Thursday, August 27, 2015

Europe: Day 7 (France)


We are finally at the city of lights also known as city of love too. Unfortunately some of us call it scam city and we have a fair share of experience. Our time in Paris is short but we would certainly come again to visit more places. Today we will be visiting of course the magnificent Eiffel Tower, Place de la Concorde, The Louvre, exterior of Palais Garnier, Notre Dame and finally shopping at Galeries Lafayette. Lots of history for you in this article but if you wanna skip boring words there are always stunning photos. You might wanna check out what we did the day before but its not as exciting as Switzerland. Also click here to see how I spent a budget of RM8000 across 5 countries without staying at hostels.

Just to inform you, the night before this I checked my email and was shocked to find a huge CONGRATULATIONS! Then whatever feelings I had for Paris just faded away. Read all about my excitement here. Thank you MGTO and Nuffnang for sponsoring and I will blog on my next trip soon. Macau here I come!

Some say its the most romantic place on earth. You never know until you stand in front of Eiffel for the first time. Its like love at the first sight. You will be amazed how grand it hovers before you. Fields are empty during this winter time but Parisians will crowd for picnic here once its summer.

 Woke up at 7am and can't wait to start our Parisian dream.

 This was our path of the day....dayummm!
Arc de Triomphe - bus - Place de la Concorde - bus - Eiffel Tower - bus - Galeries Lafayette - walk - Palais Garnier - walk - Louvre - walk - Pont des Arts - walk - Notre Dame - walk - Palais Garnier - walk - Galeries Lafayette - bus - Bateaux-Mouches

Morning view of another suite next door.

Fond of the sophisticated concept.

  Snap snap in the lobby of Only Suites Hotel Paris CDG before breakfast at 8am.

Spacious and elegant suite but the reception can be improved. You can read the previous post about what I had to say.

We were quite disappointed with the cafeteria. It's located like in a narrow underground. Hope this hotel has a more pleasant restaurant elsewhere. I know there's a lounge beside the reception.

That's all the variety in store for us and we had to wait till 8:30am for sausages to be served.

Hubby doesn't look very happy but I'm just satisfied and ate as much as I could. Nope we don't eat only 2 sausages and a croissant. We went to refill many rounds.

Why does it look like spring outside the hotel? The cherry blossom trees must have miscalculated.

Just to show you the eyesore on our way to city center that looked like a slum with rubbish (I don't mind dried leaves) collected at the sides of highway and graffiti leaving no empty spaces on the walls. Hope they do something about it coz even Malaysian highways are much cleaner. Bad first impression for tourists and even more shocking for people like us who crossed over from Switzerland. Nevertheless Eiffel tower and other spectacular buildings managed to make us forget in a second.

A building under construction with a very cool reveal.

Stade de France built for the FIFA 1998.

The magnificent Sacré-Cœur is definitely a must visit next time we come again. Many travelers warned to look out for pickpockets here. The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris commonly known as Sacré-Cœur is a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This popular landmark is located at the summit of the butte Montmartre that is the highest point in the city.....obviously duh. Construction began in 1875 and was finished in 1914.

A war related sculpture which I can't identify.

Feeling enthusiastic as the bus passed by a road that looks like Avenue des Champs-Élysées.

First typical tourist attraction of the day is Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile. Stated the long name because there's another arch near the Lourve. It stands in the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle which originally called Place de l'Étoile.

See its jam packed with tourists even when the weather is so cold. It is probably the most famous monument in Paris.

The Arc de Triomphe started construction in 1806 and inaugurated in 1836. It honours those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars with the names of all French soldiers and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. Beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.

Due to heavy traffic, it is recommended that pedestrians use one of two underpasses located at the Champs Élysées and the Avenue de la Grande Armée. A lift will take visitors almost to the attic where there is a small museum containing large models of the Arc and tells its story from the time of its construction. Visitors have to climb 46 steps in order to reach the terrasse where one can enjoy a panoramic view of Paris

Just being tourists. this the famous luxury shopping avenue Champs-Élysées?

We only spent 15 minutes here. We will go up when we have more time when we visit Paris in future.

The Champs-Elysées Christmas market borders both sides of the avenue between the Rond-Point des Champs-Elysées and the Place de la Concorde.

