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Day 120: Wedding photoshoot

Choosing a single photo for today is tricky, since I was on a walking tour of Montmartre and saw plenty that are interesting or amusing. I guess that means I need to set up a separate album at some stage. (I am already terribly slow in updating the blog, ooops.) For now though, one from among the firsts of the day – wedding photoshoot at the hill of Montmartre. The poor girl was coooooold, and in between shots, huddled enveloped within a huge furry jacket.

It is not uncommon to see wedding photoshoot around Paris. By the Eiffel Tower, next to fountains of Place de la Concorde, along Champs-Élysées… What is rather curious though, is that usually the couples are either Japanese or Chinese. I have not yet seen any French ones doing the same. Perhaps it has got to do with Asian tendency for establishing an entire album of wedding photo ahead of the big day. If French don’t do that, then it goes without saying they won’t have time to run around the city for posed photos on the wedding day itself.

Day 119: Église Saint-Pierre-de-Montrouge

The Church of Saint-Pierre-de-Montrouge sits very dominantly at Alésia, pretty much right above the metro station, and the first time I had a glimpse of it a few weeks ago was totally by chance. I was travelling to Porte d’Orléans, the terminus of line 4, but wasn’t paying attention so when I noticed just about everyone in my carriage getting off, I naturally assumed we’ve came to the end of line. To say I was momentarily disorientated was putting it mildly.

Passing by it again this evening (I was at a cinema nearby with Ani – we went to see Detective Dee – Chinese movie!) I thought I should take a shot of it. In particular, to show off the entertwining symbol of SP for Saint Pierre. Afterall, it could easily be looked at as PS and if you think Da Vinci Code and its link to Paris (in the little world of Dan Brown), I wonder if he knew about this church and would write anything about it as part of the story plot?

Day 118: Soirée Angélique

It feels so good to have a solid night sleep. I don’t know how some people can pull one all-nighter after another. I certainly couldn’t, and wouldn’t want to if I can help it. I can make do with the odd sleepless night here and there with huge interval in between, but that’s about all the concession I’m going to make for work.

This evening, Anne and I dropped by l’Occitane for a little soirée Angélique to check out their new range of product. While we were there, the staff conducted a little questionnaire and with just 4-5 questions, she pegged down my personality as “Angélique splash”* which Anne agrees to. Am I that easy to “get”? Never mind… time enough to grab some candies and drinks after a short skincare demo session plus having a funny photo taken. I wonder if they’ll email a copy to us. Maybe not.

* l’Angélique splash: full of vitality and you believe in living life to the fullest

Day 117: Take me away on a choo choo train

This poor girl is really need a good rest. I have had only a couple of hours of sleep in the past two days, and would love nothing more than just to collapse and catch some shut eyes. But the adrenaline is keeping me going, and I found myself still charged up and not in the least settled. My brain is racing and that’s when I told myself, I need to go somewhere.

Cue – Gare de l’Est. I’ve decided I’m going to visit my friends (pictorial clue to where I’ll be travelling to) and in a couple of weeks, I’ll be at this very same station, catching the train out of town. It is pretty exciting and this marks my first French excursion this year. But of course, Efi has also asked me if I would do a 10K run with her. Hmmm… Can I pull off a 2-weeks training for the run?

Day 116: Easter eggs!

In the spirit of Easter and spreading the love of chocolate eggs, look what I’ve found in my mailbox?! I have no idea when these were deposited in my mailbox, probably, over the weekend, by the Resident Committee of my building. (I didn’t check it on days when I didn’t think the postman was working.) Of course, these chocolates are very welcomed. Needed even. Merci!

The past couple of days have been intensed, workwise. Apart from short breaks, I’ve been literally chained to my desk, typety typety type away. A particular and important work deadline is looming over my colleagues and I, and although somewhat stressful, we’re working at a good pace to completing our submission. These chocolates (plus some mini stroopwafels, courtesy of LK) are keeping me going whenever I feel the urge to snack. They make gooooood comfort food. ;)

Day 115: Les impressionnistes at Hôtel de Ville

The Mairie of Paris organises a number of exhibitions every year, housed within the Hôtel de Ville. They are often interesting, and it shows, given the long queues to visit the exhibits. An hour or so of waiting is not unusual. I have, in the past, explored a number of exhibitions, including one of Petit Nicolas. (Don’t know who Petit Nicolas is? Check the Wiki.) Needless to say, I enjoyed them very much.

