How is everyone? It has been a while, hasn't it? Almost 2 months! I hope you have all been doing well. Let's pick up from where we left off, shall we?
Like I mentioned in my last post, I was busy spending time with family. It was all fun and good, but truth be told, I was well and truly exhausted. It has been one heck of a trying year, and I have never felt more tired than I have in the previous years gone by. I dread to think what it's going to be like when I officially have 3 school-going kids next year, but ah, I'll cross the bridge when I come to it.
Anyway, I woke up one morning and decided I absolutely deserved a holiday (and by "holiday", I mean no children). So I booked my air ticket and was Paris-bound 10 days later. Life should be well-lived, I thought, so I'll just do it! *pumps fist*
Okay okaaay, I cried all the way from home to Changi Airport, and then all the way from Charles De Gaulle Airport to my hotel because I felt terrible without the young ones. Talk about separation anxiety!
It also did not help that upon arrival, I had to sit through a painful 1-hour traffic standstill. After getting out of the jam, it abruptly changed to F1-style driving laced with colourful swearing, impatient honking and fist-shaking, all thrown in for good measure. It took me 2 whole hours to get into Paris, by which time I was giddy and nauseous.
Early morning, crazy traffic in Paris. Finally made it into the city!
When my "F1" taxi driver handed me my bag at the hotel, he shrugged and said, in a tone loaded with resignation, "Paris can be crazy." You're telling me, monsieur. He must have assumed my red, swollen eyes were the result of crying over the astronomical €90 fare.
Anyway, Welcome to Paree! I could not have arrived on a better day, so I was told. It had been grey for the past few days, but on that morning, all that greeted me were pretty azure skies with the faintest streaks of wispy whites.
I stayed in the 7th arrondissement, just a stone's throw from the magnificent Eiffel Tower. As I walked and turned the corner, I saw it ... and it took my breath away. There was hardly anyone in the street at that hour, and it felt as if it I had the Eiffel all to myself. Certainly a moment to remember.
Soon, I received messages from home that all was well and the kids were - I quote - "in high spirits" (read: unlimited online games, unlimited Youtube, unlimited cold drinks, unlimited everything). Who wouldn't be high? Shed those tears for nothin', darn it.
From that point, my blues were quickly replaced by the sudden gleeful realisation that I was in Paris without a care in the world. For once, in a long, long, looong time, I could do all the things I wanted to do ... eat, drink, do nothing if I so desired, or everything if I so fancied. It was about being in the moment, and I embraced it with wide, open arms.
My first meal in Paris was with an ex-classmate I hadn't seen in 23 years! She lives there now, and in her words, "love it". We had a wonderful lunch at a charming place - her treat - where we mused about old times over delectable French food and toasted to friendship with Kir Royale.
Joie de vivre were the 3 words that kept popping up in my head. I could get used to this, I remember telling myself.
(Left) One of my favourite dishes - seared Saint Jacques, with truffles in a rocket salad, (Right) Kir Royale.
(Top) Prawns and more Saint Jacques, with truffles, on a bed of sautéed fennel, (Bottom) Café gourmand that was sublime! Oh, and the baguette they served here at Truffes Folies was the best I ate throughout my trip!
And that was only the beginning. After Paris, there was Barcelona, Lyon and London. It was such joy to revisit old places with new eyes. In Barcelona back then, we were fresh graduates on our "big" European tour before the corporate world beckoned. I vividly remember us sipping coffee on a lazy Sunday and wondering where life would take us. What divergent paths we have chosen!
The Sagrada Família. So impressive, but why are the construction cranes still there after all these years?!
The Casa Batlló. Personally, I wanted to see this more than the Sagrada Família. There's something about whimsical things that speak to me.
Or in London, where I spent many a happy summer as a young child. My father may be gone, but in so many familiar places, I saw and remembered how he used to hold my tiny hand in the daunting crowd. Ah, memories ... some happy, some poignant, but nonetheless, all precious.
Peaceful and picturesque Lyon. I will be back.
And Lyon. Beautiful Lyon. It was a magical time, as the entire city was celebrating its annual Fête des Lumières (Festival of Lights). In every little quaint street, in every nook and corner, you would see lighted candles that flickered daintily in the chilly breeze of the night. And that amazing dinner at a bouchon? Undoubtedly, hands-down, my most memorable meal of 2011.
We were turned away at so many bouchons - all fully booked for the Festival - and as we tried our dwindling luck at yet another, I will never forget how - after my friend earnestly pleaded for a table - we remained on tenterhooks until the chef edged his way out of the kitchen, pursed his lips and heaved, "OK!" We could hardly contain our excitement! We later learned that it required a 6-month reservation to secure a table during this time of year. That night, as we heartily tucked into the rich and rustic dishes, we counted our every blessing.
(Left) My Quenelle de Brochet Sauce Nantua - a Lynonnaise specialty. I loved it! I tried 3 versions at different places, but this one at Cafe des Federations was in a class of its own. Light, airy, eggy and in a sauce that had the most intense flavour of crayfish. Incredible!
Suffice it to say, I. Had. THE. Time. Of. My. Life.
The 2 weeks away gave me the clarity and serenity that can only be gotten when you disengage yourself from the daily grind. I realise inertia can be a powerful thing: a lot of people settle into their comfort zones, and they never ever get out. Sometimes, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to press the refresh button on your life.
I just did and I can't thank myself enough for that.
PS: All photos, with the exception of the 3rd and 4th, were taken using my iphone4S. Long live the iphone! DSL-who?
PS again: Wine is food, darn it! And food should not be so expensive! Why does it cost so much more to drink wine in Singapore? Why?! Everyone should be given the right to good, affordable wine at every meal! *end of rant*