September 29, 2013

Dining at the top of Paris @ 58 Tour Eiffel Restaurant

Climbing up Eiffel Tower is something that have been on my bucket list for the longest time. And when I was in Paris on my honeymoon, I told myself I must up there. No matter what it takes. Little did I know I did get up there but it was much harder than expected. 

So here's what happened. The day we decided to climb up Eiffel Tower was wet and downcast. Since we had made reservations to to have dinner at 58 Tour Eiffel Restaurant, we got ourselves dressed up and the taxi drop us opposite Eiffel Tower. 

When we confirmed our reservation at the restaurant counter at the base of the tower, we were told that the lift will only take us to the 1st floor where the restaurant were located, and if we want to get to the higher floors we either had to pay extra or take the stairs. Rockstar and I look at each other and without hesitation, we said 'Stairs!'. I think the additional 14 Euro per person was a turn off. So stairs it is. 

The 1 century old lift took us up and drop us off at the 1st floor. Sadly, the view wasn't that great. It was still drizzling slightly. We found the stairs and started climbing. It was fun at the beginning. But slowly, it became harder. The stairs seems endless, going round and round and up and up. Panting, puffing, stopping whenever we could. It's no joke. We stopped like at every platform at the top of each flight of stairs. We did see people passing us but they were all heading down. I think we were the only crazy ones climbing up Eiffel Tower in that weather. 

But finally... finally, we arrived on the 2nd floor @ 115m above ground. Weeeee!!! I almost jumped for joy if my legs didn't ache that much. Even though it might not sound that we did, but I guarantee you, we did enjoy it. The cool weather helped kept us cool. 

The view is so beautiful. It was getting late and as the rain was still drizzling, we did not get a view of the sun set. However, we did get to enjoy a hot cup of hot chocolate while huddling together in the strong, freezing wind, as we watch Paris comes to light. 

Although I wished we had continue our journey up to the top, time and the weather did not allow us that. It was getting really, really cold and late and we had to be at the restaurant in time for sitting. The lift took us down and dropped us off again on the 1st floor.

We had the Opera Menu which comes with a glass of wine, starter, main course and dessert for 67 euro per person. Our table wasn't fantastic as we made a last minute reservation. We were told that if we wanted a table at the side with an unhindered view of Paris, we had to make reservations at least 6 months in advance. Tip for travelers : Don't hesitate. It's an experiences not to be missed. Book way in advance. Anyway, here's what we had. 

Starter : Seared tiger prawn, avocado, soya and sesame dressing

Starter : Smoked salmon terrine, citrus dressing and olive oil pearls

Main Course : Seared salmon fillet, carrots, green peas, white butter sauce

Main course : Roasted chicken breast, green asparagus, morel cream sauce

Dessert : Profiterole with vanilla ice-cream and chocolate sauce

Dessert : Rum cake with vanilla whipped cream

The food isn't superb but good enough to pass. We didn't have much view of Paris. Our table was so cramp that if I wanted, I could have reached out and helped myself to a piece of lamb of our next-table neighbour. But these are what made it so special. It's so uniquely French with its tiny tables, light french conversations floating over the chinks of wine glasses, soft music, and black bow waiters. And I could not have asked for a better company :) 

It was a wonderful experience (although our pockets hurt quite a bit) and one of our highlight in Paris. And I can at least say that I did climb Eiffel Tower with my bare legs almost freezing with the cold and my 4 inch heels. :) 


September 24, 2013

Post-Wedding and Honeymoon Photoshoot in Paris

As mentioned in my previous post, we offered the floor of our honeymoon suite to a good childhood friend who was in Paris and in returned, we got so much more. He graciously took absolutely gorgeous pictures for us as we wandered the streets and attractions of Paris. And as I was preparing to write this post, I decided to use his pictures instead. So this post is dedicated to Jonathan Lim, for graciously taking our photos. It really brings back good memories. All photos below are taken by him except stated otherwise.

After a really good breakfast at the hotel, we started at the Eglise De La Madeleine, because that's near our hotel. Sadly, the whole place was under construction and we could only take pictures from afar.

Then we headed across the road to the famous Laduree for macaroons. They have so much varieties and their desserts and pastries are so tempting. 

Then we walked down Rue Royale, which munching on macaroons and peeping into famous brands and boutiques. It really is impressive, with its straight lines and tall trees. 

We arrived at the Place de la Concorde and took lots of pictures and funny poses with the gold-tipped Obelisque. The story here is that 1300 people died here between 1793 and 1795 including Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. I shall not bore you further with history lesson. 

Then we took a long stroll up the majestic, broad tree-lined Champs de Elysees. Stopping just for some photoshoots and people watch. We passed by The Grand Palais and The Petit Palais and decided to keep it for another adventurous day.

