19 October 2010

The garden of love

Before I close the French chapter I think this particular place worth a special mention somewhere in this virtual realm of Blogosphere. For its sheer beauty and tranquility this God-gift is a natural pleasure of life I personally wanted to immortalize in a small corner of my memory. This place deserved an elaborate appraisal, but narration alone wouldn't do much justice if not accompanying by splendid illustrations.

Luxembourg garden. The garden of love.

To discover the soul of this Baroque-styled garden, it doesn't require much shoe sole. The obedient foot that I let to wander and explore almost every nooks and crannies of Paris iconic landmarks finally find its resting place to temporarily recharge. A home away from home. I then surrendered myself on an empty bench under the brightly colored Autumn shade and let the serene surrounding embraced me. To fully appreciate the place I closed my eyes and unclogged my heart. So different but yet at the same time so right. It was a full frontal assault of brilliant colors with intoxicating beauty that extend far beyond my coherent vision. Yet time and time again I have to remind myself that the journey had finally come into a conclusion.

Life is beautiful.

Then I realized that I was alone and my journey to that singular beauty and riveting moment would have been more meaningful if my love one was there.

This is however not a desperate attempt to resurrect the sweet memories that will gradually erode and dilute in time. This is not the kind of memories that will becloud my soul with sadness. This intoxicating memories, I am sure will occasionally reincarnate and come knocking on the door of my Utopian dream. Harder it may seem, this unspeakable colorful chapter of my life has come to an end (at least for the time being)...

16 October 2010

The French connection

The best way to explore any new places is by foot. You will see more and get to feel some sense of intimacy with the surrounding. The smell, the taste and the sight are all there for real. That is also, in my opinion the best way of becoming a traveler and not a tourist. That was what exactly I did in Paris. The only caution here is that you need a good pair of walking shoes and your sense of direction, if not GPS-perfect, well... at least the head is well tuned and not to forget also your common sense (for safety reasons).

In my entire life, I think I've never walked so extensively and enthusiastically as in Paris. I've walked and walked until I didn't realize that it was close to midnight and the temperature started to drop bitterly cold. But it did pay off in the end. Apart from my aching feet, I felt satisfied and almost get charmed by this city.

Another wonderful experience while in Paris was a chance to join free tours around the city and the unique thing about this tour was that you get the local - Parisians as your personal guide. You can find their information here, in their website. This slow paced tour was so enjoyable, informative and extraordinaire. I felt as if the guide was my own friend taking me for a joyride around their own backyard and many hidden jewels of Paris. I highly recommend this tour to everybody visiting Paris.

Not visiting Eiffel tower while in Paris is just like having a plate of roti canai without teh tarik. Incomplete. This iconic architecture is really a beauty. When I arrived at the foot of this gigantic structure, there were already a huge crowd and the queue for ticket to the top floor was already very long. Beware of the many 'mat hitam' from Africa that kept pestering visitors for their counterfeit wares. As stated by 3yearshousewife in the previous entry, one has to be very cautious as pickpocket was also notorious in this area. And the 'mat hitam' were quite photo unfriendly. I saw a tourist who unassumingly took a photo of one of those vermins, who was later asked to delete the photo from his camera by one of the mat hitam.

The magnificent view from the second floor of the Eiffel tower was breathtaking and worth the 40 minutes queue. If you look carefully to the horizon, there was hardly any skyscrapers in the city. The third floor (the top of the tower) was closed at the time of the visit.

I waited 4 hours to get this night shot of Eiffel tower. Taking a night shot without the camera best companion- a tripod (plus a cold drizzle and shivering hands), was quite a challenge. This was a view from Palais de Chaillot near Trocadéro .

Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre with its 21 meters high glass pyramid in the courtyard. You don't need the Da Vinci code to enter this building but a few euros will do. The security was quite an issue here and very obvious with the present of armed personnel in the vicinity.

La Colonne Vendôme at Place Vendôme to commemorate the battle of Austerlitz by Napoleon I. The column was made up of 1000 bronze cannon balls (the oxidation was quite clear), shot by the enemy in the battle.

Opposite La Colonne Vendôme and next to the Ministry of Justice is the famous Hôtel Ritz. With the price of a one night stay reaching to up 10,000 euros, this hotel is considered the most expensive hotel in Paris.

Not far from Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre is Opera Garnier (the right building). It is regarded as one of the architectural masterpieces of its time. I was told the front of building (the road) was originally a big swamp. There is an underground lake in the basement . Le Fantôme de l'Opéra probably lurking somewhere in the basement too .

