World Cup and Lionel Messi is one of my favourite players. Duh!! Not so surprising, is it? Plus, how can one go to Europe and not watch a soccer match?! We took the opportunity and booked our tickets immediately.

So, our Spain itinerary was as such - stay one night to watch the Champions League match and catch a train the next day for Madrid, stay in Madrid for three nights until the 9th of December before heading back to Barcelona and stay for another three nights because one night in Barcelona is obviously not enough. 

The Spanish siesta culture was probably more profound in us than any Spaniards I can think of. Seriously, all we wanted to do in Spain was eat and relax. The food in Spain was mind blowing, the people were amazing, the culture was rich, their hotel rooms were way bigger than the other cities we visited and did I mention that their food was mind blowing? Sid and I were taken aback by the food in Barcelona and Madrid. Everything we ate was remarkably delicious. From the sandwich shops, small cafes to all the famous restaurants we tried, nothing was ordinary. Honestly, we did nothing but shop, relax and hog. We were so tired from Paris and Spain literally pampered us. I loved the fact that every subway station had an escalator so lazy old me wouldn’t have to climb tedious boring stairs. That can get extremely tiring you know. :(

When we reached Barcelona and got settled in the hotel, we were already starving and wanted to grab early dinner before heading for the soccer match. We used the TripAdvisor app on our phones to find out about the best restaurants near our hotel. Lucky for us, we were staying in a great area and it wasn’t difficult to find food. We passed by Zara and Mango stores and cafes that sold huge Churros with different kinds of stuffings before we found the restaurant we looked up on TripAdvisor. The name of the restaurant was La Pepita. My dear faithful readers, please embrace yourself as I shall be taking you on a gastronomical journey of fabulous Spanish delicacies. 

La Pepita is situated on Carrer de Còrsega, 343, 08037 Barcelona. When we reached the restaurant, we were greeted really nicely and were attended to by a very friendly waiter named Fernando who patiently explained to us about their menu. We ordered onion soup, croquettas and one of their pepitas. Pepitas are small sandwiches consisting of thin crusty bread with different kinds of fillings. They may sound regular but they tasted far from regular to our palates. 

The amazing chicken croquettas - I believe it was called croquetas de pollo con salsa romescu on the menu 
This was the onion soup that we first thought was a wrong order. We thought this was some kind of dessert but was blushed when Fernando told us that this was the soup we had ordered. haha. What a presentation! More than that, what a taste, definitely a must have!
This was another one of their croquettas.
And this is what a pepita looks like! "Slurp"
Next up was dessert! Being the chocolate freaks that we are, one chocolatey dessert was definite. Upon recommendation of Fernando, the other dessert we decided to try was homemade corn ice cream with caramelised popcorn. Wow! sounds so corny, doesn’t it? Well, one thing I can say for sure is that it was one of the best ice creams I have ever tasted. The flavours were so unique and tasted great till the last bite. The chocolate mousse was also so rich and decadent.

Need I say more? Really?
We were so so content after this fantastic gastronomical feast. La Pepita has excellent food and pretty impressive presentation. Their tapas are light yet satisfying. Their desserts are creative and you can never go wrong when choosing anything off their menu. Their staff were very friendly and patient. Their place was pretty cool as well. Their walls are mostly covered with tiles and they literally allow us to "vandalise" these tiles. They provide some coloured markers and us hoggers are free to write whatever we want on these tiles. 

Fueled up real good, Sid and I headed to Camp Nou Stadium, bought some Barca scarves, sat like good spectators and watched Messi and the boys play. Sad to say that, no goals were scored that night and we had expected more of a world class match. Ah well, it was still a marvellous experience that nobody can deny. 

Barcelona gave us an amazing first impression and we couldn't wait to get back. Madrid now awaits us. Let us see what Madrid has to offer. 

