Friday, November 06, 2009

Europe Trip (3): Paris City Centre: Île de la Cité and Louvre

This article is part of our Europe Trip series:

1. From Singapore to Paris via Dubai
2. Châtenay-Malabry, Eiffel Tower, Seine River Tour

1015-A-parked-RER-commuter-train On Tuesday morning, 2 June 2009, a Kide dropped us off at the nearest RER station around Châtenay-Malabry, Robinson (pronounced: ro-bang-song). Our first destination for the day is the centre of the Paris: the Île de la Cité island and its most famous attraction: Notre-Dame cathedral. Since we enter the Robinson station from the side entrance, we had to use the automated machine to buy the tickets for the RER train, using Euro coins since the machine doesn’t accept notes. Luckily, we had enough coins. Only couple of later then we found out that at the main entrance, there’s a ticket counter where we can buy tickets using notes. :P

1020-Signboard-showing-the-route-and-the-arrival-time RER trains charge by zones, so we had to check on which zones the starting and destination station are located, to ensure that we purchase the correct tickets according to the number of zones travelled. We can either buy single-trip (one-way) tickets, return tickets or a carnet of 10 tickets (with discounted price) which can be shared by different passengers. If you’re not sure, you can just go to the ticket counter and inform the staff your destination station, and the staff will advise you on the price.

1055-Us-in-front-of-Notre-Dame-cathedral The Robinson station is on a branch’s end of RER line B, so we took the train towards the city and we alighted at St. Michel – Notre Dame station, the RER station closest to the Île de la Cité island. It was the first time we used public transportation in Paris, and we enjoyed it very much. The RER trains are similar to Kuala Lumpur's KTM Komuter trains, slightly bigger than Singapore’s MRT trains and it’s quite convenient, provided it’s not too crowded.

1250-Sainte-Chapelle-and-Palais-de-Justice From St. Michel – Notre Dame station, we crossed the bridge across Seine river to Île de la Cité and walked towards Notre Dame cathedral. We took our time taking pictures in front of the cathedral, near the statue of Charlemagne and at Point Zero, the “real” centre of Paris where distances to other locations in Paris (and perhaps France?) is measured. From there, we proceeded with our walking tour around the island, covering Pont d’Arcole and Hotel de Ville across the Seine river, Hotel Dieu, Pont Notre Dame overlooking the Tribunal de Commerce building, Place du Chatelet and the gloomy Conciergerie building, before reaching the Palais de Justice and Sainte Chapelle buildings.

1425-Mama-and-Inka After taking some rest in front of Palais de Justice building, we then left the island by crossing the Pont St Michel bridge, and walked along the Seine river towards Pont Neuf. After taking some pictures and having another rest in front of Institut de France building, we then crossed the Pont des Arts bridge and walked towards Louvre. We bought some ice creams at the end of the Pont des Arts bridge before entering the Louvre via its Sully wing. Since it was a Tuesday, the Louvre museum was closed for the day, so there’s not much people traffic there, allowing us to enjoy taking the photographs near the Louvre pyramid and the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel.

1490-Arc-de-Triomphe-du-Carrousel We then met mbak Enik near Louvre, and we proceeded to have lunch at McDonald's which is located along Rue de Rivoli, one of the most famous roads in Paris, not far from Louvre. After lunch, my wife, my mother and mbak Enik then visited a duty free shop around the area, while I took Irza and Inka for sightseeing around the area. We walked past Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel monument towards the Jardin du Carrousel garden behind it. After taking pictures in front of the Joan of Arc statue at Places des Pyramides, we then walked north towards Avenue de l'Opera.

1615-Galerie-de-Montpeiser Our next walking destination was the Palais Royal and the garden, Jardin du Palais Royal. Passing through the garden until the end, we exited Palais Royal complex through its back entrance and walked along Rue de Petit Champs, located around Paris' 1st arrondissement to go towards Avenue de l'Opera again. Our next destination was the famous Opera National de Paris Garnier building. By that time, we have walked several kilometers and myself and the kids were also very tired, so we decided to take the public bus back to Rue de Rivoli to meet my wife and my mother.

