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Day 90: La Tour Eiffel

Start of week 4 since the big move, and I still haven’t posted any photo of famous Parisian landmark, so this evening, after work, I took some time to traverse west of the city in order to grab a photo of the infamous La Tour Eiffel by night. It was a rather impromptu decision, so I don’t have my mini tripod with me to help steady the shot. This turned out reasonably well but the sparkly version, not so great.

I took the bus to cross the city and it makes sense – no métro changes plus I get to see the view above ground. The 7th arrondissement used to be sort of my “home” ground in Paris, and as we passed some of the more familiar streets, I started to feel all very nostalgic of the neighbourhood. I should try to come back more often, and find time to get to Champs-Elysées somehow. I may have been travelling in and out of the city (and now all moved here) but it has been a very long time since I was at the stylish thoroughfare. 2-3 years perhaps?

Day 89: Urn on window sill

While a large number of building in Paris are typically Haussmannian in style, there are of course parts of the city that still boasts architecture from other era, from Romanesque (e.g. Église Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre) to Gothic (e.g. Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris), to super modern (e.g. La Défense) and we certainly should not miss the period where Nouveau Art was all the rage.

Art Deco was the call of the day and on Boulevard de Sébastopol, today, it is Monoprix (a supermarket chain) that occupies the building above. Each window sill facing the junction between Boulevard de Sébastopol and rue Réaumur are sporting these stylish urn. It really was not a bad thing when the movement stormed across Paris in rejection of the uniform Haussmannian look.

Day 88: Still winter time

Another day, another part of Paris to show off. I was running a personal errand around rue Réaumur in the second arrondissement today and upon exiting a shop, I had this pause moment. Hang on, is that the right time?

It appears this beautiful clock – with a Middle Eastern vibe from where I stand – is still running on the winter time. Who is the caretaker or who has the key to manage the dial? It ought to be corrected, or it’s going to get quite confusing for random folks passing by, like me.

Day 87: Opulent dome

I do not belong in the world of glittering richesse such as that inhabited by the regular clienteles of Galeries Lafayette. I feel gauche (despite being on Rive Droite for a change) and it was all I can do not to wince each time I see the price tag of the lovely things they sell in this grand magasin. Clad in nondescript pair of jeans and ballerina flats without fancy designers labels on anything that I own (ok, one exception, my bag, which I technically – ahem, assumed possession – from my aunt), all it took was one look to determine that I am the interloper within the elegant establishment (the bag is hopelessly out of season).

Just look at the glass dome adorned by metal frames here – isn’t it fabulous? Inspired by the styles of Byzantine and Art Nouveau, many have come near and afar to admire this lavish dome – it is quite a landmark in its own right. Up at the terrace of the building, one may also have a cup of coffee/tea/hot chocolate while taking in the view of Paris. Decadent? Bien sûr! It’s their middle name afterall. ;)

Day 86: Door from Middle Ages

During our walking tour yesterday morning, we were brought to the front courtyard of Musée de Moyen Âge-Cluny for a spot of historical guide. The structure of the Hôtel de Cluny is pretty much intact since the middle ages, its façade well preserved and the one main structure missing is the wooden gallery for the sentry who kept guard the townhouse.

Our attention was drawn to the scallop shells motive found on the door, as part of coat of arms and bas-relief at the first floor level. Legend has it, back in the old day, a pilgrim (someone important to the Abbey of Cluny? It seems I wasn’t paying enough attention) on the route to Santiago de Compostela (i.e. the Way of St James, Chemin de St Jacques in French) found himself in danger of sinking in a marsh to a muddy death. However, his prayer to St James was heard and he was saved when scallop shells (emblem of St James) emerged from the marsh and opened a path for him to continue his pilgrimage. Whether you buy this or not, it’s up to you. ;)

Random trivia of the day: St Jacques is the equivalent of St James in French, and scallop is named after him, as la coquille St-Jacques.

Another random trivia of the day: to one side of Musée de Moyen Âge-Cluny is the famous Boulevard St Michel but to the other (parallel) side is rue St Jacques, one of the main thoroughfares of Paris in the middle ages.

Day 85: Say cheese!

Paris is already teeming with people everywhere on any ordinary day. On a Saturday, it’s akin to madness in the city. Go near anywhere popular and you’ll find yourself crowded in very quickly. Of course, for those on a leisurely walk or sitting at the terrace of a café somewhere, it is the perfect opportunity to people-watch.