Marvellous Madrid - coming soon on Viva España Part 2

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Hridayam niranja onashamsakal

Amidst sharing my honeymoon travel experience, I’d like to come back to Melbourne and share a little bit about my experience in town.

Friday the 13th of September (oops, didn’t mean to scare you there!), Sid and I planned to catch up with our friend, Ajay, who just came back from his hometown Calicut the previous week. Ajay always tells us stories of how beautiful Kerala is. I have also heard a lot about Kerala and would definitely love to go there one day. So, as we were eating away in a cafe that had a 6-week Kerala dinner special on the menu, along with few small gifts from India including a pretty little clutch purse, Ajay also brought us a handful of stories from back home. And I just found myself whining about how the clutch would go so well with an Indian outfit. Ajay was clearly missing home despite having been back for merely a week. Ah well, home is home that will always be missed no matter where you go. He was also regretting the fact that he left at the same time an annual festival was about to start, the festival of Onam. This conversation ended on a full stomach and we decided to head back home. The next morning, Sid and I got a message in our group chat with Ajay. He had sent us a photo about an Onam celebration in Melbourne and only wrote, “An excuse to wear your Indian outfit!” Of course, neither Sid nor I knew much about this festival. I was reading more about it online and it seemed very interesting. With that, we decided to join Ajay for the Onam Festival which was to be held on the 15th of September.

Sunday morning was a beautiful and bright morning. Looking pretty wearing Indian for the first time in Melbourne, I hopped onto the car with a lot of excitement. Sid drove for about forty minutes till we reached our destination. The Melbourne Malayalee Federation had organised an Onam celebration in Springvale Town Hall. We reached at 12 noon and the place was still quiet. There was a beautiful flower arrangement at the entrance of the hall. 

I could see a stage and unoccupied seats in the hall. Most of the women wore beautiful traditional sarees and many men in their kurtas and dhotis. Slowly, the hall was filling up. The committee was preparing for the Sadya, the vegetarian feast served on a banana leaf. Everyone was happily waiting in line for this feast. We were probably in the first round of people to be seated in this long rectangular dining table. Glad we got into the line when it was initially formed as it got longer and longer each minute. The moment I was seated, an artificial banana leaf was already on the table. Half a banana, some chips, a few types of chutneys and small assorted vegetables and pappadam were served at the beginning. Soon, the committee members started walking around serving rice, sambhar with lots of veggies, ghee and yoghurt curry. It was amazing. My palates were pleased. The food was delicious and it kept coming. Truly a feast!!

Once we were done hogging, the next round of diners was ready to take their seats. We were anxiously waiting for the programme to start. When it did start, we were entertained by some singers that took the stage. I was waiting for something more extravagant. Then, I saw some lovely little girls all dressed up in their sarees carrying flowers standing by the entrance. There was about to be a procession. Cameras started rolling as the procession started. Men in animal costumes proceeded into the hall escorted by a group of drummers. This particular item is called Pulikkali. They were welcoming a King, his name was King Mahabali. Apparently, I found out that this was a play depicting the story behind the whole purpose of the Onam Festival. A king that was banished yet had the chance of visiting his subjects once a year to see how happy they were. Interesting!!!

This procession continued till they reached the stage and continued to play on. Next up was a beautiful classical Kerala dance performed by some teenage girls. I don’t really know which dance it was. A few common dances performed at Onam festivals include Thiruvathira, Kummattikali, Pulikali, Thumbi Thullal etc.

This festival was so enticing for me. I love learning the culture of different people. I myself am a Sindhi and am not familiar with many Indian festivals. I decided then and there that I would write a blog about this festival. I went through a few resources online to help me understand this wonderful festival. I was eager to learn more about this and share this precious experience on my blog. I owe a big thanks to Wikipedia and for providing great explanations regarding Onam. I also owe an apology to the people of Kerala if I have depicted any of the following facts wrongly. Ok, so here goes.........................

