The F Word, as in Flying

The only thing I quite don’t like from traveling is flying. I already hate the part where I have to go to the airport, 2 hours before taking off, just to find out that taking off is delayed for another 2 hours. Great! My husband, who is born and bred French, who takes the deliciously comfortable (and expensive) TGV for whatever destination in Europe, is a newby in flying. So when we met for the first time in France, he asked me, curiously: “When you took the plane from Jakarta to Paris, was it your first flight?”. Unfortunately, NO. I, as someone who was born and lived in the biggest archipelago in the world, couldn’t avoid flying (well, I could. But seriously, taking bus in the Indonesian highways? Not to mention the overloaded boats with no safety jackets? No, thank you. Not that Indonesian air companies are much safer, but at least I got to point A to B faster, which in my irrational logic, reduces the TIME where I could be in an accident).

As a matter of fact, I have been flying more often than I would like to. I have tried the air company with the stewardesses so so genuinely nice (seriously, I love flying Malaysia Airlines), to the cheapest ones who never allow you to bring food from outside the plane, but instead insist that you have to buy their VERY overpriced sandwiches. I have had delayed flights, been ignored completely by the airport staffs as if I had been invisible (in Charles de Gaulle, where else?), enjoyed the most coffee-smelled airport in the world (ah Changi Airport, I only keep good memories about you), flown pregnant against my doctor’s suggestion, and spent many, MANY of boring hours on board, over the international seas.

I guess I’m a lucky flier. I have never had a super-fat-guy-who-just-had-big-amount-of-tacos-at-lunch aside of me. I have never lost my bagages (knock on wood), although my bags are always the last ones on the rolling thingy (er… how do you call it? I guess oficially they call it a caroussel). I have never had to stay overnight in a cold airport, er… 7 hours don’t count, right? And I have been lucky to have the best airplane staff when I was flying pregnant and a year later, when I was flying alone with my 9 month old baby (again, I heart Malaysia Airlines).

But you know, even then, I still think that flying sucks. Having to squish my butt in a small seat and not being able to stretch my legs… And the weird pee-pee smell in some planes. And the delays. And the waiting. And the bad food (when there’s some). And the getting lost in the HUGE airports while you have the worst jet lag in history. And the part where you pass the security check and have to take off your shoes. And the hours of insomnia because you just can’t sleep while being squished in your small seat… Gosh…!! Seriously, I love travelling. But when I can, I prefer taking the TGV (God bless you, whoever you are who invented the TGV).

PS: No air company paid me to be mentioned in this blog post. But they are wellcome if they want to 😉

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Jazzy Nights in Paris

As a jazz lover (though still a debutant
fan), I always try to find jazz clubs or cafés whenever I go. I love
those jazzy nights, drinking coktails, listening to the low husky sexy
voice of the jazz singer. Considering that I mostly travel in France,
moreover that I travel to small French cities (where a chess tournament
can be perfectly held), sometimes I just have to accept that there
won’t be jazzy nights in my vacation  Well, we’re not in America. In
France, jazz is not as big. It only has a few fans, and mostly they’re
older than me… The young folks seem like that they only listen to rap /
R and B / alternative rock-metal.Bah, I can’t even classify the music they listen to D
Paris always has some ways to keep all tourists amused. There are lots
of jazz cafés, bars, clubs… from north to south, from therive gauche to rive droite, from St. Germain de Près to the Bastille… I have some fave places that I can suggest to you when you’re in town. Jazz lovers, you’re gonna love these places!

1. Café Laurent.
(Rue Dauphine, métro station Odéon or St Michel)
fave place. If you don’t like the ambiance of a club or a bar, this is
your place. It is really what French would call: café. It’s situated in
the 6tharrondissement , in the center of jazz life in Paris (in
quartier St. Germain). It’s quite a chic place, price of coktails start
from 10 euros, beers from 5-6 euros (suggestion: try the Pink Lady). As
a café, they don’t serve food, just drinks (as far as I remember, all
with alcohol), so I strongly suggest to have dinner before going there.
I like it because it’s romantic, it’s not noisy, and people come there
really for listening to some music, not to chit chat with friends. The
owner invites different jazz band per week, and sometimes they have
bands coming from America. It’s a perfect place to have a romantic date
with your chéri or chérie.
2. Sunset and Sunside Jazz Club
(Rue des Lombards, métro station Chatelet)
in the first arrondissement, near The Louvre Museum and The Chatelet
Castle. This place has been there for 20 years, and they have always
been loyal to jazz. Actually, there are two rooms: the Sunset and the
Sunside. The Sunset is in the basement, and the jazz you can find here
is electro-jazz: a mix between jazz and techno. The Sunside, on the
ground floor (rez-de-chaussée), offers ‘classical’ jazz:Broadway jazz,
swing,… While enjoying the music, you can order food which costs around
8-25 euros. Or, you can just order a drink: coktails starting from 8,50
euros and beers from 4,50 euros. For your information, if you come just
to enjoy the music, sit as close as possible to the band. In a place
like this, people come to socialize, not especially for the good jazz.
Anyway, nice place to rest your feet after having seen the Monalisa by your own two eyes D
3. Caveau de La Huchette
(Rue de La Huchette, métro station St. Michel)
a little bit more expensive from the two previous adresses, because
they have an entrance fee : 11 euros in the week, 13 euros in the
weekend, and 9 euros for student (prepare your student card !). Drinks
start from 4,50 euros. The bands come from America and all over Europe.
There are two floors, one with a dance floor. Honestly, I don’t know
when is best to come, because for me, it always seems crowded. But it’s
normal, considering the reputation of this place as the place with the
best jazz in Paris. We can even take a jazz lesson every Tuesday, from
19.00 to 21.00

