Sunday, December 26, 2010

Paris - La ville de l'amour.

After two grueling days of making our way from London to Paris, we arrived in the city of love via the TGV express train and disembarked at Gare du Nord train station. We were very glad to see that the heavy snow did not follow us to that city, despite the freezing temperature. After checking into a hotel opposite the train station, we made our way to a nearby restaurant to have our first Parisian dinner. It was hard to keep the excitement in the air when travel fatigue threatened to make us just wanna climb into bed and sleep like a bear. Poor Lissa was so sick from all the train rides that she threw up almost all of the French onion soup she ordered for dinner. It didn't help that she saw a man pick his nose and put his pickings into his mouth! Uber yucks! Finishing dinner was such an effort for us all and we spent the remainder of our energy just falling into bed... dead to the world!

Since we only had 1 solid day to tour Paris, we decided to stick to the few top 'must-see' spots in the city. Thankfully, after learning from me in London, JC took to navigating us through Paris Metro like a duck to water. She expertly guided us to our first stop - The Eiffel Tower.

Lissa let out a squeal of excitement when she spotted the tip of the tower as we climbed the steps up from the Metro station. Despite the chilly wind, we braved through the crowd and traffic and made our way to the foot of the tower. Along the way, many souvenir vendors paved the path leading up to the site, selling miniature Eiffel Towers in all sorts of colors.

I lead JC, our official photographer, to the very center of the tower base to take an upward snapshot. The reason for this is simply because this was not something normal people would wanna do. So, here it is!

The girls took some more photographs of themselves with the tower as their backdrop while Jasmene and I explore the souvenir shops. I bought some postcards to post from the tower so that it will bear the Eiffel Tower stamp. I sent them to Mom, Eri (my brother) and my soul sister, Wa. Pretty soon, the chilly wind got even colder until some of the souvenir vendors on the site began packing their wares and heading home. We, on the other hand, had a few more stops to make before we can consider that option. Paris in a day? Crazy!!

Our next destination was Notre Dame Cathedral. This time, it was JC who let out a girlish squeal as she saw the famous landmark. We walked through the thickening crowd and busy traffic to the front entrance of the cathedral. Mind you, I have been to all these places when I was 18 years old, and yet it never fails to take my breath away to see the magnificent architecture of that building. The inside is another awesome sight. Every details of the building was still as how I remember it. Simply awesome.

After completing our little tour inside the cathedral, we found ourselves in a restaurant nearby to silence our grumbling tummies. A plate of pasta and a cup of cafe au lait gave us the energy we needed to venture further to our next destination. Looking at the remaining hours of daylight that we had left, we decided that The Louvre Museum would be the best place to head for.

I was impressed at the many improvements made to The Louvre. Namely, the direct access to the Museum from Metro station that made it possible for us to avoid the rain that had begun to pour down Paris. After a quick visit to the most fragrant loo I've ever been in, we were ready to begin our artistic tour inside the museum. I can't recall how long we were in there but I can still feel the pain from so much walking in my tired old legs! Ouch! Ouch!

The girls were driven by their enthusiasm to see Mona Lisa with their own eyes. JC had a jolly time snapping photos like a professional papparazzi! Meanwhile, Jasmene and I were contented to just sit on the comfy seats provided. It took all of my will power not to just curl up and sleep! Mon dieu! Old age creeping up on me! JC jokingly chided me for my lack of energy, saying, "Mama! How could you sit down?! I never stopped walking, you know?" To which I replied, albeit snappishly,"When I was your age, I did it all! Even more than what you're doing now!" And then she asked,"What happened?" I simply replied,"I'm not 18 anymore."

By the time we were done with the Louvre Museum, I was ready to collapse! But we had one more stop to make and after negotiating the time of day as well as the weather, we decided to give Champs Elysees a miss and opted for the nearest Chanel boutique for JC to purchase a Chanel product in its country of origin. Rue Cambon is where the original Chanel store is located. However, given the fact that I wasn't sure how far that road is from the Champs Elysees, I suggested the next best option: Galarie Lafayette. I was well aware how close this shopping mall is to Champs Elysees. But the rain just made it a lot easier for us to go for the easiest choice. Plus, we were already running on empty. We were tired, cold and hungry...again!

I really hate shopping malls. Especially crowded ones! And Galarie Lafayette was crowded to the ceiling! It wasn't long before we managed to locate the Chanel boutique in the X'mas shopping madness. Sheesh! But, seeing my girls smiling from ear to ear was enough for me to feel happy for them and forget how bone tired I was.

Lissa really wanted to skate at the ice rink she saw near the Tower of London but we negotiated with her that ice skating in Paris would be more fun for her. But unfortunately for her, the rain made that possibility an impossible one. So, after Galarie Lafayette, we made our way back to Gare du Nord and plonked our aching bodies on the dining chairs in one of the corner restaurants near our hotel. We chose to sit outside to savor our last night in Paris while enjoying some pasta, french onion soup and escargot. Yup! Those delicious gastropods surprised even Jasmene and the girls! They were delighted to discover how tasty these snails are! Yes! I'm just pleased I managed to coax them to give it a try. The girls even considered second helpings but decided otherwise after they have had their fill of pastas and soups with buttered baguettes.

Overall, our Swansea-London-Paris stays have been a remarkable one. We thoroughly enjoyed every second of it. Was it perfect? No. There were some nasty moments we would rather forget. But then again, what makes our trip so memorable is a combination of the pretty and the ugly.This trip gave us an opportunity to work as a team and spend real quality time together. We were tested to the max! We found both strength and weakness on this trip, the places we visited and of us as a family. C'est la vie. That is life. Life is not perfect. In the imperfection we found character. Mainly, our own.

And today, as I find myself cooking in the comfort of my own tiny kitchen, spooning some sambal ikan bilis into my plate of piping hot nasi lemak, I am grateful I am finally enjoying my own cooking and able to walk around my condo in the skimpiest of clothes. Que sera sera.

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