1685-Inka-and-Irza-at-Opera-National-de-Paris-Garnier That was the first time we took public bus in Paris. :) Since we haven't purchased our carnet of t+ tickets yet (will share about the advantage of buying the carnet of t+ tickets later), we purchased the tickets on board of the bus from the bus driver, and pay in cash. The ticket purchased from the bus driver can only be used on the bus itself and doesn't allow transfer to other mode of transportation (e.g. the metro train).

More pictures can be found here and here.

(To be continued)

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Europe Trip (2): Châtenay-Malabry, Eiffel Tower, Seine River Tour

On Monday, 1 June 2009, which was our first full-day in Paris, still recovering from jet-lag, we took our time in the morning to walk through A Kide's residence at Châtenay-Malabry.

Late morning, we had A Kide's driver, om Join, to take us to the most popular tourist attraction in Paris: the Eiffel tower. We needed to queue for about 1.5 hours to buy the tickets before we can climb the tower. We bought the tickets which can bring us up to the top floor. The price is €13 for adult, and €7.50 for child.

Note that they only sell tickets to walk-in customers, and the tickets can only be used on the same day they are purchased. I checked their website that found out that they are planning to provide online reservation services for all visitors, but that would only be available end of this year.

We took the lift directly to the second floor, skipping the first floor. We immediately circling the area and take pictures to all the different directions. One of our favourite directions for viewing from the Eiffel tower is the north-west view, towards Pont d'Iena bridge and Palais de Chaillot at Trocadero, with the tall buildings of Paris' business district, La Defense (pronounced "la difong") in the background.

Another of our favourite direction is the south-east, which will give the view towards the Champ-de-Mars park and Ecole Militaire building, with the ugly Montparnasse Tower in the background. South-west direction will give the view towards the Seine river, with RER train tracks crossing across the river, while north-east direction will give the view towards the north area of Paris, with the Taj-Mahal-alike building of Basilica Sacre-Couer visible on top of the Montmartre hill.

We then took the lift up to the top (third) floor, and the view is even more amazing from higher level. It's also a bit windy up there, so we decided not to spend too much time there and went back to second floor. After had some snacks on the second floor, we descended back to the ground floor, in time to see some kind of procession parade passing through the road just in front of the tower.

We then further descended to the riverside under the Pont d'Iena bridge, for us to take the Bateaux Parisiens boat cruise tour along the Seine river. This includes automated commentary through headsets which are available on each seat. The price is quite cheap, €11 for adult and €5 for child.

We purchased the tickets and boarded the boat from pier number 3 along the number of piers just in front of Eiffel tower. The boat took us to the east direction from Eiffel tower all the way to the islands of Ile de la Cite and Ile Saint-Louis and back, passing under many bridges along the way: Pont de l'Alma, Pont Alexandre III and Pont Neuf, among others.

Unfortunately, the boat is not air-conditioned and with most of the boat's structure made of glass, it was becoming so hot in the afternoon. When we disembarked from the boat, we felt very tired, and with the jet-lag still taking effect (it was already night time in Singapore at that time even though it was still evening local Paris time), we decided to end our adventure for the day, and went back home to a Kide's residence.

More pictures can be found here.

(To be continued)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Europe Trip (1): From Singapore to Paris via Dubai

Apologise for not updating this blog (and my other blogs as well) for quite some time. Inka and Irza have just came back from their mid-year holiday in Paris and surrounding regions, together with their father (that’s me), their mother and their grandmother (that’s my mother).

0100 - At Changi airport, Singapore We initially wanted to take the Singapore Airlines’ direct flight to Paris, especially since the return flight would be using the new Airbus A380 plane and the price was also quite cheap at that time. Unfortunately, it took quite some time for our Schengen visa to be approved, so by the time the visa is approved, the price has went up considerably and we had to find another option. We didn’t want to buy/issue the tickets first before our visa was approved. Luckily Emirates started to launch their promotions, and they offered the Singapore-Paris ticket (return trip, via Dubai) for only S$785 (adult) and S$618 (child), inclusive of all the surcharges and taxes. We immediately bought the tickets without hesitation.

