Monday, September 27, 2010

Auberge du Bon Laboureur

So on Sunday we decided to bring some friends from NY who are in town to see castles in the Loire Valley. As usual, we took out our Guide of Life aka The Michelin Guide, to look for a good gastronomic restaurant. And did we find one!

About two hours away from Paris, right next to the Château de Chenonceau, we lunched at the Auberge du Bon Laboureur. It is a classic French restaurant, with the classic village look and the classic deco. What makes not so typical, is its 1 Michelin star rating. And boy how big the difference is between no star and 1 star!

Between the 5 of us, we had a good taste of the restaurant's menu. I must say that I picked the BEST plat, or main dish. Their gambas with truffled mashed potatoes and forest mushroom emulsion is to DIE FOR. I even tried J's baby pigeon. It was very tender, very tasty but I felt bad for eating something baby. But it was good nonetheless.

So, if you are ever in the hood, you know, visiting Louis XIV's holiday homes and what not, make sure to eat here! Budget about EUR60 per person, and you will leave contented and full.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Jardin du Luxembourg

The French Senate

The Medici Fountain

An Ode to Homey
In my opinion, this is the most beautiful garden in Paris, and apparently also the largest public park. (I totally didn't know its as big as 224,500 m²!)It is located in the 6th arrondissement, also one of my favorite neighborhoods to eat, shop and chill. I usually read in the garden of Tuileries, but once in awhile I make my way here to read at my favorite spot in front of the Medici Fountain. In the summertime, throngs of tourist groups pass by with their tour guides and loudspeakers, so when I get too annoyed, I move to the surrounding gardens, where I never fail to grab 2 chairs (one to sit on, and one to rest my feet)... away from the noise and sweatshirts.

My best friend from KL, S.A, literally had goosebumps when she was here. (This is according to her, ok!) After awhile living in Paris, you kinda get used to beautiful things. I'm not saying this to be pretentious, just trying to say that with a non-local person, I was re-introduced to the beauty of it all. My breath was taken away once again when I see things with tourist eyes. The flowers, the properly trimmed trees, the super chic mothers and their equally chic babies in strollers, and man..the HISTORY behind it all.. you can't help but let your mind wander and imagine a little how it was hundreds of years ago...

In 1611, the widow of Henri IV, Marie de Medicis, decided to build a palace to remind her of her native Florence. She bought the hotel du Luxembourg, which now houses the French Senate, and later in 1630 bought another 30 hectares of land to build a park. The garden has over a hundred statues, fountains and monuments scattered around. Twenty figures of historical Queens and female saints surrounds the central green space. Its like a pop-up history book. I plan to dress my future children in Tartine et Chocolat and bring them here, where they can socialize and find many friends ;)

Metro: Saint Placide, Odéon
Photos by SA

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Opéra Garnier

This is by far my favorite building in Paris, the National Opera House, Palais Garnier. It is the 13th theater that houses the Paris Opera, founded in 1669 by Louis XIV. The theater itself was built by unknown architect Charles Garnier during 15 years between 1860 and 1875. It is just BEAUTIFUL.

I have yet to attend an opera or a ballet here, it is just so difficult to get tickets. For certain operas, it is said that a 6 month-1 year advanced booking is necessary. However, for less known ballets, you can show up at the ticket booth the day of the show itself. If you're lucky, you can get pretty cheap tickets!

I shall be patient and wait for a gala opening, I've always loved dressing up for a fabulous night!

Since I have no pictures of the interior yet, checkout the video for a brief virtual tour.

Métro: Opéra
Photos by AG

Restaurant Indonesia

Sate AyamIkan Balado

Ok so I've been blogging a lot about food lately, but I can't help it I love to eat! And you Malaysians, I know too well. No matter where you are in the world, and no matter how good the local cuisine is, you need your dose of rice and sambal after 5 or 6 days abroad. Thing is, I'm not judging.. because I totally understand.

So, I am almost ashamed to say that Malaysian friends who visited Paris were the ones who told me about this restaurant! Located right opposite Jardin de Luxembourg, this Indonesian restaurant serves delights we are used to for a petit price. You can budget about EUR25 per person for a good meal close to home.

Taste wise, it is far from your grandmother/mother's cooking. But it is good enough. The "ikan balado" and beef rendang aren't as spicy as it should be, but you can ask for a little bowl of sambal. Less sweet than what I am used to, but still good! So after a long day of shopping in St. Germain and walking through Jardin de Luxembourg, stop by Indonesia for a fulfilling meal.

Metro: Odéon
Photos by Me
Rue de Vaugirard
75006 Paris

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Les Madeleines à la "Alia"

Ok ok so I need to work on my chocolate coating skills..

