Friday, December 7, 2012

Paris vs New York

People often ask me, "So.. do you prefer living in Paris or in New York?" You'd imagine that I'd have tons of things to say in reply to that question, but more often than not I find myself thinking hard. Which city do I prefer? Gosh that is a really hard question. I have so many good and bad things to say about both cities! In the end, I guess, it really depends on what you are looking for and what your relationship status is. 

New York City, (I underline CITY because I wouldn't live anywhere else in New York state) I suppose, was fun when I was working, single, and had no other responsibility but to make enough money to pay for rent and party 3 times a week. It was a carefree life, most of my friends were single and in finance and enjoyed wining and dining, and we would spend time talking about how tough it is to meet the right man/woman. The right NOW man/woman on the other hand, was easy peasy. 

Paris, the city of love, is perfect when you have found that right person. It is perfect for couples in love, for those who like to roam around when its grey and slightly rainy, to brood on life, to have the best gastronomical experience ever. Even to have children, healthcare is practically free, there are bigger tax breaks the more children you have, and you don't have to worry about shootings in public schools.

So obviously, given my relationship status, I'd say that I prefer Paris for the moment. However, it is never so far in my mind that I met my Frenchman in New York, we had the best time partying and discovering Manhattan (for Parisians New York is like heaven on earth, The American Dream!). Fortunately, I have experienced the best of both worlds, and I love both cites from the bottom of my heart.

That is why I was ecstatic to discover this book by Vahram Muratyan. He illustrated 100 of Paris vs New York's best clichés, and I can proudly claim that I relate and understand them all! Quirky and smart, here are some examples that I absolutely love. 

Illustrations courtesy of Google Images

Thursday, December 6, 2012


We were just back from Malaysia and needed a mid vacation between the end of summer and the end of the year festivities, and came up with the idea of going to Seville. Best decision ever. A mere 2 hour flight from Paris, Seville provided us with the sun and heat that had already abandoned Paris during that time of the year. Cool in the morning, 30 degree Celcius in the afternoon, it was the perfect weekend getaway. 

The Spaniards are lovely people- warm, friendly, and very family oriented. Seville is the perfect city for families with young children. Most of the historical and touristic sites are walkable from one to the other, and unlike Paris, restaurants accept and welcome clients with strollers. Everything is cheaper here (but then again anything is cheaper than Paris). Zara is 30% cheaper, cabs are cheaper, and even our hotel tapas costs only €4-€6 each!

We stayed in a lovely hotel called AlmaSevilla Hotel Palacio de Villapanés. Only a 5 min walk from the city center and no more than 20 mins to reach the furthest attraction, this hotel is a hidden gem. It is the perfect mix of old and new- old because it is a typical Moorish style mansion, and new and chic modern designs dominate the rooms. The courtyard serves as the hotel lobby, where the natural breeze cools you down from the mediterranean heat. 

Hotel Lobby
I can't quite describe the ambience in Seville, but I love this city to bits. It is the second place in the world that we both decided that we will come back (second after Santorini). People are well groomed, they seem happier despite the deep economic crisis their country is in, there are well dressed children everywhere, and people actually smile! We felt welcome, and even J was nice to strangers.

We walked a lot, and we ate a lot. We stayed for 3 days and frankly felt that it was enough to cover most of the touristic sites. We would have loved to stay longer only to relax more, since that much walking in 3 days is very tiring. Below are some sites that are a must-see, and the next time we go there we will cover the rest! 

View of the Catedral from Plaza de San Fransisco

One of the side doors of the Catedral
The gardens of the Real Alcázar de Sevilla

Plaza de España
Shades because it literally gets too hot
Casa de Pilatos
Photos by Me

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

'Tis The Season!

Hellooooo everyone, its December again and that time of the year! I've been MIA for about 6 months now, sorry, life happens. Wigglemonster will be a year old soon, and I've been spending most of time entertaining her, running after her, bringing her to gardens to look at ducks, etc. You mommies understand, this is a full time job! I have no regrets, having a mini-me is the best thing in the world...

