a place in the world

Posts tagged Travel


Burmese Days

Mingalabar! Here is a little film from our Myanmar trip. I will need to take some time to sit and process the week that was… it was a beautiful time, in large part because of the Burmese people we encountered along the way. Shots taken and edited from my iPhone, I filmed more than a hundred short clips but it was not possible to fit everything into 4:20 minutes– the length of Jonsi’s beautiful song I chose to accompany this little amateur video.

Burmese Days from Frances Ellen on Vimeo.

“The single great accident of human existence is geography: where we are born in this bordered, divided, largely unjust world. My life would have been different if I had been born elsewhere. If I had been born in a country like Burma, who would I be? What would I look like?

Can I remember the word for ‘beautiful’? Humans meet a landscape like this and all our words become second-rate. The beauty is mythical, mesmerizing; from elsewhere, I thought, then corrected myself. The plain of temples was just there. It is I who come from elsewhere”

– Burmese Lessons, Karen Conelly

North America / United States

The Chapter in Your Life Entitled San Francisco

San Francisco from Twin Peaks

Earlier this year, I had the chance to go on a short work trip to the California East Bay Area. North America has not really been in my list of places to visit, mostly because getting there can be expensive; and for the same price, I would really rather go to Europe or Africa. Still, I am very happy and grateful that my job allowed me to step on a new continent. Being granted a visa and entry to the United States proved to be a great advantage, travel-wise. I was set to visit Taiwan and having a valid US visa exempted me from the Taiwanese visa process. I would apply for South Korean and Japanese visas a few months later and I believe this recent trip helped me gain multiple entry visas in both countries well.

I have only been to one small part of the state in a short span of time, but I would say it has been the (North) America that I imagined – people are cheery and friendly and everything is clean and comfortable and orderly and supersized. It is indeed the Land of Plenty.

I was staying at a fairly new Serviced Apartment on my first few days. Pretty nice and comfortable, a short walking distance from a shopping complex. (Michael’s, Bed Bath & Beyond and my favorite cheapo store, Ross Dress For Less!)


I switched accommodations during the middle of my trip and the BART train station is just across the street. It’s a shame that I am only less than an hour away from Oakland or Berkeley but I didn’t make time to explore those other cities.

A family friend took me on a scenic drive from San Francisco through San Jose, Santa Clara, and Silicon Valley. I have no photos but downtown Saratoga looks so charming!
San Francisco
Santa Cruz

Google Drive.
Google Drive

Kitty cat at Milpitas.
Milpitas cat

Friday night out in the city! Photo of the San Francisco Bay Bridge.
San Francisco Bay Bridge

Scenes from Pier 39
Pier 39 Carousel
Pier 39
Pier 39

San Francisco City Hall

The lookout point at Twin Peaks, the highest point in the city. One of my favorite places in SFO so far.

We booked with Dylan’s Tours on my last full day. It was a good way to see the highlights of the city in a short amount of time! I wish there were more stops though.</>

Balmy Alley at the Mission District is a block of murals mostly with Hispanic / Central American political themes. The murals are always evolving and change every so often.

Balmy Alley Mural
Balmy Alley Mural
Balmy Alley Mural
Balmy Alley Mural

Back at Twin Peaks, we were just there the night prior. From here we learned from our guide Andreas that most of San Francisco was built on sand dunes. That also explains why the city is very and steep and hilly.
Twin Peaks
Twin Peaks

We stopped at Haight St. Market for lunch. The neighborhood is known to be the origin of the 60’s hippie culture. I distinctly remember the place from a Third Eye Blind song. 🙂

We sat with our fellow tour participant as we ate our deli sandwiches, a nice lady from San Diego. After sending off her youngest daughter to college, she sold her possessions to travel the world. “For the first time in a long time, I don’t have to worry about anyone but myself.” It was kind of sad, and inspiring at the same time. Heavy-set at middle age, she waddles slowly with a semi-limp. I think of her from time to time, I hope she is enjoying her long overdue adventure even with limited mobility.
Haight Street Market
Haight Street Market
Haight Street Market

We walked by Jimi Hendrix’s Red House and drove by the iconic San Francisco Painted Ladies. No photos, unfortunately. But I love seeing all the Victorian, old-timey houses. San Francisco is also known to have the most expensive real estate in the United States.

