If you are one of the few rich Parisians, I guess you could drive an open-top luxury car, smoke a cigar or two, and cruise around in your own good sweet time. Otherwise, you’d be like me, sitting on the bus looking out and spot how the others live ;)
My mode of transportation may not be fancy but I’m feeling great nonetheless. I’m on my way, heading out to the Beauvais airport for a quick weekend trip back to Dublin. With a schedule that can be described as bien chargé so I can see as many of my friends and family as possible, I foresee running around like a headless chicken while I’m at it. Not that I mind.
I think I have that traveller’s dumb luck kind of thing going on. I don’t always know what’s happening in the city (there are waaaaay too much activities to keep track) and there are days, after work, I admit to being half-hearted in my exploration attempts (although I worked at pushing those aside and tried to stay motivated). Still, I somehow often come across something just after it has been inaugurated or before its closure.
Désillusion totale is a new sculpture currently installed just outside the church of St Germain des Prés. A contemporary work by Daniel Hourdé that translates to “Total Disillusionment”, this purported sculptured bird is seen by me more as a fallen angel, its wings tattered and its steps weak, disenchanted by worldly illnesses, with naught but a beak mask to protect him from the plague. What’s your interpretation?
That’s quite a dashing bust, don’t you think? Standing at rue du Docteur Roux, the building behind the bust is the first building of the Institut Pasteur and today, the site of Musée Pasteur. There’s no prize for guessing that the bust belongs to the famed microbiologist Louis Pasteur.
I’ve been told that Pasteur’s body is interred in a vault of the Institut Pasteur. Not only that, his apartment of his later years is also preserved. Since I’m around the area for conference in these few days, if I could sneak a little time, I should consider paying a homage to the man who had given so much of his discoveries to the advancement of immunology and disease prevention.
I don’t know what’s up with me today. Monday blues? All I managed was a couple of rushed shots and nothing really striking or interesting to show you. So I am a bit annoyed with myself right now, frustrated that I didn’t do a better job and get something more inspiring…
This week is going to be a bit all over the place for me. No time to be playing at Fête des Tuileries for sure. The funfair has just started last week and would run for a couple of months, into late August. Good to keep the school kids entertained as they go on their summer holiday at the end of this week. For now, more work awaits, along with paperworks and conference to attend this week. And a big day coming up soon too!
It was very strange to have the usual hums around Place des Vosges be broken by a whole lot of loud chants by what looked like a bunch of hard rockers.
Iron! Iron! Iron! Iron!
Alex and I were initially unsure if we should check the source out, you know, in case it was a more cynical gathering or something. But then it appeared the roars were synchronised to a bunch of photographers clicking away for some group shots. So I got busy too, lol. I found out later that Iron Maiden was in tonw for two nights of gigs, and their fans were certainly very vocal about their delights. I must say, their excitement was contagious and I found myself grinning at their obvious enjoyment.
Another weekend, another opportunity to play tourist. Today, my friends and I were off to Fontainebleau Castle and Barbizon Village on a day tour. Between the two places, we even tucked in a huge lunch that came with kir for aperitif, 3-course meal, and both white and red wine for everyone. Not that I drank more than a glass of wine – I swapped my aperitif for a glass of fruit juice – still, you must admit that’s quite a feast considering how little we paid for the trip (€25!).
Picking a single shot from the hundred or so today was not easy. Of course I should be loading more onto a photo album or something, but given how slow I am at updating the blog in recent times (sorry folks!), it could be a while yet before I get around to it. I guess I pick this shot because I like the calm and tranquility it represents. A quaint country house in Barbizon village, away from most peering eyes (except mine, hehehe), I almost wish I could stay here and not return to the hustle and bustle of Paris so soon. Don’t get me wrong – I adore Paris, but every now and then, I’m also reminded that I’m a country girl at heart and I love having my own quiet me-time.
“Ah la la” is definitely phrase of the day.
The temperature is set to soar this weekend from low 20°C to some 32-35°C. It will then stay so for 2-3 days before another massive plummet back to around mid-20s °C. Insane? Just the thought of it… and I’ve been told by friends that Paris would easily feel like a city-wide sauna during the heatwave.
I’ve also been warned that travelling by public transport that’s packed would be equivalent to cramming oneself into a pre-heated oven. It would be better if I would consider alternative displacement methods, such as by foot or by bike (the Velib’). This is when I am glad that I have taken up an annual Velib’ subscription. Now, I just need to be brave enough to cycle with all the traffic around!
