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Day 334: Lights of Champs-Élysées

It has been a week since Christmas lightings were up at Champs-Élysées. I have passed them by in the mean time, and I must say I am still not too convinced with this year’s idea of festive street lighting on this famous Parisian thoroughfare. They are rings of lights that changes colour, that’s all. I feel like I’ve been transported into a wrong futuristic movie or something. I’d like the traditional fairylights back, pretty please.

In any case, there is a good reason for me to venture deep into Champs-Élysées today – to check out the newly opened Marks and Spencer, in particular, the food hall! After a decade of absence, M&S is back and it appears they are rather popular. There’s a queue to get in, and once inside, there’s another queue for the food hall. The food hall itself is small, consists of a single aisle with two rows of shelves on either side. Ah I had so much hope for finding things that I’ve been missing but alas, it’s not quite available here just yet.

Day 333: Leg, breast or thigh?

This window at Ted Baker is just too funny. Awesome timing, given Thanksgiving had just came and went, and christmas is chugging along nicely, the poor turkey would need to be dressed one way or another. It shall be all trussed up and later presented as prettily as possible to the table of sacrifice. Ah, hidden puns everywhere I don’t even know where to start :p

I still haven’t got started with seasonal shopping and I’m unlikely to start it now. Maybe next week. First up, I need to worry about moving in a couple of days, and the way I see it, the less I have to pack, the better. At least I’ve started with the shopping list. Some things need to be ordered online though, so I must not leave those till too late. In fact, I should do them now… toodles!

Day 332: Familiar sculpture?

I don’t normally go to Gare du Nord, at least not for the main train terminal part, but there I was this evening, circa 6.30pm, searching for the arrival information. All I spotted initially were two gigantic departure board, then a teeny tiny screen in a corner somewhere for the arrivals. My friends were arriving in slightly later than expected. Not much, by just 10 minutes.

As I made my way towards the platform they were due in, I saw a large arrival information board (finally) and hey, that was one very familiar looking sculpture up at the mezzanine level! It reminded me of Europe a cœur in Strasbourg, but with multiple rings around it. I was too lazy to go up for a closer look, and in any case, the train from Amsterdam was coming in the platform and I had friends (with luggages) to greet. Welcome back to Paris G!

Day 331: Pavillon de Flore

I suspect this is the last of the autumn colours in the city. Everywhere else, trees seem to turn (nearly) nude overnight. From my windows, I can now look across the park to see buildings on the other side since the privacy shield provided by tree foliage is disappearing. Going out without a coat and a scarf is no longer an option, unless you’re trying to dodge work/school and therefore need to get a bad cold (or pneumonia for that matter).

It’s less than a month to Christmas but my countdown is currently to the winter solstice. The shortest day of the year. After that, with each passing day, we will see the day stretching itself longer again. Too little daylight hours is putting a real spoke into Project 365 since I’m exploring less in unknown neighbourhoods. You know what mama says about walking alone in the dark, especially when I haven’t a clue how to get out quickly from the area…

Day 330: Garden and Victory

There are a number of museums in the Marais with free entry to their permanent collections. Frédéric and I had them checked out in record time – 3 in 90 minutes. I admit to doing cursory-glance kind of visits to just have an idea of what the museums are about. The decision to visit them on an impromptu basis perhaps didn’t serve us well in understanding the significance of the collections. Perhaps we should have taken out an audioguide or signed up for a guided tour. Nonetheless, it didn’t mean I failed to find something appreciable in any of them.

Take Musée Carnavalet for example, which is dedicated to the history of Paris. I found interesting paintings of Paris of old when there used to be houses and shops lining the bridges of the city (this was banned in late 18th century) and of various city plans (some never came to pass). The picture above is of the central garden of the hôtel particulier which houses this museum today, with its beautifully trimmed hedges and the original of the statue of Victory found on the column at Place du Châtelet (the one at in place at Châtelet is gold-gilded). See, little steps to get to know Paris better :)

Day 329: Blue

I am searching for a few things today. One – destination. Two – inspiration. Three – motivation. I am a little tired after a couple of weeks of weird sleeping pattern (anyone who has good cure suggestion?) but otherwise, everything’s running as usual. Sort of. Before you link winter and blue together though, please, stop. I am not at a dark and twisted place, so don’t worry.

