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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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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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Hidden Paris: Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris

It is quite a mouthful to say – Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris – and CIUP would be yet another confusing acronym among the gazillions that every French(wo)man seems to know but elusive to most expats. It is easier and simpler to call it Cité U (“see-tay yu”).

Maison Internationale

Main entrance/exit of CIUP

The place I called home for my first nine months in Paris is a 34-hektar park with 40 residential houses and over 5,700 housing units which hosts not only students but also researchers and visiting academics. I have mentioned it a number of times in the past, but never really show it off properly. This is my chance to rectify that. Last weekend, after our wonderful picnic at Parc Montsouris, I went over for a photowalk as well as showing F around since he was not familiar with the campus.

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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 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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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 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 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 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 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 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.

Day 105: Théâtre optique

I passed by Maison Internationale today to be tested for acceptance into a French course (general level: intermediate, grammatical proficiency: rubbish – seems like I’ve forgotten most of the conjugations I learned in the past, ops) and on my way out, there was a groovy little box with dancing people in it.

Closer look please. There’s a disco ball, a spinning disc, a general vibe from Austin Power, there are even weird observers – but the dancers, they look unsteady on their feet. Of course, they are, errm, how do I put it delicately – a tad indisposed but happy?

This théâtre optique by Pierrick Sorin is rather amusing, depicting an universal day-to-day scene, however with subtle messages that can be interpreted in one too many ways. Which is what art is about. I think. It’s open to observers’ commentaries and subjective to each opinion. To some, this is a youth night out just for fun. To some, this is a social issue fueled by alcohol. To some, this is just another funky installation.

Day 101: Petal drops

I have been trying to photograph the city from different places but today, I decided this courtyard in Cité U is just too pretty to not show it off ;)

While we had had very sunny few days in the last week, it started to get a bit chilly again, and a tad windy, with the forecast for the remainder of the week to be somewhat grey and wet. Still, all thanks to the wind, we also now have this blanket of cherry blossom on the ground, almost like snowfall in winter at a glance. I just love it. It makes me want to pull a blanket out and sit amidst the petals. Now, wouldn’t that be nice?

Day 74: Filming crew

I have no idea what was going on here, but at least I was not the only person who was busy snapping away while the crew worked at the entrance to one of the residence halls of Cité U. Puppets controlled by some guys sitting behind them, sign for World Poker Tour – what’s the link? And since we were supposed to be silent, I didn’t try to ask someone about the going-ons either.

Interestingly, reading the website of CIUP recently (I was researching options for dance and language classes) it seems like the campus is used regularly for filming purposes. However, since I don’t have a tv, bar some really famous French stars that have gone Hollywood or something, I doubt I’m going to recognise anyone. Is there a website for French equivalent of E! or something like that to improve my “celeb recognition skill”?

Day 69: Église du Sacré-Cœur

Cité U is my new home in Paris. A campus with numerous buildings to house students and researchers alike, I guess you can say I am now experiencing a delayed “student life”. I’ve been fortunate I’ve always live in houses, sharing with cousins and/or friends, regardless when I was either an undergrad or a postgrad. Funny now that I have a job, I find myself in a campus environment instead. While the laundrette may be communal, I do have my own studio apartment equipped with kitchen and en suite bathroom. Little mercies of life ;)

The campus is vast, and I dropped by Maison Internationale (i.e. the main reception building) earlier today for a bank appointment (yes, in France, you need an appointment to see someone to open a bank account). Looking out the glass door to the back, I spotted the Church of Sacré-Cœur, which is not to be confused with the famous Basilica of Sacré-Cœur on the hill of Montmartre. Quite a pretty little thing, don’t you agree? I must trek over to have a visit sometimes.


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