Two exhibitions are running at the moment, one of which I saw last week – Paris: at the time of the Impressionists. The collection came from Musée d’Orsay (possibly my favourite museum in the city – yes, more than Louvre) and have not often been on display, so it’s a gem to behold even if the number of exhibits are limited. So much so that I bought postcards to some of these masterpieces.

The exhibition runs from 12 April to 30 July 2011, and opens daily from 10am to 7pm (last admission 6.15pm) except Sunday and public holidays. Entry is free.

Day 114: Polly Maggoo

Blue is my colour. It draws me like moth to the lamp; anything blue, you’ll get my attention rather quickly. On rue du Petit Pont, the mosaic fronting the bar Polly Maggoo seems like sparkling baubles to me. And the iconic picture of Polly Maggoo from the 60s’ movie Qui êtes vous, Polly Maggoo? has been assembled quite so elegantly, don’t you agree?

Culture is rich in Paris, there is no doubt about it. However, since I started street exploration of the city, I’m learning so much more about random little things with references to movie, literature, history etc that I have been zero knowledge prior to this. For example, I googled Polly Maggoo because it’s the name of the bar and turns out, it’s a reference to a movie of fashion excesses. A few days ago, I have just got acquainted with Arnaud Rimbaud. I enjoy knowing all these little snippets to our civilisation. It makes me wonder – what will I discover next? :D

Ps: I velib’ed in Paris today! First time ever cycling in a capital city (hey, I was a small town girl) and it’s not as bad as I’d imagined it to be. Then again, it is a Sunday on a long weekend so there are less traffic and people around. Still, must try to get a long subscription to Velib so I can try it again.

Day 113: Best Coast

When Lih King asked if I would like to go to a concert, I jumped at the chance to get out after holing up most of the day in my apartment, typing away on work documents. An escape? Yes please!

Since I didn’t even have a clue who I’d be seeing at this impromptu night out, Lih King ran a quick band catch-up for my benefits. Best Coast is an Indie Rock band from California which first caught his attention last summer, and their music is characterised as “lo-fi” (the opposite of “hi-fi”?) and fuzzy. Whatever that’s supposed to mean. Ah yes, my ignorance in music is showing, but hey, remember, I also gave it a go and checked it out. ;)

The concert was fun and we managed to get pretty good balcony standing place, affording us great view during the gig. I recognised some of the tunes, and I’m assuming I may have heard them from snippets in tv shows? There were also similarities to the sound of The Blue Pills, a fictional punk band featured in Season 2 of Castle.

I should try out more new bands (well, new to me anyway) like this – randomly, at small venues. You’ll never know what you’ll discover!

Day 112: Sunset, romance

I did something bold today. Sort of. I was out on a photowalk to celebrate Friday and around sunset, on passing the quay, I thought this couple would make perfect subject for photo of the day. I approached them to ask if it’ll be ok for me to grab a shot. Much to my delight, they ok’ed it, wheeeee. (OK, I know this is probably no big deal to a lot of people but it’s major for me – I hate intruding on others.)

While the couple were friendly and cheerfully agreed, I noticed the girl being a tad camera-shy and my doubts started creeping in. The guy, well, he was happy to show-off the romance that they’ve got. So in my hurry (feeding off my anxiety) this is the best I manage to photograph them. I wish I’ve taken a bit more time and composed the photo better. Well, it’s a learning experience anyway. Hopefully next time I’ll fare better than this? ;)

Day 111: Faux Berthillon

When the day is long and warm, a lovely little treat is to get a cone of ice cream/ sorbet and enjoy it while taking a stroll along the quay of River Seine. One of the most famous gelateries in the city is Berthillon on rue St-Louis-en-l’Ile, which I drop by every so often. I loooove their parfum caramel au beurre salé.

