Note: This is a travel journal of the day 1 and 2 of our trip to France. Click here to view the photo collection (22 pictures) for these particular days. Or follow this tag for the related blog entries.
|< Prev Page||Next Page >|
On a Plane Somewhere Between Singapore and Paris – Jun 20, Sun
Inside the plane it was freaking cold. The thing about living in a tropical country right above the equator is that it has taken away the awareness of extreme temperature fluctuation and we tend to take the sameness in temperature for granted.
We took Malaysian Airline and transited at Kuala Lumpur. Our national airline was way too expensive. Instead, ordinary residents like Cynthia and I have to travel across the straits and hop onto our neighbor’s national carrier. Malaysian Airline’s quality is decent. There are many connecting shuttles between the two countries. Tracy, our air stewardess looked fearsome, but was extremely efficient. Like a commando, she serviced the entire alley on her own. That, I have rarely seen.
Because Cynthia’s visa application required us to making travel arrangement in advance, for this trip to France, we have fixed our destinations and booked our accommodations, flights, and car rentals. Zero surprises. What we had not planned was what to do in each destination. While Cynthia toggled between watching video-on-demand and reading, I was researching on where to go and what to do. Our holiday split between Paris and South of France. I am familiar with Paris so naturally I would prefer to spend more time in the city. Looking at the pictures of the South of France in the guidebook, I had this urge to shift the plan a bit. But we stuck to the plan. Too much to undo. From time to time, our in-flight entertainment screen displayed the highlight of the World Cup matches in text. Looking back, the craze of World Cup has come and then disappeared so fast, so much so that talking about World Cup now seems like dabbling with a piece of old news that no one cares to listen.
Landing in Paris – Jun 20, Sun
9 degree freaking Celsius?! In late June, Paris. We thought we heard the announcement wrongly. As we left the plane, in an early Sunday morning, a gust of cold air greeted our faces. It was cold! And we only had T-shirts and jeans. We needed to do some emergency winter clothing shopping, like now.
Charles de Gaulle airport looked very much the same as what I have remembered it of more than a decade ago. In fact, the entire Paris looked the same. The buildings, the tourist attractions, the metro, and the train. If my memory was 100% intact, I would be able to navigate in and around the city with one eye closed. We took a train to Paris city, switched to metro, and arrived at our day 1 hotel. We dumped our luggages at the reception area and headed out immediately. It was freezing. We needed to buy some clothes, fast!
Seeking Warmth at Musée d’Orsay
When I thought of shopping in Paris, I thought of Galeries Lafayette. Unfortunately, this iconic department store was closed on Sundays, like nearly all the shops we had come across. No way we could tour the outdoor monuments in T-shirts and jeans. What about museums? Museum is probably the only place that open on Sundays, besides churches and restaurants. Musée d’Orsay was nearby so I jiggled our plan a little and intended to dive into an indoor museum asap.
And we were greeted with a long queue. Like a herd of penguins, all of us queuing outside Musée d’Orsay took turn to face the open wind, for a good half an hour, as the line slowly entered into the museum. Quite a few visitors were trying to beat the queue and enter by the back door. But the security officers were sharp and retrieved them always in time. They must have seen this day after day, year after year. What do they make out of this, I wonder. It was a long queue because of the tight security. The security is tight because if it was not, someone might carry a bomb inside. What do we make out of this, I wonder.
The collection inside Musée d’Orsay is eye opening. Too bad, no photography is allowed. The paintings by Vincent van Gogh are mesmerizing. You can see the paintings in print or online. But nothing beats seeing the paintings in real life. The strokes, the colors used, that portrait of his. I did not know that when painter draws a self-portrait, it is more than what is on the surface. It is a journey of exploration of the inner self. It leads me to reexamine a self-portrait I have painted a while back.
