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Day 365: NYE Dublin

This is it, another day, another year done. I’m ringing in the new year in Dublin with my friends (we’re heading out for dinner at my favourite restaurant in town – One Pico) but will be back in Paris in the morning on new year’s day. Such is the life of a wannabe-jetsetter, you know ;)

With the curtain call to 2011, it also marks the end of the current Project 365. How fun it has been, with occasional days of frustration when I didn’t think I had a good enough shot, or the days when I was feeling a tad tired or too bummed out to go on a photowalk (usually due to awful weather outside); overall though, I had loved this project. It certainly encouraged me to be more of an explorer of places, and I find myself trained to notice little things here and there.

I will miss this project, but I’ve decided in 2012, I’m going to blog differently. Or maybe not. Just more like regular blogging instead of pushing for daily posts. I have a few things to consider yet, on the direction this blog should take. Regardless, I hope you have enjoyed the journey together with me, and I thank you for your support, which in turn motivates me to try to do better each time.

Happy New Year – Bonne Année – and see you on the other side ;)

Day 364: Sales now on!

Half the fun of Christmas break is feasting on delicious treats that various members of my family whip up over the few days that I’m around (have I mentioned there are numerous chefs in my family?) and the other half would be to take the opportunity to laze about. Or as my cousin quipped, bummin’ around.

The bonus then, would be hunting for bargain finds during post-Christmas sales. It is a lot more fun to shop when I don’t have to pay as much as I would, say, a week ago. While I didn’t grab this dinky serving tray, I have scored myself a good few items at incredibly low prices, including shoes, blouse, skirts and even a casual but cute dress. The trouble now would be trying to fit everything into my luggage that is not terribly big to start with and bring everything back with me to Paris!

Day 363: Bride Street Church

Yesterday I touched briefly on the twin churches of Wexford. Since I was walking past the church on Bride Street this morning, I figured it would make a nice photo of the day to show at least one half of the “twin” a little more up close and personal. Plus, once you’ve seen the exterior of one, then you’ve effectively seen the other too, isn’t it? Two for the price of one ;)

I must admit to have never step foot into either churches. It’s strange considering I traipse in and out of various churches and cathedrals whenever I travel. Perhaps there’s something in us that tells us not to treat something local as mere visitor’s attractions? As a result, unless you’re a person of the faith and attend services held, the interior would remain somewhat of an unknown…

Day 362: Wexford town

After blogging of different facets of Wexford through Project 365, I realised I have not yet share a picture of the town itself. Of how it looks like from a vantage viewing point. So here is one, of the good ol’ Wexford town, formerly a Viking stronghold, today home to about 20K inhabitants. It is really quite picturesque, with a compact town centre surrounded by mainly residential areas.

Dominating the skyline are two large 69-meter spires of the “twin churches” (they are identical, with foundations laid on the same day and built at the same time – pretty smart way of budgeting by making use of one architect and one plan for two churches if you ask me) of Bride St (Church of the Assumption, in the foreground) and Rowe St (Church of the Immaculate Conception, in the background). These churches are neo-Gothic in style and were opened in 1858, making them currently 153 years old. Pretty neat stuff.

Day 361: Modern Viking Ad-man

Ah marketing gimmicks of today – presenting: a modern Viking!

I was vaguely curious when I first saw a man in a huge drape-like cloth over him. “Was he wearing a snuggie?” Apparently not. It wasn’t exactly a doublet, nor a gambeson, so I reckon it to be a bliaut. Mind, I’m not exactly conversant in historical clothing items. He then proceeded to put on a gilet, and out came the Viking hat. Alllllllriiiiiightio.

His job was to stand outside (in the cold) with a sign panel, an advertising strategy that seems to be very popular in Dublin since the last couple of years. Not an easy job by any mean, especially in winter (you try standing out there for a couple of hours – even 12°C would seem like 3-4°C), so hat tip to these sign holders. I tried to then papparazzi-shot him but as you can see, I think I’ve been busted.

