Paris Museum Series : Musee D’Orsay

Paris is host to over a hundred museums and monuments.  It may be viewed as impractical to cover even just a quarter of it in one week, unless you are willing to subject yourself to sensory overload.  =)

Paris offers a museum pass, which is available for sale in major METRO stations and museum entrances.  I bought a two-day pass for 39E.  A pass entitles the holder to a less-to-hassle-free entrance; shorter or no queue at all at dedicated entrances.  It also comes with a couple of freebies, and it sometimes goes on sale, too – thus, bigger discounts. To know more about Paris pass and museum pass, please follow this link:  http://parispass.com/how-it-works/paris-museum-pass.html

My ticket to a 2-day museum marathon.

I made a plan to cover only 4 museums:  Day 1 – Musee D’Orsay for Impressionism,  and Centre Georges Pompidou for Modern Art; Day 2 – Chateau De Versailles for history;   and that weekend, which I tagged as Day 3, ticket at 10E – Musee D’Louvre for the Italian-Catholic paintings, plus Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo.  

My main objective, as stated in my Schengen cover letter, was to learn more about the development of Impressionism, and the best classical and neo-classical impressionists.  This prompted me to spend over half-a-day at Musee D’Orsay, and I could not be more satisfied with the learning. 

Day 1 – Museum #1 : Musee D’Orsay

It is a former rail station in the left bank of the Seine River, also utilized as a post office during World War II.  It was inaugurated to a museum in December 1986.  It houses the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces by celebrated artists – the likes of Claude Monet, Edoardo Manet, Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Vincent Van Gogh (my favorite). 

Website:  http://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/

Getting there:  METRO 12 Solferino /  RER C Musee D’Orsay / Bus #24, 63, 68, 69, 73, 83, 84, 94 / Hop On Hop Off Bus / Hop On Hop Off BATOBUS (Seine River).   

The museum galleries have ample space to accomodate hundreds of people.  Cameras and camcorders are not allowed in exhibition halls; though it is not unusual to see some people just sitting on the floor, trying to come up with their rendition of masterpieces.  If you are not able to bring a sketchpad and pen, you can easily buy these materials from the museum shop. The museum also has a bookstore near the entrance/exit hall.  I bought my second book about Van Gogh for 10E, in anticipation for my visit to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

 

 Next stop:  Centre Georges Pompidou

Part II: Kuting in Paris – ‘Traveling Tourists’

Traveling – my life won’t be complete without it.  The intrigue of foreign travel lures me.  It is a chronic case of wanderlust.  What I love about traveling is soaking up the culture; fun and learning taking place at the same time, and in a place that used to be unfamiliar to the senses. 

As for our EU trip, Cashmer and I only got few weeks to prepare for it.  She would have to attend business meetings , so we had to be ‘more efficient’ in order for us to experience the best of the Parisian culture. 

There was no excuse for jet lag. On our very first day in Paris, we were fueled by a high-level of excitement.  Here are the ‘evidences’.  =)

Day 1 – Sunday, 7:30AM:  Cashmer and I met at Charles De Gaulle (CDG) International Airport in Paris.  She came from Singapore, where she is currently based.  I flew from Manila, then to HK – Paris in a CX flight.  (Manila to HK = 1.6hrs, HK to Paris = 13.2hrs).  From CDG, it took us about 30 minutes to get to the hotel via metered cab, 25KM, fare = 50Euros.  Radisson Blu would be our home for a few days.  It is strategically located along Boulevard Haussmann, a prime business center in Paris.

Bonjour Paris!
Expressway from CDG to downtown Paris

Radisson Blu, Blvd Haussmann
Home Away from Home

10AM – Off to Champs Elysees via METRO (Richelieu Drouot Station to Franklin D. Roosevelt).  A day-ticket, which is good for unlimited rides within 24hours, costs 9.75Euros.