Okay, among the hundreds of jazz clubs, café, and bar in Paris,
those are the adresses I suggest. I like these three because they’re
very easy to reach, they have good jazz, and they have their own
special ambiance.

One small reminder: since the 1st of January 2008, it is forbidden
to smoke inside of public closed space, including cafés, bars, pubs,
clubs, discotheques. Maybe it’s good to smoke while enjoying music and
drinking coktails, but the fine is too handsome to make you want to
take the risk ;)…

Okay folks, happy jazzing in Paris!

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What Makes The Eiffel Tower So Special?

The boyfriend of my best friend has this attitude about the tower: ‘What’s so special about it? It’s just a very very high pile of iron!!’ And about the tower at night: ‘What’s so special about it? It’s just a very very high pile of iron with lights!!’

Huh, well, we have to admit that it’s one way of seeing it. Just for your information, he still goes there anyway, everytime he visits Paris! 😀

Okay, actually, he’s not the first person having this opinion. In fact, lots of Parisian people share the same opinion too, especially those who lived in Paris during its construction. Even though it’s so touristic, lots of tourists think the same! They think that it doesn’t have any function, that it’s too big, that it takes lots of place for nothing,…

So, hereby, I will categorize people in two categories:

  1. People who think that it’s just a high pile of iron and don’t think it’s special and don’t see why people admire it… and
  2. People who think it’s special and admire it and want to come back to Paris just to see it..

Under which category will I fall???

Well, in one side, it’s true that the Eiffel Tower is big, place taking, AND not functional. Okay, you can go up to the peak and see Paris from above, but there are several buildings and places in Paris you can do it from (eg: Montparnasse Tower, Sacré Coeur)… In fact, Eiffel Tower was initially built for the International Exhibition of Paris in 1889. So, true. Eiffel Tower is just a very big decoration.

BUUUUT, in the other side….

What’s wrong with having a decoration? We do buy or even create decorations in our house so when people come to visit, they can appreciate them, right? Besides, Eiffel is NOT an ugly decoration at all…

Okay, first time I saw the tower, the sky was blue without any clouds. I saw it from across, from Trocadero. And my very first thought was: masculine! It was standing there, so tall and so straight, with the bluest sky as its background. It gave me this impression that it’s trying to say: ‘Look at me, I’m reaching the sky and I CAN do that. Can you?’ Or: ‘I’m the most beautiful and the tallest of them all, I’m the King of all towers!’ That arrogance, that proudness, brings the Tower a kind of ‘virility’, and everything adds up to the masculinity. As an image, have you ever seen a guy that in one look, you have this impression that he’s very very masculine? Well, the Tower is like that, just a hundred times more impact-giving 😀

My second thought was: how so elegant! Even though the Tower looks viril and masculine, it also has this elegance, like an experienced lady in her ball dress. It looks like if it could move, it would move like a super model, or like a female cat trying to attire her male, or like a ballet dancer doing pirouette or something (not a dancer, sorry :D). But it can’t. So it stays there, so elegant, looks like it’s posing to be painted. Besides, it has this kind of suppleness that just has to leave you in awe.

And how would ‘a very very high pile of iron’ can give you these impressions if it were just an ordinary very very high pile of iron? Exactly, the Tower is extraordinary, it’s a state of art. It’s an architectural achievement. True, it’s a pile of iron. True, it just has a decorative functional. But only a true artist with a big mission can pile irons into what oohs and what aahs people from all over the world, and into what drops your jaw…

So, have you been to Eiffel Tower? Under which category can we categorize you? 🙂

PS: Here’s a picture of my first visit to the Eiffel Tower. On my side is Fabrice, my guide while I was in Paris. Read more in my previous post…

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Let’s Visit: Chamonix

Well, prepare yourself for a loooong ride to my favorite village of France: Chamonix! It takes around 7 hours by train from Paris to chamonix… And you have to take two correspondance trains! Don’t worry that each time you take smaller and smaller train… Chamonix station is a small one, that’s why TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse or Train of Grand Velocity… bah well, super fast French train) can’t reach it (yet). Which is normal btw, considering the tiny size of the village… BUT trust me, this is a place in France you MUST visit, or you’ll regret it…

Chamonix, Borders, and Mont Blanc

Actually, Chamonix is in the valley of the Mont Blanc. The village is surrounded by the magnificent mountains, whose some peaks are covered by the eternal snow. Yup, that’s the Mont Blanc, which is included in the Alpen Mountains. Even in the summer, the mountain is all white and marshmellow-y… Breath taking

In the picture you can see flags from European countries: Switzerland, Italy, etc… Chamonix is a village situated in the border of Switzerland and Italy, so if you want to escape to abroad, you CAN! 🙂

What To Do in Chamonix?