It’s just I am short of time to do a photowalk today, I don’t quite know what to photograph (but I know I want something non-Christmassy) and I need a push to get myself out there, that’s all. There is nothing particularly interesting about this bike in a seemingly ordinary courtyard, yet this image called to me, so I’m afraid this is what you get for photo-of-the-day. Sorry!

Normal service to resume tomorrow, fingers crossed. ;)

Day 328: Nimble cats

I still haven’t started my shopping list (eeep!) but I am constantly on the look out for presents, hoping to see something that will inspire me, for the light bulb moment (ding!), for just the right gift for the right person at the right price. Not easy, I tell ya.

It was tempting to get these cute little kitties, except they’re on the pricey side. Apparently even ornamental items don’t come cheap in the festive season (or any other season when you are in Paris). The price tag I spotted marked €18, but I didn’t exactly investigate further if that’s the price for a single cat or the set of three. Worth buying?

Day 327: Lafayette’s Noël

Galeries Lafayette is sitting pretty for the festive season. The main store is covered with lit motives on the outside, and it’s looking very Orient to me, both in the styling and also the colours. Sorry though it’s not particularly obvious here. The lighting comes and goes in gradient so trying to catch the whole scene is not easy. As you can see, the “hem” is already dimming and the effect moving its way up.

However, if you start checking out the display windows of this grand magasin, the theme is a lot more rock’n’roll! String puppets in nearly all of them, jamming to some pretty rad tunes – totally capturing the imagination of kids and adults alike but sadly eluded mine. I’ve been expecting something elegant and bespoke (perhaps I’m reminiscing Brown Thomas’ windows in Dublin) and little dolls with crazy head bobbing to a tune is just not quite my thing.

Day 326: Rue du Chat-qui-Pêche

Often, streets in Paris are named after who’s who in history, or famous landmarks adjacent to the streets, and the likes. Occasionally you do get whimsical names, like this one, a teeny small street off Quai St Michel – literally translated the street of the cat which fishes. While narrow, it is not quite Mårten Trotzigs gränd (in Stockholm) where I could walk along with my hands touching both walls of the street. Someone tall (over 1.8m) could manage this feat though.

I must have passed this street hundreds of time before I finally noticed it. With the souvenir shops lining the entrance to the street, it’s easy enough to ignore it. What amuses me is this mural of the infamous fishing cat! Granted, this piece of street art has since been defaced by addition of other elements, including this half-man with an umbrella (protecting the kitty?), breaking of the fishing rod and as far as I can see, no fish in sight. The kitty cat would have a long wait if it wants to be fed… ;)

Ps: talking of arts imitating name, here’s an interesting series of photographs depicting names of Paris metro stations by Janol Apin.

Day 325: Glühwein

No, I haven’t got a chance to get a taste of this season’s first mulled wine yet, but I will, soon. When I’m not quite as tired as I am at the moment (no thanks to a bizarre sleeping pattern that I couldn’t explain) then perhaps I can get more into the spirits of winter celebration and go all out!

I was passing the Christmas market on Champs-Élysées quickly this evening. It is a little chilly out, so the queue for the mulled wine was not inconsiderable, given this is only a Monday evening. It’s a pity though this stall only sell the wine in Styrofoam cups. It would have been nice to get them in ceramic mugs (great hands-warmer), even if it costs a bit more. The cup can then be kept as souvenirs. That’ll be what I call a strategy from Selling 101.

Day 324: Dacquoise etc

My friend has just moved to a new apartment and this means a couple of things : (1) apartment visit so I can check the place our (it’s a beautiful apartment which had me somewhat envious), (2) looking forward to a house-warming party (that’ll be some time yet to come) and (3) have a look around of nice places to get treats from in her new neighbourhood.

I was looking for some bread when I spotted a boulangerie just down the road from where she lives. I came out with a baguette, a fruit dacquoise, a lemon meringue tart and a strawberry tart, all for a rather reasonable price at that time. These cakes were delicious although I must say my favourite is the strawberry tart. I don’t recall seeing a name for the place though, and without a receipt given to me, I couldn’t verify it right now either. Another day. I’m sure I’ll be back around the area again. There is another tea salon that I have not try…

Day 323: War memorial

I took a very long walk today – over 3 hours (in boots, not really advisable) – at Cimetière du Père-Lachaise. Surprisingly, despite all the trips in and out of Paris over the years, not to mention the months that I’ve been living here, I have never visited this cemetery before. I don’t know what took me so long either.

