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Another chapter closed

Happy New Year

I pondered about writing a recap of my 2013, but after a few false starts (text typed, deleted, typed, edited, deleted, typed, deleted again etc), I realised my heart is not in it. How could I? Sitting right next to me is a list of things I have to do in the next 2-3 days, largely because F and I will be moving to a new apartment.

Sometimes, things happened at an incredible speed in Paris. Moving is usually one of them. Mind, apartment-hunting is not. My head is still whirling at the timeline involved: apartment viewing (2 weeks ago), verbal acceptance (a week ago), lease signing (yesterday), inventory visit (this evening), moving day (end of the week). Had we not been away from Paris for the Christmas break, everything could well took place even sooner.

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Project 365 – Week 52

Another round of Project 365 more or less completed, even though we have a couple more days to go to end the year. I’ll put those two photos towards the first week of the next project, so to keep the week running nicely from Monday to Sunday. Still hesitating though over the set up for the new series, and I don’t even have quite as much time as I thought to ponder over it, because F and I are moving to a new apartment and there are tons to do!

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Christmas baubble

23 Dec: While presents that we bought have been safely delivered, they remain unwrapped. Cue: a morning spent covering up gifts with papers that will quickly be shredded into pieces on Christmas day. This glass baubble reminds me of how fragile trees are in our current environment, to be torn down, often without much second thought. I normally do not wrap presents – I’d rather put them in reusable paperbags – but since F’s nieces won’t understand such concept, I make my peace with the wrapping paper use and vow to be more vigiland with my effort to stay green.

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My first French Christmas

On Christmas morning, I woke up to a video of my adorable niece sent by my brother, saying “Ho, ho, ho, mehwy chwistmas”.

It had been a very merry Christmas indeed, and my first experiencing it the French way. My own family doesn’t celebrate Christmas per se, but for one that loves to cook and to eat, it does mean three festive meals (we start with a good Irish roast, followed by a Chinese steamboat, and finally Korean barbecue) with mere few hours break in between. That’s a lot of eating in a single day.

The celebration in France is bound to be different, and in fact, my belle famille doesn’t buy into the overlong meal with extravagant dish after dish in one seating. Instead, we get to spread the feast over two days. A satisfying Christmas eve dinner and a boisterous Christmas day lunch makes the whole experience much more manageable, and I did enjoy my meals a lot more. (Here they are, in pictures.)

Christmas meal

Christmas meal

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Joyeux Noël

I am currently sitting in the living room of my belle famille, to a background of lovely classic and seasonal instrumental music, all set for my first Christmas in France. I’ve taken some photos of Christmas ornaments around the house and of the creche at the corner, although this year we’re doing without a sapin de Noël. No worry, the presents will still appear in a timely manner to reward everyone on their good behaviour this year. ;)

Christmas 2013

Christmas 2013

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Project 365 – Week 51

You know what I’m missing this week? Rushing around to grab last minute presents – I’m impressed with my own efficiency in getting all shopping done and delivered – and packing to travel to Ireland come Friday. Otherwise, instead of the cheese, you’d see flutes of pink champagne in the Shelbourne; instead of The Parisianer artworks, you’d see street lightings displaying Nollaig Shona Duit; instead of the kouglof, you’d probably see slices of Bailey’s cheesecake. Nonetheless, exciting time ahead: my very first French Christmas coming right up!

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Sunset

16 Dec: What a glorious sunset! F was off work today, so we went on a little date in Montmartre. The last time he came up here with me was when we photographed a very snowy Sunday morning in January. We didn’t do too much, just strolling in the neighbourhood, visiting the Sacré-Coeur, peeked about the Christmas market, and then watched the sun set over the City of Light. It sure makes a memorable outing.

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Most read in 2013

I don’t usually pay a lot of attention to my blog stats, but since I noticed a few interesting questions that landed readers to the blog (and planning to write a post on that soon), I thought, why not make a list of ten most read blog posts of 2013? This should also fall nicely into the end-of-year-listicle phenomenon, so this is my minor contribution ;)

A number of general observations: the posts are mostly Paris-related, the number one post had been read more than the other nine combined (just to show how often it has also been searched for people needing such information), and these posts were mostly published in the first half of the year – I suppose those later in the year haven’t got the equal amount of exposure time thus not as widely read yet.

