Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A visit to Paris

It's now no longer a secret, and as some of you so psychically guessed (O-K guess it right to the place we're staying at, scary!) our family is currently enjoying a long overdue honeymoon in Paris. How we're so abruptly here in Paris is a long story, but to cut it short this was a holiday I originally booked for celebrating Eid in Malaysia. That explains why our holiday is strangely in the fasting month of Ramadhan. Instead of doing nothing in my already booked (and therefore set in stone) annual leave, we decided to make the most of it.

Please bear in mind that there are so many things to talk about about our journey that it would take volumes and volumes of entries, enough to even make DITH fold away her parasol and satisfy her reading hunger for months. Also, I took literally thousands of photos enough to tire even Ikelah's eyes.

I'll try and save you guys the time, and instead post what I unfortunately and arguably call the best of my photo collection:

No journey to Paris is complete without a photo of the Eiffel Tower, don't you think? I took this photo while on the night boat tour on the river Seine, it was around 10 pm. Sarah and Amar were long past their bedtime and before reaching this point we had to walk for miles in total confusion. Despite asking tens of people - no locals we asked had the tiniest clue how to take the boat tour!!? Later we found out that it was at Point Neuf. After waiting a 30 mins, we managed to board our boat and sat right at the roof. Paris lights up beautifully at night, but as you all know, night photography is extremely difficult - especially on a moving boat, with no tripod.

DITH et al, you guys may want to move on to the next photo/paragraph now: I am particularly proud of this photo as against all odds it turned out relatively sharp. And by "all odds" I meant a pitch black night, wind, a clingy 3 year old child, on a moving boat and without a tripod. The secret was I bumped the ISO to a whopping 1600 (for the fastest speed possible) and took tonnes of the same photo. I read on that camera shake is a random event, and the less probability there is to take a sharp photo the more you have to take so that odds are there'll be at least one that is sharp.

This photo was taken on the boat during the tour as the boat was passing one of the many bridges along the river Seine. I discovered that the best time to photograph the family was while the boat is passing a bridge as the people are wonderfully illuminated. As you could see from the photo, Amar is already asleep while the rest of us were trying hard to admire the scenery.

Was the tour worth getting lost late in the evening, with two sleepy little ones on a cold night and resulting in hundreds of mostly blurry night pictures? To me the answer is: No! However, the boat tour is arguably best experienced at night, when all the buildings light up.

This is a picture of Notre Dame, you know, the one with the Hunchback. This was one of the sights Puan Mama Sarah totally INSIST we see, and what a marvel of architecture this building is. It is one of the many absolutely wonderful places to visit as one travels along the river Sienne.

For those of you who don't know, along the river Seine lies many of the attractions of Paris including the Eiffel Tower, the Invalides, Palace, The Muse de Louvre, Muse de Orley, and Notre Dame - to name but a few.

Crazy as I was (emphasis on "I"), I traversed most of the length of the river - starting from Notre Dame ALL THE WAY to the Eiffel Tower. I started at 11am, and finished an inch from death at 7pm. Was it worth it?

It was worth every step. All the attractions and scenery is so beautiful that at least that night I slept with a smile knowing I've seen most of them.

Above are some of the detailed and beautiful statues near the Invalides and palace. The Invalides is where they have Napoleon's grave/coffin. From the Invalides one could already see the Eiffel Tower looming in the background, and I was foolish enough to think "oh, then the tower must be near". Several hours later by foot, I realised my mistake.

One of the many parks in Paris. I love this picture for it's autumn overview. Notice as well the cafe hidden by the foliage in the background. Paris is littered with Cafes such as these and throughout the day many people could be seen in these outside cafes, enjoying a cup of coffee with a friend while watching life goes by ... how I wish I could do the same with Puan Mama Sarah ... any volunteers to look after our kids?