I wandered randomly without the help of a map, which actually made it slightly tricky, given the vast size of the cemetery. I barely covered about 1/3 of the grounds. Relying on “look where the crowd goes” strategy, that was how I spotted a few famous graves here and there. Not only that, there are also a number of memorial monuments, including this one above, in commemoration of Holocaust victims of Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg.

The cemetery itself is historical, beautiful and calm for most part. A place I should revisit so I can continue my exploration…

Day 322: Calendrier de l’Avent

Everywhere I look, it’s now all about Christmas. Ho, ho, ho! With about 5 weeks to go, I guess it’s time to start writing up the shopping list for presents to the people near and dearest to us. Or maybe even start shopping itself. Last minute rush cannot be fun although with my new apartment next to a main shopping street, perhaps it won’t be as bad for me?

During the build up, of course you’ll need something to help you count down the days. Best with a wee bit of treat. One a day, you know. That’s why they have advent calendar, with the little doors that hide your candy or chocolate of the day. They’re not cheap though. Well I guess it won’t be cheap if you try to buy from Jeff de Bruges instead of Cadbury’s… Now who wants to get me one of these? :p

Day 321: La Grande Roue

Christmas is in the air :D

Last weekend, the cabins for Christmas market were being put in place along the east end of avenue des Champs-Élysées. At the same time, city workers on mini cranes were busy hanging up light fixtures to decorate the trees lining side by side to the cabins. With the temperature dialing in low at 2-4 °C, there is a certain excitement for the winter celebration to come.

Today, a mere few days later, I am seeing a huge Ferris wheel sitting prettily on Place de la Concorde. That caught me by surprised. For some reason, I had it in my head that the Ferris wheel is usually not erected until December, and it’ll be there for about 4-5 weeks. Guess I’m wrong. It’s there now, and they’ll start operating tomorrow until 19 February 2012. A whooping 3 months instead of about one!

The Christmas market at Champs-Élysées itself will be following suit on Saturday 19th, through to 2 January 2012. And for those looking forward to Christmas illuminations of Champs-Élysées in general, don’t forget, Audrey Tautou will be switching on the lights on Wednesday, 23 November, at 6.30pm, in front of l’Atelier Renault.

Day 320: Empty

Brrr it is very cold today.

Well, the cold front started (for me anyway) yesterday and today, as the day went by, it got progressively colder. I was still caught by surprised (a teeny wee bit) at this change, for over the weekend, it was warm enough for me to walk around sans coat or jacket but a mere cardigan. I do always carry scarf and mittens in the winter, so it’s not too bad I guess.

However, you certainly want to be moving about at this temperature to keep the body warmth going. Sitting out at a terrace is no longer something fun when you could end up freezing to death outside. Or milder events of cold and flu. I’m not even sure if drinking hot beverages would make much difference. The point is though, time to wrap up well when out and about, and thou shall continue people watching from inside of a cafe/restaurant instead.

Day 319: Gyros kebab

At around and off rue de la Huchette lie tons of Greek restaurants/eateries. However, since I have not eaten there personally, I couldn’t tell you if they are any good or mere tourist traps, given it’s location between St Michel and Notre Dame with plenty of foreign foot passengers daily. Invariably, every 3-4 doors down along the streets, you’ll be treated to a view of kebab/gyros in preparation.

I quite like this shot, which is a completely lucky shot. I was photographing the street initially, until this man came along and started chatting with the vendor. In a split second decision, I aimed my camera over and “click”. Not exactly the wisest move under dim condition, but I think this hasn’t come out too badly. I was worried it would be blurry, but no, it seems photography god is on my side today. Hurrah!

Day 318: Métro rétro

It’s not as if I wasn’t wearing my contact lenses or anything. Each time I pass by this café, I keep on (mis)thinking its name is Café du Rétro instead of Café du Métro. Perhaps it’s the style of the sign. It is probably a version of the original from all the way back in 1920, when it was first opened. I gathered that it’s still a family run business till this day.

Well, this café will soon be in my “neighbourhood”. I have just co-signed a lease this evening and will be moving out from Cité U in a couple of weeks. This is an exciting step into a new phase of my fabulous life in Paris. As with anything new and unknown, there’s certain anxiety that tags along with this move, but it’s the good kind, you know. It’ll give me an excuse to check out this café properly too. ;)

Day 317: Another piece of Montmartre

Walking around Paris can bring you to unexpected local areas. I discover this view of Montmartre purely by chance when Alex and I yesteday walked too far along rue St Anne following our late lunch while en route to Jacques Genin. Introducing rue Lafitte in the 9th arrondissement and view number 3 of 36 views of Montmartre.

