Tuesday, October 19, 2010

our best meal so far

susie and i are now in santander, in northern spain. we arrived by train this afternoon and spent a good part of the day walking by the sardinero, one of the popular beaches here.

lunchtime had passed us by, and we were desperate to sit down and have a bite. most establishments in santander close after lunch and don't open until 5 or 6, so it was tough finding a place to eat in.

we chanced upon dias desur, and soon found that it was a blessing. the waiter was cheerful and pleasant, and the food fantastic.

sus and i each had a plate of this, their fish of the day. it's lubina cooked on a grill, served with vegetables and fried potatoes. maravilloso.

it was not a cheap meal at 12,50 euros, but it came with a primer plato, a drink, and dessert. you'd be hard-pressed to find such a deal in other european cities (save for cities in spain).

Monday, October 11, 2010

lunch at colette

so there we were, exhausted and dying of starvation after the louvre experience. luckily, i had looked up colette, and found that it was close by, on rue saint honore.

colette is a shop that sells beautiful things. :) it also has a cafe, so when we arrived, all we could think about was food, so we made a beeline for the cafe downstairs and had this:

fancy heineken.
could have given us a plain ol' bottle, but that wouldn't be very colette.

oh, and of course, this:

risotto in paris.
a delicious, creamy risotto with an equally delicious salad

and that's why we left colette with big smiles on our faces.

taking on the louvre

visiting the louvre is a must, and is probably on every traveler's list. while i certainly did not want to pass up the opportunity to see a fraction of the 35,000 things in its collection, i have to admit that i actually was not completely looking forward to my visit.

for one thing, the musee du louvre is HUGE. it occupies over 60,000 square meters of space. because of this, i took the advice of the well-traveled and told myself that i should not even attempt to take in all the masterpieces in its walls. another thing was that i have read very little about this museum (being too caught up with the orsay), so i didn't know what to expect, or who to expect (save for the mona lisa and venus de milo).

no line had formed yet when we arrived by metro. as it turns out, there's an exit in the metro that takes you to the carrousel du louvre, a shopping space under the museum's famous pyramid. here, another entrance to the museum can be found, with much less people than by the main entrance.

since the museum was not opening its doors until 10am (that's later than usual because there was an event they had to take care of), susie and i decided to explore the area right outside the museum. we ended up walking to the jardin de tuileries, where we were able to sit by the fountain and watch the other people in the park. the weather, however, decided to turn chilly, so we headed back to the carrousel du louvre entrance.

under the pyramids.
another entrance to the museum by the carrousel du louvre

i was shocked to find that an incredibly long line had already materialized in the few minutes that we were gone. so we quickly fell in line, and after a few minutes, the "gates" opened. this line was just to enter the cour carrée, a square that contains information booths, ticket booths, and the cloak room. good thing we already had our museum pass, so we didn't need to line up again for tickets. we decided to pass on the audio guides, so we just got a map of the museum, and dove headfirst into the throng of masterpieces.

we saw venus de milo, ramses II, winged victory. then came the paintings. i saw the card sharper by georges de la tour, a self-portrait of albrecht durer, une odalisque (la grande odalisque) by jean-auguste-dominique ingres, who became an instant favorite. my head was starting to spin with all the colors, the figures, the symbols. i may sound like an ingrate to you, but i didn't want any of these paintings to be forgotten, to be erased in my head. they were all beautiful, all important, and i wanted to allot precious brain GBs in my head for them. but thank god photography was allowed, and i can look at them so i can keep remembering.

in the middle of our visit, an alarm started to go off. "haha, somebody must have touched a painting or something," susie said. then the alarm was followed by an announcement in french, spanish, and then english, of which we only caught "please leave the premises immediately." i looked around and saw that nobody was following these instructions, so i thought i should do the same. susie insisted we go out and see what happened, since there were terror threats at the time.

