Amsterdam view from Amsterdam Tower

Amsterdam view from Amsterdam Tower
The view from Amsterdam Tower

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Paris - J'adore (Les Monuments)

I wondered how Paris was before Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann revamped this city between 1853 and 1870… Most monuments and buildings, in Paris, remain until now… 

Paris Museum Pass

Must have: Museum Pass

During holiday season like New Year’s festivals, most of the museum is full with Parisians and tourists.  It is a good idea to buy Museum Pass.  In order to save time and effort, we can buy it online and have it sent to the hotel.  We bought one that is valid for six days.

La Tour Eiffel (The Eiffel Tower)

Like every other tourist coming to Paris, visiting La Tour Eiffel is the number one priority.  We bought the ticket online two weeks prior to the visit.  The ticket is to go to the top of the tower.  *ps : this ticket is excluded from the Museum Pass list.

So in Day 1 of my trip in Paris, I put my steps at La Tour Eiffel. 
The ticket indicated a specific time when we have to be in there to take the elevator.  As we arrived early, we went to see the fair across the tower.  There were some tents (looked like a fair) selling food. 
There were churros, crepes, waffles, French fries, hot dogs, “cotton candy” (some of my friends in Indonesia called this sweets as “gulali” or "janggut nenek")… soft drinks, tea, coffee, vin chaud (spicy hot wine which is only available during the year end’s). 

Slightly before 3.30pm, while waiting for the lift, we started to get worried.  It was 2°C, very cloudy and foggy.  We could not see the top of the tower.  I was stubborn to say that my coat was suitable enough for the Paris’ weather, as I bought it in Hong Kong.  Being in the queue, my belief started to torn down.  It was cold and windy... My coat is only suitable for spring/autumn… #Freezing

Still I went up.  Everyone enjoyed La Tour Eiffel.  During this holiday season, many Parisian families came to see the Iron Lady or “La Dame de Fer” (it is a nickname of La Tour Eiffel).  I could hear many different accents buzzing around my ears.  Some says that this tower is the tallest building in Paris and the most-visited paid monument in the world; millions of people ascend it every year.  Voila, I am one of those people!

People queuing for the lift

The security around la Tour Eiffel was tight.  During these holiday seasons, many armed forces were on duty.  They looked serious, I did not dare to come closer; can I take a pic with you Monsieur?

Paris view from La Tour Eiffel in a foggy afternoon

Booo …. unfortunately, it was very foggy …  When we reached the top of the tower, we could not see Paris at all.  Fog was everywhere.  I could tell that Jakarta-Indonesia is 11,584 km from here… Why am I that smart? Because it is written there! LOL 

Can you see distance from La Tour Eiffel to Jakarta?

No luck to see Monas (Monument National) in Jakarta from La Tour Eiffel…

L'Arc de Triomphe

L'Arc de Triomphe

This monument is often mentioned in my French text books as it is the most famous monument in Paris. That is why it is in my priority list!

It is located at the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle (Place de l'Étoile) which is at the western end of the Champs-Élysées.

Thanks to the Museum Pass, we skipped the queue. #big smile... As we entered the monument, I could see nothing but the stairs going up.  Mmm...  It is long stairs; I went up, up and up #hiks.  How much longer that we had to go up?  I almost lost my breath!  Oooohhh... 

Finally, we arrived in the top floor where the model of L'Arc de Triomphe is.  Well, this monument is 50 meters height!  There is no lift going up!  My loved one knows about it, but did not want to tell me prior to the visit… -:)

The best part of the monument is of course the open roof top!  We could see the gorgeous view of Paris.  I wish I brought a cup of hot ginger tea here… -:)  The strong wind made the climate even colder.  

The tomb of an unknown soldier

L'Arc the Triomphe is the place for the soldiers to salute their seniors.  After having graduated from military academy, the soldiers brought here as if it is their graduation monument.  Beneath the Arc, there is the tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.

As for me, this is a monument for my graduation visiting Paris!!!

Uploading soon:
Paris – J’adore => Le Chateau de Versailles

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Paris - Le Metro

Why do I have to write about public transportation in Paris? 

One of Metro Stations
  • In my French text book, it is always mentioned about “prendre le metro” (take the metro),
  • The fact is that Paris has one of the densest metro networks in the world, with 245 stations within 86.9 km2 (34 sq mi) of the city of Paris (source: Wikipedia),
  • It carries 4.5 million passengers a day or even more now…
  • Coming from a country where there is no metro, I like to observe most of the things about it; the metro itself, the passengers, the stations, the other unusual stuff happening in the metro…
Paris is a big & busy city

Le Metro

Opened in 1900, the Paris Metropolitain (Le Metro) remains to this day a model of efficient public transportation (source: Discover France). 