Sarah was such a trooper. It surprised me how this girl who only recently graced the age of three managed to walk the distance she has covered the past few days. I totally feel sorry for her, and I know she must be shattered. One sad scene was on the train back to our hotel and the train was absolutely packed with people that Sarah and I had to stand. Sarah fell asleep while standing! ... and she became more or less unrousable for the next 4 hours. Thank goodness when she fell asleep we were only 1 stop away from the hotel.

We were sure to reward Sarah with plenty of sweeties and icecream. And speaking of icecream, the icecream and sorbet we have tasted so far in this country is the ABSOLUTE BEST I HAVE EVER TASTED, ever! EVER! Prior to this I have only heard that you could get delicious icecreams in Paris. It is not until I've tasted one that I truly know what "delicious" actually means.

Seriously though, the extremely creamy texture and the explosion of flavour is just absolute bliss.

(urm, but please note that the best icecream I have tasted before is probably only Haagen Dasz)

Sarah, overlooking the river Seine. This is on the bridge extending across just outside of Muse de Orsey. Going along the river Seine reminds us so much of Cambridge for the numerous bridges that (for lack of a better word:) straddles the river. All of the bridges are of a unique design, enough to make a bridge-spotter like me truly very happy indeed.

What I hate though (and this extends to all of Paris we've seen so far) is the UTTER LACK of push-chair-friendliness. Ramps and lifts are rare and difficult to find, and poor us had a miserable time carrying the kids as well as the blimming chair down hundreds of steps!

This is one of the Bateux Mouches or simply "boat" in English (I think). It is on one of these did we "enjoy" our night tour. It only moves at around 20 miles per hour (don't ask me to convert that to knots or parsecs, please) but fast enough for us to admire the landscape. Tours run every hour or so until around 11pm. It costed us 10 euros for each adult, but the children went free :)

This is one of the Metro lines or "underground" as they call it in the U.K. The system is almost 100% the same, with the same slightly confusing map. One of the differences though, is that some the trains are double-decker. Cool!! I love the above picture for the curved, sweeping lines :)

This picture is of us waiting for a Metro train to arrive. It was quite difficult with two little ones, and as I have mentioned before, escalators, lifts or ramps are difficult to find making transporting the little ones quite a nightmare. However, the trains are very frequent and always, we barely had to wait 4 minutes before one arrived. The underground .. whoops ... Metro system is also relatively easily understandable and we had it figured out within only a couple of minutes.

I included the above picture just to show you guys how a French train looks so different from a UK train.

Now to a topic I love: food. Simply put, the desserts in Paris - the Creme Broullet, the Profiteroles, the sorbets, the ice creams, the crepes, the tarts and all other patisseries are some of the best I have ever tasted in my life ... ever so far. I am not exaggerating.

Puan Mama Sarah enjoying her Creme Brulee.

As an example of how delicious the desserts are take the above fruit tart. Despite feeling absolutely chock-full after dinner, I finished the whole tart after just wanting to try "one taste".

Well, I'm sorry for not including enough relevant pictures but to do so would mean flogging my blog with hundreds of pictures. I also hope that I've written enough for DITH to read. So far, our adventures are not yet over, we have one day left before we head home and boy do we have things planned tomorrow :)

See you guys soon! That is, if I survive the coffee overdose. I am currently indulging myself with all sorts of coffee and hot chocolate in all of the different cafes. And Moby, the coffee here is even better than our favourite "non-specific" coffee-bucks. Err, some types that is. Still nothing beats a frapucc-non-specific-iced-coffee or a macchiato in my opinion.


pycnogenol said...

Whether you're strolling along the Seine or soaking up city life from a sidewalk café, you'll see why Paris is synonymous with the word style.
From culinary delights to cultural sights, haute couture to heady romance, Paris will tempt every one of your senses.

But everything is so expensive there, dont you think so, Mynn??
Send me a ticket to Paris and I promise to take care of Amar and Sarah. ;)

dith said...

Wow! A slow boat ride along the river Sienne at night! Must be beautiful, I imagine. The way you related how you walked miles in confusion even after asking the locals, reminds me of a scene in Amazing Race, :p

And traversing the whole length of Sienne from Notre Dame to Eiffel, simply alluring , eh! (psst, zohor, asar atas boat ke?)

