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Day 243: Pierogi

The quest for international food hunt continues. Granted, I have already went to a Peruvian restaurant to make it for the “P” entry, but since I have not yet tried Polish food in this city, well, there is no good reason to not go. Besides, it’s food. And this place serves barszcz, and I was hankering for some delicious beetroot-based goodness. Off to Cracovia on rue Moufftard so.

Pierogi, considered Polish national dish, are essentially dumplings. As Cracovia serves pierogi with a number of different types of filing, and I had difficulty choosing one over the others, I went for the easy option – pierogi mixtes. I was given pierogi with groud meat, cabbage and mushroom, and white cheese and potatoes. Of the three, the dumplings containing ground meat were the ones I liked best. You should try it sometimes if you could. Just ask for pierogi z miesem.

Day 242: Bedazzled Invader

Pixel art is fun, pixel art in bedazzled tiles is even more entertaining.

Spotted on a wall somewhere in the Marais (I cannot for the life of me recall the street name right now), this space invader is sitting pretty with coloured alien antennae (note the matching colour scheme) and a special one that sparkles and dazzles. Is there extra point for zapping the alien via that particular antenna? ;)

As a child, growing up, my first memories of computer/video games are of Mario Bros (ah the days of game cartridges and square Nintendo box), Space Invaders (black 8″ floppy disks!), Pacmac and Pinballs (giant machines at the arcade, anyone?) but somehow I seem to have outgrown them quicker than I’d anticipated. Nowadays it’s all nostalgia and reminiscing the past, and me unable to play wii without embarassing myself.

Day 241: Red, white or rosé?

Whenever I get invited over to a friend’s for dinner, I’m very likely to show up just after specified time (5-10 minutes leeway – I’m learning that it is polite around here not to show up on the dot), with a wee gift in the form of either cake, chocolate, or wine. Finding and sharing cakes or chocolates are more my forté; wine, not so much. I’d rely on recommendations, either from friends or vendors. Otherwise, it’s going to be a hit or miss.

That’s why it’s quite nice to have a wine shop that pre-empt my senseless questions, by giving some basic descriptions and information about the wines to get me started. Plus, let’s admit it, my fleuncy in French is just not there for me to really grasp wine jargon conversationally. At least in reading something in writing, I could reflect, think and ponder, and in the end, pray I haven’t misunderstood something. Yes, it happens more than I’d like, but often to a humourous end. ;)

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 239: Gérard Mulot

I’ve had a fairly active day, which started with a jogging session, followed by another non-drowning session. There were some improvements but something weird/amusing were also observed – (1) my legs are “heavy” (they don’t like staying afloat) and (2) I somehow managed to do a full circle while kicking when I was meant to go in a straight line. Hmmm…

Then, what did I do after I work those calories away? I gobbled down some tasty calorific treats. Cakes and macarons from Gérard Mulot to be precise. I didn’t eat by myself though. Instead, Chloé and I made our selections and after lunch, made our way to the Luxembourg Garden to enjoy our bounty together. Don’t be fooled by the sunny appearance above. We’ve just barely finished cake tasting when the sky opened up and we had to leg it so we didn’t get drowned out there!

Day 238: Cultural station – Cluny la Sorbonne

I’ve previously blogged about a couple of cultural métro stations, and I think it’s not a bad series of sub-category to write about when it comes to things related to Paris. If I recall correctly from an article I read a while ago, there are some 50 such stations in the network. It would be fun to uncover them as I go along ;)

This work of mosaic on the ceiling of Cluny la Sorbonne was created by Jean Bazaine. Entitled Ailes et Flammes (Wings and Flames), some 60,000 handcut tiles were used to complete the piece that also includes forty-six (mosaic) signatures of Kings of France, politicians, architects, physicians, scientists, philosphers, poets, painters and writers. If you ever travel Line 10 and passing this station, keep your eyes peeled.

Day 237: Moulin Rouge

When one talks about Montmartre, one talks of the artists that use to populate the quarter and the , one talks of the Sacré-Cœur, one talks of the movie Amélie, one talks of the Moulin Rouge. Curiously, not many people talks about the one museum in the area that opens daily till 2am. Surely there must be enough people that visit the place to keep it going for so many years (14!).

