Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sinking into it.

It's been 3 days since my last entry, and I apologize to those I have disappointed. However, no obstacle appeared to keep me from touring. On Saturday, I continued on my journey to discover Paris, and what better place to start than what I had already experienced; the L'Opentour bus. It's a touring service that is offered through double-decker buses. Even though it is quite cold in Paris compared to its summer months, I elected to sit on the top deck with the wind in my hair and the sun at my face. I remember enjoying this tour service the last time that I was in this exciting city. It provides you with headphones that you can plug into the bus to get in tune with the automated tour guide.  I started at the Louvre and bought a two day pass since an extra day is only 4 Euros more than a single day. It gave me something to do in a city I needed to learn more about and before my social life is revived. I did the Grand Tour of Paris in my first L'Opentour trip. That included the Notre Dame, then East along the Seine river, past a few other historical buildings, around the Concorde, up the Champs Elysees towards the Arc de Triomphe, to circle around the Eiffel Tower, then to salute the tomb of Napoleon the first in the Invalide, and finally to greet the Madeleine and the Opera. The pictures follow:

Reminder: the stairway sucks in my building. I'm always huffing and puffing..
I discovered the wonderful Macarons of McCafe, McDonalds.. There's still a chocolate one on that tray there. Very small so you don't feel guilty but very tasty so you can't really draw the line! I had a vanilla one just before. Ever since Saturday, I've been having Macarons! I think an addiction is surfacing.. This is not good!!

McCafe and L'Opentour..

Leaving the Louvre and then seeing the Notre Dame. Apologies for skipping all the in between.

Down the Champs Elysees...

The Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower. This second picture showing the Eiffel Tower makes the tower look so much smaller than it really is! I like how that turned out.

Oh la la! The Eiffel Tower. I love that second picture. I took it from a moving vehicle with an iphone! Some pictures do surprise you. If you'd like it, please send me an email and I will definitely send you this pic if you would like it as a background. The third picture is the Invalide building. It was made to take care of the soldiers permanently effected by battle. The tomb of Napoleon the Great rests there.

The first picture is of the Concorde. I think they added the ride behind it just recently in the last few years because it wasn't there when I came in 2008. The second picture is of the hieroglyphic statue placed there after the French Revolution because it didn't have any political or religious significance. The third is the Madeleine church, which Napoleon had built to resemble the buildings of Rome and commemorate the victories. It was supposed to be a temple to recognized courage in the times of war, but he later gave it to the religious authorities as an additional church.

This first picture is of the Opera. The second is of the Crypt underneath the Notre Dame which shows how the Parisii people lived 2 centuries BC. This third picture made me think of Zeina because I have a memory of her amused by the idea of 'Free Hugs' and they were giving free hugs just outside of the Notre Dame. I'll take you there when you visit me Zeina!

It was wonderful to see a co-worker outside of work. She and I enjoyed some coffee at a great cafe in the Latin Quarters of Paris.  Helene is a very helpful and enthusiastic employee of BPI Groupe that I am so happy to have working in the same office as me. I have already gone to her several times for support and guidance.  She reminds me so much of my mother's cousin Sarah with the way she communicates with others. Very easy to approach and such a delight to talk to no matter the topics. I wouldn't mind being stuck in an elevator with her for a few hours. I would learn so much from her. It felt so good to sit with a new friend and enjoy the Parisian lifestyle together.

