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Wine and cheese tasting evening

As a newbie, I had much to learn at work. It is not unusual to see me still typing away or poring over documents at my desk when most of my colleagues leave for the day. I miss wandering the streets of Paris leisurely on my way home, since I’m cutting it pretty close nowadays to be back in time to prepare dinner. Well, a girl (and her partner) has got to eat, you know.

When I received an invitation from Imogen of Native Native a couple of weeks ago, asking if I would like to participate in a wine and cheese tasting evening that she was organising, my inner foodie wiggled a happy dance. “Oh yes, please!” (My inner busy bee did nag a little…)

Cheese tasting evening

Cheese tasting evening

Native Native aims to bring expat bloggers together for tailored events that introduce what’s new and innovative in France. For its June blogger event, it had partnered up with Les Nouveaux Fromagers and took us to the gorgeous tasting room of Ô-Chateau. F was just that bit envious when I told him about this tasting evening. I love cheeses and (certain) wines, but he’s an even bigger fan of these (proof: he’s 100% French) than me!

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Postcards: Piriac-sur-Mer (FR)

We may soon be running out of interesting and new places to visit in the vicinity of F’s hometown. Each time we travel east to my in-laws’, we’ve always borrow one of their cars on one of the afternoons and explore places within an hour or less of driving time. The distance that we’re stretching, however, is getting longer and longer. We may have to start doing day trips rather than an afternoon away…

Piriac-sur-Mer

Piriac-sur-Mer

Our most recent trip to the hometown saw us driving out along the coastline and sought out Piriac-sur-Mer, a quaint village on the peninsular of Guérande. The centre of the village is pedestrianised, making it very pleasant to visit on foot, down along the main streets and continue along the sea wall, past the parked boats and yachts, and a well-loved merry-go-round which (sadly) danced to the tunes of the 80s.

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Lunch at La Ciboulette

The rain just wouldn’t let up. We were supposed to roam the famous market that lined the streets of the old town and canals of Annecy, but we ended up staying in for a grasse mat’ and read in bed. Eventually, we had to brave the weather and headed out, since we had a lunch reservation at La Ciboulette. We took the long way round so we could at least catch a glimpse of the market.

La Ciboulette, Annecy

La Ciboulette, Annecy

Slightly drenched after our walk, we stepped into a visibly posh restaurant with opulent interior, charming paintings, antique decorative pieces, and actual silver salt-and-pepper shakers and butter dish awaited us at the table which we were assigned. The couple at our neighbouring table were clearly in celebratory mood: a bottle of champagne with two long-stem flutes had just been brought over by the sommelier.

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Hiking the Annecy-Sévrier way

Morning of Day 2 in Annecy, we woke up early to be greeted by grey sky and drizzles, but undeterred, we put on our walking gear and headed in the direction of Semnoz. Based on direction given to us by Marc, the Église de la Visitation was our key landmark, and continuing along the avenue de la Visitation, we came to the starting point of our intended hike.

Hiking Annecy-Sévrier

Hiking Annecy-Sévrier

Multiple options of varying distance were available and we opted for a 3.5 hours (blue) circuit, figuring that’d get us back in Annecy for a late lunch. If we’d wanted a route with higher elevation, the 2.5 hours (red) circuit would be ideal, but Marc warned us that with recent rainfall, it may be just a tad too slippery without hiking sticks to aid us.

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20/Vins: more like 12/20

A couple of days prior to our departure to Annecy, I was in a small panic. The couple of restaurants I’ve researched on and tried to reserve tables for were closed for the week when we would be in town, and compounded with the presence of the labour day bank holiday, I needed new alternatives quickly. I looked into Gault & Millau and was happy to find a highly recommended restaurant (5 toques!) in the historic centre with a clever name to boot.