The shopping madness begins. Les soldes started yesterday and already I’m hearing of bargains being picked up by my friends and my colleagues. I’ve been completely swamped with work right now though, so no time to do my part in, errrm, contributing to the economy ;) This is, of course, good for the health of my bank accounts.
Now, this shop in Marais is amusing. Have you figure out why yet? Look again at the photo. I’ll give you a couple of seconds to play detective. Spot the magic yet?
On a normal day, a sign for boulangerie patisserie means I should be standing in front of the windows and start to drool over freshly baked breads and pastries and all things delicious. But I’ve been deceived. All there are in the shop now are men’s clothes. Never mind. I’m sure I could spot another few boulangerie nearby.
A little something from another famous landmark of Paris today for you – the figural group by Aimé Millet of Apollo, poetry and music at the Opéra Garnier. Standing tall and proud, Apollo holds the lyre high, which I take to interpret the triumph of music that one finds in this opera house. I have yet to attend any events here but for the 2011/2012 season, I’m going to try to watch an opera or two under what would be a magnificent setting.
Palais Garnier is steeped in grandeur. Various statues adorned the building, alongside busts of great composers along the front façade. In the interior, sweeping stairs and opulent chandeliers, deep crimson carpets and curtains, glittering gold borders and carvings – it’s no wonder this opera house inspired the creation of The Phantom of the Opera.
Summer solstice and the city is alive with music. Except perhaps Butte aux Cailles, which businesses were on strike this evening over a recently introduced regulations on business operations. Still, had it not been for this stark absence of music in the neighbourhood, Lih King and I would not have gone to the Chinatown area and being serendipitiously entertained by the Hot Club of Beijing.
I love jazz. I just love jazz. Love love love jazz! And the trio played amazing gypsy jazz with an infusion of Asian influence. Normally based in Beijing, the band is made up of a mix of French and Chinese musicians. What captured my attention most was the vocalist singing songs reminiscent of 1920s Shanghai. He may be French but his singing in Mandarin was flawless. Needless to say, I’m rating this evening fantastic :D
It’s Alex’s birthday today (joyeux anniv’ Alex!) and after work, we headed out for a little celebratory food and drink session. With happy hours everywhere in the city (they usually run from around 5-6pm till 9-10pm) time to enjoy a cocktail or two before dinner, and off we went to Café Mabillon.
My choice of cocktail is new in concept for me – it is red wine-based instead of particular liquour(s). I can’t remember its exact name, but it sure is fruity and rather easy to drink, accompanied with nuts and olives as nibbles. The soft candies garnish were not quite as “marshmallow-y” as I thought they would be, which would be fun to dunk into the drink. What can I say? Food and drink are very much about the senses and playful food evokes child-like excitement ;)
There is a particular humour to this rather basic graffiti found at Bassin de la Villette. “Come to daddy!” says the monster with an evil and gleeful grin. The phantom-y cat knows something’s up and and couldn’t try to escape quickly enough!
It is Father’s Day today, and it is a rather poignant day for me. I do not remember any celebration that I may had had with my late father, and at home, it was more of a day where we celebrated it with granddad. However he is no longer with us for another celebration. As I walk the streets of Paris, I’m reminded of us planning a trip for him to visit me here after my move but time ran out on us.
Anyway, sorry for the change of mood. Back to happy. Think happy thoughts. Think Happy Father’s Day. Think happy memories :)
Tucked away in the rather posh and affluent 8th arrondissement is Musée Jacquemart-André, formerly home to a certain Monsieur Jacquemart and his wife Madame J neé André. Not a museum frequently visited by foreign tourists, there was nonetheless a queue when I went there for a visit with my friend, most of them French and trying to catch the Caillebotte Brothers exhibition before its closure in a couple of weeks. Like me really. I’ve been wanting to see the Impressionist-half of the siblings, while being mildly curious about the photographer-half of the duo.
The museum is absolutely stunning. I could not justifiably describe it – it is something you should see for yourself. The tropical conservatory, ornated staircases, decorated apartments and opulent dining room are but some of the features. The dining room is today a café that serves delicious salads and a few other special dishes, and they entice diners in by displaying a mouth-watering selection of cakes and tarts right by the door to enter the eatery. Smart marketing move ;)
Adjacent to the Louvre is the Palais Royal, with distinctive black and white columns of varying heights at its forecourt. Les Deux Plateaux, also known as Colonnes de Buren, were a total of 260 columns installed by Daniel Buren some 25 years ago for considerable costs. They were recently restored over a period of about a year for an amount close to €6 million.