After meeting up with Helene, I walked back to Pont St. Michel (where the bridge to the island where Notre Dame is meets the Latin Quarter). I was to meet an old friend there after a few hours so I had some time to kill. Or should I say indulge! As I walked to Pont St. Michel, I happened to pass a Lebanese Cuisine eatery. I saw the guys dancing the Lebanese debkeh to very loud music in an already very loud area. It brought a smile to my face as I approached the guys working there. I asked about where they were from in Lebanon and how long they had been there. It was nice to speak Arabic comfortably, as opposed to French, uncomfortably, this last week. They told me that there is a weekly Lebanese party on Mondays near the Champs Elysees. It was quite inconvenient for my schedule here in Paris, but maybe I'll have the opportunity with a friend or when Zeina comes to visit. Otherwise, I was on my way shortly after to walk around the Latin Quarter and grab a hot chocolate from McDonalds (this picture on the right- it wasn't that good..), and by then it was around 6:30pm. I had two and a half hours to walk around before I was to meet up with Putri at Pont St. Michel. I walked down St. Michel, and as I am slowly getting accustomed to, I happened to find another wonderful historic building, the Pantheon. I learned later that this building is a church that houses the tombs of many famous French people of history including Voltaire and Victor Hugo. I MUST visit that church sometime soon. Voltaire!! Wow! He's so ancient, that it is enough to identify him by her first name. In fact, even we do know his last name, I don't know it and I don't think many do.  I walked back and enter into a department store where I busied myself with a book about Paris. I found a little excerpt about the Fontaine Des Innocents which guards the front door of the building I live in. I don't know if you recognized it from earlier pictures.


At 9pm, I finally met up with Putri, a girl I hadn't seen for close to 8 or 9 years! She was in the grade below mine in our days of school in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and it was so nice to see her after soo long! I don't think I would have been able to recognize her if we were to pass randomly on the street. The wonderful thing was that her personality hadn't changed. She is still that wonderfully fun and pleasant girl I remember so well. We went to a greek restaurant in the St. Germaine district, again Latin Quarters. We had such a great time after as well while we enjoyed some wonderful Creme Brulee.

As we walked out of the Greek restaurant, I took a picture of the front step where a lot of 'OPA' occurences had taken place. The Maitre D' gave me a plate to smash!

On Sunday, I woke up early to get to church in time. I had to take a few trains to get to my destination in Vaucresson, a suburb of Paris just half an hour away from where I live. I arrived at 10:40am, only 10 mins late, and it was quite easy to get to. After the Sunday service, I made friends with a wonderful group of Lebanese students that are here in Paris for their Masters or PhDs.  They are all good friends from the parish, and they invited me to join them for lunch. I wish I was able to go, but because I had another day of L'Opentour and plans to meet up with friend later, I promised a rain-check for next Sunday.
I headed back to Paris and got on the tour bus that took me through the Montmartre district as recommended by Mrs. Camilleri. What a beautiful area, especially the Sacre Coeur! The view was spectacular and the inside of the church was beautiful. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside, so I'll leave it to your imagination. The church was built after a nun had an apparition to have a church built for the Sacred Heart.  I was not able to take pictures that translated the breathtaking view to digital images because I had left my camera at my logement. I was able to see the Notre Dame, the Pompidou (the contemporary art museum), the Eglise de st. Eustache, and almost pinpoint my location. Unfortunately, the iphone could not capture this magnificence. The next time you go to Paris, you MUST see the view from the Sacre Coeur. It is truly remarkable.

 This station is La Gare St. Lazare. It has been made timeless by a Monet painting. I hope to visit it at Musee D'Orsay this Thursday. in the second picture, I have captured a shot of the Eiffel Tower rising over the rest of Paris. You can see closer if you click on the picture. It's clearer in the third picture.

 My train journey to church.

 The Moulin Rouge!

 I stopped at this delightful candy shop on my way up to the Sacre Coeur. There were chocolate almond pieces that you see in the left picture that were so good! I bought 50 grams worth (2 euros) and ate them on my journey up. I was definitely burning the calories since there were so many steps!!

 My walk up to the church.

 There were so many people well taken care of by street entertainment.
This picture really doesn't do the view justice at all! The view was glorious and I could see all the historical buildings including the Notre Dame so well! I will return to this spot.

 Do you see the Eiffel Tower in the distance?

I continued on my journey and got on another line of the tour bus company to learn about the southern part of the city. However, a very nice person started chatting with me during that tour, and I had been "over" guided, that I valued the conversation over the knowledge I would have gained from that particular excursion. He seemed like a bright enthusiastic Mexican guy who came with a bunch of friends to travel all over Europe. He had been to London, Naples, Rome, Madrid, and really wanted to go to Amsterdam before they left on Wednesday, Jan. 12th. I definitely encouraged him to do so even though his fellow-travellers weren't as interested.  He shared his dreams and plans for starting a sea-food business that would sell to giant superstores like Costco. I appreciated the change of perspective that his experiences presented as he shared them.  I finished that tour with a need for chocolate crepe and Macarons. Such wonderful desserts in Paris! I found a nicely pried Creperrie near where I was and enjoyed a wonderfully made Nutella crepe.  I then enjoyed some Macarons from McCafe on my way home to meet with a good friend in front of my building.