Its a beautiful day today, really it is! Sunny and dry, with a high of 22 degrees celcius. If H.B.T was in town, I'd be sure to receive a call or text from her saying "come on let's do something!". But, she has moved to Brussels, and I just feel like staying in and baking madeleines!

I'm sure its nothing new to you guys, madeleines can be found everywhere in Kuala Lumpur. It is a small traditional cake that came from the Lorraine region in the northeastern part of France. It is buttery, sometimes greasy and OH SO YUMMY. Usually it is served as is, but you can also find them covered with chocolate.

I am going to give the ULTIMATE gift to J, WHITE CHOCOLATE covered madeleines! Now that you won't find at the local boulangerie, those I can call Les Madeleines à la "Alia". *squeal*!!!

PS: Ok so I don't get an A+ for aesthetics, but I shall work on that!

Photos by Me

Monday, September 20, 2010

Saint Tropez

View of the village from above
The port of Saint Tropez
The village

Bet you guys are thinking of rap videos, old men + ridiculously beautiful women, P. Diddy and Paris Hilton and megayachts? CORRECT! Saint Tropez is everything that I mentioned, but also a lot more. It has been the cliché for jetsetting superstars and socialites since Brigitte Bardot made it so back in the 60s. But it remains the most charming little village that I have seen on the Côte d'Azur (or like the Americans love saying, the "French Riviera").

This summer, J and I drove down south not because we loved being with throngs of tourists on pebbled beaches, but because we were attending a wedding in Toulon. So, we decided to make the best of the trip and explore La Côte d'Azur, and visited Toulon, Nice, Cannes, St Tropez, Bandol, Cassis, Monaco, Ile de Porquerolles, and a few villages along the way. I am aware of the reputation Saint Tropez has, but away from the crowded beach of Pampelonne, we discovered the village and its habitants who are not so bling bling and drunk 24/7!

My best friend from NYC and her husband were also in town, so we had an amazing day in St Trop together. We even met up with an old friend of mine also from NY , who is now managing some family business there. Lunch then ice-cream by the port, pictures in front of the megayachts, a stroll in the market and drinks at Byblos hotel.. OK I admit, TOURIST! But I was so seduced by St Tropez! I did not want to admit it at first, but it is my favorite place (even more so than pristine Monte Carlo) in the south of France.

It is a long drive from Paris, about 8 hours to get to Toulon, then 2 more to St Tropez. It was all worth it though, the scenery is breathtaking, I couldn't get enough of the boats and yachts. You will enjoy food that will make your palettes squeal for joy, and prices although still high in the peak of summertime, still cheaper than Paris. DO NOT, drive direct to St Trop however. I suggest parking your car at St Maxime, then take the boat that crosses over in 7 mins. The boat goes over and back every 15 mins, its cheap and you avoid the nasty traffic heading over to St Tropez.

I loved it. J who hates the south during summertime, also eventually admitted that St Trop was also his favorite destination of all. It is one of the very few places in the world where J and I both decided, that we will definitely come back...

Photos by Me

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Mes Emmerdes

He's a classic. Love it!

Printemps & Galeries Lafayette

Ladies ladies ladies, shopping anyone? Shopper's heaven! If you like departmental style shopping that is. Printemps and Galeries Lafayette are two department stores right next to each other in the 9th arrondissement. It is definitely more shishi, but they kinda remind me of the Macy's area on 34th street in New York.

Each store is divided into the Men's Store, the Women's Store, and Home and Beauty. Galeries Lafayette coupole is where the women and beauty sections are. Do not forget to look up while you are in there! The roof is a beautiful dome (see pic), and during Christmas time to my delight, Christmas decorations hang down from the skies. Makes me feel like a kid again. But oh well it doesn't take much to do that!

Personally, I prefer Printemps because it is less famous in the world hence there are less people and hence the shopping experience is more peaceful. The crowd is less shady as well. BE CAREFUL while shopping at Galeries Lafayette, this area, yet again, is really known for thieves and pickpockets. A friend of mine very recently had her Kelly bag stolen while trying shoes on at Chanel! It was gone in a blink of an eye, and because of the crowd it is almost impossible to trace it!

In case something is stolen, this is what you should do:
1) Go to the "Acceuil", the general desk, and report the theft.
2) Go to the nearest Commesariat de Police, which is at 14 bis rue Chauchat, 75009 Paris. It is within walking distance from the stores. They have many tourists reporting stolen things here so there will be at least one person who speaks English
3) Stop fretting, its GONE
4) Call the Malaysian Embassy, go there to make your temporary passport. You will need 2 passport size pictures and EUR13

So try to avoid this area on the weekends. Go during the weekdays early in the morning. ALWAYS pay attention to your belongings and bring a bag that has a zipper and keep it zipped at all times. Be defiant, and trust no one!

