a place in the world

Browsing Category Europe

Life / Portugal

swift fly the years

Cais Sodre, Lisbon

There is nothing like being transported in a new place that makes one acutely aware of all life’s possibilities, like – I could make a life here. 

Lisbon was a surprise, in a really good way. I read one post from a random blogger who found it charmless and lackluster – I beg to disagree. I keep saying this to anyone who asks – it is a severely underrated European capital. I did not have the time to explore the country, but I am pretty sure the rest of it is just as great. Porto, Alentejo, Arrabida, Obidos, Setubal, Madeira… one can keep dreaming.

Because of my “age”, my growing responsibilities, and life in general, I only planned for one “big trip” this year, but I will end up taking four– two of them are unexpected work stints. It is a good surprise and I am not one to pass an opportunity to be in a new place, but sometimes my reserved, introverted self cannot cope with all the changes. Time does not stop when I am away and loved ones are making plans, moving on. This is difficult to admit, but I would rather stay this time for fear of missing out.

In other news, this year’s Big Trip is coming up in a few days and I hope it will be transformative in the way I expect it to be.

Have a good day and a good life, my friend.

France / Writing

pique-nique au Champs de Mars

Eiffel at dusk

After spending the day at the shops, we head to the neighborhood Monoprix and bought a few things for dinner. We decided to spend the rest of the evening at the Eiffel Tower grounds, at the Champs de Mars.

Our little spread.

picnic at Champs de Mars

It was such a fine evening, and I’m glad I took a few nice pictures at least.
Below is my favorite photo of the Eiffel; it actually gets more crowded as you get closer to the tower. People sat and lay on the grass, chatting, having picnics and drinks, celebrating birthdays, singing, cuddling, making music. A tall steel tower with twinkling lights, the sound of French chatter and pleasant, happy people all around, Dutch cheese and balsamique crisps, the cool grass and the neatly trimmed hedges, and an evening much warmer than the one prior. I am reminded of why I decided to come to this place.

Eiffel Tower from Champs de Mars
picnic at Champs de Mars 

France / Writing

the terrace view at Printemps

After visiting Galeries Lafayette, we walk to another department store called Printemps. The Printemps flagship store is by this area, and the top floor (9th) offers a pretty view of the city.

This is my favorite picture from this early evening.
love, Printemps

The Haussmannian view, I cannot say it enough, that this city was designed so well. Haussmann probably destroyed whatever was unsightly during his time, redesigned buildings, and established certain standards on future constructions.
Baron Haussmann's  beautiful city

Not related to Paris, but the layout of the Eixample area in Barcelona (Spain) is also amazing!

Truth be told, the cafe with the unappealing sandwiches looked a bit sad. Glad there is beer from the tap! Ordered a blonde Leffe.
Leffe with a view

Enjoying the view and our drinks, people watching
tourists at Printemps
hanging out at Printemps
Leffe at Printemps

City views: Pantheon area and the Montmartre area.

Pantheon area from Printemps
Montmartre from Printemps

Printemps
64 Boulevard Haussmann
Paris
Metro: Havre Caumartin
http://departmentstoreparis.printemps.com

France / Writing

window shopping at Galeries Lafayette

After almost a week of museums and touristy sights, we decided to take it a easier on our seventh day in France. We spent the morning at Forum des Halles, which is a shopping centre near our rented apartment. The Les Halles area used to be the belly of Paris, the central marketplace– and it had been so for centuries, until the congestion had become so bad that they had to relocate the market elsewhere. It is now in Rungis, in the Southern suburbs of Paris, and it is said to be the largest food market in the world.

Had lunch at L’Entrecote des Halles and took the metro to Paris’s iconic department store, Galeries Lafayette.

The grand Belle Epoque dome
The grand belle epoque dome of Galeries Lafayette

Granted, the place mostly caters to tourists than locals and I’m quite sure most of the shoppers are just visiting. At some point, Chinese tourists asked if we could buy bags for them, using our passports. I’ve heard of this before because some friends already had the same experience. There is a limit of bag purchases for tourists of certain nationalities because of the widespread counterfeiting of the bags.