In my time in Paris, I’ve traced the footsteps of some of the artists through the cobblestones of the hill, admired the grandeur of the basilica which, from its dome, one can see Paris in 360°, watched Audrey Tautou in her quirky role as Ms Poulain, but never have I take a peek into the can-can dancing world of Moulin Rouge. For one, the price is a bit too steep for my pocket, and secondly, it is strictly a tourist-trap. As for the not-often-mentioned museum, someone may have got curious once upon a time…

Day 236: Post-it war

3M France must have seen a surge in the demand for post-it this summer. While the days are long and the weather is, well, a bit blah but still quite warm, with the arrival of holiday season, motivation at work must be a tad lower than usual. So over in La Défense, office workers began to wage a post-it war (yes, it has its own website!), which caught everyone’s imagination and even the press’ attentions. Unfortunately though, La Défense is just a tad too far for me to want to visit randomly… What can I say – I have lazy days too ;)

It seems the post-it war has arrived at my friend’s workplace so I get my opportunity to grab a shots or two of this summer project afterall! I spotted Pikachu, Pac-man, Space Invader and the likes. They seem to be the most popular motives, aren’t they? And, if you want to play post-it war yourself, there’s even a tool for it – yup, a website that generates post-it images for you, tells you how many post-it you’ll need and the time required to build your post-it figure. Have fun!

Day 235: Saint Denis the Headless

I have previously introduced Sainte Geneviève, the patron saint of Paris. Today, we shall talk about Saint Denis, a martyr who was Bishop of Paris a long long time ago and the patron saint of France (how’s that for a trump card?). And to make sense of the story of this headless saint, we should also talk about Montmartre.

Saint Denis was said to have been beheaded at Montmartre (giving rise to this name that means “mountain of the martyr” – but on all accounts, there are 2 other possibilities on how Montmartre came to be known as what it is called today) but a devout bishop that he was, it didn’t stop him from continuing to perform his duty to the God. He picked his head up and started walking to the north, all the while preaching a sermon as it should (I figure that must be one of the miracles to propel forth his beatification) until he came to a spot where he decided it would be his final resting place.

A cathedral/basilica bearing his name stands today at that spot, and he has plenty of royal companies in burial, as all but three French kings have their final resting places here. I still haven’t visited the cathedral, and if you’re wondering where I find the statue above, well, it’s from the left portal of the west end of Notre Dame Cathedral.

Day 234: L’Atelier

Perhaps I should specify Café de l’Atelier. Afterall, a simple mention of L’Atelier may give the wrong impression that I’ve stopped by the restaurant by Joël Robuchon. Not that I would decline an invitation there, mind. ;)

Monday night would normally not be my choice for an evening out but given there was a birthday to celebrate, I quite happily agreed to go out for a quick drink and then dinner afterwards. Our meeting point for the evening was at L’Atelier, a bar on boulevard Montparnasse, situated right across the street from La Coupole – one of the famous cafés that famous artists and writers of 1920s flocked to.

L’Atelier was relatively quiet when we got there and we sat out in the terrace, enjoying the last of the weekend heatwave while observing the storm cloud gathering in. Unlike many bars in town, its Happy Hour didn’t start until 7pm. Not that it made much difference to me (since I’m not a tippling kind of girl) and it seemed, the general crowd too, as it never really got busy when we were there. Then again, it was Monday afterall. Weekend may tell a different story around here altogether.

Day 233: Eiffel Tower, again

I’m doing a lot of river crossing this weekend.

Today, instead of walking, I was on the métro (Line 6) and between the stops of Bir-Hakeim and Passy, for some reason, the driver decided to go slow when crossing River Seine by way of Pont de Bir-Hakeim. It afforded me a few precious seconds to quickly whipped out my camera and grab this shot. Unfortunately the threat of rain that I mentioned yesterday was making itself known, and the sky looked quite ominous, don’t you agree?

