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Parisian autumn

A crispy autumn day is perfect for exploring Paris. The natural light is softer, the colours of the leaves brighter. It is neither too warm nor too chilly to remain outside. There is a certain spring to the step, so to speak. Last weekend, we retraced the route from our apartment to Montsouris.

Paris

Paris

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Hidden Paris: Square de Montsouris

On our way towards Parc Montsouris and Cité U recently, F and I traversed avenue Reille into a small street just off the Réservoirs de Montsouris. We entered what could only be described as the most beautiful Parisian countryside. Don’t get me wrong; there are other charming places within Paris, including Villa Santos-Dumont and the Thermopyles, but neither rivalled the exquisite Square de Montsouris. (We’ll explore the few other luscious streets nearby another time.)

Square de Montsouris

Square de Montsouris

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Hidden Paris: from Pernety to Alésia

Let’s continue to explore Paris, the parts that are seemingly hidden but actually just right there, quite easy to miss. They don’t boast Hausmannian buildings that we are familiar with, but retain the charm of small, green streets, with very little traffic passing by. Today, we take a peek into rue des Thermopyles, Cité Bauer, and rue du Moulin Vert. Just three streets, nestled in between Pernety and Alésia in the 14th arrondissement.

rue des Thermopyles

rue des Thermopyles

When we last looked at Villa Santos-Dumont, I briefly mentioned the name Chauvelot. We’re revisiting this name, which is today honoured through rue Chauvelot that is mere minutes walk away from Villa Santos-Dumont, for without him, we may not have rue des Thermopyles today. Alexandre Chauvelot was a successful real estate developer in his time, and had contributed towards the growth of the neighbourhood around Vaugirard, Pernety/Plaisance, Vanves, and Montrouge. Part of the old village of Plaisance, what we find on rue des Thermopyles is a narrow, picturesque lane, seemingly a favourite spot for photoshoots.

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Les Pipelettes, café-épicerie

While breakfast meeting is a rare occurence for me, I found myself at Les Pipelettes, bright and early, to brainstorm with fellow volunteers of a scientific outreach programme on this year’s activities that promote collaborative works between high school students in Paris and in Turin. How apt, that we met in a café which name means the chatterboxes, since we chatted for a good couple of hours before wrapping it all up.

Our breakfast was very French, with most of us ordering a “get out of the bed” menu that consisted of a hot drink (hot chocolate with salted caramel for me please!), tartine with beurre Bordier and a basil-based jam (surprisingly good mix of sweet and savoury), and a juice (a combo of carrot, apple and ginger). The service was efficient and friendly, and we felt very much at ease, as if we were working from the home of a friend.

Les Pipelettes

Les Pipelettes

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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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Project 365 – Week 47

I guess it’s the season. Christmas decorations are starting to crop up all over the city, and shop windows are also being changed for a twist of seasonal cheers and a few touches of festive glitters. I’m starting to look into my list of Christmas gifts to get, and in the next days orders shall be made online. This way, gifts can be delivered directly to my in-laws’ (where I’ll be spending Christmas this year) and I would not have a million and one thing to carry in the train. Win-win.

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Door grill

18 Nov: Doors of Paris can be impressively ornated. Solid timber doors with its various knockers, glass doors framed by stylised lines, metal grills with classic motifs like this one above. While cherubs are adorable and make fine adornment, my favourite is to see two side of the grills with couple looking at each other, the man at the centre of one side of the grill, and the woman at the centre of the other side. Come to think of it, I should photograph such pair one of these days, so I can share it here.

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Project 365 – Week 16

This has been a week full of sunshine and bright sky, and the occasional downpour hasn’t dampened the mood at all. I find myself taking a lot more pictures than I normally would; as Sarah pointed out a few days ago, everything looks better with the sun. Without further ado, the photos from week no 16 of the year.