Day 360: Morrison Chambers

The business premises that were once Eason at the junction of Nassau Street and Dawson Street have been taken over by Costa Coffee. I didn’t notice this change the last couple of times I was back in Dublin, although admittedly I don’t think I have passed by the area either both trips. So imagine my surprise today upon seeing this change. I wasn’t the only one. My friends who were with me (ok, we all live away from Dublin now) had similar reactions.

Housed within Morrison Chambers, a building that was once built for North British & Mercantile Insurance Co, this café is lucky to have also bagged the beautiful entrance beneath the dome. It still features the coat of arms from the four provinces of Ireland (the harp for Leinster, the half-eagle and upright sword for Connacht, three antique crowns for Munster and the red hand over Cross Gules for Ulster) over the immediate entrance from the exterior, as well as a coat of arm representing Ireland over the side of the inner door (not seen, but just beyond the left hand motif curve in the above photo). All in all, a grand entrance to a coffee shop that’s part of a chain. More importantly though, the heritage beauty is being maintained.

Day 359: Not a very Christmassy photo

Merry Christmas everyone!

A few things you should know which would explain the lack of a more Christmassy photo-of-the-day. First of all, my motivation is waning in light of the lack of snow like last year, which gives the whole place a feel of winter cheers. Terrible excuse, I know. Secondly, not only we have no snow, it has also been a rather wet and blustery day, so I’m in no mood to go wondering about. Still a terrible excuse but improving? Thirdly, we’re no longer in a large city so it’s great to escape all the glittering lights for a change. How’s that? And finally, I’ve been busy helping out in the kitchen and even busier eating that it cuts into photography time. Acceptable now? ;)

Still, a countryside scene of smoking chimneys does have a certain sense of simplicity, which is what I like about coming home. Away from the hustle and bustle of city life, keeping things on the down low and not having to fuss too much over anything at all. I like standing here and looking out to this view, and I am so very lucky that I have such a view to enjoy anytime that I’m back in this home. I have been asked on a number of occasions where home is for me nowadays. Well, anywhere my heart belongs. It doesn’t have to be only one place at a time. Love is very accommodating that way.

Day 358: (Not quite) Winter Wonderland

This time last year, much of Europe was blanketed in snow. I barely made it back from London after 14 hours of train and ferry travel following the cancellation of my flight from Heathrow, and every land journey got allocated twice the amount of time to reach the eventual destination. Nonetheless, for all the inconveniences, it really felt like Christmas as how it has been sold to us in books and movies, which was quite wonderful.

However, with temperature hovering at a mild 10-12 °C, there’s nary a hope for white Christmas this year. Winter wonderland would not be quite as it claims, and the poor merchants who have been stocking up gears for icy winter are going to find themselves with a surplus of stocks of snow boots, de-icers, and whats not – Ireland is not exactly a country of extreme weather in the first place. OK, last year was a bit off the chart crazy with lows of -18 to -20 but that’s exception rather than the norm. Perhaps the colder weather is yet to come this season. We’ll see.

Day 357: Last minute, Grafton Street

Just how packed can Grafton Street be? A couple of days before Christmas? Very. Super duper. Crazy actually. I took one look and decided this is probably not the place for me to be today. Even escaping to Hodges Figgis didn’t help, but within 20 minutes, I emerged with about 8 new books so at least I was kept happy with my bargain hunting.

Of course, to be in Dublin and not take a look at the windows of Brown Thomas would not be right, so I went over quickly to see what they have whipped up for this year. They are fantastically busy with a touch of twilight fairytale and at the same time retro in certain styling. A bit of a fashion mayhem if you ask me. Then again, what do I know about style and fashion? Except Karen Millen currently have a coat to die for and one look at its price tag, I dare not even try it for fear it would haunt me!

Day 356: À l’année prochaine, Paris

What a sunny wintry day today had been (a bit nippy though) while I ran around this afternoon to grab a couple of things, finished up packing and headed for the airport to catch my flight out to spend winter holidays with my family and to see my friends again. My worry on delays due to airport security staff strike was duly misplaced, as the terminal I was in was unaffected and if anything, our flight even left a little ahead of schedule. Chrismas magic indeed.

