A Travellerspoint blog

Paris in spring

C'est Magnifique!

overcast 4 °C

There’s nothing quite like Paris on a day in spring. Walking down a cobbled street looking at beautiful buildings dotted with a terrace here, a balcony there sporting beautiful flowers in bloom, I found myself falling in love with this city as I sat on park benches and in cafes watching the parade of Paris life go by. I realised quite early that the only way to truly discover this city is to walk. Make it a point to stroll over the bridges that cut through the Seine at dusk as the wrought-iron lamps flicker to light the streets with a golden glow. It never ceased to amaze me that everywhere you turn there are two things in abundance - ART and BEAUTY. Its said that it will take several lifetimes to unravel all the things this city has to offer. I'm taking a shot by compiling some of the most famous places I visited during my stay at the City of Lights.

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Louvre Museum

Standing in the courtyard you already get a sense of what to expect inside.

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If anyone ever wanted to understand the meaning of the term "a wealth of history", they need to just step into the Musee de Louvre. There are 3 wings at the Louvre - Richelieu , Denon and Sully. Denon (where the most expensive and famous residents are housed is easily the most visited). All the portraits description are only written in French so the Nintendo audio guide in English was very helpful. I'm sure there is so much art and artefacts in this museum to keep any historian happy for years.

Most people have a tendency to make a bee-line to visit the Louvre's most famous resident - THE SMILING LADY, but there are so many other works of art displayed within the same walls which are breathtaking, especially in the French wing and the Italian Renaissance wing. Throughout my childhood I've been obsessed with Greek mythology and still remember reading about "Nike" and realising that its not only a famous brand of shoes it also is the name of the Greek Goddess of Victory. So you can only imagine how I felt on the day I lay eyes on “The Winged Victory”.

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Before we move forward, let me describe my visit to the smiling lady's chamber. The Mona Lisa is tucked away in a distant corner of the Denon wing past the Da Vinci paintings and the Renaissance wing. My first reaction upon seeing her for the first time was how small the painting actually was (atleast in comparison to all the works of art housed at the Louvre). The section is also partially coroned off and it is housed behind enforced bullet proof glass.
A small piece of information - Mona Lisa will always be crowded regardless of whatever time you choose to visit and you will definitely be pushed around all the time.

Arc de triomphe

When you see this magnificent monument up close, you can only then fully appreciate its beauty and why it has a significant place in French history. Its ornate carvings are quite something for they adorn the walls and ceilings and makes one wonder at the depths of the artists talents who created this monument. It takes 284 steps to get to the top but I’ve heard that views over Paris are breathtaking from the top. It also forms the perfect setting for the most exclusive shopping destination in the world - Champs Elysées. Oh one walk through this entire street is enough to make you feel that there is not enough money in the world to buy everything that you little heart might desire.

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Notre-Dame

I finally found the peace to immerse myself in prayer at this 800 year old chapel. No matter what religion you follow, I'm sure at this cathedral you will experience something special. The architecture of this cathedral is truly marvellous and the stained glassed windows are truly beautiful. Sitting in the courtyard listening to the church bells was an experience like no other which I will carry in my heart for the rest of my days. We wanted to go up the tower to visit the famous gargoyles, but were told that its only allowed at certain times.

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Eiffel Tower

What can I say that’s not been said before about the Eiffel tower? It is afterall Paris's signature monument :) . I would highly recommend going here in the evening when there is still sunlight and have a small picnic on the lawns of the Eiffel tower and make pretty pictures. And if you stay long enough you get to see the lights come on "twinkling" and light up this beautiful monument.

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À tout à l'heure Paree!!! Looking forward to be back meandering around your cobblestone streets along the Seine to sit on the lawns of the Eiffel, laying in the grass, sharing a kiss, sipping some wine and reading a book. Hopefully to stay and explore whatever you have to offer for a full year :)

Posted by Ceej 14:28 Archived in France Tagged paris eiffel spring notre paree Comments (0)

Santorini

....... the perfect setting for a nautical adventure

sunny 10 °C

Summer hadn't quite arrived when we did late April and it wasn't 'high season' so not everything was available or open on the island and it turned out just perfect for us. We stayed at Imerovigli as against choosing Oia or Fira. Imerovigli is rightfully called “The Balcony to Santorini” for wherever you are on this part of the island, there is no escaping that view. The entire island is dotted with houses that have whitewashed walls and beautiful blue doors that overlook the Aegean sea and everytime you open your eyes and look out over the Caldera it always brings on a smile.

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You know you are living a dream when the door to your suite opens up to one of the most breathtaking natural views in the world - a flipping volcano outside your front door smack in the middle of the Mediterranean for goodness sake! I've not come to terms with that memory yet. During sunset its a common ritual for people to gather on their balconies or terraces all over the island with a glass of wine to take in one of the most magnificent sunsets in the entire world.