We left Singapore on Sunday, 31 May 2009, in the morning. At Changi airport, we met Han Yu, Irza’s school-mate who happened to be our neighbour on the same block, and his family, who were going for holiday in Hong Kong. Emirates services are great, almost comparable to Singapore Airlines’ services. There’s TV set on every seat, with on-demand movies, TV, radio, and most importantly, games to keep the kids occupied.

0125 - Terminal 3, dedicated for Emirates flights We arrived at Dubai International Airport in the afternoon, and we disembarked into Terminal 3, a new terminal built and used exclusively for Emirates. Since we needed to change planes, we had to go through security checks before going to the departure/transit area. The queue during the security checks was quite long. Our boarding pass for the Dubai-Paris leg had been issued while checking-in in Singapore, so we didn’t have to go through the transit check-in counters and proceeded directly to the departure gate.

1010 - Welcome to France We arrived at Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport in Paris, France, at around 8pm local time. We expected that it would already be dark while we reached Paris, but to our surprise, the sun was still shining at 8pm in Paris during summer. That day was the longest day we’ve experienced, since Paris is 6 hours behind Singapore time at that time. We enjoyed sunshine for about 20.5 hours, from 7am Singapore time until around 9:30pm Paris time (or 4:30am Singapore time, the next day).

1030 - In front of Terminal 2C, CDG airport, Paris The Emirates flight arrived at Terminal 2C of the airport. The terminal itself is quite small, but it’s actually part of a larger Terminal 2, which consists of Terminal 2A, 2B, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F and a separated 2G. Going through immigration is a breeze, we didn’t have to fill in any immigration forms. The immigration officer just checked our Schengen visa, and stamp the passports. No questions asked. :)  After passing through customs, we were greeted by my cousin, a Kide, who was our host in Paris during the 2-week holiday. He drove us to his residence in Châtenay-Malabry, a nice and quiet neighbourhood south of Paris. At his residence, a Kide and mbak Enik hosted a very nice dinner for us.

More pictures can be found here.

(To be continued)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Trip to Indonesia, November-December 2008

Apologise for not updating this blog for quite some time. Inka and Irza went to their home country, Indonesia, during the school holiday period from end of November until end of December 2008. Other than Jakarta, they also visited Bandung, Garut (for a short holiday at a resort there) and Tasikmalaya (to celebrate Hari Raya Idul Adha with family and relatives there).

I have uploaded most of the pictures at my Multiply site, which can be found below:

1. First Time Karaoke-ing
2. Grand Indonesia
3. Sari Sunda Restaurant, Bandung
4. Rumah Sosis, Bandung
5. Holiday to Garut, West Java
5.a. Holiday in Garut, Danau Dariza (posted by my wife)
6. Garut Town and Mulih K'desa
7. Crown Mahkota Graha Hotel, Tasikmalaya
8. Around Burujul, Tasikmalaya
9. Liwet Pak Asep Stroberi Restaurant
10. Taman Safari (posted by my wife)

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Irza Playing DrumMania: "Almost Easy" and "Concertino in Blue"

In addition to his weekly drum lesson at the School of Music Clef at Suntec City, Irza also loves to play DrumMania, the drum simulation game which can be found at many arcade centres in Singapore (and Timezone in Indonesia as well). His skills in playing the drum simulation game is quite good now, even better than me when playing certain songs. When he's playing it, usually other people will normally gather and watch him play.

I managed to take some videos of him playing the simulation game. Apologise for the low quality of the videos since they were taken using my daughter's mobile phone camera. I also didn't manage to record the full songs because I needed to take the picture silently, since the arcade centre actually doesn't allow anyone to take any pictures, let alone taking videos. :)

The drum simulation equipment he's using was the latest one, DrumMania v5: Rock to Infinity.

