Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Tag Archives: lights

The last week of 2011

During the last week of 2011, 16 members from the Bordeaux Chinese Christian Fellowship (Groupe Chrétien Chinois de Bordeaux), including those who are no longer in Bordeaux, attended a winter Christian gospel camp that took place in Nouans-le-Fuzelier, a tiny village south of Paris. The 4-day event brought together some 150 attendees from various parts of France, with special guests from Taiwan and the US. It was an unforgettable experience – almost every moment was filled with something to do, and it almost felt like there was a little…too much.

In the midst of four fully-scheduled days of seminars, workshops, games, shows, and interactions at the gospel camp, I would sometimes escape from the crowd to linger in a quiet place by myself. It was no doubt fun to be with so many enthusiastic, passionate, energetic people my age, but some peaceful personal time was much desired and required.

Nouans-le-Fuzelier was, if I may risk offending anyone, in the middle of nowhere. I think the location was chosen intentionally over say, a big city like Paris, so that even though we spent most of our days with other people, we were able to embrace the beauty of nature while renewing our hearts and our minds, away from the suffocation of noise, pollution, and stress. In turn, we were able to truly draw closer to our God, our creator.

Here are some pictures that I took while I was spending some time by myself.

The night before we headed to Nouans-le-Fuzelier, the group from the Bordeaux Chinese Christian Fellowship stayed at a church near Aubervilliers in Greater Paris. This was the view outside the entrance. Truly nothing too spectacular, but the vivid blue sky that night and the mystic clouds gave the whole landscape a feeling of calmness and serenity.

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Paris, days 3 and 4

If I were to compare Paris with Bordeaux, I would say that Paris is an audacious beauty whereas Bordeaux is an elegant beauty. Three months in Bordeaux, and my impression of it hasn’t changed from the beginning – it is still as elegant as ever. Paris, shouldering the responsibility of representing the entire nation of France, tends to be bold and splendid, flashing its grandiosity as if saying, “Hey, look at me, I’m Paris!” Bordeaux, while beautiful, hides in a corner and radiates its own delicate style.

Of course, they say “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. I’m biased towards Bordeaux because I live here, and so I am able to immerse myself within this city more finely and appreciate the little exquisite details of a Bordelais life.

During the trip to Paris, I started a list of “DO’s” and “DON’Ts” throughout my travel. Now, the list may very well be specific to Paris, because it’s the only city I’ve visited in Europe so far. I will review this list once I get a chance to go around a bit more. Anyway, here I present 3 top “DO’s” and “DON’Ts” of being in Paris by myself for the first time.

DO

Research before traveling. Even though I was almost sure that I was going with plan “no plan” during my visit, it was still nice to know where I would have liked to visit and what to look out for. For example, there was no way I would have known that Trocadéro is THE place to go to see the Tour Eiffel, unless I looked it up beforehand. I didn’t have a set itinerary, so my schedule was quite spontaneous. However, I definitely took some time to familiarize myself with the metro system before venturing out and prepared myself for facing some scam/pickpocketing attempts – it was well worth the effort, because I did encounter some rather sketchy folks in Paris. Know what you’re doing so you’re not caught off guard by unpleasant surprises.

Observe people. There’s no fun rushing and constantly being on the go from one place to the next. Sometimes I love spending time sitting on a bench and just watch people for a few moments. The way they speak, the way they walk, the way the act – so diverse, especially in a city of tourists. I also enjoyed glancing at passengers on the train and trying to differentiate between visitors and locals of the city.

Be aware of your surroundings. Self-explanatory. Not being colourblind definitely helps in metro stations, because sometimes colours say more than numbers or words – no offense intended for those of you who ARE colourblind. Being in a completely new environment, no one is going to accommodate you, so you will have to adapt to find your way around. Read signs fast and avoid looking like you’re lost – even if you are lost – and becoming the next target for pickpocketing.

