Annie Bananie en Europe

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Tag Archives: paris

Paris, je t’aime…?

The curious thing about the verb “to love” in French – “aimer” – Is that it is the same as the word for “to like”, so the title of this post is a slight play on words. (“Je t’aime” = “I love you” or “I like you”.) You see, I’ve never loved Paris, not even liked. If you’ve ever read my posts on Paris, you would have seen that I make this point clear every time, and I’ll spare you the explanations. However, my most recent visit to Paris last month changed it all and I might even say…that I like Paris now, just a little…?

The original plan was to go to Paris with my friend TK, who’s never visited. I mean why else would I go back to a city that I never liked? Everything was booked except…TK missed her flight back to the UK because of Typhoon Hato in Macau, and that was the day before leaving for Paris. WELL THAT AIN’T COOL. Consequently, whereas the two of us were supposed to fly together from Glasgow to Paris, I ended up flying alone and spending the weekend in Paris without a companion…well that’s not true, I ended up meeting a lot of old friends as a result. In fact, the trip turned out to be a lot more interesting than I had expected.

Aside from my sudden lack of company, the most unconventional thing that I did this time around was that I left my DSLR at home and only had my phone camera on me, so all photos were taken and edited on my phone. I had to learn to not rely on Mr. Nikon all the time, and it was not easy! Also, at this point, the glamorous side of Paris (Eiffel Tower, Louvre, etc.) doesn’t appeal to me anymore, and I was more drawn towards the local neighbourhoods that were just waiting to be discovered. With a bit of research beforehand, I narrowed down my long weekend to a few places that I wanted to see…beware of photo spam coming up!

Coulée Verte René-Dumont

If there was a place that could define “urban oasis”, then this was it. Situated in the 12th arrondissement, the “coulée verte” is a park-like promenade that spans ~5 km from nearby the Place de la Bastille to the edge of central Paris. I only walked part of the elevated segment, from one end of the Viaduc des Arts (which itself was a place I had wanted to visit) to Bastille, and what a nice walk! From 10 metres above ground, you traverse the heart of the 12th through a long garden full of greenery, with many viewpoints of the city and several fun murals along the way. Joggers seemed to particularly love this place, as there were plenty of them passing by in each direction. Certainly a quick and easy escape to an otherwise hectic Parisian city life!

Père Lachaise cemetery

Père Lachaise is a huge public cemetery in the 20th arrondissement of Paris where many famous people including Chopin, Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, and Bizet were buried. Walking through the cemetery was like taking a stroll in a maze covered by fallen leaves upon the remains of those who have passed. The peace and silence were calming but not eerie, and I would have liked to spend more time there if it weren’t 30 degrees Celsius that day and if I hadn’t already walked all day…

Rue Crémieux

The first thought I had upon turning into this secluded street in the 12th arrondissement was, “Seriously this exists in Paris?!?!?” Delicate houses with colourful shades of pastel on both sides – you would have thought this was Burano or Cinque Terre but no, there it was, right in the midst of a grey, busy Paris. I could see why this place is often overlooked – the “entrance” is so inconspicuous that you’d have to actually know where you’re going to find it, but wow it was a beautiful street. The walls of each house was painted in a different colour with a different design on each door, and my favourite would have to be the pastel green house with the painted tree and the motorcycle parked in front. Such a unique find!

Mur des je t’aime

I guess this photo fits today’s post quite well seeing that it’s all about “love” or “je t’aime”. This is also probably the most “touristy” and well-known place out of all the ones in Paris I’m writing about here. The “I love you wall” has, as the name implies, “I love you” written in over 200 languages. Though it’s situated in a small park right outside Abbesses metro station at the foot of Montmartre, it is easily overlooked because people usually just head up to Montmartre and don’t venture into the park. A lot of couples come here to take their photos taken for obvious reasons, and I actually thought that it was cuter and more creative than the love-lock bridges that seem to be everywhere nowadays. I rather liked the quote that was inscribed above the wall: “Aimer c’est du désordre…alors aimons!” (Translation: “Loving is chaotic…so let’s love!”)