One of the most beautiful views of Paris at Christmas can be enjoyed from the Grande Roue on Place de la Concorde. Ideally located along the Historical Axis, the temporary structure offers a great view of the Eiffel Tower and River Seine. The top of the wheel reaches 65 meters and offers a stunning view. The ride has become an unavoidable feature of Christmas in Paris for the 21st consecutive year. Admission fees are 10 for adults and 5 for children and opened from 14 November 2014 to 15 February 2015.

Oh, beware of gypsies here. They vary from youth to middle age. We were approached by a lady then one by one they surrounded us asking for signatures of whatever petition. We darted off as fast as our legs could carry us to the tour groups. So if you ever encounter such situation just run towards other locals or tourists if you can't find any police. Their plan is to make you under pressure when surrounded by too many of them then rob your belongings when you are busy signing the petition.

Measuring 8.64 hectares in area, Place de la Concorde is the largest square in the French capital. It is located in the city's 8th arrondissement at the eastern end of the Champs-Élysées. The Place was designed by Ange-Jacques Gabriel in 1755 as a moat-skirted octagon. Decorated with statues and fountains, the area was named Place Louis XV to honour the king.

The center of the Place is occupied by a giant Egyptian obelisk. It is one of two the Egyptian government gave to the French in the 19th century. The other one stayed in Egypt coz too hefty to move to France. The original cap is believed to be stolen in 6th century BC so French government added a gold-leafed pyramid cap to the top of the obelisk in 1998.

The two fountains in the Place de la Concorde have been the most famous fountains built during the time of Louis-Philippe. They were designed by Jacques Ignace Hittorff on the theme of rivers and seas. Their arrangement on a north-south axis aligned with the Obelisk of Luxor and the Rue Royale and were influenced by Piazza Navona and the Piazza San Pietro in Rome. Btw can you spot the nymphs' noses? Why are they red like clowns or Rudolph?

One of my favourite shot in Paris. After 15 minutes of photo-taking here, we head on to the highlight of Paris or probably our whole trip. You guess what it is.

No idea why the statue's nose is red but it's amusing.

Pont Alexandre III regarded as the most extravagant bridge in Paris and classified as a French monument. Wow! But it's just a bridge? The Beaux-Arts style bridge with exuberant Art Nouveau lamps, cherubs, nymphs and winged horses was built between 1896 and 1900. It is named after Tsar Alexander III who had concluded the Franco-Russian Alliance in 1892. In the picture you can see the Nymph reliefs at the center of the arches.

Four gilt-bronze statues of  Fames watch over the bridge supported on massive 17 meters masonry socles that provide stabilizing counterweight for the arch without interfering with monumental views. The socles are crowned by Fames restraining Pegasus.

Yeap you guessed it right! We are heading to the grandest of the grandest structure in whole of France, the Eiffel Tower!

Our hearts beat fast as we approached closer and closer. It seems to be getting bigger.

Eiffel Tower is an iron lattice tower located on the Champ de Mars. It was named after the engineer who built it, Alexandre Gustave Eiffel. It was erected in 1889 as the entrance arch to the 1889 World's Fair. Originally intended as a temporary exhibit, the Eiffel Tower was almost torn down and scrapped in 1909. City officials opted to save it after recognizing its value as a radiotelegraph station. I understand that such huge structure gives an eyesore to the surrounding heritage buildings at that century but Eiffel tower was also deemed as vulgar. Erm, Ok....

Our coach dropped us at the back lane. My gosh the temporary-turned-permanent tower is humongous that tearing down would be such a waste.

We wanted to go to the washroom and found a beautiful garden with  pond.

Walk straight ahead to go to the free washroom.

From the back (or front?) of the Eiffel Tower you can see Trocadéro set on the summit of Chaillot hill. Oh, I didn't know it's a hill. Doesn't it look kinda flat? It includes the Palais de Chaillot, which houses several museums, the place du Trocadéro and an underground aquarium. Before the Palais de Chaillot, the Palais du Trocadéro stood opposite the Eiffel Tower built for the 1878 Universal Exhibition. Later on, the Palais de Chaillot was built for the 1937 Universal Exhibition. The largest architecture center in the world occupies an area of 22,000 square meter of the Palais de Chaillot's "Paris" wing.
You can also find one of the prettiest carousel in the world opposite Eiffel Tower. There are about 20 permanent carousels scattered through Paris. The Carrousel de la Tour Eiffel is apparently powered by solar energy and has a selection of wooden horses and vehicles including a miniature train.

