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Project 365 – Week 30

I’m beginning to think every week is a crazy week somehow. It’s the same ol’ complaint: so much to do, so little time. Clearly I haven’t yet figure out how to stop the time-drain that I bemoaned about a fortnight ago… On a more positive note, I’m getting a couple of sightseeing days in Brittany next weekend when I’m in the region for my friends’ wedding. Frankly, I’m superstoked about the prospect of this getaway, even if it’s a very short one!

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Wall-E

22 Jul: Last year, thanks to a promo, I got myself an annual pass to the Disneyland Paris. However, after that one visit with my siblings – where I didn’t go on a single rollercoaster ride – I haven’t been back until now. My inner child certainly loved this day out, squeeing in joy, humming repetitive songs, and making impressions of Eeeeee-vaaaaa and Waaaaaall-Eeeeeee. I finally tried a few of the newer rides that were not there before from, I don’t know, 2004, when I last really ran around Disneyland from one ride to another. Crush’s Coaster in my new favourite ride ;)

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Caldera, volcano and hot spring

As we didn’t have a few hundred of spare euro to throw around (i.e. rent a private boat) so we can tour the caldera and climb the volcanic island of Nea Kameni, F and I had booked ourself a Caldera Morning guided tour that technically would last for most of the days. We waited at an assigned location in Fira to be picked up by a bus that would transfer us to the port to catch the boat, together with a good number of other fellow visitors.

10.30am… 11.00am… 11.30am… 11.45am…

It’s an understatement to say that we were getting antsy. So far, we’ve seen busload after busload of cruise ship passengers arriving for their tour of Fira. Our bus? Nope, not a shadow. It was while in conversation with a French couple then that we got to know that tours on Wednesday mornings always run late, by a good hour, thanks to the arriving cruise ships. Of course, the travel agency would not tell you that, unless you go by the same morning and ponder over tour booking. This is when you get the utmost assurance that it’s not too late to catch that day’s tour due to this little delay. Riiiiight.

Caldera morning tour

Caldera morning tour

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An afternoon walk from Firá to Oia

Sometimes, I question my sanity. For someone who grew up near the equator with the benefits of fans and air-conditioning everywhere, a three-hour walk in the middle of the day is simply unthinkable. However, plant me long enough in Europe (especially after a very long and cold winter, followed by a very wet and chilly spring) and what do you know, I cheerfully agreed to walk from Firá to Oia under the scorching Santorinian afternoon sun.

The walk actually took longer than three hours. Whoever who wrote this little snippet of information on Wikitravel must have either just copied it from somewhere and not did the walk, or used to doing a lot of walking on a hot day, or forgotten to add a little addendum that this is the time required if starting from the cable car station in Firá. If you’re starting near the bus station and/or plan to do a lot of photo stops, it’s best to add another hour or so. (Note: I am no couch potato and normally walk a good bit in Paris.)

Day-walk from Fira to Oia

Day-walk from Fira to Oia

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The 300 steps of Tour St Jacques

For a very long time, the Tour St Jacques (i.e. St James’ Tower) had been under scaffolds for restoration works. It wasn’t until shortly before my move to Paris that it emerged cleaned and repaired to the eyes of the public. However, access to the tower itself remained elusive. No more. Between 5 July and 15 September this summer, every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, visitors can ascend this former bell tower to the church of St-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie via some 300 spiral stairs to the open summit, but only if you are quick enough to book a spot among the 136 per day.

Dedicated to St James, the detroyed church and its tower form part of the landmarks on the French pilgrimage route of El Camino de Santiago. This tower that measures about 12m by 12m in base dimension and attains 62m in height (including that of the statue of St James on its pedestal) is the sole structure within the heart of Paris where a complete 360° panoramic view is on offer. A summer day blighted by heatwave may be unappealing as a day to work those gluts and go all the way up, but the effort is richly rewarded.

Tour St Jacques

Tour St Jacques

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Project 365 – Week 29

What a scorcher of a week. With temperature hitting high 20s and pushing into 30s, we are pretty much melting in the city. I guess most of Europe is really not equipped for dealing with such high temperature. In UK, roads were melting! This is the time that reminds me just how amazing the inventions of fans and air-conditioners are. And freezer to keep ice cubes.