Each time that I’ve passed by these columns, a few common activities were observed. One, children running around and jumping on and off the shorter columns. Two, people standing on the columns, often pretending to be statues, taking posed photos. Three, teenagers congregating around certain columns. And last but not least, folks with camera trying to find a way to photograph these columns and still do a good job of it. I was in the last group and I’m not even entirely sure if I did a decent job with my shot…
Now that I know a handful of pâtisseries and chocolatiers of Paris, I’m branching out to another form of soother to my über sweet tooth – candies! I do wonder what would a candy shop be called? Bonbonerie?
Le Bonbon au Palais is a total candy wonderland. Its unique selling point is that they gather candies and chocolates from different regions of France and bring them all under one roof. Imagine to have one stop shop for all your French candy needs… I reckon the owner recognised the sugar-crazed look in my eyes because he was offering samplers of this and that and guess what, I bought them. Such a sucker, right? Still, who can resist candies?! Yum, yum and yum!
The food challenge continues and this evening I even managed to round up a few partners-in-crime for a spot of Brazilian food in the northern neighbourhood of Notre Dame de Lorette. It was fun to have a girls’ night out like this, chit-chatting over dinner, and for some, a lot of giggling after the potent cocktails they served – you know who you are ;)
We were also mildly amused with the decor within. A whole lot of thongs hanging from the ceiling – not string underwear thongs but flip-flops thongs, painted murals, bedazzled figures, multi-coloured disco-lights in toilet, carneval footage on (silent) tv screen. And of course, a whole lot of photos of people we don’t know all over the walls. Un peu bordélique…
I don’t think I have mentioned in this blog yet, of my current culinary project: Resto A-Z. The concept is simple enough. Take an alphabet, pick a country’s name based on the alphabet, choose a restaurant that serves the relevant cuisine and eat out. It’s quite fun really, and a very good way to explore international dining experience within the city.
I started with A a few weeks back with an Afghani restaurant, then Ethiopian for E and I’ll be going to a Brazillian restaurant tomorrow in honour of B. Tonight though, it’s C for Cuba. I know, it’s not in alphabetical order, but say, imagine if you’re hankering for some Thai food – do you really want to wait all the way to T? No, right? Having said that, I’ve also done French, Indian (and Italian), Japanese, Lebanese, Moroccan, Thai and Vietnamese so F, I, J, L, M, T and V are off the list too. Pretty good going :D
Street art in Paris is not just about mural or graffiti pictures. There are quite a lot of tiled and mosaic images too, such as the Invader series (I have a few photos from different locations which I should create a mosaic of sometimes, hehehe) but for today, let’s just work with a single tiled image. Of a knight in shining armour.
I have been joking with friends that I need a strategy to get my paperworks going. I’m still waiting for various documents, running around bugging different people for different attestations etc. Perhaps I should play a damsel in distress, and that I am really really worth rescuing from all the red tape inconveniences. Except I don’t quite know how to. And I don’t even have those huge round eyes à la Shrek’s Puss in Boots to evoke sympathy. Drat.
Now, where is my knight to come to my rescue?
Parc des Buttes Chaumont sits near Belleville and since I was in the neighbourhood for lunch today (excellent authentic Thai food, if you’re wondering), I could not resist taking a walk there for some post-lunch afternoon stroll. Not longer as off the beaten path as it used to be – yes, tourists have discovered this little gem in the north-east of Paris, although they seem to head straight only for the belvedere – it is still one of my favourite places in town.
Perhaps it is the memory that I’ve attached to the park. I was visiting Paris one summer before heading to Italy, staying with a friend, and for the first time, explored the city extensively by car, and the park was one of our visited places. I remember us sitting on the slopping hill, basking in the sunshine while talking about our dreams and aspirations for the future. How simple life was back then. I was idealistic, naive even, with so much I aspired to do. It was very good time.
Looking at these cupcakes at a shop window, I feel a pang of longing – I can’t tell you how much I miss having an oven in my kitchen. Nearly 3 months now without one, it goes without saying that I haven’t been baking, roasting or grilling anything. No quick breakfast muffins, no shepherd’s pie, no roasted vegetables… Good thing this city is full of cakes and tartes and quiches, so it’s not all lost.
One thing though – the price tag. I would quite happily fork out a small fortune for a fantastic piece of pastry, especially when it’s something that I could not made easily myself (read: I am rubbish at delicate cakes and tarts) but for cupcakes which is not too complicated at all, I am soooo not willing to pay anything between €3-4 for one. That’s even enough for me to buy the basic ingredients to make a dozen or two of cupcakes (minus the fancy icings) already!
Ps: I’m not claiming I could whip up the best cupcakes ever though, ok? ;)