Zarin is in town for a couple of days, and we met up this morning for a walking tour, some sightseeing and food hunting. When we stopped by the fountain at Place St Michel for a spot of photo taking, I saw these two cutest little girls grinning for their photographer, presumably their mum? Quietly, I slipped behind them and grabbed this shot. The composition is not perfect, but that’s what stealth photography is like. A hit or a miss. This is about half-half. ;)

Day 84: Faune dansant

There are statues and sculptures aplenty in Luxembourg Garden, including replica of the Statue of Liberty. Random information of the day: the Statue of Liberty is French by nationality, designed by Frédéric Bartholdi and brought to life by Gustave Eiffel, who was assisted by Maurice Koechlin. The completed statue was disassembled and shipped in crates across the ocean before being reassembled – the latter took some six months for the erection to be completed.

Back to the sculpture above. Named “Faune dansant” (i.e. dancing faun), this sculpture of merriment and music can be found close to the site of the Medici Fountain in Luco. Despite the name, the depiction is really that of a satyr rather than a faun, which is half goat, half human. In mythology, satyrs are pipe-carrying and dance-loving creatures. Looking at this sculpture, I half expect woodwind tunes to fill the air, so I can close my eyes and twirl to the melody.

Day 83: Perspective

As you may have noticed, most of my exploration of Paris so far has been on the Left Bank (“Rive Gauche” as we call it here). Today is no difference. Well, it is weekday and there’s a limit of how much distance I can cover after work. Inevitably, it’ll be somewhere nearby that I can get to, easily, on foot.

This door on rue Monsieur Le Prince has a lovely sense of perspective and depth to it. The door was cleverly carved in the way it looks nearly three-dimensional, and felt quite the same way too. It was not a simple flat carving by any mean. To me, this is no longer just the front to a building. It is a work of art in its own right.

Day 82: Gasp, wide eyes!

Métro stations in Paris have their own characters. Certain stations are cultural, e.g. if you’re at Louvre-Rivoli, you’ll see casings with “artefacts” to reflect the fact that you’re at the station for Musée du Louvre (although I assume the items are replica rather than the real deal); certain stations are under renovation works (these are not that interesting); certain stations get thematic advertisement series, like this one.

Odéon has been given the creative advertisement treatment this week. Walking along the platform, the faces of the kids looking surprised, astonished, delighted, gleeful and all, it pulled me in right away and I knew I had to act fast. One minute before my train arrived and off I scrambled, searching for my camera in my bag. Reviewing the photos at home, the posters are marked with “Ce qu’il/elle a vu? Regardez le quai d’en face” – “What did he/she see? Look at the opposing platform”.

Don’t ask me what were the advertisement posters on my side of the platform. I didn’t pay any attention at all.

Day 81: Femmes Éternelles

From time to time, photo exhibitions are held along the fence of Jardin du Luxembourg. In conjunction with International Women’s Day a couple of weeks ago, the French Senate together with Olivier Martel brought forth “Femmes Éternelles”, an exhibition of 80 portraits of women from all over the world, with scenes from daily lives to ceremonial events. I have been over to look at them a number of times at this stage. What can I say? I really like them.

One particular photo that touched me most is that of mother and child in hospital, taken in 1987. The baby was living inside a bubble and yet laughing so joyously, a look reflected in the mother’s visage, despite what must have been poignant that she could not yet held her baby close to her without the barrier but keeping her morale high that this would be the good start the child needed. It is a powerful image, even if not as colourful or exotic as other shots of the series.

The exhibition runs until 15 June 2011, and if you can’t make it to Paris between now and then, you can still enjoy the photos from Martel’s website. Which photo inspires you most?

Day 80: Fontaine de l’Observatoire

I happily took a detour today from my usual route after work, just so I can grab a photo of this fountain that can be found adjacent to the RER station of Port Royal. It has a couple other names, including Fontaine des Quatre-Parties-du-Monde (Fountain of the Four Parts/Corners of the World) and Fontaine Carpeaux (named after the sculptor). The four corners of the world, represented by female figures, are Asia, Europe, America and Africa. You should also be able to see the symbols of the 12 zodiac around the “equator” of the globe upheld by the figures.

The sculpture itself is facing towards the observatory referred to in its name. From the Luxembourg Garden, one should be able to look southward from the central pond, and have uninterrupted view of the fountain and the observatory. Paris Meridian can be found at the observatory, which today, is still one of the largest astronomical centre in the world.

Day 79: Jour du Macaron

There’s so much to tell today and I don’t know where to start. Or how to keep it short-ish. Just know that it has been a gloriously warm Sunday and I wish everyday is as wonderful as this.

Only one museum visited this morning – Chloé and I went to the Musée des Arts et Métiers where we caught live demonstrations of Pascaline calculator and Faucault’s Pendulum – before our stomach rumbled and we got very lucky to get a table at Breizh Café without reservation. A galette Breton and a sweet crepe each, yum. Sitting outside at the terrace for a bit of a tan while eating delicious brunch – bonus of the day.