Who could resist some vain shots with the tower?

Couples, don't forget to kiss under the romantic structure.
Jump! I've got tons of picture on this particular spot but it's too annoying to post all of them here.

The line isn't long during off seasons so it's a good idea after all to visit in winter. The Eiffel Tower is open every single day of the year from 9:30am to 11pm and on special occasions till midnight. Lift up to 2nd floor is priced at €11 while entrance to the top is €17. If you want to take the staircase you still have to pay €7. 

There is the newly renovated 1st floor with transparent glass floor 57m from the ground and you can experience the thrilling sensation of stepping out into the void.. The 2nd floor has the best panoramic view over Paris. It also houses some of the finest restaurants and gift stores.

We are under the Eiffel! The base pillars of the Eiffel Tower are oriented with the four points of the compass. The Eiffel Tower underwent a major face lift in 1986 and is repainted every 7 years.

There are also gift stores at all 4 corners of the tower. Of course I bought some miniature towers from the store but they are pretty expensive. You will see a syndicate selling key chains around this area. Most people would avoid but we didn't. If you are good at bargaining like my hubby you can get 10 - 20 key chains for a very cheap price.

Big thank you to the military for keeping the area safe and sound. Shockingly I found out after a month of our trip, 12 people were shot dead in Paris. I was horrified that whenever after we leave a place we went for vacation, incidents will occur. Its not recurrent but the probability is high.

We then walked to the open space in front of the tower and took some vain photos again.

Mary Poppins in Paris lol.

We found a spot of golden leaves and decided to take more photos. After spending almost 2 hours here, we had to hunt for lunch.

Ahhh... Christmas vibes everywhere we went!

It's a fashionista's dream to own at least a LV.

Construction of Pont Alexandre III was subject to strict controls that prevented the bridge from obscuring the view of the Champs-Élysées or the Invalides. So this is what they prevented to obstruct. L'Hôtel national des Invalides of commonly known as Invalides is a complex of buildings in the 7th arrondissement containing museums and monuments relating to the military history. Louis XIV initiated the project in 1670 as a home and hospital for aged and unwell soldiers. Construction started in 1671 and completed on 1678.

This is the National Assembly which is the lower house of the bicameral Parliament of France under the Fifth Republic. The upper house is the Senate. No red noses for the statues here.

I don't know what this bridge is called but it has an amazing glimpse of Notre Dame.

Hôtel Regina was built in 1900 located near of an entrance to the Louvre. In the square in front of the hotel is a gilded statue of Joan of Arc on horseback.

Opened in 1862, The InterContinental Paris Le Grand Hotel is a historic and popular hotel in Paris among royalties and celebs from all over the world.

Around lunchtime our bus dropped us at Galeries Lafayette Haussmann. There is another one in the same area called Galeries Lafayette Maison. Based on my observation, there are men and women buildings but most shoppers would enter the ladies building coz you know...

The highlight of Galeries Lafayette would be its Christmas tree. This is another reason why we wanted to visit during Christmas season. Every year has a different theme and design. Last year was lotus and this year it's topsy turvy. I will show you the monster theme outside of the building at the bottom of this article.

We took a 10 minute inspection around the clustered mall (it's messy here that we got lost in the basement looking for washroom) but we went back for shopping and dinner in the evening. A girl never leaves a mall without shopping.

 In a short time we walked to the Lourve. It's just a short distance from Lafayette if you look at the map.

We passed by Palais Garnier and took some pictures. Should have entered as it has a breathtaking interior. This grand building is a 1979-seat opera house inaugurated on 1875 for the Paris Opera. Some features you might want to see are the grand staircase, grand foyer and auditorium. Opens everyday from 10am to 5pm. Full rate for common visit is €11. You can check out their website for discounted rates and performances.

Besides Paddington promo ad, I've been perceiving this unique ad everywhere in Paris. Those eyes are pretty. Update 2016: Now only I found out that he/she (no idea which pronoun this individual prefers) is Conchita Wurst,the winner of Eurovision 2014. And thanks to this poster I discovered awesome songs from Eurovision.

 Apple fans, this is for you...

