EAT, SHOP, LOVE PARIS

Bonjour de Paris! Paris, the capital and most populous city of France, is often called the city of love. Most Parisians would argue that tha...

Bonjour de Paris! Paris, the capital and most populous city of France, is often called the city of love. Most Parisians would argue that that's one of the most stupid appellation for the city and it's not the most romantic place in the world, nor the worst. My take is: You have to go there to really understand it.

Paris is indeed the perfect setting for a romantic moment. Its beauty strikes you at every corner - elegant yet impressive architectures, the legends that stick to its iconic monuments, and the subtle combination of art, history and nature. More than any other city that I know of, Paris is a city that encourages you to take your time and enjoy life.

Before we set foot in this city, we heard plenty of stories about how snobbish and unfriendly the Parisians were, how they wouldn't answer you in English though they knew the language, how dirty the city was with dogs' poop everywhere etc. But after our trip, I would say these are mostly rumors (Or perhaps we were lucky that we met some real friendly and helpful ones).

Upon reaching Paris Nord Train Station (we took Eurostar from London St Pancreas Station), we checked in at Hotel Prince Albert Louvre. Though the room was small, it was very clean and quiet. We chose this hotel for its location (just 200 m from the Pyramides Metro Station) and value, knowing that we would not be in our room much. The staffs were helpful, friendly and knowledgeable, so I would definitely recommend this hotel. After dropping our luggages, it was time to head out for some sightseeing.

Fontaine de la Concorde at Place de la Concorde.
The Luxor Obelisk - a 23 m high Egyptian obelisk standing at the center of the Place de la Concorde, the largest square in Paris. It was originally located at the entrance to Luxor Temple, in Egypt. The Luxor Obelisk was classified as a historical monument in 1936.
Arc de Triomphe.
As seen in the pictures, weather was gloomy and it started drizzling when we reached the Arc de Triomphe, one of the most famous monuments in Paris :(. Standing at the western end of the Champs-Élysées, the Arc de Triomphe honors those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars. 

A trip to the city wouldn’t be complete without a stop in Louis Vuitton’s flagship store (the largest in the world!) on the famous Champs-Élysées. The famous LV is as much a symbol of Paris as the Eiffel Tower. The store was packed with both serious shoppers and the curious clambering, with eyes wide open and mouths agape (perhaps seeking shelter from the drizzle). The moment we stepped in, an employee approached us and asked if there was something we would like to see. I said I was looking for a shoulder and he handed over bag after bag for me to try it out. After five (or six?) bags, I knew I had found the one :D and my hubby got himself a wallet. The employee even wrapped our paper bag in a layer of plastic to prevent it from getting wet. Excellent service!

We then headed to Le Bouillon Chartier for dinner. This is an old French brasserie with an excellent quality-price ratio. Chartier takes no reservations and if there’s a big line when you turn off the busy boulevard and step into the courtyard, don’t worry, it goes very fast. Our orders were taken the moment our butts hit the seats, and then written down on the table before we knew it. Lol! Our food came about 10-15 mins later.

Escargots!
Bloc de foie gras de canard. Ya, ya, ya, I know it's cruel BUT we are in Paris! I had to eat it at least once!
Confit de canard pommes grenailles.
Pavé de rumsteack.
But... Here is the rub. All the tables were meant to accommodate four. There were only two of us, so we were placed alongside another couple. Luckily, they were friendly. They even let us tried the goat cheese dessert that they ordered :D

The next morning after breakfast, we walked to Galeries Lafayette for more shopping! Well... Everyone knows, of course, that women love to shop, regardless of the season or the state of the economy etc etc. Hahaha... Anyway, image of the city as we walked? Magnificent open spaces, elegant façades, grand and wide boulevards that march in straight lines through the city, lined with bustling cafés and tempting patisseries - these are what made Paris so distinctive. 


Parisian streets

An example of Haussmannian buildings - the signature architecture of Paris

On the way, we also passed by the Palais Garnier opera house and...
A Ladurée store! Besides shopping, most women like sweets too :D
Ladurée is a French luxury bakery and one of the world's best-known premier sellers of the double-decker macaron. They sell about 15,000 macarons everyday!
Am not a huge fan of macarons (I find them too sweet for my liking) but since I'm in France, it is a must to try these. 
After having done the shopping, it was time to fulfill my other need or reason why I wanted to come to Paris, which was The Eiffel Tower - a sight that everyone hopes they will see one day. As France’s symbol and one of the most recognizable structures in the world, I just had to see this iconic landmark with my own eyes. 
Eiffel Tower - the tallest structure in Paris and the most-visited paid monument in the world.
Close view of the tower.