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La Tour Montparnasse

15 May: Not a lot of people have love for the Tour Montparnasse. It is deemed ugly, and Parisians normally joke that the best view in Paris is the one from the top of the tower, as this is the only place one doesn’t see the tower itself. Yes, it is out of place given the architectural style of the buildings in the surrounding, but I don’t think it should be so villified. Besides, for me, this is great for giving people direction on where my neighbourhood is. “See that tall tower over there? I live just around the corner from it.”

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Project 365 – Week 11

This week’s selection of photos is perhaps one of the most eclectic yet. Some day, I have so much to choose from it’s actually hard to figure which to include for this weekly project round-up. Other day, limited option as I shot something on the go quickly. Then of course there were the two days of snow, but I have other non-snowy photos to share for those days, just so you’re not tired of seeing snowy pictures on this blog again.

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Parisian cafe window

11 March: Oooooo hot beverages… After the wonderfully warm Saturday, the weather turned rainy on Sunday evening and cooooold on Monday. Snow had arrived on the northern parts of the country, so it was just a matter of time before it made its way to Ile-de-France. Nothing like a cuppa something warm to keep one going. And at home, I even have a supply of Horlick’s now thanks to a friend who gifted a jar to me.

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Project 365 – Week 9

Another gear has kicked in at work and the next two months will be full-throttle busy. I’m not yet sure how it will affect this project, but don’t be surprised if the photos are shot mostly between places I pass between home and lab instead of other Parisian neighbourhoods. The blame for lack of leisure reading now sits squarely on work too. I’m doing so much project-related reading that I have little wish to read more while at home…

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Paris snowy rooftop

25 Feb: It snowed overnight so first thing I did upon arriving at work this morning was to head straight for the top floor of the building. As it was still snowing at that time, the view was not as crisp and clear as I’d like. You could just about make out where the Eiffel Tower and the dome of the Invalides are in the shot. Oh how I wish I have an office on this floor of the building…

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Project 365 – Week 3

If week 2 has been a tough one, motivation-wise, week 3 of Project 365 was the opposite. Thanks to a couple of late visits to catch temporary exhibitions that were closing, I found myself allocating some extra time before hand to grab some night photos. I also discovered unlikely photography spot from the very building I work in (!!!) and of course, there was the snowy weekend to round it up prettily.

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Grand Palais by night

14 Jan: It was the final evening of Bohèmes at the Grand Palais. Really, you’d think with a Sésame+, Frédéric and I would have seen this a couple of months back. But no, we kept delaying it. Frédéric even went to see Hopper thrice in the mean time. Just before joining the queue, I hied myself over the Pont Alexandre III to see if I would get a decent photo of the Grand Palais by night. Not bad, right?

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Project 365 – Week 1

In 2012, I took a break from Project 365 after running it for a couple of years – that of 2010 as a personal project known to a handful few friends, and that of 2011 hosted on this very blog itself. During the break, I found myself spending significantly less time exploring parts of Paris which I don’t yet know well, which is a shame really.

It’s time to be more pro-active again, and hopefully with Project 365, I’ll get that extra dose of motivation to be out and about, particularly when it is dark/wet/dull outside and certain neighbourhoods lie just a little far/inconvenient to reach from where I am. Instead of updating photo daily, I will do so as a weekly photo blog post. Enjoy!

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Tour Eiffel from Centre Pompidou

30 Dec: Nico was visiting us and we took the opportunity to hit Dalí retrospective at the Centre Pompidou. We took advantage of late night opening hours to avoid long queues, and while waiting to enter, we were treated to the beautiful view of Paris by night. Eiffel Tower quite easily dominated the skyline.

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Day 340: Crazy ciggie totem?

The totem sculptures thing are just too funny. I’ve seen them around each time I go to/fro my tango classes, but I never quite figure them out. I’m also too lazy to check if there is any description of these totems nearby. My imagination runs wild and what I perceived are some colourful ciggies in the guise of totems. And it’s not even commercial ciggies but home-rolled.

