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A year in travel, from Paris

L'Orangerie of Versailles

One of the best thing about living in Paris is the ease one escapes from Paris. Ownership of a private mean of transportation optional.

For someone who likes to travel, this is essential. Paris being a massive travel hub means I could either take the RER/Transilien to visit areas in Ile-de-France, the main rail services for trips around France and all its neighbouring countries (and then some), as well as flights to the rest of the world. I know, there are bus options to travel around Europe too, but I’d rather pay a wee bit more and shorten the travel time, given I don’t exactly have unlimited paid holiday to take.

And well have I been busy taking advantage of this in the last twelve months or what… February (as in 2 months ago) was the only month in which I stay put in entirety in Paris. If it hadn’t been a short month, who knows where I could have jaunted into? ;)

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Daytrip from Paris: Chartres

Paris is wonderful. However, once in a while, it is also nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Even within a mere hour or so of travelling time (and I’m not talking about getting to the airport in order to be jet away!), there are possibilities aplenty. For those without a car, fret not, the rail system is extremely efficient and exploring France couldn’t be made any easier! Taking advantage of rare sunny spring days last weekend, we decided a day-trip to Chartres – famed for its magnificent 12th-century Gothic cathedral – should be the order of the day.

Given the impromptu nature of our decision (made on Friday, trip on Saturday), we bought our tickets at Gare Montparnasse just before our elected departure time and paid about €30 per person for return tickets (specifically, €14.90 each way). There were trains scheduled nearly every hour in both directions, which left us with a very flexible timetable on when to leave and when to return. Needless to say, we were not at all prepared and without even a basic map, we set forth on our adventure.

Médiathèque l’Apostrophe


Monument Jean Moulin

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Vintage shopping board game

Pretty much any French household that I’ve been to have a stash of board games somewhere, along with stacks of cards and perhaps even a set of tarot, collectively known as jeux de société. Game night in France doesn’t necessarily means a bunch of people meeting for online RPG and the likes, but rather lovers of a variety of (commonly) multi-player board and card games gathering together and indulged in some fun and games. There are gaming clubs that one can find nationwide!

While going through my folders of photos this evening, I came across a few photos which I took a few months ago but have completely forgotten. They are photos of a set of vintage shopping-themed board game which my friends and I played when we were away on a countryside weekend break. It is called – wait for it – Gay-Play! Imagine the name being used today; I’m sure there would be uproars along the way. The game was also alternatively known as Pik-Paks and Shopping familial. (Really? Who was the marketing manager??)


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Grande Mosquée de Paris

In many parts of the world, mosques are out-of-bound for non-followers. I’ve even known of mosques which clearly sign-posted that non-Muslims are strictly prohibited to enter. Add to the fact that I’m female, getting access to the compound within these mosques would be even trickier, especially in accordance to traditionalists, Muslim women should preferably pray at home, or otherwise be segregated to a separate room or at the back of the prayer hall or behind certain barriers, not side by side with the men.

Of course, that is not always the case. In certain cities or countries, mosques can be visited by non-Muslims outside of prayer sessions, provided certain guidelines such as appropriate attire and respectful observations are adhered to. This is the face of Islam that is encompassing, encouraging deeper understanding than beyond the portrayals in the media which are often misunderstood and maligned, and fostering links with the community at large regardless of the religion its individual practices.

The Great Mosque of Paris (La Grande Mosquée de Paris) is one which doors are open to all. Built in the 1920s in commemoration of the valiant Muslim tirailleurs who fought on France’s behalf, it has even once transformed into a hidden sactuary for Jews who were being persecuted during the Holocaust. Today, it aims to foster community relationships with believers and non-believers alike, and our guide couldn’t emphasise enough that their duty is to forge understanding that Islam is peaceful by nature and unity belies its core teaching.

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C’est pas mal vs C’est pas terrible

Ce n’est pas mal. (more commonly, C’est pas mal.)
Ce n’est pas terrible. (ditto, C’est pas terrible.)

Translating word by word, what we have are “it is not bad” and “it is not terrible”. They are conveying messages along similar vein, no? Where we didn’t think it’s good but it’s still, you know, alright I guess. Acceptable.