We drove through the Pacific Heights mansions and stopped for a few moments admire the view. Larry Ellison (Of Oracle Corp.), Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Robin Williams are a few of the residents in the area.

Pacific Heights
Pacific Heights

A view of the Golden Gate Bridge from Fort Point.
Golden Gate Bridge

Next stop: Muir Woods National Park. I have long wanted to see the majestic California redwoods, one of the oldest living things in the world.
Muir Woods
Muir Woods
Cathedral Grove

Another view of the Golden Gate from Marin Headlands.
Golden Gate Bridge

The tour is over and we chose to be dropped off by the second twistiest street in SF, Lombard Street. The neighborhood is very steep and I had to stop ever so often to catch my breath. 😛 We took a tram headed to the Palace of Fine Arts right after.
Lombard Street
Palace of Fine Arts

San Francisco is lovely and I wish I had more time to walk around and explore the neighborhoods. There were so so many places I wish I had time for, and I barely scratched the surface.


My heart breaks for Nepal

I meant to write about Nepal as a travel destination at some point. We visited the Kathmandu Valley in August last year and in the week that we visited, we managed to see all 7 of the UNESCO World Heritage sites in the area. It was a place like no other. I was, in fact, looking at budget flights to Kathmandu last Friday, on the eve of the quake, hoping to return.

No other place has given me such an overload of the senses than the streets of Kathmandu. People dress differently. The smells are different, the food is different, there are 100 different things to look at all at once. Hindu Nepalis have thousands of gods, and you can see the reverence and worship everywhere you go. It was truly a living museum. The power goes out for a few hours twice a day. Life is simple. Houses are spartan. They cook, eat, sleep on the floor.  People look happy. I came home grateful for everything I have, inflicted with an inexplicable guilt, and I longed to see more and do more.

The 7.9 magnitude earthquake on Saturday, April 25, has destroyed peoples’ homes and ancient structures in the Valley and its environs. More than 3,000 lives were lost, and the death toll is still climbing.  My heart breaks for all those beautiful souls. Most sacred sites in Kantipur (Kathmandu), Lalitpur (Patan), and Bhaktapur were reduced to dust and rubble; the very places that contribute to the significant income of the community as touristic and pilgrimage sites.

To all the beautiful souls of Nepal, may you rise from this tragedy and rebuild your beautiful cities with the grace and dignity that I know you have always possessed.

The Beautiful Faces of Nepal

a blind man enjoying his chai at the Boudhanath Stupa
faces of Kathmandu, Nepal

street tailors at the Mangal Bazaar in Patan
faces of Kathmandu, Nepal

Lovely ladies having a chat, preparing for the day
faces of Kathmandu, Nepal

What I assume to be Tibetan refugees at Boudhanath
faces of Kathmandu, Nepal

Two of the sadhus at Pashupatinath
faces of Kathmandu, Nepal

Ladies chatting in Bhaktapur
faces of Kathmandu, Nepal

Beautiful friendly faces at the Bhaktapur Gai Jatra Festival
faces of Kathmandu, Nepal

Rajesh, our guide for a few days
faces of Kathmandu, Nepal

Toy seller in Bhaktapur
faces of Kathmandu, Nepal

Fruit seller with his ingenius cart at Bhaktapur
faces of Kathmandu, Nepal

Child seller in Bhaktapur.. all she had to sell were these sprigs of cilantro
faces of Kathmandu, Nepal

Family at Changu Narayan– the wife and I shared a smile because her husband stumbled and he couldn’t lift the sack of firewood
faces of Kathmandu, Nepal