I’ve finalised everything at Cité U today, handed back my keys and all. It’s so strange to see the studio apartment like how it was eight months ago. It’s as if I’ve never been there even. The cleaning lady of my floor was nice, wishing me good luck and approving that the apartment is in good order. Funny there was no état des lieux being held though. Just a quick glance through.

Day 336: Winter sunshine

This is a bit poignant. As I stand here at the window (of my bathroom), I realise this is the last time I get to enjoy this afternoon sunshine from this viewpoint. This time tomorrow, I would be busy unpacking over at my new apartment, taking that one step closer to playing the role of a Parisienne. Still an imposter, but maybe less? I still have much to learn on how to be a true Parisienne.

Those little lanes down there has been part of my jogging route since early this summer, so I will miss having such vast green space literally at my backyard. While the new apartment is slightly closer to work and very central (with Pierre Hermé now a mere 5 minutes walk away), it is a good bit of a way out for me before I hit any green area to do a spot of jogging. Oh well… I’m sure I’ll get adjusted soon enough.

For now, goodbye Cité U.

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 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 296: Auto Passion

I don’t normally go to a bar at 10am, least to say on a Sunday morning at that too. Today is an exception. My friends and I need a place to watch the Rugby World Cup final match between host New Zealand and the challenger France. Our original intended location had problem with their tv set so there was a small frantic search for a new place nearby and quickly.

We found a bar that is quite sports-themed, in particular, motorsports. It doesn’t really matter, as long as there are live broadcast of the match. But during the break, I surveyed around. It is a rather impressive interiors that they’ve got here, complete with even a car right smack in the middle of the bar. In a city where space is at a premium all the time, this form of use of space is unusual, but I guess that’s also what makes it special. They’ve definitely got the passion for all thing auto.

Day 288: Sunny at Montsouris

Perhaps the autumn weather is not as bad as I thought. I can manage grey skies during the week while I’m at work, as long as every weekend is as sunny as today. Enough for me to sit outside with a good book and read for a few hours and I’m pleased as punch. What can I say? I’m a simple girl, enjoying simple things of life.

Clealy I am not the only one taking advantage of this pleasant weather. Families are out in throng. Couples too, whispering sweet nothing (or so I am assuming) to each other. And those of us flying solo, we’re content just to have our own me-time. I, for one, needed this, since I am a little stressed out from work. Here’s to oh sunny sunny day :)

Day 285: Mini Lion of Belfort

Another monument at public square for you today – it’s a miniature of the Lion of Belfort. It sits rather prominently at Place Denfert-Rochereau, with plenty of after office vehicles zooming around in their rush to get home, or make it for dinner appointments, or whats not. At the same time, there was a vanful of police next to me so I just made a quick job of photographing this and left.

The Lion of Belfort was sculpted in celebration of France’s resistance during the siege of Belfort, led by none others than Colonel Denfert-Rochereau. Given this square in the 14th arrondissement is already name after the colonel, why not place a miniature of the famous lion that commemorates the effort at the square, right?

Day 283: Paris Observatory

It is another grey autumn day in Paris (I best get used to it), but not particularly cold, so still alright to wander around a little in the evening on a long walk. Somehow, my aimless stroll took me to the historic main building of Observatoire de Paris. The one the famously aligns with Fontaine de l’Observatoire and Jardin du Luxembourg.

So this quilted looking dome of the Perrault building is the Arago dome, named after François Arago, the director of the Observatory from 1834-1853. It houses an astronomical telescope, and may be visited as part of a 2-hour guided tour (reservation required) of the entire building. The tour also takes you floor by floor, to see the talking clocks room (ground floor), the grand gallery (first floor) and the Cassini Hall (second floor) where the Paris meridian is marked. I should try to book myself in for a tour.

Ps: hmmm, the French version says reservation is currently not available.

Day 240: South-East Asian House

From boulevard Jourdan, I have on a number of occasions noted this particular building, hidden away on rue Faguet. Curiosity abound, I detoured through today to check for the significance of the building. It turns out that this is actually one of the many houses within Cité U. This is the South-East Asian House.