The most intriguing painting, for me, is “L’Origine du Monde (The Original of the World)” painted by Gustave Courbet. It is a closed-up view of a female genital. It is realistic, a graphic eroticism, and it still has the power to shock, even today. It is one of the most popular paintings in Musée d’Orsay, believe it or not.
I love polar bears. I fell in love instantly with François Pompon’s sculpture “L’Ours Blanc (The Polar Bear)”. According to the audio guide, Pompon crafted the life like polar bear sculpture first and then reducing the details until what is left is the essence of a bear.
What about Claude Monet’s “Nymphéas Bleus (Waterlilies)”? Impressionism, it takes time to digest, for me that is.
Taking a Walk on Boulevard St-Germain
We had a late lunch at Musée d’Orsay. The restaurant inside what appears as a ballroom is majestic. High ceiling, long mirrors with an interior decorated in shiny white and gold and a beautiful view of Paris to feast upon. It was a long queue but the food and the ambient was worth the wait. Seated around us was a large group of English speaking teenagers. One girl ordered foie gras and stopped eating after the first bite. I did not think she knew what foie gras was. What a waste. She ordered something else instead. They were trying to make a complain and the waiter was trying to tell them that it was what it was.
Outside temperature was still cold but the wine and the warm meal helped. We took a walk down the Boulevard St-Germain. We encountered a huge group of skaters taking up the entire street backed by the police cars. We dined near our hotel and had an early night. The dinner cost us 100€. Ouch!
Day 2 at Musée du Louvre – Jun 21, Mon
In the morning, we shopped at Lafayette and bought our jackets. That jacket was probably the best purchase I made in France (we are not big shoppers). It kept me warm in Paris and kept me warm during the plane rides.
I love visiting The Louvre. I could spend days inside The Louvre. The art is so rich that I feel emotional by talking about it. Now that I am financially more sound than when I was studying or when I first started working, I could – unlike in the past – afford an entry ticket as well as rent an audio guide (first Sunday of the month is free to enter by the way). The Louvre is divided into three wings. After completing one of the wings, we dashed out for a quick sandwich bite and dashed back into the wings. So much art, so little energy. Our feet got tired easily. Especially when I was carrying a heavy camera. At one time, we were tracking Venus de Milo, a famous piece of ancient Greek sculpture, as it was temporarily relocated to another section inside the museum. Probably one of the highlights of our visit.
And they have relocated Mona Lisa too. A decade ago, Mona Lisa was displayed in one of the long corridors. And it was always crowded with people. Today, Mona Lisa is displayed in a large open hall, still crowded with people, still set in a thick bullet proof glass frame guarded by at least two officers.
To Arc de Triomphe
It was a lovely walk from the garden – Jardin du Carrousel – outside Louvre to Place de la Concorde. We had a coffee break inside the garden and rested our feet by a fountain. From Concorde, we took a metro directly to Arc de Triomphe, which is only a few stops away. That day, the Portuguese fans were going crazy, because of the World Cup. Portuguese flags were waved as cars circulated the famous street of Champs-Elysées honking to draw attention. What a spirit! Ah, good old Champs-Elysées. Cynthia was obsessed with her skin care products while I was eager to visit the Virgin Store. The good old Virgin Store is still there. But I was mildly disappointed. Like many record stores here, sales of music albums seems like a sunset business. The stores now survive on selling books and console games. Where is the music then?
St. Michel was lively in the early evening. I have always enjoyed dining at St. Michel. The food is not fantastic but it is value for money. The day was long in the summer. By the time we return to our hotel, there was still light. At the corner of the street next to our hotel was a small garden. For some strange reason, that evening, it was converted into an outdoor techno party, on a week day. Fortunately, it appeared to be a one-off event. Cynthia seemed to be disturbed by the techno party; for me, I had one drink too many. But that is a story for another day.
|< Prev Page||Next Page >|
PS. Thank your for reading our journal and feel free to drop a comment or two. You may wish to view our photo collection for day 1 and 2 too.