i was very resistant and reluctant to do that, because we had come so far into the museum, and i really didn't want to go back to the cour carrée, then pick up where we left off if things were fine. it's idiotic, i know, but that's how enormous this museum was. i was tired and hungry, and i wanted to just cover the other things we wanted to see and leave. but susie kept insisting, and it was the logical and safe thing to do, so we looked for the exit.

where can i get a massage around here?

when we finally reached the exit, the museum guards were just hanging out and talking like nothing happened, while the alarm was still going off inside. we asked them what the matter was. the response? something along the lines of "oh, nothing. false alarm. if we want you out, we'll get you out." i counted to ten, and walked back into the labyrinth.

after that, all the other things in the museum became a blur. all i was after was to see the mona lisa. we had entered one of the galleries, and saw a line of people trying to muscle their way into another gallery. and that's when i knew that i was only seconds away from meeting her. my exhaustion melted, my hunger vanished. i went straight for the crowd and used the singit skills that i've acquired through years of taking the MRT. in no time, i was near the front, elbowing my way to a wall covered with glass, to protect the precious little frame inside it.

my right hand lowered the camera. all around me, people were scrambling to get the perfect photo, but i couldn't take a snapshot--i was just staring. some people told me that when they saw her, they said, "that's it?!" because she was so tiny. but the words in my heard were, "THIS. IS. IT." it sounds too dramatic, but i nearly cried. for a friggin' painting. but being face to face with something so important was so incredibly overwhelming that i froze. i managed to get ahold of myself, and eventually snapped a photo, but i think that moment will stay with me for a while.

the superstar of the louvre.
the crowd trying to get closer to la gioconda

before that moment, i was being so cranky, i was being an ungrateful bruha because the louvre was exhausting the hell out of me. but when i got to that moment, and looking back at what i've seen, i would do it again, but next time, i will slap myself silly if i ever feel like complaining. because the things you see in the louvre are worth all the effin' trouble. the expensive admission fee, the long wait in the even longer line, the crowds, the indecipherable french descriptions, the starvation--they all seem so inconsequential when you think about what you take away from the louvre.

more photos of my visit to the louvre here.

museum information
musee du louvre
address: 75001 paris, france
opening hours: 9am-6pm (monday, thursday, saturday, sunday), 9am-10pm (wednesday & friday), closed on tuesdays
admission fee: EUR 10
metro: palais royal-musee du louvre
buses: 21, 24, 27, 39, 48, 68, 69, 72, 81, 95, or the paris tourist bus
batobus: louvre stop

lighting up at the arc de triomphe

thanks to my friend des for lending me her glow sticks. :)
this is the start of my "lighting up europe" series. :)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

centre pompidou

jetlag got the better of us after our trip to the musee d'orsay, so we decided to go back to the hotel and rest. we woke up at about 6pm. the only sights we could visit then was the centre pompidou, paris's museum of modern art, and the arc de triomphe, as they both stay open until late.

we got off our asses and took the metro to rambuteau, and were awed when we were faced with the mighty structure of the centre georges pompidou. the entire building have 7 "superstructure" levels, and occupies a land area of 2 hectares. it's mostly made of steel and glass, which makes it look modern despite the fact that it's been around since february 1977. i was intimidated from the sight of it alone.

we were there an hour and a half before closing time, so we didn't get to see everything on display. we did get to check out elles@centrepompidou, which is an exhibition of and about different kinds of art pieces by women. my favorite part of the museum is the fifth level, where i got to see modern works by picasso, matisse, miro, modigliani, gris, among others. it was a pleasant surprise, as i wasn't able to do a lot of research for this particular museum.

aside from the artworks, the 6th level also gives you a darned good view of paris. there's a cafe and restaurant there, but we decided to have dinner somewhere else.

check out the things i saw at the centre pompidou.