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We particularly enjoyed the cliff top walk to Fira one morning, which took us approximately 2 hours. Fira is a port town, where all the cruise ships come in gets very busy when the cruise ships are in. And so Fira, although interesting, and fun to visit, felt more touristy, with more hussle and bussle, and more people to squeeze past in the busy shopping streets. It all depends on what each person is seeking in a hoilday. Fira itself is a great place to explore with loads of pedestrianised alleys, lots of nice shops and taverns.

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NOTE OF INTEREST : Wear a pair of good walking shoes or sandals, the paths are often cobbled and very uneven with lots of steps and gradients. Santorini is not a good destination for anyone with mobility issues or for pushchairs.

Spend a day on a boat trip which will take you the volcano and the hotsprings. A visit to the excavations at Akrotiri is a must as so is a visit to the beach at Perissa . You can even scuba dive off the cliffs and most hotels can set you up with diving instructors.

As I turned my head around to breathe in the view one last time during my trip, I remember thinking that this is definitely not my last trip to Santorni. I would return here in a heartbeat and recommend that if you get the chance, you should do so too :)

Catch the wind in your sails :)
- Sowmya CJ

Posted by Ceej 12:32 Archived in Greece Tagged sunset santorini fira caldera imerovigli Comments (0)

A Greek Escape

A highlight of the few days I spent in Athens before we got to the islands....

semi-overcast 9 °C

Monastiraki

An amazingly vibrant and old neighbourhood still in action after a few thousand years! Everywhere you turn from the square, there are great items of every kind to find, to buy, to eat and savour. Spent almost an entire evening walking around this neighbourhood, tasting authentic Greek cuisine and shopping for trinkets and souvenirs. Spending an evening here gave me an insight into the life of a modern day Athens resident which seems to combine a heady mixture of the modern and the traditional with the ever present backdrop of the ancient. Literally!! (The Acropolis looms in the background of this old town).

I attended the evening service at the church in the entrance of Monastiraki which incidentally seems to be where the name of the town is derived from. It makes you feel like you are in a timeless oasis in the hustle of Athens.

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Acropolis - Athens

There are quite a few stairs to get to the top of the hill where the Acropolis is built but the view once at the top is truly humbling. There’s nothing that prepares you for the feeling that comes with so much history under your feet and all around you. It is a definite journey back in time and is surreal imagining that something of this magnitude was built by hand nearly 5000 years ago. The history and splendour of man's achievement in architecture juxtaposed with his lows of conflict and pilfering national treasures are all here.

Visiting the Acropolis took me back to the time when I studied Greek Mythology in school and like me if you are into the entire Greek history, Greek gods and goddesses scene, then this is bound to be a surreal experience. There is a lot of restoration going on at the site and I like the fact that the Greeks are doing everything they can to preserve and restore the buildings on the Acropolis.

The Parthenon that stands proud even in its ruins and tells you how it shaped up to be the seat of modern day democracy. It must have been an unbelievable sight all those years ago when the structures were still in its original form. Even like it is today, it is an impressive sight. The carefully calculated spaces between columns, the overall symmetry of these huge marble structures built all those years ago just goes to show how advanced the ancient Greeks were.

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The Porch of Maidens was another sight that was just a treat to the eyes. Statues of 6 women are used as structural pillars. I heard the guide say that the ones on the site are replicas and that 5 of the maidens are housed at the Acropolis Museum and one of them is at the British Museum.

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NOTE : Its extremely windy atop the Acropolis. The best time to visit would be in the morning or evening. Wear sensible shoes as the path winds and is uneven. No matter how familiar with the sight of it you may be from photographs and television, nothing prepares you the astonishing scale of such a structure built so long ago. Make the effort and hike up that hill.

Posted by Ceej 14.06.2014 12:12 Archived in Greece Tagged athens parthenon acropolis monastiraki porch_of_maidens Comments (0)

Malaysia ….. Truly Asia …..

(hmmmm …. Still thinking if this is an apt description )

all seasons in one day 28 °C

TOUCHDOWN KL - Watched the most beautiful sunrise from the plane … :) And these Malaysian Airlines people know how to make you feel all warm and fuzzy …..Now don’t get me wrong … It might just have been the pilot for the day who was sooo eloquent… the reason being …..
As we were descending to Kualalampur , the pilot informs … “Ladies and Gentlemen … its sunrise over beautiful Malaysia … If you are visiting us then we welcome to our country …..and if you are Malaysian … THEN WELCOME HOME !!!! “….(I had tears in my eyes when I heard that) … I cant imagine the times when I have returned back to my homeland and nobody has bother telling us that … Nice touch don’t you think ??
Good Morning malaysia

Good Morning malaysia

:)

