Friday, 27 December 2013

Day 9: Seine River Cruise

I had wanted to just drop in to LV Champs Elysees for an LV Paris experience.

Alas! The temptation was too great when you see a black-hair, yellow-skin species checking out and buying the bags. Nevermind that they were from China. 

I ended up buying 2 - a speedy and a classic. What did you say? Are they cheaper? I didn't know. If the prices on LV's website were reliable, I think the savings were about $1 or $2 after tax rebates?

I had brought photocopies of my passport along, but the saleslady insisted on the real document, so I had to make another trip down to show my passport to get my tax rebates.

We chanced upon Jardin des Tuileries after we visited Place Vendome to check out some watches.

Naturally ...

Jardin des Tuileries was more happening than what I had read.

We made a second trip to Galleries Lafayette to do an exchange for a medium Longchamp bag with a longer handle. Unbeknownst to me, it would take quite a bit of time. I had the pleasure to meet a young Parisian customer service officer who spoke Mandarin well in the process though. After that, we made our way to Vedettes Du Pointe Neuf for our cruise on River Seine.

Tickets were booked online prior to the trip. The cruise had mixed reviews but since it was cheap, I thought we had nothing to lose except time, and time is what tourists have.

The cruise went past many supposedly famous bridges and various tourist attractions ie. The Louvre, Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame.

Another cruise I was reviewing before the trip

We were excited to see the Eiffel Tower again!

The Louvre

It poured like crazy as our cruise ended. We made a mad dash to the nearest train station and headed back to the hotel, in preparation for our flight home.

Taking a cab in Paris was a mistake. A grave mistake. 

I had set a buffer of an hour for us to reach the Roissy Airport ie. our flight was 10pm, and we boarded the cab at 7pm, thinking that even if it took 1 hour to get to the airport, given the notorious traffic condition in Paris, we should do fine and reach the airport in good time like 8pm. It would give me a lot of time to get my tax rebate done and admire the airport, have a long tea and take pictures like we always do at other airports and train stations.

I totally underestimated the 'crazy traffic' reviewed by other travellers. We were stuck in jams after jams. Cars were just short of kissing one another on the butts at Champs Elysees and Arc De Triomphe. The cab driver went various ways to get out of jams to no avail. In the end, we only got to the airport after 9pm! Needless to say, the cab fare was 93 euro for a supposedly 20km ride. 

The small airport helped though. There was virtually no queue at the tax rebate counter. The only items the female officer wanted to verify were 2 LV bags. She stamped some chops on the documents and passed me two envelopes. I was a little apprehensive but told her that that was the first time I was doing tax rebate. She explained to me that one was to drop into a mail box just next to the counter and I would keep the other.

After that, we made a beeline at the Etihad counter to check our luggage in and we were on our way home!


Friday, 20 December 2013

Day 8: The Louvre

I know we had Baby with us, but what's a Paris trip if you don't go to The Louvre?

We had to make a beeline for the entrance into The Louvre first. 
Uncle Google had advised me to go via the Porte des Lions entrance after alighting from the Underground. 

I was amazed at the vastness of the place when I entered the ticketing area. 
There were many ticketing machines but most people were queueing up at the counters.
Needless to say, I joined one of the queues.

I underestimated the hugeness of The Louvre and bought the 15 euro ticket which consisted of the temporary exhibits, which we didn't have the time or energy to go for.
I didn't bother with the multi-media guides as I have learnt that most of the time, they are useless, to me at least. 

We grabbed a map at the ticketing area and zoomed in to the main attractions.
Given that The Louvre has 3 wings (Richelieu Wing, Denon Wing and Sully Wing), and 4 floors at each wing, we went for the Mona Lisa portrait straight away.

Winged Victory

Even the ceiling was beautifully adorned with paintings

I was amazed that wood could also be a canvas for painting

When something you saw in a book comes alive in front of your eyes ... 

We searched high and low for this world-famous. We went to the end of the wing and back and could not find it. Then we realised that it was in one of the rooms at the side of the wing.
And the crowd was crazy.

You see the worst of Europeans here. How they pushed and shoved just to take a picture of Mona Lisa!

I took a quick pic of the crazy crowd at Mona Lisa. 
The portrait is at the left-hand side of the picture while the crowd was at the right. Yes, all of them were there for the picture.