museum information
centre pompidou
metro stops: rambuteau, hôtel de ville, châtelet
RER stop: Châtelet - Les Halles
bus: 21, 29, 38, 47, 58, 69, 70, 72, 74, 75, 76, 81, 85, 96
notes: closed on tuesdays and may 1st
admission: EUR 12, EUR 3 for panorama ticket (access to the panoramic view at 6th floor only, no entry to museums and exhibitions)

first paris museum stop: the musee d'orsay

after paying our respects to sartre and de beauvoir, we walked along boulevard raspail to the musee d'orsay. being a big fan of the impressionist movement, i just HAD to see it. in fact, the musee d'orsay was the main reason i included paris in our itinerary in the first place. i had been ready to abandon the louvre, but nobody would have been able to convince me to skip the orsay.

it took us 45 minutes to walk from our hotel to the orsay. along the way, we chanced upon a small street market selling fresh produce, as well as cheese, sandwiches, and quiches. we each bought a quiche and had that for breakfast while walking to the seine.

the museum is on the left bank of the seine; the louvre faces it from the right bank. the orsay's impressive collection is housed in the beaux-arts structure of what was known as gare d'orsay, an old rail station where trains to southwestern france would depart from. however, the gare d'orsay's short platforms could not conform to the longer trains that were starting to be used, so in 1939, it had to be closed. it then became a mailing center during the second world war. in 1977, the french government decided to turn it into a museum, and started conversion works that spanned six years (1980 to 1986). the museum opened in 1 december 1986, under the government of president francois mitterand.

when we reached the museum, there was a line snaking from its revolving doors. it didn't take long for it to move, though, and before long, we were by the ticket counters. susie and i had agreed earlier to get the two-day museum pass. it's EUR32 for two days, and gives you access to a number of museums and sights in the french capital. it also lets you skip the long lines at the ticket booths, which is the reason we went for it. in paris, you not only line up just to enter, but the line at the ticket booths can take up a lot of your time. if you're staying for four days or more, you can also avail of the four-day paris museum pass. this is actually a lot better than the two-day one, since you can spread out your museum visits in four days, and have time to see the rest of the city. before you do get one, though, make a list of the museums that you want to visit, tally the admission costs, and see if you can get your money's worth. the museum pass is available in the establishments that it grants free access to, as well as airports and tourist centers.

after paying for our tickets, we made our way to the gate that leads to the main hall. i paused by the entrance for a bit to take it all in. this is it, i told myself. i'm in the orsay. i'm in paris. there were plenty of people milling around, but it wasn't noisy at all. the museum was undergoing repairs, so there were new signs to lead visitors to the different halls. i look to my right and saw IMPRESSIONISM and POST-IMPRESSIONISM, and made a beeline for them, with susie trailing behind. here, i saw works by degas, manet, renoir, toulouse-lautrec, pissarro, and other greats.

i had to request for a break once we were done with the halls on the right side of the museum. it's surprising how walking from one gallery to another, and looking at paintings, can be tiring. luckily, there was a cafe at the ground level of the orsay, so susie and i bought drinks and shared a ham and cheese sandwich to tide us over. after that, we tackled the halls on the left side of the museum. here, i saw works by honore daumier (sadly, "rue transnonain," the only daumier work that i'm familiar with, is not in the orsay), and paul gauguin's tahiti paintings. there was also a sala dedicated to van gogh, where i saw "the church at auvers" and "le docteur paul gachet" both painted the year he died.

after that, i scoured the rest of the museum for edgar degas's "young dancer." we went upstairs and sped through the art nouveau furniture collection, but took our time with the rodin sculptures. when i couldn't find degas, i decided to go to the information counter to ask. there was a man asking for the specific locations of every painting he wanted to see. he asked for "bal du moulin de la galette" by renoir, another painting i was looking for, i strained to hear the response: "sorry, that painting is on loan." when it was my turn at the counter, i asked about "young dancer," and received the same reply.