Beautiful airport …. We caught our transportation and were swiftly driven towards KL … (Trivia: .. The airport is 60 kilometers away from the city ) …

Now for everyone who pictures Malaysia in their head… KL in particular … All that comes to the mind are the Patronas Towers …. And yes … it dominates the city skyline …. But does not mean you get to see it from everyplace in KL…But we got a room with one of the most beautiful views of the Patronas Towers and the Minara ….. wowieeeeee!!!
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Now the fun part of my trip lasted 4 days …so will bifurcate it the same way …since I got see a bit of Malaysia in those 4 days …

Day 1:
First Stop: FOOD ….and we decided CHINATOWN was the destination to start off …. We did something very local … we hopped onto a bus … bought tickets for 1Malaysian Ringgit (RM) and got dropped at Chinatown …. Our stomach’s were collectively shouting their displeasure ….so we decided to pay heed and put their complaints to rest…. AND HOW ….
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Note to self - Always choose food on sticks …. Now they come at varying prices … The duck was 2.5RM … Chicken 2RM … OCTOPUS … 5RM… its served both barbequed or steamed… We chose Barbequed …. We loved it and went back for another round of food on toothpick (as I conveniently chose to call it ) ….Tried Claypot Rice … and I could have gone to heaven that instant ….. Love love loved it ….

And that the stomach was put to rest … WE KICKED OFF THE NEXT IMPORTANT ACTIVITY "SHOPPING"….. First stop …so BAGS …. Now I’ve seen imitation wallets, bags, satchels in Thailand …. But the quality of stuff in Malaysia is far superior…
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Found the coolest hoard of T-shirts ever n including stores that sell vintage T-shirts … Cash is the only accepted mode of payment and HAGGLING is the only way the game can be played …:D.... So guess what ..... We haggled our collective hearts out ..... imitation designer shoes, watches, bags, jewellery, belts and trendy clothes ….. Oh sooo much to buy and sooo little money ….. :(

DAY 2: GOOD FRIDAY …

Destination : GENTING HIGHLANDS ….
Its about an hour and a half drive from Kuala Lampur … The change in terrain, climate and skyline is drastic ….. The place is fabulous :)…. You can reach the place either of 2 ways … Cable Cars or by Winding Roads … We went up by Cable Cars … It was sooo cool to see mist covered hills and we were so high … truly breathtaking ….
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We stayed at the World’s Largest Hotel …First World… 6118 rooms … The waiting area has more than 50 counters to help you check in … But Be Warned … This is a tedious part for it takes anywhere between 2 to 4 hours to get you checked in … Which is why there is live entertainment at the waiting area … Clowns … Street dancers etc ….

The rooms are not impressive…. They are way too small… They do not even offer complimentary WATER !!! … We anyways dumped all of our stuff and ran to explore … The 8th floor of the hotel connects to the mall … and what a mall it is … Toy Trains, Shopping mall , Karaoke Bars , Ripleys Believe it or not museum , Haunted houses …everything packed into the mall … :D
AND BEFORE I MISS IT OUT ….. CASINOS TOO … The guys wanted to hit the slots immediately, but we girls went shopping 
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We went back, left our loot in the room and went to the Ripleys Museum… 2 of the MOST interesting hours I have ever spent ….EVER!!!

I am chicken … I get easily spooked… No appetite for anything scary … So it was no surprise that I HATED the haunted house experience … burst into tears half way through …. Yaaayaaaaa everyone had a good laugh :(

Next stop : CASINOS.
It was the first time I ever entered a casino …. I think I finally understand the draw that gambling holds…. At the Roulette table I put in a 100RM… Made 180 and then lost it all …:( (I know I didn't take a sky high risk…but even with that limited exposure I saw how reckless one can become)… One of my colleagues gambled more that 1200RM away …. We decided to try the casinos at the other hotel …We had to take a shuttle to that hotel that runs every half hour between the hotels ..

Went back to our rooms real late in the night..by 2PM … The food scene in Genting is bad … We talked the night away drinking and making merry … (Trivia : Alcohol is extremely expensive in Malaysia .. A 650ml bottle of Carlsberg costs 20RM.. almost 3 times its original price, so we bought alcohol at duty free shops and kept it with us through the duration of the trip…. )

Anyways … we were sooo engrossed in having a ball of a time we realized that it was 6:15 AM… we decided to go down for breakfast ….
AND THE SIGHT WE SAW WAS SOMETHING THAT TOOK OUR BREATH AWAY
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DAY 3: (didn't even realize the transition between days)
Theme Park in the facility
I've been to Disney so I'll not compare. But its quite nice.

We had our van waiting …. We drove back to KL … Almost felt like we were KL natives who had gone to Genting on vacation ….. already felt like KL was growing on us ….

