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We came, we ate, we went home happy

Growing up, prowling the pasar malam at least once a week for food was pretty much a given. Cheap yet delicious street food easily attracted the throng, and at some stalls, show up late and you can forget about tasting their goods. I miss the hustle and bustle of food preparation by the street, the perfection achieved by stall owners who have run their business for (often) decades. I also often chide my younger self for taking such wonderful thing for granted.

Le Food Market

Le Food Market

With the advent of globalisation, food truck and street food have arrived in Paris, although often with a price tag that had me mentally calculating how much more food I could buy at the same value and I’m not even taking into account currency exchange – just the figure! On the other hand, the joy that I get from reliving my childhood habit is kinda priceless, so who cares if I’m not one of the cool kids and I pay a wee bit more? Luckily, Le Food Market came along.

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A new life for Musée de l’Homme

I never knew Musée de l’Homme in its past incarnation. For as long as I can remember – well, six years apparently – it has been closed for renovation. Unbeknownst to me, I have actually seen a good portion of its (former) collection of Asian, African, American and Oceanian ethnography appropriated to fill the legacy project of a certain Monsieur Chirac. How lucky for Musée du Quai Branly and what uncertain time it left Musée de l’Homme, as its European ethnographic collection was also packed away to Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée (MuCEM) in Marseille.

Musée de l'Homme

Musée de l'Homme

From emptying corridors came opportunity to change its mission. Musée de l’Homme evolved and is making a come back with fresh look and a restart. Housed within Palais de Chaillot, I need not have to emphasise what great view it has of the Eiffel Tower, do I? Thanks to my friend Céline, F and I got a sneak peak of it today before the museum opens its door to the public on Saturday, 17 October, and for the first three days, entry to the museum will be free.

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Jean Paul Gaultier at Grand Palais

I love my museum passes. Main perk? I can drop in to any exhibition I’d like to see at any time and not even have to worry about the queue. Downside? I get complacent and put off certain visits until near the end of the exhibition period. Which was exactly what happened with that of Jean Paul Gaultier – days before it closes!

JPG @ Grand Palais

JPG @ Grand Palais

Admittedly, I had not really planned to go and see it, and was thinking I’d give it a miss. Afterall, I know next to zero about fashion and trends, and with a bunch of things happening in the day-to-day, this exhibition was placed low on the priority list. However, my curiosity was piqued when friends who have seen it found it well-curated, along with a very cryptic hint that it is “special”.

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Enigma of the Convento de Cristo

Strategically placed on a hill and overlooking the town while remaining near to River Nabão, the Castelo de Tomar is an imposing figure, protective over the Convento de Cristo, as both constructed were under the watchful eyes of Gualdim Pais and set to be the seat of the Knights Templar in Portugal. Today a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, the air of mystery is abound within the walls of the castle and the convent, alongside interesting Templar and Manueline architecture – with hints of Moorish and Gothic influence – to feast our eyes upon.

Convento de Cristo

Convento de Cristo

The castle, expectedly, forms the defence system which in the past, secured the Christian Kingdom which was advancing from the north against the Moors which reigned supreme in the south. The outer defensive wall has sloped lower half and round towers to make it more difficult to attack. When the citadel within reached its capacity for residency, dwellings outside the walls were built, which gave rise to Tomar. As you can imagine, it’s now a relatively easy walk between the town and the castle.

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Festa dos Tabuleiros

Every four years, the town of Tomar honours the Holy Spirit. Every four years, for about six months before the Festa dos Tabuleiros (aka Festival of the Trays), households were busy making flowers and leaves from crêpe paper. Every four years, expectant tray bearers put their names onto a list and hope to be a chosen ones. Every four years, the streets are lavishly decorated and there is a certain zing in the air.

Festa dos Tabuleiros

Festa dos Tabuleiros

During each festival, parades are organised where the locals are paired up, age-appropriately, and the girls/ladies carry the tabuleiros on their heads. Typically, for adults, the tabuleiros are approximately the height of the bearer! Built using stacked breads decorated with paper flowers, leaves and oats, often topped with crown and dove or crown with holy cross, the tabuleiros are not very heavy per se but there are certainly some training needed to balance the trays against the elements. (We spotted many who practiced walking with their trays around town, usually in the evening when it was cooler.)

