5 things I miss about Paris

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Paris is the place I always want to go back to, and I’m perhaps not the only one. I do know folks who don’t find Paris all that hot, but it certainly can’t be denied that the city  is simply charm itself. It’s also the only city I find completely lovely to visit, though I’ll never think of living here, unlike Berlin. We tried out AirBnb when we stayed here, in a lovely apartment with a courtyard near the Laumiere station, which was near the city centre. It’s quite something seeing how people lived here, which was a welcome change. Aside from its tremendously awesome food, there are 5 things I miss most about Paris that can’t quite be found anywhere else.

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1. Life in and around the Metro

The Metro in Paris is a hotbed of activity, and we love just getting a hot coffee and pastry from Paul in the morning underground or finding some other bakery during rush hour that serves up hot croissants. Riding the metro is also great for people watching.

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2. History, Culture, Art

Paris is intense, the only saving grace being that everything is in French and I don’t understand the language. It’s amazing being steeped in such history that oozes from the buildings, streets and all the century-old bookstores. I love what the Louvre offers, the various contemporary art galleries, Cathedral Notre Dame, it’s just madness. And then there’s the graffiti around every corner that marks the modernity of this city in juxtaposition to its grim gargoyles.

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3. Paris by night

By night, the city lights up in an amazing way, equal parts dark and mysterious and equal parts bright and stunning. Seeing the city at night has a different kind of feel to it. Google’s Night Walk of Marseille best shows this (idea is schmazing. why didn’t I think of this??)

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4. Bistros, everywhere

It’s almost ridiculous how easy it is to find a bistro to pop into for a quick cuppa, and it’s especially awesome when it’s freezing cold and there’s just nothing better than sitting outside and warming up with a coffee. If I could do this as a hobby or a living I’d gladly do this in Paris, where the crowds make this experience very unlike anywhere else in the world.

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5. Photogenic Streets

Every corner of Paris is just beautiful, it’s like goddamnit, the face of a model that has no wrong angles. One of the best things to do is really take in Paris on foot, where exploring each neighbourhood often turns up something surprising.

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1 hour in Bern, Switzerland

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We were barely in Bern. We drove quickly into the little town to see the old city on the way to Chur and its mountains. A pity, since Bern was filled with all the things we loved – little market stalls in the middle of Bärenplatz (Bear Plaza), beautiful historical architecture lining cobbled streets slick with rain, and trams running down the middle of the street. We hmmped at the Curia Confoederationis Helveticae building (Federal Palace of Switzerland) then got distracted by life going on the roads instead. In the hour we gave ourselves, we walked the long shopping promenade, peeked at Albert Einstein’s tiny apartment, marvelled at the numerous elaborate statues perched high atop beautiful fountains, and saw the Zytglogge (clock tower called the “time bell”), easily seen in the centre of the medieval plaza. It was also freezing cold, kind of just the way I like it, and we couldn’t resist buying the loveliest Nutella crepe that came deliciously piping hot and was just what we needed to fuel us for the rest of the trip when we left this charming piece of Switzerland.

Books, Beers, Bait, Bangsar

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One weekend we found ourselves in Bangsar, so we took to walking the streets to see what we usually miss when we spend time there for lunch or drinks. Turns out, nothing much.

Shopping in Bangsar is a bit of a rip off I think; things are often expensive but the quality isn’t up to par. Hipster shops are a plenty, alongside your regular fashion brands like Ben Sherman or Warehouse inside the Bangsar Village mall itself.

This place is great for food and drinks though, with the sheer number that have opened up. We stopped at Antipodean for breakfast, it being highly recommended in a magazine we picked up naming the top food destinations in KL. Perhaps we didn’t order the right dish, because that breakfast sorely sucked. The coffee was not bad though. The place is crowded on weekends, and its staff bustle with almost sheer manic desperation to get every order taken, customers seated, food served, bills paid, customers shoved off and then tables cleaned before the next guest is seated. Not the best atmosphere to be in when you’re wanting a relaxing weekend.  Next door to Antipodean is the next much lauded Yeast, which seems to be a little more laid back though just as packed and bustling.

One thing great about forgetting to bring along your computer charger on a weekend trip is you really start digging your non-digital hobbies. I bought a book  to read (for once, being ahead of a book being made into a movie) while we enjoyed beers, oysters and calamari at Bait to wind down the superbly hot afternoon.

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Roots

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Since I typically post about food places on our travels we’ve discovered and lovedinteresting experiences, or simple travel tips and guides, I seldom do long visual posts. I’ve done some with Beirut, Turkey, Lebanon, and even of some our favourite landscapes while on drives through New Zealand. But this blog just doesn’t seem like the place to put so many of these photographs, though, especially since sometimes I get tongue-tied trying to think of words to say on this page. I much prefer for you to interpret these scenes for yourselves. I’m on tumblr, though my posts are automated so it only posts the first image. I’m on Facebook, though in automated mode it serves as an update for new posts through links. I’m more active on Instagram and Twitter, but these formats still aren’t very conducive for all my photographs (visuals? captures? images? these words seem so impersonal). There’s Pinterest, which I do upload travel photos on every so often. After years, I decided to get back on where I originally began – Flickr.

I must say, Marissa Mayer’s done quite a good job of turning Flickr around. I left the platform almost as soon as I started it in 2008 since it got clunky and started charging for space. When I checked back on it today (took a gazillion minutes to try and figure out, fuckit, and then reset password), was surprised to see 1 terabyte of free space! Much yay ensued. On this account I found some newer photos from our New Zealand rugby world cup trip in 2011. More importantly, a whole trove of photos from way back that I’d forgotten, as far back as 2007. In some ways, it’s telling of how I’ve changed the way I look at and photograph things. Also the quality has just gotten much better over the years from my gradual upgrading of cameras.

