My first visit to Paris was in July 2007, when I was a young, vivacious and somewhat gullible adolescent. Well, to correct myself, I may not be as chirpy or easy to fool but I am still young.
My then-boyfriend jw had already been posted to Sweden for work, so we decided to tour some of the most famous European cities like Paris, Amsterdam and Venice. I was really psyched up for this trip firstly because it was my virgin long haul flight, secondly because I was missing jw a lot (well, couples are more lovey dovey when they are still couples, not mums and dads), thirdly because I half expected that something sweet was going to happen. Call it a woman's hunch. Sorry, the men just don't get it.
I was more right than right. On 29th July, which was our 4th anniversary of being a couple, my oh-so-romantic bf proposed on the oh-so-romantic Eiffel Tower. The only thing missing from this sweet proposal was the oh-so-important R-I-N-G.
What happened was we went to the summit of Eiffel and he suggested that each of us took 20 euros to buy a little gift for each other in the souvenir shops. I half expected that it was part of his big plan and he was going to kneel down with a diamond ring in hand and say the classic line "Will you marry me?". Well, I was right and wrong. He did say "Will you be my fiancée?" (which guy says that??) and he did have something in hand but it was a 6 euros souvenir necklace with a cheapo-looking, and a little rusty, Eiffel Tower pendant.
That, was unexpected.
Nonetheless, there was no way I could say "No", or even "I'll think about it" on this most romantic place on earth with the one person I loved so much. So, my answer was naturally "Yes" and I wrote a sweet reply back to him on this pretty postcard I bought, telling him that I would be his loving wife forever. See, that's why I said I was a little naive and why I would always be a hopeless romantic.
We had a fabulous evening as Mr and Mrs Low-to-be, watching the beautiful sunset, sharing a baguette, and just indulging in the beauty of the City of Light - and City of Love. A rare moment of pure joy, pure bliss and pure love. That, is why Paris will always be the most special place to me.
Since it was easy travelling back then (no diapers or strollers or milk bottles!), we explored almost the whole of Paris. From climbing up Eiffel and Arc de Triomphe, visiting Notre Dame, the Louvre and Montmarte, shopping along Champs-Élysées, or even venturing into Palace of Versailles in the outskirt of Paris, we did them all.
Alas, all my super duper precious pictures and videos vanished when our belongings were stolen by this evil pickpocket at Barcelona. If I ever decide to get a voodoo doll, you know who's the first one I'm going to prey on. So, I have ZERO pictures from that fateful trip. NONE. NIL. NOTHING. We even made our 'engagement speech' at the Eiffel Tower and recorded it, so now, I have totally forgotten what I said. Hopefully not words of regret.
Well, in life, you lose some, you gain some.
Precisely because I was so devastated by the loss, my dearest jw decided to draw some pictures of pretty Paris for me as keepsake. I must say that these four little pictures, drawn with a ballpoint pen in a small little notepad, had somehow become the most stunning present I had ever received. I was so touched that I almost teared when I saw them.
Well, of course, my favourite one was the first one where we laid down on the grass patch to admire the Eiffel. We really did that! Though I somehow felt that the other three were harder to sketch. See, isn't my hubby a potential artist? I'm sure I can't draw this well from using a pen and a lousy piece of paper. All he did was look at a magnet or brochure of the monument and voila - he made a replicate drawing in half an hour. Challenge: Spot us in each of the pics!
Thanks dear, these really brightened up my day.
Being the hopeless romantic that I am, I decided we should write a song to dispel the unhappiness of the theft (which included the hassle of having to contact the embassy, get our documents of identity, and spend an entire night in the police station playing charades with the Spanish-speaking officers). Well, I'm not going to post the video of us singing that song here for fear of causing dizzy spells, nausea or faintness. But, here were the lyrics which I wrote.
We promised that one day, we would come back to Paris - the city that brought us as hubby and wifey.
And so we did, in July 2011.
Yes, on our 8th year of being a couple and on our 3rd wedding anniversary, we were back in Paris! The best part was, we had our little Angel with us this time round. It was in Paris that our love story came true, and it was to Paris that we wanted to bring our beloved baby.
So, here goes our second visit to Paris. Yes, I have pictures this time round!
Our first stop was the every child's fantasy heaven - Disneyland. To me, Disneyland somehow has the power and the magic to bring out the child in everyone, and it exudes a sense of euphoria so influential that you just can't help but feel happy. At least that was how it made me feel. Well, in any sense, you should make the most out of it, after spending a bomb on the hotel stay and entrance tickets.
We stayed in Disney's Hotel New York which was located at a 5-mins walk away from Disneyland. We did consider Disneyland Hotel which was right at the entrance, but it was doubly expensive and so we decided the 5-mins walk would do us some good.
Anyway, we were more than satisfied with Hotel New York and I must tell you I simply loved the beds! We had not one, but two, queen sized beds. The comforters, which had Micky Mouse shapes printed all over, were silky smooth and heavenly to sleep in. I was almost tempted to stay in the room and take a good long nap. But no, that would be quite dumb considering we only had two full days to explore the whole of Disneyland and Walt Disney Studios.
What was better was that we didn't even have to queue! I remembered in Los Angeles, we queued for over 2 hours just to get the entrance tickets, not to mention the waiting time for the rides later on. So, we really appreciated the fact that we already got our tickets at the hotel reception this time round. But well, instead of entering at 8am, we usually took our own sweet time at breakfast and reached at 9am instead. Still, the best part was to feel like VIPs.
Hooray! We were greeted by the Disney characters at the main square once we reached. How could I miss out on any chance for my girl to take pictures with these cute cuddly mascots? Seriously, I would have pulled the tail of Eeyore or ripped the skirt of Minnie just to get them to look at my camera. Ok, I'm not that serious. Thanks to a civilised world, all we had to do was queue and wait, not avoiding the squeezing and shoulders-rubbing from time to time.
Angel was really shy and a little intimidated at first. She shunned away from them and hugged us like a frightened koala bear. Well, that was just for a few minutes. Soon, she was bribed over by their adorableness and not only looked at them in the face, but also did hi fives with them, gave them a friendly hug and planted kisses on their furry faces. See, the magic of Disney. I'm contemplating to get one Minnie Mouse outfit for myself, or for jw, just so we could make a happy baby. No, I don't mean 'make a baby' literally (though it sounds kinky), what I mean is, we could bring smiles and laughter on Angel's face. Before she discovers the trick behind mascots, like how Daddy is always missing when Santa Claus is around.
We were lucky to be able to see Minnie and even luckier when she chose Angel to take a picture with her quite promptly. Thank goodness Angel wore a Minnie Mouse top. It was kind of funny how these characters were not allowed to speak and had to gesture to ask their sidekicks to voice out their wishes, like "Please ask the crowd to step back". I could imagine how flabbergasted the kids would feel if one day Minnie forgot she shouldn't speak and a deep, hoarse and unmelodious voice comes out. *shudders*
Anyway, there would always be people complaining things like "My pretty little girl has waited for ages already, why is she not chosen yet?" or "My boys have been here for an hour, Minnie Mouse doesn't take pictures with boys, is it?". Then the sidekick would say "Minnie Mouse is definitely fair and takes pictures with all boys and girls. I'm sorry but she is the one who chooses the kids, not me." How smart. What else can the people do, other than to kidnap Minnie? So, we just had to wait patiently. Thankfully as Asians, we had rather petite sizes and it was relatively easier to maneuver through the crowd.
The classic, enchanted Sleeping Beauty Castle that has become a famous icon of Disneyland. It does resemble a pop-out that you can find in children's storybooks.
A trip to Disneyland is never complete without going on the rides. So, as best as we could, we brought our dear Angel to have a ball of a time on all the whimsical and exciting rides. From boat rides like It's A Small World and Pirates of the Caribbean, walking mazes like Labyrinth, suspended airplane rides like Peter Pan and adventure rides like Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast, each was a different experience to remember.
Times flies in Disneyland and soon it was the end of Day 1. We decided to takeaway McDonalds (the queue was horrendous!) and have a nice, peaceful dinner in the comfort of our hotel room. Since we could view Disneyland from the room, that also meant we were treated to a display of fireworks from our beds. Albeit a very silent one.
Another good thing about staying in New York was that we got to take pictures up close with the Disney stars right in our hotel lobby every morning. The best part was you didn't need to queue much or squeeze and squirm in the crowd. We were delighted to see Mickey on the second morning! That was our only family photo taken with a Disney star, so we were glad we took it with the most eminent one. Personally, I also loved Pluto because he looked so goofy (no pun intended) with his long ears and huge tongue.
The breakfast at the hotel was not out of this world, a little contrary to what we expected, but it definitely sufficed to fill our stomachs and prepare us for another long day ahead.
I asked Angel if she wanted to go on the Dumbo ride because when I was a kid, I used to love Dumbo and be intrigued by his oversized ears. She said yes and so despite it was going to be a 1.5 hours queue, I felt that it was going to be worth the wait and hey, for my baby, I was willing to do anything!
That said, a little less than half an hour into the queue, my little one dozed off. Zzzzzzzzzz. I was hesitant if I should just move out of the queue and give up on my efforts, but not being the type to be daunted, I decided to carry on. So, for the next one hour, I had to carry a heavy 10kg load in my arms while my hubby watched me from outside (he was supposed to help us take pictures). Like I said before, sometimes I feel like Xena.
I was secretly hoping that she would wake up before we got into our Dumbo and flew up into the air. Alas, no amount of patting, poking or tickling seemed to work. I was debating if I should give a loud scream into her ears, but decided not to harm her tiny eardrums.
So, in the end, I went on the Dumbo ride with my baby sleeping on my lap the entire journey. In order not to waste my efforts, I made sure I kept flying up and down, high and low (you could control a lever to make Dumbo go up or down). I was wondering if Angel would wake up after and ask me innocently, "Mummy, are we going on the elephant yet??" So I told jw to take a video of the ride so that I could prove to her next time that mummy did fulfill her word of bringing her on the Dumbo ride. Mummies don't lie. Usually.
Next, we watched the Disney Dance Express which gathered many of the Disney Stars and was a treat for the kids. Though Angel was shy to go to the middle and dance with them, she couldn't stop moving to the beat on the spot where we stood.
Once again, we had the chance to meet and greet the Disney stars. Here, we saw Stitch, the Incredibles, Chip and Dale and many more!
With a stroke of luck, we also managed to see both Donald and Daisy Duck! I was very fortunate because I didn't have to queue too long for both, especially for Daisy. She was so nice and kind when she chose us despite we were not the first few ones to arrive (it must be because of my pretty angel), and she even used her big tummy to push the others one step back so that my hubby could come in and take a pretty pic for us. Thanks, Daisy! Even though your super long lashes kept poking into Angel's eyes (see her expression?), we still loved you for what you did!
At night, we came back to our hotel for a quick rest before heading out to catch the night parade and fireworks. Here was my happy, smiley baby after her bath.
Well, if you are thinking that my vacations always seem to be fun, smooth-sailing and perfect, you are wrong. I just don't like to dwell on unhappy or unimportant stuff more than I can help it. But for this trip, we were really in for a tough time because our little girl was sick. Not only was she suffering from a bad case of diarrhoea (she could poop every half an hour in Disneyland), to make it worse, she had a serious case of infection that made her groin area and you-know-what-part turn lobster red. I am not going to post pictures of her naked body here in case someone uses it to blackmail me next time.
So you see, the fact that her whole groin was swollen and in some areas the skin was falling off, she was in dire pain every time we wanted to rinse her bottom, no matter how gently we sprayed the water or even if we lowered her whole butt into the sink. It just broke my heart to see her like that. To worsen things, she kept pooping and once she pooped, if you didn't clean it in time, it increased the risk of the infection worsening. Yet you couldn't really clean it thoroughly because it hurt her, and us, so much. That was a vicious cycle which went on for days.
We eventually brought her to a pharmacy in Paris who gave me some red lotion to apply. The lotion would stain and couldn't be wiped away for days. Thanks, from lobster red, her groin was now ang pao red. Still, it did help and after a few more days, we tided over the crisis.
I had to give praise and credit to my brave baby for enduring through the suffering and not letting it affect us from having fun on the trip. She only cried when we had diaper change or when we took her for a bath. Other than that, she still indulged in playing and exploring every bit of Disneyland. Bravo Angel!
The night parade was a display of illuminating and vibrant lights that made the Disney stars shine in a different form of splendor. Too bad Angel was sound asleep by then, she totally missed the night parade and spectacular fireworks that followed. Well, not to worry, mummy will let you see it again in our video! Fireworks never fail to make me a happy girl, it's just heartening to know that such beauty exists in life.
On our last morning in Disneyland, we wanted to take Angel on her first ever hot air balloon ride. Which coincidentally would be my first ever too. But alas when we wanted to purchase the tickets, they told us that it was closed due to overly strong winds. The thing was, within an hour, we left Disneyland and drove off, then we looked back and there it was, the giant balloon high up in the skies. Ermm, were they lying or did we just catch the wind at the perfectly wrong moment? Anyway, too bad. Hopefully we will have a chance again next time.
That said, we were on our way to the heart of Paris! I was so excited just to think that I was going to see the Eiffel Tower again.
It was drizzling when we arrived at Champs-Élysées, the luxurious shopping street of Paris. At the western end of Champs-Élysées stands the Arc de Triomphe. Being the world's largest triumphal arch, it was built in honour of those who fought for France, particularly those who fought during the Napoleonic Wars. I remembered climbing up the narrow, winding spiral staircase with near 300 steps before we reached the terrace. Honestly, I felt a little giddy and ashamed of my stamina. However, the panoramic and awe-inspiring view of Paris was more than enough to make the gruelling climb worthwhile.
The impressive LV building located on Champs-Élysées is the largest luxury boutique in the world. Incredibly exclusive and high-end, it never fails to attract a steady stream of tourists who not only visit it but also take pictures of this prominent building. See, I did the same too but well, I did not go in. Yes, I'm quite a rare female species. Did you not know that I do not own any LV/ Chanel/ Gucci/ Fendi/ Burberry/Kate Spade bag? That means I'm quite low maintenance actually (or so I'd like to think), and blogging or making videos doesn't need my hubby to fork a single cent. Thankfully, he is also not brand-conscious at all and that means we can both stride down the streets in pasar malam couple wear and yet feel good about it.
Here was my little photographer in action. She had learnt to hold the camera and to use the touch screen function to view the pictures or play the videos. More impressively, she also loved to imitate us and say "1, 2, 3" and act like a real pro photographer. The thing was, we always had to give our sweetest smile and best pose whenever she did that just in order not to disappoint her. So, ske kept counting, we kept posing, and for a while, it seemed like we were playing a game of freeze-clown under the Eiffel Tower.
The Eiffel Tower looked just as pretty, if not prettier, than it was four years ago. I actually almost shed a tear of joy when I saw it. It was definitely the most beautiful thing in my dictionary after all my 28 years of life. When it sparkled and lit up, there was no word I could use to describe the stunning beauty and gorgeous radiance. All I wanted to do was to stare at it earnestly and immerse myself in that magical, perfect moment. With my loved ones by my side.
Angel tried macarons for the first time and she looked a little smug about it. Well, it wasn't like I was a fan of French macarons nor a fan of Swiss Luxemburgeli, but it was one of the most things that made the trip complete. Like how we would always eat some char kway teow, laksa, Hainanese chicken rice or nasi lemak whenever we went back to Singapore. Ok, just writing about them makes me drool.
Notre Dame de Paris (it means Our Lady of Paris in French) was one of the finest and most beautiful cathedrals I had ever seen. I especially loved the stunning, elaborate stained glass windows when you looked from the inside. Which was why I told jw I had to go back to take a picture of it again this time round. Thankfully, though the queue was long, it moved swiftly mainly due to an absence of entrance fees. Yes, finally something was free!