Prior to this revelation, I was wondering if it’s a temple of some sort. Afterall, Buddhism is the third largest religion in the country and a friend previously told me that there are a couple of hundred Buddhist meditation centers and temples here. I admit to being a tad disappointed that my initial theory was not a correct one. Still, it’s a rather nice building and photos from Cité U website show impressive interiors too.

Day 211: Cimetière du Montparnasse

Culturally, I’ve been taught that cemetery is one place you don’t go to unless (1) it’s part of funeral/burial ritual, (2) it’s a designated prayer day, and (3) it’s dictated as part of specific ceremony. My grandma would be horrified to know that I’m visiting one as if it’s a place of attraction. However, in Paris, that’s what some of them are considered. You could even get a map that marks out the graves of the “stars” of the cemetery.

Perhaps there’s an energy of morbidity around. With Hungry Ghost Festival taking place soon, and having just visited an exhibition on Voodooism at Fondation Cartier, it seems natural to take a walk at Cimetière du Montparnasse nearby. Truly, it’s a very well-kept compound, with a sense of calm and zen. It is also fascinating, given it’s a multi-denominational cemetery, with interesting and varied monuments setting one grave aside from another. Just look at the one above. It could have easily passed for an art display anywhere, if you discount the other graves that you could see in the background.

Day 205: Aftermath of a fire

A few days ago, en route to work, I spotted firemen at Cité U. Normally, they can be seen during sunny weekend morning playing baseball at the pitch, but on a weekday morning, that could only mean trouble. Sure enough, I looked up at the building next to where they were and big gaping holes with black charred beams were staring back at me. Ooops.

The fire broke out on the night before (and nope, I didn’t hear any siren even though my building is not too far from it) and has ravaged through the roof of that particular wing. A video that I found online showed it to be a pretty huge fire although well-contained that it didn’t spread further. For now, the residents of the building have been temporarily housed elsewhere in Cité U.

Day 204: Black swans

There is a pair of black swans at Parc Montsouris with bright red bills. This is rather unusual, as the swans normally spotted around this part of the world are white. A quick wiki check told me that black swans are more commonly found in Australia and New Zealand. I can only assume then this pair is part of introduced population? It is a veeeery long way to migrate from Oz to France otherwise.

While I was there, park visitors were amusingly throwing grass in to feed the swans. A woman even remarked “Do you think they eat grass? I hope they won’t get stomach ache.” Well, seeing the swans are herbivores, I’d say they’ll be alright. Sure, the grass is not the same as vegetations found in the lake but it’s not too far off either. Eat, swans, eat.

Day 191: Chinese tv series

I climbed a gate this morning to get out from the compound of my building.

My friend and I were heading out to go to the market when we were stopped at the main door. There was a filming across the road, and we would have to wait till an all-clear was given by the director. They were filming some Chinese tv series (I didn’t quite catch the name). 10 minutes later, we were still waiting and our receptionist then offered to let us out via the garden. Sure, why not?

Except there was a locked gate to the garden, that was what. And this time she didn’t have a key for that. Climbing over then. Of course, as we walked past the set, we noted they were changing scenes and we could have actually came out of our building the proper way. Never mind.

I now wonder what series is it exactly.

Day 190: Réservoir de Montsouris

From the exterior, this glass building could pass for an old, disused metro station from the era of Art Nouveau. It’s pretty yet subtle, with names inscribed on the wall referring to rivers near Paris. This hints on the purpose of the site itself, formerly a stone mine but today a water reservoir that would serve the left bank and areas south of Paris.

Water channelled in from the aquaducts of Loing, Lunain, Vanne and Voulzie are stored away from plain sight, under grass-covered hills of which the glass building sits atop. The interior resembles a massive cathedrale which has been inundated with clear water (Google and you will see), and how I would love to see that for myself. However, as you can imagine, for health and safety reasons, a tour into the reservoir would just not be possible. What a pity.