What you can’t see from this photo is that the bridge stands on one end of Île aux Cygnes, a narrow man-made island built in 1827 to protect the adjacent Port de Grenelle. Only one walkway can be found on this isle – the Allée des Cygnes. The walkway connects the bridge to a replica of Statue of Liberty at the other end of the isle. The statue, which faces west towards its sister in the Big Apple since 1937, is scaled at one-fourth of the one on Liberty Island.

Day 232: Sunny sunny day

We have a weekend of heatwave upon us. The forecast is for the temperature to hit over 30°C today till Monday, although there’s also a risk of rain tomorrow. It’s like it couldn’t make its minds to stay ensoleillé or not. For now though, I’m going to make the most of the sunny spot that has been missing from the city for a few weeks.

Look, isn’t Paris so beautiful on a day like this? :D

I took this photo from Pont du Caroussel, crossing the River Seine from Louvre to the quarter of St Germain (we were in search for ice-cream and were on our way to Grom). The bridge ahead is Pont des Arts (with hundreds of love locks) and in the background, you should also spot the towers and spire of Notre Dame Cathedral as well as the spire of Sainte Chapelle, both buildings standing on Île de la Cité.

Day 231: Métro

It has been said that, in Paris, on average, one can find a métro station within 500m radius of his/her standing point. With some 300 stations servicing the city (and more to come with extensions currently taking place on certain lines), it is by far the most popular mode of public transport among the visitors for its ease of use and the low cost ticketing system (always buy your tickets in carnet of 10, currently costing €12.50 – individual ticket costs €1.90) which allows unlimited transfers for each journey.

An exhibition that tells you all you will ever need to know about the métro is currently running at Musée des Arts et Métiers (until 1 January 2012). It runs through 111 years of history behind the network, from the construction of the very first Line 1 for Exposition Universelle of 1900 to the completely automated Line 14 in 1998, and the near-completion of conversion Line 1 into a fully automated line this year. There are also behind the scene tours, and bound to satisfy the curiosity for any train-buff out there.

Day 230: Institut de France

It has been a while since I do a night shot. Not always easy, since a long day at work is not conducive to late night photowalk, plus, given it’s still summer-ish, the day remains relatively long and it doesn’t get dark till around 9pm. Well, as the day gets shorter with upcoming seasons of autumn and winter, things may change just yet.

Institut de France, the upholder of all things cultural and educational in France, stands on the Left Bank of River Seine at one end of Pont des Arts. Home to the Académie Française (whose members’ main duty is to protect the French language) and a number other academies as well as foundations, museums and castles, the Institut was built on the former site of Nêsle gate and tower that forms part of the Medieval city wall of Paris. As far as I know, the Institut is normally not open for public visits except for certain specially arranged tours and the likes.

Day 229: Cours d’Anglais. Ou pas.

Alright, I’m not really interested in English classes at the moment (although goodness knows, at times, I do need grammar refreshers course of some sort). What I do need, however, would be French classes. Five months in since my move and I’m not making as much progress as I would like to, booo.

Ideally, I should attend formal classes so I would be more disciplined. Working through the odd lessons here and there by myself hasn’t been too successful an endeavour, given how I’m often putting off running through the exercises. My friends and my colleagues have been brilliant, encouraging me to converse more in French, but there’s only so much they can do to nudge me in the right direction. Bottom line is, I simply haven’t been diligent enough. Bad Lilian.

Day 228: Église St Eustache

Église St Eustache at Les Halles is quite particular. Pretty, but particular. The last Gothic church built in Paris, it took over 100 years from the laying of the first stone of the current building to completion. Well, sort of. It was never completed to its full Gothic glory (hence stumpy spires found today instead of elaborately decorated ones) and during the long construction period, it also transitioned into Renaissance architecture, making it a rather unique building all in all.

This set of doors is but a small part of the cathedral which I thought is rather cool. It’s the perfect symmetry between the wooden doors and the stone walls, around a semi circular nave. I must admit to not have investigate it very closely, but from where I stand, it’s a harmonious matching that had me admiring whomever the mason who came up with this idea.

Day 227: J’attends…

… l’orage au désespoir.