Paris looong time ago, one of the showcase at Le Musee de Carnavalet (Paris History)

During our stay, we purchased Metro Pass valid for five days in advanced. We had it delivered to the hotel. It is very convenient.

It just happened that one of our passes did not work on Day 2. After having it exchanged, the replacement Metro Pass worked well.

Left: Starbucks, Right: Stairs to Metro Station-Le Motte Picquet Grenelle

The Metro was free on the new year's eve. Starting 5pm on the last day of the year, everyone could take Metro with no pay. The gate was open, just walked thru, no need to swipe any ticket. It was still free until 1st January around noon. I recalled that when we used the Metro around 2pm, I had to use my ticket again.

Amazingly, our replacement Metro Pass still worked well even after it supposed to be its expiration date (five days). #Smile

Left is stairs to Metro Station near Notre Dame Paris

Still about Le Metro, my loved one found some old metro tickets from many years ago. Thanks to the sophisticated system, these tickets could be used! #Canggih #maju sekali sistem Metro di negara ini. Anyway, I think giving citizens free Metro ride in the New Year is a good community service.

In a couple of occasion, there were street musicians in the metro entertaining the passengers for coins. The most interesting one is a couple of guys playing jazz with their trumpets. Cool…

Street with busy parking space

Children Program

In one of the Metro rides, I noticed there were about 20 kids of around ten years old. They wore tag in their necklace with some information of their name of neighborhood and contact number. They were with four adults escorting them like big brothers/sisters.

I was informed that it is city program to organize i.e. trip for children during school holiday. Program is meant for low income families. They either paid a little sum and local government provide subsidy, or they didn't pay at all. The city office would assign some adults to take the kids to parks or visit museums etc.

Bike for rent (Le Velib)

The kids look cute. They come from different background. Their hair colors are black, brown, blonde, some has Asian skins, some has dark color skins, some look European. But they all speak French.

It is challenging to take 20 kids in Paris Metro. They had to stick together. When the train door was open, the big brother gave instruction: “Allez-y” - Come on… and everyone had to rush in. Bear in mind that the Metro was not empty at all. So they had to squeeze in and people could hear kids voice; Woooo....when the Metro ran... 

Paris has traffic jam too, more & more people drive motorbikes

Like everyone else, when the Metro is full, they have to stand up and hold on to something in order not to fall... Other passengers were smiling and squeezed to other part of Metro, to give these kids some spaces.

Getting out of metro was another challenge. The big brothers/sisters had to wait till everyone got off the Metro. It had to be done in a certain seconds otherwise the door is closed automatically. Then brother/sister had to make sure all the kids were there. 

Cruise at the Seine River is something... but this boat is a floating house

Changing from one metro to another was also fun. They marched and each two kids were holding hands together. They followed the instruction of their brother/sister.

These brothers/sisters were paid to do this by the local city government. These guys whom I saw looking cool being with the kids. One guy talked to them patiently. He kept on telling them not to speak out or bother other passenger, to sit still, etc.... Twenty of ten years old kid together, they can be powerful – LOL. 

This truck isn't a public transportation, its duty is to clean up the streets

Perhaps this is one of the reasons why France is so desirable to live in by immigrants for better living and better life.

I drove this buggy at Le Chateau de Versailles

Anyway,…. Everyone dreams for a better life. A lot of people dreams to go and live in a modern country like Europe. They are willing to leave their country, family and friends to start a new life for a new hope. Yes, Europe i.e. Paris is beautiful and romantic. However living cost is high. Unless we have at least decent job and income, living in Paris may not be fun.

There is a huge different between visiting Paris and living in Paris. Once we are living there, there is another challenge. I believe better living and better life come from inside of our heart. If we are happy inside, hopefully we are happy wherever we are…

Coming up next - Part 3
Paris, the monuments, the museums, the cuisine....

Monday, January 16, 2012

Paris - J'adore


My first trip to Europe was in Autumn 2010. I had a silly wish that I wanted to see Europe before a certain age, even if I had to travel by myself. Two months before I reached that age, I got an opportunity to go to Holland. However, my father was very sick. I canceled everything; airplane, hotel, and all of the dreams.

I made the right decision. My father passed away not so long after that.

Life went on. Time passed.

Only three months after I passed that certain age, I got the second opportunity to visit Europe with my loved one. At the same time, one of our best friends would have his big party in Holland. So it was all a good coincidence. Thank you.

This experience teaches me not to giving up a dream. It was on hold temporarily, but it does not mean giving it up forever. Picture the wish and the universe will help to achieve it.

The Old Map of Paris at La Crypte Archéologique de Notre-Dame de Paris

Oui, je parle français

Europe is beautiful. Lots of words can be used to describe it. Beautiful is just one of the simple word that can describe it.

Paris. Who does not fall in love with Paris?  Especially for those who speak or learn French, visiting Paris is always a dream.