Ice cream seller in Bhaktapur
faces of Kathmandu, Nepal

Newari man watching all the festivities in Bhaktapurfaces of Kathmandu, Nepal

Mother and child in Bhaktapur
faces of Kathmandu, Nepal

Newari men chatting after a long day of work
faces of Kathmandu, Nepal

Cute little human I met at the Patan Golden Temple. His Father kept ordering him to greet me ‘namaste’
faces of Kathmandu, Nepal

Merchant at the Basantapur Durbar Square in Kathmandu
faces of Kathmandu, Nepal

This site has practically no readers yet, but in any case, here is one way to extend help if you are from the Philippines.
http://www.redcross.org.ph/press/news/item/954-help-nepal-now and http://ushare.redcross.org.ph/

Indonesia / Writing


And just like that, more than half of the year is over. I haven’t even finished writing about the EU trip I took a long time ago. I’ve taken two more trips since then, and they still remain in my ‘for future blog posts’ list. 🙁

Less than a week ago, my plane landed in Manila from Denpasar, Bali. We were rewarded with a glorious sunrise view as we drove to Ngurah Rai Airport, and the fact that I am never awake early enough to see the sunrise as beautiful as this one made it harder to leave. I still cannot sit still thinking about having to go back to an office job while there as so many things I need to see, experience, and learn from.

Bali is diverse and beautiful, but more than the touristy sights, it’s traveling with a person you have known for seventeen years, the house with the smells of clove cigarettes, sandalwood incense, and herbal mosquito coils, the kindness of the people we met along the way, a little personal achievement in the form of a decent Bakasana in Canggu, my funny lifeguard rescue, the smiles, glimpses of simple yet full lives… sure to be back.

“As beautiful as this island is, the real Bali exists primarily in its people– as well as in the mind of the beholder.”

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

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.

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

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

Pavillon d’Orleans
Chateau de Versailles
78000 Versailles, France

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.

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

France / Writing

visiting the Musée du Louvre

The Louvre is one of the world’s biggest and most visited museums with a massive 35,000 piece collection. It will take you 100 days without any breaks to look at each piece for 30 seconds.

We transferred accommodations and now stay at the Chatelet area, 1st arrondisement, which is much closer to the Louvre but thanks to our bad sense of direction, we still got lost on the way to the museum, wasting an hour or two trying to figure out how to get there.

We finally reached the museum, stayed for a bit outside to take pictures and people-watch.
Louvre and I.M. Pei's pyramid

outside the Louvre

La Pyramide, and La Pyramide Inversée, made popular by Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. The Carrousel du Louvre is by this area, below the Louvre. Plenty of gift shops, an Apple store, McDonald’s, and a really fancy paid WC which I really liked.

La Pyramide Inversee

Louvre pyramide

I am really not credible enough to provide definitive directions, which piece can be found in which floor or wing, Denon, Richelieu, or Sully… the place was disorienting to say the least, we just walked around semi-aimlessly prioritizing a few pieces we want to see.

me and A

The Grecian pieces. Venus de Milo (Aphrodite, 100 BC) is one of the most popular sculptures. Found in 1820 in the the Greek island Melos (now Milo) – it is one of the few rare Greek originals, as most Grecian statues are actually Roman copies.

Venus de Milo
Another one of the most popular Greek originals – The Winged Victory of Samothrace (Nike of Samothrace, 190 BC). The windblown details of the gown, and the stance, I find so striking. We spent a long time gazing at this piece. Said to be created to commemorate a naval victory in Rhodes. One of the detached hands are also on display at the Louvre.
Winged Victory

Leonardo da Vinci’s Madonna of the Rocks, and his Mona Lisa.
Madonna on the Rocks and the Mona Lisa

These are the people photographing the Mona Lisa (La Joconde)

people photographing the Mona Lisa

A couple viewing the massive painting opposite the Mona Lisa – Paolo Veronese’s The Wedding at Cana. The scene where Jesus turned water into wine.
Paolo Veronese's Wedding at Cana

I really wanted to see this Eugene Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People (La Liberté guidant le peuple), from the Coldplay record cover (ha-ha). It also inspired the Statue of Liberty.
Eugene Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People

Other pieces I wanted to see but we couldn’t find them: Cupid & Psyche, The Code of Hammurabi, Egyptian antiquities.