Wine bar

Wine bar

20/Vins is a play on the perfect score of 20/20 within the French system and the word wine. It is primarily a wine bar, but hey, coupled with delicious food, we’ve got a winner on hand, no? I guess that would be too good to be true. Our Airbnb hosts had never heard of this place, and Marc has experience in the wine industry, even if his main business focus is on Sino-Franco business-relationship consultancy…

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A very picturesque Annecy

As soon as we stood across the Palais de l’Isle, I semi-regretted my decision to travel ultra-light in the photography gear department. With only a 40 mm fix lens, there was no way I could fit the frame to capture what I wanted. On the other hand, it means I ought to take on the challenge and work with what I have. Get creative, so to speak.

Annecy

Annecy

A former capital of the County of Geneva, Annecy is today one of the most expensive cities to live in (pricing comparable to major French cities) despite its village feel. This is perhaps unsurprising, given its abundance of charm and natural setting, yet blessed with quick and direct access to economically-affluent cities such as Geneva and Paris. Should one wishes to gain a wee bit more privacy and away from tourists’ path, there are several other towns around the lake as alternatives.

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Lake Annecy

Ahead of my starting a new job this week, F and I decided to take a short trip to Annecy. It has been on our to-visit list for a while now, each time intending to travel in the summer but we always, somehow, ended up elsewhere. Figuring this would be as good a time as others, we bought a pair of last minute train tickets and off we went. We’re living the moment :)

Lake Annecy

Lake Annecy

What a relaxing yet active four days that we had, despite the less-than-sunny weather that we encountered. Whenever the sun escaped from the cloud cover and shone brightly, we couldn’t help but sighed with contentment. F would certainly need no further encouragement to move here immediately should an opportunity to do so arises!

Each day, without fail, we would walk along the lake, stopping every few meters and feasted the grandeur with our eyes. The ever changing lights of the sky, the simmering lake with its crystal clear water, the white-dusted hill tops from fresh snow gathering at the summits, and afar, the adventurous souls paragliding above the lake. We’ve walked from Annecy to both villages on its left (Annecy-le-Vieux) and right (Sévrier), and back, loving every (windy) minutes of it.

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Sunday brunch at Colorova

If there’s something I’m failing rather miserably every month, it’ll inevitably be related to my food budget. More precisely, I’m eating out more than I should and as a result, I’ve busted my eating out budget more often than I dare to count. Good thing, or not? (Pssst: I’ve been transferring my wardrobe budget towards food, so I am just a wee bit very proud that I haven’t been out shopping for months!)

Colorova

Colorova

Clearly, either way, I have a hard time resisting the siren call of all the wonderful eating places in the City of Light. Last weekend, after putting in some “not drowning” time in the pool for the first time since we moved, Chloé and I went for a lovely, albeit pricey, brunch at Colorova. Located just off the stretch of the street where I used to live, I’ve been there for afternoon tea break and for breakfast too, but never for lunch nor brunch, so my curiosity was piqued as to the kind of savoury fare they serve.

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Hotpot dinner at Auciel

Five ladies, one hot date. Thanks to Wee Ling‘s initiative, we found ourselves at the door of Auciel rather early in the evening by Parisian standard – 6.30pm – but we did not want to risk losing our table and then having to go on a long queue, such is the reputation of this small eatery in the 11th arrondissement. Their specialty – (individual) hotpot – is a favourite among the Chinese community. They also serve cooked dishes but let’s face it, why would anyone do that in a hotpot restaurant?

Hotpot dinner

Hotpot dinner

The concept is pretty straight forward here. You could order a specific hotpot ingredient set (e.g. with meat, with seafood, vegetarian), or à la carte (pick and mix your ingredients), or go the buffet style (as much as you could eat, any ingredient selection). There are also three broth options: the clear broth, the satay broth (slightly spicy) and the Szechuan broth (hot, hot, hot). Since everyone gets an individual pot, no worry about finding the one right broth for everyone at the table. Win!