This shot is also my final photo for Paris in terms of Project 365, as I won’t be back again till New Year’s Day. How apt that this beautiful belle was giving me a chance to shoot her under conditions how I love her best – sunny, with quaintness for such a large cosmopolitan city, and the feeling of never-changing charm. Despite having passed by this area countless of times throughout the year, it just never get old and I am still seduced by the sights before my eyes. I’ll see you again next year, my dear.

Day 355: Fairylights and stars

It seems I’ve been heading towards the food hall of La Grande Épicerie a little too often in the last week or so (these lights are those outside of Le Bon Marché, the mothership of above-mentioned food hall) and I couldn’t help it. There are so much goodies to be had that if it’s not for the price tag, I could see myself shopping here regularly. Good thing I can’t afford them that much on a day-to-day basis.

However, for the festive season, it’s a good place to hit to find all sorts of delicious treats that makes fantastic edible gifts. I’ve pretty much shop for most of my presents for my family and friends here, apart from some caramels and chocolates from either Pierre Hermé or Jacques Genin. Last week, my housemate had to pull me away from the shelves, so today, I went alone, mouahahaha.

Ps: in fairness, there shouldn’t be any complain re my shopping tonight since it was mainly for items for our Christmas dinner ;)

Day 354: Champagne-like

I’ve been trying to capture the lightings on Boulevard St Germain this evening without really achieving the crispness I’ve been hoping for. Luckily in small image size, you can’t quite see all the blurry edges, hehehe. I really should consider either upgrading my gears (but with majority of my dosh going to travel and food, gears tend to be relegated to the bottom of the list) or get a tripod (but isn’t it plain ridiculous to carry one for a camera that’s pocket-sized?).

What I love about the lightings here is their representation of celebratory flutes of champagne – the streams of fairylights already resemble the flutes themselves, and if you’re there in person, you’ll see synchronised lighting that travels from the bottom to the top, one at a tip, like the bubbles popping up towards the surface of the flute. So adorable! And festively magical!

Day 353: Speaker Mouths

There are some very eye-catching gigantic lips in Saint-Germain-des-Prés at the moment. An art installation, it seems like it’s here to stay for a month. The way this installation works is through public interaction – you’re supposed to talk into the microphone in front of the lips and it’ll be reinterpreted by these lippy “flowers”.

Created in 2010 by LLND who were duo artists originally from Saint-Germain-des-Prés themselves (but have been living in China for the past 3 years), this piece is intended to be a form of art and cultural exchange between their home neighbourhood and Huai Hai Lu in Shanghai (their adopted neighbourhood?), promoting the spirit of communications. Unfortunately, when I was there, the sculpture didn’t seem to be in working order. Hmmm…

Day 352: Palais de Justice

I could get used to this. The days may be crappy during the week but come weekend, it’s glorious and sunny (still cold though – afterall it is winter). I really have nothing to complain about since this means I could explore the city without looking like a drowned chicken. It’s really only at weekend that I usually try to venture a bit further from my normal haunts.

This weekend however, I’m not exactly skipping along the cobblestones of streets unknown in the 17th or 20th arrondissement. Having the last of Christmas shoppings to complete plus a few meet ups with friends, I’m still wandering about the usual neighbourhood. The Palais de Justice was formally a palace but today a complex that includes the law courts. Sitting tight and looming large over about half of Île de la Cité, it also houses the Conciergerie and Sainte-Chapelle (which in order to visit, one would have to go through security checks that’s similar to that going to the various judiciary offices).

As you may have also noticed, just beyond the Palais de Justice is one of the towers of the Notre Dame Cathedral. Seriously, Paris of old makes a very compact city when you consider just how close all the important and main sites are centralised. That’s another story for another day. Later.

