Archive for the ‘France’ Category


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“A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of Life.” -Thomas Jefferson

Lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice but it happened to me, what a blessing being in Paris once again, I just can’t get enough of this marvellous city.

We arrived in the afternoon and a sophisticated French lady with a bag of Chanel boarded our tour bus and started talking about Paris. The drive started along Champs Elysee and halted at Arc de Triomphe where our chic travel guide discussed about the monument. The drive continues to Avenue of Paradise, Place de la Concorde, Louvre Museum and its famous Glass Pyramid and the Opera house. When we passed by this broad LV shop people in our bus stared in awe of the long queue and our cultured escort made this remark ‘They are done and they know it!’ clearly she’s not a fan.  This tour introduced me to Galleries La Fayette, Mona Lisa, Moulin Rouge to Montmartre, and a scenic river cruise to see Paris after dark.

This trip bombarded me with signature labels, no thanks!  To our tour manager who kept promoting Monte Blanc for pen, Rolex for watches, Rimowa for luggage’s, and  Prada for wallets and bags like he is a stock holder of these high end brands. In each city he knows where he should bring us for those bits and pieces of signature items. In Paris, he introduced us to Galleries La Fayette to shop without pressing for time. The tourist tax refund will urge you to splurge but it does not mean that all tax will be refunded but currently, TVA rate of most goods is 19.6% in France, but tax refund rate is normally 12%. Friends who know you are going to Europe will asked you to buy Prada for a cheaper price and you can keep the tax refund for yourself.

Galleries La Fayette

Galleries La Fayette dated back to 1895, when Albert Kahn rented a shop in Paris at the corner of Chaussée-d’Antin and rue Lafayette to sell gloves, ribbons, veils, and other goods. The shop was small, but sales were good. Now it’s an upmarket French department store located on Boulevard Haussmann in the 9th arrondissement of Paris and a billion euro company. If Paris is the capital of French fashion, Les Galleries Lafayette Boulevard Haussmann is its window displays, this mall is not just a mall you see everywhere, they didn’t received about 100,000 visitors a day just because of their products deluxe, shoppers come from all around the world to admire the décor and the ambience produced by this mall empire . The department spreads over three floors and proposes the best and most original collections from around the world both from top designers. My friend bought her Prada bag here and I was forced to buy Havaianas espadrilles just for the heck of it.

Mona Lisa

We have 2 days to ditch our tour group and go to wherever we felt like going. We decided to go back to the Louvre and see this enigmatic facial expression of the woman in the painting that is priceless and cannot be insured – The Mona Lisa, which was the result of a spelling error. The original name of the painting was Monna Lisa. Monna in Italian is a short form of Madonna, meaning ‘My Lady’.

This most popular and talked about art piece in the world, painted by the most celebrated painter, Leonardo Da Vinci where people flocked in huge numbers to its home in the Louvre has a room of its own. It is protected in a climate controlled environment and encased in bullet proof glass. The room was built exclusively for the painting for a whopping over seven million dollars. An x-ray image taken of the Mona Lisa in the laboratories of the Louvre, suggests that when Leonard Da Vinci first sketched out his portrait of a Florentine merchant’s wife in 1503 she did not smile at all. The smile, in other words, emerged as he reworked the painting over several years.

As a kid a kept hearing her name in history books, songs, TV, movies, etc. I’m so curious why one very old painting of an eyebrow-less lady whose eyes look a bit skewed with a smirk on her face can be that legendary.  When I finally came face to face with it, I somehow reckoned what’s the fuss all about.  Everything about the painting was richly worked and the rest I leave to the expert.

Moulin Rouge to Montmartre

Yeah I saw the movie and now I want to experience the champagne while watching can-can dance that originally introduced as a seductive dance by the courtesans from this famous cabaret across Europe. So face palm when our benevolent tour guide said he can no longer secure the tickets for us to gain Entry in Moulin Rounge boo hoo!

So we are back with the tour group as we start our walk at Moulin Rouge, and slowly climb our way through back alleys and secluded gardens all the way to Sacre Coeur cathedral. The walking tour takes you to the nooks and crannies of the most bohemian, artistic district of Paris, the center of good-living in Paris and once the home and the artistic muse to Renoir, Picasso, Edith Piaf and others.

A hill in the north of Paris, France – Montmartre is primarily known for the white-domed Basilica of the Sacré Cœur on its summit and as a nightclub district. The other, older, church on the hill is Saint Pierre de Montmartre, at which the Jesuit order of priests was founded. Topped by the Sacre Coeur Basilica, Montmartre is the highest Paris hill and became famous in late 1800’s with the arrival of artists such as Renoir, Van Gogh, and Picasso. Saint-Pierre de Montmartre, built in 1147, is the oldest church in Paris. It was the church of the powerful Montmartre Abbey until the revolution in 1790. We made use of the cable car up the hill to the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre and found our way to a group of cultural restaurant converge in one area on the top of that hill and had a very hearty dinner.

