All posts filed under: France

Madame Mona Lisa, and Not Enough Time for Musee du Louvre

One of the items on my bucket list is to come face to face with madame Mona Lisa, an experience I was able to check off during a visit to The Louvre when I traveled to Paris with my Contiki group. That morning, our visit started with our tour manager telling our group that he would be showing us a secret entrance to The Louvre known only to a few. This, he said, would help us skip a lot of the longer lines. He of course had also pre-purchased our tickets. True to his word, we were able to get in without a hitch. The Louvre, we found out, was originally intended to be a castle but eventually determined not to be extravagant enough to serve its purpose. (This is the reason they built Versailles, which I wrote about in a previous post.) The museum itself is so large that if you would like to be able to see all the collections, you would need to dedicate a few days (maybe even more). We did …

It Was Still A Great Day After All

Travel opens one up to a multitude of experiences. The luckiest of us see the realities of life in the midst of our journeys, good and bad, and even in the most everyday and simplest of situations are confronted with truths about the world we live in. I am an idealist, and those stereotypes often heard in stories and read in books, are just that to me. Stories and history — after all, we have come a long way and are well into the most modern of times. Until we sat down to grab lunch at a restaurant in Marseilles, with tables of people being served their food, and a waiter comes over to our table and tells us that they are closed and no longer serving food when it was clear they were still taking other people’s orders. Why us? Was it that I am Asian? Was it because my boyfriend is American? Was it that we were together and from the States? Did they not like the way we looked, how we were …

World Heritage Site Tuesday: Chateau De Versailles

What do you value, work hard for? If you were to become extremely wealthy and powerful, what would you do with the riches and power you’ve suddenly come across? I was thinking about the word “extravagance” as our Contiki tour group was going through Chateau de Versailles, a nearby suburb of Paris.   Historically, the palace was a symbol of absolute political power for the royal family starting in the reign of Louis XIV. It has now become a symbol of status and wealth. It was interesting to see how royals lived and learn how the palace is still being used in modern times for dignitaries. It was also interesting reflecting and asking oneself, would you want something like this as a lifestyle? Or, would you be happier with the simple joys of life — perhaps with sporadic stays at royal palace-like places every now and then — surrounded with fulfillment, or at least with the search for it? But then again maybe daydreaming of a royal lifestyle while at Versailles is inevitable, and the …

We’ll Always Have Paris (And That Escargot)

If you were to choose the first time to have a certain dish, I’d say it would be a dream to do so in the place of its origins. I have spoken of my Contiki trip on this blog before, and one of the things I had the privilege of experiencing during the Paris leg was the great food. On our last night, our tour manager took us to Monmarte to show us Sacre Coeur and to a nice Parisian dinner at La Bonne Franquette. For my appetizer, instead of French onion soup I chose escargot — my first time — and it was quite an experience. The dish was served with shells on, with a shell holder and a small fork for you to use in taking the snails out (as opposed to those I had everywhere else since, where the snails are already taken out of the shells for you). The sauce was a perfect blend of garlic and herbs, and definitely great for dipping the bread, for which we were reprimanded (playfully) …

World Heritage Site Tuesday: Notre Dame de Paris

“He therefore turned to mankind with only regret. His cathedral was enough for him…The saints were his friends, and blessed him; the monsters were his friends, and guarded him.” – Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame I remember seeing The Hunchback of Notre Dame with my best friend from high school. I don’t recall a lot about the movie. At the time, I knew we were curious about the adaptation of the Victor Hugo novel. It was not until my Contiki trip years after, looking up at Notre Dame itself, that I remembered the film and the book again, which was written to call attention to the importance of the cathedral as it has, throughout history, undergone a lot of destruction.   Notre Dame’s external facade, although not as elaborate as Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, is definitely something to see. Depending on which side you are looking at, you would see something different. Its famous gargoyles and smaller statues, which I learned were added to serve as water sprouts and for support, were very detailed. …

On Skyscrapers, and My Visit to the Eiffel Tower

There was a time when one of the manifestations of man’s search for greatness was how tall he can go with his structures. Not accepting defeat after one skyscraper from another side of the world dares go up, there was this unrelenting drive to prove that it is he who can reach closer to the sky and stand tallest — perhaps brought by the technological discoveries of the time, the sprouting of the then great minds in architecture and engineering, in the case of real estate it was a need, and in some cases purely competition. During my trip to Paris, one of the highlights was visiting Eiffel Tower, knowing that although not tall in today’s standards, it was at a time the tallest man-made structure in the world. The best part about the structure for me personally though was being able to see Paris from the top of it, and it was a beautiful sight. (Whenever my travels take me to a skyscraper nowadays, I can’t help but ask the question, how much higher …