Thursday, 31 January 2013

jeudi de paris

2012 had been an incredibly memorable year for us;  leaving Malaysia was a big step.  The trip around the world will of course always mark the year.  2013 though, has its own promises.  So we started off the year with old, and new,  friends and lots of cheer.  And lots of style.  Gangnam style... (I decided to leave out the photos of JB and Richard doing the gangnam style so that you can keep the image you have of them being all suave and cool).

Parisians don't know when it first started.  A pair of lovestruck tourists decided to leave a padlock on the metal railing of one of the many bridges across the Seine River, and threw the keys in the water.  A symbol of their everlasting love.  Apparently one night a few years ago, an irked Parisian perhaps, cut through the wires and removed all the locks.  But they reappeared like mushrooms, in all shapes and colours.  Some kiasu ones even use big bicycle locks.

15 minutes from where we live is the Jardin de Plantes.  Founded in the 1600s, the grounds includes four galleries: the Grande Galerie d'Evolution, the Mineralogy Museum, the Paleontology Museum and the Entomology Museum.  There is also a small zoo and a botanical school.  The girls and I spent a whole day there before they went back to school after the Christmas break.  We needed a distraction as we were all missing our friends who left after what was really a magical Christmas together. There was a special exhibition on dinosaurs at the Grande Galerie d'Evolution and the girls took part in an archaelogical workshop, excavating fossils.  You could visit the museums just for the architecture.
January babies have to contend with post-festive blues since everyone is still suffering from the new year's eve hangover and foie gras overdose.   So for JB, cake and tea (and red eggs of course) was all I could manage.  I admit I didn't even make the cake. In France, the galette de rois is traditionally eaten on the Epiphany (though its now available throughout January).  Made with puff pastry and frangipane, the cake has a feve (ceramic trinket) hidden in it.  The youngest family member goes under the table to randomly designate the pieces of cake.  The lucky person who gets the trinket is king/queen for the day and wears the crown that is sold with the cake.  He/she then chooses his/her queen/king.  
We've eaten the galette de rois so many times this year; everyone has had a chance to be king/queen.  We're a right royal family now. 

Friday, 25 January 2013

jeudi de paris on friday evening

Yes, I'm a bit late (so what else is new?) since I guess you all know by now that Jeudi in French is Thursday... We've all been down with the flu.  I'm the last man, well woman, down.  

Christmas seems like such a long time ago, although we only just took down the tree over the weekend.  It was our first Christmas in France, and although it wasn't a white Christmas, it was still magical.  Our good friends visiting made it even more so! The city hall organises free merry go rounds all over the city during the festive season.  Everyone, and I mean everyone (see bottom right photo) gets a chance to ride the merry go rounds.  Ice skating rinks, shop windows (especially in the grand magasins) and decorated streets add to the mood.  

Here are the girls with their soul sister, Akhila.  We made some soh ee for the winter solstice.  The girls used to do that with their grandma and I never knew how to make the dough.  I got the recipe from my mum over FaceTime, and the girls rolled away. 
They've have had years of practice with their grandma!
We went up the Eiffel Tower (a thing you only do with visiting friends, a bit like Batu Caves) and here is the view at 6 in the evening.  You can see the Sacre Coeur Basillica at Montmarte in the distance.

Letters to Santa were sent in time, he delivered, devoured the cookies under the tree, and left us to enjoy the looks on the children's faces on Christmas morning.  Notice shoes under the presents?  Its a French tradition - you leave your shoes under the tree and Santa places your presents over them so you know which presents are yours.  I guess Santa's not big on labelling, he just knows which presents are for whom (who/whom?).
Christmas day lunch was hosted by my sister-in-law Clotilde in her charming four-storey house.  The subject of much discussion at the meal was the wine and the cheese.  Which is a typically French thing to do at the table.
It always take visitors to make you explore your city.  And we sure packed in a busy programme with our visitors.  On the ferris wheel at Place de la Concorde, we took in amazing views of the city.  Shopping stints at the Marais and then for some culture, guided visits to the Opera Garnier and a night out at a flamenco ballet for the adults.

Blending in with the locals.  Not.
Of course, no visit to France is complete without a visit to Chateau Versailles.  Every other tourist must have thought the same that day because they were all there. Note to future visitors to France:  if you have a friend with a fancy house a la Chateau Versailles in the suburbs of KL (which are plenty), arrange a photo shoot there and we can be forgiven to believe its the real thing.  Essentials: crystal candelabras, lush carpets and tapestries, lots of gold and marble and there you have it - voila

Thursday, 17 January 2013

jeudi de paris

December was a busy month, as it usually is for I hope you'll excuse me for not having been around much.

One very chilly Sunday we went to lunch at Adeline and Benjamin's (the chocolate marquise maestro cousin of JB's  who makes the utterly decadent traditional dessert in August for the yearly family gathering) house in Normandy (phew... that was a mouthful).  The Christmas decorations were already up, and Adeline made the yummiest chocolate yule log (watch out Benjamin - this is a serious contender for the chocolate marquise) to usher in the season, leaving the final decorative touches to the kids.  Her two gorgeous boys were quite happy to have two big sisters pandering to them.  I suspect Tea has asked Santa for a little brother but it won't hurt her to learn that in life you don't always get what you ask for.  Tough.

Half timbered houses and thatched roofs can still be seen in Normandy today.  A bit like atap, but thicker and more 'manicured'.
Its not everyday that I get to sit in on the girls' ballet class.  In fact, only once a year, in the generous (and tolerant) spirit of Christmas, the dance teacher welcomes parents to sit in and watch the class in progress.  Every child does her parents proud, and though we grudgingly admit they may not take centre state at the Opera Garnier one day as prima ballerina assoluta, we can't help but beam and take endless photos.  Well, I sure did.
I discovered equestrian theatre when we went to watch a performance by the Academy of Equestrian Arts at the royal stables of Versailles.  Combining the art of dressage, song, artistic fencing, Kyudo (Japanese archery) and dance, it really is one of a kind.  Unfortunately we were not allowed to take any photos, but the link to the academy gives a little indication of this spectacular art.  Thanks Clo (my sister in law) for having organised this!
Another treat for the girls in early December was the Salon du Cheval (Horse Exhibition).  I've been to a few exhibitions and trade fairs before but none as huge as this one.  There were all sorts of shows in different wings of the massive exhibition halls, and it was almost a miracle we left without having bought a horse or two (how can you not know by now that the girls are a bit horse crazy)!
We had a cold spell in December and woke up to a morning of powdered roof tops.  The girls were disappointed there was not enough snow for a snowman.  
Ice-skating rinks were constructed around the city and since we were expecting guests over Christmas, this was on the itinerary and we planned to enjoy the city sights and what it had to offer over the holiday period (I will post soon on these if Adeline will kindly give me permission to use photos of her ice skating, or trying to...).
December is also baking time.  I would like for the girls to focus less on their Christmas wish list and show a little appreciation for others.  Its become a bit of a yearly tradition to make cookies and some simple cards for teachers and friends.  I know its a really small gesture but at least its a start.
After all the hustle and bustle of December, am now trying to get back to a normal, sane rhythm.  I have lots of photos to go through and show you what we were up to with our Christmas guests...but first, have to go and get that weighing scale repaired.  It can't be right!  Or can it?