Monthly Archives: September 2014

Eurotrip: Last day in Paris. A day of lasts.

On our last day in Paris, we went out for brunch at a Vietnamese restaurant. Yes, here we go again, food pictures.

alt text

alt text

By the way, did you know there are classes where people pay to learn how to take pictures of food with their phones? I first heard of this as a small footnote in a NYTimes article and I had to look it up and sure enough it was legit. Soon after, there arose some copycat classes. Even Whole Foods teaches one. Here’s their description:

“PSSSST! Our iPhone Food Photography class is almost sold out! Say goodbye to those blurry food and drink photos you’ve been posting after every meal. In this introductory workshop on iPhone food photography, you’ll learn the fundamentals of food styling, phone photography and photo editing with acclaimed food photographer Brian Samuels. The class will include a store tour, cooking demonstrations, snacks, drinks and, of course, plenty of time to practice your photography skills. Bring your fully-charged iPhone and a few friends we’ll provide everything else!”

Of all the niche classes one could take…Move over, underwater basket weaving, you’re outdated.

And yes, I know under your breath you’re probably saying “Uh, Kory, not to be rude, but judging from your photos, maybe you should take those classes.” Well to answer your question: I don’t have an iPhone.

And here is my last “funny” sign in Paris. Can fake eyelash fitting be something that is in that much demand? I don’t remember which high-end department store we saw this at, but, of all the niche services to advertise on your store directory…

alt text

Then we went souvenir shopping, which meant a lot of candy (this will come back to bite us later, I’ll talk about it in the next entry).

Then we split up. My mom and brother went thrift shop shopping and I took a short trip to the Eiffel Tower.

For fun, I took a different metro a mile away and walked a different way this time.

Ah, look at this. Eat your heart out, Zooey Deschanel, your sister is popular here and has a street named after her:

alt text

What’s that, you say? Your sister’s name is Emily, and not Émile, a man’s name? OK fair enough.

alt text

In case you haven’t had enough of my previous Eiffel Tower photos, here are a bunch of ones from different angles:

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

For some reason I felt perv-y taking this under shot:

alt text

Look at these tourists spending lots of money and waiting in line for hours just to be crammed up there in that tower. Lucky.

alt text

alt text

Seriously, I am embarrassingly touristy. You name a semi- kind of maybe sorta landmark, and I’ll be there snapping pictures, buying keychains and trying to figure out the lowest denomination of coins I can politely drop in someone’s box.

alt text

alt text

My favorite one:

alt text

The Paris sky is just so blue. By the way, in case you didn’t know, some history about the tower: it was originally put up for the 1889’s World Fair, and initially a lot of French people hated it and thought it was ugly. Now they probably still do, but their economy benefits from foreigners who love it.

And yay, police, keeping us safe. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from movies, the two places that terrorists and evil mutants love to attack the most are the Golden Gate Bridge and the Eiffel Tower.

alt text

My brother and I had planned to take the ride up the tower, but we didn’t have time and needed to pack. We weren’t too bummed about it. My brother reasoned that he needed something unaccomplished so he’d have something to look forward to next time he visits.

Here are some photos from when I last went up the tower with Bénédicte (the summit was closed and we could only go up halfway). It’s been quite a number of years but I think these hold up.

The observation deck, all around this room were measurements of how far this tower was from all the major cities and landmarks in the world:

alt text

alt text

The sun setting:

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

This looked very Apocalyptic to me for some reason:

alt text

Looking up:

alt text

alt text

alt text

Paris is full of American tourists. The two guys in front of us in line were from San Francisco. Small world. At that time I used to be very shy and only learned that fact from eavesdropping on them.

This was the line to exit:

alt text

The river outside:

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

Here is a shot that Bénédicte snapped of me when I wasn’t paying attention. She is a very good photographer, especially with composition:

alt text

Anyway, sigh, enough of that blast to the past.

Back to present day:

alt text

Bye bye, Eiffel Tower. Don’t let those French people hurt your feelings, you are magnificent.

Here again is my shot from the previous week:

alt text

Here are some present-day river shots:

alt text

alt text

alt text

And my last few photos in Paris, of the fountain across from the Tower:

alt text

alt text

À plus tard, Paris. Bisou bisou.

Advertisements
Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Eurotrip Day 11 in Paris: Le Père Lachaise

I’m starting to question the wisdom of titling these entries “Eurotrip” considering that 80 percent of this trip takes place in Paris. Oh well, too late. It was a beautiful, clear Saturday and so Béné and I arranged to meet at the obvious place: the cemetery. I was determined not to be late this time. I often am late meeting up with Béné (who by the way, needs to change her name so I don’t have to spend so much time typing those accent marks) due to some unforeseen circumstance, so this time I memorized the directions and left early to make sure. But when I got there, I was like, “Crap, where were we supposed to meet, the cemetery entrance or one of these metro entrances?” And my phone didn’t work. I waited at the metro stop for about 5 minutes, then remembered there were several different metro entrances, so I figured it would probably be more logical to meet at the cemetery entrance. I walked all the way down the street to the cemetery entrance, waited 15 minutes there before I realized the other tourists thought I seemed like a creepy loner, then walked back to a metro stop and there was poor Béné, waiting for me again. Anyway, here it is, Père Lachaise, the Parisian cemetery where many famous French people are buried:

alt text alt text alt text Once we got in, there were no maps sold (some street vendors had sold unauthorized maps outside). The only thing we could do was take a picture of this directory of where the important graves are. If you die and your name isn’t on here, you are nobody.

alt text alt text There were so many random pathways, one could easily get lost here: alt text alt text alt text alt text alt text alt text alt text alt text alt text alt text alt text

It was a very surprising place. I’ve been into cemeteries since we buried my dad and I discovered cemeteries are full of beautiful monuments. But still, I was surprised at the level of creativity (and vast wealth spent) here. A lot of statues:

alt text alt text alt text alt text alt text alt text alt text alt text alt text This one startled me a bit:

alt text

This was my favorite one. Very beautifully sentimental: alt text alt text

There were several graves with a statue of the deceased person lying on top of it, just in case relatives forget who is inside: alt text alt text alt text

This one looks like he’s staring right at you, isn’t he? alt text

At first glance, Béné and I both thought this one was a puppy embracing the woman, but Béné was the only one who said it out loud. Shame on her. alt text

We couldn’t figure out who this grave belonged to, but yeah, super rich guy: alt text

Someone built an entire house mausoleum: alt text

And I like this piano one: alt text

You know how I mentioned before that my dad was a table tennis fanatic? To memorialize that, we engraved a picture of ping pong paddles on his stone. I wonder what I’d want on my tombstone. Maybe cheese and pepperoni? Ugh now I feel old just for telling that joke. – A lot of family members were buried together in the same plot. I don’t know the logistics of this. Do they stack them on top of one another? alt text alt text

By my count, this grave had at least 22 members buried together: alt text

Then there were the celebrity graves. The cemetery’s graves were all over the place, so we spent a lot of time trying to read the poorly-drawn directory and helping other strangers locate famous graves. Surprisingly a lot of the famous ones were very plain and understated: Novelist Marcel Proust: alt text alt text Singer Édith Piaf (whose real name was Édith Lamboukas): alt text alt text

Playwright Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, also known by his stage name, Molière (I remember his works from high school): alt text alt text

The poet, Jean de La Fontaine: alt text The classical composer and pianist, Frédéric Chopin: alt text

Vivant Denon, who was an artist, writer, diplomat, and one of the first directors of the Louvre: alt text

Oh and this? This is the grave of famed writer Oscar Wilde. You might know him from the wrongly attributed quotes people are always posting on Facebook. Look at his grave. A bit of a diva, huh? Reminds me of his famous quote: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask why the caged bird sings.” alt text alt text alt text

This glass was put up due to all the assholes who were defacing it: alt text

Speaking of assholes who deface graves, ugh, look at this. I hope the dead people’s spirits follow them home and haunt the hell out of the people who did this: alt text

Oh and here is the grave of some dude named Jim Morrison who I guess was like in a band or something: alt text alt text alt text People made a gum tree for him, which is kind of disgusting, if you ask me. Very unsanitary. alt text alt text

Edit: I was hoping my sarcasm would come across, but in case it didn’t: ha, yes, I know who Jim Morrison was. One of the tour guides we came across told us that couples often sneak to have sex on top of his grave. Although that looks mighty uncomfortable.

There was a monument to a Holocaust labor camp victims: alt text alt text

Here is the crematorium: alt text alt text alt text

Anyway, we had enough of that, so we walked to the café (I need to think of a new name for these places so that I don’t have to type the accent marks) to get some dessert. Béné had the tiramasu: alt text I wanted the tiramasu too, but I figured I’m in France, I should get a French dessert so I ordered the crème brûlée (ugh, again with the accent marks). It was heaven. Like damn…I took one spoonful and I had to let it sit in my mouth. I don’t care if this was 2,000 calories and pure sugar. alt text

Afterward, we went to one of the malls at the train station. I thought it was funny that they had a Claire’s. Of all the American brands to import to France… Claire’s, really? alt text

Then we went to find a wallet I wanted and that was a nightmare chase. Let me explain: last week when Béné and I hung out near the Centre Pompidou (museum), we dropped by a nearby souvenir shop and there was a brown wallet I liked. But there was no price and the shopkeeper seemed busy and we figured I could always find the same wallet at any of the other hundred of souvenir shops in Paris, so I didn’t get it at the time. But a week went by and I didn’t see this wallet at any of the other stores, so we tried to go back to the original shop. It was like something out of the Twilight Zone. We both swore that the shop was right by the museum, but this time we walked back and just couldn’t find it. And we were so determined, we circled around the area for about maybe hours. I didn’t want the wallet that bad, but I wanted to prove that we weren’t crazy, that the shop did exist. We even looked through my camera for photographic evidence. It couldn’t have just disappeared like that. I was freaking out, like one of those kids in a horror movie telling his parents, “I swear it was there! I’m not crazy!” Finally I just gave up. Poor Béné, putting up with that for me. We did see some interesting sights while getting lost though. Like this Ferguson protest people were getting ready for: alt text alt text

And there’s this guy offering to write poetry for people on an old typewriter for money. This picture is blurry because I snapped it real quick and ran away before he got a chance to make eye contact with me, and thus obliging me into paying him. alt text

We then took the metro to La Défense, which I thought would be some militaristic area but it was just a nice business area with modern buildings. alt text alt text alt text alt text

Oh look, a bunch of random wires: alt text Oh wait, let me get in front of it. Ah, ok now it makes sense. alt text Wait, what is this, a crowd? OK, now we are obligated to join. alt text alt text

It looked like some kind of boxing ring, and then some announcer guy came out and gave a very dramatic-sounding speech in French. I could only make out 1/4 of the things he was saying. alt text alt text Then he unveiled some guy in a wrestling outfit and appeared to put a spell on him: alt text alt text alt text

Then they pretended to ask for a volunteer from the audience to fight the guy, and this guy in blue was “picked.” Then they proceeded to pretend fight. Every time they got close enough to “fight”, they would instead do flips, somersaults, and other gymnastics moves. alt text alt text alt text alt text

I don’t want to sound judgy… but this was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen. Béné and I cut out early to get food. By that time, it was around 9 p.m. and the only places open nearby were a Chipotle (yes, they have Chipotle here) and McDonald’s. We chose McDonald’s. It turned out to be extremely crowded. Let me explain something about the McDonald’s restaurants in Paris: every McDonald’s has two ways to order: either order at the regular counter, or use one of the machines to order (oh and they all have multiple floors). I chose the machine because the lines seemed shorter compared to the counter, and the machines had an “English” option and I was too tired to think in French. Very poor decision. It took nearly 30 minutes to get our food. Poor Béné was getting frazzled and it was all my fault. But the food was good. I ordered a “Beef and Onions” sandwich, which was two burger patties in a bun with fried onions. Screw my diet. alt text

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Eurotrip Day 10 in Paris: Cider and Andouille

On this Friday, my brother, my mom and I all split up for different cities in France (well, actually they left, and I stayed in Paris). In the morning, my brother took a train to Lyon to visit one of his classmates. That evening, my mom would take a train with my uncle to Lourdes, which is a super religious and difficult to pronounce city where many Catholics flock.

I’ve always wondered why Madonna’s daughter’s name was Lourdes. Mystery solved.

Before my mom left for the trip, I spent the day with her. She is really into thrift stores. I asked Béné for help, and she sent me a link to the Guerrida Guerrisol thrift store chain. Turns out they had a location two blocks from where we were staying, so we walked there.

I barely walked into the store when…oh my God, the smell, the smell. The worst B.O. ever. I don’t know if it came from the customers or the shopkeepers. But the smell was so strong, it permeated every part of the store. I have an extremely sensitive sense of smell so I had to exit the store and just waited for my mom to finish shopping.

For lunch we took the metro to Place D’Italie, the Asian district again.

Oh look, there was another Guerrida Guerrisol there. This one was better. Less B.O. Bigger selection of clothes. Just better.

alt text

alt text

This is what the Asian district looks like. Mostly Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai and Laotian restaurants, and pan-Asian grocery stores. Japanese food, especially sushi, is considered too mainstream to be here, I guess.

alt text

alt text

alt text

There were A LOT of pho places. Like a pho-ing number of pho places.

alt text

alt text

alt text

Even on a Friday morning, most of these restaurants were packed. The past two weeks, some of the restaurants we ate at were so packed that we sat down with strangers at tables where I could barely move my elbows for fear of knocking something over.

We finally chose this one below because it was crowded but not too crowded. If there’s anything that my mom and I have in common, we both hate to wait in line for food.

alt text

I ordered a bun bo hue, which is the spicy lemon-grass noodle I like. However at the place, it was pretty bland. I don’t know why I’m posting this picture. Probably because I feel this entry is lacking pictures.

alt text

By the way, some advice for Paris visitors: If you want free water, order a “carafe d’eau” and they’ll bring you a pitcher of tap water. Otherwise if you order “une eau,” they’ll bring you bottled water. Also, ice is not really a thing here. If you order a drink, it doesn’t come with ice. Yeah…just go with it. (The exception is iced tea.)

Also, in France you are not required to leave a tip. They might think you’re cheap since you’re in a touristy city and you have an American accent, but when in France, do as the French do. In most places it’s fine if you just round up your bill to the closest Euro. Servers actually earn a decent wage here. It’s not like in the U.S., where we are guilt tripped (guilt tipped?) into tipping everyone from a hotel doorman to the girl who weighs our yogurt.

We walked past a park.

alt text

Oh look, they’re playing table tennis here. I had seen these in Brussels as well. I don’t know how the balls bounce properly on cement though.

alt text

Little-known fact: I used to be pretty good at table tennis/ping pong when I was a kid. Belonged to a competitive club and everything. My dad was a table tennis fanatic.

That night, I went to dinner with Béné and her brothers, Edouard and Mayeul. The last time I met Edouard, he barely spoke English. This time, his English was good. So was Mayeul’s. And here I am, speaking poor French and understanding less. They all had to switch languages for me. Felt so bad. It was the Danish dorm roommate situation all over again.

Here is a picture of our nice crêperie. I swear, what is it about Parisian eateries and their stinginess with seating? At first they put the four of us at a tiny round table even though the place was virtually empty. A table that would fit two people, they somehow jammed four chairs into. I’m not French-sized, I need room for my elbows. (By the way, I already lost 7 pounds here, so maybe I will be French-sized after all.) After a while, we moved to a normal-sized table (that had six chairs) and the waitress didn’t protest.

That is Edouard in the photo, by the way. I think he looks a lot like Béné.

alt text

They ordered cider for me. I took a sip and…well, the cider here is not the spiced apple juice you get at the Cheesecake Factory. This one was fermented, like…really fermented. And it’s not like the alcoholic pear cider I’m used to, either. This was served room-temperature and had an unusual taste…I don’t want to say “unpleasant,” but it is something my palate would need time to get used to for me to enjoy.

alt text

alt text

Then we all ordered crepes. I ordered Andouille sausage, which all of them kept asking me, “Are you sure? It has a very strong, unusual taste,” probably they saw my adverse reaction to that cider. But I’m a big fan of sausages, and I’ve had Andouille before. It was delicious.

I forgot to take a picture of mine, but here is Béné’s salted caramel one. They all pretty much look the same on the outside…That’s what she said. Does that work? No? OK, sorry I’ll shut up.

alt text

By the way, Merci, Béné.

Afterward we walked around downtown, mostly to help Mayeul look for his car. We were about to cross the street when, oh what, what the hell? Suddenly out of nowhere a large mob appeared.

Hundreds of them.

alt text

My camera, however, was not quick enough to capture their fleeting majesty.

alt text

alt text

alt text

Yeah, not a terribly exciting or funny entry. I’ll do better next time, I promise.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Eurotrip Day 9 1/2 in Paris: More Versailles is more

So…continuing where I left off last time, we were now outside the palace and now into the gardens.

alt text

alt text

alt text

Oh look, they knew I was coming and had to announce it in advance:

alt text

OK I’m not Chinese, but still kind of funny.

Anyway, back in 2008 when I first came here, this place was beautiful, lively, and breath-taking. This time, it was more gloomy and disappointing. I’ll explain further below, but first let’s take a look at some of the nicer scenery. Notice the change in lighting just from the constantly-changing French weather:

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

The disappointment was due mainly to the closure of two things. First, this one. They closed off guests to the entire lower courtyard because they’re building something here that looks to me like it’s for a celebrity wedding, fashion show or concert.

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

Like, WTF? I paid 15 Euros for my ticket, not to mention the train costs. I expect to walk on EVERY… INCH…of these gardens. So pissed. I demand they take that whole thing down.

You can’t see it in the photos, but they had security guards blocking visitors from stepping foot anywhere in the lower courtyard. All my pictures are shot from above.

I thought I could be clever and sneak in by walking down this alternate pathway:

alt text

But the guards were there, so all it did was just cause me to walk back up this long set of steps:

alt text

And taking pictures off the sides of the steps:

alt text

alt text

alt text

The second disappointment…OK first I’ll show some of my old photos from 2008:

alt text

alt text

OK, isn’t that just magical and beautiful? Now look at it now:

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

Like, WTF is this? Why is everything I was looking forward to closed?

This was also closed too, but I stuck my arm through the gate and snapped a photo:

alt text

Oh well, there were a few new things.

Like this brilliant sculpture here, consisting of a wall between two rocks. I used to be a creatives arts major. I think this represents mankind’s modern struggle with paying 15 Euros to look at a wall between two rocks.

alt text

Oh and I guess there is this new arch thing too:

alt text

alt text

I think its primary purpose is so that douches like me can do this:

alt text

“Ugh, it is sooo heavy pushing the sides out, but not too heavy because I’m still smiling.” (Pay no attention to the belly or the unflattering jeans.)

OK I should stop complaining about the price. Kidding aside, 15 Euros is actually on the cheaper side of doing things in Paris. But still, it’s not every year that one gets to visit Paris. It would be nice if everything was accessible.

Speaking of accessibility, just think, many years ago this expensive place was designed for only kings and queens and other dignified royals to gracefully curtsy and traipse across the courtyards.
Now this is what is going on:

alt text

Progress.

Then we walked all the way down to the main lake. It was a lot of walking. By the way, in case you’re wondering, if you’re less active and more financially-secure, you have the option of renting a golf cart to rove your way across this land.

alt text

alt text

It took a while but we got closer.

alt text

Oh will you look at that? And by that, I mean the power of my zoom lens:

alt text

You could rent boats by the lake and sing to your lover.

alt text

This scene looked very familiar. I remembered a painting by one of my favorite artists, Georges Seurat:
alt text

Now here is the modern-day, slightly less sophisticated version:
alt text

By the way, I don’t mean this to offend, but… to the woman in the rowboat, it looks like one end of your boat is sinking deeper than the other. Just thought you might have it, erm…checked out, as a safety precaution…maybe you can put something on the other side to balance it out…just in case, because no one likes to fall into a lake… and uh you know what, I’ll just shut up.

They had really nice tree paths and walkways:

alt text

alt text

alt text

Well, goodbye Versailles.

alt text

alt text

alt text

That night we went to Paris’s Asian district, Place d’Italie (yes, I can’t get over the irony of the name even though I know the explanation for it) and ordered pho again. I swear, my mom is so Vietnamese, we travel all the way to France and all she wants to do all the time is try a Vietnamese restaurant.

alt text

At first glance, it looks like your regular bowl of pho. But it tastes very different. We’ve had pho in at least three different popular locations in the city already so I think it’s safe to say, the pho in Paris is weird. The soup doesn’t have the star anise smell and in some places the color was a dark caramel brown. The taste is not close to authentic pho, but more of some odd fusion. (And before you say, “How do you know what is authentic or not?”, I will remind you I visited Vietnam for three weeks a few years ago, so I’m like… totally a super expert on that country now)

And the hoisin sauce in Paris…maybe we’re just unaccustomed to it, but to me it tastes like death. It tastes like liquid black licorice that’s been fermented, with a lingering aftertaste, and I had to use lemon as a chaser. I mean, it’s cool if you’re into that, the places were crowded so they obviously have people who enjoy that kind of taste, but for me, it was not my cup of pho. (See what I did there?)

Afterward we visited the Asian grocery store. This brand is really popular:

alt text

alt text

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Eurotrip Day 9 in Paris: Versailles part 1

On Thursday…? I think it was Thursday, it’s so hard to keep track of time when you’re on vacation. I tried to keep notes the first few days but after a while it just became a blur.

I will have to split this day up into two entries, or else your computer will crash with the large number of photos I want to show.

Well anyway, we took a train to the Château de Versailles, which is where all the French royalty lived, all the Henrys and Maries.

We woke up early, took the metro to the train station and then bought tickets for this train with the nasty worn-out seats:

alt text

But at least we had views of the beautiful French weather to look out to:

alt text

And this guy’s music:

alt text

Notice how people are trying to avoid eye contact with him. The unspoken rule on public transportation is that if you take pictures, make eye contact, or even show any hint that the performer exists in the same reality that you do, you must pay or you are a douche.
Needless to say, we often paid to street/train performers in France.

I have other pictures of performers (accordionists are especially commonplace here), but for some reason I can’t find them in the folders I’ve uploaded.

The train dropped us off near here, which reminds me of Fantasyland at Disneyland.

alt text

Then we walked several blocks to the Palace. It was magical.

alt text

alt text

What? We were there around 10 or 11 a.m. and people were already leaving? Oh, these people… so difficult to please.

It was a longer walk than expected.

alt text

alt text

Nice gate:

alt text

alt text

Wait, what? 15 Euros per adult to get in? OK, fine.

And we’re in:

alt text

OMG, we’re walking in, you guys…

alt text

And we’re in:

alt text

This was the official royal family tree. A lot of Maries. I guess they had to have a lot of them because they were always getting…never mind.

alt text

This was how the Palace first looked. And yes, I know there’s an elbow in the way. With the number of people visiting this palace, and how quickly my family was moving through the tour, it was hard taking a picture without somebody’s elbow, leg, neck, head, face, selfie stick, etc in the way.

alt text

Oh and I said before how I love archways:

alt text

This is just a random shot to show the kind of space we’re in:

alt text

And these royals, they will not leave any wall uncovered, will they? While their people are starving, they are sparing no expense on this place. “Let them eat cake, I must discuss my ceiling painting options.”