Station: Richelieu Drouot
Giddy – first time to explore the METRO

Pomme de Pain – our first cafe along Champs Elysees.  The serving size is good for brunch.  A set meal costs about 7Euros.  I was never a fan of bread, but after enjoying a baguette at Pomme de Pain, that changed the way I look at bread.  I survived 10 days without rice for carbs, only bread.  Now, I love to eat croissants, pain au lait, and the deliciously chewy baguette with lotsa’ cheese (plus Sauvignon Blanc, if I get to eat baguette – late dinner at home).

Delicious and Nutritious: Baguette + Cheese and Deli + Strawberries + Coffee

Retail Therapy for BAGAHOLICS:  Cashmer and I visited Louis Vuitton, Champs Elysees.  We paid homage to the Maison, and paid for some precious arm candies, as well.  It was not about ‘weak constitution’ for me, but I did survive months of bag ban and that it was lifted a week before my birthday (LV bags were virtually singing ‘Happy Birthday, Ann’ in unison).  We also bought bring-home gifts for family and friends from L’Occitane.  The sales associates gave us a lot of freebies (a lot!), and they did ask about our very own Boracay.  Genuinely friendly AND English-speaking people in Paris are comparable to hard-to-find gems. 

In other areas of the city, retail shops are closed on Sundays.  The best district for shopping on a Sunday is Champs Elysees. 

Toilettes (twa-let) may not be viewed as necessity at the Champs district.  Only few shopping establishments have public toilettes.  One has to pay 20cents to 80cents just to be able to use the toilet. In restaurants / braserries, it is not unusual to see signage that reads – “toilettes are for customers only.”

Cash at Champs Elysees
We ‘paid homage’ to the Maison. =)

Bag ban is lifted…today! =)

Retail therapy was completed at around 3PM.  We headed back to the hotel to deposit our shopping finds.  It was a 15min-drive via cab, for 9Euros.  The cab driver was commenting about politics:  Hollande vs. Sarkozy.  That Sunday was the first round of the presidential election – an interesting time to be in France!  Our first political discussion, very engaging one, was with a cab driver. 

It was in the next few days that it became pronounced that majority of cab drivers in Paris speak good English; and they are generally friendly. 

From Boulevard Haussmann, it was an easy METRO ride going to Trocadero <– station of choice when visiting the Eiffel Tower.  From Trocadero, one has to walk about 10 minutes to reach the Eiffel Tower.  It was quite an effortless walk because we got to see the extent of the tower’s imposing and majestic view. 

Eiffel Tower from Trocadero

Our plan was to go on a Seine River cruise after sunset via Bateaux Parisien…but sunset in springtime is at 9:30PM!  From Eiffel, we went to Musee D’Louvre via METRO.  The time was enough for us to get a quick view of the museum.  We would go back to Louvre for a half-day tour in the weekend.  We had our first dinner in a braserrie outside the Louvre. (In all Parisian restaurants I tried, veggies are fresh and naturally sweet.  Average cost of a complete meal in braserries, 18Euros.)

Cashmer at Musee D’Louvre

Pyramid at Musee D’Louvre

Duck : lovin’ springtime at the Louvre

Dinner, 8PM – sun was still up as if it was only 3PM
Sunset in springtime: past 9PM

fast food deal : braserrie style

We were back at the Eiffel Tower a bit before sunset.  The boat stations for the Seine River cruise have ticket booths there.  A BATOBUS hop on hop off ticket costs 15Euros per person.  It is a 24-hour pass to 8 river stations:  Tour Eiffel, Musee D’Orsay, Saint Germain des Pres, Notre Dame, Jardin des Plantes, Hotel de Ville, Louvre, and Champs Elysees.  A night cruise is a way on how one can acquire a better understanding why Paris is called La Ville Lumiere or The City of Lights.  The highlight of that night cruise was the Illuminations of the Eiffel Tower – majestic, monumental, romantic! =)

9:30PM, Spring – Eiffel Tower

Seine River Night Cruise
BATOBUS hop on hop off

Notre Dame

The Latin Quarter – Paris’ University Belt

Pont Neuf (lit. New Bridge) – Paris’ oldest bridge; inaugurated in 1607 by Henry IV.