Absolutely amazing!!
Climbing up the stairs nearly killed me though. Lol. Sooo windy, soooo cold and sooooo tiring! But the scenes made everything totally worthwhile...

View of the city from the tower.
View from the tower.
Next stop was Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris. This cathedral is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, and it is among the largest and most well-known church buildings in the world. I can still remember watching the American animated musical drama film 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame', and from that film, the impression I had on this cathedral was that it's dark and eerie with gargoyle and chimera statues... lol... But looking at the real thing, it was far from what I had imagined.

View of the famous and beautiful west facade of Notre-Dame.
View of the southern facade.
The spire and east side if the cathedral.
The clerestory.
The beautiful south rose window - its general themes are the New Testament, the Triumph of Christ, and the symbolic number four.
The high altar with the kneeling statues of Louis XIII and Louis XIV.
The serenity, the breathtaking stained glass windows, the amazing details in everything - truly spectacular and impressive. One must absolutely see this magnificent and masterfully detailed monument created by man but inspired by spirituality, when visiting Paris. 

We had our late lunch somewhere nearby the cathedral before heading to Louvre museum. Both dishes tasted good. Guess anything and anywhere you eat here wouldn't taste bad since this country is renowned for its sophisticated cuisine. :D

Fish with some spicy sauce which tasted a bit like curry :P

Steak.

It started raining again as we were walking towards Louvre :(. It got heavier and we had to seek shelter in a corner cafe (no idea what the name was) but the coffee I ordered there was by far the best I've ever had! The aroma, the taste, the smoothness...Ahh... I can still remember it til today. If I ever visit Paris again, I wonder if I can find that cafe once more :/ By the time the rain stopped, it was pretty much near Louvre's closing time, so we didn't pay to go in as there wasn't enough time to see the entire thing. Sigh. We only took some pictures outside.

The Louvre - the world's most visited museum.
And then, off to Moulin Rouge via the Metro. Close to Montmartre in Paris, this cabaret is marked by the red windmill on its roof and best known as the spiritual birthplace of the French can-can dance. You'll definitely recognize this if you've watched Moulin Rouge! (Loved the song 'Come what may' :D)

Go at night when the building is all lit up.
I read reviews saying it's horribly cramped inside and though the shows are fantastic, the tickets were a little on the expensive side (over 100 euros), but you are paying for the fact its THE Moulin Rouge. Maybe next time...

We did drop by to see the Eiffel Tower again before calling it a night. I just had to see it one more time, all lit up at night, adorned with its golden covering, while its beacon shines over Paris. BUT, I've recently found out that there's an obscure clause in EU copyright rules that says taking and sharing photos of the tower taken in the evening is actually a violation that could land tourists with a fine. You can read it here. Not sure what are the restrictions and to what extent, but just take note :)


Again you may ask, why is Paris called the city of love? Well, that's because each year, millions of people come here to spend some romantic time, find the perfect setting for that, then go home delighted and spread the word. In my opinion, the real magic actually happens when you have a stroll at night and find yourself alone in the magnificent surroundings. Enjoy that with your loved one and you will understand why...

So much drama the next morning when we made our way to the Paris-Gare de Lyon Train Station:

First of all, we went to the wrong Metro station - the right one was just opposite. We thought they were the same one, connected by an underpass since we saw the Paris-Gare de Lyon Train Station stop on the screen (we were too lazy to cross the road with all our luggages >.<). Turned out they were NOT. This one took a much longer route apparently. 

Secondly, the ticket vending machine did not accept notes and we didn't have enough coins. I tried exchanging with a lady who was exiting the ticket gate. She didn't have the coins either but she pointed that she'll scan her pass and pay for me. She even asked her friend to scan hers for my hubby! That was so nice of her! For those who said the French people are snobs, come again?

Thirdly, when we got to the station, we tried collecting our tickets to Switzerland through the vending machine. It said, "Insert the credit card for payment." After inserting, there was no sight of the tickets AND my credit card came out with a hole on it!! Can you imagine that?? We asked around and it seemed we could only collect them from the counter if we booked online. Argh! Then... the race against time started! We had about 10 mins or so, before the train leaves (trains here leave right on the dot, no joke) and my hubby was frantically running around and asking people where that ticket counter was (it was tucked away in a hidden corner). I was already looking at the next train schedule, if worse comes to worst, we'll have no choice but to get tickets for the next one. 

After all the panic attacks and adrenaline rush, it seemed Lady Luck was still smiling on us! The train started moving the moment we hopped on. What an experience!!!
























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