J’ai été à Paris et j’ai adoré!

•August 8, 2012 • Leave a Comment


I hope that translated well. Sometimes Google translate could get you into trouble…

So yes, our second Europe visit was Paris! The city of romance, art and fancy patisserie. I agree with the art and food but not too much on the romance bit. It was only romantic because I travelled there with my romantic husband ;p but other than that, it wasn’t what I expected Paris to be. However, the city blew me away with its deep culture and history that made me feel like I was in an awesome storybook, walking on French words which characterized the chronicles that happened over the decades.

Thanks to Danny Wong who told me about New Europe, our very short trip was tagged priceless. If you’re thinking of travelling around Europe without a tour group, go check this website out and thank me later.

The first thing we noticed was the humidity. It’s not as humid as Malaysia but it was much thicker than the air in Oslo. Felt a little strange but comforting at the same time. We were blessed with great weather throughout our trip, with just a few drizzles for special effect.

We checked in to our 3-star hotel, and little did we know that it was smack down in the middle of Paris’ red light district! The most ironic thing was that Gold Hotel was place between Sainte Rita Chapelle and New Girl’s Sex Shop. And right across the street was Moulin Rouge!!! You could imagine how excited we were when we saw that as we came out from Blanche’s metro burrow.

Thanks to our guide (New Zealander who came to do a Masters in History, in a city which he claims is the most awesomest city in the world), we’ve learnt about the stories behind the bullet marks on the former prison building, the square where heads used to roll every minute and turned the river red with blood, how the people saved Notre Dame Cathedral etc. I wouldn’t want to spoil your fun if you’ve not been there. But man! I sooo enjoyed the tour! Never knew I was so fond of western civilization that teases the modern world with the remains of its dark past. I must say… the people seem to have really gruesome ways to kill those they hate and mean ideas about death, or the ways of dying. 

Then there was the shopping at Galaries Lafayette. If you ask me, I’d say “uulk”, but not to hundreds of Asian shoppers to queued patiently to get their branded goods. The building was cool though.

After rushing to get tickets for our Moulin Rouge show, we managed to catch up with the Montmartre tour. Our tour guide (Aussie girl who fell in love with the city and now calls it HER PARIS) was so detailed in passing on the rumours of Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and Amedeo Modigliani. We saw where they lived, where they painted, where they were inspired, and where they did crazy stuff. As we climbed the hilly back lanes of Montmartre, we got to know about other icons of the town as well.

This is Saint Denis, whom was believed to have have picked up his own head after he was martyred on this hill, and walked 10kilometers while preaching a sermon! That’s why they called this hill the Mountain of Martyr.

This is Miss Dalida. She’s an Egyptian singer who became very famous when she was in Paris. All her relationships with men always involved suicide attempts by the men… Why don’t they ever learn from others?

This monument was built because she was adored by men here and our tour guide said there’s always an effort to make a bronze monument shiny. The only place that was shiny was the most rubbed area. I’m just doing what’s always done by people who walk pass Miss Dalida.

This is Basilica of the Sacred Heart (Sacré-Cœur Basilica). That’s the peak of the mountain and the view was truly breathtaking (minus the crowds of tourists and souvenir vendors).

After the tour, we slid away from the group and went to our guide’s favourite restaurant, Un Zebré (if I’m not wrong, it means one zebra?) to celebrate our third monthniversary of marriage! Teeheehee… The duck was OH EM GEE awesome! The beef was not too bad too! Finally we got to taste some real authentic French cuisine in a bona fide representation of French pub/restaurant.

To end the day, we dived into the full fledged Paris experience with a Moulin Rouge show! We had champagne from Champagne, met a French couple who ne parlent pas Anglais (does not speak English). That was a funny moment of trying to translate what we wanted to say with my limited knowledge of F(kkkhhhphlegm)rench. The show was … ok I guess. It was a circus of half naked women with costumes full of bling and feather, cheesy singing and choreography, and just a bit of can can towards the end. But overall, I did enjoy myself, holding in from laughing out loud when another cheesy spur occurs. After that, we crossed the street, half drunk, back to our Gold Hotel with the dark stairways.

Final day we got up as early as we could to climb the hailed Eifel Tower (that you probably have as a key chain—gift from a friend who’s been there and probably bought it for you on the same street he or she bought his or her Louis Vuitton). The queue for the elevators were insane, so we did the stairs to the first floor and waited at a shorter queue upstairs to reach the peak by elevator. Gustav Eifel and his team were pretty amazing to build this metal thing at such a height during that time. The only question that we had was “how could people successfully propose up here in the elevated metal cage with such a mad crowd?!”. Oh well… that’s the least of Timo’s worries because he already passed his proposal ordeal.

Oh yes, we also stopped by Arc de Triomphe! How could we say we’ve been to Paris but not seen the famous arch! So here you go, been there, done that, took the picture.

