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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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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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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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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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Day 359: Not a very Christmassy photo

Merry Christmas everyone!

A few things you should know which would explain the lack of a more Christmassy photo-of-the-day. First of all, my motivation is waning in light of the lack of snow like last year, which gives the whole place a feel of winter cheers. Terrible excuse, I know. Secondly, not only we have no snow, it has also been a rather wet and blustery day, so I’m in no mood to go wondering about. Still a terrible excuse but improving? Thirdly, we’re no longer in a large city so it’s great to escape all the glittering lights for a change. How’s that? And finally, I’ve been busy helping out in the kitchen and even busier eating that it cuts into photography time. Acceptable now? ;)

Still, a countryside scene of smoking chimneys does have a certain sense of simplicity, which is what I like about coming home. Away from the hustle and bustle of city life, keeping things on the down low and not having to fuss too much over anything at all. I like standing here and looking out to this view, and I am so very lucky that I have such a view to enjoy anytime that I’m back in this home. I have been asked on a number of occasions where home is for me nowadays. Well, anywhere my heart belongs. It doesn’t have to be only one place at a time. Love is very accommodating that way.

Day 358: (Not quite) Winter Wonderland

This time last year, much of Europe was blanketed in snow. I barely made it back from London after 14 hours of train and ferry travel following the cancellation of my flight from Heathrow, and every land journey got allocated twice the amount of time to reach the eventual destination. Nonetheless, for all the inconveniences, it really felt like Christmas as how it has been sold to us in books and movies, which was quite wonderful.

However, with temperature hovering at a mild 10-12 °C, there’s nary a hope for white Christmas this year. Winter wonderland would not be quite as it claims, and the poor merchants who have been stocking up gears for icy winter are going to find themselves with a surplus of stocks of snow boots, de-icers, and whats not – Ireland is not exactly a country of extreme weather in the first place. OK, last year was a bit off the chart crazy with lows of -18 to -20 but that’s exception rather than the norm. Perhaps the colder weather is yet to come this season. We’ll see.

Day 357: Last minute, Grafton Street

Just how packed can Grafton Street be? A couple of days before Christmas? Very. Super duper. Crazy actually. I took one look and decided this is probably not the place for me to be today. Even escaping to Hodges Figgis didn’t help, but within 20 minutes, I emerged with about 8 new books so at least I was kept happy with my bargain hunting.

Of course, to be in Dublin and not take a look at the windows of Brown Thomas would not be right, so I went over quickly to see what they have whipped up for this year. They are fantastically busy with a touch of twilight fairytale and at the same time retro in certain styling. A bit of a fashion mayhem if you ask me. Then again, what do I know about style and fashion? Except Karen Millen currently have a coat to die for and one look at its price tag, I dare not even try it for fear it would haunt me!

Day 355: Fairylights and stars

It seems I’ve been heading towards the food hall of La Grande Épicerie a little too often in the last week or so (these lights are those outside of Le Bon Marché, the mothership of above-mentioned food hall) and I couldn’t help it. There are so much goodies to be had that if it’s not for the price tag, I could see myself shopping here regularly. Good thing I can’t afford them that much on a day-to-day basis.

However, for the festive season, it’s a good place to hit to find all sorts of delicious treats that makes fantastic edible gifts. I’ve pretty much shop for most of my presents for my family and friends here, apart from some caramels and chocolates from either Pierre Hermé or Jacques Genin. Last week, my housemate had to pull me away from the shelves, so today, I went alone, mouahahaha.

Ps: in fairness, there shouldn’t be any complain re my shopping tonight since it was mainly for items for our Christmas dinner ;)

Day 354: Champagne-like

I’ve been trying to capture the lightings on Boulevard St Germain this evening without really achieving the crispness I’ve been hoping for. Luckily in small image size, you can’t quite see all the blurry edges, hehehe. I really should consider either upgrading my gears (but with majority of my dosh going to travel and food, gears tend to be relegated to the bottom of the list) or get a tripod (but isn’t it plain ridiculous to carry one for a camera that’s pocket-sized?).

What I love about the lightings here is their representation of celebratory flutes of champagne – the streams of fairylights already resemble the flutes themselves, and if you’re there in person, you’ll see synchronised lighting that travels from the bottom to the top, one at a tip, like the bubbles popping up towards the surface of the flute. So adorable! And festively magical!

Day 348: A different (Christmas) tree

I like the library network in Paris. With just one membership card, all the public library is accessible and so I can get books out from any of the branches run by the city council. And it’s free! (Membership with access to multimedia costs something like €35 per year – still a bargain if you ask me.) Since I noticed something interesting may be available at the branch of Baudoyer, away I went.