These phrases are easy to remember; the words not too complicated for a foreigner. Quelle déception! Instead, we would inevitably use them incorrectly. This is how cross-messages happened, until one day, light bulb moment – ding! Mais franchement, I think French people are trying to mess with our heads… ;)

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Le Chateaubriand

Chateaubriand has been on my restaurant list for a while. My email archive shows that the first time I talked about it with my friends was all the way back in 2009. Ah, those were the days I dreamt about living in Paris. And that email was written ahead of one of my countless trips to Paris. The restaurant visit failed to happen then (I left it too late to make a reservation) and I’ve been procrastinating since. No more.

The boy and I smartened up last weekend, after he made a timely reservation (2-weeks ahead), and head out towards Parmentier in anticipation of the surprises which we would be served. Menu in Chateaubriand changes daily, with the majority of the dishes set in accordance to what’s fresh in the market. Certain amuse-bouches have so far been always featured in the menu, and in the case of desserts, they change every few months.

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Musée Marmottan Monet

Musée Marmottan Monet is a gem. A little out of the way perhaps, it sits just at the eastern edge of Bois de Boulogne. There are no pomps to announce its presence just beyond a small playground in mainly, from what I gathered, a residential area. However, what’s hidden behind the seemingly plain façade is another story altogether.

The museum is one primarily dedicated to Impressionism, an art movement which I can’t seem to get enough of. I may as well admit now that I hold an annual pass to Musée d’Orsay so I could visit anytime in the year to indulge in my whims for the romance in Impressionist works, not to mention the added bonus of entry to Musée de l’Orangerie whenever I wish. Paris was central to the birth of Impressionism and I believe no better city could have been chosen for it to flourish. Today, Paris is also the best city to admire many of the masterpieces produced during the short time-span of the movement.

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Personal thoughts on Sri Lanka

Returning from my short visit to Sri Lanka, I’ve been asked on numerous occasions my perceptions and thoughts of the country. I find this relatively difficult to respond, as every observer notices different things. Even though Claire and I travelled together, I’d bet my last euro that what she thinks of the trip would be quite different from mine, plus some common points of course.

While knowing the fact that Buddhism is practiced by the majority of Sri Lankans, until my arrival, I simply had not realised just how significant its presence is. Everywhere we went, we would come across a Bo tree which under sat a statue of Buddha, or a simple shrine at the edge of a road, or a large temple overlooking the turn of a bend, or magnificent (and historic) complexes attended by many for prayers and ceremonies.

It also served to remind me that the root of Buddhism lies in South Asia, despite the main practising strongholds of Buddhism and its related/linked religions being East and South-East Asia. The iconographic representations of Buddha are noticeably rather distinct here from those of other parts of Asia. It also highlights how prayers are conducted quite differently from these fractions of Buddhism, yet at the same time hold through the practice of calm meditations. I find them all quite fascinating, but to discuss them in details would merit long articles in their own rights.

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Rice and curry et al

After much delays in getting my posts up, I thought, finally, I’m done with Sri Lankan travel series. Until I realised that I have not. What about the food? That’s something very important and shockingly, I haven’t mentioned anything about them up until now. Abnormal for a girl who eats a lot and likes to, as much, talk about food.

When I travel, I like to eat what the locals mostly eat. In Sri Lanka, that means many meals of rice and curry. Some were absolutely delicious, some a tad more pedestrian, and most times the portion size was just downright scary. At least I wasn’t overpaying for “foreign” meals. I’ve seen the price of a plate of spaghetti bolognese easily being equal or higher than a meal of rice and curry that could generously serve two.

Rice and curry sounded so simple, but often it had more elements and ingredients than a typical Western home cook would encounter in a week! Rice was, well, rice. Often times they were plain boiled/steamed rice. But the curry! It wasn’t a single curry dish that I would cook at home by throwing 3-4 types of vegetables and/or meat in with some curry paste and coconut milk. We’re talking of typically 3-6 different curry-base dishes to go with the rice. Not unlike the concept of thali in India, or nasi lemak in Malaysia. And oh how good they often were too.

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