Metro: Havre Caumartin, Chaussée d'Antin La Fayette
Photos by Me

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hotel de Ville and Le Marais

Hotel de VilleBHV
My route today

After a much needed aromatic oil massage with J.B today, I decided to walk over to Le Marais to get some frozen yogurt. I use times like this to talk to myself, to mentally plan things, to think about who to delete on my facebook, you know, things that need attention! From Bastille I walk down rue Saint-Antoine, that then becomes rue de Rivoli, and I turn right at rue Vieille du Temple and head towards MyBerry. I was the happiest girl in the world when I discovered MyBerry with I.M. a few years ago, the closest thing we could find to Red Mango in NYC! Although they don't offer mochi toppings here, the endless supply of fresh seasonal fruits is sufficient enough for this gourmande.

From there, I head towards Hotel de Ville. Every time I walk by, I think of my dearest Daddy. When he saw Hotel de Ville for the first time, he said out loud "hotel ni mesti mahal ni!", meaning "this hotel must be real expensive!". I chuckled, then laughed my @$ off, and had to explain to him that it is not a hotel! Hotel de Ville = building of the city = city hall.

This City Hall is the main City Hall of Paris, and also the City Hall of the first arrondissement. So if you live in the first, this is where you get married, get divorced, and get papers done. Each of the 20 arrondissements in Paris have its own City Halls and its own Mayor.

Right next door is Bazar Hotel de Ville, one of my favorite places to waste time! You can get everything you need here, from clothes to perfume to towels and linen to toasters and mixers. Like its name says, its a complete bazaar, set like a department store with different levels for different needs. I love it! Where else in the city can you find wooden cutouts of the alphabet and magenta colored envelopes?!? Nowhere!

Le Marais is a super cool neighborhood, sometimes I don't feel cool enough walking around here alone because I'm not wearing vintage leggings. Its very American, gay, and artistic at the same time. Here you will find cool contemporary brands like Maje, Sandro and Berenice, you will also see many vintage stores, and a little further cheap popular brands like HnM, Mango and Zara. Its great for shopping, people watching, and self stuffing with American inspired food. (frozen yogurt, cupcakes, cheesecakes, hotdogs, etc).

Metro: Hotel de Ville, St Paul, Rambuteau
Photos by Me, Map courtesy of Google

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Eiffel Tower, Jules Verne

L'Ecrou au Chocolat at Jules Verne

This sexy lady needs no introduction. La Tour Eiffel, is the tallest building in Paris, and it is safe to say, also the most famous monument in the world. It was built in 1889 and named after its designer, engineer Gustave Eiffel.

As beautiful and dreamy as it is, I must remind all visitors to pay attention at all times to your belongings! This area is bombarded with tourists everyday, and hence a popular spot for pickpockets and beggars. It is common that women or children will show you a card telling you their lifetime story, or asking you if you speak English. Say NO, check that you have everything and walk away. It is also common for a man or woman, to pretend to pick up a ring one the ground, and ask whether it belongs to you. If you say no, they will offer it to you anyway and walk away. A few minutes later, the person will return to ask for some coins or change, since he "found" you such a precious gift.

On the second floor of the Eiffel Tower, you will find the renowned Jules Verne Restaurant. It has one Michelin star and recently went through a total makeover. The furnishings still seem cold and weirdly modern for an Alain Ducasse restaurant, but attention to deco will be waived as soon as you have your first amuse bouche (Literally means fun for your mouth, they are little snack-like food usually offered in fine restaurants before, in between, and after your meal). I don't quite remember what I ordered, but I remember vividly what I had for dessert! You must absolutely have the "L'Ecrou au Chocolat" of you are obsessed with chocolate like I am!

The lunch crowd is usually made out of business people and tourists, but is interesting for its EUR85 set lunch menu. The views are great on a clear day, but the only thing about eating on the Eiffel Tower is that you can't exactly see the Eiffel Tower!

First 2 Photos by AG
Dessert Photo by Me
Metro: Trocadéro, Pont de l'Alma, Champ de Mars Tour Eiffel

Monday, September 13, 2010


The vineyards
Breakfast on the balcony at the Royal Champagne
The Tattinger Caves
The Cathedral of Reims

About 1 and a half hours away by car in the northeastern part of France, you can find yourself in the region of Champagne. The name says it all, this is where all the bottles of Champagne in the world come from. With its capital Reims, a bottle of sparkling white wine can only be called Champagne if its grapes were grown within the borders of the region. If a vineyard sits even one inch away from the borders, its produce will be simply called sparking wine.

We stayed at the Royal Champagne Hotel, not only for its amazing views but also for its small, cozy, chic and totally French 1 star restaurant. Our palettes were seduced non-stop during our 3.5 hour dinner, and in the end we were thrilled by the bill that looked unreal: about a third of what you'd pay in Paris! I tried to savor as long as I can the homemade blackberry macaroon that came with my pot of tea, it was simply FABULOUS.