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Palace-hopping in Sintra

I debated if I should write a single (long) post of the palaces we visited in Sintra, or break them down individually. Laziness won. ;)

Palaces of Sintra

Palaces of Sintra

The one really tricky thing task is whittling down the number of photos on this entry, so scroll down for the links to the Flickr photosets if you really want to see them all. Be glad I selected only some 30 photos on average per palace, from the few hundreds I took for each! :p

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A taste of Singapore, in Paris

Something caught my eye when I clicked through this week’s Paris event listing. Did it say there’s a small Singaporean street food market at the Berges de Seine for a few days? I immediately forwarded the article to Wee Ling and managed to persuade F that we should check it out. He agreed. *Happy dance*

Saveurs de Singapour

Saveurs de Singapour

I arrived just ahead of my meeting time with F, so I scoped around to see what’s there. A tent from which you get your food vouchers from – purchase strictly by cash so find an ATM beforehand! – followed by a few tents where food were served from, and a large tent as “main kitchen” I guess. And I spotted signs reading “satay”, “chicken rice”, “bak kut teh”, “Indian mee goreng” and “bandung/chendol”. Starting to get hungry!

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Postcards: Panthéon Paris (FR)

As a mausoleum goes, the Panthéon is a gorgeous one. Recently, four heroes and heroines of the Resistance were newly interred by the President of the Republic – although two of them were symbolic interments – and as part of the celebration, the Panthéon was free to visit over a few days. We took advantage of it to visit the building itself, rather than jostling through the long queues at the crypt.

Panthéon

Panthéon

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Nationalmuseet: peeking into the Viking’s past

My ignorance about the history of Denmark (and Scandinavian countries) shows. Sure, we have this notion of Viking Age that reigned supreme, and I don’t know about you, but I have embarassingly little knowledge of Danes’ cultural identity, their nation, their kinship, etc. We popped in to the National Museum of Denmark, hoping to learn a few more things, and then we were duly lured by the bright sunshine outside to leave… Terrible, I know.

NMD

NMD

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SMK: a remarkable collection of art

When you live in a city like Paris, spoilt for choice of museums that each has its own niche collection, it is actually refreshing to visit the Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen, where seven hundred years of art can be found under one roof. Each room we stepped in has its broad theme, some pieces bearing familiar names while others form new lessons in (European) art for me. They made me yearn for some free time to follow an art history class…

SMK

SMK

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Musée de l’Histoire de l’Immigration

What is the common denominator between an immigrant, an expatriate, a foreigner, an alien and a non-citizen? Me. And countless others like me. We who fit the aforementioned, albeit with situations that vary in thousand shades of paperwork grade. Time and time again, the debate, in particular the pitting of an immigrant against an expatriate, can be painfully divisive. Just search for “immigrant vs expat” and you’ll see all kind of perception attached to these words, of social standing, origin, wealth, skin colour, intention. The fight is ugly.

Museum of Immigration History

Museum of Immigration History

The topic of immigration is a sensitive one and the question of integration has been contentiously thrashed out, in public and in private alike. At times of economic hardship, the subject is paraded – not only in France, mind – like an evil which must be stopped (UKIP’s Nigel Farage would like everyone to go back to where they came from, thank you very much) and the rhetorics filled with “selected truths”. My visit over the weekend to the Musée de l’Histoire de l’Immigration (i.e. Museum of Immigration History) was therefore an interesting one, one where I get to explore briefly the stories of the people who make France the nation it is today.

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Four years and a semi marathon

Semi Paris 2015

I woke up yesterday morning with thousands of butterflies in my stomach. What was I thinking when I signed up for the semi marathon of Paris? Me, the fair-weather jogger who had just indulged in two weeks of holiday diet and last ran exactly four weeks to the day, never mind the fact that I’ve never yet completed a distance further than 12-13K, top! I nearly crawled right back into bed and stayed under the cosy duvet with my Kindle.

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Jeff Koons – a retrospective

File this under “arts I do not understand”.

I was at Centre Pompidou with S to check out the retrospective exhibition on Jeff Koons, famed for its balloon dogs. As usual, I entered into the exhibition rather naively and knowing next to nothing about the artist. I feel reading up too much about an artist tends to colour one’s judgement since the articles will inevitably contain praises and criticisms; I like forming my own opinion without voices of others in my head.

