February 2009


Woke up early on Sunday to walk around the local farmer’s market. We really enjoy morning of Paris. Before the tourist crowd the city, the street/river are quiet and peaceful. Thanks to jetlag, we were able to enjoy a different Paris.

Marché Bastille

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Open only Thursday & Sunday. There were all different type of merchants in the Bastille Market. It’s like a farmer’s market. Early morning, you see local men and women came out to do grocery shopping. There were so many fresh and yummy food in the market. Both Hy and I regret the big breakfast we had in the hotel. We wished we came empty stomach. I also wish we brought bigger luggage so I can do some shopping.

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The instrument the street performer is playing looks quite unique. I’ve never seen such instrument before

Place de Bastille

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This place is extremely peaceful in the early morning.

Seine, Mairie de Paris
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We were lucky it was a sunny and warm morning next to the river. I wanted to come by the riverside since landed. The boats here are fully decorated w/ tables and chairs. I imagine it must be fun to have picnic on the boat during summer months. That morning, we walk past the park right next to the river bank. There were kids playing on the play ground w/ their parents. It was a beautiful and peaceful scene.

Château de Versailles

We had to take RER to Versailles. We exited the “Versailles Rive Gauche” station and just follow the crowd for a short walk to the Château. We arrived past noon, had to wait inline for a long time to get ticket. According to my friend who specialized in trip planning, she told me you could of get the ticket to Versailles online one month before the trip. They will be able to mail it to your US address. Then you don’t have to wait inline.
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Leon de Bruxelles
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image source: http://www.capcampus.com/img/u/1/bons_plan_leon.jpg

After a full day out to Château de Versailles, we settled to have dinner at a restaurant right next to our hotel. What a surprise found. Leon de Bruxelles specialized in mussels! The pricing is quite decent as well. We ordered croquette appetizer, one cheese, one fish. Hy ordered a pot of mussels as entry. I had chicken w/ rice. We had cold beer. The night end w/ cream brulee as dessert. Hy and I really enjoy this unplanned discovery. There were also English menu in this restaurant.

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Poilane
Second day, Hy and I had a light breakfast at the hotel. It gave us energy to explore Paris and in our quest for the best bread store in Paris. After we exited the Metro, it took us a little while to find the street where Poilane is on. It was early morning so none of the stores were open. Even when we were streets away, we could smell the bread while we searched for the store. Opened since 1932, there were 5 bread stores on that street, now, only Poilane was still there. It was a very small bread shop, when we entered the store, there were already 4-5 sets of customer picking up breads. We bought a croissant, walnet roll, apple turn over and peach pastry. Hy and I tried croissant from all different stores. I believe Poilane has the croissant in Paris!

We spent our 2nd day mostly in Louvre Museum. We arrived at around 9:30pm. We thought there were sizable amount of tourist already when we arrived. And it wasn’t until afternoon, we found the true meaning of ‘a mob of tourists’. We were fortunate to enjoy quietness of morning when there were less tourists. We did “Masterpieces of the Louvre” Audio self-guided tour in the morning. Really enjoyed the content. We also did the “French art collection audio tour” in the afternoon.

Musée du Louvre

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We had a light lunch at the Museum cafe. Salad there was surprisingly fresh and delicious. I ordered a egg sandwich that I didn’t enjoy as much. We also ate breads we got from Poilane.

In the evening, we strolled out of Louvre and head toward Place de la Concorde. There were playgrounds for kids. Also, a lot of street vendor selling Churros, Waffles and Crepe. We bought one sugar powdered covered Waffles and one Strawberry Crepe. In a cold winter, those sweets warm our hearts.

Le Fumoir

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image source: http://www.lefumoir.com/photo-fumoir2/005.jpg

I am really attracted to books. Drinking late afternoon coffee in a room surrounded by books was heavenly idea to me. Hy and I arrived Le Fumoir late evening. It was crowded already so we couldn’t get seated at the book room. Regardless, both of us really enjoy the atmosphere. After a full day of walking in the Museum, it was nice to rest our feet and have some drinks before dinner.

We had dinner at a place that we didn’t enjoy as much. It serves Provence (southern France) specialty. What we ordered was a bit too heavy for both of us. First byte tasted delicious, but finishing the entire plate was way too heavy. The restaurant was fine, it just doesn’t fit our taste bud as much. I was also still tired from the traveling, I almost fall asleep in the restaurant. Fortunately, Hy saw my condition and finished his food fast enough we get to go back hotel pretty soon before I made a fool out of myself 😛

Stay tune for Day 3!

We arrived Paris airport late in the afternoon. We had a red eye flight. It also took energy out of me trying to find Air France bus in the airport and get to our hotel. Though everything was quite smooth and we didn’t make any mistake, I was quite tired when we reach the hotel. We decided to have a light day. We basically spend time in the afternoon getting familiar w/ Paris Metro system. Got two 5 days pass for both of us. Then we hop on the Metro to the Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Elysees which is a stop quite close to where we live.