You have enticingly described the ice-cream and pastries in Paris in the superlative sense. I must take your word for it and perhaps try it when I get there (whenever that is!)

In all, you've made Paris as an interesting city to visit but you'd chose to live in good ol, sedate and barmy UK anytime eh?

arep said... nya diorang kat Paris ni..hehe tak penah sampai lagi pon Paris but am going to turkey soon!!

moby said...

Wah! You're making moi more envious, man! :D

I've been meaning to go to this Viennese coffee place here in Singapore (maybe when Ramadhan is over) to try out their speciality coffees. Speaking of Vienna, that'll be another scenic place for you to bring the family, no? Land of coffee and Mozart .... dekat kan? Just a jump, hop and skip away from Coventry? Well maybe a big, big jump!

Your description of the Eiffel Tower night shot made me go "Wah, makin terror si Mynn ni". When I first saw the photo I thought you were stationary. Didn't realise you were on a boat when you took the pic. :D

Rosli Othman said...

cant wait to see disneyland pix! the tower and metro platform pix are my fav muh. mana gamba low angle depan tower muh? gamba wajib tu! :) anyway..enjoy paris.

ikelah said...

nice pics... great tower considering 'you are moving steadily' not jerking.

the pic that really catch my eye is sarah with the biscuit and i wish her eyes could have been sharper.

as for the 3 of them on the boat passing under the bridge, pms was a bit tense. sarah posed well. if pms just bent a bit with a loving lookk at Amar, it would be totally different picture.

if you like taking pictures at night, a fast lenses will do wonders. <--- yang cakap ni pun tak de sekarang ni(dulu with my sony 717(stolen) equipped with F2.0 carl zeiss and some laser aided sfocussing, memang mengancam).

wise decision to snap plenty on a favourite subject. i did that too even in adequate light with different aperture openings. as i told you, i shoot and save in RAW. a slightly under exposed images can easily be corrected a few stops without causing a drop in image quality.

richard boone in "have gun will travel" was armed with a 6 shooter derringr. as for a photographer, you have 2GB canon with hundreds of shots.... travel and just simply shoot at anything you think is interesting without hesitation.

at low light and moreover when one is in a compromised position, just go for the highest ISO as you did, fastest speed that can get with the widest aperture and exposure compensation to darken image(if not full manual). this wil minimize the so called 'shake'. another method to reduce vibration/shake is to take beta blockers but it is not encouraged. ;)

good luck.

raggedyanne said...

*anne cannot leave a comment because she has lost her voice & her mouth is agape*

ann said...

paris metro memang not baby friendly ... nasib baik cantik and we preferred walking and pushing the stroller instead of lugging it over our shoulder naik turun tangga. tangga pun beribu-ribu. escalator pulak takda in some places.

Naja said...

Syoknya tgk gambar2 tu. Mase i pergi dulu takde digital camera (tak mampu) jd walaupun ambik banyak gambar tp tak cantik macam gambar u all ni. I love the boat ride at night cause I pergi waktu summer so mmg sgt best.

Alamak nak jadi translator (referring to your comment in previous entry), dah berkarat sangat la french i ni. Tapi kalau nak suruh i ajar swear dlm french, boleh aje HAHAHAHA (bende yang tak elok mmg senang ye nak ingat??)Ish,ish,ish

Naja said...

Lupe pulak, I'm also craving for that "non-specific" frapuccino, banana caramel frapuccino to be exact..Bestnya coffee.

dyanna said...

Whoa Nelly! Jalan-jalan cari makan rupanya you all ni.

From one of your pictures, I can understand clearly what you meant by:
"...while the rest of us were trying hard to admire the scenery." :)
It must've been tough trying to go around during the fasting month..