Bastions of Pont Neuf

Seine River Night Cruise – Eiffel Tower Illuminations

beyond words…

We were able to cover these places within a day.  We capped off Day 1 with a picture-taking session along Trocadero.  Temperature was about 3*C, which was literally shocking to the ribs.  We were back at the hotel a bit past midnight <- disclaimer: we are not related to Cinderella.  I had a little energy left to take photos of our room before I entered dreamland.

No jet lag, just a good night sleep. =)

 

 

Part I: Kuting in Paris – Lost in Translation

It was my first time to attend a multi cultural class outside my home continent (Asia).  It was not part of my itinerary, but since it was raining during my second day in Paris, I just wanted to stay indoors, but not in a museum.  So I decided to sign up for a wine class. 

Cashmer left early for her first of many business meetings, I mean, many. I had to muster all the courage to walk the ‘cold and unfamiliar’ streets of Paris by myself; just relying on – my memory of the map, limited French language, and a trained internal compass (the one that screams in the head – I’m lost!). 

Paris is not as crime-free as Singapore.  There are pick-pockets and muggers in Paris.  Majority of those elements have medium-to-heavy built; it would be difficult to use against them the skills I got from the Karate Kid, Kung Fu Panda, and Elorde – even if I combined the techniques from those three legends.  If I had to carry a map around the city and made it obvious, it was comparable to carrying an imaginary signboard, screaming: PREY.  Tsk, tsk, tsk.

Before things got too excited, I had to remember to wear four layers of clothing – thermal undershirt, thermal stockings, thick denim dress, wool cardigans, trench coat, scarf around my neck, and semi high-cut boots.  Imagine – Kuting (Kitten) in Paris.  I am a self-proclaimed Sun Kuting  (comparable to the Sun King of France), therefore, I don’t really thrive in cold climate.  I needed more calories to keep my temperature warm.  No human blanket available, so I just  enjoyed a hearty brunch at the Radisson Blu.  The French won’t surely like it when I’m hungry. (Thanks, Hulk.) 

best tasting croissants and pain au lait 

It was a gloomy day in Paris when I stepped out of the hotel at 12NN.  The weather forecast was pretty accurate, with temperature at 8*C, drizzle, occasional winds that sent shiver to the bones.  I walked to the nearest Metro station, my hands in akimbo, and I was trying to act normal, I mean, unfriendly…pretending to be a ‘local’.  Here is the route I followed:

The Metro station is called Richelieu Drouot (Chartreuse colored line – light/soft lime green), my ‘home station’ for several days.  (Good thing, I bought a 3-day Metro ticket the other day at Champs Elysee.  Minor train stations do not always have days-worth of tickets to sell.)  4 stations from Richelieu Drouot is the Franklin D. Roosevelt station.  From Roosevelt, I transferred to the yellow line going to Louvre de Rivoli.  When I reached Rivoli, a brasserie caught my attention – so I had to walk in to try some authentic French cuisine, plus a bottle of Badoit (I got addicted to this sparkling water – it’s like Sprite minus the sugar). 

From Louvre, I had to take walk to O Chateau, which is located along Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau.  It was quite a walk, because the French people are so not inclined in giving directions, or they don’t speak English at all. 

Scenario 1:

Me:  Excuse me, Madame.  Bonjour! (Bon – shouwr :  Good day)  Do you know which way to…

Lady:  (cutting my sentence) Non Anglais…(meaning: no English)

Scenario 2:

Me:  Bonjour!  Do you know which way to O Chateau, Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau?

Guy:  C’est dix minutes a pyay…

Me:  Pardon (Par-don). Je ne comprends pas (Zher ner kom pron pa).  Parlez vous Anglais?  (Par-lay voo ong-glay).  (Translation:  Sorry. I don’t understand. Do you speak English?)

Guy:  Pardon.

Scenario 3:

Me:  Bonjour! Excusez-moi (eks-kyu-zay-mwa = excuse me).  Do you know which way to O Chateau, Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau?

Guy:  It’s near.  You just walk to the left (signaling to the right)…

Me:  Oh, so you, mean, left (using my hand to signal to the left)…

Guy:  Sorry…Yeah, it’s to the left..then…ah first, no, second street, turn left…you won’t miss it.