Amiens

10. Daytrip: Paris to Amiens

Since I had a little free time on my hand (and I needed to grab some points for my SNCF frequent traveller status) I went to Amiens for the day to see the famed cathedral and to suss out the city in general. With a journey time of just over an hour, it’s a very do-able day trip from Paris. I wished I had opted for a late return rather than one in the late afternoon, for I lacked time to check out the Hortillonnages.

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Project 365 – Week 50

A couple more weeks to the end of the year, so a couple more weeks to wrapping up this series of Project 365. I’m currently considering if I will proceed with another one next year or not, and if I do, how should I do it? Always the same old dilemma – what should be the theme of the project? Photos of “a step a day”? Photos of colour of the month? Any other suggestion?

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Postcards

9 Dec: I mentioned recently about doors in Paris being varied and relatively unique, and see what I found today – postcards depicting the very thing! I particularly love those with heads of mystic beasts but the simpler ones are not too shabby either. There is no such door knocker for my building though, as the door is a glass one. Perhaps I should start a collection of such photos, hmmm…

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Postcards: Bretagne Nord (FR)

We were not going to be deterred from exploring Bretagne Nord just because the weather was less than cooperative. The initial plan to select a spot for a 4-5 hours trek had to be abandoned though. Our new route was charted: first to Pointe St Mathieu, then over to Le Conquet, and a spin at Plouarzel before coming back to Brest, in time for dinner at a local crêperie.

Bretagne Nord

Bretagne Nord

Pointe St Mathieu is the site of an old abbey of St Mathieu-de-Fine-Terre (thus giving the name to the region – Finistère) besides a lighthouse dated back to 1800s that today forms part of a network of famous lighthouses of the Brittany’s coastline. The abbey, founded in the 6th century, was said to once hold the skull of Saint Matthew and a village sprung up around it, flourishing thanks to the right to exploit the gains from salvaging wrecks. Little trace of the village and its then-needed fortifications remain.

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Project 365 – Week 49

It had been a good week. I finally completed my first MOOCs, after sitting through two exams this week, and there will be a couple more to come in the next fortnight. The weather took a turn for the sunnier side and I’ve been enjoying long walks whenever I could muster the time to. The Christmas shopping is more or less sorted. Swimming progress had been a little slow now that we’re working on correcting my techniques but otherwise it’s good to see some improvements, no matter how small. Of course, plenty of socialising time organised so I get to see people before we all leave for the Christmas break. As I said, a good week.

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Harps

2 Dec: These harps reminded me of Ireland, where it is a state symbol, used in official government correspondence, on the coins, coat of arms and more. It is also used as corporate logo for Guinness, just in the opposite orientation as those of official nature. When I first moved to Ireland, I had not realised the extent of use of the harp in govermental letters, so I was rather confused to see so many letters arriving to my aunt’s from “Guinness”. Took me a few days to figure it out that my aunt didn’t (and doesn’t) have vested interest in Guinness… ;)

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Postcards: Brest (FR)

A looong overdue post, and I hope our friends who hosted us didn’t think I had not enjoyed my trip to Brest, given the lack of related blog entries like it should. I am not entirely sure why I procrastinated; the photos were processed reasonably promptly after our return and we did have a lovely weekend despite the soaking we’d got – it was November and in Brittany afterall.

Brest

Brest

For some reason, I’ve always thought of Brest as being “north” when it is justifiably “west”. In fact, it lies at a latitude southern to that of Paris, a fact I didn’t think was true until I consulted a map properly. The city is an important military port and was pretty much destroyed during the World War II. The city was quickly rebuilt but the buildings very much utilitarian in nature. Sadly, this also means there isn’t a lot of typical Breton charm to be found here.

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Project 365 – Week 48

We enter the last month of the year without much fanfare. I have, afterall, been holed up a good bit at home this week, working on finishing up a few courses on Coursera. Many final assignments are due this week, and as we enter into the exam period, a little revision is in order too. I am happy that the courses have so far gone well (bar the little assignment incident last week), and found them rather interesting to boot too.

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Lady Liberty

25 Nov: On the River Seine, a Lady Liberty stands at the end of the artificial islet of Île aux Cygnes. This sister of the Statue of Liberty in New York stands at 22m, about one-fourth of the statue gifted to America, and they are oriented to face one another across the ocean. I am seeing this more regularly nowadays since it’s located right next to Beaugrenelle, and as we all know, I can’t seem to stay away from M&S Food Hall. She is quite a beauty, isn’t she?

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