On my way strolling leisurely on the Avenue des Champs Elysees toward Arc de Triomphe, I came across this interesting sight. People queued to enter one of the many high end boutiques as entry is only limited to a certain number at one time.

Engraved on the interior walls of the two lesser arches, on both sides of the main arch, are the 558 names of Napoleon's generals. The ones that are underlined are those who died in battle. There is an admission fee if you want to get to the top of Arc de Triomphe - for another cool view of Paris.

If you feet is getting tired and started to become wibbly wobbly, then a day pass ticket by Paris Metro and RER is another good alternative to explore Paris. With only 8.70 euros, you can hop on and hop off at any place of your interest, for the entire day.

If you like cycling, then the velo or city bike is a good way to get around Paris. You can find this bike stationed on many streets ready for rent.

...or this freaking colorful taxi...you will get romantic musics on board for free...

This college near La Sorbonne (formerly know as Université de Paris) offers free education. You can register here for free provided your permanent address is in that area and you are taking courses that is not offered in any other universities. I am still wondering what courses are that?

My first 2 hours free-walking tour was with Augustine (pink vest). He covered the left bank area. He didn't give us a history lesson, but introduced us to their home city of Paris. This really made my trip to this place so much interesting because of his knowledge and insider's tips. The walks were informative, relaxed, full of humour. Highly commendable.

Regardless of the weather, the free-walking tour local guide will be there for you. That was what happened on this second tour with the charming Pauline (red vest sitting in the middle) on the right bank for a 'landmarks tour'. Even though it was drizzling intermittently that afternoon, I found her waiting on the stair of Opera Garnier patiently for us. I am not sure what got into us with those interesting pose to end the tour, but the acid rain probably has some effect on those peculiar behavior. Great tour. Merci for both of you, Augustine and Pauline.

14 October 2010

le tour de France

When I flew back almost 20,000 km flight distance from Rio de Janeiro to our Bolehland, out of my curiosity and sheer luck, I purposely broke the journey and stopped over in Paris for 4 days just to taste the original french fries (please do not confuse french fry with french fly). And you know what? They didn't taste any much better than the one we bought from any junk food outlets in our Bolehland. To simply describe it in a single word - edible.

Well actually I have to confess. That was not the original reason and intention why I set my foot on the land of prolific poets, writers, impressionist and... gargoyles. It was actually the quarantine protocol I have to adhere to because it seemed while visiting Brazil I was assumed to get contaminated with a deadly plant pathogen known as Microcyclus ulei. This endemic pathogen, ipso facto if brought over to our Bolehland can wipe out the entire rubber industry and put our rubber tappers in a dire plight for survival. Seriously, I am not joking this time.

And so...by exposing myself to the French temperate weather for a minimum period of three days, this tropical pathogen will either become sterilized or pulverized into thin air or get demoralized by knowing that there is no rubber tree in France to stick their hyphae to.

Unlike Rio de Janeiro, I found Paris and and its inhabitant the Parisians were quite welcoming, romantic and stylish. Even though I don't speak or read French it was quite easy to move around and find my ways around the city without feeling intimidated. I managed to get myself flawlessly blended in with the hustle and bustle of this lovely city.

As that was, as the matter of fact, my first visit to this wonderful city, I planned in advance my syok-sendiri Paris excursion to cover at least the iconic landmarks of Paris and see for myself if the reality matches the stereotype. Apparently I could not cover it all. It turned out three days and four nights simply were not enough to tame this majestic and lively city of Paris.

Paris managed to impress me with it's aesthetic architectural masterpieces, rich cultural diversity and ideas, well preserved beautiful heritage and well illustrated history. I simply love Paris and all its grandeur. I am sure I will be back for more.

Paris welcomed me with a cloudy sky. As it was too early to check in the hotel, I walked slowly toward Île de la Cité , crossed the Seine river from the left bank and waited for the cloud to drift away watching the world go by before proceeding to the Notre Dame.

Once the cloud broke away Notre Dame revealed its architectural glory under the sparkling sunshine. For a moment, I thought I saw beautiful Esmeralda peeking through one of the windows. Entrance to this Gothic cathedral is free, but to climb the top part of the building for a close encounter with the Gargoyles (and a magnificent view of Paris) is not free. I didn't see Quasimodo either.

Situated on Île de la Cité, Hôtel-Dieu de Paris is the first and oldest hospital in Paris. Notre Dame is just a few steps away from this hotel and the only hotel you can find in that small islet ( Île de la Cité) on the Seine River. At first I thought the name itself was quite misleading, but later i was told it is actually a hotel. Suddenly I have goosebumps all over my body. Yes it was getting chiller by then.