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Easter touches

We had a festive Easter weekend chez mes beaux-parents, partly because it was, well, Easter, and partly because we were there to celebrate several family events in one fell swoop. F’s mum impressively prepared most of the feast for some 30-odd people herself and topped it up with a couple of specially ordered deli dishes, while F’s dad was in charge of the wine and champagne selection. Not much for the rest of us to do really, except to help setting up the place prior to guests’ arrival.

Easter decoration

Easter decoration

While I assisted with the set up, I also couldn’t help but snuck a few photos and here. Just as well, because everyone else who were there ended up taking tons of people shots and none of the decors. My belle-mère was delighted to have some pictures to show off the fruits of her labour. On the other hand, isn’t it terrible that once guests started arriving, I became sort of a shrinking violet and stopped playing photograher?

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Hidden Paris: Square de Montsouris

On our way towards Parc Montsouris and Cité U recently, F and I traversed avenue Reille into a small street just off the Réservoirs de Montsouris. We entered what could only be described as the most beautiful Parisian countryside. Don’t get me wrong; there are other charming places within Paris, including Villa Santos-Dumont and the Thermopyles, but neither rivalled the exquisite Square de Montsouris. (We’ll explore the few other luscious streets nearby another time.)

Square de Montsouris

Square de Montsouris

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Dinner at Frenchie

Just shortly before our 7pm reservation, I strolled up rue du Nil, spied Gregory Marchand in his office attached to Frenchie To Go, and gaped in amazement to see the excitable queue outside Frenchie Bar à Vins rushing in as soon as the door slid open. Luckily, I had secured a table at Frenchie restaurant a couple of months ahead (yup, that long) on La Fourchette, but what, or rather, whom, I was missing was my dinner companion. F had left his office a little later than planned, but on his way nonetheless.

Frenchie

Frenchie

Decided I’d be polite and not deemed as a no-show, I popped in quickly to let the staff know that I was here but would prefer to wait outside for F. It was all therefore very strange when she told me that if he was not here before 7.15pm, the table would be given away. Surely my level of French wasn’t that bad that mentioning a wait outside would be misunderstood as I planned to pull a disappearing act because F was late? I decided not to dwell on it and stepped outside anyway, and sure enough, F hurried along to greet me shortly thereafter. We even had five minutes to spare.

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A Sunday in St Germain-en-Laye

With a blink of an eye, it has been three months since F and I moved into our current place, located on a small street, on the first floor, and with a vis-à-vis. We are settling in well, and while I continue to add little touches here and there to make it more home-y, we do miss our former bright and luminous fourth-floor open-view apartment near Montparnasse. For a want of some sense of (natural and green) space, we escaped to St Germain-en-Laye on Sunday afternoon.

St Germain-en-Laye

St Germain-en-Laye

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Hidden Paris: from Pernety to Alésia

Let’s continue to explore Paris, the parts that are seemingly hidden but actually just right there, quite easy to miss. They don’t boast Hausmannian buildings that we are familiar with, but retain the charm of small, green streets, with very little traffic passing by. Today, we take a peek into rue des Thermopyles, Cité Bauer, and rue du Moulin Vert. Just three streets, nestled in between Pernety and Alésia in the 14th arrondissement.

rue des Thermopyles

rue des Thermopyles

When we last looked at Villa Santos-Dumont, I briefly mentioned the name Chauvelot. We’re revisiting this name, which is today honoured through rue Chauvelot that is mere minutes walk away from Villa Santos-Dumont, for without him, we may not have rue des Thermopyles today. Alexandre Chauvelot was a successful real estate developer in his time, and had contributed towards the growth of the neighbourhood around Vaugirard, Pernety/Plaisance, Vanves, and Montrouge. Part of the old village of Plaisance, what we find on rue des Thermopyles is a narrow, picturesque lane, seemingly a favourite spot for photoshoots.

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Banana and chocolate chip cake

Right, if you want to eat these bananas, you can. However, if they are left alone for a few days, I’ll whip up some banana cake for you.