The poor penguin, lamenting that [it is] waiting for the storm in despair. Is it heartbroken? Or just feeling a bit blue because of the crappy weather? Or a combination of both? Fear not, it doesn’t reflect how I am currently feeling. In fact, we’ve been blessed with a sunny bank holiday Monday, which is promptly celebrated with a trip to Pozzetto for a spot of ice cream and playing spectator at a tango session at Quai de Seine.

And on a side note: I’ve put in place a few small changes in recent weeks to the site. They’re not by any mean complete but at least good starting points, I guess.
– lists for my Big Read Challenge of 2010 and 2011
– tracker on the progress of Challenge Resto A-Z
– the pages above summarised under Coffee Break
– subtle updates to The Ultimate Travel Challenge

I have a couple other things planned (as per friends’ suggestions) that I don’t yet have time to look into, but should I do, I will let you know where to access them. But first, I need to figure out how these would fit in the framework of this site, then how best to present them. Sorry if it all sounds a bit cryptic but I haven’t think through them just yet, so I myself don’t know how it’ll morph into the final presentable state.

Day 226: A view from Grund

I forgot to mention yesterday that the ultimate tips in visiting Luxembourg Ville is to wear comfortable walking shoes (and thanks Cait for this tips too!). The city is small and easy to explore by foot, but also quite hilly in parts. Fancy shoes have no business on such stomping ground. Unfortunately, it also drizzled on and off most of the day, so you’d even want shoes with good grips.

I went walking at Grund in the morning. Sitting in a valley between the two plateau of Haute Ville (where the old town is) and St Esprit, the quarter is picturesque and I bet would have looked even more amazing had the sky been more blue than grey.

After a quick peek at the Natur Musée (i.e. Natural History Museum), I made my way to Musée d’Art Modern (a.k.a. MUDAM) which I absolutely love for the clever conceptual collections in place. In the afternoon, I visited the Grand Duke’s Palace (only open in June-August for 6 weeks for guided group tours) as well as Musée National d’Histoire et d’Art (i.e. Museum of History and Art).

As you can see, two days of activities-packed visit. I wish I had more time to explore outside of Luxembourg Ville though. I like what I’ve seen so far, and certainly would like to see more. Good excuse for another trip in the future? :D

Day 225: Lunch, al fresco

I’ve always had this idea that I’d like to visit Luxembourg, not that I know what’s there to see when anyone asked me “why?”. Errr, just because? When the opportunity presented itself a couple of days ago (major reduction on train tickets) I decided to take advantage of it and play tourist for a couple of days. With very little preparation made, it really is a weekend where I’d be winging it.

One of the magics of a little me-time means treating myself to an al fresco lunch at Les Caves Gourmands, which has been awarded “Bib Gourmand” by the folks from the food bible of Michelin. Without paying much attention to the menu (I was more intent on scanning the tourist guide for things to do in Luxembourg Ville) I ordered the set menu of the day. I was served “caviar” of aubergine to snack with some bread, beautifully cooked calamari with warm tomato salsa and olive oil drizzle that was packed with a Mediterranean-punch of flavour as my starter, roast chicken and crayfish with potato and summer greens for main course (the poor crayfish was left uneaten since I didn’t have any anti-histamine pills with me – such a pity, but I didn’t want to spend any time at the hospital either) and greengage with ice cream to sweeten up the meal.

Having eaten well, I was all ready to explore the city more. The day had began with a visit to Casemates du Bock and Musée d’Histoire de la Ville de Luxembourg and after lunch, a walking tour was swiftly organised. I also managed to squeeze in Casino Luxembourg – Forum d’Art Contemporain after the walking tour. And no pastry? Of course not! Oberweis got a visit, courtesy of recommendation by Cait.

Day 224: Colin-maillard

Just when I thought the sculptures by Daniel Hourdé around St-Germain have been removed (given the main period of exhibition in the quarter should be over), I stumbled across a couple more today at rue de Furstemberg, just outside of Musée National Eugène Delacroix. Not that I am complaining. The more I stumbled across his sculptures, the more I admire his body of works.