Cruising on a boat along the Seine River was very tempting. But I will reserve this particular romantic endeavor with my significant half in the near future. It is a promise.

On both side of The Seine River, rows of antique and collectible shops like this one were a pleasant pit stop whenever my feet become tired of a very long stroll. Interesting Books, magazines, posters and other rare memorabilia of the yesteryear were on sale. I thought the price was quite reasonable too.

Shakespeare and Co. is a bookstore that sell, obviously, books (current and classic) and antique prints. It is situated on the left bank on the Latin Quarter just across the road from the Notre Dame. Very interesting to note that you can actually stay in the premise for free if you are willing to help with the up-keeping of the store AND read one book every day. Another interesting thing about this bookstore is that they will publish any publication that is banned in its original country.

If my memory served me right, there are approximately 200 drinkable fountains in Paris similar to the one in front of Shakespeare and Co bookstore (the green vertical pole). Just fill in an empty bottle and you will never feel thirsty while in Peighes...

This particular tree is however not considered as one of the icons of Paris but i found it very interesting as that tree has stood there for more than 1000 years. I suspected Les Trois Mousquetaires must have passed this tree when chased by the Cardinal guards.

On my way to search for halal restaurante to stuff my grumbling tummy, I passed through this place again and managed to snap a night photo of Notre Dame. The moon was already high and the feet was already aching from extensive walking by this time.

Avoiding deserted alleys or quite dark places, I felt save strolling along the Seine river at night. Police is everywhere. Errr...if you ask me what building is that, coupled with the urge to find the nearest toilet and an empty stomach, i was quite in a dire state to notice anything interesting that moment. Sorry I have no idea. Even my HTC Android Google Goggles didn't offer me much help that night :)

Voila! Finally a savior to end my quest for halal food in Paris. The only small restaurant that displayed the halal logo that boosted my courage to go in and satisfied my hungry palate. This particular shops is a block away from the main street off the Seine River on the left bank (Latin Quarter), along the busy small lane occupied by other lively eateries.

For 9 Euro, this brochette de poulet become my dinner menu for the duration of my stay in Paris. Was it because I was in Paris or the after effect of longing and craving for a plate of nasi lemak while in Rio de Janeiro?....this dish never taste soooo good.

I saw this sign in one of the small alleys. Anybody can share their wisdom with the translation please?

more stories to come...

11 October 2010

Let this timeless anxiety begone

That was the moment I will not soon forget. The moment I had to dash to the nearest toilet like a mad sprinter chasing for a gold medal. It was the third examination day when I was in a primary school, my second primordial year in Sultan Ismail School (SIS), Kemaman to be precised.

The wild butterflies in my stomach didn't seem to calm down a bit and mixed with a very potent dose of my mother's fish-head curry the previous night, my bowel was at nobody's mercy. Lo and behold, I spent countless hours squatting on the glorious hole while having a very rare chance to enjoy a quiet and solitary moment re-thinking of what I want to be when I grow up. Luckily I managed to finish the exams like anybody else in the school.

That ticklish-in-my-tummy ordeal kept hunting me until my varsity days. Tonnes of my precious adrenalin had been untimely flushed out from the body system, in my opinion, unnecessarily. Exams always bring me anxiety, no matter how well prepared I was.

Today is the last day my eldest son sit for his PMR. I hope and pray he is doing very well. I got the feeling he will do well. Even if he is not doing well I have no qualm about that because I know he has done his level best. I can empathy on his anxiety as I've walked the same path before. The thought of my son sitting on the exam gave me a familiar feeling I almost forgot many many moons ago.

There are so much pressure in life and everybody is talking about KPI or balance score card. For my son, his school score card is just a beginning to the many many more score cards he will have in this life. Some KPIs will be determined by others and some will be determined by us, based on what the objectives are. The only problem is that KP-I will always not be the same as KP-you. When the whole system is not sharing the same KP-I or doesn't has the agreeable KP-us, then the system will have the worst diarrhoea ever.

I hope when PMR is abolished in the near future, then the butterflies will not enter my tummy anymore. But with SBA in place and I think more workload in the pipeline for the teachers, then they should get more Pil Chi Kit Teck Aun well stocked up in their first aid box. Just in case, they will have the worst diarrhoea ever :)

Occasionally when the moon is full, I still dream of sitting in one of that dreadful exams...sweating!

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