a place in the world

Date archives December 2011

Food / Kazakhstan

Countries Without McDonald’s

Countries without McDonald's

McDonald’s is my personal benchmark of a ‘familiar’ place, as opposed to a strange one; it’s hard to imagine a place in the world where something as globalized as McDonald’s still has not penetrated the local economy. It has become a default eating place especially when we are too tired to look for better (cheaper) options. I’ve eaten at McDonald’s Barcelona, Singapore, Hong Kong, Paris, (gasp) Versailles, Bratislava…

I once found myself in Kazakhstan– ninth largest country in the world, yet there was not a McDonald’s outlet in sight. There was, however, a McD’s ripoff called McBurger in downtown Almaty– serving pizzas, burgers (they taste like Burger Machine burgers!), kebabs.
Mc Burger

I also discovered that there is a KFC outlet in a mall far from where I lived– and strangely, it was rebranded as Rostik’s (Ростик’с). I realize that this is what they call the KFC stores in some Russian-speaking states (Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, etc). Suffice to say, after being deprived of good ol’ fast food for weeks, I was so happy to have found it in a remote strip mall.

Rostik's in Kazakhstan

France / Writing

Jardin du Luxembourg

The Luxembourg Gardens (Jardin du Luxembourg) is a part of our Left Bank walk. It’s a massive 22+ hectare leafy public space in the 6th arrondisement. Marie de Medici opened the gardens along with the construction of the Palais du Luxembourg, which now houses the French Senate. (As an aside, we visited Florence after and learned more about the Medicis– very interesting stuff for me.)
Palais du Luxembourg

There are plenty of works of art to gaze at– fountains, statues, and of course, people.
Jardin du Luxembourg
Jardin du Luxembourg

identical outfits
It’s a great place to people watch, in the warmer months sunbathers flock here, families go on picnics, kids have fun at the carousel, sandbox, marionette shows, or play with the little sailboats at the fountain. It’s best to find a shady spot and watch the people go by. Ernest Hemingway claimed to have survived the dreary winters by catching pigeons here.
Jardin du Luxembourg
Jardin du Luxembourg
A nice Asian girl thought we were Chinois (the first of many times), we took each others’ photographs.

France / Writing

visiting Eglise St-Sulpice

Eglise St-Sulpice, officially the first stop of our Paris trip. We took the metro from our flat on the 13th arrondisement to the St-Sulpice metro stop and walked to the church. It was a Sunday and we meant to hear mass as well.

I’ve taken a slight fascination with Eugène Delacroix, mainly because of Liberty Leading the People / La Liberté guidant le peuple (you know, from that Coldplay album cover)– for a time it was on my bucket list and a few days into our trip I finally saw the real thing at the Louvre. This church has plenty of his paintings, which he managed to complete just before his death, while battling illness.

Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, Eugène Delacroix; St-Sulpice facade

Another thing that St-Sulpice is famous for is its mention in the Da Vinci Code. I’ve read this book many years ago and I barely remember anything about it now, only the fact that it was entirely believable to the common person. Most Dan Brown fans come here to see the meridian line / gnomon, which is actually a 16th century astronomical device that tells exact time of the Summer and Winter Solstice; but in truth, it does not actually follow the mythical “Rose Line.” The church even posted a warning of this false claim.

We also stayed a bit after mass for the organ concerto. Pardon my untrained ear, but it sounded to me like the kind of music one would play in a film while Dracula is about to bite into the fleshy bosom of a young maiden. Or something like that.

One of the world’s largest pipe organs- with 6,700 pipes; Saint Jean Baptiste de la Salle, founder of mon école

Pipe Organ

France / Writing

Take Me Away


It has been close to six months since my last real trip and I meant to write about it in detail, mainly for myself, so I won’t forget. The perennial excuse is– everything else gets in the way; laziness, above all. I wish I have a chance to break this routine of work – home –occasional eating out. My next planned trip is still five months from now, and I’ve been saving up since July. Quite looking forward to seeing my third continent, and dear friends. I still don’t have a visa and a flight for the first leg so I hope I won’t jinx it.

I checked my blogger profile, apparently I have been on this thing since 2000. That is eleven years ago! Right now there’s tumblr and twitter and most kids are into those things these days. During “our time” blogger was the cool thing. I also remember before blogger, online publishing tools didn’t really exist and I had to manually hand-code “diary” entries and upload via a free hosting site. I am that ancient.