Precisely because they’re famous, a large number of “agents” selling Berthillon’s ice cream have mushroomed on Ile-St-Louis, offering more than one location to scout for Berthillon’s goodies. It is particularly handy on an evening like today, when the real deal has closed for the day when we arrived. A few doors away, there you go, an agent of Berthillon’s best. :)

Ps: a delicious alternative to Berthillon is Pozzetto near St Paul – if I am on ice-cream trip with Anne, you’ll always catch us queueing there instead.

Day 110: 59 Rivoli

Only in Paris – legalised art squat.

Just over a decade ago, artists began to squat at 59 rue de Rivoli, a dilapidated former building of Credit Lyonnais. What flourished next was a series of colourful installations at the façade of the street, attracting attentions aplenty and drawing admirers of free expressions of arts. It really is impossible to miss this building if you’re going down rue de Rivoli.

When the building was declared dangerous in mid-2000s, it was thanks to the support of fans as well as the media that the building, instead of simply being shut down, underwent a restoration process that would take approximately three years (between 2006 and 2009) to complete. Its reopening saw legalisation of the premises as free home to resident artists and the birth of 59Rivoli.org, its doors open to visitors without admission charges. It’s a dynamic art house with works at various stages, from inception to finalised pieces.

Day 109: Snowglobe

Some collects shot glasses (my youngest brother), some collects thimbles (one of my best friends), some collects postcards (guilty as charged), and it would appear the owner of this handyman shop on rue Gay-Lussac is a fan of snowglobes. One of the few snowglobes sitting by the window is that of Hong Kong.

At the moment, my pretty collection of postcards from all over the world is sitting in a box back in Dublin, in a haphazard manner. It has been a while since I organised the latest postcards that I’ve acquired, either from friends who were travelling or those that I bought myself. Since arriving in Paris, I’ve received a handful few postcards, so perhaps I should get a new scrapbook and start another collection.

Now, what do you collect?

Day 108: L’Homme aux semelles devant

I first noticed this unusual and whimsical sculpture at place du Père-Teilhard-de-Chardin during a leisurely walk with the girls a couple of weekends ago, and when my random bus exploration took me past it again, I deboarded the bus quickly at the next stop.

A commission carried out by late Jean-Robert Ipoustéguy, this sculpture from mid-1980 parodically depicted the poet Arthur Rimbaud. A restless soul who travelled constantly, Rimbaud had earned himself the nickname l’Homme aux semelles de vent (“man with soles of wind”). Cleverly playing with the homophonic title l’Homme aux semelles devant (“man with soles in front [of him]”), Ipoustéguy had Rimbaud resting upon someone’s soles, perhaps his own, as the body was split in two and time-wrapped in a peculiar machine.

This is a prime example of the relationship between French(wo)men and their love of language. From whatever little I managed to glean from the French culture, everyone seems to thrive on smart plays of words, compositions that are linguistically beautiful, the subtleties in nuances of literature. How else do you explain George Perec’s lipogrammic writing of La disparition? Or the creation of verlanised verlan? Or the delight of my French teacher in showing us “the 8 flavours of passé composé” and the anticipation of other rich variations of all the other tenses? ;)

Day 107: The new sari

I met Anirudh last week at Obscura Day. At some point, our topic of conversation turned to food (my favourite topic, yay!) and he was a tad surprised that I haven’t yet explored the Indian quarter of Paris near Gare du Nord. This has got to be remedied and today, we headed over to the neighbourhood for some Tamil food chez Saravanaa Bhavan. In case you wondered, the food was delicious and reminded me of Indian food in Malaysia. I will be back here before long!

