What to Wear in Paris

What does one wear to the style capital of the world?

In case you didn’t already know, I’m all for dressing up during a holiday. Vacation pictures are forever, especially with the Internet, so travel outfits are worth putting a thought into. These days, I’m all about marrying style and comfort. The latter used to rank much lower on my list of priorities, but age has since changed that!

The Little Black Dress

Parisian Chic Little Black Dress

Much has been written about this timeless wardrobe staple. Taking into account length, cut, fabric, neckline, sleeves, and dozens of other details, one woman’s LBD can be vastly different from another’s.

For travel purposes, I recommend something made from a lightweight material that packs well and doesn’t show obvious creases. It makes for a perfect “blank canvas”, and while in Paris, go for the quintessential French accessory – the scarf.

The Blazer

Parisian Chic Blazer

Transform a basic tee and jeans combo with a crisp blazer. I love the versatility of everything in this picture. The blazer could easily be paired with a simple dress (such as the one below), and voila, dinner date.

 

 

The Leather Jacket

Parisian Chic Leather Jacket

Going from breezy and nautical to something a bit more rock ‘n roll. A great leather jacket is such a classic, especially in the fall, and can be layered in a multitude of ways. The top provides a pop of colour while the accessories add interest without fighting for attention.

The Navy Sweater

Parisian Chic Navy Sweater

Navy blue, how I adore you! It works as a neutral, but isn’t as sombre as black. It’s a must-have for a nautical colour palette, but honestly, it goes with a variety of other styles.

This navy sweater comes with a detachable collar, but I’d keep it on for its preppy vibe and up the feminine factor with soft pink and mint accessories, while leopard print keeps the look from being too sweet.

The Trench Coat

Parisian Chic Trench Coat

In the winter, stay warm (and stylish) in the ultimate Parisian-chic ensemble: a khaki trench coat over a striped top and dark jeans. It doesn’t matter if everyone else is wearing it. Just know that you’re in good company.

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Under the Parisian Sky

This will be a long and winding post, so you might want to start with a little mood music…

Bienvenue à Paris!

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Walked into the first boulangerie-patisserie we saw and bought a croissant. What? I’m allowed a couple of clichés, am I not?

After fueling up with buttery carbs, it was time to explore the city! Guess where we headed to first?

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La Tour Eiffel, how I had waited for this moment! The weather was perfect that day, the very epitome of “il fait beau“.

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It’s just you, me, and 19, 236 tourists in between. How romantic.

Tip: Pack a drink and a snack before you leave to see the Eiffel Tower, especially if you plan to be there for a while. A bottle of water costs 4 Euros! C’est trop cher, non?

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Posing with our expensive bottle of water.

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A beautiful arc en ciel! The spray from the fountain reached far and wide. Well, far enough to “rain” on us as we lay on the grass.

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Crossing la rue.

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More frolicking on the grass after dinner.

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Just when I thought that it couldn’t possibly get more beautiful than this…

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THIS. This insanely sparkly, glittering display. Pictures don’t do it any justice!

It went on for maybe 5 minutes, and it was the most magical moment of my life, up until the fireworks at Disneyland Paris. Two massive reasons to go back to the City of Lights, and then there’s the food…

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Of course, Paris isn’t perfect. As we crossed le Jardin des Tuileries (pictured) to get to Musée de l’Orangerie, we were approached by two young women who wanted us to sign a petition for something I couldn’t quite catch. They then demanded that we make a donation, which we declined since we didn’t have small change, and I wasn’t about to donate 10 Euros to some unknown agency even if it were legit. They got angry and started shouting at us, and one of them pushed me, but we kept on walking.

As we left the museum, we saw the two of them and their friends (group of five, all young women) being rounded up by the police. However, I doubt that they were arrested and thrown in jail. My colleague encountered the same thing in the same place later that year, so it was likely to be same group, or coincidentally it could be another group running the same scam to cheat unsuspecting tourists.