Me:  Merci!  (Thanks)

Guess what?  I followed his instructions and I got lost…I was trying to find my way to O Chateau in the next 15minutes.  The street signage were not so helpful, but I knew O Chateau is somewhere within that area…I sent a distress signal to Heaven:  Lord, please send me angels…sigh, sigh…The street was empty, and I was getting nervous, but I continued walking that led me to the next scenario…

Scenario 4:

Guy:  Miss, Filipina ka? 

Me:  Oo, Filipina nga ako. Nawawala ata ako.  (Yes, I’m Filipina. I think I’m lost.)

Lady 1:  San ka ba pupunta? (Where are you going?)

I showed them the address.

Lady 2:  Sa kabila lang ito.  (Next street from here).

Guy:  Tawid tayo. Tapos, unang kanto kaliwa, kita na O Chateau.  (Let’s cross the street.  Then, first street turn left, you’ll see O Chateau). 

Me:  Thank you.  It was an answered prayer.  I was starting to get scared already, then you people saw me.  Hay… 

Prayer granted.

I was at O Chateau 15 minutes before the class started. I was the only Filipina enrolled in the class for that day.  Most of my classmates came in late because they also got lost.  It was an informative and enjoyable class that warrants another blog entry.  =)

Lovestruck Cliche

01 April 2012, 2:00AM, my bedroom

Inspiration = allergy + traveling to Paris + Ally McBeal soundtrack

“See the marketplace in old Algiers

Send me photographs and souvenirs

Just remember when a dream appears

You belong to me

–  lyrics from “You Belong to Me” – Vonda Shepard, Ally McBeal soundtrack, circa 1990s

Lovestruck Cliche
Materials : sketch pad, colored pencils
Sleepless night due to allergy, idea of traveling to Paris, listening to Ally McBeal soundtrack

Is it impossible to fight graft and corruption?

The natural tendency of a private citizen-taxpayer is to hate everything that is corrupt, from red tape to malversations of public fund; or simply put, blatant corruption in government offices/agencies.

In a speech delivered by President Noy during the recently concluded ADB Summit, he emphasized that corruption, which flourished under GMA’s regime, is over.  The positive macro-economic indicators, which are manifesting in the last 22 months are fruits of good governance.  Many threw negative criticisms after a copy of the same (speech) was published in a popular broadsheet last week.

I am one who is fully supportive of good governance, but sadly, there is still corruption. It will continue – as long as we tolerate it.  Expressing harsh criticisms is one thing, but supporting an act of corruption is another. 

I experienced one of the blatant forms of graft and corruption when I arrived at NAIA Terminal 1 last week.  It was my worst day in an airport – and it happened right here, on Philippine soil. 

I arrived from Paris via CX.  I was carrying a two-piece luggage.  The customs official asked whether it is true that LV bags are cheaper in Paris.  I did not comment.  The official, became officials <– ‘s’, in plural form.  They held my passport and asked me to open my luggage.  They saw 3 LV bags neatly arranged, and they asked me whether I would pay the tax.  They saw several Longchamp bags, but they did not mind; all eyes were on the LV bags.  There was an opportunity to bribe, but I told them to compute for the tax, instead.  They asked me a couple of questions about the bags.  I bought 2 of those 3 bags for friends.  I couldn’t let them confiscate the bags.

I did not have enough peso bills in my wallet.  So they held my passport + luggage, and an officer escorted me to the nearest ATM booth.  He was asking why I look so sad – 20 hours in transit + 5-digit tax to pay.  I told him bluntly, ‘pakiramdam ko na-hold up ako’ (I felt like being mugged).  I was worried about the bags, and what people could possibly insert into those bags.  With all the ‘drug frame-up stories’ I heard, at that instance, I was paranoid.  I even forgot to call up my lawyer.  I can be feisty, or bitchy, but at that point, I was being extra-mindful of my words and actions.