Walking around, there are also a large number of shops selling all things Indian-related, from Indian sweets (I bought some to go) to Bollywood DVDs to colourful bangles to traditional costumes. Then we spotted these updated look to sari. Very stylish, not to mention, errrm, sheer and skimpy. Not quite the sari I know and worn before. If my previous experience with sari was anything to go by – I was worried the entire evening about people stepping on the hem and unravelled the entire 6 metres of turquoise cloth that I’ve ineptly wrapped around me – the likelihood of me ever trying this modern look would be slim to none…

Day 106: Canal St Martin

It has been a week since I left my apartment with a coat. Instead, tucked in my bag, is a small cardigan, which I haven’t been using either. Really, Paris has become the new California. It also makes it very hard for me – quite torn actually – to either stay in and work (I have a lot on my plate right now with looming deadlines) or to go out and profite-bien le soleil.

In the end, the good old adage of balancing work and fun makes more sense. Instead of just gazing longingly out my window, I steal a couple of hours to be out, walk about, and to soak up some Vitamin D. At Canal St Martin, hundreds of sun lovers obviously have less qualm about spending their time outdoors. They lounged canal-side, with picnic spread and chilled drinks, chatting and laughing. Worry not, I will have my share of fun this evening – piña colada party, here I come!

Day 105: Théâtre optique

I passed by Maison Internationale today to be tested for acceptance into a French course (general level: intermediate, grammatical proficiency: rubbish – seems like I’ve forgotten most of the conjugations I learned in the past, ops) and on my way out, there was a groovy little box with dancing people in it.

Closer look please. There’s a disco ball, a spinning disc, a general vibe from Austin Power, there are even weird observers – but the dancers, they look unsteady on their feet. Of course, they are, errm, how do I put it delicately – a tad indisposed but happy?

This théâtre optique by Pierrick Sorin is rather amusing, depicting an universal day-to-day scene, however with subtle messages that can be interpreted in one too many ways. Which is what art is about. I think. It’s open to observers’ commentaries and subjective to each opinion. To some, this is a youth night out just for fun. To some, this is a social issue fueled by alcohol. To some, this is just another funky installation.

Day 104: Trusty steed

In history, a chevalier would never go without his trusty steed, usually a beauty with incomparable loyalty. Or so the romance novels had me believe. It is no wonder then, statues of men who are deemed leaders and heroes are normally depicted on the horseback, sword-yielding and all. Even the word chevalier itself, used to mean a knight, is of French origin with its root lies in the word cheval, i.e. horse.

Adjacent to the Hôtel de Ville, the statue of Étienne Marcel looking out to River Seine can hardly be missed. Looking from the side, it looks almost mundane but looking up from underneath, it always strikes me how magnificent the horse looks, and in part, rather menacing too. I have never felt the urge to look at sculptures this way (there are a lot of equestrian statues in Paris) but perhaps it’s the nature of this particular one which juts out over the footpath – it opens up an accidental opportunity to see the statue differently?

Day 103: Metallic light

The area around Forum Les Halles is under some reconstruction works at the moment. Colourful boards have been put up to cover the garden and the buildings, although shopping, at least for now, continue as usual with the few still accessible door opens to shoppers. Unsurprisingly, a good few of the shops are now running sales to work away their stocks before upcoming temporary closure to facilitate the works.

I arrived at Forum Les Halles a little late in the day to do any shopping (not that that was my intent, but I should come back to check out the bargains) but happily for me, not too late to grab this shot of metallic refraction of the sun at the end of a warm evening. We have been in luck of late with the weather – warm, bright and sunny – it feels more summer than spring! :D

Ps: ok, the shot could have been better if the light actually bounced against the Art Nouveau grille instead of the portakabin from the reconstruction works. Oh well…

Day 102: Fameux ce saucisson?

Something happened today that left me fuming, and to clear my head I decided to take a random bus in the city and see where it takes me. Perfectly reasonable strategy too to see more of Paris that I would not otherwise be familiar wth.

As soon as I spotted this mural on rue Oberkampf (near the junction to rue St Maur), I rang for the bell and got off so I can check it out. It’s a curious work that’s still ongoing, with students from Cergy and Havre working on the piece in collaboration with L’Association le M.U.R. (Have a look in larger size)

There’s a mixed message on it right now, with strange faint writing (that makes the title of today’s entry), naughty gnomes, McDo etc. I’m not quite sure what’s intended for the final picture or if someone has tampered with this. The artists were packing up their materials when I was there, but since I lost my voice today, I couldn’t really talk to them.