i felt disappointed, since i wanted to go to paris to go to the orsay, and wanted to go to the orsay to see those two things. but of course, when i look back on the paintings that i saw that day, i can't really say that the trip was a disappointment. the orsay wasn't just about those two works. i got to see an amazing collection of artworks in one of my favorite periods in art history. i actually stood in front of a picture that renoir painted many, many years ago. it's not every day that i get to meet these images, and i am very, very thankful for the opportunity to see all these masterpieces. as for "moulin de la galette" and "young dancer," they shall be the next excuse for me to visit paris again.

view more photos of the musee d'orsay

more information
musee d'orsay
address: 62, rue de lille, 75343 paris
metro: solferino (line 12)
buses: 24, 63, 68, 69, 73, 83, 84, 94

paris museum pass
2 days for EUR 32
4 days for EUR 48
6 days for EUR 64

grave sightings in paris

on our first full day in paris, i decided to drag susie over to the montparnasse cemetery, which was a two-minute walk from our hotel. a lot of famous people are interred at various cemeteries all over paris, and montparnasse's most famous residents may probably be the people i went to see that day: the philosopher jean paul sartre and his lover, simone de beauvoir.

it was a nice sunny day in paris. the place was quiet, but not grim. right by the gate is a map that shows you the way to the graves of the cemetery's memorable residents. among them are writer samuel beckett, sculptor constantin brancusi, andré citroën (of the automobile brand), gustave coriolis (of the coriolis effect), the artist henri latour, author guy de maupassant (whose story, "the necklace," i read in high school), historian edgar quinet, and writer susan sontag.

sartre and de beauvoir's graves were just a few steps from the gate. from the map, all we needed to do was turn around and take a couple of steps, and there they were. the stone was adorned with kisses, the gravestone was also laden with gifts, such as a small, golden replica of the eiffel, plenty of roses, and even a lighter.

after that, susie and i walked around for a little bit, not looking for anyone in particular, but just looking at the stones and the graves, checking how long some had been staying there. we were pretty impressed at the variety and artistry in the tombstones. art in paris definitely permeates even its cemeteries.

some people would have said that starting the day by seeing the dead is a sad way to start any day, but i beg to differ. visiting one of the most influential personalities the world has ever known is one of the best ways to start any day for me. and it definitely fits what would become of our trip to paris--we ended up chasing personalities, both real and fictional, all over the french capital.

but that's getting ahead of the story. :)

list of cemeteries in paris:
montparnasse cemetery (Cimetière du Montparnasse)
3, boulevard Edouard Quinet 75014 Paris
Tel.: +33(0)1 44 10 86 50
Metro: Edgar Quinet or Raspail
Buses: 28 or 68

père-lachaise cemetery (Cimetière du Père-Lachaise)
16, rue du Repos
75020 Paris
Tel.: +33(0)1 55 25 82 10
Metro: Père Lachaise or Philippe Auguste
Buses: 61 or 69

montmartre cemetery (Cimetière Montmartre)
20, avenue Rachel
75018 Paris
Tel.: +33(0)1 53 42 36 30
Metro: Blanche or Place de Clichy
Buses: 95, 80, 74, 54 or 30

admission to these cemeteries is free.

view more photos of i gotta go's trip to cimetière du montparnasse

Saturday, October 9, 2010

bienvenue a paris, i gotta go!

our flight to paris was delayed by an hour, and in hindsight, i should have taken that as a sign that our time in paris would be... funny.

our air france flight went rather well--the food was great, the choice of films were pretty entertaining. the length of the flight was just right, so i didn't feel restless (like i did when i took KLM to amsterdam from manila).

air france lunch: glazed duck with fresh salad, beef bourguignon, cheese, fresh fruit, cherry tart, and tea

we landed at 630pm, an hour and 20 minutes later than we were supposed to, but since we did have a flight delay, we actually did good time.

charles de gaulle airport was not what i expected it to be--it was huge, but quiet and empty. i wasn't sure if we had just caught it at a time when there's very little traffic, but it seemed a tad hollow to me.

we went to the RER station to get our tickets to the city center. it was a good thing susie was listening to the PA system, or i would have gone ahead and bought tickets to a train line that was being fixed at the moment.