Day 351: Paris on canvas

Any visitors could hardly miss the rows of little metal stalls running along the River Seine in the centre of Paris. Les bouquinistes, that’s what we call them. Originally they were stalls meant to sell books (bouquins = books, les bouquinistes = booksellers) but over the years they have somewhat evolved that a large number of them now sell kitschy souvenirs, postcards, random objects and paintings.

Of them all, I find paintings and etchings most interesting. Sure, they’re mostly reproductions but some are very good reproductions. Scenes from various places of interests, or just something that inevitably evoke the memory of “Ah France…” or “Ah Paris…” make these pieces highly endearing to non-locals. One day I’ll get one to frame up too but first, let me find the ultimate picture that I’d like to keep. ;)

Day 350: Cultural station – (Headless) Ryaba la Poule

It’s time for a new instalment of cultural station, don’t you think? I happened to be on my way to Madeleine today so instead of taking a bus like I normally would, I took the metro instead so I can photograph this panel of stained glass of Ryaba la poule (Ryaba the hen) by Ivan Loubennikov. Unfortunately, in my hurry (I needed to make it for my tango lesson across town), I didn’t notice that poor Ryaba is now headless, oops.

This is the story of Ryaba as inscribed next to the mural:

Il était une fois un vieil homme et sa femme
Ils avaient une petite poule du nom de Ryaba
Un jour elle pondit un œuf extraordinaire : tout en or !
Le vieil homme tenta de le casser : toc toc ! : rien à faire !
Sa femme tenta de le casser : toc toc ! : rien à faire !
Une petite souris qui passait par là fit tomber l’œuf et le brisa
Le vieil homme se mit à pleurer. Sa femme aussi
Alors la petite poule leur dit : ne pleure pas grand père
Ne pleure pas grand-mère
J’en pondrai un à nouveau, mais pas en or…

My attempt at translating this:

Once upon a time there was an old man and his wife
Who had a little hen called Ryaba
One day it lays an extraordinary egg: it’s all in gold!
The old man tried to break it: toc toc!: nothing happened!
His wife tried to break it: toc toc!: nothing happened!
A little mouse in passing knocked the egg down and broke it
The old man began to cry. His wife too
And so the little hen said to them: do not cry grandfather
Do not cry grandmother
I will lay another, but not in gold…

Ps: spot the egg which is reportedly 80kg in weight!

Day 349: Livres anciens

The weather is not particularly kind today. There is a predicted strong gust of wind coming our way, and depending on the forecast, it could be anything between 30 km/h to 100 km/h. At least we’re nowhere near the north/west coastal area, which would bear the brunt of things from the look of it.

There is a bookshop near work that specialises in selling rare and antiquarian books. I’ve always find it fascinating to peer into the windows and see what’s “new” and admire the books with period covers and hand-bound volumes. I mean, how many more books nowadays that you see and still bear gold embossed letters with motifs framing their edges? Super cool, I tell ya!

Day 348: A different (Christmas) tree

I like the library network in Paris. With just one membership card, all the public library is accessible and so I can get books out from any of the branches run by the city council. And it’s free! (Membership with access to multimedia costs something like €35 per year – still a bargain if you ask me.) Since I noticed something interesting may be available at the branch of Baudoyer, away I went.

Just outside the entrance to the building complex of Mairie du 4ème where the library is housed, there are several interesting and eye-catching Christmas trees at Place Baudoyer. Oh they are festive, green with hints of reds, and fitting as festive decoration. On a closer look though, these trees are made using recycled material. More specifically, plastic bottles of carbonated drinks. How cool is that for an idea and to raise awareness!

Ps: as I took this photo, a woman stopped next to me and started chatting (in French no less) of the importance of caring for the environment, why these trees are magic and potentially a lead for my next photo of the day. I’m just thrilled she thought I fit in enough to strike a conversation with me :D

Day 347: Oh dream kitchen

One of the things that I miss most after my move to Paris is the kitchen in my old place, which not only is very well equipped, functional and pretty, it is also bigger than my entire studio apartment at Cité U. Yes, I know, I was spoilt. I have also since vowed never to take my kitchen for granted anymore.