Anywho, it's December and super cold in Paris. Most days it is grey, cloudy and miserable, but you do get a few sunny days here and there. The Christmas market on the Champs Eysées is in full swing, stores are showing off their best in their display windows, and it smells like the holidays. Thank God I've gotten all my Christmas shopping done, the crowds are starting to be major in most of the department stores. People are lining up to buy Moncler jackets like they are buying bread! Geez its the crisis people...

Here are some pictures from Printemp's windows. A Winter Wonderland, a Parisian Christmas inspired by Dior. Made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, while clutching hard to my handbag of course (yes you still have to be VERY aware of pickpockets. ESPECIALLY during this time of the year). Ahh that Lady Dior in marine blue is definitely on my list. J'adore!

Pictures by Me

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc

Hotel entrance
Hotel lobby
Welcome homemade chocolates
Welcome baby
Deluxe room reading corner
Path leading to pool and restaurants
Hotel from the back
A solitary moment
Seawater swimming pool heated at 28 degrees
View from restaurant deck
Hotel Gardens
 Ahh.... The South of France.. It has been a favorite of mine since I first step foot in the region 2 years ago. In the beginning of June this year, J surprised me with a beautiful holiday in Cap d'Antibes to celebrate our 3rd year wedding anniversary and my first ever Mother's Day. It was a breathtaking surprise indeed. The Hotel du Cap Eden Roc will fulfill every fantasy of a Brigitte Bardot-esque holiday, complete with typically uniformed french maids and service at the click of your fingers.

Even without the excellent service, the hotel would be a feast for your eyes. Set at the tip of Antibes, hence called Cap d'Antibes, it has to be one of the most beautiful hotels I've ever stayed in in my life, if not The Best. I have always complained to J that the French do not have a sense of service. I take back my words. They do. You just need to pay a whole load of money for it.

The saltwater swimming pool is heated all year round at 28 degrees Celcius. It overlooks the Mediterranean Sea, where a roped off area is reserved for hotel guests to swim freely without dramatic incidents with the yachts parked all around. A private dock is available in case you decide to arrive in your private yacht, of course. Check out Dior Homme's ad with Jude Law to have an idea.

Everywhere you go on the hotel grounds, you are overwhelmed with a sense of luxury. Guests are called by names, babies are doted upon by the maids, and fresh bowls of summer berries with homemade whipped cream is available around the clock. The only horrible thing about staying here, is to remember that it is just a holiday and reality won't be nearly as dreamy as this place! Wigglemonster is still little, but if we come back here when she is older, we will also have to explain to her that we are not Russian billionaires like the rest of the hotel guests.

Even that being said, every guest receives the same welcome from the hotel staff. The hotel clients are also friendly, most of them families with children and babies. As I write this blog right now, I actually feel a wave of sadness. I miss this place! Automatically when we left, we said to everyone "see you next year!". That is how much we felt like home, and that is something money definitely can't buy!

Photos by Me

Monday, May 21, 2012

Jardin des Plantes

So the météo, weather forecast, for the weekend was only semi correct, and it end up being quite beautiful the first half of Sunday. J & I therefore decided to take a little stroll with the Wigglemonster in a garden we don't often go to, the Jardin des Plantes, literally the Garden of Plants. It was about 18 degrees out, and with the sun almost 22 degrees, so there were many strollers out and about!

The Jardin des Plantes is the main botanical garden in France and is situated not too far from the Grande Mosquée de Paris in the 5th arrondissement. It is also home to the Museum of Natural History and the Ménagerie, a little zoo. It is a great place for both adults and kids to appreciate nature and at the same time, learn the science behind it. We were here just for a little walk in the sun, but when Wigglemonster is slightly older we will definitely visit the zoo and museum.

Photos by Me
Metro: Gare d'Austerlitz

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Giving Birth In Paris

In France, everyone is obliged to have a carte de sécurité sociale, the social security card. This card gives almost free medical access to its holder, and a reimbursement of up to 100% of medication. You can also pay for a supplementary insurance card, called the mutuelle. Depending on which plan you pick, even private hospitals may be free.