Jeff Koons

Jeff Koons

What an eclectic mix of work. Sure enough, there was the giant balloon dog about half-way through the exhibition, but the retrospective began with a series of work “Pre-New” and “The New” based on vacuum cleaners (huh?) and advertisements. I was, simply put, confused. The section on “Banality” contains mostly porcelain-based sculptures, including a rather creepy one of MJ with his monkey. Right-io. Next came “Celebration”, which is prettier and happier, with balloons, heart, and more balloons.

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Hokkien New Year

I know, it’s getting confusing. First there’s the Chinese New Year, which some also dubbed Lunar New Year and Spring Festival, which falls on the same day as the Vietnamese New Year (“Tet”). Then, separately, the ethnic group known as the Hokkiens (or Fujians) celebrate their particular new year on the 9th day of Chinese New Year in a ceremony that’s known as Bai Ti Gong. That’s literally “Praying to the Heavenly God”, and it occurs on his birthday.

Hokkien New Year

Hokkien New Year

My family mostly identifies ourselves as Hokkiens, following matrilineal practice passed down by my (paternal) great-grandmother. Funny that, considering my great-grandfather was actually Henghua yet pretty much nobody in the family speaks this dialect at all following the passing of my grandfather. Notwithstanding, both ethnic groups originated from the same region in China. I suspect there’s a lot more to know about family history if I am to really dig into it, but to keep things simple, I’m first and foremost a Hokkien, with a touch of Peranakan from Penang.

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Reunion of the departed

Much has been said about the importance of family reunion dinner during Chinese New Year. However, within certain ancestor-worship practicing family, the reunion of the departed is equally important. We were taught to remember our ancestors, to invite them home on special occasions, and to share festivals with their spirits.

CNY preparation

CNY preparation

This Chinese New Year also noticeably marks my first ancestor prayer session where my grandfather now sat among the departed, while everyone else had had time to get used to it in the past couple of years. In the past, he would be the one cooking up a storm in the kitchen and prepared the reunion meal. I kept expecting to see him by the large wok, tipping in all kind of ingredients and served up dish after dish in quick succession.

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At the joss paper store

For the third time in seventeen years, I travel home to celebrate Chinese New Year. Usually, I keep my visits to the summer months, when I could take extended time off without too much difficulty, but upon my grandmother’s request, I’m back for two weeks and pretty much entirely at her disposal.

CNY preparation

CNY preparation

In the run up to the Chinese New Year celebration and the preparation for family reunion dinner (and prayer), I accompanied her to a local joss paper store to stock up decorative items for the house as well as some supplies, like joss sticks, prayer papers, candles, “money” for the dead “in the Kingdom of Helheim” no less! It’s all part and parcel of the culture, but sometimes I feel guilty about all these burnings of offerings considering the dire state of our environment…

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Niki de Saint Phalle

We made a last ditch effort to catch the exhibition of Niki de Saint Phalle at the Grand Palais today. My colleague S saw it recently and absolutely loved it. I don’t know anything about Saint Phalle, except some of her sculptures are permanently installed by the Centre Pompidou and her style of work is so distinctive that I immediately recognised it when I saw “La Tempérance” in Luxembourg City.

(Note to self: I should write about Luxembourg City one of these days, as this blog contains only two measly P365 posts about it.)

Niki de St Phalle

Niki de St Phalle

I had expected to see more of her characteristic colourful and bountiful figures, and I ended up getting to know a lot more about the artist – sculptor, painter, filmmaker; the sources of inspiration – albeit painful ones in some cases – of her works; and some very personal story brought forth to the surface. I learned that art was “a way of taming those dragons which have always appeared in [her] work” and she wanted “to show everything; [her] heart, [her] emotions”.

