Paris Header

5 Things About Paris

As they say, hindsight is always 20/20, and so at the end of 3 eventful days in Paris, I would like to share what I wished I knew about Paris before setting out on the journey.

1) Itinerary

I thought I had done enough research on my itinerary before leaving for Paris, but due to mother nature (rain) and the rigid nature of my plans, we had a tough time coming up with a good back up plan. I had initially made sure that the places we went were right next to each other, a systematic way of visiting Paris. But for Day 3 in Paris, when we were caught in heavy rain, the itinerary had us walking through large swathes of open air, not good when it is raining.

On second thought, we should have had the itinerary differentiated between indoor and outdoor activities, thereby making sure we were dry when it was raining.

Another thing was that my itinerary was pretty much packed for all 3 days, trying to do much more than is humanely possible within the time limits given. But then again, 3 days in Paris is considered too short to do anything meaningful. My suggestion? See here.

Continue reading →

Paris Header

Paris Day 3 (Part 3)

Bus #69

“Please raise your hands if you have travelled on the hop-on hop-off sightseeing buses before,” I said. I count a few hands being raised over here, some over there. “Good, good.” Let me tell you a secret, told to me by Rick Steves’ Paris guidebook and it involves a bus too — Bus #69.

Avenue Joseph Bouvard bus stop

Say you are at the area near to the Eiffel Tower, there is still plenty of sunlight and time is on your side before it gets dark. Please make sure it is not a Sunday, nor is it after 9pm. Have at least 2 Métro tickets at hand and you could be enjoying a different kind of hop-on hop-off experience.

My suggestion? Pick one of the evenings when the lights are up and stay on the bus for the whole duration

My suggestion? Pick the evening when the lights are up, stay on the bus for the whole duration and have dinner near Gambetta (where the line ends or starts). A one-way travel would take around 1 hour, including traffic, so do not worry about your ticket expiring. You could also do the trip early and tie in with a visit to the Père Lachaise cemetery. Your call.

Continue reading →

Paris Header

Paris Day 3 (Part 2)

By the time we finished our brunch, the rain has slowed down. There were puddles of rainwater on the sidewalk and the wind was making it difficult for those with an umbrella. We made our way to Rue Lepic and walked downhill. If you are looking for some tarts, do check out Les Petits Mitron (26 Rue Lepic), by the looks of the tarts on display, they sure look tasty.

Café des Deux Moulins (click to enlarge)

Don’t just look downhill or at your feet while walking. Across the road lies Café des Deux Moulins. “What?”, asked the wife. This is the café made famous by the movie Amelie. If you are a movie buff, make sure to check out the movie poster at the back wall inside the café. The rain was starting to fall again as we arrived at the junction of Rue Lepic and Boulevard de Clichy. On your right will be the infamous Moulin Rouge, nothing spectacular in the mornings, but I heard that it is different at night.

No sun could be seen and the whole sky was covered with dark clouds

By the time we reached the Blanche Métro station, the rain was coming down heavily. This is the worst weather that we have encountered over the last few days. No sun could be seen and the whole sky was covered with dark clouds. Very bad indeed.

Continue reading →

Sony TX100V

Before I start, this review is not associated with Sony, nor am I being paid to do so. It is also less of a technical review, which you could find by doing an online search. This is just a simple user (me) experience with the product over the duration of a 2-week Europe tour. Parts of it are mostly from the wife though.

The TX100V

We wanted to replace our old point-and-shoot camera was the main reason behind the switch. There was a trade-in promotion and without any prior research, we went ahead and bought the Sony TX100V (RM1,199). Killing two birds with one stone, so to speak.

Basics

This camera comes with a 16.2 megapixel sensor with 4x zoom. The menu and functions are activated through the 3.5-inch OLED touchscreen. It can also record movies at 1080p 60fps. All the technical mumbo-jumbo, just means that it is on the higher end of most point-and-shoot at that time (2011). It weighs about 150g and is very pocketable.

Features

Despite having no experience with any new point-and-shoot up till then, we were very happy with the various functions that comes with this Sony. Among them, Background Defocus for those who want the bokeh-licious photos (F3.5-4.6).

Bokehlicious Tulips (click to enlarge)

Then we have the iSweep Panorama, for a panoramic view of around 180-240 degrees. I find that although my Olympus E-PL3 has a similar function, it is very user-friendly for Sony’s version as compared to Olympus.

Last but not least, one of the wife’s favourite — Handheld Twilight. This setting is good for low-light and night photos.

There are also a few extraordinary functions which we did not use much, one of them is the Backlight Correction + HDR for your pseudo-HDR photos and the 3D Still Image, that adds a cute 3D effect when you tilt your camera up and down.

As it wasn’t our main video taking camera, I can not comment much. But for that few seconds that we did, it was really sharp. The best part was that you could connect a HDMI cable straight to the camera for instant playback.

Opinion

If you are looking for a high end point-and-shoot, the Sony TX100V comes much recommended by me. It is compact, you can put it in your pocket without any hassle and by just sliding down the cover, it automatically switches on. The various features that it has will cover most of the photo-taking options you need. Low light, check. Defocus, check. Panorama, check. It is the camera for those who do not like to know what is going on behind the scenes, the ones that are just contented with snapping photos without any aperture, ISO settings or technical gobbledygook.

The image quality is good, as you can expect from Sony. Even the OLED display is super sharp, 1 million pixels or something. You can be sure that what you see is what you get.  GPS is built-in, though not of the Google Map kind but of the geo-tagging type, no worries if you can’t recall where you had that photo taken.