My new apartment do have a proper kitchen now (yay!), albeit a rather cosy one. It has since kicked start my kitchen daydreams again, of owning something sleek, with full spice rack, a KitchenAid on the counter, an Aga keeping the room warm, and let’s throw in a few Le Creuset too. And oh, a good shelf of awesome cookbooks and Larousse Gastronomique would be highly appreciated too. ;)

Day 346: Green, red and gold

It’s not often that I venture around town in the middle of a work day but since I was on my way to meet the agent of our new apartment, why not grab a sunny day shot instead of worrying what I can photograph later in the day when it’s rather late and all dark outside, right?

Seems like the city council of the 5th arrondissement is also trying its best to decorate the neighbourhood up a little. In front of the Panthéon tens of Christmas tree prettied up using red and yellow ribbons, while just across the street, the city hall itself has silver tinsels streaming along the height of the building. Rather impressive, I must say.

Day 345: Au chien qui fume

Just a couple of weeks back I blogged of the cat that fishes and now while exploring around my new neighbourhood, I found “the dog that smokes”. Not just a plain cheap ciggie, but of a nice-looking old-fashioned pipe. Only in Paris, that the dog would smoke in style ;)

Even then, this is not the only Au Chien Qui Fume in this city. A quick web search shows that the main one (or rather, the top search hit) is actually a restaurant at rue du Pont Neuf within the heart of Paris, and there’s another at Versailles. I don’t think these are part of a chain, given their logos are different. One imitating the other when it comes to name branding?

Day 344: Golden Invalides

With the recent move, I needed to look for the closest market(s) to me where I can do my regular fruits and vegetable shopping. One of them being the Breteuil-Saxe market that’s held every Thursday and Saturday, at the tip of the (imaginary) axes where Champ de Mars and Les Invalides meet in southward direction.

It does mean the setting is simply idyllic on a morning like today, where golden ray bounces of the dome of Les Invalides while on the other hand, one could shop while admiring Eiffel Tower at the same time. If this is not one of the ways to celebrate the fabulous life of a Parisien(ne), I don’t know what else it could be. Especially for one who loves food. And I’m doubly pleased that my vegetable producer from my old regular market also sets up stall at this one. He was certainly surprised to see me here this morning!

Day 343: Stairs

I’ve been mostly cocooned indoors in the last couple of days, and today must be the height of laziness (but really it’s the last push to really get better, pronto!) that I haven’t even step out the building. Therefore, let me entertain you with a photo of the stairs from my floor… :p

I must say I adore this set of stairs. There’s a certain quaint quality to it, like something out of an old movie, where you expect to see the gentleman running up with a bouquet of flowers (not roses though, something else more unusual would be nice) while his sweetheart waits at the landing with bated breath while trying to contain her excitement.

Ps: I think my brain is simply fried and my imagination running even wilder than usual…

Day 342: Père Roger

Who wants to get me a giant chocolate Santa? ;)

This delicious looking creature is currently attracting a lot of attention of anyone passing the chocolatier Patrick Roger on rue de Rennes – I was not the only one trying to grab a photo. Just how cool it is to have this masterpiece in your home? Set on the table, it is taller than me and even in comparing its height to mine, it’s still standing pretty tall.

It makes me curious now what centrepieces have he got in his other branches around the city. There are, afterall, five of them altogether. I’m normally here, or at the one on Boulevard St Germain – about 15 minutes walk between the two. It has been a while since I last shopped there though. Perhaps it’s time to revisit and get some Christmas goodies for those near and dear.

Day 341: View on way home

Remember I mentioned not so long ago that, in Paris, you could throw a coin somewhere and you’d probably hit a monument? Something along that line anyway. Well, I found out today that if I walk back to my new place from across the road as opposed to the side I usually take, I am treated to a beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower. If it’s on the hour after sunset, then the tower is also sparkling pretty.