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The perks of museum passes

Let me just put it out there – if anyone ever feel like giving me something but not sure what makes a good gift, one of the sure things would be an annual museum pass. It doesn’t matter if it’s a solo or a duo card – although the latter is handy to bring F or a friend with me – as long as I get to enjoy the many different exhibitions around town. ;)

Museum passes

Some of the perks attached to these passes?
– No queuing to enter a museum nor its exhibition(s)
– Share the joy of museum visits without queuing (with duo card)
– Multiple visits to interesting (temporary) exhibitions
– Discounts for purchases at the gift shop
– Discounts for guided visits or exhibition conferences
– Free/discounted tickets of affiliated sites/museums
– Free/discounted tickets to linked/special events

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Trolling Fox (Faux) News

Life in Paris – and France – is gradually returning to the norm in the aftermath of the shootings at Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher. In this past week, enormous queues had been spotted all over Paris at newsstands, everyone eager to get their hands on a copy of the survival issue of Charlie Hebdo, currently printed at a phenomenon number (5 million copies!) and being doled out to the newsstands like ration during tough times. The first mornings, they sold out rapidly and disappointed folks were told to return the next day after they were restocked.

Charlie Hebdo

I found myself standing in a queue on the third morning, fulfilling a request that came from abroad just the previous evening, and snagged the third last copy at my local newsstand. Not that I read it though; we had never read Charlie Hebdo before and were not particularly pushed in starting anyway. The copy got duly posted away and I hope it won’t disappear in transit. Anyway, this is less interesting than the skirmish between Le Petit Journal and Fox Faux News.

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Postcards: Louvre (FR)

While going through my stash of photos taken last year – way too many of them! – so I can select a few for printing, I noticed I’ve a good few photos taken while I was at the Louvre or in the vicinity. There are probably more lost in some of the folders that I don’t have time to give much scrutiny to…

Louvre

Louvre

I must admit that I don’t go there as often as I’d like to because I’m not a fan of the massive crowd that jostles to get in and see only the “highlights” when there are so many other gems to look out for. I make special efforts to go there, however, when I get to go on THATLou hunt with Daisy. Now, she’s the woman who knows it inside out! ;)

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Occupy Central with Love and Peace

It is difficult to walk around central Hong Kong and not run into the occupy protestors, with their tents and living areas pitched on a number of streets around Causeway Bay, Mong Kok and Admiralty. The Umbrella Movement valiantly stood their grounds, but alas, their courageous protests and occupations were brought to an end last week. It is a complex socio-political issue and one which I don’t have enough knowledge to discuss, so all I can offer are a few photos, guiltily taken, during the week I was in Hong Kong.

Occupy Central

Occupy Central

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Fondation Louis Vuitton

When you are wealthy and could dictate the kind of legacy that will bear your (brand) name, why not hire Frank Gehry to build a museum with unique vessel-like architecture in the splendid setting of the Bois de Boulogne?

Fondation Louis Vuitton, opened with great fanfare and ticket giveaways last weekend, will house art works from Bernard Arnault’s personal collection as well as those owned by the LVMH group. In return for the permission to erect this monumental building, its ownership will be transferred to the city of Paris in 55 years.

Fondation Louis Vuitton

Fondation Louis Vuitton

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La Chasse aux Trésors de Paris 2014

How time flies. It felt like yesterday when we went treasure hunting for the lost love of Erasme, but here we are, set for another adventure. Keen, as usual, to explore different neighbourhoods, we took up the inter-arrondissements challenge that started from the Mairie of the 13th. We even reinforced the team with two new treasure hunters!

It seems Erasme had somehow lost his true love, again. Seriously, how often can a man be so careless? Once careless, forgiveable; twice, starting to be a bit ho-hum; thrice? He’d better had a good reason for it! This time though, he’s convinced his love is trapped in the written world, and as it was “raining books” overnight, the clues are hidden in the pages scattered about town. Allons-y!

Treasure hunt 2014

Treasure hunt 2014

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Wine and cheese tasting evening

As a newbie, I had much to learn at work. It is not unusual to see me still typing away or poring over documents at my desk when most of my colleagues leave for the day. I miss wandering the streets of Paris leisurely on my way home, since I’m cutting it pretty close nowadays to be back in time to prepare dinner. Well, a girl (and her partner) has got to eat, you know.

When I received an invitation from Imogen of Native Native a couple of weeks ago, asking if I would like to participate in a wine and cheese tasting evening that she was organising, my inner foodie wiggled a happy dance. “Oh yes, please!” (My inner busy bee did nag a little…)

Cheese tasting evening

Cheese tasting evening

Native Native aims to bring expat bloggers together for tailored events that introduce what’s new and innovative in France. For its June blogger event, it had partnered up with Les Nouveaux Fromagers and took us to the gorgeous tasting room of Ô-Chateau. F was just that bit envious when I told him about this tasting evening. I love cheeses and (certain) wines, but he’s an even bigger fan of these (proof: he’s 100% French) than me!