We also had a close call with a pickpocket while in Rome, so the stories you hear aren’t just rumours. There really are pickpockets and scam artists, and you’ll have to exercise caution where necessary.

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As a general rule, I don’t queue during a holiday. Time is doubly precious, so we didn’t queue to go up the Eiffel Tower, despite it being on my #30before30 list. Also, I recommend tours that allow you to “skip the line”.

We didn’t queue to get into the Notre Dame either, but I’d love to see the interior. Maybe next time? I’m definitely planning to travel to Paris again anyway.

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You have to admit, the view from the outside isn’t all that bad.

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No, not bad at all.

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Les belles fleurs.

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The gorgeous views as we walked back to our hotel.

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Arc de Triomphe at sunset.

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How to look taller: stand next to a really short traffic light.

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Trop mignon! Can one even call this a car?

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Bonus picture: Versailles, which is just as beautiful and demands a return trip…

Et c’est tout! After this, I’ll have one more post about Paris, and then it’s off to London, and eventually… Melbourne. Hahaha, procrastinate much? It’ll all be here in due time, please bear with me!

Timhotel Paris

(Note: I wanted to “touch and go” regarding our accommodation in Paris, but it got longer and longer, and then I decided that it might as well be a post on its own.)

While in Paris, we stayed at Timhotel, which was ridiculously overpriced, most probably because of its location. Most of the attractions were within walking distance. The Lourve was literally across the street! Champs-Élysées was around the corner! Restaurants everywhere!

It felt like the equivalent of Central in Hong Kong, City Hall in Singapore, or Grand Central Station in New York City, so pretty much everything else was a quick metro ride away, and it was all rather convenient.

Our room, however, was a different story. I’d like to think that we’re not too picky when it comes to hotels. After all, it’s just a place to store our things, and somewhere to shower and sleep. Safety, convenience, and cleanliness aren’t too much to ask for, right?

It was a horrible experience. The light was so dim, the room was barely lit. Even then, it couldn’t disguise the fact that the furniture was old and worn, and not very clean. The bathroom was insanely small, and this is coming from someone who’s used to Hong Kong’s infamously cramped apartments!

Seriously, the sink was so tiny, there was barely any space for our toiletries. Most infuriating of all, the shower curtain refused to stay put and insisted on swaying around, which defeated its purpose entirely because then the rest of the bathroom became wet and slippery.

Several things weren’t provided, such as shampoo or bath gel, and I had to buy some from Franprix (or Monoprix, can’t remember which) after we ran out. For the price that we paid, I definitely expected more. For that amount, one could easily stay at a four-star hotel in Hong Kong or Singapore, with all the works.

Is that an unfair comparison? Maybe. Do take note, it was far more expensive than the hotels we stayed at while in Amsterdam and Rome, and they too had prime locations in their respective cities. While I thoroughly enjoyed my stay in those hotels and would definitely consider returning, Timhotel was an absolute disappointment.

On the other hand, we’ve only ever experienced one hotel in Paris, and I have absolutely no idea how other hotels in the area compare. We might take a chance and try AirBnB in the future, but honestly , that next time will be years from now, so it’s too soon to decide.

Alright, rant over. Stay tuned for the next post, which should be up later today!

Les Musées de Paris

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” – Pablo Picasso

Musée de l’Orangerie

This is an art gallery of impressionist paintings, and home to the famous “Water Lilies” or “Les Nymphéas” by Claude Monet. This masterpiece alone is worth the entrance ticket. I don’t have any pictures as photography isn’t allowed in this section of the museum, but you can go to their website for a preview of sorts.

Another prominent artist featured in this gallery is Pierre-Auguste Renoir (one of my personal favourites).

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It’s not as large or as crowded as some of the other museums, which makes for a much more pleasant experience. You could see it all in two or three hours. Obviously it depends on how big of a museum buff you are. Maybe you like to read everything twice, then sit down and sketch a masterpiece of your own. In that case you probably know more about art than I could possibly tell you.