Almost Easy:

Concertino in Blue:

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tang Tea House

Last Saturday night, I took Irza out for supper, while Inka has already sleeping. Since were were not too sure where to go, I decided to go to Tang Tea House.

This MUIS-certified halal Chinese "makan" place is recommended by my friends from the IMAS community. Its specialty is the tim sum, although it also provides any other types of dishes such as chicken rice, seafood and even shark fin soup.

It was past midnight when I and Irza reached there. It's located at Simpang Bedok, along Bedok Road, opposite the Bedok Market Place. It provides a very nice and cozy alfresco seating arrangement. It's just a short 15 minutes walk from Tanah Merah MRT station, although if you don't want to walk, you can also take bus number 2 or 9 from Tanah Merah MRT station, or bus number 10 from Tampines bus interchange.

I ordered four (yes, it's FOUR) dishes of tim sum: my favourite chicken feet, siew mai (siomay in Indonesian), har kow (shrimp dumplings) and chicken pau, which is requested by Irza since it's his favourite.

However, Irza loves the chicken rice, which I specifically ordered for him. His comment is that even without the chicken and the soup, the rice itself is very nice. He also loves the har kow with the shrimp inside.

The price is, surprisingly, reasonable. A dish of siew mai (3pcs) and har kow (3pcs) costs $2.50, chicken feet costs $2.20 and chicken pau (2pcs) costs only $1.60. My longan drink only costs $1.80 while Irza's milo dinosaur costs $2.80. His chicken rice (a set of rice, chicken and soup) costs only $3.

More pictures can be found here.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Kastengel ala Indra and Inka-Irza

Kastengel Following last year's success in making kastengel cheese cookies, I made the same cookies last Saturday afternoon to celebrate this year's Hari Raya Idul Fitri, before we went to the KBRI's buka puasa event.

Following exactly the same recipes as last year, I mixed 200 grams of margarine and 50 grams of butter with 2 egg yolks, and then manually mixed them with 350 grams of plain flour and 200 grams of shredded edam cheese. After shaping, I put egg yolk and shredded cheddar cheese as toppings before putting them on a tray and bake them inside the oven under 170 degree Celcius temperature for about 20-30 minutes.

making-kastengel During the kastengel cookies making procees, I got help from Inka and eventually Irza who also wanted to join the fun :), while my wife helped us to bake them.

Before someone is asking :), no, I don't take orders. :) I'm only making these cookies for personal and family consumption only... :) :)

More pictures can be found here.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Irza's Jam Session with Kemejas

3000-Irza To practice for his upcoming concert at his music school next month, Irza had a very fruitful jam session with my friends from Kemejas band last Sunday. Thanks to om Renatha (bass, guitar), om Audi (bass, guitar, keyboard), om eRBe (lead guitar) and tante Fika (vocal) for helping Irza in practicing his drum. :)

3010-Irza Other than Won't Go Home Without You (Maroon 5), which is the song Irza will be performing during his concert next month, we're also covering some other songs, such as Smooth (Santana), Carnival (The Cardigans) and Sweet Child O'Mine (Guns N' Roses). Other than the Maroon 5 song, the other songs were not actually planned and Irza haven't practiced them yet but fortunately he can follow and cover them quite nicely... :) Unfortunately, we didn't manage to cover Cokelat's Bendera, which was requested by tante Fika, since Irza really was not prepared to play that song.

Irza was really having a great time. He was a bit disappointed when the two hour period was over and is looking forward to the next planned jam session this coming Sunday. :) Hopefully, at that time, om Sandy and tante Detta also can join us. :)

3030-Audi 3020-Fika_Renatha 3040-eRBe

Again, thanks friends for your time and effort in having the jam session with Irza and helping him to practice. :)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Weekend Trip to Johor

Two weekends ago, we drove up to Johor for a short weekend getaway, to celebrate our 9th anniversary as well as testing my new GPS receiver to Malaysia.