Fans of sports in open nature, you’re more than welcome here. Almost every sports in open nature can be practiced easily here, from the most extreme to the ‘safest’: VTT (mountain biking), hiking, rock climbing, rafting, canoe-ing, paragliding, trekking, horseriding, skiing (in winter), snow boarding (in winter also), alpinism (hiking in the snowy mountain), etc… Wow! Lots of choices, huh? And what’s interesting is you can visit Chamonix in summer or in winter, you will always find good sports to do!!

Don’t worry about materials and about guide: there are some good rentals in Chamonix, and some organisations that provide pro guides. Personal suggestion: try my fave organisation UCPA ( — site in French and English). What’s so special about it? UCPA is an organisation for young people and it’s internationally reknowned. UCPA provides some packages that meet your requirement, either you’re a debutant in open nature sports, or an expert, with very reasonable prices! They also provide accomodations such as very very clean housing with international ambiance (young folks from all over the world who share the same passion gather here), with lots of facilities such as pingpong table, volley ball court,open bar,… They also provide very good gastronomical food! To top it all, they give a free pass card which you can use to take buses, téléphérique (hung trains), entering ice skating piste, swimming pool, FOR FREE! They also provide materials which you can borrow, also FOR FREE! And their guides are those who are in love with the mountains, and have conquered even the toughest mountains all over the world… You’ll be in good hands! An organisation highly recommended to make your sportive vacation easy!

Not so much of a fan of sports in open nature? Well, to be honest, me too 🙂 You can always visit this village for its views, its breezing fresh mountain air, for its calmness and peace, for its famous gastronomy,… Even if you don’t practice alpinism or hiking, you can always enjoy being on top of the mountains! How? Chamonix is famous with its téléphérique (hung trains), which you can take to visit even the highest peak of the Mont Blanc (L’aiguille du Midi)!

aiguille du midi

Interested in walking a little bit in the mountain but you’re a grand debutant? I suggest you to ask your guide for the easiest routes, which pass the téléphérique stations. So anytime you’re tired or can’t help it anymore, you can take the train and go back to the valley! 🙂 But I’m sure you’ll love the fresh air and the silence in the mountain… Bring some provisions, picknicking in the mountain is such an experience!

Who doesn’t like chocolate? Yummy… Be glad that you’re in the border of Switzerland! Rent a car, or take a train, cross the border, and do a chocolate shopping! Even though the price here is lower than in anywhere else in the world, I suggest you to bring some pretty serious money, since you will find hundred of kinds of chocolate, in thousands of forms and flavour! A pretty good idea for the souvenirs you’ll bring home! While doing it, take a peep in the museum of The Foundation of Pierre Gianadda (take the Mont Blanc Express until Martigny than take a bus to arrive there). This museum is famous for its Automobile Museums, and for The Parc of Sculptures…

Don’t forget to visit the ice skating piste, the swimming pool, the bowling arena, and to fill your nights, pay a visit to the village’s cinema and to the casino!!

One little suggestion to make your vacation perfect: even in the summer, its geographical situation makes the valley constantly fresh. Bring some jacket and scarf, and if you want to visit The Aiguille du Midi, prepare big parachute jackets, big gloves, warm hat, and very very warm shoes. Even in the summer the temperature in this peak can reach minus 15…

Another little suggestion: This is a perfect place to FACE YOUR FEAR! At least once, do that hiking, do that paragliding, do that rock climbing!! With a good guide and great safety materials, you will be more than okay. You may even enjoy it! 😀

Happy visiting…

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Let’s Visit: Strasbourg

Welcome back, readers! Having read some tips about visiting Paris makes you want to see more of France? I’m sure it does.

In part 1, I have given some small tips (but from my own experiences proven to be very useful) on visiting Paris. Now, let me take you to the north eastern region of France: Strasbourg.This citiy is perfect for two or three days of transit, if you want to pass the border and continue your road to Germany.

2. Strasbourg

Strasbourg is usually called: the capitale of Europe, because it hosts the Union European and the European Parliement headquarters. Strasbourg itself is separated from Germany only by a bridge. Its location makes Strasbourg known as the door that links France from the continent of Europe. That is why, walking in the streets of Strasbourg, you’ll hear all European languages spoken by people around you, from English to Spanish, from Russian to Italian, from German to French.