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St Sulpice

15 Jul: Passing through St Sulpice in the evening is one of F’s favourite thing to do in Paris. He shuns the cathedral of Notre Dame (and its accompanying crowd), preferring instead to gaze at St Sulpice bathed in the shades of red and orange, and with just a handful few passerby, perhaps a few who also linger and happily sit on the benches surrounding the square in front of the church. The sound of the water from the Fontaine St Sulpice is calming, making us feel like we’re somewhere else and not in the busiest city in France.

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T-rex on Seine

Some amazing photos have surfaced online of a full-scale T-rex sculpture in Paris and encouraged by Mags to check it out (met with an enthusiastic yes by Jesper to search for it together), I headed down along the River Seine to Pont d’Alma yesterday evening. The T-rex hunt was made easy thanks to mentions of Bateaux Mouches on some of the photos because otherwise, it would be bloody hard work under the hot sun. This chrome dinosaur is, how do I put it, not exactly soaring over the River Seine.

French photographer Anthony Gelot had done a phenomenal work in capturing the beauty of this sculpture by Philippe Pasqua along with *the* Parisian landmark, there’s no doubt about it. However, the articles I’ve read with hyperbolic claims along the likes of “larger-than-life installations”, “soaring” and “towering” had me expecting something epic. On seeing it in person, I mentally kicked myself for not managing my expectation better. At a frame size of 3m by 6m, it’s safe to say I have seen many more magnificent real skeletons of T-rex (including Sue in the Field Museum, Chicago) and this pales in comparison. Nonetheless, it made an interesting subject to photograph and we started clicking away.

T-rex on the Seine

T-rex on the Seine

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Project 365 – Week 28

I am pondering, how is it that I seem to have less time to do everything that I want to do when the reality is that I should have more time? Have I taken on too much for myself to handle, or am I becoming less efficient nowadays, or what? I feel like I need to sit down and devise a better system for my personal research project but at the same time worry that this would be an even bigger time blackhole than how it already is. Tough.

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Carrot cupcakes

8 Jul: It has been a while since I baked. For my friend’s house-moving yesterday, I decided to whip up a large batch of carrot cupcakes to remember the day by, and to also feed the helpers who were set to shift her belongings some 900m away to the new apartment. To up the nuttiness ante, I used chopped hazelnut instead of the usual walnut. Topped it up with some cream cheese icing and we were good to go – gnom, gnom. These two were the last of the cupcakes when it occurred to me that I should at least take a photo or two!

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Dimension, Perception and Illusion at DYNAMO

You could say we were a wee bit late to the party. Grand Palais has been hosting DYNAMO since early April, and yet we have just been able to make a trip over to check it out this week. It’s like arriving when the last call for a drink had just been announced. Nonetheless, as one would say, better late than never.

Modern art, as a subject, often baffles me. If it had not been for Joan Miró – I felt an instant connection the first time I saw his work in Tate Modern, London – I doubt that I would even make an effort to try to understand modern art. DYNAMO explores the concept behind “a century of light and movement”, often involving an interpretation that combines dimension, perception and illusion, in a really fun way. Have a look.

DYNAMO Exhibition

DYNAMO Exhibition

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Postcards: The Venetian Museum of Náxos (GR)

The story of the Venetian Museum in Náxos is a fascinating one. Housed in a stone tower that is legacy of the Della Rocca-Barrozi family, the museum was founded and is curated by Nikos Karavias, descendant of the afore-mentioned Franco-Venetian noble houses on his maternal side, and of Cretan rebel against foreign occupiers on his paternal side. If you would like to know a little more of this Franco-Venetian-Greek family, you’d do well to read this article from the Levantian Heritage website.

We went on a guided tour of the tower house, consists of a main living area, a couple of bedrooms (with hidden access to other levels in the tower), a kitchen/dining area, a library/study, a private chapel, as well as a cellar/prison, and a courtyard. We were regaled with tales about different members of the family, pointed out significance of certain objects on display, and of course, treated to the harbour views from the tower. I’ll let the photos take you through parts of our guided visit.