Day 144: Dégustation du chocolat

While I was gallavanting around in Stockholm over the weekend, Chloé was on chocolate discovery mission. A new chocolate-tasting concept chocolatier has been found at St Germain, “between Pierre Hermé and Ladurée” (on rue Bonaparte), and wonderful friend that she is, she brought Anne and I a selection to try. Parc Montsouris seems like a good place to enjoy the last of the sunshine for the day and have chocolate tasting.

Chocolats Richart has plenty to offer but what we’ve got here are from two dégustation boxes – petits Richart Les Fruités (as the name suggests, fruity ganache filling within) and Les Hespéridés (for that fresh citrusy and extra zing of a flavour). All three of us prefer Les Hespéridés, even if we think there was a questionable (overripe) pineapple ganache in the selection. For next tasting session, I think we should get the other tasting selection, including Les Floraux (floral are usually good), Les Balsamiques (yup, balsamic!), Les Herbacés (herbs and chocolate – interesting), Les Epicés (not sure though if I’m keen on a spiced-chocolate selection) and Les Grillés (with nuts, this I can do).

Maybe I should just get a selection of all the selection. It’ll make my life easier and I get to taste ALL of them :D

Day 133: Heart, Kiwi

I have a lot of kiwis to eat. Last week, at the market, I bagged a small basket of about a dozen kiwis which come at le petit prix of €2. Awesome! Sure they don’t all look pretty and perfectly oval, but does it really matter how they look?

Among the many, I’ve found this, which sliced to a natural heart shape. Isn’t it cute? I have another which sliced to resemble mitochondria, the power house in every single cell of our body. I debated which to post, but thought I’d skip the geeky kiwi (I can’t help it if I notice the shape – I am a biologist) and go with the heart-warming option. ;)

Day 130: Pájaro XIII

I pass by this bronze sculpture of a bird several times a week. In fact, each time I go for a run. Considering I would also complete numerous rounds of the loop of the park in Cité U, I’d see it for a few times within the hour that I huff and I puff my route in synchrony to whatever high-beat music I have loaded to my iPod.

Entitled Pájaro XIII (to signify the 13th such bronze statue by the same sculptor?) by Juan Soriano, it is part of collection from Centro de Arte de Reina Sofía. Unsurprising, given that it sits in the garden to the Spanish House. The thing is though, this sculpture is superfamiliar to me, even before I found out from where it came from. Now I wonder if I have saw something similar when I was in Madrid a few years back?

Day 128: Ninjas in the park

I haven’t been enjoying picnic this much in my life until the last couple of months. I’ve lost count of the number of times when I packed a bag of food and drinks, plus a good book, and off I went to the park for a few hours in the sun with my friends. We certainly weren’t the only one with such idea, since the park was always packed, and today was no exception. We even got our own front row to a “spectacle”.

We called them ninjas. Let’s face it – they dressed the part. We have no idea what form of martial art are they practicing exactly but often time, we questioned their wisdom in choosing the park as the venue of practice. During the demo by the master, everyone would form a circle and observed. The ninjas then were paired, equipped with rope(s), and proceeded to tie each other up (in slow motion) in the craziest conformation possible, including strangling position. There were lots of kids around observing. I shudder at the thought of them playing at home, saw some ropes, and decided “I can be a ninja too and let’s do what they were doing at the park”…

Day 125: Fairytale roses

Let’s explore a bit more of Cité U.

I’ve been walking around a bit more around the campus and each time, I find something that I think should be shared. Today, it’s this medieval looking door that, for some reason, reminded me of the story of Snow White and Rose Red. It has got to be the roses. Some of the pink ones light enough to appear white, and the luscious bold red to the other side.

The Deutsch de la Meurthe Foundation was the first building of the campus, and has since expanded to encompass a total of seven adjacent buildings. Inspired by English colleges such as Oxford and Cambridge, there are beautiful gardens landscaped around the Foundation, along with paved terraces which gives the Foundation a sense of connection between its buildings.


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