I truly enjoyed my French escapade, and would love to come back to do the things we missed out on. But for now, I’ll treasure the memory of having goose bumps when I realized I’m standing at a place where there was war, peace, revolutions, martyrs, and elephant soup during the plague.

Paris, je serai de retour!

 

*more photos will be up in Facebook soon… still recovering from history digestion*

In memory to those who did not make it through the day

•July 23, 2012 • Leave a Comment


I experienced something very special yesterday. 22nd July 2011 was the grimmest, most tragic day Norway has ever gone through. And Norway, I mean almost the whole of Oslo came together to stand in memory of those who did not make it through the bombing and shooting. What happened.

I didn’t know about the concert until I was surrounded by the crowd holding individual rose stalks at Rådhusplass (Town Square). I thought it was a free Bruce Springsteen concert! Even in the rain and cold weather, everyone stood so still as the event organizers presented musical tributes, genres from country to Sammi to rap to orchestra. Norwegian and international artists performed one after another. Some of the young survivors had their say on the situation. Local writers gave their poetic articulation about what happened and the sadness they feel. Norway’s Prime Minister gave a speech, briefly translated by my Norwegian friend that he expressed his pride in how everyone reacted to this tragedy. Instead of hatred, everyone responded in love. We remember those who died by celebrating the life we so fortunately have.

Though I hardly understood anything they presented, except for catching one or two words they said, I felt the emotions running high. Our friend said he’d understand if we wanna go home cuz we’ve no idea what they’re saying, but not one bit of me wanted to leave. Though I was shivering and needed to pee, I wanted to stay on to see what else they’ve got. The sensation of sadness mixed with celebration was so thick I could not move my legs.

The concert ended with a local singer singing “god natt, kjære Oslo, god natt”. (Good night dear Oslo, Good night) And another song that seemed like a very famous Norwegian song that everyone knew the lyrics to. It was so amazing when they put the lyrics up on the screen, and I could sing to it. I felt like one of them!

When the tragedy happened, I only read about it in the news. It was so far away from me then. I had nothing to do with it. That was one year ago. And now that I’ve come this close to the scene, and being soaked in the amazing reaction of those who were directly affected, it’s indescribable. It reminded me how fragile life is, and how each life means the world to another.

A random/silly though: what if someone else comes and does another shooting right here at this concert?

I immediately turned to Tim and told him how much he means to me, just in case I wouldn’t make it through the cold night. Just in case…

To those who lived and were loved… you are still loved.

Just a pinch of Brit

•July 10, 2012 • 2 Comments

Our first Europe trip begins! First stop– London.

With our London city map and our best walking shoes, we were all set for a one-day venture in this fresh new place. We got up as early as we could and headed straight to Liverpool Street station to get our Oyster cards. We topped it up with a bit more credit as a motivation to come back again. A warning to the city that we’re not done with it yet.

The crowd started even before our tourist eyes got accustomed to the usual Saturday buzz in this station. We were very impressed with the tube system. So much so that we spent quite a lot of time scurrying underground along the tube lines, and being so grateful for clearly labelled tube line signs. We were so happy being able to UNDERSTAND all signs of public transport/ directions. Oh English signs!!! I miss you so!

Then we headed to London Bride’s direction to catch a glimpse of the famous bridge in the nursery rhyme. Took a few pictures and then realized… that it wasn’t London Bridge! So right behind us would be River Thames and The Tower Bridge. So erm… London Bridge is not falling down… It’s no where in sight.

We soon caught up with London tourist veteran — CY, from Timo’s company. He brought us around the city as if it was his home town! Though we had a list of things planned out for the day, we were distracted by the unmissable SALE signs all over Oxford Street. Heck! Buckingham Palace is always there, but the sale will end soon… So yeah… you know what happened after that. Oh we also went for a much anticipated haircut! It’s almost impossible to find a reasonably priced saloon in Oslo, let alone an Asian one who knows how to deal with Asian hair.

And right after that, we walked right into the middle of a Gay Parade. In the pouring rain, the paraders were still displaying all that they needed to say about their thoughts about sexuality. We didn’t manage to justify the parade with photos that we snapped in the rain.

Then we thought of visiting our old friend Gordy =) Well… let’s say we know him more than he knows us. We went to one of his restaurants and had a super posh lunch that lasted for hours! It was such a good experience; to have huge plates and small bits of food in the middle and a dribble of fancy sauce. Once in a very long while, it’s fun to play rich. *Cheers to our attempt to be fancy pants*

Since our trip to London this time was so short and we wanted to see as much as we could, what better way to do that than to go up really high on the famous Eye and SEE all you want. The queue was unexpected, but we made it finally. Stuck with a bunch of tourist inside the gondola, I could now say that I ‘saw’ Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Tower of London, St Paul’s Cathedral… 

Then came dinner time and we got to meet up with our long time friend Alvin and his girlfriend, Caryn. When Timo and I first met, it was when we met Alvin as well =) So we go way back. They took us for dinner in China Town. Oh! We almost cried when we saw authentic Chinese food!