I paid the tax.  They issued me an Official Receipt (OR) for the payment.  Some people were telling me, I should have ‘given’ the officials 100USD / 100EUROS, instead.  I had USD notes that time (but no more Peso and Euros), but still, I won’t tolerate corruption. Period.

I did not feel bad about paying taxes; but what I totally resent is how the officials handled the situation.  I was held like a big-time ‘tax evader’, because I was a solo traveler who came home from Europe.  They asked me about the trip as I was just out there burning Euros.  I felt harassed, like being held up by a mob.  They were talking about LV as if it was the biggest luxury item in town…pardon me for the tone of these comments, I’m simply invoking the Bill of Rights. 

After I got the OR, I thought the ordeal was over.  As I was walking towards the exit door, I was interrupted by another customs official, who was holding a telecom radio.  He confirmed whether I was the one carrying 3 LV bags in my luggage.  He wanted to see the bags…I was appalled.  “How many times do you need to open my luggage???  Can’t you see??? I have an OR already! I paid the tax!  What else do you want from me?!”  He muttered, “I’m just asking.”  I really felt mugged.  

If this ‘bribe-or-tip-situation’ is the norm at our international air(port) terminals, then how could we ‘BS’ (ah, help?) the Bureau of Customs to put their act together when we, ourselves, are supporting graft and corruptionI don’t get it. 

Another lesson learned:  On my way home,  I called up my lawyer.  She told me, those customs officials were not supposed to search my luggage.  Should they inspect my luggage, it has to be in plain view only; no thorough searching, unless, I’m a perceived threat to national security.   

The fight for corruption is not only for the government to take up.  It is a gargantuan task to flush out cancer, that is corruption.  Do we need to bribe traffic enforcers?  Do we really need to go through fixers when transacting with government agencies?  Is it required to give at least 2USD to airport officials as tip, or what they call ‘pang-kape lang po , sir/ma’am’? (Try NAIA Terminal 2, inbound flights from the US). Would you ever attempt to beat the traffic red light if you are in a progressive country?  Would you ever break the 70-75mph speed limit in a US freeway?  We know the correct answer, for sure. 

Sigh, sigh…

Emotionally ‘divorced’

I went to EU on such a short notice.  I wanted reprieve, silence.  I wanted to hear my heart speak.  I went to a place where people are refined, but most were unfriendly.  I needed to feel alone, and yet secure in my own person.  For three days, while my good friend Cashmer was busy attending business meetings, I chose to explore and walk along the cold, unfamiliar streets of Paris.  It was solitude, at its grandest, the best birthday present I could ever give myself.

For five months, I was silently trying to heal, and somehow, conceal my wounds.  The cuts were deep.  I never thought it would ever run deep.  It was worse than I thought. I was trying to stay strong for I have things to deliver and a number of people counting on me, and I never wanted to be there just for the sake of being there.  I have established myself in this field for over a decade, and I’m not throwing everything away just because I was on the verge of an emotional divorce.  I used to believe in ‘that something’ – I was in love with “that idea”, and it meant more than a career.  It used to be “the life”, which some people thought was  the best for me. I worked hard for it, made sacrifices…and it made me happy and fulfilled for a while, until the day came, and I could no longer ignore the writings on the wall – it’s over. 

I attended a multi-cultural wine appreciation class in Paris.  At the end of that class, I learned about the sophisticated world of French wine.  In the process, I met one facet of my old self again.  She was that one assertive lass who was learning and frolicking in an unfamiliar environment. She did not seem to mind the unknown; she was excited to explore.  She was not giving herself boundaries in terms of learning and walking the high road.  I know she is a rebel for a good cause.  I just have to say it, I know her.  I was her.

To be writing about a broken heart this way, I’m finally relieved of the pain from the cuts and bruises.  I may have flaws, made amends in the process, recognized my weaknesses – but I’m not going to trade the character that took me decades to build with all the love and guidance I received. 

For the times I acted immature, for all the ignorance, and for all the growing pains – I have forgiven myself.  It cannot be apathy for so long.  For all the things which weighed me down for months, I’m now making it official – I am emotionally divorced.  I am moving on.

wine glass = looking glass