We passed by a huge gate with a long tree lined pathway, guarded by 3 hot looking guys and assumed that it was a secret club or something. But as we wandered up the peaceful garden and arrive at an atrociously designed front entrance, we realized that we have arrived at the infamous Abercrombie and Fitch. Inside is dark, with latest tunes banging from the speakers, smell of aftershave and hot looking male and female models walking around makes it feels more like a club then a store. Of cos, I couldn't resist taking a picture with the topless male model. :p

We headed up Champs de Elysees again, passing by huge brands and small cafes and arrived at the Arc de Troimphe. It's an impressive sight. But avoiding tourists and trying to take a decent picture requires patience and skills. This behemoth is build as a homage to the armies of France. 

We took the underpass to the center of the Arc, paid an entrance fee and proceeded to climb up the winding steps to the top. Not for the faint-hearted as you can get dizzy going round and round. :)

But the sight on top is simply amazing. Arc de Troimphe seats in the middle of the Charles de Gaulle and its also known as I'Etoile (star) because it has 12 straight avenues radiating out from it 

*photo taken by me. Sorry for the slant.It was hard enough being short and that I had to tiptoe and stick my head betweeen the barriers to take a decent shot. 

*photo taken by me
A pictures that Jon managed to capture of Montmartre and the Sacre-Coeur and I am posting it up because we spend half our honeymoon there hold up in a tiny Parisian apartment. More on that in future posts.

A subway ride back to the hotel because we were too tired to walk further. We had a good time with Jon. Thanks again for the great pictures. If you want to view more, click here

September 18, 2013

The Magic of Notre Dame, Paris

I just got back from an amazing trip to Ho Chi Minh. 7 days seems pretty long but Rockstar and I really did enjoy the city. It's our 1st year anniversary! Time flies so fast. I still remember what I did 1 year ago. 

We were in Paris on our honeymoon. It was on the 2nd day that we found out a close childhood friend, Jon was in the neighbourhood and since he didn't have a place to crash before his flight the next day, we offered him the floor of our honeymoon suite. Awkward you might think, but he is a good friend and best of all, we had a free dinner, tour guide for an entire day and a free post-wedding photographer. 

For dinner that night, he brought us to Notre Dame to see the night scene and enjoy the gypsies offerings. It's so fascinating! The streets were filled with all kinds of people - buskers, gypsies, food sellers, waiters, hobos, foreigners, locals and travellers. Different from other parts of Paris, yet feels so french at the same time. 

It was a 3 course meal and J managed to cajole the maitre to throw in a free glass of wine each. Food was averagely good but the company was better. Sitting at our table just by the sidewalk, sipping our wine, and watching the streets hum and buzz with life. It feels so surreal, like I was in a movie. From eating escargot to some French desserts, to watching the matires hawk their food and buskers prancing around for some coins, seems like the whole city (or Notre Dame area at least) comes to life at night. I'm not sure if is the cheap wine working its magic but part of me could just imagine Esmeralda dancing her way just around the corner. 

We ended the night with chocolate banana crepe, which seems to be the rage in Paris and a stroll opposite the road to the impressive looking Notre Dame Cathedral - looking so beautiful and intricate and peaceful. Such a beautiful night!

I couldn't ask for a better company. Thanks Jon for the dinner and the photos and your company :)

September 13, 2013

Eating & Staying in Japan is affordable

A lot of people come to me and say that travelling to Japan is expensive which can be true in terms of the transport. Their MRT/Trains are super expensive and could cost about RM10+ between 1 station. My suggestion (if you are planning to travel quite a bit) is to buy the Japan Rail Pass. You can get it easily from a few travel agents here locally for about RM1000+ depending on exchange rate. Thats high for you? Well, a gauge is that for a bullet train ride between osaka and tokyo costs about RM900+. So its definately worth if you are planning to travel around Japan. 

Besides the expensive transportation, food and accommodation is actually quite reasonable. I stayed in both Tokyo and Osaka for about a week and most of the time, we had the Japanese fast food meal - Yoshinoya & Sukiya. Each meal is about 200-700yen (about RM8-25), and it comes with free soup sometimes and unlimited chilled water. Piping hot and freshly prepared right infront of you, its perfect for the cold weather. And I'm sure you spend more back here in Malaysia. 

A tip : Service there is fast and for smaller outlet, eat and go. Don't dawdle as others may need your seat/s. Bigger outlets with plenty of seats will be fine. 

As for staying in Japan, the cost for a decent 3 star hotel is about RM200-250. Although it can be small, but I'm sure most of the hotels it Japan have small rooms too. Some comes with breakfast some don't. Toilet and tub may be a tight squeeze but Japaneses have manages to make it quite efficient. 

 Best Western Hotel Fino Osaka Shinasaibashi

Hotel Route Inn Tokyo Asagaya

Japanese pyjamas anyone? 

And sadly, even though I didn't managed to visit Mount Fuji during the trip, I did get to see it. From my hotel room window. So gorgeous ain't it? 

Travelling to Japan can be affordable. You just got to know what you want to do and how. If you come and tell me that you want to stay in a nice place and eat nice food, then you just gotta save up more. Anyway, for those who are interested, I listed down my expenses for my Japan Trip here. Check it out :)

And with this, I end my travel log to Japan. Photos taken are either with my Sony Compact Camera or my Samsung W phone, hence not so good quality.