W/apapun, I always have this idea in mind (or actually have it PERMANENTLY SET in my mind) that a trip will only be perfect/complete when you have brought along with you a 'camera yang best'... and it seems quite true..

mynn said...

sorry all that we havent had that much time to reply all your comments but now that we are better rested (all of us spent much of today sleeping!) we all have the energy to at least use the keyboard :)

it's absolutely true that having an excellent camera is crucial in travels - definitely. however, do remember that an slr is very heavy, especially compared to a point-and-shoot. add a tripod, flash unit and multiple lenses and you'll feel like a heavy tank. so i heartily suggest bringing a point-and-shoot together with your slr for various situations (ESPECIALLY if you have little kids). oh by the way dyanna, once you get an SLR i bet you'll fall in love with the world of SLR and it'd be difficult to go back to a P-and-S *wink*

taking lots of pictures during travelling is crucial in my opinion, as it makes the journey worth it - infact, many of the places i visited was just so that I could take pictures. hehehe, later i'll have to learn the french swear words from you ...

about the coffee in paris, i think i take it back, the coffee there IS better than our "non-specific" coffee shop, except a frapuccino. I wish i had more time to lepak2 in the cafes in paris, but due to the limited eating window i didn't manage to enjoy coffee as much as i really wanted to. right now, i'm starting to miss the coffee and pastries already :(

oh, welcome:) once you get used to the user-friendliness in the UK you'll be spoilt, seriously. over here, i think, everything is well sign posted, there are ramps and lifts everywhere and the public transport is just excellent. visiting a different country just made us realise how nice everything already is in this country.

raggedy anne
if you're fasting, make sure to close that mouth soon you know just in case a fly flies in...

as always, thanks for the photo tips:) about the picture of sarah and the icecream, i definitely set the AF directly pointing at Sarah's eyes when i took that picture but as i have found til today i more often than not fail to take sharp pictures! hmm... probably my caffeine-induced-jittery hands :p ... i keep reading how to take sharp pictures but so far there's something i'm missing...

(ps - don't you think im much more comfortable with the canon now? pps - regarding fast lenses, i'm eyeing the Canon 24-105 F4.0 L USM Image Stabilising, which is one SWEET lens. It costs only around £700 here, berapa kat malaysia?)

re: pic of the eiffel tower, macam2 angle ada but i thought the one taken at night had the most impact:) the days in Paris were relatively dull, and wrong timing, so the buildings didnt really pop out in our pictures. i'll post up more pictures insya allah soon:)

no need to be envious moby. (trust me, we're not in an enviable position especially travelling with 2 small kids - it was a test of stamina, endurance, patience and humility). also, we're travelling so much right now because we know once we get back to malaysia permanently maybe it'd be MUCH more difficult for us to achieve this feat.

can't wait to see your pictures in Turkey! Are you going for raya? apa plans raya ni?

it's less an Amazing Race and more a Confusing Crawl being in a country where (surprisingly) not that many people understand that much english and as you said dith, however nice Paris was, we were SO glad to be back amongst english speaking people and road signs that we could understand! re: prayers, my family in malaysia travels so much and since a very young age I've been familiar with the special musafir rules for prayers. also, being in a foreign country as KKL, O-K and Nnydd may tell you - most of us are used to praying anywhere and everywhere we could - parks, stations, lockers, hidden rooms, quiet rooms and as the jumaa video portrayed; cupboards (store rooms). right guys?

as you said pycno, everything and everyone in paris is just so stylish and chic (and man, some of the women are pretty!). it was quite expensive pycno however, i think London is MUCH more expensive in my opinion.

err ... you mentioned romance, pycno? hehehe

overall, i'm happy to be home now, and alhamdulillah despite many people warning us of pick-pockets so far that we could tell nothing has been lost, and we're safe and sound from the journey.

insya allah more pictures to come.

eid mubarak everyone :)

mynn said...

1. i used "only"to describe the price of the 24-105mm F4 IS USM lens because I was expecting such a lens to cost in the thousands :) but 700 pounds is bordering on affordable - beli rosli & arep!

2. here's a game guys: try and guess how many pictures we've all taken in paris before i reveal the answer in my next post:)

moby said...

OK, I'll make a guess ... errr ... 1,879 pictures?