I don’t know how to explain it, but there is a certain evocation of power and strength beneath every movement of the sculptures, accompanied by an expectation for the fluid movement to be extended and continued. I half expect to see them to come alive before my very eyes. And coming alive gracefully they will.

Ps: the title of this sculpture means blind man’s bluff. And behind this statue, you could see another sculpture. That’s Les epines de la volupté (the thorns of lust).

Day 223: Sandcastle

Boy it feels “heavy” in the city. No wonder everyone seems to have escaped to the beaches, fake or otherwise. Anything for a little bit of fresh air and cooling breeze. On passing Paris-Plages today, the quay was absolutely packed with adults and children alike, and a stroll along the beaches revealed various on-going events. Best to enjoy with ice cream in hand, I believe.

From simple sun-bathing or sand-playing, to enjoying a game of petanque or two, to watching performances by street artists, to enjoying a short massage session at the pop-up massage stands. And giant Disney-inspired sandcastles can also be found, and they’re quite the attraction as various camera (including mine) went a-clicking busily around it. I know, I am such a tourist :p

Day 222: L’écoute

Most times, sculptures are just that. A piece of art work on display, usually high up on a pedestal of some sort, or protected in some other way. They certainly give an air of “do not touch” although usually when someone do disregard the convention, then the poses are inevitably to (1) evoke humour of some sort, or (2) have photographic proof that one has visited that particular point of interest.

“Interactive” sculptures are less often found publicly. L’écoute by Henri de Miller is not exactly one intended for such, but there’s a certain quality to it that invites people to treat it more casually and to form an interaction of some sort, most commonly to perch in its palm and be photographed. Kids absolutely love it. A bit like the column sculptures in Palais Royal, where they can run about and hop between the columns.

Day 221: Bone-y drains (and Project Inside Out)

Street arts in Paris are not strictly-wall endeavours. As you can see, footpath is as good a canvas as a blank wall. Not only that, it can be smartly done to incorporate objects present including a drain cover. The grille as rib cage of spray-on skeleton, why not?

And speaking of street art, the artist JR is currently in collaboration with Centre Georges Pompidou to encourage everyone to take part in becoming an art movement. Have your picture taken, printed to a poster size, and you’re then to put it somewhere public as part of the Project Inside Out. Pretty cool idea if you’re open to having your face publicly admired ;)

Day 220: A dash to Antibes

In order to just squeeze in that extra little side trip before returning to Paris in the evening, my friends suggested we go to Antibes for a short walkabout before taking my train there instead of from Nice. Sounds good to me. Antibes is not that small a town by any means, but flanked by the tourists- (and celebs?-) favoured Nice and Cannes, it just doesn’t get as much mention. Strange, considering the number of expensive yachts sitting at the harbour…

The time came too soon when I had to make my way to the train station. However, as the TGV pulled away from the platform and choo-choo-ed its way along the Cote d’Azur towards Aix-en-Provence before heading for the capital, I was rewarded with amazing view from my window seat. Like a soothing balm to my soul, it was an apt ending to an otherwise perfect weekend getaway. Now, I just have tons of photos to sort and to upload for my friends. Be patient, my dears.

Day 219: Monaco

Everyone I spoke to told me there isn’t much in Monaco. Still, I was curious and would like to at least see it for myself. Its proximity to Nice means there is no reason for me not to take a day trip across the border to the principality. Of course, a gazillion other tourists have the same idea in mind as we all packed TAM bus number 100 on this Sunday morning. At €1 for one-way trip, it’s a bargain even just to sit in the bus (take the right side, window seat) to enjoy the view between Nice and Monaco.

Perhaps with my expectations lowered in all way possible, I found myself quite enjoying the quaint central area of this micro-country. Monaco-Ville is the main quarter of attractions (I’m sure most people there were tourists, not Monegasques) including Palais Princier, Monaco Cathedral and the Oceanographic Museum. I also went for a visit along the east of the principality, taking a peek into the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco (NMNM), Grimaldi Forum and the adjacent Japanese Garden. All in all, not bad for a day-trip effort, don’t you think? I wished I have more time to explore other parts of the principality but alas, it was time to get back to Nice so I wouldn’t be late for dinner with my friends.