Montmartre to Seine River Cruise

The walked down from Montmartre at twilight was such a delight; heaps of shops were finally opened for business like the day has just begun. It was such an active area of Paris. We passed by Moulin Rouge bar and saw the long queue so we rode our tour bus to join the River Seine cruise instead.  The boat was big and you don’t have to be confined in your seat for the rest of tour, you can walk around or outside to have a better view of the city of lights. The Seine flows through Paris, the capital city of France where according to history this is where the ashes of Joan of Arc were scattered at Rouen. It’s a relaxing way to see the city and major sights from water-level and sighting those beautiful old bridges on the river but the highlight of the show was the Eiffel itself.  The French did not content themselves to just light up the Eiffel Tower at night; they had to make it sparkle on the hour by the hour starting at 8pm every night. Bright white flashes sparkle all up and down the tower from top to bottom, making it sizzle like a sparkler. This show of gaudiness continues for five minutes and then shuts off, waiting for another hour to arrive and will last up to 1am and I can’t believe I missed this in my first visit, duh! If you didn’t get star struck by Eiffel tower wait til you see it illuminating at night. I can’t find the words to describe the awesomeness but this quote from Moulin Rouge should suffice—“A magnificent, opulent, tremendous, stupendous, gargantuan, bedazzlement, a sensual ravishment. It will be: Spectacular, Spectacular! No words in the vernacular can describe this great event you’ll be dumb with wonderment!’



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To move, to breathe, to fly, to float,
To gain all while you give,
To roam the roads of lands remote,
To travel is to live.” ― Hans Christian Andersen, The Fairy Tale of My Life: An Autobiography

From Titisee to Paris we spent few hours at a city in Alsace, France named Colmar. We rode a small guided city tour train that lasted up to 40 minutes that gives you a better view of this old town’s stunningly beautiful, well preserved renaissance charm. The train ride are comfortable and with comments in many languages with a lot of information about history, main famous people and architecture. There’s something about this town that makes me want to sing and reminded me of that first song and opening number, “Belle” in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Its cobblestone streets and walkways, flower-lined canals, sidewalk cafes, and numerous half-timbered houses It’s like I’m in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast but in real life and I kid you not. All of Colmar’s attractions are concentrated in its old town that you can get around on foot with no difficulty. There’s La petite Venice (Little Venice) to explore with small canals reminiscent of Venice, Italy.

We ate at a local outdoor cafe that our tour manager recommended and it’s a must to eat crepes here in Colmar and so we tried and it seems all French people enjoy crepes and cider and they are everywhere like you feel it’s a weekend and people are enjoying their sip of coffee, chatting with friends and just being outdoors.

Our tour manager mentioned that Colmar is the best place to be during Christmas, he mentioned that one day he would want to spend the holiday season here. I can’t just imagine how wonderful the ambiance would be… this Old town illuminated with Christmas decors soothing aura of light over the centre of Colmar like Hollywood tinsel town but with historic setting based on old age tradition and heritage. It’s more than magical … being in a fairy tale and not just in an ordinary day… but being in a fairy tale on a Christmas day!


Just outside in the north entrance of Colmar stands a  12-meter high replica of the Statue of Liberty. It was sculpted to commemorate the 100th death anniversary of the sculptor Auguste Batholdi, who was born in Colmar and created the “Liberty lightening the world”. As a homage to the “father of the statue of liberty” the city of Colmar placed this replica.  It is intended to honor the most prestigious artist of Colmar and pay tribute to the work of art which is probably the most famous in the world. This statue is also another link with the United States, already symbolized since 1986 by the signature of a twinning agreement between Colmar and the university town of Princeton, not far from New York.



“I think everyone who has ever spent time in Paris keeps those memories in their hearts as though it were yesterday! There’s just something magical about Paris.” –  Blog comment –Favourite Paris Quotes

Before going to Zurich for 2 weeks we already set our mind to spend one weekend in the city of lights, the capital of France – PARIS!  After over 6 hours train ride we are there.  We splurged a little in hotel since its just one night we stayed walking distance to Champs Elysees called Hotel Saint Augustin Elysees the hotel pride itself as an American Hotel but they don’t have English movie channel.

Paris was a glimpsed of idea how people were, there still something sophisticated about this illuminated city making their residents way of life more elegant. There’s more to Paris than meets the eye and yes, this city is bigger than LV, Mona Lisa, Hermes, and the Eiffel tower, being there I have experienced the best of both contemporary and age old European culture and I can’t wait to go back for a longer stay.