The grand Galeries Lafayette
Galeries Lafayette

A closer photo of the dome
a closer look at the belle epoque dome

The Pierre Hermé store, apparently they have the best macarons, even better than Ladurée. I had quite a list of food shops / pâtisseries I wanted to try and I regret not even going to most of them. (Jean-Paul Hevin, Ladurée, Dalloyau, Poilane, Eric Kayser..) Moodiness get the best of me.
macarons from Pierre Herme

Galeries Lafayette
Paris Haussmann
40, boulevard Haussmann, 75009 Paris
Metro: Chaussée d’Antin La Fayette, Opéra or
RER: (A) Auber or (E) Haussmann St Lazare

Food / France

Plat du Jour menu at L’entrecote des halles

After a bit of shopping at Forum des Halles, we walked around Rue Saint-Denis to look for a place to eat. Staying at the Chatelet area now (1st arrondisement), there are so many options, from panini and kebab stalls to jazz bars and brasseries. We typically alternated between fastfood and proper sit-down meals.

L’entrecote des halles interiors and the bar. I love these old-fashioned implements.
L'Entrecote des Halles
L'Entrecote des Halles

My order: soupe l’oignon and steak frites (around €12, plat du jour)
L'Entrecote's French onion soup
Steak frites at L'Entrecote des Halles

A’s salade and magret (duck) dish (around €12, plat du jour)
Salade at L'Entrecote
Duck dish

L’entrecote des halles
38 Rue Saint-Denis 75001 Paris, France
01 42 21 99 16

France / Writing

people watching by the Panthéon

Made it back to Paris from Versailles at around half-past six and headed to the Panthéon, unfortunately, it was already closed when we arrived. The Panthéon is a church and mausoleum, a Neoclassical structure originally built by Louis XV for St. Genevieve. Pierre & Marie Curie, Voltaire, Alexandre Dumas, and many other French personalities are resting here. It was modeled after the Pantheon in Rome.

With nothing else planned for the evening, we just sat and people watched. The surrounding buildings in front of Place du Pantheon, I believe, are parts of La Sorbonne.


Dinner at the flat: store-bought caprese and a quiche from a neighborhood patisserie.

Panthéon
Place du Panthéon, 5e
Metro: Cardinal Lemoine / RER: Luxembourg
Daily 10am-6pm (last entrance 5:15pm)
7€ adults, 4.50€ ages 18-25, free for children 17 below
Covered by the Paris Museum Pass

Food / France / Writing

Angelina at Versailles

Angelina is an old-fashioned Parisian tea salon and according to numerous sources, it serves the best hot chocolate in Paris. From a tiring day of walking at The Louvre, Tuileries, and Place de la Concorde, we walked the stretch of Rue de Rivoli only to find the place closed. Luckily, Angelina is also at Chateau de Versailles and we had no problems finding it this time around.

I am a coffee person and I do not usually care for hot chocolate, but this luscious pot of chocolat l’Africain really is something. Chocolat l’Africain with creme Chantilly, good for two people.

A’s chestnut cream cake called the Montblanc– meringue, whipped cream, and creme chantilly filling with chestnut cream.
Montblanc

My millefeuille, layers of puff pastry with custard / pastry cream.
Millefeuille
Millefeuille

Millefeuille literally translates to a thousand sheets, and it indeed has so many flaky layers.
so flaky

Angelina
Pavillon d’Orleans
Chateau de Versailles
78000 Versailles, France

France / Writing

the grandeur of Chateau de Versailles

We did not have a good start to this day, woke up later than we planned and ended up reaching Versailles at almost noon. It was a 20-kilometer trip via the suburban RER (RER C, around €6,20 round trip).

The size of the chateau grounds is indeed daunting, and we did not dare and attempt to see most of everything. Apart from the massive chateau, the gardens are more than 100 hectares. There are also canals, the Grand Trianon, Marie-Antoinette’s estate, several statues, Orangerie, colonnades, the French Pavillion.

Walking to the palace entrance, to the royal Gate. 260 feet long adorned with 100,000 gold leaves.
entrance to Chateau de Versailles

If you plan to visit, either come very early or late, round closing time. If you don’t then you most probably have to endure this. Truth be told, the waiting time is not ridiculously long, the line is relatively fast moving, but seeing this queue… it probably is the longest queue I ever had to be on.

the long queue at Versailles

Some other snaps while waiting

A toutes les gloires de la France

Finally in! Palace courtyard.