Musée d’Orsay

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You can purchase a combined ticket for Musée de l’Orangerie and Musée d’Orsay for €16. Individually, the tickets are €11 each, so it’s quite a bargain.

Musée d’Orsay holds mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1915, including paintings, sculptures, furniture, and photography. Unfortunately, we’re not allowed to take pictures of the exhibits, so this is the best I’ve got.

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If you still have energy left after viewing countless artefacts, make your way to the top floor, where there’s a stunning view from the clock “window”.

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Also on the this level, there’s an octogonal “couch” where you can take a power nap before exploring the rest of Paris.

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Blame it on the camera angle. I can assure you that I’m of fairly normal proportions in real life.

Musée du Louvre

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Ah, the world-famous Lourve. One hopes to gaze into the Mona Lisa and find the secret behind that enigmatic smile…

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Think again. This is as close as you’re going to get.

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Fret not, there’s more to the Louvre. By the way, the audio guide doubles as a map, which is really cool.

NOTE: You should get audio guides at all the museums you’re visiting. It helps to make sense of what you’re looking at, and it’ll enhance the experience by a hundred times!

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Beautiful fresco, reminiscent of what we saw in Vatican City.

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Elaborately decorated hallway, reminiscent of what we saw in Versailles. (After a while, it all starts to blend together.)

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One-winged angel.

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Slayed the beast, victory is mine! But first, let me take a #selfie.

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有样学样

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Plenty of Egyptian artefacts for those who are interested in Egyptology!

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Shadow play.

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Parting shot.

When visiting museums in any city, be sure to pace yourselves! Get in as early as possible to beat the crowds, and wear comfortable shoes! Also, bring water and something you can snack on discreetly. It’s going to be a long day… Bonne chance!

Our Three Best Meals in Paris

Dining in Paris – where does one begin? It’s the City of Love – love for good food, that is!

Like in Rome, there are tourist traps galore, particularly around the major attractions. And the best way to counter that is research, research, research. Sites like Tripadvisor.com are fairly useful, though I’ll take the reviews with a pinch of salt, and maybe some pepper too.

As for myself, I love French food (like I do most other foods), such as croissants, pain au chocolat, macarons, escargots, foie gras, crêpes, onion soup… just to name a few! Before I get carried away, here are the three most memorable meals we had in Paris, and definitely three of the best meals we’ve had in our lifetime so far! Bon appetit!

 

Comptoir de la Gastronomie

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If you like foie gras, you’ll love this place.

We came here for dinner, and the moment we told them “sans réservations“, the response was that the wait would be anything from five minutes to an hour(!). Luckily, we didn’t have to wait for more than 1o minutes.

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Soupe à l’oignon. We had this a couple of times in Paris, and I really liked the one here.

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French cheese is an acquired taste, so if all you’ve known is cheddar, mozzarella, and parmesan, don’t order a platter of les fromages français “for the experience”. What you will get is an expensive learning experience, like we did.

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Le poisson. This was monkfish (if I remember correctly) with bacon, on a bed of beans.

And now for the pièce de résistance

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Escalope de foie gras de canard poêlée sur son pain d’épices et mesclun (pan-seared duck foie gras on gingerbread with mesclun). A-ma-zing!

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Santé!

Comptoir de la Gastronomie
34 Rue Montmartre, 75001 Paris, France

 

Le Procope

We were more relaxed about the Paris portion of the trip (as compared to Rome), and hence I didn’t plan as much. We ended up dining at a few touristy spots, and this was one of them. The overall dining experience was great, and hence this place deserves a mention.

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We each had a half dozen escargots. I’ve always liked escargots, but after having these, I was hooked. For the next few days I’d order escargots everywhere we went, but they couldn’t quite measure up. I must have wiped out an entire garden.

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Seabass fillet and a roasted tomato “tart”.

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Beef and vegetable stew. I know it doesn’t look like much, but it was so good… The meat was perfectly tender, and a hot stew was just the thing for a cold night!

