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!