What to see? Strasbourg is a city which is cut by the Rhine river. This river flows around the center of Strasbourg, and thanks to it, Strasbourg has its own charming places along the river.

La Petite France is a quartier that looks like it comes from another century. Old houses in Alsacian style (maison à collombage), small romantic streets, and the Rhine river as the center of it. Its romance and dreamy ambiance has attired lots of tourists to stay all day long and dream there (including my self 🙂 ). One thing to try when you find yourself in La Petite France is: try some Alsacian foods. This area includes the oldest restarants in Strasbourg, so don’t miss this opportunity! My personal suggestion is choucroute, Alsacian food that consists on cabbage, sausages, potatoes. Also try some Alsacian beers!

Cathedrale of Strasbourg is situated in the center of Strasbourg. Its bell tower is the highest building of Strasbourg, so you can practically see it from every corner. It’s so beautiful that it brings inspiration to some of Monet‘s paintings. While visiting this church, don’t be satisfied just by visiting the inside. Take a tour to the bell tower! Prepare to go up uncountable stairs 🙂 but the view of Strasbourg from above will make you forget about that!! Besides its magnificent Gothic style and its history, one thing that’s very famous from this chucrh is that it hosts the Christmas Market every year!

Each year, the spaces around the cathedrale are filled by small kiosques selling Christmassy things, from small to big, from a bell for a treee decoration to a 2 meters tree! People from all over Europe come to see this event. My suggestion is: come to Strasbourg around Christmas, and visit the Christmas Market! While being surrounded by green, red, and golden stuffs that make Christmas is christmassy, try a cup of warm wine, red wine which is cooked with spices, which will make you want a second cup! 🙂

The Churches of Strasbourg. Like any other cities of France (and of Europe), Strasbourg has lots of churches. My favorite one is the Cathedrale, but you have lots of choices! The most famous one are: The Saint Paul, The Saint Peter the Old, and The Saint Thomas. Each of them has their own beuaty and charm. Prepare a whole day to visit the churches. And as usual, prepare some small money, so you can help to maintain these old historical sites.

– The European Parliement Building and the European Parliement Building . This complex is situated in the Orangerie Quartier, not far from the center. You’ll see flags of European countries in front, with the statue that represents solidarity and togetherness. Council of Europe

The ambiance of this complex is modern and closed, which is normal for a political organization headquarter. However, you can always take picture in front of the building and with the flags, as long as you don’t bother people from all over Europe who work here everyday.
This complex is visited by the demonstrants almost every day. Sometimes they open an interactive dialogues with the passing-bys, sometimes they do some theatrical acts, and personally I see these events very interesting, even though I know just a little about European politics.

The Park of Orangerie is situated just in front of The Council of Europe Building. What’s so interesting about this park is its familiality. There is a playing ground in this immense park, a perfect course for learning how to bike, and an artificial lake,which makes the park mostly visited by families.

It’s calm, it’s serene. What I love the most from this park is, the zoo of cigogne, the big bird which you can only find in the Alsace region. What I also love is its serenity. It’s not always calm due to children laughters, but it brings the ambiance of comfort and homy. This park is highly recommended. One suggestion: when you need some place to jog in Strasbourg, this is the perfect place for you. It’s big and it has beautiful views; jogging will be fun!

The streets along the river: rue de Tonneliers, rue du Vieux-Marché-aux-Poissons, rue Gutenberg, rue de l’Epine,… I gotta tell you, these streets are hard to be missed, since it’s in the center of the city. The Rhine river is kept clean (good to know). You’ll appreciate a walk a long the river, and admire swans and ducks that make this river their home. The wind may cause a problem, so wear warm clothes. Walking along the river, you will also appreciate the boats-restaurants. Mostly they also function as café and bar. They charge a little bit more expensive, but it’s worth trying… Along these streets, you will also find old houses and buildings, which prove that the city was born along the river.

The Museums of Strasbourg. There are some museums in Strasbourg, but honestly, nothing can conquer the charm of Parisian ones. So if you have just finished visiting the Louvre and The Orsay, I’m sure enough that you won’t find some particularity in these museums. My fave one is The Museum of the Modern and Temporary Art. It’s situated not far from the Central Station, and it contains the modern and temporary work arts. The collection is pretty amazing, from Sisley, Monet, Picasso, Doré, etc. In the Temporary art section, this museum has some magnificent collections (although I don’t understand much of temporary art), and it regulary hosts expositions of photography, art works, etc…

Place de la République is a place which is situated in the center of The National Theater of Strasbourg (where you can always find good theaters to watch), and some governmental buildings. This place is beautiful with its flowers and statue dedicated to those who died for France. From here, you can see the Cathedrale.

