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Randomly: Porte de France

In the southeast corner of the 13ème lies a growing neighbourhood: contemporary block architecture dominates, the façade of each building are attention-grabbing in a different way than the Haussmanmians, and there’s not a lot that’s conventional about many of these structures. From twisted floors to glass-filled walls, from disorderly-placed windows to size-varied windows, from unicolour walls to multi-colours panes, uniformity is not the name of the game and yet they all blend in quite harmoniously with one another.

Porte de France

Porte de France

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Pâtisserie Myu Myu

It seems there was a silver lining afterall in finding the Pâtisserie de Choisy closed on a day when I really needed to buy some fresh Asian/Chinese pastries for G’s going-away do the next day. This ex-colleague of mine had just returned from a trip to Hong Kong and was pondering why there aren’t any dessert shop in Paris similar to those I recommended to him. He absolutely adored them.

Myu Myu durian cake

Myu Myu durian millefeuilles

In my attempt to hunt delicious alternatives, I stumbled upon Pâtisserie Myu Myu mere minutes walk away, tucked away in a small street off Avenue de Choisy among residential buildings and would easily go unnoticed. It also doubles up as a salon du thé for those wishing to stay there for a bit.

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Not your average traiteur: Jin Xin Lou

When I was a young visitor to Paris who barely spoke French donkey years ago, the first time I noticed the sign “traiteur” while walking around town, I wondered out loud “how could a Chinese takeaway be a traitor” (yes, it’s usually outside a Chinese restaurant/ takeaway that you’ll see the sign). My friend chuckled. “Nobody’s a ‘traitor’; the word traditionally stems from giving yourself a treat at home – i.e. dine in but don’t cook. However, today, it simply means a caterer or a takeaway.”

Anyway, I digress.

The recommendation of a friend of a friend brought us to my old neighbourhood of Cité U to check out a restaurant within a restaurant. Or more accurately, a French restaurant within a Chinese traiteur. Tucked away on a street at the edge of 13ème, bordering the 14ème and near the périph, you’d easily walk past without even noticing it. There’s not much to shout home about the decor and this is not a place for a romantic dinner à deux either. Yet, at 7.30pm, on a Saturday night when the streets were eerily quiet in this corner of the city, the place was bustling. If you had not made a reservation ahead, you’d be out of luck.

Jin Xin Lou

Jin Xin Lou

Once seated, ask for the French menu; a small and regularly changed, but not the single-menu variety (like many of the trendy new openings), there are 2-3 options per course. Seasonal ingredients were prominently featured. But, first thing first, a small basket of prawn crackers appeared at the table. I got munching away, and perhaps enjoying too many pieces of them, that F confiscated them away in case I ruined my appetite. As if! :p

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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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Project 365 – Week 43

A mostly grey week made me hanker for more sunshine, but as I was busy catching up with various course load from my online classes, among other things, time just flew by and before I knew it, we were packing our bag to go away for the weekend to attend a family event, and by the time we got back to Paris, my best friend was settling in into our apartment with a cup of hot chocolate and awaiting our return. Next few days will be busier than ever!

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59 rue de Rivoli

21 Oct: It is easy to walk down rue de Rivoli and identify the building that is today an art squat. I’ve photographed 59 rue de Rivoli for my previous Project 365, and it appears the exterior of the building is ever so lively! The changes made had been subtle, in terms of forms of the decor given the theme promoted by the artists in residence, but the materials used seem to be similar, mostly clothes and string-based. I like this new “kite-like” theme more than the old “pants-like” theme.

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Project 365 – Week 35

Blink, blink. September has just turned up, the French population is gearing up for la rentrée while I, well, dealing with a bunch of paperwork actually. That, and finalising the details of my upcoming holiday. In the mean time, I’m suffering from writer’s block and find it very difficult to put words to paper (or to WordPress, in this case). Please excuse me while I search for my inner wannabe-writer…

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Carved façade

26 Aug: There are the typical Haussmanian buildings, and then there are a whole lot of variations of non-Haussmanian too. I don’t think I was too far away from Pont d’Alma when I took this shot, just because it’s quirky enough to be different from its neighbours. I’ve been trying to search for more information on this architectural style, but haven’t have much luck so far. I may need to dig deeper, or whip up the thick book of Parisian architecture bible that F bought a long time ago. It’s a very interesting book, but just a bit too much French for me to read, so it’s work instead of fun reading.