That was not all. Today is Jour du Macaron as well, so we made it to Pierre Hermé’s shop near Pasteur (the queue at the shop near St Sulpice was crazy long and we didn’t even try to go there) for some treats. The flavours I picked: fig, sweetbriar and foie gras; white truffle and hazelnut; and “dépaysé” which combined matcha green tea, azuki bean, lime and ginger. Two words to describe them all – flavoursome, delectable.

As the Salon du Livre was also running this weekend, I went over to check it out. Free entry with my Paris public library card – nice! I bought a couple of books, including Dessine-moi un parisien by Olivier Magny (who keeps an entertaining blog of Stuff Parisians Like), which he also kindly autographed. I would have like to stay and chat with him for a bit, but my French was failing me…

The day was capped off with dinner at Chloé’s where the girls and I were served raclette with potato, salad and saucissons. Even though we were stuffed in the end, we incorporated a little twist to dessert, by serving roti bakar, Malaysian style.

I am having the time of my life :D

Day 78: This is strike country

Weekend numero deux in Paris and it is a cooooold Saturday despite the sunny blue sky. This morning, I conquered the communal laundry machine and dryer (yay) with the help of my neighbour and I am also all set for a weekend at the museums, thanks to Chloé’s mum who furnished us with a Télérama pass which entitles free entry (for up to 4 person) to selected museums both today and tomorrow.

But first thing first – la manif. Purportedly one of French’s favourite pastimes (apart from la grève), the educators are on the demonstration path this time round, starting from Luxembourg. When I went past, they were just getting themselves organised, with brightly coloured balloons, gigantic banners, oversized puppets, and photographers are swarming the place, amateurs (like me) and professionals alike.

I didn’t stay around. Instead I was away to the Musée du Quai Branly and Musée d’Art Moderne, near the neighbourhood of the Eiffel Tower. I know, I know, I haven’t yet taken a single photograph of that iconic Parisian structure since I got here. It’ll come, at some stage. Just not today. Stories of the museums to come separately when I have a bit more time to write. Plenty of accompanying photos as well. ;)

Day 77: Maison Internationale

I mentioned the Maison Internationale a few days ago and thought, why not show it off? So voila, the grand building that welcomes all visitors to Cité U, looming majestically just as one walks past the main gate to the campus. It is supposed to be a replica of the Château de Fontainebleau. Since I’ve not been out in Fontainebleau, I can’t verify it. I shall check it during one of the upcoming weekends. ;)

Maison Internationale was built thanks to the contribution of JD Rockefeller Jnr and today, it houses a number of “stuff”, including a bank, the main campus restaurant, the library, the language lab (which I seriously need to pay a visit and make full use of) and even sports facilities to include swimming pool. Pretty impressive, right?

Day 76: Paddy’s Day, French style

Ah, Paddy’s Day away from Ireland. It really is not quite the same, where in Dublin, it’s all celebratory with the day off (it’s business as usual around here) to be out watching the parade on Dame Street, then over to Harcourt for street ceili, and of course then a wee pub crawl with friends for a convivial and light-hearted celebratory food and drinks.

Over in Paris, the celebration is a tad unorthodox, with me meeting up with Chloé and Hélène for a Vietnamese dinner (how Irish is that? ;)) followed by an attempt to go to an Irish bar nearby but it’s absolutely packed that the people were spilling out to the streets with their pints. All around Quartier Latin, revellers in tall squishy hat (apparently Guinness is running promos and gives those out for free) are about town, thoroughly enjoying themselves.

If only they wear a bit more green (I am! In green tank top!) and start to sing a bit, then it’ll feel a bit more like Dublin. Happy Paddy’s Day!

Day 75: American lookout

I’ve always been amused passing this cafe on rue St Jacques, and today decided I will photograph it. Native American looking out for and protecting Lady Liberty – who would have thought of it? Or could this be a poor attempt at reconstructing a new version of the Village People? ;)

Mid-way through my first week at work, I’m slowly finding my rhythm again. My colleagues are friendly and helpful, and more than willing to speak in English for my benefits (and much to my gratitude – I find myself struggling to converse in French so I have plenty of catch up to do). I’m meticulously tracking the lists of documents I need in order to sort out various paperworks, and making copies of just about everything. So far, so good. Paris has been kind to me.

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 73: Typically Parisian

Parisian housing architecture is one of the most distinct in the world. When Napoleon III commissioned Haussmann to whip up some magic to reform the city, this civil planner not only redesign the layout of the city but replaced the buildings which today are still seen all over the city. (Yes, they are *that* uniform).