Arc de Triomphe

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My first impression was, wow, this is Paris. We were really here. With the popularity of Internet, I’ve seen the photo (like you do now) many times. But the fact that the Arc was right in front of me, it validated brought me to the reality that I was actually in Paris! About little more than a month ago, I didn’t know I would be in Paris, and now I am standing on the soil of world proclaimed most romantic city. It took us a while to figure out that in order to reach the Arc, we need to go to an underground walk way. Underground walk way was really familiar to me as I grew up in a busy city in Asia. In the walk way, I saw beautiful painting of Paris. I wish I bought one then I can frame it in my reading room. BTW, I am decorating my reading room w/ all the travel photos. If I get to choose, I would decorate it w/ food photos during travel, but The Photographer refuses to take photos for me when there’s yummy food in front of him. He just wishes to dig in and enjoy .. I guess I need to sign up some photo lessons from Augie 😉 That way I don’t need to rely on The Photographer.

Av. des Champs-Elysees

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Champs-Elysees is a street w/ many (famous) shops on both side of the street. There are many cafe’s and restaurants as well. It was quite cold outside, but there were still many tourists enjoying the shopping. There wasn’t snow on that day. But I really experienced White Christmas in Paris. The street was decorated w/ the theme of White Christmas. There were floating white lights hanging on the tree. During evening time, the lights float downs the tree just like white snow flake. It’s really hard to describe by words. Equally hard to capture the atmosphere by camera.

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image source: Annie’s point and shoot

I passed by the flagship shop of Louis Vuitton on Champs-Elysees. It was real crowded and there was a line. We decided not to go in as we are too physically tired to face the crowd.

Pl de la Concorde

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It took us a while to walk from Arc de Triomphe to Pl de la Concorde. It didn’t look that long from the map. Also, I guess those of you who visited in summer time, it wouldn’t feel long either. However, walking in extremely cold weather can strain out one’s energy quite a bit. One pleasant though though, there were just so many Christmas decoration on the street. When it light up in the evening, it was deadly romantic. There were also nativity scenes displayed along side the park.

Ladurée

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image source: http://www.laduree.fr/public_fr/maisons/royale_accueil.htm

On the first day, w/ jet lag and all, Hy and I didn’t feel quite hungry at the evening. We decided to have some sweets for dinner and head back to hotel and rest. We arrived at Ladurée Royale (Laduree’s original store since 1862) at around 5:30pm. There was two long lines, one for takeout, another for cafe. We had to wait outside for a hour to get a seat at the cafe. It was freezing cold, but the sweets and classic decor was totally worth the wait! We had various flavor of macarons and Mont Blac. Both coffee and tea there were killers.
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image source: http://www.laduree.fr/public_fr/produits/images/patisserie_mont-blanc.jpg

If you do get married in Paris, you can also order Laduree’s Macaron Tower for your reception.
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image source: http://www.laduree.fr/public_fr/produits/images/ceremonies4f.jpg

On the last day of our trip, we again visited Ladurée, but this time at the Champs-Elysees location. The store at Champs-Elysees is much bigger. Though there’s a long line still, but the customers get to wait indoor instead of outdoor.

Stay tune for Day 2 tomorrow ~

After our debute of OutNextWeek showcasing photos from our Paris trip, I got many emails from our readers regarding being inspired by the photos and wanting to know the details of our Paris trip planning. I thought I should share my experience in the blog entry instead of replying individual emails, since many of you girls are interested.

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Trip Planning Tips

1. Kick Ass Tour Book
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Image source: http://www.books.com.tw
Last Christmas was my first trip to Europe, so I was quite nervous and read through couple tourist books regarding France. I found tour books written by Japanese are most detail and useful. The particular book I used is France by JTB (Japan’s largest traveling agency). It gave me detail information on airport layout, transportation from airport to city, how to buy tickets at metro station, detail city/metro map, key tourist attraction, travel tips including culture, where to eat/stay, how to avoid guided tour tourist groups ..etc. Unfortunately, this book is probably only in Japanese and Chinese. You can buy the Chinese version here: http://www.books.com.tw/exep/prod/booksfile.php?item=0010248345, the bookstore does ship to US. JTB also had a book just on Paris. Another book I have is “France (Eyewitness Travel Guides)“. I like the Eyewitness Travel Guide series because the series usually have nice photos, not just boring words. However, I found this book doesn’t help me as much as my Japanese tour book.

2. Check out tour itinerary from the Touring company
Hy and I decided to spend our Christmas vacation at Paris during Thanksgiving weekend, it didn’t leave me much time to learn about France. I looked up on guided tours, they were quite expensive. However, it did gave me lots of tips about famous tourist attraction. For example, check out Globus Europe Vacations package.

3. Read lots of blog entries
Since I am a foodie, I usually read a lot of food blogs. Paris is foodie’s heaven, so research on food is definitely necessary. I read a lot of food blogs on Paris. They really helped satisfying our taste buds in cold winter. How do you find the blog? Use Google Blog search. Just type in Paris related keyword. I personally read a lot of Chinese blogs, so I use blog search feature provided by Yahoo! Taiwan.