It seems from the association website that the artworks on this mural wall changes every couple of weeks, and this one will be there until 18 April 2011. Only 6 more days to catch it.

Day 101: Petal drops

I have been trying to photograph the city from different places but today, I decided this courtyard in Cité U is just too pretty to not show it off ;)

While we had had very sunny few days in the last week, it started to get a bit chilly again, and a tad windy, with the forecast for the remainder of the week to be somewhat grey and wet. Still, all thanks to the wind, we also now have this blanket of cherry blossom on the ground, almost like snowfall in winter at a glance. I just love it. It makes me want to pull a blanket out and sit amidst the petals. Now, wouldn’t that be nice?

Day 100: Arc de Triomphe

… and on Day 100, she went to Champs-Élysées.

It has been a while since I last set foot on this lovely-but-tourist-packed thoroughfare. The funny thing was, as soon as I stepped out from the metro to go above ground, I immediately transformed into a tourist anyway. Especially as I stood in the middle of the road to take this photo, like all the others that came before and will come after me; the only difference being me not posing to have a photo taken with the Arc de Triomphe in the background. :p

I’ve always prefer to be at the other end of the avenue, closer to Place de la Concorde, where there are green spaces rather than zooming cars along a giant roundabout with tens of lanes of vehicles joining in every second. The first time I was inside one of those cars manoeuvering their way out from Étoile, I was so glad it wasn’t me driving. I would probably just go round, and round, and round, and round…

Day 99: Obscura Day

No, I haven’t suddenly gone to south east Asia to photograph one of the many wats in the region.

Obscura Day is a day to celebrate and raise awareness of all things off the beaten path that few know about. At this part of the world, Adam from Invisible Paris organised a tour of the ruins of Jardin d’Agronomie Tropicale near Nogent, even if it is technically under Paris’ jurisdiction. With the glorious sun shining down, the day couldn’t have been more perfect.

There are much history behind the JAT which I couldn’t recount all here (Adam even showed us a good coffee table book of the garden) but one point that really hit home for me is that, as human, we are very curious about other culture and civilisation. Sure, in the past, they didn’t do it quite right by constructing “human zoo” of people from various colonies on one site but today, we still seek for what seems exotic to us, learn about their ways of life, etc.

Check out JAT if you could. Just catch RER A2 in the direction of Boissy St Leger and get off at Nogent-sur-Marne. From the station, the JAT is clearly signposted and a mere 5 minutes leisurely stroll away. Entry is free.

Day 98: Panthéon and Aimé Césaire

For a couple of weeks, from what I gleaned, the Panthéon was closed to the public in preparation to pay an hommage to Aimé Césaire on the eves of the 3rd anniversary of his death. A poet, writer and politician in his lifetime, he was deemed an inspiration and defended not only the Martinican identity but also of black Africans under colonial rules. He was the champion of civil rights movement in French-speaking overseas territories and islands.

Unlike many who were interred at the Panthéon, Césaire’s remains was not exhumed and brought to Paris, in accordance to his will. Instead, the commemoration came in the form of a dedicated plaque, unveiled in a ceremony on 6 April by President Sarkozy.

The Panthéon has since reopened and until Sunday (10 April) entry is free of charge, although when I dropped by today with Brian and Ivan, many sections of the crypt are still out of bound and the famous Foucault’s Pendulum in the great hall has been temporarily removed.

Day 97: Love locks

We are having a truly sunny spell at the moment. With temperature hitting low 20s°C for the next few days, it is unsurprising that everyone is out having (or currently planning) picnics, and across River Seine, Pont des Arts is quite the perfect spot. Even I was drawn to go over there quickly today, albeit only to take a few photos before heading to a friend’s for girls night in.

If you’re walking the bridge that has long been touted as lovers’ bridge, you’ll see padlocks all across the length of the bridge on both sides of the railings. The whole idea would be for couples to affirm the bond of their love to each other, represented by the lock, with the key thrown into the river, lost to seekers (and therefore those sought to break this hold).