I tried entering the subway and what most backpackers said is true...damn stuffy and stinks like hell.
Observed another historical luxury hotel, Hôtel du Louvre. Boy, Paris sure is extravagant. Located in the Place du Palais-Royal near to the Louvre, it was known as Grand Hôtel du Louvre and operated between 1855 and 1887.

Why did they downgrade and take the "Grand" away? Well, the hotel was progressively converted into a large department store taking over the hotel rooms til it was closed down in 1887. Then in 1888 the Hôtel du Louvre became the successor and opened on the other side of the Place du Palais Royal.

After almost 20 minutes of strolling and distractions from tempting luxury shops along the way, we finally made it to the Louvre. Opening hours are everyday except Tuesdays from 9am to 6pm but you might wanna check out some exceptions here. A basic fee of €15 gives you access to the permanent collections and temporary exhibitions in both the Louvre and the Musée Eugène Delacroix. Access to the permanent collections is free for all visitors on the first Sunday of each month.

I don't need need to introduce much about this place coz everyone knows Mona Lisa "lives" in here. The Da Vincci Code made this museum even more popular. I believe Louvre is one of the largest museums in the world that a patron could take up to 3 months to see each artifact. Being the world's most visited museum, Louvre houses nearly 35,000 exhibits over an area of 60,600 square meters.

Before our commotion around the glass pyramid began, we walked opposite to Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel which I called the ciplak punya arch.

This triumphal arch is located in the Place du Carrousel. It was built between 1806 and 1808 to commemorate Napoleon's military victories of the previous year. The more celebrated sibling, Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile was designed in the same year and about twice the size but was not completed until 1836. Ooops...not so ciplak after all. Looking west, the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel is perfectly aligned with the obelisk in the Place de la Concorde, the center line of the Champs-Élysées and the larger Arc de Triomphe. Wow...the more you know...

Bought our lunch at Paul's which is also my dad's name lol... Papi, didn't know u opened a stall here. Yeah I call my dad in Spanish. Initially it's meant to be "puppy" until I got a real puppy in 2000. You can read about my teary tribute my forever puppy Bruno here.
My lunch was a pizza at a very picturesque background while hubby had dunno what peach tart.

It's not everyday you get to have lunch surrounded by world renowned monuments.

Giant pistachio macaron as our dessert. You might think its expensive for such a huge piece but its not. I remember this piece barely costs €3.50. Always recommended to purchase from stalls like this or not so mainstream shops (u know the brands la) and they end up equally good.

Playfully fooled around the statue in the garden. There are a few nude full figure statues erected around the field for you to do funny poses but I believe its not the main reason of their existence.

We wanted to crossover to the pyramid so we walked down to an underground path thinking its a tunnel to cross the street. Damn the underground itself looks like a museum.

 I thought this is a shopping mall and so we explored further.

 Behold we found something we didn't plan to encounter.

Is the holy grail (Mary Magdalene's tomb) really lies beneath this pyramid?

Originally this current structure was built in Louvre Palace as a fortress in the late 12th century under Philip II. In 1682, Louis XIV chose the Palace of Versailles for his household leaving the Louvre as a place to display the royal collection.
So officially the museum was established on 10 August 1793 with an exhibition of 537 paintings.

Using our trusty SJCam. Check out the last video below to view the quality. Can you see the Rose Line on the ground? Another Da Vincci Code influence. Rose Line is a fictional name given by Dan Brown to the Paris Meridian and to the sunlight line defining the exact time of Easter on the Gnomon of Saint-Sulpice, marked by a brass strip on the floor of the church where the two are conflated. Err...ok...I don't really get what the book was trying to say anyway.

After spending an hour just outside of the museum grounds, we quickly head over to our next pit stop. We promise to come again and really visit the artifacts inside as our first Europe trip was just a touch n go.

If you walk straight from the glass pyramid towards the back gate you will see the famous lock bridge, Pont des Arts.

The Pont des Arts is a pedestrian bridge which crosses River Seine. It links the Institut de France and the central square of the Louvre. Between 1802 and 1804 a nine-arch metallic bridge for pedestrians was constructed at the location of the present day Pont des Arts becoming the first metal bridge in Paris.

Since late 2008, tourists have taken to attaching love locks to the railing on the side of the bridge then throwing the key into the Seine river as a romantic gesture. In 2014, it was estimated that there were over 700,000 love locks creating a serious safety concern over possible damage by the weight of the locks to the structure of the bridge.