There were some men standing in front of the picture to prevent the crowd from getting too close to it.
Everytime you are pushed, you inched forward to the front, until you get to the frontline, and take as many pictures as you want before you get out of the line and hold your peace forever.

You could hear young girls in their early twenties lamenting,"Just take a picture and go. How hard is that!" "This is crazy!"

A girl who appeared like an America-born Chinese saw Baby and commented to her friend,"There's a baby! It's crazy to bring a baby here! She's going to get squashed!"

Coco later told me that the girl left with her friend after her friend was apparently exasperated by the crowd,"Jamie, let's go! I can't take this anymore!"

I had to try my best to 'interest' Baby, who by then was pleading with us to go.
Coco could not stop laughing as I requested her to help me take a picture with the biggest bird around.

Coco and her Greek mythological figure

A man imitated the figure by holding up his mobile, but I was too slow to capture that.

Psyche and Cupid 

Venus de Milo

Athena, Coco's favourite Greek goddess

Had to take a tourist shot before it poured

We went back to a nearby bistro to have our dinner

half a dozen of escargot

foie gras
garlic soup. Eeeks!

The escargot was quite meaty

We loved the duck confit

Coco could not get enough of crepes! Even their sugar crepes was delicious! 

We spent some 70 euro on a meal like that.

Day 7: Laduree & Notre Dame Cathedral

After spending about 1.5 h at Arc De Triomphe, we strolled along Champs Elysees for a look-see. 

The little one was upset that the Big Sister got to take a picture. Took some time to pacify her.

Me: (to Baby) Hey look! There's your favourite place ... oh no, your second favourite place, Mc Donald's!
Coco: (puzzled) What's her favourite place?
Me: (poker face) The bathtub.

Before long, the girls were requesting for some food. And we chanced upon Laduree along Champs Elysees, the place that makes the 'most delicious macaroons'.

So we tried one of each flavour that we fancied.

It turned out that the Salted Caramel was the best, according to Coco.
I am not a big fan of macaroons. I tried a bite or two on a few. The only thing I can comment on the pastry is that they were softer than the other macaroons I had tasted. Other than that, they were equally sweet as any other macaroons. And I don't have a sweet tooth.

The outdoor seating

Had read that customers are not always right in Paris. I had a whiff of that when the waiter mistook that I wanted some tea, but strangely, he warmly offered to help me with the directions when he saw me trying to figure out how to get to Notre Dame. 

I was grateful nonetheless.

The Laduree restaurant

There was a long queue at the side entrance for macaroon-takeaway.

As we walked towards the train station, we were shocked to see cars coming out from the underground in the middle of the pavement!
It was a 'like that also can ah' moment.

Notre Dame finally.

I had booked a Paris walk which started from the cathedral. Unfortunately, we were 15 minutes late and the tour guide could not be found. When I got back to the hotel, I emailed an apology to the tour guide and cancelled the 2nd walk as well, as I doubted the girls, especially Baby, could last the walk, judging from their stamina for the day.

Baby held me to my promise of searching for a Mc Donald's after we reached Notre Dame. 
We took a ten-minute walk to one near Centre Pompidou.

My only complaint was: their fries don't come with chilli. 
Well, when in Rome, do as Romans do.

On our way back to Notre Dame, we walked past this beautiful architecture without knowing its name

I gave a euro or two to the bubble busker for entertaining Baby

Parisians are romantic people. 
They sit around River Seine ('Cent' without the 't') to pass their time.

I bet we would have thought a waste of time to linger around Singapore River.

Entering the cathedral was free, unless you are going to the Bell Tower, but you still need to join the queue as there would be a long line to the entrance.

Paris churches are not as restrictive as London's. You can take pictures in the building, but do it without the flash. So thank God for DSLRs.

Confession Room

A mass was going on

The architecture was very intricate.

We thought the churches and cathedrals in both Paris and London are very gothic.
It made me wonder if people in the olden times saw God as rigid, judgmental and unforgiving. 

Coco was disappointed that we didn't see the Hunchback at Notre Dame, but she got her wish when we had our tea break at a nearby cafe.

Paris is big on crepes, and their crepes are good. I don't remember complaining about the crepes even though Coco had them just about every day.

The cosy crepes cafe

And we bade Notre Dame farewell

By now, I was missing black-haired and yellow-skinned people badly.