So basically I’m back on Flickr, which is where I’d keep and upload all our travel photos that I don’t post here to avoid clutter. I always forget how much of something I love when everyday life gets in the way (yes, work – I’m talking about you). I really enjoy photography, it really is the root reason for everything I’ve ever done for Seven Second Rhapsody. So check out my Flickr, I’ll remind you here every now and then. It’s even got my old username Rabbittrick, which I can’t change. I’m just glad it’s not something weird like DirtyFork1985 (keeping that for my secret accounts).

Geneva and Zurich (work trip), 2010

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Beijing, 2008

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Shanghai (work trip), 2007

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Shibuya. Shinjuku. Harajuku

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SHIBUYA

We discovered that Shibuya shopping wasn’t so much our thing, perhaps being a little bit on the teen side as girls and boys swamped the Shibuya 101 shopping towers, while we felt wholly middle aged and very much not so fashionable. It was forty degrees C in August, one of Japan’s hottest months, and I can be forgiven (or maybe not) for just wanting to wear a pair of shorts and white men’s Uniqlo T-shirts (they were the most comfortable). Forget accessories, who can bother with the flash and bling in this goddamn weather. Well. These kids could.

We discovered a cool kushikatsu izakaya for snacks and beers, and also an express Ippudo eatery at Shibuya. We stayed here for the Starbucks Shibuya crossing shot, a photo with Hachiko’s statue outside the main station, wandered around some shops aimlessly for a bit, then headed to Shinjuku and Harajuku.

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SHINJUKU

So trying to get here via the Yamanote line is a bit of an adventure, but then again so is all of Tokyo’s train routes. Can’t be blamed for trying a little less harder in mapping this efficiently as it’s the only source of air-conditioning comfort. Shinjuku was another mess of shops and teeny bopper style, starting with Takeshita street once you exited the station. I wanted to try and Wolfgang Puck express, though just trying to get from one side of the street to the next is pretty exhausting in this heat and crowd. There wasn’t much energy for stuffing face with food so we pressed on. Frankly I’d like to talk about Tokyo’s insufferable forty degree C temperature more than anything. Everything was just so tempting but you couldn’t help but think about running back to the hotel room for a cool glass of whiskey soda and soaking in the tub. Forever.

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HARAJUKU

The vibe here was definitely more adult. All of the big brand names line the front of Harajuku, so the best things were found off in these little alleys. It’s also surprisingly less crowded, as most people mill about the main streets and lounge about in the cafés there. It’s a great place for finding knick knacks, vintage shops and these amazing Takoyaki delights.

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instagram inspiration: snow

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L – R from top: MissyJena / Drvolland / Hirozzzz / Foster Hunting / Jordan Herschel / Hirozzzz / Evthelav / Hirozzzz
All image credits belong to their respective rightful owners, I do not own these pictures. 

I’ve been getting loads of inspiration for travel planning for next year. This year is turning out to be a tropical one, what with Bangkok, Cambodia, Vietnam and South Africa in the pipelines, so I’m determined to put some ice on the menu for 2015.

Aside from city trips like London, Sweden, Norway and Copenhagen (fingers crossed) next year, I’m also obsessing over nature hikes, trails and treks, which I’d love to do more of. Frankly I have a do-or-die attitude about visiting Iceland next year, which my partner is quite rightly skeptical about. I can get quite swept up in the “We must do this when we’re young” speech.

Over the weekend, in between researching our South African travels which would revolve around the Serengenti, or visiting the Maasai in Tanzania, a quick scroll through my Instagram feed gave me this huge trove of beautiful snow-capped mountains and treks from all corners of the world. I’m super psyched for my 2015 plans because of it even though I know folks in half the world are just coming out of winter and into the long-awaited Spring. I just can’t help but feel a little envious for snow while I’m sweltering in my tropical weather.

Fox Glacier walking in New Zealand

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I’m going to avoid right up front a cheesy pun, this being one of the coolest (too late!) thing that we’d tried in New Zealand. It’s a lot less stressful than snowboarding, where I do a version of a two-legged hopping + slip and slide combination thing which eventually leads to me falling repeatedly on my ass. My partner is a bit of a natural at snowboarding having skateboarded in his youth, so much of our time up at Coronet Peak, Queenstown, is a bit of a blur for me.

A glacier walk is pretty spectacular, and in most part a very painless activity (a fall here can be quite treacherous on the derrière too). You’re completely outfitted for the walk at the Fox Guides basecamp, where you get decked out in waterproof jackets and pants, suitable walking boots and instep crampons for gripping the ice. We took the half day Fox Trot, a guided tour up one side of the Fox Glacier, which is so easy seven year olds can do it. The more adventurous can opt for the full day tours.

This frozen part of New Zealand was carved out during past ice ages, a smooth, natural floor of ice nestled between lush valleys. The half day tour takes you right into the middle of the glacier for an amazing view, which as you can see is just goddamn magnificent. It’s a whole lot different from just wandering on a mountain where the snow is soft. A glacier is ice, it’s like a living creature. Certain parts of the glacier warm up and melt and freeze over again, forming ice ridges, little streams, or even little caves – some big enough to walk through like a tunnel. A really great way to spend the day, and superb to warm up with beer and lamb roast in town thereafter.

Check the Fox Guides website for details of the tour. They also have constant weather condition updates.

Tips

  • The best way to get here is to drive. Fox Glacier township is a small place, so plan your accommodation ahead as it gets busier towards peak season. With the distance between towns and the choices being half day or full day tours, it’s better to spend at least one night here to rest up.
  • The glacier is open year round. We travelled there in August and the weather was perfect with not too much rain. It was also pretty quiet during that time (not skiing season).