The Eiffel Tower

As soon as we arrived, we checked in and went directly to the Eiffel Tower.  I made lunch reservation online at 58 Tour Eiffel. I was so glad I followed my colleagues advised to book a restaurant to avoid the long queue going up and it worked like having a fast pass ticket in Disneyland no more waiting time.

The lunch was superb and the price was reasonable. My friend and I savoured each minute, there’s a sense of pride etched in our faces while munching our meals and desserts and sipping coffee afterwards. Never had I imagined I would see myself having lunch in the 2nd floor of the ‘La dame de fer’ located in the street of Champs de Mars, overlooking 360 degrees view of Paris in the afternoon.

Coined as the iron lady The Eiffel Tower is one of the most recognisable landmarks of Europe, if not the world. It is an iron structure built in 1889 for the Universal Exhibition of that year in Paris. It is named after its designer, the famous engineer Gustave Eiffel.

Musée du Louvre

Having seen the splendour of the Louvre Museum was the highlight of my trip. What I read and seen in the Dan Brown’s novel came alive and was taken into account. Going back home in flight, I actually watched the movie again but this time there’s the ‘I can relate moment’ after being in Paris.

The Louvre was the central landmark of Paris Louvre Palace (Palais du Louvre) which began as a fortress built in the late 12th century under Philip II, same Philip II of Spain whom the Spanish explorer Villalobos named the archipelago Las Islas Filipinas or Philippines in honour of the said ruler in 1543.

The Louvre is the granddaddy of all museums, it has seen a lot of centuries and monarchs, it has become a symbol of art and a mecca for artists and art lovers because it has absorbed and reflects the centuries of change in the political and social environment.  Houses more than 6000 European paintings dating from the 13th century to the 19th century. Its largest collection is of prints and drawings with an inventory of 130000 Including the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, and the Winged Victory of Samothrace. Other collections include Islamic art, Oriental Antiquities, Egyptian Antiquities, and Greek Antiquities with pieces that date back as far as the seventh millennium B.C. Indeed the Louvre “exemplifies for the vast public the very concept of the term ‘museum’

Avenue des Champs-Élysées and the Arc de Triomphe

We strolled the stretch of Avenue des Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe on a sunny Sunday morning, there are  few people walking around and judging from how they are dressed,  you can tell they have never woken up yet because they have never been to bed,  still wondering around happily in their last night clothes. This “most beautiful avenue in the world” was vibrant in the evening as we are also here last night, wandering and enjoying a taste of Paris night life. Now a ghost town in the daylight, most shops are closed on a Sunday but many tourist are roaming around taking pictures on this  prestigious avenue in Paris, with its cinemas, cafés, luxury specialty shops (Louis Vuitton biggest shop can be seen here) and clipped horse-chestnut trees now looks fresh in the morning with less people.

In the west of this avenue ends at the roundabout there is a shrine called ’Arc de Triomphe’, built by Napoleon Bonaparte to tribute his victories and one of the most famous monuments in Paris that honours those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars. With the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces, beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.

Notre Dame de Paris

Sitting in the bench along Champs-Élysées, we reckoned we had plenty of time left and so we decided to visit Notre Dame.  I only heard of this French gothic cathedral owing to Victor Hugo’s published 1831 novel ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ which the story is centred. Completed in 1345 this by far is the oldest church I have ever set my foot in and mind you, mass was still being held, still an active Catholic church, a place of pilgrimage, and the focal point for Catholicism in France.  Notre Dame de Paris or “Our Lady of Paris” access to the cathedral is open and free of charge every day of the year.

The cathedral is very dark, as all cathedrals tend to be. Taking photos inside the cathedral is permitted (except during services). Inside you can feel the strong structure of its parapets, everything inside are remnants of the past and if these walls could talk I guess they have plenty to say apart from Napoleon Bonaparte, who had declared the Empire on May 28, 1804, was crowned Emperor at Notre-Dame on December 2, 1804. Like any other ordinary churches there was the main altar and there are small altars on the side and most of the sculptures are very familiar to me. The statues I have seen are the Jesus Christ on the cross, St. Therese, St Joan of Arc, The Pieta, etc., there’s also the biggest and I’m sure the oldest church organ I have ever seen.

When I was there I wonder why Gargoyles and Chimeras carved in this house of worship but as researched gargoyles are sculptures of animals that conceal rainwater spouts on the cathedral. These spouts direct rainwater away from the walls of the cathedral when it rains, in order to reduce erosion of the stone in the building. The Chimeras are grotesque sculptures composed of body parts from several different animals that serve a purely decorative purpose on the cathedral.

Many people refer to all of the surrealistic sculptures on the cathedral as gargoyles, but in fact only those that are waterspouts are truly gargoyles. The word gargoyle comes from the French word gargouiller which means “to gurgle”.