Transportation & Lodging

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image source: http://www.starwoodhotels.com/lemeridien/property/photos/popup.html?propertyID=1919

We spent 6 days 5 nights at Paris between Christmas and New Year. We stayed at Le Meridien Etoile. It was located at Porte Maillot, a very convenient location, right next to M1 line of Paris Metro. We took Air France from JFK to CDG (Charles de Gaulle Airport). Then we took line 2 Air France Bus directly from CDG airport to Porte Maillot. We got off at the Porte Maillot, our hotel is right across street from bus stop (how convenient!) Commuting using the airport bus is really economical as well! The rest of the trip, we mostly travel via Paris Metro. For out of Paris trip, we travel via RER. I was planning to go down to middle of France via France train: TGV or SNCF, but decided to stay in Paris because of the cold weather.

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Thinking back, there were lots of great memories during this 6 days. It was quite adventurous to both Hy and I. Even though we’ve been to places outside of US, but those are the countries that I am familiar w/ (Taiwan, Hong Kong), where I can either speak or read/write the language. When I visited India, since I visited only major cities, most people speak fluent English. Though accent can be different and a bit hard to understand at times, communication isn’t an issue. W/ France, Hy and I don’t know the language. However, we found that most people in Paris are friendly and welling to speak to English w/ us. In fact, many of them speak pretty fluent English. Many restaurant we go to doesn’t have English menu, so I wrote a small cheat sheet of major food related vocabs. Also, since we do eat at French restaurants and bistros in the state, we end up have meals not too far away from our expectations. I believe as long as we choose a good restaurant, it’s like visit friend’s house when we were young, as long as your friend’s mom’s a good cook, anything she offers out of the kitchen would be tasty (when you were a kid, you don’t get to choose anyways). We face the new food we tried w/ such attitude, and end up discovering many pleasant surprises.

I will be showing you more places and tips from our Paris trip. It will be a series of blog posts! Stay tune.

Valentine’s day 2009.

It was a rough week w/ tons of work for both Hy and I. Last night, we started our long weekend w/ a long night of sleep. This is our 14th Valentines together. OMG .. We are so old!!

Didn’t plan much today. In the morning, we went to pick up the sofa we ordered last weekend. Since then, Hy’s been cleaning up the reading room (also his photo room), so we can move our new sofa in the room. Next up on the reading room project would be lighting and window treatments. I can’t wait!

While Hy’s busy cleaning the room, I spent time enjoying a slideshow Hy sent me on Friday (I know, not the best wife in the world). Hy’s been working a personal website w/ photos he took for his own entertainment: www.outnextweek.com. Friday, Hy sent me this slideshow of our ’08 Christmas trip to New York and Paris. They were good memories. I still wanted to move to Paris. I wished it would be easy to just drop everything here.

Here it is, Click on the photo to Play. Don’t forget to turn on your speaker.
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Happy Valentine’s Day everyone. Good luck to those of you girls who are expecting a ring tonight 😉

I would say, don’t settle girls. Follow your instinct and follow your vision when you plan your wedding.

Janet & Jason lives in Chicago. They will have a Napa wedding this year. However, Janet really would like us to capture photos of her and Jason at their current home. So, together, we worked out a plan that fits her budget. The end results, Hy and I had a fun weekend away from home. Janet and Jason had a fun afternoon w/ this sweet life stage captured during the beautiful Fall season at Chicago.

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It’s not a complete engagement session w/o a ‘ring shot’
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Love the color of the heels that Janet bought that morning. Gotta get a close up 🙂
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Hy and I love traveling, so we can’t wait to find an excuse to fly out. Come talk to us, especially if you have those out of town (country) weddings.

Venue: Venue: Four Seas Restaurant, San Francisco, CA
Florist: Poppy’s Petalworks
Jewelry: Paris Connection
Makeup & Hair: Galin Truong
DJ: Unlimited Beats
Cake: Sunset Bakery

Sophia and Sidney had their reception at a Chinese Restaurant located at San Francisco China Town.

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This is the romantic month of February. Since beginning of 2009, Hy and I had been working on our reading/working room. Couple weekends ago, we added 2 sets of book shelf. This weekend, we ordered a sofa. We will be picking it up next Sat. on Valentine’s from the warehouse. Slowly, my dream reading room is coming to shape. Of course, there are still lots to do, lightings, window treatments, coffee tables, wall decor .. etc. I am happy that this year, we get to spend more time to nurture our own life a bit. After 13 years of being together, Valentine’s day celebration seems to elevate to different shape and form for us. Romantic dinner, flowers, chocolate are all great. But on top of that, the fact that we are investing our energy and time for each other is even more precious, especially after the past 4 busy years we’ve devoted to HyStudio.

I was way overwhelmed past week. Hopefully, this week I will be able to get back to my regular blog schedule. I have our Chicago shots last year lined up to show you. Stay tune girls.