La Tour Eiffel view from roof top of Galeries Lafayette

If I did a flashback to the time when I was in College, students were given a choice between studying French or German as second foreign language. Other than English as first foreign language, of course.  I right away ticked French.  It is so girlish that I used to say that French is a romantic language. Logically, I think it is the top five spoken language in the world... i.e. many countries use it as national language. But girlish I would say the words are just so romantic.

The building where they decide any French word in the French dictionary

All of these French stuff….. Centre Culturel Français (CCF) in Jakarta, Institut d’Échanges Culturels avec la France (Idecaf) in Ho Chi Minh City, TV5 at home, Vogue magazines, a bit French conversation with the loved one and Idecaf friends… These are to attract Paris, as the law of attraction says.

Paris view (sunset)

Et voilà…

As if it was meant for me, the opportunity came… It was not just going to Paris. But it was a New Year in Paris. Am I excited? Big smile and big concern. I had a big smile for la tour Eiffel, museums, gastronomy, fashion, etc… Concerns are related to New Year weather. I come from tropical country..!

I randomly checked Paris weather forecast during the month of December. Why I had to arrive on the day when it supposed to be the coldest day in December in Paris of 0°C? Anyway, after 12 hours flying, at 5.30 am, I was welcomed by warm hugs at 2°C.

Paris, j’adore – Champs-Elysees

My first Paris experience started by having French breakfast at a brasserie at les Champs-Elysees. It is a prestigious avenue in Paris. It is the Orchard Road in Singapore. PS.: Brasserie is a type of French restaurant with a relaxed setting, which serves single dishes and other meals.

Mmm…..  Actually my first experience with Paris is Le Metro and its stations. They are not as new as Singapore MRT, however metro in Paris is very convenient.

When we got out of from “Charles de Gaulle Etoile” metro station, I noticed the beautiful clear blue sky with six white crosses look like a star (une étoile). My loved one said; it is a welcome greeting for you dear… So sweet…

Paris clear blue sky with crosses to welcome me

A set of French breakfast consists of a cup of hot chocolate and a bunch of pastries were perfect. The hot chocolate was thick, nice aroma and yummy taste. There were a few medium size of pastries including muffin. All was still warm. Outside there; it was 2°C.

We chose this brasserie for fun, it was just happened that we walked in front of Le Fouquet’s. People say that this brasserie has been one of the icons of Paris since it was opened more than hundred years ago.  The place is busy for lunch and especially dinner. It is the place for the wealthy Parisians and tourists to hang around to see and be seen. Mr. Sarkozy had his party here after the announcement of the presidential election. Price is not cheap, but probably it is fun to have one in a life time breakfast experience here.

Walking around Paris and Shopping

During my stay in Paris, I really spent time to do make up. Why? Because I was in Paris! It is the city where the fashion is created. It is so girlish that I had to do proper make up and pay attention to what to wear. It was just because I was in Paris!  I had to look neat as if the 'fashion police' watched me! Who knew that I would bump into French beauty icons like Marion Cotillard, the famous French actress, singer and Dior model or haute couture designer like Karl Lagerfeld, LOL.

Window shopping only

It was 2 °C so I had to wear warm sweater, jeans, thick socks, booths, winter coat and pashmina all over my neck. If it was too cold outside, I used hand gloves. I looked myself in the mirror, mmm…nice… I like winter dress code. It was not for the fashion but it was for the function! Otherwise I would be damn cold. Some of my friends said; ngak apa-apa yang penting gaya… (no worries, style is more important)… well, wait till your fingers are freezing at 2°C.

France does not have shopping mall. They have "des grands magasins". It is similar …

View from roof top of Galeries Lafayette

Le Printemps is one of des grands magasins in Paris. It much more than a shopping destination, Le Printemps is a historical monument. It is an old beautiful building. They have three separated store for male and female collections dedicated to fashion and luxury brands. 

Cute girlish showcases at Le Printemps. Middle: girls with hair rolls. Right: Karl Lagerfeld

During festive seasons, des grands magasins in Paris has competition to have the nicest showcase decoration. Le Printemps has different theme for each showcase. Some are very attractive to children. They even provided small stairs so children can come up to see them comfortably. My favorite ones are the dolls wearing hair rolls and Karl Lagerfeld.

Left: Xmas tree, Right: beautiful mozaic roof at Galeries Lafayette

Galeries Lafayette is located near to Le Printemps and occupying nice old building too. There is an open roof top that customers can visit. This is everyone’s favorite spot. Great panoramic of La Tour Eiffel, the Opera House, beautiful boulevards, view of Montmarte church from far, the sunset, the foggy weather, people passing, beautiful lights along the streets…

View from roof top of Galeries Lafayette
Indonesia has 200 million habitants and of course they are everywhere including visiting Paris shopping malls! I could hear Indonesian accent at Galeries Lafayette and another ladies bag shop… Hehehe…
Most of shops in Paris are in old building. It is enjoyable to walk around the city admiring the buildings themselves. 