Just outside the entrance to the building complex of Mairie du 4ème where the library is housed, there are several interesting and eye-catching Christmas trees at Place Baudoyer. Oh they are festive, green with hints of reds, and fitting as festive decoration. On a closer look though, these trees are made using recycled material. More specifically, plastic bottles of carbonated drinks. How cool is that for an idea and to raise awareness!

Ps: as I took this photo, a woman stopped next to me and started chatting (in French no less) of the importance of caring for the environment, why these trees are magic and potentially a lead for my next photo of the day. I’m just thrilled she thought I fit in enough to strike a conversation with me :D

Day 346: Green, red and gold

It’s not often that I venture around town in the middle of a work day but since I was on my way to meet the agent of our new apartment, why not grab a sunny day shot instead of worrying what I can photograph later in the day when it’s rather late and all dark outside, right?

Seems like the city council of the 5th arrondissement is also trying its best to decorate the neighbourhood up a little. In front of the Panthéon tens of Christmas tree prettied up using red and yellow ribbons, while just across the street, the city hall itself has silver tinsels streaming along the height of the building. Rather impressive, I must say.

Day 342: Père Roger

Who wants to get me a giant chocolate Santa? ;)

This delicious looking creature is currently attracting a lot of attention of anyone passing the chocolatier Patrick Roger on rue de Rennes – I was not the only one trying to grab a photo. Just how cool it is to have this masterpiece in your home? Set on the table, it is taller than me and even in comparing its height to mine, it’s still standing pretty tall.

It makes me curious now what centrepieces have he got in his other branches around the city. There are, afterall, five of them altogether. I’m normally here, or at the one on Boulevard St Germain – about 15 minutes walk between the two. It has been a while since I last shopped there though. Perhaps it’s time to revisit and get some Christmas goodies for those near and dear.

Day 339: Festive bike

Well well, time really flies and looking at the calendar today, we’re merely a couple of weekends away from Christmas. I have no idea where the year has gone, perhaps stolen away in the middle of the dark dark nights. As I walked towards Pierre Hermé this evening, I tried not to panic at the thought that I still have much to do before flying back to Ireland for my Christmas break!

Things are really starting to get very festive just about everywhere right now. On rue de Rennes, fairylights and ornaments sparkles in the dark, and at its junction to St Germain, the trees are lit in the way that it reminds me of champagne bubbles fizzing its way up to the top of the flute. Here, a lone bicycle is covered in pines and cranberries. Either way, there’s only one message in them all – Christmas is in the air.

Day 337: Maison de l’Alsace

I am all moved out from Cité U now. The morning was a bit rough, seeing I’m currently a little ill (I have a cold, boo), there was all the packing to do yesterday (how did I accummulate so much things over a mere few months?) and this morning, the big guy up there decided to send me off with ongoing drizzles. Nice. And now there’s also all the unpacking to do too…

Still, it doesn’t mean a girl can’t take a little break and head out for some fresh air. From the new place, I now even have direct buses that goes to Champs-Élysées – perfect for a little photo excursion in continuation of the Christmas theme. Today, I present to you, Maison de l’Alsace, which looks quite like a Christmas present waiting to be unwrapped. Accordingly, if I join the queue to get to the second floor, I will find lots and lots of Alsacian goodies. Hmmm kugelhopf…

Day 335: (Fake) snow day

Ah reader dear, I’m afraid you’re going to be stucked with plenty of Christmas related photos for this month, for they are now probably the most exciting things in town when the weather is otherwise a bit chilly, the sky grey and the days getting shorter and shorter still. You want light? You get Christmassy. And there’s nowhere more Christmassy than Champs-Élysées at the moment.

But it’s not just the street lighting that’s getting all the attention. Shops too are getting innovative to attract attention so more shoppers would hop in along to check out their merchandises. I think This is at Zara (sorry I wasn’t paying too much attention) Morgan and I love how the mannequins are inside a large polymer balloon are in constant swirl of fake snow. It looks like a very good Christmas party that I’d like to take part in, especially if there are dancing involved. ;)

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 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 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 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 5: Red and gold, and floaty ribbons

The city of Dublin was bustling this afternoon, teeming with bargain hunters looking for discounted best buys post-Christmas celebration. My cousin and I were one of them, opting to shop around Grafton Street area, including in St Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre.

The Christmas decors were still in place when we were there. I like it that the management didn’t overload the premises with baubles, tinsels, wreathes and fairy lights. I’d imagine these decors won’t stay up for much longer though. It is Epiphany tomorrow; traditionally this marks the time has come to take down Christmas trees and relevant festive decorations.

It seems like Christmas is coming to an end…


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