This picture shows the North Station as we approach. It is beautiful! Supposedly, in 1870, Paris was under attack and so the Parisians released a number of balloons made of cotton to request help from neighboring countries. One balloon went as far as Norway as I recall. They sent some people, millions of letters and many many pigeons. The pigeons were to be used so that those outside of Paris could send letters to the Parisians. So interesting. What is wonderful about this station is that each statue that is part of the building's architecture represents a city that the station provides service to. I will visit it in person!

 This first picture is of the East Station. This next picture has a beautiful mural on the side of the building just in the center of the picture. This  picture also shows the bikes you can rent out. I'll try that soon!

 So I took a picture of the trees on the side of the rode in hopes of being philosophical regarding the beauty of nature.  I was thinking of how beautiful those trees are. They almost seem painted from one of the Manet and Monet impressionism paintings. It's almost as if the trees grew jealous of all this attention to art that they had no other choice but to attempt to copy the way in which trees are painted by impressionist artists. The color of these trees' trunks are 'blochy' but they seem to meld together from far. I'll show you when you visit me. 
The second picture was taken because in the distance, in the red, there is a band playing in front of the Opera. It was exciting!
The third is of the outside of the Madeleine. How grand! 

 These pictures are taken of the inside of the Madeleine. It's spectacular from the inside!

This last picture is what faces the Madeleine when you step out. It is the Concorde with the Egyptian heiroglyphic statue. 

It was so nice to see Manon after 8 months! She had come to Hamilton a year ago to finish her studies within the MBA, and I had the opportunity to get to know her in our Leadership class. A beautiful girl with Moroccan heritage and a heart of gold, I enjoyed so much our familiar conversation at a great restaurant near the Pantheon. We entered the  place and quickly noticed the large group of young adults taking up half of the room.  Their loud interactions only meant they were Arab, and Lebanese, nonetheless! It was funny because one of the guys was a little obnoxious and the comedic type. A girl that had just joined them mistakenly slapped her scarf onto our table, just barely missing our cups, and this guy intervened to over-dramatize the situation to her in Arabic. I was so amused to understand his teasingly disciplinary response and so badly wanted to surprise them with some smart response in Arabic. Of course, the whole thing didn't happen as I had anticipated. I didn't know what to say, and I didn't want to be rude to Manon. More people kept coming to join their group so the waiter approached us to apologize because he had to move us to another location so that this group could continue to sit together.  And thus were my chances of surprising them.

Nonetheless, our evening was so well spent catching up and enjoying crepes salees. I had already had a crepe sucree earlier so  I needed to try some with cheese and..... how wonderful! 

What a wonderful weekend that lead me to fall fast asleep that Sunday night, excited for another day of Paris work-life. But,  I still have the recorded voice of the guide from the Bus tour in my head! His calming, matter-of-fact, British voice personality was quite entertaining as it added to the whole exciting and mysterious feel of the touring experience.

Today was a wonderful day of work. I was able to get into the groove of being quite productive. I also discovered the most wonderful Patisserie in Paris, thanks to my Manager and another wonderful co-worker. I had a Pain au Chocolat, a cheese and butter baguette sandwich, and 4 Macarons from that place and they all melted in your mouth. I was also able to schedule another meeting with the bank for tomorrow at 10am. I hope that I have no more obstacles. None can come from miscommunication though since another co-worker joined me to make sure I got all the hours right and would be successful in the end- that's if I don't mess up tomorrow! Why do I feel like something else will happen? Things seem to come in 3s.. And I have two fails. I'll let you know. I ended the day today with a wonderful spinach an salmon Quiche from shop on my way home. My oh my! I better start to take pictures of food as I promised. Apologies to Joanna and Clara..

Till the next,


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