In the foreground, if you look carefully, you’ll see the Notre Dame de Lorette. Its style is a tad like the Madeline, in neoclassical form. I have yet to visit the interior though. Yesterday’s weather was simply too nice to be suck indoor. We were walking randomly to get acquainted so I now have more ideas of where I can bring my camera to in the next few weeks for photo of the day ;)

Day 316: Post-Armistice Day

Glorious flags lining the avenue. I should have come over to the Champs-Élysées yesterday. I didn’t know there would be a large scale celebration, but I should really have thought of it. Afterall, for whom is it that the flame beneath the Arc de Triomphe but of fallen soldiers in performing their duties to protect their country during the wars.

This photo constitutes yet another image and viewpoint from Place de la Concorde. You’ve previously been shown the peeking Eiffel Tower and fountains of the place, along with Madeleine. Today, what you see also stretches beyond the arc to reveal the financial hub that is La Défense. The traffic is always a bit crazy here, so don’t go crossing the road randomly! Only at the lights, please.

Day 315: Bashful or not?

Yet another long weekend in Paris (it’s a public holiday today in commemoration of Armistice Day) and coincidentally it’s a binary day today (of 11.11.11). I had every good intention of wanting to go out and grab a photo at 11.11am but the continuous drizzle through the day hasn’t been particularly helpful. And I slept badly last night too, so that’s my sleep-in plan ruined.

I took myself up to Montmartre for a little bit of wandering about when I came across this small art gallery not too far away from Abbesses. Nude still lives. I think it’s rather brave for someone to bare it all like this to be painted. Art classes aplenty has such programme. Once upon many moons ago when I was in my “I’d like to do random stuff” phase, I did consider modelling for an art class, when decided that will be too risqué, not to mention, very much out of my comfort zone.

Day 314: Oriental façade

Rue St Jacques is one fairly long street at 1.55 km – although not quite as long as rue de Vaugirard, which stretches across 4.36 km in the southside of the city – and along it, some interesting architecture features from different periods of time, right from the medieval to the contemporary, can be found.

Of course, innovative restauranteur could also go one up, like this front façade of an Indian restaurant that has been elaborately decorated in the orient style. From what I gather, the theme is carried through the interior of the restaurant too. A colleague mentioned that their food is quite good, so perhaps I should give that a go sometimes soon.

Day 313: Candy seller

How often do you buy pick-n-mix? And where do you buy them? Cinema? Shopping mall? By the street outside the cinema? That’s where you can find this little candy stall. At St-Germain, by an exit of Odéon métro station, at the intersection between a number of cinemas. Handy, eh?

This is time for a little disclaimer though – I don’t buy pick-n-mix when I go to the movies. In fact, nowadays, I don’t even get popcorns. Gone are my movie snacking days. I think I may have been weaned off popcorns because those I can find in Dublin are salty. They’re not like the buttery and sweet popcorn I used to get while I was growing up. I am not sure if there is such popcorn in Paris. Perhaps I should check.

Day 312: Cosy (and nostalgia)

There is something about bars and pubs in winter – they somehow manage to look very cosy and inviting, especially when it’s cold cold outside baby. I suspect this association could also well be forged from years of living in Ireland where I spent the evening every now and then with my friends at our locals (or elsewhere when mood struck us). Try as they may, they haven’t manage to make an Irish girl out of me yet. (I can mentally picture Dave’s tut-tutting at me for ordering only 7-up in Kennedy’s!)

Nonetheless, it didn’t stop us from having a good evening out, chatting and snacking while forgetting just how chilly it could get outside. Something I miss much is pub quiz sessions, where often the rounds would start well but as the quiz progresses, the results may also deteriorate, pending on the number of pints the quiz-goers have imbibed. They are always good laughs though, could get a tad competitive, but still remain in good humour.

Day 311: Waraqat sajara

This blog is starting to look a tad more somber that I’d like it to be, what with all the night (and not particularly interesting) shots. And tonight’s shot is even starting to somewhat reflect my mood. It has been a long day, and my arrival back from Dublin late last night is not helping at all. At this point, I just want to be back in my apartment, sit down, and do nothing at all.