We got back to KL and had the most lovely Indian dinner at the Grand Seasons …. There’s a lovely Indian restaurant at the hotel …. and by this time we were dying to shop …. So we went shopping … Chinatown again …. Came back to the hotel and as usual spent the evening huddled in one room …
Day 4:

EASTER ….. We knew we had to go see the Patronas Towers atleast on this day …
But first we had to do one last bit of shopping ….. Anna our lovely Malaysian friend took us to the Central Mall and we girls shopped to our hearts content … brooches, clips, chinese fans…. Ooh soo much lovely stuff…. :D ... This market has been in existence since 1888 ...

We then met the guys (who were raving mad with hunger by this time), the always resourceful women(ahem which includes me) found a 7/11 store and prepared cup noodles for everyone …which we ate sitting at a roadside stall …. The reason being that Chinatown closes by 3PM on Sundays and we didn't have a clue about that…. Our transport arrived and we went to the Minara Tower which has the observation deck built to see the Patronas towers … the observation deck is at a height of 286 meters….

WHAT A VIEW ….. this is truly a beautiful city ….
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But we never did one thing that we all had wanted to do …. Take pictures in front of the Patronas Towers … With only 5 hours left to take-off, we had to leave for the airport …

I’ve been a life long fan of graffiti …. So when Abhay saw a wall full of graffiti at an open car park we stopped the van and jumped out to make pictures ….. and guess what we saw to our left as we were sprinting towards the graffiti filled wall …………………………………………….

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THE PATRONAS TOWERS …….. It was a coincidence like no other .... So we did get to take pictures in front of the Towers ...

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was elated....

Then we did take pictures with the grafitti walls ..... What fun ... everyone was captured in various stages of flight.

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Finally we set out again …. It started to rain …. We got to the airport …… and started …..WHAT ELSE …. Shopping at the HARRODS duty free shop … :D

We were toooo excited even after we boarded …. Marell and me watched a movie …..while the boys down 5 whiskeys each …. We spent the remaining flight walking to each others seats and having an unusually mad time …….. Will never forget A reminding J to check if the parachute was where it was supposed to be ….. and repeating the Oxygen mask instructions to him…… Oh what fun it was ….. :D

We landed in India ….. and I held my breath when the captian started announcing the descent ... AND NO …….. Our pilot never said anything remotely sounding like “Welcome Home” :(

Till I get another stamping on my passport … C ya :)

Posted by Ceej 20.04.2012 07:24 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Shopped till i dropped

...... THAILAND

sunny 30 °C

First and foremost i was shocked to see how infrastructurally sound Thailand is as soon as i landed at the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok ...
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I just fell in love with the various coloured taxis which in a way have become a hallmark in Thailand ... No one who has ever visited this country seems to miss this very unique sight on the road ...
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Time and again i've been told by enough number of people that i am an idiot to have missed the Chatuchak Weekend Market ... especially when i was in Bangkok over the weekend .....

But i did make up for it at the various Night Bazaar's ..... Personally i am not someone who is terribly fond of the sun .... so shopping at nights when the temperature is not soaring suited me best .... :)

Suan Lum Night Bazaar in Bangkok : I found clean, well-light shops that are laid out in strips, which covered the sidewalks. All the old favorites are here: Lovely dresses, silk scarves, T-shirts, pillow cases, toys, silver jewelry and colored gems.

There are also packaging services and bigger and more fragile products (as i discovered) , such as ceramics, furniture, carvings, and lamps (dont forget to take some home ... THEY ARE GORGEOUS ). Just because items in Suan Lum are more likely to be tagged doesn't mean that's the last price:There are fabulous imitations of high-end brands available ... You might just strike an unbelievable bargain if you buy 2 things instead of one ....especiallly on products such as Watches - sunglasses and bags .....
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There was this place that sells music too. The shops sells these awesome covers of mainstream songs all the way to jazz/acoustics.. :)

As in all open markets, try to bargain. I know they dont speak English , but they all have calculators with which they convey the price .... In Bahts ... Thai currency ...

Walk around the market before deciding to make a purchase, because you might get a better price at another shop. (Disclaimer: unless u are terribly good with directions you might just end up not finding the first shop you visited ...as what happened in my case ) .... :( :(

I guaranteeone thing " You will end up buying interesting things that you had not expected to buy before!!! " :)

I went there on a Friday night , and it was open till 3 AM .... i visited again on a Monday ... realized that the place is more active on Weekends ... it closed before 12 ....

On our way back...our cab driver said something about the Suan Lum Night Bazaar being closed permanently so that the government can build some fancy hotel there :( .... personally i hope not .... I loved being here ...

Panthip Plaza : If you are looking for anything electronic ... GO HERE!!!

Happy Shopping !!!! :)

Till next time
Sowmya CJ

Posted by Ceej 22.03.2011 21:42 Archived in Thailand Tagged shopping Comments (0)

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