Then we met up with Georgia– the soon-to-be-famous singer from Gibraltar. I met her while I was in Sonshine FM. She took us out to the night scenes of London, somewhere near Shoreditch High. Though we were a little lost and caught in the rain, we still had fun. Clubs and bars are not really a place Timo and I are familiar with, but that was quite a fun time to experience what the locals do on a Saturday night (or any other night apparently…).

Though very short, it was a great day getting soaked by the London rain and sunshine, walking our legs off, and relying on the paper map instead of Google maps on our iPhones. We definitely will be back! Get ready London!

Birthday tribute

•July 6, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Happy birthday my dear sis!!!

You’ve always been a wonderful friend to be with. Though a little testing at times, but I guess that’s where I got my patience from =p

I love how you’d always say you love me and you miss me.

I love how you’d always pray for me when I needed it. “Be gone!” you’d yell to my fever.

I love how you make awkward times so funny and funny times a little awkward.

I love how you’re so naive and easily convinced to change your mind to do stuff for me, keke….

I love you, didi!!! and Happy Birthday!

Here’s my attempt to sing you a song. Don’t laugh ok? I’m still new with the ukulele…

Hey Soul Sister

I spy with my little eyes…

•July 5, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Oslo, pronounced as ooshloo by the locals, is the capital of Norway. Never in my wildest dreams would I have pictured myself coming here, let alone permanently making this place my home for at least 2 years.

So when you’re at a new place, you seem to take note of the peculiar customs that’s been made the norm to the society. Here in Oslo I’ve noticed that….

  • Time passes extremely fast. So I’ve got to do this quick before my 2 years are up.
  • Toilet papers are not squares per units. They are rectangular. I kid you not. This includes public toilets that charge 10NOK per entry.
  • Eating out for the commoners are only for special occasions, because it’ll cost you an arm and a leg to foot the bill (pun intended) and we don’t have that many limbs to spare.
  • There are always babies in prams and pet dogs with fancy collars everywhere you look. Maybe the government here are encouraging more births to populate this land, but seriously?! I reckon the cost for condoms are way too high here… just saying.
  • The Nordics are a big fan of statues. Especially naked ones. They even have a whole park full of naked statues and of naked people clumped together to make a really high poll. I wonder how those statues will look like in winter…
  • You may or may not know that I’ve a fear of birds. But I promise I’m not exaggerating… the birds here are massive! Living near the docks increases my chance of ‘meeting’ the gulls, and man! They are as large as normal sized chickens! They might even beat Malaysia’s kampong chicken anytime. Maybe these ‘meetings’ will help me overcome my fear one day.
  • The Norwegian language!! … why you add so many letters into the word when you’re not even pronouncing half of it?! Oh well… the beauty of language. I shall overcome this barrier and learn you up, oh ultrahardtounderstand language!
  • The sun sets at 11.30pm or even later. I’ve begun to have a new kind of love towards the shades in my bedroom.  But there are days that it’s worth keeping the shades up because this is our view almost every night. I’ll always be in awe of The Creator. Image

I’m sure there are more but these are just the few that I could think of. Plus, I’ve not fully experienced Oslo in all of the seasons yet. Stay tuned for more as I come across the many revelations daily.

J

Different

•July 5, 2012 • Leave a Comment

And this season is brought to you by the word… DIFFERENT.

Relocation has been a thing I could never shake off since I relocated from mom’s tummy to outside her tummy. I don’t think I complained much then, but I knew that relocation is unavoidable. From kindy to mid secondary, my weekdays were with grandparents and weekends at home. College year was a train ride every weekend back home from the college dorm. Then came university that took me to Adelaide for a good 4 years (moving twice within that duration). And when love makes you do the unexplainable, I was swooped to Perth for a blissful 2 years. And just when I thought I could start naming my television, my prince charming was sent to Oslo for duty.

So what do you know… I’m now sipping Rooibos tea while knitting at the balcony of our very first ‘home’, overlooking the constructions sites and peaceful dock. (We moved into a rather new area of Oslo so I don’t mind being a little patient with the ongoing constructions)

And as I’ve never complained since young about relocation, I’m not going to this time as well. Even though it’s a million times further than the usual, but it’s a million times more exciting! So try as I may, I could hardly find anything sad about this move. Except that it’s really expensive to call home and I miss my friends and family in Perth, Adelaide and KL (and those scattered around the world).

All in all, I’m embracing this season of having everything so different. I’m looking forward to the next season, but for now, I’ll sit and watch the word ‘different’ become ‘familiarity’.

J