Bananas don’t last long in our apartment. The few times I half-heartedly trying to get some ripen, they inevitably got gobbled up quickly. This time though, a simple request with an offer of a reward does the trick. The initial intention was to make a simple banana cake but since F asked so nicely to incorporate chocolate chips in it, he got it!

Banana cake

This good size loaf didn’t last very long either. I baked it late in the morning, so clearly we must have some as dessert during lunch. Two hours or so later, oh look – it’s tea time! With cake, of course. Always with cake. When dinner came round, there was just enough for another round of dessert. F also quipped that it would be unfair to the cake if some were kept overnight since it was best when truly fresh, therefore same day consumption made the most sense. What a logic ;)

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Hidden Paris: Villa Santos-Dumont

What does one do on a sunny Saturday afternoon? Well, F and I went out for a walk of rediscovery. Early last year, we have came across streets neatly tucked away from the public eyes – quaint, lush, calm – the little pieces of paradise anyone would wish to have in a bustling city like Paris. We certainly would love to live on one of these hidden-yet-within-Paris streets with a village charm. Today, let me introduce you to villa Santos-Dumont (formerly villa Chauvelot), named after a Franco-Brazilian aviator.

Villa Santos-Dumont

Villa Santos-Dumont

Villa Santos-Dumont is a serene and picturesque cobblestoned impasse that branched out from rue Santos-Dumont in the 15th arrondissement, a short walk away from Parc Georges Brassens. Brassens himself famously lived on 42 rue Santos-Dumont, after a 22-year stay on 9 impasse Florimont, another few minutes walk away from here.

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Le Mary Celeste

Now that daylight saving has finally kicked in, at last, I could write a little show-and-tell about Le Mary Celeste, although the spotlight would be more on the French-Asian fusion cuisine and less on the interesting cocktails. (We’re terrible drinkers, really.) Up until now, the somber winter had rendered it quite difficult to photograph the dishes – the menu changed daily – in the dim interior, so we’d whole-heartedly piled our attention on the food that tickled our tastebuds.

Le Mary Celeste

Le Mary Celeste

Situated in the Marais, this is undoubtedly a place where many of the chic and the stylish hang out. I’m not quite that cool, so you won’t catch me perching on one of the bar stools and chatting casually to the bartenders. Instead, I tuck myself into a corner table with F or my friends, eye the menu hungrily, and mentally ponder how to persuade all at the table that we should order one of every item there is on the menu. Not that a lot of convincing was ever needed. ;)

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Guinness is better in a cake

Blasphemous as it sounds, I do not like the taste of Guinness. All the years living in Ireland didn’t help me personally in terms of taste acquirement. I admit to a twinge of jealousy when observing Erasmus students and other visitors – F included! – taking to it quickly and could declare the pint in Ireland as the best they’ve had.

Guinness cake

A clever idea came not so long ago. Like mothers who slyly hide peas and brussel sprouts so the kids would eat them, I thought using Guinness as a cake ingredient could be a neat trick in improving how I perceive the taste of Guinness. With St Patrick’s round the corner, I even have the perfect excuse to whip the cake up without the guilt (or the worry) of eating it all by myself.

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Postcards: Île de la Jatte (FR)

River Seine snakes around Paris and Île de France, and with it, a number of small islands grace the region. We know all about the Île St Louis and Île de la Cité within central Paris, where the city’s history began with the settlement of the Parisii, but other islands are very much “invisible” to many. I should definitely explore more of them!

Île de la Jatte

Île de la Jatte

To the west of Paris, straddled between the communes of Levallois and Neuilly-sur-Seine, lies a small, picturesque island called Île de la Jatte, aka “Island of the Bowl”. We stumbled across it quite by chance, when Chloé and I went to Levallois for lunch at the weekend. I struggled to pinpoint why the name sounded familiar, but Chloé knows it well – it used to be a favourite hangout among Impressionist artists. Seurat’s Un dimanche après-midi à l’île de la Grande Jatte (now housed in Art Institut of Chicago) is indeed a very well-known painting to many!

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Levallois, reflections

It is too quiet at home. F is currently trekking in the Moroccan desert with his friends, boys-only trip. It’s an adventure where they have camels to carry their bags, a guide to lead the way, and a chef to prepare all the meals. Tough life ;) Sadly for me, he took the 100D with him too. Yes, yes, I know, it’s his camera, and it’s to photograph exotic locations including the Sahara – all’s fair in love and, err, photography?

Reflections

Reflections

Not one to sit and grumble, I whipped up my good ol’ compact and went out exploring parts of Paris unknown to me. I was pleasantly surprised to discover the blocks of glass buildings around Levallois, reflecting back at one another while taking on the colours of the sky and cloud. It almost felt like I’ve been away in another city myself, until I hit the River Seine and saw other familiar sights.

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Randomly, in Paris

Sometimes – actually, most of the time, in my humble opinion – one simply go for a random walk around Paris to be better acquainted with her. After our lunch at Frenchie To Go on Sunday, that was pretty much what Chloé and I did. We just walked, chatted, took some photos, and walked some more, as we made our way from rue du Nil to Belleville. We even snuck by the windy streets near Buttes Chaumont for some pristine views of the city.

Street sign

National Conservatory

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Frenchie To Go

Something must have lined up in the celestial. I am constantly in search for good grub in Paris, but I am by no mean someone from the “in” crowd who score tables at the latest gourmet openings in the city, not to mention our eating out budget doesn’t quite stretch that far to be a fixture in the dining scene. Imagine my surprise at easily snagging a table for two at Frenchie (via La Fourchette), albeit two months in advance, and then successfully wrangling Chloé to lunch at Frenchie To Go in matter of days.

Frenchie to go

Frenchie to go

Tucked away in rue du Nil (very near to the Passage du Caire, of course) and adjacent to Gregory Marchand’s other ventures – Frenchie and Frenchie Wine Bar – it wasn’t too crazy busy when we were there on a warm Sunday afternoon, but clearly well-loved, as we just about snagged the last two seats in the cosy café-deli. ***

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Project 365: Week 7 – Galerie

This week’s word is not an entirely foreign word, but when F suggested it to me as the theme to photograph, I knew immediately that this makes a good opportunity for me to explore the galeries et passages of which some are well-known but many stay pretty hidden. These Parisian galeries can be think of as precursors to modern shopping malls.

Created at a time where waste management was a citywide problem yet demands were there for more comfortable (window-)shopping experience, these covered passages offered well-maintained arcades and shelters from the elements. Some of them are still kept in good condition, but sadly a good few more are quite run down. Many had also been demolished – in its heyday, some 150 were present but only about 1/6 of them remains today, and not all are open to public.

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Galerie Vivienne

Galerie Vivienne

10 Feb: I couldn’t resist posting more than one photo of Galerie Vivienne, the most elegant galerie that I’ve visited in Paris, and certainly the best known among the visitors who search for something off the usual grid. Elaborately decorated entryway, mosaic flooring, stylish lighting, and surely enough, the shops that line this passage are also seriously upscale. A walk deep into the passage reveals private spiral staircase, presumably leading to some residences. I wouldn’t mind having such a prestigious address here ;)

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La Table d’Aki

F and I marked our anniversary with a small splurge – dinner at La Table d’Aki. Promptly at 8pm, the window cover was raised, and we stepped into a dining room about the size of the living room in our cosy Parisian apartment. Definitely minimalist in decor, monochromic palate of white (except the draft-blocking curtain and the low wall, both in red, by the door), as we were seated, I whispered to F: “16 covers only!”