Even though it is not weatherproof, it still works in light rain, just make sure you dry it afterwards. Startup time is around 4-5 seconds, so not a good camera for street photography. Certain features take up 5-7 seconds to do their processing, and there were a few times that it basically jammed up.

If you have oily fingers like I do, you would be leaving a lot of smudges on the touchscreen. The responsiveness of the touchscreen is not as smooth as compared to a smartphone. There are times that it just refuses to detect our touch, maybe it is because we were so cold that our fingertips froze.

Battery life is a bit short for our liking, it did not even last a day with one full charge during the 2 weeks. Checking the photos taken, we managed to take around 220-250 photos before the camera died on us. No worries though if it died on you for the first time, you could still squeeze in maybe 3-4 shots by switching the camera on again.

Overall

A decent enough camera for travel purposes because of its compact body and various features. Do not really need a DSLR for traveling. In my case, it was a good backup to my Olympus E-PL3. If I am fumbling with the controls on my E-PL3, the wife will be shooting away happily beside me with the Sony.

Battery life would be the main gripe and also the need to get over the touchscreen responsiveness.

16.2 megapixels is good enough for me, although some would complain about the 4x zoom, I find that it works fine for me. Some of the travel photos in the previous posts were taken by the Sony, especially the food photos.

At the end of the day, go get the Sony TX100V or its equivalent if you need a decent high end point-and-shoot, without having to get stressed out about the technicalities.

Paris Header

Paris Day 3 (Part 1)

We woke up to a bright Monday morning. “Finally”, I said. “No more rain for the day.” That would probably go down as the understatement of the year as the day carried on. We were up and about by 8am, our destination for the day — Montmartre and the famous Basilique du Sacré Cœur.

Finally. No more rain for the day.

The Métro took us right up till Anvers, a brisk walk uphill through Rue de Steinkerque along shops selling fabrics, souvenirs and cheap clothings, we soon find ourselves at the foot of the steps leading up to the basilica. On your left, you will find the funicular train, if you are lazy to walk up. Surprisingly, there are no crowds at Montmartre. The place was empty. We took the hard option and walked up the stairs. Nothing like a good exercise early in the morning.

The Basilica of the Sacred Heart (click to enlarge)

This is Paris’ highest point at 420 feet. The City of Light fans out in front of you. This is a different view from the ones we had from the Eiffel Tower and the Tour Montparnasse. Because, this is free! Try to find the Gare du Nord train station, followed by the Georges Pompidou Center and the dome of the Panthéon.

Continue reading →

Paris Header

Le Tambour

You must be wondering why this place was singled out for its own post. It is for two reasons actually. The first being that it is quite near (200m) to our apartment, which I only found out when I was in Paris. The second reason is because this is the first Spotted By Locals suggestion that we took up and it did not disappoint.

Le Tambour (click to enlarge)

Le Tambour is located on 41 Rue Montmatre, it is nearer to Les Halles rather than Montmatre. So don’t get confused with the street name. The main attractive factor is the long opening hours; until 6am in the morning! We were there a little earlier, around 9pm. Most of the shops that we walked by were already closed. It was raining. We were cold and hungry.

The shop is located at a corner, probably due to the rain, there were no sitting outside. We did not reserve a spot but found the place pretty much empty around that hour. Must be because of the rain again. The restaurant is decorated with numerous oddities, old signboards, posters and be sure to check out the diorama next to the entry on your right. Kooky and weird was the initial experience.

Be sure to check out the diorama next to the entry on your right

Oddities as décor (click to enlarge)

The waiter did not rush us to make an order, which was a good point, considering the fact that we were trying to make head and tail of the French menu. Knowing French is a plus here but the waiter had no difficulty in understanding us, so not to worry.

Having zero experience with French food, I can’t give a good review. We ordered a boeuf trompette and a parmentier canard. Whatever that means. I guess a lot of you would be wondering where are our starters? What is this? Do not worry, from where I come from, we rarely had starters. And from what we know, a meal with starters, mains and desserts is too much for our stomachs to handle, hence only the mains for us. By the way, we don’t do wines either. I usually would develop a rash from consuming any significant amount of alcohol. However, alcohol mixed in the food is okay for me though.

Boeuf Trompette (click to enlarge)

Parmentier Canard (click to enlarge)

Overall, we were very satisfied with our dinner. The beef was tender and soft, the portion just nice to give you a sensation of 80% full. The duck dish was an eye opener as it is supposed to be a pie, but it doesn’t look anything like a pie. This was a great way to end the day after trying to battle with mother nature. Rain was still pouring outside as we were sampling our food. The usage of yellow and red neon lights as décor was probably to stimulate our appetites.

When does the French usually have their dinner?

We thought we were the only people up for dinner at the ungodly hour of 9-10pm, but within half an hour, we were joined by at least 4 other tables. This left me wondering, “When does the French usually have their dinner?”

“The bill?” €44 for two persons.

Pierre Hérme Macarons

A little note here, earlier in the day, we came across Pierre Hérme’s macaroon shop and bought ourselves an assorted 20-piece box. We wanted to do a comparison between his and Gérard Mulot’s version but unfortunately, Mulot’s shop was closed for the day (I meant the one we went to).

Pierre Hérme’s version (click to enlarge)

Talk about sweet! These little one-mouthful cakes/cookies probably come coated in sugar! They appear to be hard but once you take the first bite and the inner filling of either jam, buttercream or ganache starts to ooze out is when that heavenly feeling (pun intended) sets in. In normal speak, it is the sugar rush that gets you.

They come in an assortment of rainbow colours, I lost count after 5. Be sure to try them out if you are in Paris. The more famous version would be Ladurée.

The price of 20 macarons? €38 for a box.