Haussmann also incorporated various (small) gardens to his city plan, along with widened boulevards, specific building requirements, and quite importantly, winning everyone over with his genius in turning the old and rather unimpressive Paris into characters that many would still talk for years to come.

I’d imagine though, for anyone with an apartment to the narrow side of the building, how did one start to furnish the apartment? Standard furniture won’t fit into the nooks and corners properly, so unless you’re rich like Creosus and them custom made. Must be annoying.

Day 72: Silent, Wikileak

Sunday in general is not a great day for shopping in Paris. Most shops are closed (as it should – Sunday is family day) unless you head out to the Marais or Champs Elysées. Alternatively, there are some lovely markets around and I certainly took the opportunity to stock up on some fresh groceries and produce.

As I left the campus for the market this morning, I spotted this poster of the cover of Time magazine, showing the gagging of Julien Assange by American government. I can only suppose this is a poster of protestation of some sort? Or could this be a form of street art instead? Sure, the message is political and touches on one’s right to free speech, but arts and politics today are not mutually exclusive either.

So, what say you? Is this spreading the words or sharing the arts? Or both?

Day 71: Église de la Sainte-Trinité

Mission: apartment furnishing
Location: household stores
Partner in crime: “Seurann”

I’m devoting my first weekend to a spot of shopping. More precisely, household stuff. Little things to make me feel more at home. First stop of the day was Lafayette Maison, where everything was out of my budget but so pretty to look at. Perhaps another shop then.

As we approached rue St Lazare, across the road, there it was, Église de la Sainte-Trinité. Nestled in the 9th arrondissement, the bright golden clocks on all side of its bell tower are eye-catching and certainly not a sight commonly seen as part of church exterior. I’ll have to add this to the list of churches I’d like to visit. It’s certainly growing fairly rapidly in this city!

Day 70: Pot envy

The beauty of obtaining a researcher’s studio apartment in Cité U lies in the fact that not only I have a roof over my head, I also do not have to deal with utility companies and waiting for internet connection. Moreover, the apartment is furnished (unlike most of Parisian rentals that tend to come unfurnished), buying me some time to select additional household items to help make me feel more at home.

It is with envy that I looked at these lovely copper pots outside a restaurant at Place St André des Arts. I currently have a meagre one pot to use, and am shopping around for my own set pots and pans. Not copper ones though – they’re a bit out of my budget. Tefal, however, I could still splurge out for.

Ps1: I am doing something right! A man was staring at me on the RER today and when he caught my eyes, he gave me a smile and thumbs up for my purchase from Patrick Roger. I guess we know good chocolate when we taste one. ;)

Ps2: I am really thankful to Anne and Sandrine who threw a lovely “Bienvenue à Paris” party this evening. I also get to see other friends of theirs whom I spent a weekend with in La Baule a couple of years ago. Fun reunion :D

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.

Day 68: Somewhere over Dublin

I woke up this morning and there are plenty work still to be completed, but I had no choice but to halt all activities and concentrate on one task and one task only – finish up packing. With flight to Paris but a few hours away, tough choices were made, on what to bring and what to store away in boxes. In the end, I departed with a suitcase of 23kg (slightly overweight, ops) and a hand luggage.

We took off as the sun was setting, but unfortunately I was sitting on the wrong side of the plane and missed out on photographing what was a spectacular and vivid evening sky. However, it did afford me the view of Dublin Bay. I think the pier at the corner of this photo was that of Dun Laoghaire. I can’t be completely sure though, as the view from above was completely obstructed by cloud for a couple of minutes following take off.

Au revoir, Dublin.

Day 67: Magnolia

More signs of springtime! Blooming magnolia down the road from our house, at Pembroke Park, and crisp clear day of blue sky and light breeze. Perfect for a walk, but not to be stuck indoor with work (still plenty to do) and the looming urgency to pack (I admit, I have been putting off packing forever but with flight only some 25 hours away, I’m running out of time).

I retrieved my passport back from the French embassy yesterday, complete with my temporary visa affixed within and therefore I am finally good to go. Right now, the key is for me not to forget any important original documentations and accidentally put them away in one of the many boxes I’m leaving in storage here. Wish me luck!

Day 66: Wheel of Dublin

All these “city eye” can be a bit of a gimmick, from London to Sharjah to Singapore, and quite recently, Dublin too. However, fair play to the other cities, the locations are quite spot on for wonderful bird’s eye view of the cities and their environs. For Dublin though, I’m not sure if the same can be said, which is a real shame.