We stayed at Cinta Ayu All Suites Hotel [ note: Cinta Ayu, not Cinta Laura :P :P ], a nice apartment-type hotel located in the vicinity of Pulai Springs Resort. This resort is located on the outskirts of Johor Bahru, along the main road leading to Pontian.

Although the resort is meant more for golfers (since it's surrounded by two 18-hole golf courses), it also provides quite good facilities for families as well. Other than the hotel's swimming pool which is located on the second floor, we can also use the main resort's facilities, including the swimming pools which have nice views over the golf course and mount Pulai. One of the swimming pools is also equipped with a slide, which Irza enjoys very much.

We chose a 2-bedroom type of apartment for S$170 per night, which is booked online from AsiaTravel and includes breakfast for 4 persons. The 1-bedroom type is also available for S$128 per night. The breakfast is provided at the Cinta Terrace restaurant and the food is quite nice. There's also a spa facility at the sports centre, and the price is quite reasonable. Quite worth the value for money, in my opinion.

We were not only making use of the hotel's facilities, but also made some side trips to couple of locations in and around Johor Bahru, either for food or sightseeing.

On Saturday (12/4) afternoon, we went to AEON Tebrau City and had lunch at the JUSCO food court located on the second floor. This was our third visit to this biggest shopping mall in Johor, and other than the food court, we also went there for the amusement centre for the kids (which is located just next to the food court) and, of course, the Breadtalk bakery shop and its popular spicy chicken floss buns, which is halal in Malaysia.

In the evening, we visited Danga Bay and had dinner in one of the BBQ seafood restaurants there. The food is superbly delicious, and the price is surprisingly reasonable.

We had our dinner in an alfresco seating environment, with trains passing by giving amusement for the kids. We actually could ride the train however we were not able to find the location of the station where we could buy the ticket and board the trains. :( The kids were disappointed for not being able to ride the train. Will have to find the exact location of the station when we go there again. Anyone knows? :)

On Sunday (13/4), after checking out of the hotel, we went to Gunung Pulai and since the main recreational forest park is closed, we went to a less-visited attraction spot located south of the main park. My GPS told me that there is a waterfall on that spot as well, however when we went there we couldn't find it. Just saw some parked cars and some food stalls, and some locals having a bath in the river there.

Another thing I would like to share is that now we do not have to fill in the Malaysia immigration cards when we pass through their immigration, making trips to Malaysia much easier now.

More pictures can be found here and here.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Sentosa Flowers 2008

Another part of our CNY holiday itineraries in Singapore, on the first day of Chinese New Year, we went to Sentosa to visit the Sentosa Flowers 2008 event in the morning, prior to our visit to Aa Duddy and Teh Ellen's place in Tampines for a reunion lunch. Sentosa Flowers 2008 is an annual flower festival held at Sentosa, spanned from Imbiah Lookout to the Beach station.

Having visited the earlier Sentosa Flowers 2007 last year, I found that this year's festival is a bit disappointing. The "blooming" quality of the flowers is not as good as last year's event. I feel that last year's event is more blooming with more variety of beautiful flowers throughout the Imbiah hill. Nevertheless, for the first-timers, this event is quite worth for a visit.

It opens between 9am and 10pm, until 17 February 2008. The admission to the event itself is free, although of course you would still need to pay for the entrance fee into Sentosa ($2) and the transport ($1 using Sentosa Express or Sentosa bus). I would suggest you start your journey from the entrance near Imbiah station. From there, you can explore the flowers park around Imbiah Lookout before heading to the Merlion, and passing through the Merlion Walk all the way to the Beach station.

I agree with Mbak Susan that the best time to visit the event is early in the morning, not only to avoid the hot baking sun, but also to avoid the crowd as well. Different from last year, now they open until 10pm every day, so it might be a good idea to come in the evening.

More pictures can be found on my wife's Multiply site here.

Related links: