Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Paris, France: 29Dec08 - 5Jan09


Paris in my imagination is people drinking latte at Champs-Elysees and then go shopping at LV, then visit to The Louvre. Images of the equivalent of relax and romantic scenes. Little did i expect that, Paris is crowded (a bit less than New York though), is fast paced and is like any other metropolitan around the world.
The different is, this capital of France has such a long story that, i think most of the buildings in the city centre are just kind of historical and beautiful. I used to think London is great in terms of all the old buildings in the city centre, but now i think Paris is the best.
We decided to spend our New Year 2009 at this capital of Eiffel Tower. The main reason is because our friend, Vivien, is there in Paris and we would like to have a great reunion with him for the new year. To visit the MAIN attractions only, i think it takes probably merely 2-3 days.

We were supposed to enjoy the panoramic view of Paris from the 56th and 59th observation floors of Montparnasse.
But the weather wasn't the best and we had missed the "particularly breathtaking sunset over the Eiffel Tower" (as per the advertisement. :)
However, the 360 degree view of Paris kind of gave me a bit of the sense of the direction in the city and where the attractions were situated.

There was a long long queue of people to enter Notre Dame and there was a hail raining. So we decided not to go in on that day.
It ended up that, we went in for free on Sunday night service. :)
Outside of the Cathedral, i met Lee, a Malaysian who was on his months of "world tour".
(i recognised him as a Malaysian from his English accent.)
i invited him to join us and he traveled with us for two days. I would say, it was nice to meet someone from home in a foreign country.

The Pantheon is the mausoleum for the great and the remains of giants of French culture such as Hugo and Marie Clare (the only woman).
The mausoleum got ALL of its explanations in French, so ya... It is a bit frustrating if you don't read French and do not know a thing about "how great" these people are, to be "buried" here.
The interior is great though, with its old wall paintings and Foucault's Pendulum swinging from the dome. While the pendulum appeared to rotate over a 24-hour period, it was in fact the earth beneath it turning.

A free toilet at St Michel.
i actually like this facility. The toilet is self-cleaning and is conveniently located to ease people's "need".
The one that i saw in UK, need to pay 20 or 50 pence and the door will open by itself if you never come out within 20 minutes!

La Defense is Paris's prestige business district. The huge Grande Arche (the white hollow cube clad), stands at 112 meter.
This area is a no car allowed zone.

My first very real experience of snowing during winter.
The snow flakes falling down from the sky and covered the ground and building with a layer of white coating.

The Concorde with the gold-tipped obelisk from the temple of Luxor, Egypt, in the centre of the square.

Napoleon's pink marble Arc du Carrousel, which originally formed a gateway for the former Tuileries Palace, looked a bit out of place and definitely forlornly upstaged by The Pyramide.

i always thought, nobody shouldn't not able to recognise the pyramid of the Louvre or not to know the Louvre.
But i proved to be wrong. There are indeed people who doesn't know anything about the Louvre.
The Louvre itself, from the building to the collections inside are just all masterpiece.
There is free entrance on every first Sunday of the month and enter using Porte des Lion, guarantee you a no queue situation and if you want to, you can even be the first one to arrive in from of Mona Lisa. :)

Tourists started to crowd in front of Mona Lisa.
err... We were the top 4 persons to arrived in front of the drawing.
Of course one can spend a lot of time in The Louvre, but after 2 or 3 hours, i found things to get a bit intense and tired.
So i think unless one is hardcore to musuem or arts, the maximum time to spend here should be half day.

The Arc de Triomphe was started by Napoleon as a homage to the armies of France and himself but it was now dedicated to the French army in general.

The Champs-Elysees is synonymous with the Parisian glitz and glamour, studded with luxury hotels and top fashion boutiques.
I couldn't really afford or willing to spend that kind of money to buy anything here, but i like the of luxurious feelings in the air.
We wanted to go into LV, but was put off by the queue outside.

We spent new year 2009 with thousandssss of people under the famous Eiffel Tower.
The tower was in blue instead of the normally golden or yellow color at night, due to the President of France was the president or head of European Union in year 2008.
(The EU flag is blue.)
It changed back to yellow color on the first second of Year 2009.

It is interesting to know that, this quintessential symbol both of Paris and of the brilliance of industrial engineering, was designed to be a temporary structure, for the 1889 Exposition.
It was saved from demolition by the sudden need for "wireless telegraphy" aerials in the first decade of the 20th century.
They are many illegal African and immigrant merchants selling cheap souvenirs here. They ran away went the police came. You couldn't find any where for cheaper than what they offered and you can negotiate price, like the way people do it in Asia... "12 Euros. No, 5 Euros, final, (and walk away). Ok, ok."

Flea market at St Ouen. It is like pasar malam (night market) in Malaysia, but without food. There are a few of them around this areas during weekend, products ranged from souvenir, clothes, second-hand things, pirated branded begs to antiques.
There a small merchants (likely to be illegal), doing on-street gambling. Each bid is 20 Euros!
It was interesting to watch though.

Toulouse-Lautrec's inspiration, the Moulin Rouge, at the boulevard de Clichy.
People can watch very expensive can-can dance while having nice dinner here.
Most "normal" tourist like us, were just there to take the picture and "feel" of the place.

Sacre-Coeur, Montmartre, reminded me of Taj Mahal.
i am not sure which one is more "grand", but both are white with a dome.

It was the time that Isreal bombing Gaza.
At the Marias, which is near to the Picasso Musuem, where there is community of Jew living, it was said that, there were cars burning and demonstration from some angry people.
The burnt cars were just on the side way parking of the road.

At one of the metro underground station, a group of musicians are selling their CD and fund raising for the development of their musics.
They played very well, totally professional.
Sometimes in the train itself, the performer just went inside and started to sing or perform.
i heard that, some Parisian found the performance "disturbing" or "nuisance".
In Singapore, street performers need permit to perform and i somehow think that, it is "freedom" that people are allowed to perform anywhere. This is what i am expected (freedom to perform), from this capital of art as well.

People feeding ducks or birds at the fountain in front of Luxembourg Palace.

Going to the Disneyland was like, to complete my childhood pilgrim...
Thanks to Vivien, who was willing to accompany me there and made all the arrangement.
There are different "lands" in the Disneyland: Fantasyland, Adventreland, Frontierland and Discovery land.
I would say, to many, the pilgrim should be at Fantasyland...
The thrills of backward roller coaster couldn't be compared with the joy from the fulfillment of childhood dreams of been inside Alice's Curious Labyrinth or the Sleeping Beauty Castle.

The hair-raising Big Thunder Mountain roller coaster at the Frontierland.
The water from the lake will splash on you during summer.

Many people left after the grand parade.
The child behind me kept shouting: Mickey... Mickey...

Paris was snowing again by the time we left.
i think i will always remember that, i threw my first snow ball in my life in Paris.
Even until now, when the winter is almost over, i still kind of enjoy the "myth" of snow. "Snow" is just not something "usual" or to "get used to" for me.

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