With a last minute call, we only managed to visit one cave, that of the renowned Tattinger. This actually turned out for the best, since in the end they all look the same. We entered with a little disappointment a very industrial looking building that claims to be the Tattinger caves. We waited in the waiting room with many Americans (since we missed the French tour). Our guide then opened a leather covered door, and down we go on a wounded staircase about 15 meters below ground.

My jaw dropped! Underground, millions and millions of bottles of Champagne are kept until their perspective maturity date. It was like the Ali Baba caves with champagne. Long winded halls ended up only with more stocked bottles in every single size from the demi bottle to the giant Nebuchadnezzar (equals 20 bottles). Many churches have these underground caves, since back in the day it was the monks who fabricated wine and champagne.

It was a beautiful weekend, romantic and idyllic. I recommend staying at least one night, so that you can try a restaurant of the region.

Photos by Me

Les Châteaux de la Loire

The facade of Château de Chambord
Château d'Azay le Rideau, surrounded by water
One of the rooms at Château de Valençay
lobby of hotel, Château d'Artigny

The best thing about living in Paris is that within less than a few hours drive by car, you are able to discover many regions of France that will take your breath away. One weekend earlier in the year, my husband and I decided to spend a weekend away from Paris to checkout the Loire Valley. We diligently picked out the castles that we wanted to see, and narrowed it down to 4- Château de Chambord, Château de Valençay, Château de Chenonceau and Château d'Azay le Rideau.

Ohhhhh I felt like a 5 year old pretend princess all over again! The castles were all very well maintained, my mind went wild imagining the lives princesses and princes and queens and kings had! The natural beauty that surrounds these castles are astounding, hectares of land that used to be the area where the Kings and noblemen hunted. The kitchens reminded me of the movie Vatel, the bedrooms were right out of a Disney cartoon and the gardens, well, fit for royalty.

The best way to go around is of course by car, but there are many tour operators that are based in Paris who organize these tours. I would recommend staying at least one night in the region, for as soon as the excitement and adrenaline runs out, it gets very tiring. The castles do not come cheap, it costs between EUR8 and EUR15 per adult for entrance.

There are newer castles from the 18th and 19th century that has been turned into hotels, one of which is Château d'Artigny where we stayed. I used Relais & Chateaux's and Small Leading Hotels of the World's websites when looking for hotels in the region.

Photos by Me

Friday, September 10, 2010

Eid Mubarak!

I would like to wish Muslims all around the world, especially my family and friends, Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri! Maaf zahir dan batin.. Shana tova to all my Jewish friends, as they celebrated Rosh Hashanah a few days ago. All I wish for is peace in the world...

On the eve of September 11th, we also grieve all those perished in the World Trade Center attacks. I would never wish anything like that to happen to any religion, race, or country in the world. RIP. Our thoughts are with Haiti and Pakistan, and all those who are suffering.

Photos by Jean

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Who's Next Paris

Who's Next is a fashion exhibition that features designers from all over the world. Every year, MATRADE (Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation) sends off between 8 and 10 Malaysian designers to participate in the fair. Just like last year, this year Innai and its brain-behind-everything director, Izrin and hubby Marc, are in town! We have known each other since sekolah rendah (junior school), and through the great wonders of the Internet, found each other on Facebook years after our pinafore wearing days.

This year's fair lacks the innovation and creativity of last year's. I can smell a financial crisis as soon as I stepped in. Nonetheless, its so great to see Europe's finest in fashion all perched on skinny heels, all in the same hall. Women and bag watching is one of my favorite pastimes, and I assure you that my eyes did their fair share of wandering these past 2 days.

I am not saying what I'm about to say because Izrin is my friend, but because I DO LOVE INNAI! Its long flowy caftans and togas compliment any body shape and size. The fabric lands softly on your skin, and moves oh so elegantly with your gestures. Even while some pieces cover your whole body, it oozes style and class. My Innai caftans have been worn for special functions like weddings, and a few months after it finds itself on a tropical beach.

Checkout Innai's website at
Photos by Me

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Jardin des Tuileries

Friends and husband working, I find a lot of time to myself these days after the wedding. One thing I absolutely love to do is pack up a book and head over to the Jardin des Tuileries. This is not my favorite garden, but I have found a neat little corner where no one for some reason ever ventures to when I'm around!

Jardin des Tuileries is situated right in front of the Louvre. This was where Kings use to amuse themselves with their games. Lined up on the famous Rue de Rivoli, you will find Le Meurice hotel (and its outstanding 2 star restaurant), the Angelina cafe (with its super yummy but super thick hot chocolate), and many touristic stores where you can find vintage posters and souvenirs to bring back home.

Metro: Concorde, Tuileries
Photos by Me