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Project 365 – Week 30

I’m beginning to think every week is a crazy week somehow. It’s the same ol’ complaint: so much to do, so little time. Clearly I haven’t yet figure out how to stop the time-drain that I bemoaned about a fortnight ago… On a more positive note, I’m getting a couple of sightseeing days in Brittany next weekend when I’m in the region for my friends’ wedding. Frankly, I’m superstoked about the prospect of this getaway, even if it’s a very short one!

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22 Jul: Last year, thanks to a promo, I got myself an annual pass to the Disneyland Paris. However, after that one visit with my siblings – where I didn’t go on a single rollercoaster ride – I haven’t been back until now. My inner child certainly loved this day out, squeeing in joy, humming repetitive songs, and making impressions of Eeeeee-vaaaaa and Waaaaaall-Eeeeeee. I finally tried a few of the newer rides that were not there before from, I don’t know, 2004, when I last really ran around Disneyland from one ride to another. Crush’s Coaster in my new favourite ride ;)

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Project 365 – Week 24

I had not set out to photograph the week in shades of pink and blue, and yet somehow that’s how this week’s round-up is taking shape. Unintentional colour scheme aside, I’m experimenting a good bit with F’s new toy and totally having lots of fun at it! Looking at the photos below, you could probably figure out which were shot using the dSLR and which using my good ol’ PnS ;)

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Designer's Days

10 Jun: I am not sure why these flyers have just popped up on the phone booth near where I live. Afterall, Designer’s Days took place through last week and if any of the events needed promotion, it should have taken place then, not now. In any case, I like the retro feel to the flyers and the use of a large apostrophe as its identifying logo. It is simple yet relatable, and it is clever too, how the repetitive images in the background are linked to the quotation or the person behind the quotation.

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Project 365 – Week 14

What a weekend. As you know, yesterday morning has been all about the brunch with Jean Imbert and it was a good, high start to the day (I’m sure it’s not just the coffee/ caffeine talking). Frédéric and I were also at the cinema twice in two days, cycled around town, and in whatever extra time I managed to steal, I blogged for April last year too. Yup, time to play catch-up, so keep an eye in the next couple of weeks for more posts, including those related to Iceland!

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Peacock at Parc Floral

1 Apr: It was yet another day I played tourist with Nancy and we headed out east to the Bois de Vincennes. After consulting the map and a quick check of our watches, we knew we didn’t have time to do much so we kept to visiting the Parc Floral while we were in the area. That was when we passed by this peacock which was seemingly oblivious to the attention it was getting. This was officially my first live peacock sighting in greater Parisian area. I wonder if there are any in Paris itself…

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Project 365 – Week 7

I have just realised, while I’m keeping up with this photo project, I am falling behind with my reading. A whooping seven weeks into the year and I’ve just finished my third English book, never mind none in French yet. And rather frantically, I haven’t been able to find my public library card either. A spring cleaning is seriously needed because I’m hoping to make this year the one where I make full use of the libraries around Paris instead of buying more books when I have no space to store them.

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Winter sunset

11 Feb: Frédéric often tells me how much he loves the winter sky, specifically the softer colour hue at the end of a fine day. This evening was one of those where you couldn’t take your eyes off the horizon, where shades of colours blended into one harmonious palate. I wasn’t the only one who stood rooted at a spot looking up – a number of people on my Twitter were excitingly sharing their photos of this beautiful evening.

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Day 291: Wine superiority

After last week’s confounding collage art by Tristan des Limbes, today’s piece found at Butte aux Cailles looks rather straight forward at the first glance. Or is it? Perhaps there is also multiple explanations to it, but I’m going with the most obvious.

I see this as an allegory of submitting oneself to the superiority of French wine. As good as made by the gods. But drinkers beware! Too much of it, and you’re slaving away to an addiction that will bring you down on your knees. For a substance to have control over you is never something positive.

Day 282: Sunday market – Philippe

“T’es occupé?”
“Naaaan. Qu’est ce que tu penses?”

Ok. I give up. I am simply unable to recreate the atmosphere at the market on paper. Or in this case, on blog. And in French. Especially in French.

Philippe is the local producer that I get my greens from at the market. He’s friendly, always smiling, and patient with me while I stutter through my shopping list week after week. To be honest, anytime that I’ve been there, he’s always busy. Maybe with exception at the times that I was at the market much earlier than usual. He’s usually there with a couple of assistants, working steadily to serve the customers in line.

There’s a warm camaraderie between Philippe and a couple other stall vendors nearby. It is not unusual for them to holler and ribbing at each other, looking for some change (they are each other’s bank for coins and smaller notes), have a cuppa coffee and a bite f croissant pre-9am rush. This is the kind of atmosphere you’ll never get in a supermarket. This is the kind of cheering up that I’d happily take any Sunday morning.

Day 277: Behind the curtain

If you ever wonder, if someone is spying on you from an abandoned building, then there is probably something there. Maybe not a person per se, but possibly a trompe-l’œil that somone is tracking you from behind a small curtain. I guess this can be spooky at night.

This building on rue de la Glacière is marked for tearing down and rebuilding. Cranes can be seen peeking through the metal barrier put up to prevent public wandering onto a building site. There is an air of neglect, which made this trompe-oeil even more striking. Can you feel the loneliness radiating from this boy behind his hiding place?

Day 275: It’s a crush

Given we still have very sunny spells for now, the last of the flea markets are taking place in a few locales around the city, one of them being Butte aux Cailles. What is normally a quiet and small street – well, more like a lane – was completely jammed today! The photo doesn’t lie.

I have browsed my share of brocantes since I started living here. You know, it is actually common enough for these flea markets to be very busy, but mostly of people browsing rather than buying. It also appears as if the vendors brought everything unwanted from the storage an try to offload them whichever way possible. Let’s just say I am no longer surprised at seeing a rusty old bicycle frame being put on sale. No wheels. No lights. No basket. Just rusty frame. One man’s trash, another man’s treasure ;)

Day 273: Banana-dog

First day back in Paris and already have a loooooong to-do list on hand. Happily though, we are having a spell of Indian summer at the moment, so it’s not too big of a shock to be back from Malaysia. Additionally, the presence of sunshine makes me very happy.

So I decided to walk home this evening and on rue de la Glacière, I came across a florist that not only does beautiful flower arrangement, they even put on smart window display by creatively use fruits to transform it into something new. In this case, meet banana-dog. Isn’t he adorable?

Day 245: Respect of…

… love, peace and nature.

I don’t know if it’s me paying way too much attention at random things, or if it just happens that there are a lot of notices posted on public poles lately. And most of them tend to run along the vein of massage service offered so please rip one of these phone number strips below. Yes, if you are wondering, there are people who take those numbers.

It is therefore refreshing to see a different kind of note. One with positive message of respect and tolerance, one designed to make you take a minute to reflect on its message. Perhaps it’s an aesthetique thing, but I like the representation that love transcends race. In this increasingly mobile and cosmopolitan world, relationships are certainly stretched beyond country and cultural boundary. Such transformation can only enhance our lives and the way we see the world and its people. I’d say, keep it up!

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 197: Why so red?

I recently blogged about the Montsouris reservoir and if you look back again at the accompanying photo, you would notice a fountain from which water is flowing freely at its centre. Named Wallace fountain after its generous donor, Sir Richard Wallace, there are over 60 of these fountains around Paris to provide free potable water in public spaces from spring to autumn.

Normally dark green in colour, imagine my surprise when I came across one today that’s fire-engine red! Mais bien sûr, this particular fountain is situated in the heart of Chinatown area, and this is the one colour that Chinese loves most. Perhaps the residents nearby feel they require the fountain to “fit in”, culturally speaking?

Personally, I’d rather they be dark green than red.

Day 172: Fête de la Musique

Summer solstice and the city is alive with music. Except perhaps Butte aux Cailles, which businesses were on strike this evening over a recently introduced regulations on business operations. Still, had it not been for this stark absence of music in the neighbourhood, Lih King and I would not have gone to the Chinatown area and being serendipitiously entertained by the Hot Club of Beijing.