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Edwin had the dessert du moment, which was a chocolate mousse of sorts with lots of cream.

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I had the tiramisu “recette maison” (house recipe). They brought out a huge bowl of the stuff, and scooped it out in front of us. It may not be pretty, but BEST TIRAMISU EVER.

Who knew that after my tiramisu hunt in Rome, I’d end up finding it in Paris? Go figure.

Le Procope
13 Rue de l’Ancienne Comédie, 75006 Paris, France

 

Le P’tit Troquet

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Un petit restaurant not far from the Eiffel Tower, but it’s tucked away on a quieter street and will require some navigation. Unless you’ve got some natural GPS going on, I’d suggest getting really acquainted with Google Maps beforehand.

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We each had a 3-course set dinner. This was Edwin’s starter of salmon with dill. Sorry, I can’t remember its full name, but I do remember that it was delicious!

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My starter, risotto wrapped in parma ham and topped with asparagus, was also lovely.

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Edwin’s main course: pan-seared duck fillet with roasted potatoes.

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My main course: steak topped with a massive slab of foie gras, served with more awesome potatoes.

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Pour le dessert, Edwin had the poached spiced pear with vanilla ice-cream, and he couldn’t stop raving about it. This is a big deal because he doesn’t care much for food. (What am I doing with him? I guess opposites do attract.) Which I suppose makes it a must-try, especially if you’re into fruity desserts.

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Moi, je préfère le chocolat. La tarte au chocolat avec une glace vanille, c’est très délicieux aussi!

The staff were some of the most polite we’ve ever met, not just in Paris, and the service was excellent. This was our first proper meal in France and for better or worse, it set the bar for the rest of the trip. If you’re in Paris for just one night, you should definitely dine here!

Le P’tit Troquet
28 Rue de l’Exposition, 75007 Paris, France
You can make online reservations for all three restaurants, and you should, especially for Le P’tit Troquet. I heard that it’s almost always full, and while we were there, we saw so many people get turned away at the door. For larger restaurants, you could walk in and maybe wait 30 to 40 minutes for a table, but why would you want to spend precious vacation time doing that?
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Paris has a lot more to offer than just good food. Out there is where the magic happens.

An American Mouse in Paris

My love for Disney is no secret. Our Disneymoon (way back in 2012) is still the best trip we’ve ever had. I loved every moment spent in Disney World, and I have to go back someday, maybe with the little ones in tow! And in case you’re interested, here’s the six-part series:

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Part Six

When we planned our Europe trip last September, there was no way I was going to miss Disneyland Paris. So with a little fairy dust (and mostly lots of clickety-click), we found ourselves in a Disney park once more!

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I’ve also decided that I want to go to Disneyland Paris again (more on that later), and stay at the gorgeous Disneyland Hotel next time.

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Token #selfie onboard the Autopia.

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I saw Wall-E and Eve from afar and ran towards them like a madwoman even though they’re not going anywhere. I couldn’t help my excitement. “Wall-E” was the very first movie that Edwin and I watched together, and so it holds a special place in my heart.

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Now and always.

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Waiting in line at “Star Tours”, which turned out to be incredibly boring. The one in Disney World was much, much better. (I might be doing lots of comparisons, please bear with me!)

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“Space Mountain: Mission 2”, on the other hand, had some scary space madness going on.

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Edwin and I were screaming our faces off, but the dudes behind us seemed pretty chill.

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We had lunch at Cafe Hyperion, and you can see that I was thrilled with having a Magnum Mini for dessert.

The dining area also had this auditorium-like space and there were screenings of Disney-Pixar short films, some I knew and some new to me. My favourite is “Day & Night”.

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“Le Pays des Contes de Fées” (The Land of Fairy Tales), a voyage through beautifully detailed miniature storybook lands.

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The cottage of the seven dwarves, and Rapunzel’s tower in the background.

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Belle’s village, from “Beauty and the Beast”. Simply stunning.

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“We’re off to see the wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz!”