It’s hidden all the way down by The O2 (formerly The Point), an area not known for casual visitors but busy when there’s a (sold out) gig/show being played/ performed. Not only that, its location and size (it’s only half the height of London Eye) also means many landmarks of Dublin are not easily seen, given we don’t have many tall buildings and with most road being relatively narrow, from a distant, all the buildings easily blurred into continuous rows.

Passing by to have a look at it carves a rather dejected sight. Not all the pods were lit and the carousel was not even in operation. Granted, it’s Monday today and I was there after its closing time. However, last week, when I was around the area on a Friday evening, it was the same. And according to the website, it should still be open until 11pm. It makes me wonder – is Wheel of Dublin even in operation anymore?

Day 65: Wexford Bridge

I’ve gone a bit trigger happy with miniaturisation mode it seems – two pictures two days in a row with similar effect!

Supposedly the longest bridge in Ireland (really? I supposed if it’s a bridge spanning across water and not including motorway bridges) Wexford Bridge spans over nearly some 400m across the River Slaney between Wexford town and Riverbank. It is rather handsome, I must say, and it not only serves traffic purposes, it provides spots for fishing too.

Yes. Fishing. From the bridge. Particular in the warmer summer months. Armed with rods and baits and pails, usually from evening on till early morning, there would be someone fishing which may or may not include my relatives… In a good season, the boys would catch fairly good size sea bass quite easily, and for days on end we would be cooking the bass in a variety of way. Steamed, fried, fillet and coated with corn flour before frying, etc. They are so very delicious.

Day 64: The Sky and the Ground

I’m back in Wexford for a couple of days to see my family, and to say goodbye to the town that first hosted me in Europe. I spent only a couple of years there and yet I call it home more than I do with Dublin where I’ve live for just over a decade. Anytime that I need an escape from the city, off to Wexford I go. Unfortunately, it won’t be quite as easy in the future to do so. I won’t have just a couple of hours of bus ride to take, but I’ll have a couple of hours of flight to catch too.

The Sky & The Ground is a gastropub in town on the South Main St, which used to be the haunt of my uncle and I. I haven’t been there for a while now so I am not sure how they are doing nowadays. My uncle mentioned a while back that there was new owner to the place, but I can’t be sure if this is correct. Everything in my brain is a tad hazy right now. Not unlike the effect of this photo following the use of miniaturisation mode. ;)

Day 63: Grand Canal Square

There’s a new theatre in the city – the Grand Canal Theatre – situated adjacent to some office blocks but on the lovely site of Grand Canal Square.The theatre has opened for about a year now, and still I haven’t a chance to attend any event there. Unsurprising, given how often I was away last year, and I haven’t seen something that caught my eyes in particular to pay the theatre a visit.

I didn’t realise that the Grand Canal area also falls under the Dublin Docklands initiative. Silly me. I should have though. The colourful set up is one of the hallmarks around the quay area. But for tonight though, I tried to play away with just single chosen colour. Pretty interesting effect but I’m not entirely convinced that it shows off the Grand Canal Square properly as it should…

Day 62: Moroccan night

There are two Moroccan restaurants in Dublin city centre – perhaps the whole of Dublin, or Ireland even? – and since we had a farewell party in mind, we went to Dada on South William St. I’ve been to El Bahia on Wicklow St once a few years back and it just wasn’t too spacious. Our group was initially meant for 12, then 14 plus a baby, add another, minus another (sort of). And the baby was a real angel all through the evening.

We started with a selection of appetisers to share, which included grilled merguez (I <3 merguez) among the 6-7 items on the plate. For my main, I chose the lamb tagine which was generous in portion and I couldn't quite finished. With a bit resting time, I was then ready again for dessert, when which we were served a selection of sweet pastries and ice cream, complemented with Moroccan mint tea. A big massive thank you to all my friends who made it out for the evening for my going-away do (and the lovely presents). It does make it so hard to imagine leaving them in mere few days from now.

Day 61: Venetian masks

Venetian Carnevale fever hits Temple Bar currently, and as interesting as it may be, this image was taken outside an adult entertainment premises. Sure, they are as colourful as some of those paraded in Italy coming up to Mardi Gras, but they also come with interesting price tags.

I must admit, I miss the real Venetian Carnevale. A city full of revellers, and mysterious figures strolling the alleys and canalways of Venice in controlled steps, pausing every so often to be photographed and idolised. Caught in the moment, I once even had my face painted with semi-mask in blue. Unfortunately, those were the days when there wasn’t any Avatar to make bright blue a popular face colour, and I had to catch a train from Venice to Milan looking whichever way I did. For the few hours, I was attracting wrong attention – plenty of stares and even a stalking guy, hmmmm.

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