Parc Buttes-Chaumont

The Parc Buttes-Chaumont, located in the 19th arrondissement, is another one of those places where locals go to escape from the city centre. With an artificial lake, a small temple perched on top of a cliff in the middle of the lake, and several bridges crossing the lake, the atmosphere of this green haven was peaceful yet dynamic, as there were many runners, cyclists, and dog walkers throughout the park. In fact this was a lovely place for a picnic, but I had to catch a flight that afternoon and didn’t have time to prepare for a picnic. Not wanting to miss out on a beautiful day, my friend MM and I went to the nearby McDonald’s and grabbed some good ol’ burgers and wraps, found a space on one of the grassy areas, and enjoyed a sunny break with many locals who decided to do the same. Not a conventional picnic, alright, but still cherished as we had so little time to spend together!

Murals

Murals are one of my favourite types of art. Though I have heard of the street art scene in Paris, I had not intended to look for street art specifically during this trip. That is, until I caught a glimpse of several gigantic murals out the window of the subway during one segment of the ride on line 6 that was overground. WHAT. The bonus point is that it was actually only one stop from where I was staying, near Place d’Italie, and I estimated that it would take no more than 10 minutes to walk from my hotel to the mural area. Well then LET IT BE DONE. On the last morning of my stay, I went down Boulevard Vincent-Auriol from Place d’Italie and as expected, found no fewer than 10 impressive murals in various locations within a 15-minute walk (some shown here), on both sides of the street. Some of them were so huge and impressive that I had to stop and marvel for a good 5 minutes before continuing the hunt for the next. Now this was a surprise and certainly THE highlight of the trip. I late found out that the 13th is actually famous for its street art in Paris…well I know where I’m staying again next time! (Side note: the drawings on the wall in the Bastille metro station on line 1 and the ones outside of Gare de Lyon were also spectacular!)

Friends

Of course I had to meet up with some friends in Paris. The original plan of showing TK around Paris was completely foiled, and so I had more time than originally anticipated to spend with friends living in Paris. These were mostly old friends that I met in Bordeaux during my PhD days, those who in the past years have either settled down or been temporarily working in Paris. I had the chance to eat delicious grilled seafood at the famous Pedra Alta with Jiang, explore much of the above-described parts of Paris with MM, and attend Ara and Victor’s wedding celebration (where I also saw Diana and Edgar too, of course!) Definitely not a weekend wasted! Sorry TK, you’d have to come back to Paris again some other time 😦

So, this turned out to be the longest and perhaps happiest and most positive Paris-related post that I’ve ever written in my blog, and I’ve written…quite a few. I guess I can now say, perhaps with a little less reluctance…Paris, je t’aime 😉

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Somewhere over the rainbow

Somewhere over the rainbow…the sun is hiding, perhaps. I am not kidding when I say that I haven’t seen the sun in almost three weeks. Well, it comes out once in a blue moon after the rain, but always for a very short period of time and always behind heavy, grey clouds. What I ought to say is that I have forgotten what blue sky looks like 😦 Oh Glasgow, must you do this to me?

I guess you win some and you lose some, or the other way around. If there is no rain, then who could experience and appreciate the beauty of the rainbow? Thinking of this made me realize that rainbows are one of my favourite things to photograph, though I obviously don’t have as many photos of rainbows as I would have liked since it depends a lot on timing. Still, here is a compilation of some of my favourite rainbow scenes captured throughout the past years.

I can’t stress enough my NEED to get a window seat when I travel on a plane. The only exception is when I have to make a connecting flight within a short period of time, in which case I would compromise and go for an aisle seat. Then I would miss views like this. It was raining as the plane took off from Glasgow last December, and without high expectations of seeing anything glorious, I looked outside the window, just in time to see the opposite of the expected – a semi-rainbow hanging from the sky. Perhaps then, I loved rain a little bit more, even if it were just for a split moment.

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From high places, part 4

In travelling through different cities, I still search for every possibility to photograph the cities from high (or higher-than-average) places. Part 4 of the “From high places” series will take us all the way to the end of my European adventures, where the last stop was Reykjavik, Iceland. As usual, the list will be in alphabetical order, so please enjoy as I share some of my favourite memories with you 🙂

Bern (read about it)

It was raining in Bern, and the entire capital city of Switzerland was covered in a thick layer of grayness, as seen from the Rose Garden, this high place in Bern. The city was calm and quiet, without the usual audacity of a national capital. Even so, observed from a distance, the old town was nothing less than charming.

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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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