Onam, is a harvest festival celebrated by the people of Kerala, India. It has been celebrated for a very long time. It usually falls somewhere between August and September. This auspicious festival lasts for 10 days and includes a variety of rituals. Why do they celebrate Onam?

Well, to cut a long story short, Onam is a festive time which commemorates the annual visit of King Mahabali, a generous leader of Kerala depicted in the Hindu scriptures. It was said that he reigned pretty well, and was highly respected by his subjects. He loved them and would make sure every one of them was HAPPY! Amazing, isn’t it? It was Kerala’s golden era where everyone lived together in peace and harmony. Equal rights were given to each and every one. There was no sort of discrimination at all. They were all seriously happy. As a king, Mahabali knew that it was his duty to make sure his subjects got whatever they needed.

Of course we’ve all heard the saying, “Nobody’s perfect! Not even Mahabali!” Right? Well, ok, I might have tweaked that a little. There was one shortcoming about this King. Like many other legendary emperors, he was eager to conquer the whole universe, the earth, the heavens and even the underworld. He became a threat to the Gods. The Gods decided to pull a trick on Mahabali. Lord Vishnu, in disguise of course, managed to trick Mahabali into defeat. He was to be banished but he requested for one thing and that was to be able to visit his people once a year to see to their welfare. His request was granted and ever since that time, the people of Kerala would welcome their King every year with a splendid harvest which finally became known as the Onam Festival.

Since the subjects of Mahabali loved him dearly, each year, his visit was welcomed by an array of joyous and vibrant celebrations. It indeed was a season to be jolly. A flower carpet called “Pookalam” was laid in front of every house to welcome their king and they would prepare grand feasts called the “Onam Sadhya” in his honour.

In present time, the people of Kerala still celebrate Onam auspiciously every year during harvest time where everything appears to be full of life. There are a lot of rituals that occur in ten days. Let me tell you in short what happens in these ten days.

Day one – Atham
This is one of the most important days of the Onam Festival. People take early bath and offer prayers in the local temple. There is also a set breakfast consisting of steamed bananas and fried pappadam (pappad). This breakfast remains the same till the tenth and the last day of Thiru Onam. A swing decked with flowers is also slung from a high branch and youngsters take great delight in swinging and singing Oonjal (swing) songs. This is also the day when they start making the beautiful flower arrangements of Pookalam which turns out more beautiful by the day. A grand procession called Athachamyam is also carried on the day of Atham to mark the beginning of the grand carnival of Onam. Elephant processions, folk art presentations, music and dancing make Athachamyam a spectacular event.

Day two – Chithira
The ladies continue their fervent work on the Pookalam to make it more and more beautiful by adding more flowers. A lot of preparation is done starting from this day onwards for the upcoming rituals.

Day 3 – Chodhi
You can start seeing the hype in the streets of Kerala where everyone starts to crowd the market places to do their shopping for gifts and other Onam accessories.

Day 4 – Visakam
As the women adorn themselves with beautiful traditional attire, they continue their intricate work of the Pookalam and start preparing for the big Sadya feast.

Day 5 – Anizham
The fifth day is quite interesting as a grand Boat Race is held. You will see hundreds of men in their dhotis and turbans competing to win this race.

Day 6 – Thriketa
Although there are no special rituals for this day, every one can be seen joyously gathering and attending cultural events as they prepare for the peak of the festival.

Day 7 – Moolam
Everything is becoming grander. You will see beautiful colours brightening up the houses, streets and market places. The spirit of happiness is clearly evident. In my opinion, within these days of preparing for the big tenth day, people do things that make them happy and thus the joy builds up and bursts on the last unforgettable day of the Onam Festival.

Day 8 – Pooradam
This day is a significant day as devotees create clay idols in the shape of small pyramids called a Ma. These figures are then decorated with flowers. Arrangements of the last day are ongoing and everyone starts cleaning their homes as well. Families and friends start visiting one another to bid warm Onam greetings.