Amazingly, we managed to retrace our footsteps from four years ago and we revisited this Japanese restaurant called Higuma which had super yummylicious, big-portioned ramen. Back then, we bumped into this restaurant because it was situated near the Louvre and we wanted to wait till dusk fell to take some shots of the night scenery. This time round, we specially made our way just for some palatable Japanese food. We had fried gyozas and I ordered the same bowl of corn ramen that I did four years back just to reminisce the feeling. Well,the big difference was that this time, I had a toddler who couldn't seem to stop fidgeting on my lap throughout the meal.
Musée du Louvre is one of the world's largest museums and the most visited museum in the world, attracting some 8.5 million visitors in the year 2010 which far surpassed British museum, ranking second, which attracted 5.8 million. I had to say that reading the Da Vinci Code increased my interest in the Louvre, and many other French monuments, tremendously. That's a reason why this book is the best selling English language novel of the 21st century. Nonetheless, we did not enter it this time round partly since we had explored it before and partly because we only had two days in downtown Paris. Honestly I also didn't think that my baby girl would be keen to admire the Mona Lisa or Venus De Milo from a distance and I wasn't going to risk her ripping the precious art pieces apart.
Oh wait a minute, we did go into the lobby at the Louvre, all because Angel was in dire need of a diaper change. It was time to turn her bottom into an ang pao again, I had to do it 3-4 times a day! Thanks much to the security guard who let us cut the queue and use the handicapped elevator to make our way to the main lobby area. We took the chance to visit the souvenir store too and my hubby took a picture of the Mona Lisa there. Notwithstanding it was just a book cover.
This was one of my favourite shots on this trip. It always makes me feel proud when we manage to take a picture ourselves, using the self-timer and any tripod we can find. Be it the stroller, a bench or even a garbage bin. No qualms as long as it helped us to take a nice pic. This was taken using Angel's stroller. Like it? I do! I love how Angel looked so happy here. She probably was, because she just finished feeding all her grapes to the birds.
We saw many people doing this pose outside the Louvre. Initially, I couldn't make out what they were doing. Were they trying to use their hand to mimic the beak of a bird, or were they attempting to be the next condor hero, or were they just doing cuckoo poses? Finally, I got it - The pyramid was at their fingertips. Cool idea, so I hopped onto the bandwagon.
This was the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel - built to commemorate Napoleon's military victories. It took two years to build, while the Arc de Triomphe, which was twice as huge, took 30 years to complete.
Jardin des Tuileries. Angel had a ball of a time here too, chasing the birds and somewhat getting lost in the maze of bushes. Well, seeing many others do it, jw decided to hold out a piece of croissant to lure the birds onto his arm. Alas, he failed because there was this old man standing beside him, I half suspect he secretly hid worms inside his bread, who seemed to deeply attract the birds and had all of them flocking to him.
Just like the last trip, we made our way to Jardins du Trocadéro, the place I most remember for the Rush Hour 3 scene which was filmed here. Did you know I share the same birthday as Jackie Chan? April 7th! We could also get stunning views of the Eiffel from here.
My hubby directed these shots. Which I somehow obliged willingly. But I'm quite certain he would do better at posing. Like a beast.
It was soon time to bid farewell to Eiffel as it was our last day in Paris. So I couldn't help but snap away at this gorgeous tower once again.
Thank you, Paris. for all the magical and loving memories you have given us. One day, hopefully, we will be able to return to your arms again!
To see more of the world, visit my Travelogue page here.
Check out snippets of the Disney parade, the magnificent fireworks display, my little dancing queen grooving to the beat and the sparkling Eiffel Tower in my video below.
P/S: The song in this video, I'm gonna love you by Jennifer Love Hewitt, was the one we used for our march in at our fairytale wedding, and it was also the soundtrack from Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame II, thus the natural perfect choice for the city which has been a keystone in our love story.
For a complete list of my videos, click here.