Tuesday, October 31, 2006

It's Disneyland Day!

The long-awaited day is finally here. Disneyland is the highlight of the kids' and even my mum's Paris holiday. After the wet day yesterday, it was sunny skies and everything nice today. We chose to go on a Monday, thinking it would be less crowded after the weekend, but everyone else must have thought the same cos when we arrived at 9am on the RER A, the ticket counters were already filled with people, and more people were continually streaming into the park. I never encountered this the last time we were here nor in Tokyo Disneyland. We later found out it was the French school hols.

Not many photos cos I told myself to forget about photo-taking and just enjoy Disneyland. Most of my past theme-park ride photos never turn out nice anyway. Brian explored Alice's Curious Labyrinth and Sean continued to surprise us by gamely going on the Dumbo and tea cup rides. The little fella got frightened though by the 3-D Honey, I shrunk the Audience show (not worth watching especially in comparison to the superb 4-D show we saw in Germany's Europa Park; moreover, before you even get to the cinema, you are stuck in a holding room watching seemingly-endless cheesy Kodak-sponsored tv ads).

We fast-passed into two attractions, Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast and Peter Pan's Flight. It's a Small World was as always, a heart-warming and sweet-as-candy experience, and we all enjoyed it lots. After the parade (below), we did the obligatory Disney merchandise shopping and quickly headed back to Paris.

Brian, Sean, Eddie and mum voted today their favourite of the three days in Paris. I was the odd one out then; cos I liked Day 2 with Montmatre best. Well, I'm just happy mum got her wish of visiting Disneyland fulfilled, at a ripe young age of 66!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Autumn showers in Paris

Today we took a leisurely stroll to the Louvre, Notre Dame and Latin Quartier areas. It was a typical autumn day, with occassional light rain accompanying us throughout.

But before all that, Parisians that we are, we had croissants for breakfast. Mum and I had taken an early morning walk to a nearby bakery to buy freshly-made croissants while everyone else was still in bed.

Brian and Sean enjoying their croissants.

Brian and Sean outside the Louvre.

Doing Paris a second time at a more leisurely pace is really nice. I can't remember how many days we were in Paris 6 years ago (couldn't have been more than four), but I now realise just how much ground we covered then...so kiasu. We went to the Eiffel Tower, climbed up to the top of Arc de Triomphe, visited Opera Garnier, shopped at Champs Elysees and Galeries Lafayette, did the museums (Louvre, Rodin, Pompidou, and my favourite D'orsay), gawked at the gorgeous stained glass in Saint Chapelle, wowed at Hotel De Ville, wondered what the big deal was at Notre Dame, wondered the same at Versailles, and had a full day at Disneyland. Impressive?...or Foolish...

The one place that we had missed out then was Sacre Couer in Montmatre. I had spotted the beautiful hill-top church from the Opera Garnier area then, but saw from the map that it was too far to walk to. This time, I wasn't gonna miss it. And this was one reason for my choice of apartment, which was within short walking distance of Sacre Couer.

After lunch at a tourist-trap in Latin Quartier, we had gone back to the apartment and slept for 2 hours. At about 4.30pm, we started our walk up Butte Montmatre to Sacre Couer. Back in London, Brian and I had watched the Amelie of Montmatre DVD in preparation for our Paris trip (I made him cover his eyes at the naked bits). Being there felt exactly like it was in the movie sans music of course, but still very pretty and quite magical.

You get some pretty amazing views of Paris from the church. Unfortunately, the sky was a little cloudy and we didn't get to see the much talked-about sunsetting view of Paris.

Hungry stomachs headed down Butte Montmatre looking for a place to have dinner. But what would life be without a bit of drama? We walked at least 40 minutes up and down the hill without finding any proper restaurants (reason 1: I didn't do enough research on places to eat, reason 2: getting older has meant it's near impossible for me to use a guidebook map as the day darkens), and ended up on the Pigalle side of Montmatre, where the red-light district and famous Moulin Rouge are.