Day 9 – Uthradam
On the day of Utradam tenants and dependents of Nayar Tarawads (traditional large joint families sharing a common kitchen) bring produce of their farms or the product of their toil to the Karanavar (eldest member of the Tarawad). These gifts from the tenants to the Karanavar are called Onakazhcha. Karanavar greets these people warmly and treats them with a sumptuous meal on Thiru Onam. Village artisans also bring their handicrafts to the Karanavar and are graciously rewarded.

Day 10 – Thiruvonam
Thiruvonam Aashamsakal ! The enchanting state of Kerala reverberates with the chants of Onaashmsakal, "To everyone, Onam Wishes" as people exchange warm greetings of the occasion on the tenth and the most important day of the carnival of Onam. People believe that it is on Thiru Onam that the spirit of legendary King Mahabali visits the state of Kerala.

Activities begin early in the morning. People clean their house, take early bath, wear new clothes and participate in special prayers organised in individual homes and then in local temples. Later a very special and the biggest of all days Pookalam is prepared to welcome Maveli. Clay mounds in the shape of pyramids representing Lord Vishnu and Mahabali are prepared and placed in front of the Pookalam.

In the noon the grand feast of Onam called Onasadya is prepared. The strictly vegetarian meal consists of 11 - 13 mandatory dishes and is served on a banana leaf. The eldest member of the family presents gifts and new clothes to the family members.

Various cultural events are organised all over the state to mark the day. Dances, games, shows and get together are the other highlights of the day. Patassu (fire crackers) are also burnt to celebrate the occasion.

There are some rituals also marked for the eleventh and twelfth day called Avittom and Chatayam or Chathayam respectively. But the major celebrations get over on the tenth and the most important day of Onam.

Well, that sums up my study and research of Onam in a very general outline. Hopefully I can partake in the celebrations in Kerala one day. A festival that teaches me that happiness can be very much elaborated as it is already within us. Happiness is a spirit!

Hridayam niranja onashamsakal (Happy Onam)

Friday, 13 September 2013

Bonjour Paris

I'm finally back to continue writing my blog. I admit, I am a lazy person. Was chatting to a friend earlier today and gave her the link to this blog of mine. After sending her this link, I tapped on it myself (was on my touch screen mobile phone) and found myself happily reading my own blog. The reason I was happy about it was because it brought back a lot of beautiful memories about my honeymoon. It was then that I realised... "I better continue with this blog." If anything, it's really awesome to read your own logs about previous experiences. It feels great. I suggest that you do the same. Start writing about your experiences. Write about a vacation, a graduation, a recipe you tried out, an interesting day out, a summer festival, your hobby, anything!!!

Anyways, I did start off my previous blog aiming to describe everything in detail about my honeymoon experiences but after what seemed like an endless typing session (plus uploading photos to my blog), I stopped and only managed to share about Amsterdam. Doubt that I can finish writing about my five week European bliss in one blog post but I'll try my best. Every time I tell someone that I write a blog, they go, "Oh is it about food? Does it have your recipes? Please put up all your recipes onto that blog!" I reckon I should start giving out my recipes on this blog pretty soon. Just wait for it! :)

PARIS 1st - 5th December 2012

We left for Amsterdam Central Station quite early in the morning. My husband Sid and I took the train from Amsterdam to Paris. It was a great experience travelling by train. The first class cabin on the train was pretty neat. They had uber comfortable seats and served delicious food. The moment we reached Paris, we headed straight to our hotel - Hotel Duquesne Eiffel which was walking distance to the one and only Eiffel Tower. If you haven't heard, let me just tell you now that hotel rooms in the cities we visited were really small except for the rooms in Barcelona and Madrid. Paris especially, had the tiniest one. It was a nice clean hotel in a safe area. 