Don't be jelly k. You'll get your chance to kiss your loved one here too.
Today 8/12 is the actual day of Da'Great Keong birthday. Glad to have celebrated with you in Paris. Love u forever
Posted by Alicia Shereen on Monday, 8 December 2014

From June 2015, Paris city council started to cut down all the locks after years of complaints from locals. So are we considered lucky enough to be there before the locks were taken down?

Opposite this metal bridge is Pont Neuf which is the oldest standing bridge across the river Seine. Construction began in 1578 and inaugurated by Henri IV in 1607.

Everything would look like in the olden days if not for the cars and boats.

After that we walked hurriedly towards Notre Dame which took us about 15 minutes. Managed to look at some impressive shops and restaurants such as this one.

Yay.. we arrived at the western façade. I'm sure many of you are familiar with Notre Dame. I first came to know based on the Disney cartoon, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996).

One of the bridge here is noted for being the most ancient in Paris. The Pont Notre-Dame is located on one of the oldest roads in the Paris, dating back to the Gallo-Roman period. In 886 during the siege of Paris and the Norman attacks, this structure was destroyed and replaced by a plank bridge. Then destroyed and rebuilt numerous times including the great flood of 1406. The bridge was at a time lined with approximately sixty houses and the weight caused a collapse in 1499.

 Aaah...a giant Christmas tree. By now, I'm a little bored of Christmas trees.

Notre-Dame de Paris is translated as Our Lady of Paris in French. It is a Catholic cathedral on one of two remaining natural islands in the Seine called Île de la Cité in the 4th arrondissement. Construction began in 1163 during the reign of Louis VII and finally completed in 1345.

 There were lots of tiny birds on the bush behind us. Could be the berries.

We were really tired by now. It's almost 5:30pm and time to head back to Lafayette for dinner.

Lovely florist shops.
We came passed by Louvre again and kept walking for almost 30 minutes.

Have no idea what's the name of this historical fountain but it sure is colourful.

Nobody would be dining alfresco in such a cold weather.

This chocolate store really attracted us so we decided to buy some macarons here.

So glad we found our new love, Foucher. It's very affordable compared to other popular brands. Too sayang to finish the macarons so I took all the way home and it stayed crisp and fresh even after a week.

I have explained a little bit of history about Palais Garnier somewhere in the middle of this long article so not repeating here.

We reached on time at 6:15pm. Still have some time before the 6:50pm dinner.

For you beauty lovers.

We walked over to Printemps to see the gorgeous Christmas lights deco.

Remember I told you this year's Christmas theme at Lafayette is monsters. These are displayed behind glass windows on the outside. Kids got so frenzy and excited over the moving plushies.

We got inside again...


 Odd shaped LV by Frank Gehry. Looks like a small makeup bag to me.

Can we have dinner at Angelina? lol

Bought my Longchamp...yippeee! By the way remember to claim your tax refund. If you are a non-European Union resident, you are entitled to claim back the 12% tax. You can read more details here.

We had dinner at a Chinese restaurant somewhere at the top floor near to the foodcourt.

This is one of the many cruise operators at the Seine. Bateaux Mouches is based at  Pont de l’Alma. A ride of an hour costs €13.50 per adult. Usually first trip is at 10:15am and last trip at 8:30pm. So the bus kinda made it on time. The cruise takes off every 20-30 minutes.

I was shivering like mad!!!

Then we decided not to take the ride and I took shelter in the bus to avoid the cold.

Hubby spent his evening capturing lots of Eiffel Tower night scene.

The above short clip is for personal viewing and too obscure for commercial use. So just sit back and enjoy a few seconds of an evening in Paris.

In June 1990 a French court ruled that a special lighting display on the tower in 1989 which was the tower's 100th anniversary an "original visual creation" protected by copyright. The Société d'Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel (SETE) now considers any illumination of the tower to be under copyright. As a result, it is no longer legal to publish contemporary photographs of the tower at night without permission.

 Some of my haul of the can guess we are budget travelers. See you in Belgium tomorrow.

11th April is our 11th Anniversary
11th April is our 11th Anniversary.. A special dedication to my wife.. Love Love..
Posted by Keong Da'Great on Friday, 10 April 2015


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