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Looking more like a happy jail-bird than the Queen of Hearts, but oh well. By the way, “Alice’s Curious Labyrinth” is not just for kids! Several adults, including ourselves, got lost within the maze too!

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“Peter Pan’s Flight” was one of my favourite rides in Magic Kingdom, so I had high hopes for this one. But alas, it was another disappointment. The poor lighting, awkward arrangement of the set, and less-than-smooth ride made for one very confusing experience. 😦

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Somewhere in every Disney park, it’s Christmas all year round.

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Do you want to buy a snowman?

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So… Anna and Elsa have been relegated to being store displays. #letitgo

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“Beautiful” is an understatement.

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Can’t go home without a Disney castle #selfie!

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With my prince. 🙂

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“Phantom Manor”, which is the Parisian equivalent of “Haunted Mansion”. It’s just as spooky, made all the more chilling by the Cast Members who were really into it. I’m quite the chicken when it comes to such rides, and one of the Cast Members made me almost scream out loud.

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As dusk fell upon us, we gathered in front of the castle in anticipation of the fireworks show. So far, I was having mixed feelings about Disneyland Paris. About a third of the attractions were closed for refurbishment, and half the dining spots were closed too. In some areas of the park, it was as though we had walked into a ghost town.

On the bright side, with so few guests in the park, there were hardly any queues. The longest we waited in line was maybe ten minutes, and there was absolutely no need for FASTPASS.

Anyway, I was beginning to feel like Disneyland Paris was a bit of a disappointment, and maybe not worth a second visit. Then the fireworks show commenced.

And it was PERFECT.

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Some of the songs were in French, and others were in English. It didn’t matter. These beloved Disney songs were woven together into a medley that told a story of its own, interspersed with the most breathtaking effects. The arrangement was flawless and surpassed even Magic Kingdom, which I didn’t think was possible.

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Needless to say, pictures don’t do it justice. But you have to at least see a little of what I’m raving about.

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Ah… It was beautiful, touching and magical, and now I just want to go there again. Brilliant.

And guess what? I am! Well, not to Paris, but Hong Kong Disneyland is certainly good enough. We’ll be going next week, and I can’t wait! Can’t even begin to describe how awesome it is to live in a city that’s home to a Disney park.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to blog again soon. Until then, have faith, trust, and a good dose of pixie dust!

Versailles Palace and Gardens Walking Tour with Viator

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One of my favourite movies is “Marie Antoinette”. Beautiful people in beautiful costumes, what’s not to love?

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The film won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design, so Hollywood agrees.

And there’s going to be a new Marie Antoinette movie starring Diane Kruger! The new film will probably shed yet another light on the life of the queen, and I’m eager to see how it differs from the 2006 version. The one constant (aside from gorgeous dresses) is the setting – the equally stunning Château de Versailles.

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I wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity to witness firsthand the opulence of the palace, and with a little clickety-click, it’s yet another tour with Viator! Our guide was the lovely Sarah, who hails from Texas but loves all things French. She’s warm, funny, and animated, and this was the most fun we ever had on a tour.

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As usual, one of the best parts of a Viator tour is not having to queue.

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We started with a tour of the gardens, which were massive! There’s no way to cover all that ground in a single day. We wanted to rent a buggy later in the day, but they were all out. 😦 Le Petit Trianon will have to wait for another time!

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Within the gardens were “rooms”, and each had a distinct design and theme. Sarah (in the red jacket) would give us a brief history of these spots, and their significance in the lives of the French kings, namely Louis XIV, the one who made it all happen.

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花朵,怎能叫花园? (If there aren’t any flowers, how can we call it a garden?)

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No shortage of fountains. It’s quite impressive how all this was achieved in the seventeenth century!

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After the tour of the gardens, Sarah bid us adieu and left us to explore the interiors of the palace with our audio guides. Needless to say, it was far more crowded inside.

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The infamous queen herself. I wonder if she ever knew of the stories she would inspire?

Well, until then, let me eat cake.