The first thing we did after we checked in and settled into our room was walk towards Eiffel Tower shortly after the sunset. It was freezing cold in Paris. Sid was testing his camera and his obvious object of photography was the beautifully illuminated Eiffel Tower. 

LOVE LOVE LOVE this shot Sid took with his camera!!

Just see how this tower stands out amidst its beautiful surroundings 

As we strolled closer to the Tower, we saw the long queue in front of the entrance. We knew we wouldn't have made it in time. We decided to just book a skip-the-line Viator tour in order to learn more about the history of the tower and to enjoy the breathtaking views from on top of it during day time. 
We continued along the area and came across a lot of stalls selling hot beverages and mouth watering crepes. What was noticeable near the tower was a massive ferris wheel - La Grand Roue. Many people were going on and off the ride while street vendors were offering pedestrians all sorts of toys and souvenirs, to the point of tailing everyone around till they tire themselves. We also noticed that there were many pedicabs standing by ready to take their passengers for a ride around Paris's magnificent architectural structures. They had put up a sign of the fares for all the different routes. Sid and I decided to pay a visit to the Louvre Museum. Of course, we knew that the museum was probably already closed by then, but hey, we had nothing else to do that evening, and we went ahead. We regret going on that pedicab for a few reasons among which are - the strong gust of wind slapping our faces as the pedicab driver cycled through the cold streets of Paris was simply cruel, the fact that there were more pushy street vendors in front of the closed Louvre complex was a bit scary and only God knows why we assumed the fare was going to be fifteen Euro cents when it actually came to fifteen Euros. Okay! That was the most expensive pedicab ride I've ever taken in my life. Nonetheless, the result of our little adventure that night can only be described with the following photos.

Gorgeous!  Isn't it? There's something about night photography that blows me away. The beautiful Louvre all lit up in the silence of the night was amazing.

Once we were done taking photos, we headed back to our hotel, had a simple dinner at a restaurant near our hotel. Somehow, food wasn't really our emphasis in Paris. Despite Sid and I being the least art-freaks that we are, it was the French art and architecture that lured us to this romantic country. But it was partly also because I wanted to enjoy French crepes, sorbets and almond croissants all the way in Paris.

DAY 2 - 2nd December 2012
To cover all the famous sights in Paris, we wasted no time and started early the next day. We started with the Louvre which was HUGE! They say that it's so huge that it would take us more than a year to actually go around the whole museum. Don't know how far it's true though! When we got there, there was a long line in front of this uniquely shaped building. Of course, one would not miss out the opportunity of taking interesting shots of the Louvre, like say, touching the tip of the triangle.

Goodness me, this jacket definitely does not compliment my figure but boy oh boy it sure kept me very warm!!

The Louvre premises and the looooooooongggg lineeeeee
Stunning by night and beautiful by day
This was taken after we exited the Louvre

After about hmmmm 20 minutes, we made our way into the museum, got a map for the place, didn't know where to start honestly. I guess we allowed ourselves to get lost in the museum, because the only form of art work that I know of which I had wanted to see was the world's famous Mona Lisa. The rest of the art works were undoubtedly magnificent, from the huge sculptures, the remarkable frescos to the gazillion amounts of paintings. Here are some of my favourites. I know neither the name of the art nor the name of the artist. Let's just say, I gave them the benefit of the doubt hahaha. In other words, I'm just showing you the art preference of a layman (or a laywoman I should say).

There were so many other artwork we loved but I would not upload everything here. The last artwork I'd like to talk about is Mona Lisa of course. One of Leonardo Da Vinci's most famous creation made us very curious. A couple of hours went by roaming in the corridors of the museum before we got to see Mona Lisa. First of all, I don't understand art so for me the painting was a bit of a disappointment. Maybe it was not the painting but the way it was presented. It was small. I thought it was going to be way bigger. Alright, that's still fine. I am sure the painting looks exquisite when we take a closer look at it. Unfortunately, due to security reasons I assume, the painting was enclosed in a glass cabinet and was barricaded. These were two of the few photos we managed to take of Mona.