I chose a semi-private hospital to give birth at called Insitute Mutualiste Montsouris. Frankly, it was a pretty good experience. Well, I can't exactly compare it to any other, since it was my first and only time. But I must admit, looking back, giving birth was not that bad at all! I know I know, everyone tells me that women secrete a hormone after  giving birth to help forget about the pain, but that aside, I wouldn't mind doing it all over again.

Unlike Malaysia, I didn't see my doctor even once the day I gave birth (she did visit me the day after though). Here, midwives handle all normal deliveries, and I had at least 5 (midwives). This is because my labor lasted about 23 hours, and as the midwives changed shifts, the person who took care of me changed too. The only person that I recognized through the 23 hours was the anesthetist! I wanted to give chocolates to the whole team who helped me, but I didn't even remember their names so J just left a box of chocolates at the nursing station.

Also unlike Malaysia and the US, a normal delivery requires the mother to stay in the hospital at least 3 nights. This is to assure that mommy and baby are healthy, that the mother is not in depression and ready for motherhood, etc etc. We learned in 4 days how to give a bath, feed, change, dress, everything baby. 6 weeks after delivery, I was required to do 10 sessions of réeducation de perinée, reeducation of the perineum. It is not obligatory, but HIGHLY recommended by EVERYONE. We must make sure that Monsieur remains happy! No really. That IS one of the reasons why it is highly recommended.

A week or so after the delivery, a puericultrice, a nurse specialized in babies, is sent to your home to check on how the baby is doing. She also checks her bedroom, to make sure that nothing in the baby's cot can strangle her. I kid you not. We also talked about breastfeeding, sleeping times, and baby behavior with the puericultrice. A puericultrice can also come to your house everyday for a week to help you out with the baby if needed.

All this, for free! With a good mutuelle in hand, we didn't have to pay a single cent. Without a social security card however, hospitalization and medication in France remains very very expensive, so when traveling make sure you have a good insurance that cover everything that happens during your trip. A hospital bill is on average €1,500 per day depending on the gravity of the situation, so stay out of trouble while in France!!

Photos by Google Images

Monday, May 14, 2012

Toutankhamon Exhibition

So the Wigglemonster is now 4 1/2 months old, and J and I decided that its about time to bring her to museums and exhibitions so that she develops the appreciation for art and history. Passing by the 15th arrondissement on Saturday, we saw a poster for the current exhibition at Porte de Versailles. Perfect, we thought. Something interesting for us to do, and shiny things for Wigglemonster to look at (she likes things that shine, kinda like her mother).

The exhibition on Toutaknhamon's tomb and treasures was a spectacular one. 5 years were taken by Egyptian artisans to prepare and reproduce 1000 objects belonging to the legendary Pharaoh. The visitor is taken through the exhibit in the eyes of Howard Carter, the man who discovered the tomb. Original pictures taken by Harry Burton are depicted throughout the exhibition. 

Tickets costs €15.90 for adults and €12.90 for children above 5. A little pricey, but the ticket price includes a video guide in different languages including English. For those traveling with a pram, no problem- there is elevator access from the parking and no stairs to climb. The Wigglemonster slept through the whole time we were there, and woke up just in time for out brownie break (pretty good brownies at the stall outside the exhibition hall, €3 each and very very chewy!)

So if you're around in Paris and it happens to be gray and rainy, check this thing out. The story telling guide makes it easy and interesting to understand, and the controlled  entry times makes it comfortable and not too crowded.

Photos by Me
Metro Porte de Versailles, Tram lines T2 and T3
From 12th May to 1st September 2012

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Note to Readers

Hey everyone! I have been MIA for a long long time, but I have a great reason for that :). On December 26th, I gave birth to our first child. Jellybean, as I like to call her, has taken over our lives since then. Life as a young mother was tough the first 2 weeks, but I think J & I are getting the hang of things. Therefore, be prepared for baby-ish related posts, as I now discover Paris with the Little Highness..