However, the romantic that I am (not), I can’t help but wonder, what happen when love turns suffocating, as if an imprisonment, to which one party could not escape the other? And the symbolism of being under lock and key, does that stand for playing the role of somebody’s love slave? What do you think? Would you put a lock on Pont des Arts if given a chance to?

Day 96: Blown away

Have I ever told you just how varied Parisian street art can be? From simple spray can graffiti variety to stencils to truly thought-provoking pieces, they never cease to amaze me. And there are a lot more street arts that I haven’t yet spotted so far.

I term this Alice-in-Wonderland-esque as “Blown away” and if anything, it reminds me much of Ireland, where windy days are not rare and nobody even bat an eyelid at “inside out” mushroom umbrella. Some day, on Grafton St, there is even a street artist/mimer there who stands at his spot with tie blowing away from him face and him struggling with his weather-sensitive umbrella. I may have his photo somewhere – if I find it, I’ll update this post accordingly.

Day 95: A room with a view

I like looking out my windows.

Sure, on account of work and socials and random walkabouts, I am not here too much but when I am, I often take a little time to stand by the windows and watch the world passing by. Regardless of time, each time that I look out, there’s always someone jogging, walking their dogs, strolling in leisure, etc. At times, matches of ball games are played out, to the cheerings of supporters and passerby alike.

This evening, around sunset, whichever way the light fell, it gave a golden glow to the top of trees just outside. The tall branch of the pink blossoms served to add another layer of colour to the scene. It was so beautiful and tranquil. Take it from me – this photo hardly does it any justice.

Day 94: Wooden toys

Back when I was a child, we don’t have fancy toys like kids today do. Instead, we entertained ourselves with figurines in plastic (green little soldier set, anyone?), wooden building blocks, climbing into all sorts of nooks and corners (we had to, in order to not be caught during hide and seek), and much to my neighbour’s dismay, her pots of flowers and shrubs would ended up as ingredients for masak-masak.

Each time I pass by Jouets Bass that sits between rue de l’Abbé-de-l’Épée and rue St Jacques, I get a little nostalgic. There are so many colourful traditional toys on display, making it oh so tempting to walk in, buy a few items and try to recapture the simple childhood that I had. Those were happy days.

Day 93: Fairylights

Dancing stopped just a few minutes ago. The evening session of ceili had been fantastic and the final group dance had been the most entertaining among them all. Bride and groom and all guests alike, we stomped and twirled and laughed together to the rhythm of the band.

Outside, the weather had cooled down considerably. At the patio, the fairylights shining like a million sparkling stars, which I could not take my eyes off from them. Shivering, I whipped the camera out, hoping to quickly catch one or two decent shots, and I am more than pleased that this one came out quite as magical as I remember the day to be.

Congratulations C+R!

Day 92: Reflection

It my friends’ big day and I’ve made my way to Bruton earlier than I had planned (not without its own drama though). And you know what people say about silver lining – mine was to catch up with the soon-to-be Mrs E before everyone else arrived. She looked wonderful and as a radiant as a bride could be.

When I left her to get ready for the day, I explored the ground of the venue, which comes with a strong green ethos and supports for local food supply and economy. At the back of the centre was a small yet beautiful organic vegetable garden, as well as a goat, a pony and a couple of pigs. The pony was such a sweet-tempered little fella it let me came up close and personal to take this shot. Of course, he was also trying to come close enough to chew my scarf…

Day 91: Horned Bridge

I flew in to Bristol this evening after work, and accounting for a small delay flying in from Paris, it was dark when I finally checked in to the YHA. Nothing luxurious required, since I just need a place to lay my weary body for a sleep before heading to Bruton, Somerset in the morning.

Of course, I took the chance to do a small walkaround as well. Where I am is quite central, close to all amenities, teeming with positive vibe, and picturesque too. This bridge is officially christened Pero’s Bridge, and it is located just off the YHA, linking two squares across Bristol Harbour. However, given the presence of a pair of horn-like sculptures, it is also nicknamed the Horned Bridge.


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