Ah well, at least we got to see it. We enjoyed our experience in Musee Du Louvre. It was something different. Although we are not art lovers, we love admiring beautiful work especially the architectural aspects. I also have the utmost respect for the artists that lived a long long time ago. How talented they were in creating magnificent forms of art work in those days truly amazes me.

How time flew and before we knew it, half of our day was gone. We came, we roamed, we admired. When we exited, we saw a pedicab and thanked the Lord for our previous night's little adventure chariot.

One thing I can say about Paris is that it is really a beautiful city filled with artistic architecture and wondrous sights. By the time we were done with Louvre, it was approaching sunset. We were starving. Following the crowd took us to a street festival lined up with Christmas decorations, food and hot beverage stalls and much more. That evening, as we walked and walked, we found ourselves having dinner on the go. Bought a huge hot dog and finished it off with some churros and chocolate coated fruits. It was winter so we hogged. Glad we did though, because that walk brought us through the lively Champs Elysees Avenue. A lot of fancy stores lured us in, and we did a bit of shopping. I was particularly happy to be in - none other than Sephora. Cosmetic heaven. My husband patiently waited or I should say patiently endured as I stocked up on some overly priced cosmetics. There were many other interesting stores but we made our stroll down Champs Elysees a quick one because we spotted something. It was the Arc De triomphe. With killing feet, sore back and freezing hands and nose, we made our way to the Arc. Despite being exhausted from all the walking, Sid was very excited to go up to the roof of the Arc which was a great place to take beautiful shots of Paris. I wasn't too happy. I admit it, I sulked. Today, though, as I look back, going through the photos, I am so glad we went up there. 

Hot dogs, Churros, hot chocolate, toys, wine..............needed them for the weather

How much happier can a girl get when she is in Sephora

The winding staircase up the Arc De Triomphe 


The Tower standing tall amidst the city

Cold cold day, a super long walk with many stops, from our hotel to Arc De Triomphe concluded our adventure that day. Worry not, we did not walk back to the hotel. We took the Metro which was also quite tiring. Paris metro stations DO NOT have escalators or elevators, only stairs, LOTS of stairs. Second night in Paris and we were very tired. It was well worth it though.

Every time we walked back to our hotel, we couldn't help noticing a golden domed building around the area. We found out that it was called Dome des Invalides. It was the tomb of Napoleon which has been made into a church. Having set our minds that night to visit this place before we leave Paris, we ended the evening falling asleep in each other's arms in our little cozy room. The bed was amazingly comfortable and refreshed us as we set out for our next adventure.


How gloomy it was that morning when we left our hotel. It was drizzling, foggy and colder than the previous two days. Our appointment for the tout was 8:30 AM. We had croissants for breakfast in the area and headed straight to the tower. I cannot remember the name of our tour guide but she was very informative and witty, a wonderful combinations of traits that would never bore you. Thank God for a good tour guide otherwise the dull and cold weather would have saddened us dearly. She explained the history of the tower, how Gustav Eiffel had it built and even gave us an idea of French history which is exciting for me since I love learning about different histories. Despite the cold air, the thick clouds and fog, the rainfall, and minimal sunlight, Sid still managed to take a few decent shots.

The view of the bottom part of the tower from up close 

Eskimo Monica on the top of the Tower

Still looks beautiful even though it was raining
After a truly rewarding tour of the Eiffel Tower, we walked back to our hotel area munching a croissant which I still had in my bag. We took several more photos of the stunning Eiffel Tower. Not too far from the tower, there was an old man carrying a Polaroid camera and a portable printer. He offered to take our photo in front of the tower. So we got two photos taken. We surely looked like a honeymoon couple in that photo. I shall tweak this post soon to include those two photos. 