Personally, I like Strasbourg because of its mix of taste. There is old and modern, there’s calmness and cheerness, there’s boat and tram, and the city is super clean! Here are some tips to make your stay in Strasbourg unforgetable:

1. It’s all about bicycle, baby! Strasbourg is much smaller than Paris, so visiting by bicycle is perfectly do-able! Besides, this city is very bicycle-friendly, you don’t have to worry about it. The air is quite clean, the bike ways are wide, you don’t have to worry about parking (car parking in France is always messy, that’s why I never suggest to rent a car), it’s cheap and it’s nature-friendly! But when you rent your bike, don’t forget to ask for security materials for biking at nights. Safety first!

2. Another transportations: tram or bus? I like both. Most tourists are freezing with the idea of taking bus in the foreign countries, but I don’t see the reason, especially in France. All buses are equiped by its traject map. Or, even better, before you pay the bus (you pay in front when you go in), verify with the driver that this bus is going your way. In Strasbourg, try to take the tram. Strasbourg is one of few cities in France that has this facility.

Take a boat cruise! There are someboat cruise companies that you can try. Some provide food and drink, some just provide views from the river. You can buy the tickets in their offices along the river, but mostly their track is the same. What’s interesting is, if you want to go to Germany but you’re bored of the train, why don’t you do it by boat? Some companies provide this service.

Get all infos from The Tourisme Office. Every city in France has at least one. In Strasbourg, you will find one in the Central Station, and in front of the Cathedrale. You can buy here boat cruise ticket, boat ticket to Germany, get infos on theaters and shows, some comfortable hotels, where to rent car and bike, etc… Usually here they speak English and German too (we’re in Strasbourg!).

Okey dokey, happy Strasbourg visiting!! Enjoy the uniqueness that only Strasbourg knows how to show you!!

… to be continued

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Let’s Visit: PARIS

For you who are about to take that plane to see France, congratulations! But one suggestion: due to the late arrival of spring, prepare some warm sweaters and jackets. Okay, so you want to see the real France, with its cancan spirit, to talk to that ‘I don’t speaks Engleesh’ people, to try those exotic foods (er… despite the bleeding steak, I can assure you that you will love French food), and to get a feel of that French exotism that only France can create… I’m sure that you are very excited to see Paris! But if you want to see France in its natural face, I suggest that you also visit some other cities, or even villages in France. Where to go? What to see? What to do? Guys, grab a pencil and a paper, coz I think I can help you with that…

Okay, let’s be realistic, even though France is just aslmost as big as Java island in Indonesia, we can not see everything. The trick is: to go to the places where you can really feel the French-ness of France, to the best places in France!

1. La Capitale PARIS

Who doesn’t know Paris? A city that is almost always associated to romance, love and adventure. I must say, this association is not totally wrong. Now, I’m sure that you already have that guide, that book about Paris, that explains to you the history of Paris, the statistics, what to see, where to sleep, what to eat…etc. Good move! Thefirst time I went to Paris, I did not have that kind of book. Luckily, I had a born-and-bred Parisian as a guide, who showed me the best of Paris. But if you don’t have your own Parisian, I strongly suggest you to own one of those books about Paris: either you buy it, borrow it from a library, or download informations from the internet.

Revenons à nos moutons (let’s get back to the topic), what to see in Paris? Wow, lots of things. The most famous sites are: The Eiffel Tower, The Museum of Louvre, The Museum of Orsay, The Montparnasse Tower, The Notre Dame of Paris, The Sacré Coeur Basilica, Avenue of Champs Elysées, Garden of Luxembourg, Garden of Tuileries, The Versailles Palace and garden, La Defense, Center of Georges Pompidou,… and lots of other big sites

The Sacred Heart Basilica

I’m sure that you have heard about all the places mentioned above. Let me just add some tips:

  • When you go to the Eiffel Tower, don’t forget to go up to the summit, where you can enjoy Paris from above! There’s a small train walking in a rail to take you up. Of course, you have to pay, but it’s worth it. For students, prepare your international student card, because you will have very interesting discount, and not just here, but everywhere! If you are one and you don’t own this card, just show them your regular student card on which is written the name of your University and your photo, and most of the time, they accept it (based on my own experience).
  • Still in Eiffel Tower, don’t forget to go to Trocadero, a place just across theTower. From here, you can enjoy the views of the Tower from hair-to-toe, or from summit to legs 🙂 and take pictures with its complete body! You also can enjoy some art performances that take place in Trocadero. I’ve been there many times, and each time I found something new and interesting!
  • Preferably, to visit The Eiffel Tower twice: once at night, once in the day. You’ll be surprised by how different the Tower looks under the sun and with its lights!