We hurried away from the area, trying hard to ignore the huge (really huge) neon lights selling the world's oldest trade, with two kids and a grandmother in tow. Thankfully, the boys were oblivous to the grittiness of the area, mum may have been too shocked to say anything. We were relieved to get back to the apartment to partake in some comfort-food, our good old Korean kimchi ramyun instant noodles. No, I don't have photos of Pigalle, I was too busy walking fast, real fast.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Paris here we come

We arrived at Gare du Nord Paris on the Eurostar having woken up all bleary-eyed at 5am to catch the 7.09am train from Waterloo. Our Paris apartment, about 6 minutes' walk from the station on a quiet street in the 9th Arrondisement, was nice enough (and had been featured in magazines and UK's Channel 4), but the building it was in as well as its location was quite dodgy-looking. We managed to look past that and after spending three nights there, would definitely recommend it to groups of 4-5 coming in on the Eurostar and looking for comfort, space and value.

Brian, Eddie and I were in Paris 6 years ago, but this is the first visit for my mum and Sean. The three main objectives of this trip was 1st, for my mum to see Paris, 2nd, boys to visit Disneyland and a very distant 3rd, for Eddie to shop. I also wanted to explore the Montmatre/Sacre Couer area which we hadn't managed to see in our previous trip.

First stop, Arc de Triomphe, then lunch at Champs Elysees. So glamourous eh, our McDonald's lunch at their superbusy branch on Champs Elysees. French fries in France, how more authentic can you get? Here's me and Brian having a yummy McD lunch on "La plus belle avenue du monde" (the most beautiful avenue in the world).

Ed popped into Hugo Boss for a bit, after which we took a long walk to Eiffel Tower. Brian kept pestering us to go up the tower, but one look at the snaking queue, and we went er, no way. I reasoned, what's a view of Paris without Eiffel Tower? He didn't buy my argument. "This is my 2nd time here and both times I didn't get to go up", he bargained. Three's the charm; we told him he could climb up next time he comes to Paris, with his girlfriend.

At the Champs de Mars Park next to Eiffel Tower, the boys went on a pony-ride. This experience itself is a first for Sean, as he is usually extremely cautious when it comes to rides of any sort, even the slot-coin machine type of rides. It gave us hope that come Monday, he would try some of the rides at Disneyland.

We took the metro to Concorde for Ed to check out the big Massimo Dutti store near the Madeleine area. Headed back to the apartment, boys and mum had their dinner while Ed and I got ready to meet our friends Alvin and Lena for dinner. They drove us to a quaint French restaurant near Pompidou Centre. I had foie gras overdose, a lentil cream with foie gras for my entree, and pan-fried foie gras with potato for main. Rich, oily and extremely sinful.

Company was good, as was the food. On our way back, Alvin drove past the brightly-lit Concorde and Champs Elysees areas, which looked so beautiful in the night. It was a nice way to end our first day in Paris.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Good as new...almost

On the eve of our Paris trip, almost all of the spots on Sean's face have disappeared. Thankfully, none has appeared on Brian yet. I'm still hoping Brian will contract chicken pox from his brother, but only after our return from Paris.

Sean's nails need cutting very soon.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Dinosaur galore

It was supposed to be a father-son outing. Ed had promised to take Brian to the Natural History Museum during half-term. So he took a very rare day off today and I was looking forward to staying home and watching Korean drama with mum. But Sean was having none of this. He started bawling his heart out when he saw Brian changing to go out and Brian didn't help matters either by saying he wanted Sean to come along too.

So I had no choice but to drag my unwilling butt along to visit our dinosaur friends again (cos Ed said he wouldn't be able to manage two kids on the busy tube). This is my and Brian's second time at the museum. I know I shouldn't be complaining, cos when we were queueing to get in, I heard a man telling his son (looks younger than Brian) that it was their 12th time there!

My favourite exhibit in the museum is actually this 225-million year old Petrified Tree Trunk. I'm always amazed when I run my fingers along its cold marble-like surface and just can't imagine it used to be wood (Did you know?: When a tree dies the wood usually rots, but under certain conditions the plant tissue may be replaced by minerals and it turns to stone).

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Electronic marble run

Brian couldn't wait to get his hands on this new toy I bought him yesterday, called Electronic Marble Run. At 10 pounds, I think it's a very good buy, cos not only do you get to fix the whole darn thing up from scratch, at the end, you get the satisfaction of seeing your contraption work.