But I can’t do that. See, amusingly (to me, at least), while it was the colour contrasts of the leaves that caught my attention in the first place, my head keeps pinging back to waraqat sajara (i.e. tree leaves) that I’ve been learning in Arabic classes. What a timely reminder that I have revision to do before tomorrow’s class. There is simply no rest for the greedy?

Day 310: Fusiliers’ Arch

Mention to just about anyone in Dublin “the arch entrance of St Stephen’s Green” and they’ll know just what you’re talking about. However, if you ask for the name of the arch itself, that may be trickier to come by. Even I didn’t know it for a very long time, and learned about it after a friend came visiting. The things we do to impress our friends ;)

Modelled after the Arch of Titus in Rome, it commemorates the 212 soldiers of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers who were killed fighting for the British in the Boer War (1899–1902). For that reason, the arch was also previously called the Traitors’ Gate by strong nationalists, who believe that Irish should not be fighting a British war but to demand for independent Irish states. Today, history largely forgotten by many, it serves as one of the main meeting points of the city, quite likely before a walk down Grafton Street for a shopping spree.

Day 309: Silence at Sandymount

I don’t often go out to Sandymount but on a friend’s request to play photographer for an hour or so for shots to be used on his website – honestly, I was nervous and didn’t know if I’d do a decent job of it – I took a leisurely stroll over from Ballsbridge. And on the way, I passed by a deserted Sandymount DART station.

It was rather odd and seeing there weren’t any train coming, I stood smack in the middle of the track and snapped a couple of quick pictures for today (spot the glassy Aviva stadium in the background). Only later, when I spoke to my friends that I got to know that the rail service at that stretch is down. Part of the track collapsed after the massive flood last week and it’s still in reparation process.

Day 308: Peek-a-boo

First, my apologies for this not terribly interesting shot. I was in a bit of a hurry this evening, heading over to Porte Maillot after work. I had a flight to catch, a weekend destination for a short getaway, and a bunch of amazing friends waiting for me across the Celtic Sea.

As I got to Porte Maillot and walking around part of the roundabout just in front of the Palais des Congrès, the Eiffel Tower began to play peek-a-boo with me. Sometimes I saw it, sometimes I didn’t. It was kind of fun, catering to my whimsical mood at that point in time. Perhaps it’s the excitement of what’s to come for the couple of days ahead. In a way, I’m going home…

Day 307: Pont Alexandre III

It seems the end of daylight savings is going to be very challenging for me from now on, at least for the next two months, in getting decent photos for Project 365. And you may be getting a lot of night shots too, which means I really would need to learn how to use and optimise the camera for low-light conditions and start carrying a baby tripod with me everywhere. It’s not the same now compared to earlier in the year, when my movement was not constrained by working hours.

My attempt today was tricky at best. It was slightly drizzly and I have forgotten my tripod. Still, moving on, I took myself towards Invalides and decided it could be nice to try to photograph Pont Alexandre III by night, in the direction of the Grand Palais. As I stood there, the drizzle became progressively heavier but I played on with various settings. I had to pack up when it started to pour. I thought I managed a decent shot but I’m still not particularly happy with this one because it’s not as “crisp” as I’d like it to be.

Day 306: Bookseller

Since I moved here, I’ve seen this bookseller at the main gate of Cité U nearly daily in the evening, either setting up the “stall” by displaying the books on the staircase (there are numerous editions of Petit Prince and in different languages), or chatting with punters (serious or otherwise), or trying to sell packets of tissue paper (10 cents each).

With his latest advertisement hung on the tree, I finally know name his name (Fabien). It has been a tad disconcerting walking past someone who regularly says hi to you but you haven’t a clue of who they are. I admire his tenacity, of staying outside and let fate chose the way things go. I also once saw him leaving in the evening – his bicycle was stacked with more books and he looked almost comical as he pedalled hard to go home for the night.

Day 305: Carrousel

The carrousel is proving to be very popular in this town. Just go to any random corner and I bet there is yet another carrousel standing there, with queues of accompanying parent(s) and their little ones who “weaally, weaally, want to goooo” on the moving vechicles! The operator must be earning a small fortune.

This particular carrousel is found just across the road from the Eiffel Tower. It has proven to be popular not only with the tourists (well, mostly because of their kids) but locals alike. Tickets can normally bought in bulk which comes at discounted price and I’ve seen clever mommies around Paris who dishes out the ticket only one at a time. Time saving when you don’t have to queue up each time, and money saving with the reduced price to bundle of tickets.

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