After seeing another dizzying number of art pieces, rested at one of the benches at the Jardins des Tuilieries, just outside the Louvre. Watched a pair of lovers sprawled like so.

Musée du Louvre
Open everyday except Tuesdays, 9AM – 6PM
Wednesdays & Fridays 9AM – 9:45PM
75058 Paris – France
Métro: Palais-Royal Musée du Louvre
+33 (0)140205317

France / Writing

browsing through Shakespeare and Company

From Notre Dame we crossed the bridge to the Left Bank to get to Shakespeare and Company, the cosy little English-language bookshop in the academic Quartier Latin.

Shakespeare & Company

Shakespeare and Company has been around since 1951, and since then the bookstore has been hosting writers in exchange for a couple of hours of voluntary work. It has provided shelter to some 50,000 people now.
Shakespeare & Co.

The shop is full of new books as well as used ones. Apparently, there are also 8 makeshift beds all over the place, for the writers to sleep in.
inside Shakespeare & Company

A is one of the biggest literature lovers I know and she purchased a hardbound book here. I confess that I am sort of a mild hoarder of books, mostly of the travel and food literature variety, but I find the prices here rather steep, perhaps the markup is mostly because of the location and nostalgia. At this point, I’m perfectly fine scouring the Booksale outlets back home.

One of my favorite movies, Before Sunset, filmed here so it makes the place quite special as well.

Shakespeare and Company
37 rue de la Bûcherie 75005 Paris
Weekdays: 10am – 11pm; Weekends: 11am – 11pm
Metro: St. Michel / Cluny / Sorbonne
Facebook || Twitter

France / Writing

The grand Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris

The Notre Dame Cathedral is possibly the other iconic structure defining Paris, next to the Eiffel Tower. Located at the small island Île de la Cité in the middle of the Seine, it is literally at the center of Paris. Notre Dame means “Our Lady” in French, and it is one of the first Gothic cathedrals in the world. Its construction began in 1163, only to be finished almost a hundred years later.
Notre Dame de Paris facade
Notre Dame de Paris

Point Zero and our matching granny socks (it was cold out the day we visited). The center of France and the site where all distances are measured.
Point Zero

The facade and view from the side– the flying buttresses support the roof.
Notre Dame de Paris, buttresses and facade

The cathedral interiors. It is ten stories high and can fit 6,000 worshippers.
Notre Dame Interiors
pilgrims at Notre Dame

During the Second World War, it was feared that the Germans would bomb the church and destroy the stained glass windows, hence they were taken down during the war.
Notre Dame South Rose window
Notre Dame de Paris

The nave (L), and one of the side aisles (R).
Notre Dame de Paris naves
Notre Dame de Paris interiors

There is no admission fee to go inside the cathedral, however it costs 8€ to go up the tower (covered by the Paris Museum Pass). It is 400 steps up, no lift. If you are fit enough to go up the stairs, you shall be rewarded with a nice view of the city from Paris’s center. Pictured, Eiffel and environs, and the Sacré Cœur on hilly Montmartre.
view from Notre Dame
view from Notre Dame

Quasimodo’s friends. The chimera / chimères, from the Galerie des Chimères are not to be confused with gargoyles. They actually function as rainspouts.

One of the more popular chimères, Stryga

Angel watching over Paris,and another chimère
Notre Dame de Paris chimeres

Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris
Metro: Cité / Hotel de Ville / St. Michel
Rue du Cloître Notre-Dame 75004 Paris