Day 218: Vallée de la Vésubie

Day 2 in the south and today we headed towards la vallée de la Vésubie for a taste of the great outdoors on offer. I could not put down in words just how gorgeous the region is. The view along the ride is breathtaking (of course, the narrow and windy roads would also literally take your breath away when a bus or 4×4 decide they should be kings of the road and eat into your lane) and if it was up to me, I would be making a scenic stop wherever possible along the route.

After about 90 minutes journey, with the cars safely parked at Le Boréon, we started our hike up the circuit de Trécolpas, pausing every so often along the well-marked paths to take in the scenery before our eyes. Running streams and waterfalls peppered around the national park, and wild alpine flora decorating the landscape with flickers of colour everywhere. At 2,150m sits the natural glacial lac de Trécolpas, the perfect spot for our picnic lunch break. However, as the day progressed, the clouds began to descend ominously. Time to make our way back it was.

Day 217: Nice, niiiiice!

Woo a trip to the south!

I’ve been invited to stay with friends in Nice for a few days, and after an overnight journey on the Lunéa, I’m seeing sunshine, blue sky and azure sea once again. Quite a nice change from Paris which has been rather dull and grey lately, and no sea to talk about of course. Paris Plages do not count.

The villa sits high atop the hills of Nice, overlooking the city and its environs. It is a day meant to be taken very easily, with dips in the pool (I now can float!), dining al fresco, leisurely stroll in the old town area of Nice, and a couple of ice cream sessions. No rush, no hurry, no worry. Now, that’s what I call a holiday.

Day 216: Forum des Halles

The reconstruction works around Les Halles continue since I last spoke about it. To be frank, I haven’t really explore much of the area for lack of something to draw me there. Or maybe I’m just not looking hard enough. Formerly the site of a market (nowadays housed out in Rungis), and for the time being still quite boarded up in parts, it hasn’t appear too interesting.

Giving it another go, I was out there again today. I circled around the ground-level park and briefly peered into the entrances to the underground-levels of the complex. However, I still haven’t find something particularly inspirational yet I feel somewhat dissatisfied with my effort. Perhaps I need to come out here one day with fresh pair of eyes and clear mind, and not at the end of a work day with soggy brain?

Eat, Learn, Move

I came across this series of videos today which is absolutely brilliant and inspiring! It makes me want to get out and away, but alas, without an income, it would be pretty hard to finance my travel-and-food habit. Plus, I like my job and the challenges that it brings, even if it’s keeping me a bit too busy to keep the Project 365 to be entirely up to date. (I’m working on it, I really am.)



I hope you enjoy these videos as much as I have, and that they give you some ideas of what to do next when you embark on new adventure(s). I sure have picked up a few things there. And here’s wishing you a good weekend ahead too. Like the majority a subset of the French population, I’m going to find myself enjoying the sun and sea of the French Riviera for the next few days. Will be back all re-charged before you know it. ;)

Updated: my friend was quick to point out not a majority of French goes to the riviera but the rich. Mind, I don’t have their kind of deep pockets. Luckily what I do have are Prem’s tickets and a host family!

Day 215: Il faut se méfier des mots

“One must be wary of words.”

As warning goes, it is not too far wrong from the truth. We often forget how powerful words can be. One careless word, one inconsiderate phrase, that’s all it takes to hurt someone and cut deeply. The scar invisible, yet nonetheless there. Turn to another facet, however, words are all powerful, inspiring and motivational. These have healing power, to lift one’s spirit up. And empty promises, these are perhaps the most damaging of all. They break trust and create wariness.

This 3D installation by Ben Vautier is set up high on a building at place Fréhel, at the intersection between rue de Belleville and rue Julien Lacroix (en route to my favourite Thai restaurant, Krung Thep). It depicts two puppet-workmen who are busy setting up this chalkboard, all oh so casually. For anyone seeing this for the first time, it’s easy to do a double-take, wondering who are up there working on putting this notice board on.

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