  • While going to churches like Notre Dame and Sacré Coeur, prepare the flash of your camera. Also, prepare some small money. It’s always free to enter churches, but your donation is needed for maintanance of these very beautiful and historical sites.
  • When you visit Notre Dame, take a walk along the Seine River. You can take great pictures of the side of the Cathedrale, while enjoying the fresh wind coming from the river.
  • When you visit Garden of Luxembourg, try not only to visit the garden and the Senate House, but also the entourage of the main garden. You will find people doing sports, playing games, or sitting on benches or on the grass, just having sandwiches or picknicking. It’s a very good and friendly ambiance! Usually you can even join them (for example in a chess game), and as a bonus: you can practice your French!
  • While visiting Champs Elysées, also visit The Arc of Triumph. It’s situated at the end in the Avenue. I suggest you to take the stairs and go up The Arc. Well, a little exercise never hurts 🙂 and besides, it’s a great view up there! Walking down the Avenue Champs Elysées, guard your wallet. Not only because there are lots of people there therefore bigger risk of pick-pocketer, but also because you will want to buy things 😛 In this avenue, there are the most expensive boutiques in Paris.
  • If you want to visit The Versailles, first look at the schedule of opening in its internet site. Because in some day, only the garden is open, the others, only the Petit Trianon… So, if you want to visit all area, do a little research. Second, come as early as possible! There are lots of things to see, and so little time, especially with the risk of getting trapped in a long queue! Third, bring your own sandwiches, drinks; for two resons: first, inside the complex of Versailles, there are some cafetarias, but very very expensive ones, and second because once you enter the complex, it’s preferable that you don’t get out to buy food outside the complex; you are not allowed to use your tickets twice. If you want to avoid long queue, you can buy your ticket from FNAC (an entertainment line), and from SNCF (the transport company), either online or visit their boutiques in Paris (there are a lot, don’t worry). Trust me, there is always long line in Versailles, so I recommend you to buy your ticket before going. (Price of tickets vary, it depends on the season, your age, and what area you want to see. But prepare some 25 euros per adult. Discount for students of arts and architecture.)

  • If you want to visit Paris and see historical and cultural things, forget La Defense, which is a very modern area of Paris. All you find is just modern high buildings… But if you’re interested, why not?

Besides these big famous sites, you can also try my suggestions:

  • The Montmartre area. It’s in this area you can find The Sacré Coeur Basilic. What I suggest is, take a walk in the area behind the church, where you can find small streets and painters in action. You can make a self portrait for around 20 euros, or buy a painting, or just enjoy the street artistic ambiance. Continue on walking around, you will find some interesting but forgotten things, for example the oldest windmill of Paris, some small museums, etc… And later, to ease the fatigue, try to visit Les Deux Moulins, the café which was used as a setting for the famous movie: The Fabolous Destiny of Amélie Poulain).

writer in front of Les Deux Moulins

  • While walking around The Latin Quartier, the area where Sorbonne is situated, try to visit some bouqinists along the Seine. They are the small kiosques along the Seine, and they sell old books and postcards. Very interesting! Also, try to visit The Theater of La Huchette, which is situated on the street that wears the same name. In this theater,there are spectacles of Eugène Ionesco’s masterpieces every day! So if you’re interested in theaters and speak a little French, this place is highly recommended. Still on the same street, there is La Cave of La Huchette. This is a very famous jazz café, where not only can you listen to jazz, but also you can dance (there’s a dance floor). This place was originally used as a hiding place during the war… But the place is well maintained, the music is good, and it’s a very worthy place to spend an evening.
  • Take a boat trip in The Seine! There are some companies providing this service, but the most famous one is Bateau Mouche (which literary means The Fly Boat). This boat doesn’t provide meal nor drinks, so if you want to have a romantic cruise with a candle lit dinner, you should choose another company! The Bateau Mouche starts from Pont d’Alma, one of the bridges of The Seine. And during the trip, you will be taken along the Seine, to see Paris’ best monuments, including Eiffel, Notre Dame, etc… it’s not expensive, and it’s fun! Prepare a scarf or a sweater, because the wind from the river may be violent…
  • If you like some artistic spectacle as I do, Paris must be exhausting for you, since there are hundreds of spectacles every day! You can find lots of theaters, opera, ballet spectacles… You just have to choose one! My suggestion is The Opera Bastilles. Now, this is a very famous place, but not all tourists go to watch some spectacles, for the reasons that I don’t know. If you don’t speak French, choose an opera or a ballet spectacle. To save some budget, choose a week night, not a week end. And it also helps if you go with a groupe, or if you’re a student.
  • Still in the Bastille area. Around this area, there are lots of good cafés and bars to hang out. This area is very young and social, which means you won’t not find a place to sit and talk and drink. But if you don’t drink alcohol, you have to be careful because at certain hours they don’t serve tea or café. But you can always ask for non-alcoholic coctails or juices.