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Cook’n with Class

Thanks to a recent-ish Easter egg hunt over at Savoir Faire Paris, I won a spot on Cook’n with Class French desserts session. I duly made my way to Montmartre one Saturday afternoon, met three other fellow bakers (of which one was a fellow countryman – talk about a small world!) and started working under the guidance of Chef Pino, a wiry Italian with a passion for food, of course.

Cook'n with Class

Cook'n with Class

In the gleaming kitchen, we went through the work plan for the afternoon. In a short few hours, we were going to make five different classic French desserts – moelleux au chocolat, strawberry and chocolate roulade, crème brûlée, (reconstructed) tarte au citron and choux puffs – and in the order they were listed, due to some refrigeration time needed for some of these. Most of the ingredients were already weighed out and prepared ahead of the class, so we were able to efficiently churn out one dessert after another.

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Recently, at the Grand Palais

We are terrible at keeping up with exhibitions. Never mind that we have annual passes that allow us to visit on multiple occasions throughout the period of the exhibitions. Instead, we typically wait till a good portion of the periods is over, then either rushed through them or risked missing them altogether. Currently, in the Grand Palais, two exhibitions are taking place: both started in early May, with one ending in about a week and another in 3 weeks. Armed with our Carte Sésame, we headed over one evening this week.

Exhibition at Grand Palais

The installation of Monumenta this year is by Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Russian-born artists, who brought us “The Strange City”. Indeed it is a peculiar one, for even by the main entryway, a large probe-like installation beamed changing colours amidst strange music, if you can call it that. And scattered in a few other “rooms”, there are wood carvings of flying angels and weird city layouts. Neither F nor I know what to make of these.

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Observing Paris from La Grande Roue

Or, how to mend a spirit challenged by the darker side of life.

Friday morning started out extremely windy – Anne lost her skylight window in the process! – and somewhat wet, but by late morning, the clouds had been swiftly blown away too, leaving clear blue sky that made me yearned to be out and about. The unfortunate incident from the previous day still weighed me down a little, so the want of fresh air became even more urgent.

F indulged me on my whim and off we went to Parc Georges Brassens for a most delicious bo bun, bahn mi and an Asian version of creamed rice dessert from the Camion BOL. We followed it up first with a visit to Grand Palais for Depardon’s exhibition, then taking a turn at La Grande Roue on Place de la Concorde. Cue: more vantage photos of Paris!

La Grande Roue

La Grande Roue

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It sparkles at Cartier

Hurrah, I finally got round to getting my Grand Palais Sésame 2013/2014 pass! The first exhibition I saw with my all-access pass was that of Cartier, slated to run until 16 February 2014 in the Salon d’Honneur.

I am not one who’s particularly interested in sparkly and expensive jewellery, but still curious enough to want to see what makes others gasp with joy given the beauty of gems and precious metals set into decorative items, both wearable and non-wearable. It is also always interesting to learn the role that Cartier plays in the history of decorative arts, and to take a brief look into the creative process behind some of the exhibited pieces. I must say I still don’t know the topic sufficiently well to try to write about it, but I have some photos that I can certainly share with you.

Cartier

Cartier

Cartier

Cartier

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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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It’s not all about chocolate

This may sound odd but I am off chocolate. I am not entirely sure how it comes about, just that I eat a whole lot less of them (or none at all for extended period) and I am no longer tempted to buy them regularly either. On the other hand, F is chomping in chocolate on a daily basis, at just about every main meal of the day. I reckon he’s eating enough chocolate for the two of us in any case. And yes, we have a stock of chocolate tablets at home to sustain his habit (and this is just about all the chocolate I pick up nowadays).

So when Salon du Chocolat came rolling into town this week, I debated. Nearly an annual pilgrimage for me, I hemmed and hawed about going this year. I probably would have skipped it had my childhood friend not been in town and curious about this large gathering of chocolate vendors and other purveyors of sweet goodies. :)

Salon du Chocolate 2013

Salon du Chocolate 2013

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