He started work on it the moment he woke up (I didn't allow him to start on the project last night as I didn't know how long he'd take); without taking breakfast, changing out of his pjs or brushing his teeth (eeek!).

He took almost 2 hours to finish up, but it was well worth it. Presenting the finished product.

Check out how it works.

Sean's drawings

I found these drawings on Sean's table today. He told me the first one is of him shouting for his dad from inside our house. Very colourful house huh?

Sean had help with spelling 'here' in this next picture. The taller boy is Brian saying "yay" and Sean's next to him of course, shouting very loudly, "Nobody is here".

These two goldfish-looking things are actually tortoises, with very big legs and tails. The one on the right is Mary, Sean's 9-year old soft toy tortoise, which he inherited from Brian. I just found out from Sean that the tortoise on the left is Mary's teacher called Bonkadinka, the first I ever heard of the name.

No prizes for guessing who these are. Hint: Popular cartoon show of undersea creatures.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Food and friends

Before I could whip out my camera, pieces of this delicious black-pepper crab had already been grabbed from the plate; suffice it to say, the dish was really popular with the guests. It was part of tonight's dinner comprising kueh pie tee, roti prata, laksa and satay for starters, followed by seabass, kangkong belacan, the above crab, steamed chicken, fried kueyteow and dessert of mango pudding and sago pudding. Yum!

The event was the Singapore-UK-Association (SUKA) appreciation dinner and Ed and I had been roped in to do reception duties. About 50 guests who had helped in one way or another during SUKA's past year's many events were invited to this sumptuous dinner at Singapore Garden.

And the best part of the night was that among these guests were two of my long-lost friends. Li-Mei, a fellow hostellite in uni whom Ed and I had not seen since our graduation (erhm, some years ago), and Joy-Marie, who used to intern at the bank I worked at, and whom I've not seen in 10 years. She reminded me that she actually attended our wedding in Malacca back in 1996.

The night was spent eating and catching up. Li-Mei has lived here for 6 years, is married to Adrian, and is a partner at a UK law firm. Joy moved here a couple of years ago, has a 5-month old boy and just left her job at Goldman Sachs after 10 years there.

Food and friends certainly make for a perfect evening. I'm happy.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Latest toy: Carpark Garage

When Sean was feeling under the weather early this week (and we hadn't realised yet that it was chicken pox), Ed bought this Parking Garage toy for him. It took Ed 2 hours to fix up this monstrosity, which takes up half the space on our large coffee table.

At 25 quid, I found it terribly overpriced. Thankfully the boys are enjoying playing with it, and hopefully it will not turn into a white elephant as so many toys in our household do.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Day 3 Drying up

Slowly but surely, the spots are drying up. We have 6 more days before our Paris trip, so keeping our fingers crossed that the spots will be gone by then, and also that none starts appearing on Brian.

Both our boys never got their chicken pox jabs. I just didn't see why it was necessary given that all my life people around me had had chicken pox and emerged none the worse for it, save for a couple of scars here and there. Here's an article on why the chicken pox vaccine is nuts.

Hi Spotty

Day 2 of breakout. Applying aloe vera on the lesions has helped reduce the swell. He's starting to pick at the scabs. I told him I'll start calling him Spotty if he continues to do so. The threat's working for now.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Sean has chicken pox

Sean had been feeling listless for a week. At first we thought it was tonsillitis. But it's obvious now that he has chicken pox. It's quite a bad attack for a child this young, isn't it? Some of the lesions on his back have pus. Poor kid. I'm applying aloe vera to the spots.

Hardy Cactus

Brian's prized possession, a cactus he received from Kew Gardens after completing their explorer trail. I'm just amazed it's still surviving. We left it virtually unattended for the entire summer hols while we were back in Malaysia. At the time, Ed was left with the task of ensuring it got enough sunlight. When we got back, Brian jumped when he saw the plant somewhat wrinkled and shrivelled. It's since regained its health, I think.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Brian's birthday

brian's birthday
Originally uploaded by frankfurtlife.

Brian turned 9 today. He didn't get a cake. His present was a subscription of New Scientist which he'd been asking for for some time...and his bonus present was my old Sony DSC-P7 digital camera. He had fun fooling around with the video function.

His first copy of New Scientist arrived in the post addressed to B Leong, that really pleased him.