DON’T

Don’t put on your headphones. Paris is a large city, and a large tourist city. One thing I liked about it was that you could hear a myriad of foreign languages wherever you go. Also, there are often random musicians that would hop on the metro, play music, and ask for money (of course you don’t have to give). I ditched my headphones for 4 days and immersed myself not only visually, but also in an audio experience. Sometimes it’s just fun to hear a conversation spoken neither in English nor French, and contemplate the types of people that came from all over the world to just pass by each other in this city. Quite a thought.

Don’t be afraid. I’ve been told countless horror stories about pickpocketing in Paris and the messed up gangs and random acts of violence in public. As a solo traveler for the first time, I was a little intimidated at first, but that fear was quickly overcome by the desire to explore and the excitement of discovery. Paris wasn’t all that scary, and while you may indeed encounter some sketchy people, as long as you are cautious and use some common sense, the experience should be in general a positive and very pleasant one.

Don’t be a fool. This goes without saying, and it ties in with some of my previous points. If some random lady comes up to you on les Champs-Élysées and asks you to help her buy a limited edition LV bag to bring back to China for her friends because she couldn’t buy more than one (yes, she will offer you the money too), you ignore – or if you’re nice, politely tell her no – and walk away. Think (quickly, as is required sometimes) before you act and frankly, just try not to do something too stupid that could get you in a whole lot of trouble.

Anyway, that’s already quite a lot of words. This post took long enough to put up, a lot longer than I had anticipated due to being busy and exhausted the previous week. I do apologize for the delay. Here’s your weekly dose of photo spam, though next week it should revert back to the normal Bordeaux scenes. As with the previous entry, mouseover each photo for a brief description and click on it for a larger version.

Musée du Louvre

The famous Musée du Louvre was my first stop on day 3. I originally intended to go in and drown myself in art and culture for a full day, and I was even ready to pay, though I would have had a chance at getting free admission for being a EU “citizen” under 25. However, when I saw the line-up in front of the pyramid, I gave it a second thought. Then I walked slowly from the beginning to the end of the line and that itself took me 10 minutes – perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, but it felt like it. I estimated that getting in would have taken 2 to 3 hours of time, and immediately I discarded the idea of joining the line. A date with Mona Lisa will have to wait till next time, when there is someone to line up with me.

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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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A fortnight before Christmas

It’s funny when I tell people here that I’m from Canada. They automatically assume two things.

ONE: You must know how to speak French! Why, yes I do. Or more precisely I tell them, “I can speak French, but I’m not fluent.” Then they all think I’m from Quebec, because how else would I know how to speak French and why else would I come to France? Then again, some folks here think all Canadians must be able to speak both English and French because our country is bilingual. I tell them that I am from the English speaking part of Canada and that a lot of people actually don’t speak French. In fact, Toronto is predominantly English and it is only because of our education system that some people are able to speak a little bit of French. Sorry for shattering your dreams, mes chers amis de France.

TWO: You must not be afraid of the cold! Well, there’s something I always believed – you could get used to something, but that doesn’t mean you’re immune to it. The coldness of winter is an example. It was a good 15⁰C in Bordeaux last week (yes, above zero) but the temperature rapidly dropped to approximately 0⁰C since Thursday. Is it cold? Yes it is, though not nearly as cold as the -15⁰C in Toronto during the same time of the year…but it’s still COLD. I’m not gonna run outside with shorts and a T-shirt, but I do admit that the cold is a refreshing cold, not a piercing cold that penetrates your skin and burns your bones.

Then people ask how we live in such harsh winter conditions in Canada. I say, “I dunno, you just kind of get used to it.” Which is true. We still complain about the cold in Canada, but it’s a natural cycle of seasons that we’re unable to change, so all we can do is prepare for it. I’d been living comfortably in Toronto for 15 years and am still alive and happy, so thanks for worrying about my well-being, but we’re fine.

I promised more night photos, and the theme this week is…Christmas is coming! Actually, the only time I CAN go out to take pictures nowadays is during the night, since it is already dark by the time I get off work. So expect night scenes for the next couple of posts.

Place Gambetta prepares for Christmas with colourful lights. This place is connected to the Grand Théâtre and St. Catherine’s, and is also filled with people and full of life.

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