Heu, I’m sure that you will find that actully, every place in Paris is worth visiting. But choose your own places, according to what you like and to what interests you. Let me give you additional tips for your visit in Paris:

  • To save some budget, avoid using taxi. Use the Metro and RER service (the subway of Paris), or the bus. But due to the traffic, I’d rather take the Metro. You can find Metro stations everywhere, but always watch your bags, watches, or cell phones!
  • You can ask for free the map of Metro and bus lines everywhere! But preferably ask for it when you arrive in Paris in the airport… You can also ask for it in the Metro stations, some big department stores (for example Galeries Lafayette), etc…
  • Learn a little French before coming… Just some little useful expressions to say: how do you do, how much does it cost, I would like some water, etc… It will be very useful!
  • I know that Paris sounds glamorous… But just bring your comfortable clothes (according to the season), comfortable shoes (girls, our high heels are not made for the streets in Paris), one or two formal clothes if you want to watch opera or ballet, and you’re ready!
  • What to eat??? Hah, welcome to France my friend. Try and dare your self to eat French food. If you’re afraid to wrong-order, ask the waiter first what it is. One suggestion, if you go to restaurants, ask for ménu, which doesn’t means the menu card, but a meal consisted of entry, main menu, and a dessert. Usually it’s cheaper to buy ménu than to eat à la carte, which means to choose one by one the entry, the main menu, and the dessert from the menu card/book. If you want to save some budget, try French famous sandwiches, or pizza, or Kebab (sandwich from Turki), or panini (sandwich from Italia), or the famous French crêpes!

Okay, so what do you think bout Paris? I looove Paris! But in my opinion, Paris doesn’t show the real France anymore. It has become so touristic, and modern in the same time, that all you find are tourists or working tired Parisians. That’s why I suggest you, that if you want to have a real French adventure, you should visit another cities or even villages…

To be continued…

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Beef Steak à la Serina and Olivier

What is it like to be in a ‘mixed’ relationship?

Well, my guy is French, and if there’s an award of The Most French Person, I think he has a big chance to win at least the second prize (while me, maybe I’ll get the two millionth position or something). So, as a French who is very proud to be one, he thinks like a French, he watches those weird European movies (one day I’ll have to talk to you about it), he speaks French (d’oh…), and he EATS like a French. He likes those bleeding steaks, creamy pasta, onion cheesy soupe, blue cheese with I-don’t-even-wanna-know-thing on top of it… While me, I’m okay to eat French food, but I always say no to those things mentioned above… (just imagining the smell of that blue cheese makes me sick… God!)

But, what I love about him is, he actually LOVES Indonesian food (who doesn’t, btw? Hehehe). The only problem is: he can’t eat Indo food three times a day. While I can’t eat French food three times a day. So, we created this system: what we will eat depends on who cooks it. But when we cook together, we combine things. As a result, some new interesting recipes are born. But our most successfull one is this: The Beef Steak.

This is what you need to make it (for two people):

  • two beef steaks (you can find it easily in the supermarket)
  • two or three medium potatoes
  • two carrots
  • three cloves of garlic, chop them
  • black pepper
  • canned peas
  • Indonesian sweet soy sauce (kecap manis) – can be found in big supermarkets, or in Asian markets, or surely in Embassy of Indonesia.
  • olive oil
  • salt

And this is how you make it:

  • Make some small punctures with the tip of a knife in the beef steaks. Then, inside each of these punctures, insert the chops of garlics. Put some sweet soy sauce on top of them, followed by black pepper. Leave them to marinate for twenty minutes.
  • Meanwhile, peal the potatoes and carrots, cut them the way you like them, and boil them with a small amount of salt until they’re half done. Drain them.
  • On a pan, warm a small quantity of olive oil. When the pan is really hot, put in the beef steaks, followed by the potatoes and carrots. Add some salt, black pepper, and sweet soy sauce.
  • Cook the beef steaks on both sides. The time of the cooking depends on how well-done you want them cooked. Before you serve them, add the canned peas and let it warm.
  • Serve with fresh baguette.

So, do you want to try it? It tastes very different from the normal French beef steaks!

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Gna gna gna… Learning European Language

Let’s face it: learning new language is hard. The first foreign language that I learnt is English. It was hard, I must say… But I managed to make it my second language. Then I got to learn French. Well, if you want to get a constant head ache during the class, take French class. Those who think that English is difficult and want to change their mind, they should learn French. Now, Do I still get head ache after five years of learning French and being personally in France? Heu, honestly: what the hell are they saying in TV? They don’t speak French, they speak the French of today, which, may I say, seems like a whole lot other language. But I don’t get discouraged. More over, I got too encouraged. People say that German is far more difficult than French, so I started learning German… (well, in order to change my mind about French, but apparently I’m mistaken)

Now, the constant head ache begins…

So, what actually makes learning European language (or another new language) hard?

– First, I have to say the uncomfortable feeling for the newness. Before even starting anything grand like the grammar and stuff, a person who learns new language must get over this feeling of newness first, this sense of ‘I don’t belong here’. Certainly there are new alphabets, new pronounciation, new stuffs…! For example, in French, we know several ‘e-s’: e, é, è, ê, ë. In my maternal language, we only have one e. As someone who has spoken years of another language (in my case, Indonesian) the letter é doesn’t seem so different from the letter ê or ë in French. I have to face this newness in variety of ‘e’, because apparently if I use é instead of ê, the whole meaning changes. Sometimes we just give up and follow this ‘I don’t belong here’ sense, because it’s not so good to have that feeling, and stop going to the language class or call off the whole thing.