after some confusion, it was established that we were still to buy our tickets in the CDG station, so we had to search for a machine that gave change, or a machine that's solely made to change bills into coins.

the station's information center had printed out little guides in english and french on where we're supposed to go to catch the other train from mitry claye, which connects to the RER as well (the line that takes you from CDG to paris city center). the airport had provided a bus to shuttle people from the airport to far-flung mitry claye, and the ride was looooong.

when we arrived at mitry claye, i was shocked to find a rather small and starting-to-get-run-down station. we were made to carry our bulky suitcases down and up flights of concrete stairs before we reached the dirty train. paris airport authorities didn't come up with a solution to make this convenient for passengers, especially the elderly ones.

we shuffled into the filthy train and found our place, then heard another announcement, in french, over the PA system. next thing i knew, everybody was hurrying out of the train, one parisian shouted expletives at the speaker on the train, and there was a huge commotion as everyone struggled with their suitcases again down another flight of stairs so we could transfer to the next train. as it turns out, the first train that they ushered us into was broken.

so finally, we were on our way to the city. this was around 830pm, i think. we changed metro lines to reach raspail, which is where our hotel was. i was not prepared for the fact that the paris metro is not at all suited to travelers. there were no lifts or escalators, only stairs that seemed to stretch forever. poor susie had to lug two heavy suitcases up and down flights of stairs. thankfully, one guy with a beautiful pair of white leather shoes helped me carry my suitcase down to the platform. and, as i will find out later, the french are actually quite a helpful lot.

we were finally able to check into the hotel at 930pm, tired, but happy and relieved to finally be where we're supposed to be. our receptionist, maia, was the nicest. he let us get settled in first, and gave us helpful tips when we decided to check out the neighborhood after we had everything in order.

so that was how we reached paris. more bloopers came after that, but the city endeared itself to me. :)

Friday, October 8, 2010

touch down, hong kong

we took the 8am flight to hong kong via philippine airlines, and i gotta say, i was pleasantly surprised. the flight boarded and left on time, and landed 10 minutes early. quite an uneventful trip, which is how i prefer my flights.

we left our big suitcases at the airport's left baggage facility. HKD 120/bag/day. a tad steep, but it sure is convenient.

then we went to casa g&c discovery bay (our friends' place) to drop off our stuff and play with their little one before setting off for tung chung.

one of the main reasons for the tung chung outing was to check out the canon s95 for susie. my man left the mall quite happy--he got the camera for HKD 3,280 (PHP 19,047.00) from fortress, and it included a bunch of freebies to boot: 8gb sd card, extra battery,a mini tripod, camera case, and even an sd card reader. a damned good deal.

i walked around the mall for a bit, trying to find something to buy, but nothing called out to me.

so now we're back at casa g&c. :) i think i'll go and join susie for a nap. i feel exhausted all of a sudden.

and we're off!

well, we're actually still at the airport. i had forgotten my carry-on on the conveyor belt at the inspection area before we got to the boarding gates. haha, talk about excited.

seems our flight is still on schedule. let's hope it stays that way. :)

Monday, October 4, 2010

blogaway, once more

i liked how blogaway handled posting, and the fact that it had a similar dashboard as blogger, so i thought of retesting.

as it turns out, you CAN resize photos. silly me.

testing blogger-droid this time

checking how this one goes. photo taken at fat michael's gastro pub in ortigas.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.2


okay, so that previous post wasn't a complete success. the photo wasn't resized. blogger app fail.

but i was told by my friend mark, who's using blogger-droid, that that app is much better. :D will download and test. :)

Saturday, October 2, 2010


i'm posting this using my htc desire, through an app called blogaway. testing how posting goes.

attaching a photo here as well, to see if it works. (dammit, i can't get the hang of typing using a touch qwerty keyboard!)

the photo was taken in fat michael's gastro pub in ortigas.