Not much is going on otherwise. I haven’t been feeling well for a good few days now, and the grey grey sky outside that’s on feature a lot lately is not helping much. I hope this is not going to be all that I have to look forward to for the next 2-3 months or it is going to send me straight to the world of winter blues. Paris, I’m counting on you to keep me amused and happy!

Day 340: Crazy ciggie totem?

The totem sculptures thing are just too funny. I’ve seen them around each time I go to/fro my tango classes, but I never quite figure them out. I’m also too lazy to check if there is any description of these totems nearby. My imagination runs wild and what I perceived are some colourful ciggies in the guise of totems. And it’s not even commercial ciggies but home-rolled.

I’ve finalised everything at Cité U today, handed back my keys and all. It’s so strange to see the studio apartment like how it was eight months ago. It’s as if I’ve never been there even. The cleaning lady of my floor was nice, wishing me good luck and approving that the apartment is in good order. Funny there was no état des lieux being held though. Just a quick glance through.

Day 339: Festive bike

Well well, time really flies and looking at the calendar today, we’re merely a couple of weekends away from Christmas. I have no idea where the year has gone, perhaps stolen away in the middle of the dark dark nights. As I walked towards Pierre Hermé this evening, I tried not to panic at the thought that I still have much to do before flying back to Ireland for my Christmas break!

Things are really starting to get very festive just about everywhere right now. On rue de Rennes, fairylights and ornaments sparkles in the dark, and at its junction to St Germain, the trees are lit in the way that it reminds me of champagne bubbles fizzing its way up to the top of the flute. Here, a lone bicycle is covered in pines and cranberries. Either way, there’s only one message in them all – Christmas is in the air.

Day 338: Giant flag

I have absolutely no idea where there is a giant flag hanging off the Arc de Triomphe. It wasn’t there the day after Armistice Day, and I’m not sure if there has been any date of significance in the French (civil) calendar between then and now. Oh well, in any case, the flag is there today. And have you spot the visitors looking down from the top of the arch? It is a pretty cool viewing point, especially in the evening.

On the home front, I’m finally all unpacked except for my books. It is a bit of a problem, that. I am not sure where I can stash them, and this apartment doesn’t actually come with any bookshelf. I could get one, but it still needs someplace for me to set it up to start with. I guess I’ll just have to read the books I have quickly and then set them free to other new loving homes. Have you checked my latest progress on this year’s big read? I’m getting closer and closer to the target of 100!

Day 337: Maison de l’Alsace

I am all moved out from Cité U now. The morning was a bit rough, seeing I’m currently a little ill (I have a cold, boo), there was all the packing to do yesterday (how did I accummulate so much things over a mere few months?) and this morning, the big guy up there decided to send me off with ongoing drizzles. Nice. And now there’s also all the unpacking to do too…

Still, it doesn’t mean a girl can’t take a little break and head out for some fresh air. From the new place, I now even have direct buses that goes to Champs-Élysées – perfect for a little photo excursion in continuation of the Christmas theme. Today, I present to you, Maison de l’Alsace, which looks quite like a Christmas present waiting to be unwrapped. Accordingly, if I join the queue to get to the second floor, I will find lots and lots of Alsacian goodies. Hmmm kugelhopf…

Day 336: Winter sunshine

This is a bit poignant. As I stand here at the window (of my bathroom), I realise this is the last time I get to enjoy this afternoon sunshine from this viewpoint. This time tomorrow, I would be busy unpacking over at my new apartment, taking that one step closer to playing the role of a Parisienne. Still an imposter, but maybe less? I still have much to learn on how to be a true Parisienne.

Those little lanes down there has been part of my jogging route since early this summer, so I will miss having such vast green space literally at my backyard. While the new apartment is slightly closer to work and very central (with Pierre Hermé now a mere 5 minutes walk away), it is a good bit of a way out for me before I hit any green area to do a spot of jogging. Oh well… I’m sure I’ll get adjusted soon enough.

For now, goodbye Cité U.

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