– Those pronounciations, oh God, those pronounciations… Well, some people just give up when they face this pronounciation trap. Some language is very hard to pronounce. For example: the letter ‘u’ in French is pronounced like saying Indonesian ‘i’ and Indonesian ‘u’ in the same time. Hah, try that! Most people just forget about it and say the ‘u’ the way they say it, but again, most of the time, it changes the whole meaning.

– The structure of the sentence may be a necessary difficulty too, because the difference of geography makes people structure their sentences differently. In English, like in Indonesian, you usually follow this structure: Subject + Verb + Object. But not every language follows this same structure.In French, don’t be surprised to find the object before the verb. In German, sometimes you have to look in the end of the sentence to find the verb. This is very hard to get used to. The big trap is when you try to make a sentence and you don’t know the entity of the word: either it’s subject, verb, adjectif, adverb… The other trap is: you don’t think that it makes sense. But for the native speakers, there’s no other logical way to do it but their own. At this point, students start to GRHHHAAA!

– Last but not least, the Grammar… (do you hear the horror music when I say Grammar, or is it just me? Heu…) Of course, if you’re very very lucky, the grammar of the new language looks a little bit like your language’s. But in most cases, especially when you’re non-european learning European language, you’re not even remotely lucky. European languages know this grammatical rule called the Conjugation, which is the change of the infinitive (verb) according to the subject. The verb is just the same, but for each subject (I, you, we, he, they) we will see the different versions, because for each subject, the infinitive (the root of the verb) must be conjugated. Trust me, it sounds easy. But it is not. To make it worst, there are some types of conjugations. For example, verbs ending by -er are conjugated differently than verbs ending by -ir, -oir, -tre, etc… and we have to remember them all. To make it even worst, each tense also has their rules of conjugations, for example conjugating the same verb in the present tense is totally different with in the future tense… And how many tenses are there? A lot! And this is THE MOST DIFFICULT THING when you learn European language: the conjugations. Of course, there are also other grammatical rules that make you want to scream while learning it, but in my experience, conjugations is where almost every student fails. Well, besides the conjugations, there are also rules about adjectives, adverbs, pluralities, … not to mention lots of small details in grammar… No wonder when learning European language, students feel ‘enough of it, get me out of here’…

CONCLUSION: okay, it’s hard. I know that it is hard. But hey, when there’s a will, there’s a way. According to my own experiences of high and low in learning European languages, there are some tricks we can adapt to help us ease our pain a little…

– It’s new? Of course. What to do about this uncomfortable feeling? Well, I always try to first: accept the newness. Just accept it, without trying to analyze how weird it is, without thinking that you HAVE to accept it. Just be relaxed and accept that it’s new and different. That would calm you a little. And second: start to think that all this newness is not at all menacing, but fun to know. Be glad when you learn that in German you pronounce ‘j’ as [yot], or when you find that for French, the letter ‘w’ doesn’t ressemble to double u, but to double v, that’s why they call it [double v]. Just think of it as a new funny fact to know. Step by step, you can feel an interest grow, to learn more and more funny and interesting facts about this other language.

– Pronounciation is hard? No problemo. Learn to pronounce them one step at a time. Can’t say the perfect French ‘u’ yet? Heu, maybe tomorrow. Just remember, language is not learnt in one day or two, but in months or even years. You will get that perfect pronounciation, just stick to it, be patient, and while learning other things, the correct pronounciation will come by itself.

– Conjugation is hard, huh? Don’t be pessimistic about it. Every time I find it hard, I don’t say: Ooh, it’s hard, but I say: Ooh, it’s challenging. Nothing I like more than conquering the challenges of the new language. But I can’t give you other advise for conjugation but: learn and memorise. It’s not an easy job, but when you succeed to memorise one rule of conjugation, you will feel soooo good. And don’t forget to reward yourself with a very good ice cream or a romantic date. And then, just remember this good feeling after having conquered a challenge, and you’ll have the motivation to go on for the second, the third, the fourth,….

– When I started learning French and I found my self in a quitting mood, I borrowed a book or a DVD about France, the culture, the famous sites, and the views. Everytime I got amazed… And started thinking… what if? What if I was there, under the Eiffel Tower, or walking down The Champs Elysées, with the colorful autumn leaves falling around me…? Or: What if I lived in France, crossing La Seine every day, meeting cute French guys, and eating exotic food? And you know what? That motivation of learning French always came back. And better yet, it came back with a new motivation: Someday, I will be there. And look at where this motivation takes me…

Well, it may be hard, that French or German or Spanish… But always try to see it in another way. Don’t feel menaced or uncomfortable, because when you’re patient enough, you will find yourself talking the language one day. Find a source of personal motivation on keep on learning, just like what I did… Don’t forget that practice makes perfect, and making mistakes is what makes you learn.

So, good luck! Bonne chance! Viel glück!

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A blog is born

Hello, soon here news from Serina!

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