Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Tag Archives: eiffel tower

Paris, the “City of Light”

Since I had been blogging about Paris in the previous two posts, I thought I’d throw in this one to end off the “series” – let’s talk about the “City of Light”. Yes, that is a name for our beloved Paris, or…your beloved Paris, for I don’t love it. I’ve done enough “Paris-bashing” in my blog that regular readers should know that I have never been fond of the city, for more reasons than I care to elaborate.

Yet, I don’t deny that Paris is beautiful, glamourous, audacious, dazzling…more so during the night than in the daytime, that is. I feel like Paris undergoes a makeover when it transitions from day to night, transforming from an ordinary, overcrowded tourist destination into an elegant, mysterious lady as she puts on her night gown. And as darkness falls, the city’s secrets unfold as she shows off, not with any modesty, her diamonds and jewels, revealing why she is indeed the “City of Light”.

There is history significance in calling Paris the “City of Light” (or “Lights”) but for me, the reason is simple – Paris gleams in the night with its millions of lights. Just look at this photo of the Champs-Élysées taken on top of L’Arc de Triomphe during Christmas, which till this day remains one of my very favourite travel photos (taken by me). The Ferris wheel at the other end – Place de la Concorde – isn’t always there, and I was lucky that it was there. And the lanes of traffic on the self-proclaimed most beautiful avenue in the world – with the sidewalks lit in blue, the entire scene looks like a national flag stretched out from top to bottom (though interestingly, out of all the tricoloured European flags, none of them are in the order of white, red, and blue, either horizontal or vertical.)

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Deux jours à Paris avec mon père

Last December, my dad had the chance to visit France when I was still there completing my studies. He took two and a half weeks off work and went all the way across the Atlantic Ocean to attend my Ph.D. thesis defense in Bordeaux, which was one of the most life-changing moments of my 26 years on this planet. After the defense, we headed to Paris for two days, the nth time for me (where n > 5) and the first time for the father. For him, it was finally time to see whether the Paris that he had heard so much about would live up to his expectations.

The official “dad is in Paris and here is proof with the Eiffel Tower right behind him” photo. He was generally pretty impressed with Paris, remarking that most of the prominent landmarks (namely the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Montmartre, L’Arc du Triomphe) were indeed quite worth the fame and reputation. It must have been somewhat of a culture shock too, since he hadn’t traveled for quite a while prior to this trip, and North America (or Toronto, really) is nothing like Paris in terms of architecture, atmosphere, and customs.

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Sherry’s European adventures: Belgium, Paris, and Bordeaux

Well, after months of planning and anticipation, the sister is finally here to visit. I meticulously planned this trip so that when she arrived, she would be visiting Belgium when I was still there. Then we’d head to Bordeaux with a short stay in Paris, and in the end, we’ll fly back to Canada together, for MY vacations. This way, she would get the benefit of experiencing a little bit of both countries while I’d have some company for the long trans-Atlantic flight 😉

It’s been almost three weeks of hopping between cities, most of which I’ve been to already, and I wanted my sister to get the best out of her first European adventure. It certainly wasn’t easy for her to be away from home for so long, all by herself, and it wasn’t easy to plan a feasible route for her, but I enjoyed the process of showing some of the places I loved and exploring new places with her. Of course, food was a big part of our adventure, as you’ll see later! So let’s start with…

Belgium

I was finishing my 4th session in Louvain-la-Neuve when my sister arrived, and she got to stay with me there for a full week. I brought her to Bruges, a popular tourist destination that I didn’t like when I first visited, Ghent, like Bruges but much more lovely, at least to me, and of course, Brussels, the European capital. Chef tagged along as well, triple the fun!

Sista time! Sherry is 9 years younger than me – quite a huge difference, no? Almost everyone told us that we don’t look alike, and most would agree that I am more like my dad while my sister is more like my mom, both in terms of physical appearance and personality. Do you think we look anything like each other at all? 😉

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Back to France part 1: Giving Paris a second chance

Read part 2 here and part 3 here.

So this was my second trip to Paris, the City of Lights.

The City of Lights – really? Or is it the City-of-Lights-Only-During-Christmas? Sure, the sun was out this time around and it beat the slightly gloomy skies of Christmas, but my opinion of this city remains unchanged from last time – overrated.

In a nutshell, I was disappointed. Again.

Still, the trip was a blast because I was finally able to meet up with my Indian-Canadian nano-homie, coming from the UK. Travelling alone certainly has its charm, but travelling with a long-time buddy adds so much more life to the trip! For one thing, this entry actually contains goofy pictures of me (how rare is that!) that would never have been possible without someone around whom I felt completely comfortable doing silly things. Also, waiting in line for hours didn’t feel nearly as tedious with someone to talk to. Win-win situation? I thought so!

In terms of the city of Paris itself, I think the pictures from here and here are perhaps much more representative. The pictures here are definitely not as elaborate as the ones from before, but contain some of the more enjoyable bits and pieces from the journey. From some of the captions, you may be able to see why I think Paris is so overrated, but these are merely personal perspectives, so if I offend anyone who loves the city of Paris, it is unintentional, and I apologize!

This is the back of the Sacré-Coeur at Montmartre, in a secluded little garden where few people sat on benches and read under the afternoon sun. I rather liked this view. It is not as well-known as the typical front view of the basilica, yet nicely layered and asymmetrical. The garden was also serene and peaceful, away from most tourists and visitors.

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Paris, days 1 and 2

On December 27th, 2010, I embarked on a 4-day journey to Paris, the first European city visited outside of Bordeaux. Paris was actually not my first choice, but considering that I still haven’t received my residence permit, I settled for Paris in order to avoid any potential issues regarding re-entrance into France.

Paris, the city of lights, is supposedly the most romantic city in the world.

It was overrated.

Okay, I don’t mean to burst anyone’s bubble or sound pessimistic, but if I were to sum up my trip in one sentence, it would be exactly that. That is not to say I did not enjoy my trip, nevertheless. I will never say a trip “sucked” because I think any travel to a new city is worth the experience, regardless of whether it met your expectations or not. If the city turns out to be completely different than what you imagined it to be, that is all the more reason to be fascinated, because you are breaking out of your limited bubble and truly seeing the world for yourself. That is why I love travelling.

Some general observations:

  • The trains are very old.
  • Candy was right, Paris smells. And it was dirty.
  • City of Light is not an overstatement though. The lights at night were indeed impressive.

Now, prepare for some photo-spam. Mouseover each photo for a brief description and click on it for a larger version. Ready, set, go.

Notre-Dame de Paris

 
This was the first thing I saw as I wandered out of the metro for the first time. I was actually supposed to be looking for my hotel near Les Invalides, but I decided to be a little adventurous and head out at the St-Michel – Notre-Dame RER station. I didn’t expect the cathedral to be staring right at my face as I exited, but alas, it was there.

Notre-Dame wasn’t one of the buildings that I intended to go into, so I stayed outside and observed the line of people as it moved along into the cathedral. Its grandeur, viewed from the outside, was quite impressive, and I especially liked how it was situated right along the Seine. Right next to Notre-Dame is Hôtel-Dieu, the oldest hospital in Paris.

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