Three big streets (part of the stars/etoile) and La Tour Eiffel from far

Haussmann is the architect who did the restructuring of Paris at the end of 19th century and gave the city its present form; its long, straight, wide boulevards (source: Wikipedia). Most of the buildings in Paris right now were built by Haussmann, including the buildings of Le Printemps, Galeries Lafayette, Champs-Elysees avenue and most others.

Still talking about shop, along Seine River, there is a walking path whereby there are many small kiosks selling second hand books. Some of them sell interesting old pictures of Paris. Other sell souvenir; key chain, mirror, small box for drug, old stamps or coins, etc.

Left side: small kiosks along the river, selling 2nd hand books

During one the walks throughout the city, we passed at Le Palais de Les l’Elysee which is the Presidential Palace where Mr. Sarkozy works and lives. There were so many guards and some of them were fully armed. It looked like they were ready to welcome guests. Couldn’t be me of course, LOL.

I waved my hand and gave a big smile to one guard in front of the gate. He wore nice dark blue uniform and one hand held a gun. He smiled back at me, little smile, but I could see from far that he smiled back at me!

Presidential Office

I passed the second guard. He wore the same uniform. I waved and smiled at him. Of course he smiled back. I wish I could pass on my message through him to Mrs. Carla Bruni Sarkozy and her baby...!

La Place de la Concorde

Europe has nice public squares including Paris… People can just come to this square. During work days, they can bring their lunch and eat their sandwich here. During weekend, they can read books in the garden.

La Place de la Concorde is one of the major public squares in Paris. It is 8.64 hectares area and the largest square in this city. This place also took part when the French revolution happened. When the government erected the guillotine in the square, and it was here that King Louis XVI was executed on 21 January 1793.

Next to it, there is the Tuileries Garden (Jardin des Tuileries) which is a big public garden located between the Louvre Museum and the Place de la Concorde. It became a public park after the French Revolution. In the 19th and 20th century, it was the place where Parisians celebrated, met, promenaded and relaxed.

The Obelisk

The highlight of La Place de la Concorde is the center of the Place where the giant Egyptian obelisk is. The obelisk, a red granite column, rises 23 metres (75 ft) high, including the base, and weighs over 250 metric tons (source: Wikipedia). Missing its original cap, believed stolen in the 6th century BC, the government of France added a gold-leafed pyramid cap to the top of the obelisk in 1998.

Giant wheel (night view)

La Place Vendôme

It is a square nearby La Place de la Concorde. It is probably the Paris’ most expensive place whereby the greatest jewelers have their headquarters. 

One of the corner of La Place Vandome

Like everywhere else in the world, the prestigious places of course are elegant and luxurious. Just walking around in these areas are fun, looking at the jewelers showcases and admiring their diamonds. I wonder if I would see Victoria Beckham enters one of those shops…

"Pont-Alexandre III" Bridge

The Bridge - Pont-Alexandre-III

The Pont Alexandre III is an arch bridge that spans the Seine, connecting the Champs-Élysées quarter and the Invalides and Eiffel Tower quarter, widely regarded as the most ornate, extravagant bridge in Paris. It is classified as a historical monument (source: Wikipedia).

Coming here before the sunset is a perfect idea.

Statue at the bank of the bridge

Some of the world haute couture designers use this location for photo shoots of their new collections. To get perfect shoots, those photos were taken early morning just right during sunrise. 

At the bridge with La Tour Eiffel as background

After taking enough photos at this bridge, or to be precise after having had enough winds and my fingers were very cold, we continued walking... There were dark clouds and it finally rained. Blessing in disguise, the rainbow showed up in the blue sky… Gorgeous! Thank you Paris!

Rainbow after the rain

We then decided to have a break in a coffee shop nearby. It still rained outside. My freezing fingers were happy to hold warm cup of hot chocolate. A cake shared for two made the moment even better. I could hear the song of Bruno Mars: Grenade…. I’d catch a grenade for you, throw my hand on a blade for you, I’d jump in front of the train for you, you know I’d do anything for you… 

View of La Tour Eiffel from the bridge

Mmm…. Let me just save this moment as one of best moments in my life…

  • Paris,
  • Coffee shop,
  • Rain, cold and rainbow,
  • Hot chocolate and a cake,
  • Being there with the loved one…,
  • Paris…,
  • Paris…..,
  • Paris………..
Left: one of brasseries, middle: King Louis XIV statue, right: one of hotels

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Coming up next – Part 2
Paris Metro

Coming up next - Part 3
Paris, the monuments, the museums and the cuisine…