Once we were done with the "photo session", we decided to head for the Notre Dame. We took the train obviously and when we walked into Notre Dame cathedral, I was mesmerized. That was my first ever visit to a cathedral while we in Europe. The architecture and interior decor of the cathedrals in Europe was an exquisite work of art in itself. Gorgeous altars with beautiful frescos and domes as well as great work of art within the cathedral itself was remarkable. 

Notre Dame Cathedral on the outside

Notre Dame Cathedral on the inside
Our stomachs were growling loud and hard while we were still in Notre Dame. Apparently, one cannot survive over croissants alone in cold Parisian weather. That was when we used our faithful Trip Advisor app for the first time in Paris to look for a nice place to eat. Sure enough, Trip Advisor led us to the correct place. The food was great and we filled our stomachs just right. Our growling tummies once again became happy tummies. After dinner, as we were exploring the small alleys of Paris, we stopped by to get some souvenirs and couldn't resist the temptation of walking into a Creperie. This place was called Crepes Agogo. I felt I was in dessert heaven. There were so many options for the Crepes and sorbets. Ah, how mouth watering! I won't torment you further by putting up photos of the dessert we had simply because I've lost the photos. :( 

With this sweetness still lingering in our veins, we headed back to the hotel. The end of yet another wonderful day in Paris.

DAY 4 - 4th December 2012 
This was our last full day in Paris. We fuelled up with the usual croissant breakfast that morning before we headed to Dome des Invalides near our hotel. 

As we approached the ticket booth, the cashier asked us whether we wanted to purchase tickets to the cathedral only or to the museum as well. Since we only had to add a few Euros, we decided to get tickets to see both the cathedral and the museum.
This cathedral was built as a resting place for the tomb of Napoleon the First. The altar was one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. Intricate work of art amazed me. Starting from the sculptures, the dome, the magnificent looking fresco to the very tomb of Napoleon himself, every thing was so remarkable. 

The stroll around the tomb and cathedral was a short one. We then proceeded to the museum beside the cathedral. It was the Musee de l'Armee or otherwise known as the Army Museum. As we stepped into the museum, we were welcome with a grand serenade by a marching band. (Well, sort of! I think the band was rehearsing for some upcoming event.) Upon entering the museum, the first thing we saw was a display of armours, shields and weapons of armies of the olden days, probably dating back to the 18th or 19th century. It was interesting to see some sketch art students sketching the different objects in that room. I truly felt the artistic vibe of the city of Paris. One room led to another with an array of different kinds of soldier uniforms and all sorts of weapons from all the wars that had occurred throughout the history of mankind. The proper descriptions in text, audio and video somehow allowed us to get an idea of what soldiers and civilians must have felt during those dreadful times of war. We were taken down "war memory lane" per decade up to the 20th Century. It was amazing how they had preserved all these items till this very day. The following photos are just a glimpse of what you can find displayed at this museum. 

What started off to be a short trip to the tomb of Napoleon ended up becoming one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. I learnt so much about the history of war that day. All that walk made us hungry! Ok, I lie. I am always hungry. There was a cafeteria at the museum where we had lunch. The food here was surprisingly fabulous especially their mini jam and chocolate filled doughnuts which are probably the best doughnuts I have ever had. 

It was a well spent four hours. Yes, we were in the museum for that long. The rest of the day, we explored a few other places in Paris including Musee d'Orsay and The Sacred Heart Basilica Montmarte. 

Musee d'Orsay

Sacred Heart Basilica

Good ol' poser me planning our next French vacation

That was sadly our last night in Paris. We had dinner at an amazing small French restaurant called Chez Toinette which was situated on a quiet street. What a great way to end the night and seal our Paris trip. Paris itinerary was a jam packed one and we were ready to set out on a whole new adventure in Spain. Cannot wait to tell you about Spain. 

PS : I would definitely go back to Paris. Next time, I aim it to be a more gastronomical and perhaps more romantic French vacation.

Till then, Au Revoir Paris!