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

Oh look, it’s the War Room. “I’m going to trample you with my horse, you deadbeats! That will show you.”

alt text

alt text

And here’s the dining hall (I think). Gah, it’s so crowded. Move out of the way, people. Don’t they know that I’m taking pictures for an amazing blog that is read by at least three people?

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

Ah, some fresh air.

alt text

Oh look, here is the Peace Room. I’m not sure what they do here. Write up peace agreements? But did they really need a room just for that? “Let them eat cake. I must go discuss my peace room with the royal interior designer.”

alt text

alt text

And this is the queen’s bedroom. Marie Antoinette’s actual bed I think. This woman kind of liked florals, ya think?

alt text

alt text

alt text

This was the queen’s salon/waiting room. Guests would wait here until her servants finished doing her makeup for her, and spraying enough perfume to cover the stench of only taking a couple baths per year. “Let them eat cake. But preferably not in this waiting room. I don’t want a mess. Tell them to go to that big dining room.”

alt text

My mom said, “Quick! Take a picture of that, it’s Marie Antoinette!”

alt text

Another waiting room. Very exciting.

alt text

alt text

Regarding the following picture, my mom and my conversation went like this:

“Look, it’s Napoleon!”
“No, it’s not, mom. Napoleon is way short.”
“Well, you know how people liked to flatter themselves. He told the painter to make him look tall.”
“Mom, that’s not him.”
“Yes, it is.”
“No, look at the plaque.”

I’m now questioning if that was really Marie Antoinette.

alt text

And look at these princes. Is it just me, or does anyone else sense the privileged snottiness radiating through this photo?

alt text

More spiffy rooms:

alt text

“Ha, mom! THIS is Napoleon!”

alt text

Finally we walked out of the hall and faced a fork. One sign said “café,” the other said “restaurant.” Uh, come again? We just followed the crowd.

alt text

Ah, outside!

alt text

I will have to continue the “outside” part of Versailles in my next entry. So, I’ll stop here.

I will show you some old pictures of the time that Bénédicte and I went to Versailles years ago during a Jeff Koons exhibition (this is the artist Lady Gaga name-checked in her song). I know, these pictures are horrible. I blame it on my awful camera…skills.

The quality is even worse because these are grabs from my old Facebook albums (my hard drive and computer were stolen in the burglary as you know).

His famous metallic balloon sculptures:

alt text

alt text
alt text

alt text

And I’m still smarting from the burglary because I had not uploaded all my photos online and there was this topiary sculpture that looked like a toy horse that I liked but don’t have a photo of.

You can kind of see the back of it here:

alt text
Oh you know what, I’ll go online and borrow someone else’s photos. When I was a journalist, bloggers borrowed my stuff all the time. Might be fair to borrow stuff back. (The credit for the following goes to ifitshipitshere.blogspot.com)

This is Jeff Koons standing in front of that sculpture at Versailles.

alt text

alt text

Well, please come back tomorrow to see what the rest of Château de Versailles looks like.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Eurotrip Day 8 in Paris: Sacré bleu!

On the eighth day of Paris, my true love gave to me….just kidding. But you already knew that.

Well, my family and I went to the Sacré-Cœur, a church that sits on the highest point in France.

alt text

It was a nice trek up, but we had to avoid all the money. In Paris, at all the famous landmarks, people are always trying to get money off of tourists with varying schemes, including women who ask you to sign a generic petition and then demand a donation. No matter what, you have to avoid eye contact with them. If you give them a split-second glance, they will latch onto you and make it very difficult to walk away. The guy at the Sacré-Cœur grabbed my arm, and I tried to be polite but I finally had to just wrangle myself away.

Anyway, back to the basilica. According to Wikipedia, the Sacré-Cœur “is located at the summit of the butte Montmartre, the highest point in the city”:

alt text

alt text

alt text

I wonder how many people bring pot here just to say, “Look, I got high at the highest point in the city.”

More pictures are below. But first, let me take a selfie:

alt text

I don’t know what it is about my brother, but almost every photo I ask him to take of me comes out slightly crooked. Maybe after this vacation, I’ll take the time out to straighten them all on Photoshop, but for now, they’ll be crooked:

alt text

alt text

alt text

OK this is a bit better:

alt text

We then went inside the amazing, beautiful church. But cameras weren’t allowed in there, so here are some random, ugly pictures of the outside:

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

You could also pay some Euros to climb to the top, and go through all the old hidden, creepy passageways. I didn’t this time, but here are some photos of Bénédicte and me in 2008 making that journey. So many stairs and such narrow spaces, one of the most claustrophobic experiences of my life:

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

OK, now back to the present. Up on the hill there were the typical gift shops

alt text

but there was also a big fair with artists hawking their services and wares:

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

Oh look, another Asian bride and groom in Paris. I’m no master of body language but I think the bride is saying “Stop looking at the camera. Get the fuck over here and bring me my shoes!”

alt text

alt text

We then went inside a fancy chocolate shop. Oh look, the Notre Dame cathedral made entirely of chocolate:

alt text

alt text

As a bonus, here are a couple of signs around town:

If you’re going to advertise a class teaching English, you should make sure to use proper grammar, yes?

alt text

And this gross sign below, ugh. It gives the impression that American = white and that it’s something to aspire to. This is why people abroad often ask me (non-verbatim), “What, how can you be American? You don’t look like a WASP.”

alt text

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Eurotrip Day 7 in Paris: Moving day!

On Tuesday, we had to move out of our Airbnb apartment and into another one. The apartments in Paris generally have narrow stairways, and very few had elevators. Ours had an elevator, but it was tiny, you could only fit a few people in it–possibly two Americans…or five French people.

So I always wondered how people brought huge furniture into their high-rise apartments. This is how:

alt text

alt text

All week I had been watching people in neighboring buildings do this. People would hire moving companies, which come with their own mini-lifts and then load it right through their huge windows, which are all– you guessed it–French doors. I had always wondered why glass double-doors were called “French doors.”

We moved to Marcadet – Poissonniers (I’m calling all these neighborhoods by their closest metro station), which was very different from our previous République. République had a mostly white, 20-30-something, mostly professional, well-dressed crowd. Everyone there looked like they were on break from working at an art gallery.

By comparison, Marcadet – Poissonniers has a very colorful and vibrant neighborhood. It is made up of a lot of African, Haitian, Indian and Middle Eastern immigrants. I wish I had my camera during one of the days of their street farmers’ market-type things, but here is what the neighborhood looks like on a regular day:

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

The barbed wire above because there was a train pathway below it. If you climbed over, you’d probably fall to your death:

alt text

Every 40 feet or so was a guy selling corn on the cob grilled on a makeshift grill in a shopping cart:

alt text

alt text

I guess it’s pretty popular here, but we bought some and it was too unseasoned and dry for our taste. We Americans are used to corn being slathered in butter and salt, and then used as a side to our barbecue, amiright?

alt text

Our former place at République was…meh (or “bof” as the French say). That’s why I didn’t take any pictures of it. We lived on the fifth floor of an apartment/condo building that had four bedrooms with a family in each one and together we had to share one small kitchen and bathroom. It was old and smelly and the doorknobs were coming off. The only redeeming qualities about it were that it had a nice balcony, an elevator, and it was conveniently located near all the major metro stops in Paris. And we didn’t get robbed or murdered, which is always a plus.

When we moved to Marcadet – Poissonniers, we were not expecting much of the new place. It was located near the end of the metro lines and it had no elevator. That means we had to lug our luggage up to the third floor, and in Paris, the ground floor is always “0” instead of “1” so we had one extra floor. It looked old and there were cracks in the building.

alt text

Damn stairs:

alt text

And our door:

alt text

But then we flung the door open and it was like Heaven. I didn’t know such an amazing place existed in Paris unless you were a millionaire or a drug mule. And it was not expensive at all. Thank you, Airbnb! (For some reason I keep pronouncing it as “Airbender”)

alt text

alt text

alt text

We even had our own washer-dryer in the bathroom (located in the cupboard near our sink)

alt text

Screw the metro and the rest of Paris. I could spend the rest of our week in all day in our apartment.

Sidenote: I love that most websites now have a “click for U.S. version” button. When I lived in Denmark in 2008, I had to always try to see if a site had a UK flag (for English) or I would end every URL with .us instead of .com.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Eurotrip Day 6 in Paris: Blue and Perfect and Adjectives

I guess I should’ve mentioned this earlier, but throughout our first week, we spent almost all the “downtime” we had going shopping in search of a certain that my sister’s mother-in-law had asked us for her. So on days when we weren’t sightseeing or visiting people, we hit every Printemps, Galleries Lafayette, Le Bon Marché, and other shopping areas in the city.

Like this one:
alt text

alt text

Most of you probably know that unlike the U.S., every other country includes sales tax in the marked price. And for those of us who are not European citizens, you get refunded the tax if you make a purchase of more than 170 Euros at the same store on the same day. The only time we ever hit that amount was when we bought the scarf at Galleries Lafayette, and from there we had to walk through a labyrinth of departments to get our purchase verified, then all the way to the basement to get our tax money back, which turned out to be 20 Euros. There was a Vietnamese woman standing near us in the other line and she got more than 300 Euros back. I may be terrible at math, but I suspect she must have spent A LOT.

I can’t remember which mall this was, but I liked the criss-cross escalators:

alt text

alt text

There was this one pea coat I liked, but when I looked at the brand…well I don’t think I can wear a label named this:

alt text

alt text

At Le Bon Marché, we were looking for the big, fancy grocery store we had heard of, but instead ran into this random art exhibit at the mall:

alt text

alt text

It was then accompanied by a 9-minute self-indulgent documentary about a rich Japanese man who transformed a tiny island in the middle of nowhere into an art museum/exhibit/something. The video included snippets of English-speaking tourists providing powerful endorsements about it, using words like “surprising” and “unexpected.”

alt text

alt text

After searching everywhere, we finally found a skybridge or pathway that led us to the big fancy grocery store, La Grande Epicerie.

Every fine, fancy French food you’d fathom feeding on:

alt text

alt text

alt text

Just look at the selection of foie gras (which I personally dislike and cannot eat):

alt text

alt text

Even their ketchup was fancy and highbrow:

alt text

And all along I had thought I was so elitist and the sh*t for buying the organic, corn syrup-free Heinz ketchup back home.

Speaking of fancy, their chocolate aisles.

Here is chocolate so grand it comes with a mallet you use to break it with:

alt text

And afterward you can use the mallet to break all the plates that hadn’t been worthy of holding your chocolate.

On our way home before dinner we took a quick 5-minute look at the Eiffel Tower. I’ll try to go again before we leave Paris but here are some shots. I really love the sky. It had rained that morning, but now the sky was blue and perfect and heavenly and ethereal and adjectives.

alt text

alt text

After dinner we decided to take a boat ride around the river Seine, Vedettes du Pont Neuf (pro tip: buy your tickets online and save 4 Euros per person. Or better yet, don’t buy any tickets and save all your money). We took the last ride at 10:30 p.m.

alt text

alt text

And away we go! Whoosh!

alt text

alt text

Unfortunately this boat ride was disappointing. It was a 45-minute ride that took us to the Eiffel Tower and back, but it was way too fast, I could barely get any decent photos with my camera. I tried adjusting my ISO and shutter speed and other camera terms, but 90 percent of the photos still came out blurry. And honestly, with the exception of the Eiffel Tower and some bridges, most other things along the river looked kind of meh at night.

Also, our tour guide was nice as a person, but as a tour guide she was kind of terrible. Her English was very good when she was greeting people and answering questions. But as soon as the tour started she switched to this rapid and rehearsed speech where I couldn’t understand a thing. Shesoundedlikethisasiftherewerenopausebetweenanywordssoafterawhilewejusttunedherout. She could have a future as a voice actress reading those side effects disclaimers in anti-depressant commercials.

Here are a few of the photos that came out sort of OK:

alt text

alt text

alt text

Caught this candid photo of my mom and we were all amused by the pose:

alt text

We then drove past all these crowds of young people just hanging out, drinking and laughing, playing guitar by the water’s edge, while I was on a boring cruise. Well… maybe next time when I’m not traveling with family.

alt text

After the cruise, we saw these locks of love:

alt text

alt text

I was admiring Caleigh and Noah’s eternal love for each other as immortalized on their padlock when suddenly I heard a guy yell “Hey fuck you! Trying to take my wallet?! I’ll fuck you up!” and his girlfriend added, “Yeah, he’ll fuck you up! Fucker!” Even without me describing the accent, you could already tell the guy was American. America, fuck yeah. They were yelling at a pickpocket, who then went and hid in the shadows.

Pickpocketing is a very big problem here in Paris, and well actually most big, touristy European cities. I was (kind of) the victim of one back when I visited Brussels in 2008. We were on a crowded metro and thieves went through my backpack and luggage. Luckily they didn’t take anything because I’m such a messy packer so they couldn’t locate my passport or wallet. My classmates were not so lucky. But ever since that incident I’ve been super paranoid when traveling abroad and I never take my wallet with me. I only carry a bit of money and a few items with me and I put them in hard to reach pockets.

We then stopped to view the Eiffel Tower from afar and snapped a few more photos.

alt text

alt text

At the strike of midnight, there were more sparkly stuff:

alt text

alt text

alt text

I know sometimes the tower would also turn blue or red, but I don’t know when that happens. I remember on my first trip to Paris, the tower turned blue with stars, like the European Union flag. Here are some of my old Facebook photos:

alt text

alt text

alt text

Enough Eiffel Tower photos for you?

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Eurotrip Day 5 in Paris: A Day with Béné

This will be a very picture-heavy entry. But it is the most fun one yet I think.

Day 4 was boring, I spent a lot of time hunting souvenirs with my mom, so I’ll skip right over to Day 5: my day with my French friend, Bénédicte, one of my most favorite people in the world.

She first took me to Jaurès, one of the street arts-iest parts of Paris:

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

It was right next to a canal, and it was green, my favorite color:

alt text

alt text

Aack! What are these vandals doing?! Someone notify the authorities.

alt text

alt text

alt text

Ah, OK, punks, I get it now. Carry on.

alt text

Even this subway station is graffiti art:

alt text

What I really like about Paris’s metro stations is that each one has its own theme, flavor or personality. They even have different chairs at each station. This one looks to me like a smiling face that just says “sit on me”:

alt text

We exited the subway and saw this angel just reaching into the sky:

alt text

We walked down one of the rues and saw a jewish wedding about to take place at a synagogue. A group of random American tourists including myself stop to take pictures:

alt text

alt text

Oh no, what’s this? A man comes out and yells at all of us in French to leave, to get the fuck out. In turn, some of the Americans yell back, “Fuck off!” Béné explains to us the man said there is a bomb. We Americans think it is just a silly ploy to get some privacy.

alt text

Oh no, now the police have arrived! It must be serious. Béné explains to us that the jewish folks found a suspicious, unattended bag.

alt text

alt text

One of the American tourists says, “Oh right, that makes sense, with all the antisemitism going on right now because of people’s views on Israel bombing Gaza.” This was a rather thoughtful comment from a guy who I think earlier said “fuck off.” I figured not a lot of Americans know about a lot of the world being anti-Israel right now.

Anyway, the police cleared the bag, determined it was not a bomb and the wedding went on:

alt text

We took a vote and think this guy was the groom:

alt text

We went down another street and…oh my! These ladies in reflective vests are serious about their biking. Get out of the way, old woman! These girls are ready to rock and roll!

alt text

alt text

OK, I can’t see an archway without photographing it (and funny enough, Wikipedia uses this very same archway for its entry on archways):

alt text

Then we went to the Hotel de Sully:

alt text

alt text

This is an optical illusion. I freaked out a bit because I thought this man was carrying a woman’s head in his backpack:

alt text

Oh wow, this lioness is just putting it out there, isn’t she?

alt text

This would be the first of many Asian brides and grooms in Paris I see casually cross the street over and over again to take a picture. Like, you know, no biggie.

alt text

Béné and I loved this car. It reminds me of those plain backpacks or shoes when I was a kid that came with permanent markers and you were encouraged to mark them all up to make it your own:

alt text

OK, now follow the rainbow poles…

alt text

…right to Le Marais. If Paris was San Francisco, Le Marais would be the Castro. You know, just sittin’ and chillin’ and cruisin’ and all facing forward:

alt text

This is Paris…bitch:

alt text

Then we walked to the something something plaza:

alt text

alt text

You know how sometimes I say I’m the king of inadvertent physical comedy? Well, on this day, I was trying to climb to the top of a three-tiered fountain thinking it would make a cool shot, and before I knew it, one of my worn-out shoe soles slipped, I lurched forward, windmilled, and nearly fell face-first into the dried up fountain. But somehow I caught my balance in time. If I hadn’t died of crushing my skull falling into that deep fountain, I nearly died of embarrassment. Luckily Béné was too distracted making adjustments to the camera (or so she claimed), and the crowd of tourists were facing the other way. But really, someone should put up a sign or something.

Béné and I wanted a stranger to take a photo of us, but we’re both kind of um…iffy about approaching strangers. We first asked a bubbly tourist girl to take our photo, and after she snapped five pictures, I gave her a thumbs up and thanked her because I was too shy to tell her those photos were terrible. We waited until after she and her group passed, then we asked a man with a camera strapped to his neck, thinking, oh he has a camera strapped to his neck, he must be really good at this. He said yes and quickly snapped only two photos of us, but yes, he was good at this:

alt text

Then we went to the Centre Pompidou courtyard and watched a group break dance.

alt text

alt text

alt text

Honestly, as usual with these street break dancing shows, I thought it was a lot of hype and only 5-10 seconds of actual break dancing from each of the break dancers. But a lot of the tourists were impressed and they made a lot of money.

Then we popped into a Starbucks. Ever since we’ve been in Paris, I’ve been all about the yogurt drink craze here.

alt text

Béné got me this due to her stamp card, and I loved it:

alt text

And we visited a metro station undergoing reconstruction.

alt text

I really like pictures with the juxtaposition of old/classic and modern:

alt text

This place is called Au Chien Qui Fume. Jeez, even the dogs smoke here.

alt text

Then we headed to the Louvre. Poor Béné, always having to wait for me because I want to take pictures of everything and anything.

alt text

alt text

alt text

But ta da, the Louvre!

alt text

alt text

Ouch, this Louvre thing sure is pointy.

alt text

We wanted to wait for the sun to set on the Louvre but it was taking forever so we took a walk.

alt text

This lady is just relaxing, sunbathing and enjoying her ice cream:

alt text

And everywhere we go, immigrants are always pushing their wares on us. And OK, I admit it works on me. I buy this kind of stuff:

alt text

alt text

I think this statue is having the same problem I’ve been having trying to find deodorant in Paris:

alt text

And OK, Paris is known for very homoerotic statues, but this, what exactly is happening here?:

alt text

alt text

Oh look, another Asian bride crossing the street:

alt text

We crossed the street too, mostly to get closer to this bewitching obelisk:

alt text

alt text

And closer…

alt text

And closer…

alt text

alt text

And closer.

alt text

alt text

Oh and we got a nice view of the Arc du Triomph and its place as the center of life in Paris:

alt text

Then we got back to the Louvre to see the sunset (but I don’t think these pictures do it justice. I think I took better photos last time).

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

And closer.

alt text

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Eurotrip Day 3 in Paris: “Seven-Euro 30-cm long”

I might have to start taking fewer photos. It takes forever to write these entries now because I spend so much time sorting through the photos, let alone have time to edit any of them.

Traveler’s log: Day 3, Thursday.

My family members were off doing their own thing today, so I decided to conquer one of my fears: the Paris metro system. Six years ago when I visited Paris the first time, my friend Bénédicte led me all around the city using the metro. I was so overwhelmed, all I remembered were the levels of tunnels that stretched for miles and they were several stories deep underground so that if somebody wanted to murder me and hide my body…well the Paris metro would provide them a very pleasant ride for them to think of the various ways they could do that.

But this time around I’ve been paying attention to how it works and it’s pretty easy. Instead of like San Francisco’s muni metro system, where one main tunnel handles a bunch of different lines and you have to pay attention to which train you get on (before it splits off in different directions above ground), the Paris metro system is made up of numerous tunnels and pathways, all handling a different train line each.

So, sure, there is a lot more walking and climbing stairs, but there is less of a chance of getting lost or on the wrong train. And there is always a train leaving every 2 to 4 minutes. (So I would never experience the crap I experienced in SF: spending 50 minutes waiting for/riding the Muni just to travel 5 miles to my internship)

alt text

alt text

What I’ve been really confused/perplexed about is following the directional signs here. In Paris, the down arrow (↓) means to go forward, whereas I’m used to “forward” being indicated by the up arrow. So sometimes I’ve walked downstairs when I was supposed to go forward.

Anyway, on this particular Thursday I decided to be weird and walked a long distance, popped into a random metro station, took a random train, and got off at a random stop. This led me to getting off at the Cité stop.

Viva la France:

alt text

I’ve been meaning for a while to get a photo to illustrate the ubiquity of small cars in Paris and well, here it is:

alt text

I stopped by the river Seine and sat down where Bénédicte first took me six years ago.

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

I did what I usually like to do when I’m sitting next to a body of water, take a shot of my feet:

alt text

And I love how zen these people are, they just put their bags down, take off their shoes, and relax and watch the world go by:

alt text

alt text

Then I walked more, across sidewalks and… I must have walked like 10-12 blocks just to get immersed in the Parisian local culture.

alt text

alt text

Damn you, Subway, always ruining my immersion of the local culture with your foot-long sandwiches. Or as they call it in Europe: 30 cm-longs (technically 1 foot is 30.48 cm long but I guess the French shave off half a cm off their sandwiches, you know, to keep their slim figures).

alt text

Although I’d argue their theme song doesn’t quite have the same ring to it: ♫ Seven-Euro, Seven-Euro, Seven-Euro… 30 cm-longs… ♫

(sorry, that was a dumb joke for us Americans)

alt text

alt text

Then I looked and saw a fancy-looking building (they’re all fancy in Paris):

alt text

But ah, it was a school:

alt text

But not just any school. It was L’Université Sorbonne, which is a very, prestigious, fancy-sounding school (and one different syllable from a delicious frozen treat):

alt text

alt text

alt text

alt text

Ooh look, sorbet at the Sorbonne:

alt text

Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

I really love the architectures of these older buildings:

alt text

Here is the Le Panthéon, an a̶r̶t̶ ̶m̶u̶s̶e̶u̶m̶ mausoleum that holds the remains of famous French people. Pretty… but no thanks.

alt text

alt text

Ah, here’s a lovely statue/piece of art in front of Le Panthéon:

alt text

alt text

And well, I was going to write something witty about this boy sticking his head up the statue’s butthole, but I’m too tired, so please make up your own caption for this:

alt text

That night after dinner I took a walk around our current neighborhood, République, which is always full of well-dressed, attractive 20-30-somethings, sitting down outdoors sipping expensive cappuccinos or café au laits at all hours of the day.

I hate them.

Not really.

alt text

alt text

And if you can’t go out to socialize, well you can always call up one of these sushi delivery services, because apparently that’s a thing, a very popular thing:

alt text

alt text

By the way, I just discovered a little problem: my deodorant is running out, and the three grocery/health care stores I’ve visited only sell those hard natural ball crystal deodorant things. Does anybody know if those work? My only experience with them was like a decade ago when I used the rock crystal and it just left me with major B.O.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.