Versailles grounds

the Sun King Louis XIV and Marie-Antoinette’s portraits
Louis and Marie-Antoinette

The Royal Chapel and one of the displays in the throne exhibition
Royal Chapel and the throne exhibition

La Grand Galerie, Hall of Mirrors
La Grande Galerie at Versailles

Versailles probably set the standard of court life in those days. The extravagance is ridiculous, and even visible to the public eye. In the days of the Ancien Régime, peasants were free to enter the premises and gawk at the nobles. Even dining became such a spectacle, as commoners are allowed to watch the royals eat, several cloches of fine French food lay at their table while the peasants had barely anything to eat.

The King’s and Queen’s Chambers
The King's chambers at Versailles

The Queen's chambers

Versailles is a huge complex, and we only visited the main palace. Here is one area from the lovely gardens.
Versailles gardens

France / Writing

Walking along Champs-Élysées and the Arc de Triomphe

From La Sainte Chapelle we headed to Place de la Concorde, which is at the far end of Champs-Élysées.

Place de la Concorde used to be Place de la Révolution, the square where they hold the executions during the revolution. More than 2,700 people were guillotined here, including Queen Marie Antoinette. The guillotine is no longer, and two fountains were built at the square. They have become the iconic fountains of Paris. They were modelled after Roman fountains at St. Peter’s Square and Piazza Navona. Just between the two fountains is the 3,300 year-old Luxor Obelisk, a gift from the Egyptian government to France. It used to mark the entrance of the Luxor Temple.

Place de la Concorde

From Place de la Concorde, the Arc de Triomphe is at the other end of the 3.2 kilometre stretch of Champs-Élysées. We originally planned on walking but the sun was blazing and we were simply too tired. Took the metro and got off at Charles de Gaule – Etoile.
Tip: don’t cross the roundabout to get to Arc de Triomphe. There is an underground pedestrian passageway. A group of elderly American ladies attempted to cross in the middle of bustling traffic, needless to say it caused quite a spectacle, with the gendarmes yelling at them and all.
Champs Elysees

Ac de Triomphe

The Paris Museum Pass covers the entrance to the Arc. (A ticket would normally cost 9€.) We took the stairs 284 steps up. There is a gift shop and a couple of exhibitions at the mezzanine area.

inside the Arc de Triomphe

atop the Arc de Triomphe

Twelve main avenues converge at Arc de Triomphe.

Baron Haussmann absolutely planned this city so well. Note that the buildings almost look the same, and are of the same height.
view from Arc de Triomphe

view from Arc de Triomphe

view from Arc de Triomphe

Seeing this made me smile!
sweet moment at Arc de Triomphe

Arc De Triomphe
Place Charles de Gaulle
Website
Metro: Charles-de-Gaulle-Etoile

France / Writing

amazing light and color at La Sainte-Chapelle

I have been to many grand churches in the past and I could say for sure that Sainte-Chapelle is by far the most magnificent. Originally built to house the relics from the True Cross and the crown of thorns, the chapel is near Notre Dame de Paris, by the Palais Justice and Conciergerie complex. It might be much smaller than the grand churches of Paris, and the exterior is modest and fairly simple, but the interior is an overwhelming vision of light and color.

La Sainte Chapelle

I once read parts of Alice Steinbach’s travel memoir Without Reservations and it made mention of Sainte-Chapelle, as one of the most unforgettable sights in Paris. “You must stand in the light.” I knew I had to go.

The big crowd did not allow me to bathe in the light and immerse in the place’s grandness and stillness, it was still so lovely nonetheless.

Sainte Chapelle stained glass

The stained glass windows contain 1,134 scenes depicting the Christian story, from The Creation to The Apocalypse. To me they do not appear visible enough to be viewed from the ground level, perhaps one needs to stay in a better vantage point.
La Sainte Chapelle stained glass
la Sainte Chapelle rose window

It still looked extraordinary even with half of the panels under restoration– notice that the other half is darker than the right. Thankfully no scaffolding when we were there.

Sainte-Chapelle
http://sainte-chapelle.monuments-nationaux.fr/en/
Open every day
1-Mar to 31-Oct: 9:30am to 6pm
1-Nov to 28-Feb: 9am to 5pm
15-May to 15-Sept: last admission at 9 pm.
Cashdesks close 30 minutes earlier
Admission 8 euros, covered by the Paris Museum Pass