Venetian Museum of Naxos

Venetian Museum of Naxos

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Project 365 – Week 27

Paris is greeted by sunshine, going into the second half of the year. Hurrah! Sure, there were intermittent clouds and grey sky this week, but blue is becoming prominent too. A massive dose of sunshine is also due our way in the coming days, so to “celebrate” I’ve been exploring around town a bit more than I have been in the past few weeks. We also hosted a couple of visitors early in the week so they were brought to just about all of the main sights possible within the time constraint.

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La Maison Rose

1 Jul: The village of Montmartre is undoubtedly busier than usual, but there are still quiet corners to be found. La Maison Rose (i.e. The Pink House) is located right around the corner from the Montmartre Museum and the last vineyard of Montmartre, and the streets nearby could easily take you away from the crowds. A few steps in and you’ll find yourself pretty much on your own, basking in the fact that you’re still in Paris but it feels far, far away from the madding crowd.

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La Chasse aux Trésors de Paris 2013

A city-wide trasure hunt – why not?

The Mairie de Paris hosted its 8th edition of Chasse aux Trésors on Saturday 6 July and for once, I was around to play! It is a brilliant initiative to discover Paris better, as each hunt is set to cover the streets, parks, shops and other nooks and corners of participating arrondissements. A total of 13 arrondissements were up for adventures this year, and there were also 2 inter-arrondissement challenges to be had. Intimate knowledge of the arrondissements is not necessary. In fact, it’s even better if you don’t know it well already!

The clue sheets were to be collected between 10am and 1pm, and the hunt completed by 3.30pm. No other time limitation imposed otherwise. Teamed together with Anne and Chloé, we signed up to discover one of the inter-arrondissement trails. We had no idea before hand on where we were going, just that we should retrieve our treasure hunting clues at the Mairie of the 3rd arrondissement. This year, we were to help Erasme recover the name of his long-lost lover, guided by the Oracle. I just want to share some photos from our hunt, and hover over them for descriptions extracted from our clue sheets.

La Chasse aux Trésors 2013

La Chasse aux Trésors 2013

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Chóra, Hora or Náxos Town?

The island of Naxos is the largest among the Cycladic islands and lies within the heart of the archipelago. With over 60 villages scattered around the island, there are much for visitors to see and to do. However, when you are short in time – in our case, we had mere 2 days – then it’s better to play it smart and stay put in Chóra. Or Hora. Or Náxos town. (Hint: they refer to the same place.)

The ferry from Athens-Piraeus to Naxos takes about 6 hours through the vast Aegean Sea and the first sight that greeted us near the port was the Gate of Apollo, also known as Portara. This large marble gate dated back to approximately 500 BC is the remaining structure of a temple dedicated to Apollo, standing tall but alone on the islet of Palatia. The temple was never completed, but the remnant of what was the intended dimension can be seen. Naxos town from here is also a very pretty sight.

Naxos

Portara

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Postcards: Sunsets in Oia (GR)

Santorini is one of the most beautiful islands that I’ve been. After wistfully going through photo albums of several friends who visited this very Cyclades island last year, I decided to push it up high on my priority list as well as into my 101 goals list, which is met by F’s approval. It is a very popular holiday destination, and there are good reasons for it – picturesque villages, friendly locals, ease of communications, delicious food (and wine), fascinating (geological) history, sunny weather, intense sunset – take your pick.

The village of Oia (pronounced “ee-yah”, not “oy-yah”; also written as Ia) is the one spot everyone seem to converge come every evening. There are other view points on the island for beautiful sunset, but between various recommendations (and a good dose of clever tourism marketing I guess), Oia becomes *the* prime sunset-watching spot. We tried to photograph the sunset – something not particularly easy as we attempted to master our new camera – from various points of Oia and not just where everyone goes. It does get uncomfortably crowded with everyone clamouring for the perfect view of the sunset!

Sunset in Oia

Sunset in Oia

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