I love jazz. I just love jazz. Love love love jazz! And the trio played amazing gypsy jazz with an infusion of Asian influence. Normally based in Beijing, the band is made up of a mix of French and Chinese musicians. What captured my attention most was the vocalist singing songs reminiscent of 1920s Shanghai. He may be French but his singing in Mandarin was flawless. Needless to say, I’m rating this evening fantastic :D

Day 152: On the rooftop

It is not unusual to see balconies filled with blooms of all colour in Paris, no matter the size of the balconies. If anything, they make me wishing for my own, where I can tend to a pot or two of flowers, maybe some fresh herbs like basil and rosemary and lavender… OK, OK, hang on – I actually don’t have any green fingers so the plants would die quickly enough. It’s probably a very good thing that I do not have space to grow anything.

But, this rooftop garden takes the cake. I pass rue de la Glacière on a nearly daily basis but I’ve not noticed this before. My defense is, I’m usually inside the bus and since we don’t have transparent top to the bus, you know. However, I walked home this evening and suddenly, ta-da, there it was. I do wonder, how does the owner grow such huge trees up there. Surely the root system requires a lot of anchoring to make sure they don’t ever get blown away by strong wind, which happens from time to time?

Day 138: A view from Pont de Tolbiac

Today, a quick photo, still of River Seine, but from the east end of the city. Yup, the complete other side from where I was yesterday. And like the majority of Parisian neighbourhoods close to the périphérique, there are also plenty of modern buildings here and busy quayside with various docked vessels of varying sizes. I wonder how much trades are taking place along this part of River Seine?

It has been a while since I play around with the different modes of the camera so here’s the return of the miniature. I really am not making enough effort to get to know my camera well. I’m still struggling to handle the manual mode, especially at places where it’s dark/dim or during the night. The response time is extremely slow for most part, which is something I’ve not experiences in the past with the manual mode of my previous Ixus. I can only deduce I’m doing something wrong, since there’s more control settings on this camera and in correlation, it should means I could work it better. Now, if only I know where my manual CD is.

Day 131: Roooaarrrr!

You’ve seen me posted entries of various street arts and mural paintings of Paris. Here’s another creative one – which is used to not only decorate the wall but also to frame the elements of the building, i.e. windows and doors. Pretty good job for a building that seems to be in need of major restorative works.

While I find the roar of the animal amusing, the picture is still slightly disturbing. It’s the body. I can’t wrap my imagination around it and no matter how I look it over, it still feels all wrong. Not my kind of art perhaps. If you want to see this for yourself, head over to rue Neuve Tolbiac, near Bibliothèque François-Mitterrand.

Day 96: Blown away

Have I ever told you just how varied Parisian street art can be? From simple spray can graffiti variety to stencils to truly thought-provoking pieces, they never cease to amaze me. And there are a lot more street arts that I haven’t yet spotted so far.

I term this Alice-in-Wonderland-esque as “Blown away” and if anything, it reminds me much of Ireland, where windy days are not rare and nobody even bat an eyelid at “inside out” mushroom umbrella. Some day, on Grafton St, there is even a street artist/mimer there who stands at his spot with tie blowing away from him face and him struggling with his weather-sensitive umbrella. I may have his photo somewhere – if I find it, I’ll update this post accordingly.

Day 33: CNY in Paris

It’s the eve of Chinese New Year. Traditionally, family reunions/dinners are held today and downstairs, I think there’s a party somewhere, with cheesy Alan Tam music on. A number of Chinese residents (and friends) have been going in and out of the corridor where the music is blasting out loudly. I debated gate-crashing it, but as a newbie, it’s probably frowned upon to be quite that forward. Never mind, I’ll be getting my New Year dinner fix tomorrow with my friends back in Dublin.

There are 3 Chinatown areas in Paris. The largest of them is in the 13th arrondissement, mostly concentrated in around Avenue de Choisy, Avenue d’Ivry and their environs. These streets are currently lined on both sides with large greeting banners and lanterns in red, with the Chinese community flocking the major Asian supermarkets to complete their shoppings for the festivities, from food such as roast pig – yup, the entire animal – and nian gao to decorative items including New Year picture and plum blossom. There will also be a Chinese New year parade this weekend, which alas, I won’t be here to enjoy. Quel dommage.

The second Chinatown is in Belleville and it is actually a lot more diverse and multi-cultural here with a relatively high number of African ethnic groups also living here. A third and much smaller Chinatown can be found in the 3rd arrondissement, near Rue des Gravilliers. They each will also have their own parades to welcome the Year of the Rabbit.

For a complete programme to CNY celebration in Paris, check out this link (it’s in English) from the Mairie de Paris. Happy Chinese New Year!

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