Dinner @ La Table d'Aki

Dinner @ La Table d'Aki

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Project 365: Week 6 – Finesse

La finesse is one of those words I hear often but the changing context had me questioning if I really understood it. My 20-year-old mini dictionary said little except “fineness” yet I often hear it as a word that describe the finer things in life, of elegance, of delicateness, of refinement. Other contexts suggest physical shape of a person, in the state of being slim and slender, as well as one’s behaviour, worthy to be noted as in fine moral standing. I suggest we explore the finesse in French objects.

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Sea nymph

3 Feb: This is not the first time I’ve posted a photo of this water nymph on Pont Alexandre III, and it’s unlikely to be the last. I adore this sculpture. I always drop by to say hello when I’m in the area, and I’m also very pleased to see it free from the clutches of love-locks (yes, some muppets put locks on her before). There are many other sculptures on this same bridge, but I find her presence calming and radiates a certain inner beauty.

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Observing Paris from La Grande Roue

Or, how to mend a spirit challenged by the darker side of life.

Friday morning started out extremely windy – Anne lost her skylight window in the process! – and somewhat wet, but by late morning, the clouds had been swiftly blown away too, leaving clear blue sky that made me yearned to be out and about. The unfortunate incident from the previous day still weighed me down a little, so the want of fresh air became even more urgent.

F indulged me on my whim and off we went to Parc Georges Brassens for a most delicious bo bun, bahn mi and an Asian version of creamed rice dessert from the Camion BOL. We followed it up first with a visit to Grand Palais for Depardon’s exhibition, then taking a turn at La Grande Roue on Place de la Concorde. Cue: more vantage photos of Paris!

La Grande Roue

La Grande Roue

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Naïve little Asian

January kickstarted the year with a busy bout of moving-related activties and whats not, but February doesn’t plan to be overshadowed with a peaceful lull. Instead it throws in a challenge that had been most unexpected – something that threw me off, shakened me – and had me questioning, for one short second, if I am suited to live in a big city.

Sculture

In short: I was blindsided and scammed in my own home. Definitely not my day.

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A sunny February afternoon

My dad’s cousin was in town with a few friends, and they got lucky as the weather turned from grey and dreary to blue and sunny overnight. On their first afternoon, I took them on a long walk and to show off a good number of the city attractions. They probably wondered if I was trying to punish them though, given all the walking they did with me… (Disclaimer: I love exploring Paris by foot and I am also a pretty brisk walker)

This walk also rewarded me by way of photographs that I’d like to share with you. This is Paris, all set to charm and to seduce, that it is hard not to fall in love with it all over again. Then again, as a friend pointed our recently, even in rainy weather, Paris has a way to translate that into a poetic romance.

Luxembourg Gardens

Luxembourg Gardens

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Project 365: Week 5 – Écarlate

When the word écarlate was picked, I thought photographing this should be relatively straight-forward. Not quite so. To try to differentiate scarlet from all the different shades of red is far more challenging than I’ve prepared for, so much so that I think renaming this week’s theme as red would be more appropriate. Well, enjoy “scarlet” ;)

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Swatch watch

27 Jan: Some of my friends would be surprised to hear that it has been a while since I ventured into any Swatch shop. It is for my own good, considering I have hard time resisting picking up a new one every so often to add to my collection. While I don’t have as many to rotate for every day for a month (yet?), it is a tad excessive to own quite so many watches – am thinking I should donate some away.

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Vantage Paris

Another fun thing about organising my archived photos is the realisation that, over the years, I’ve been very lucky to have seen Paris from many vantage viewpoints around the city. Nearly all of these locations are accessible to everyone all year round, free or ticket-requiring. If you are looking for a place to see Paris from higher grounds (without breaking the bank by hiring private flights), up up you go!

Viewpoints of Paris

1. Eiffel Tower: This is an obvious one, and my last visit there was as a family outing. We were very pleased to have a wonderfully sunny weather, despite strong wind earlier that day which caused closure of the top-most level. It had reopened by then, but the crowd trying to access it was too crazy for us to even consider tackling. The mid-level viewing decks worked perfectly fine for us.

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