Saturday, August 31, 2013

Euro Trip Day 10: Vienna

Vienna suddenly became more interesting when I knew that the park with Mozart statue was located here. And that became the first destination of the day. The park was bigger and nicer than what I expected. Plenty of trees which makes it have a rather nice forest-y feeling and there is even a lake. However, I was quite disappointed as many of the statues are of people whom I don't know. And surprise.. that famous golden statue of the guy playing a violin is actually Johann Strauss!! Not Mozart!! Haha.. Mozart's territory is at Salzburg and not in Vienna.

That famous Strauss' bronze monument. Pity the sun was not in a favourable position :(
As we walked back to the train station to go Schonbrunn Palace, I saw a map and there was actually a Beethoven statue nearby. Well, Beethoven is more famous so since we were already there, I insisted that we should see him. Haha.. It was not exactly near as it took us about 10mins from Stadtpark. Poor Beethovenplatz is located near a carpark. The place is not exactly a park but his statue is much bigger than those statues in Stadtpark. Nothing impressive but who cares.. Another landmark of Vienna ticked off my list lol.
Beethoven statue at Beethovenplatz
We continued to our next destination: Schonbrunn Palace. It was quite a walk from the nearest train station and seeing the number of tourists along the way already made my head spinning. My mood immediately swang to the low side as I hate to have strangers in my photos. Not to mention the weather which reminded me of my French-fried days in Paris. My father added to my irritation with insisting on taking a family photo using the timer. Jeez.. why couldn't we just approach a fellow tourist to help us!
The gate of the Schonbrunn Palace
The queue for entrance tickets already snaked by the time we arrived and the ticket machines were out of order too. I hate queueing so I did not mind not going inside. My dad insisted on going inside as he would like to bring my mum in. Well as long as it was not me queueing, I didn't care. I went to the souvenir shop and bought another pair of coins. The coins were rather expensive here, 5 Euro instead of the usual 2 Euro, because there were Swarovsky (don't know real or not) decorations. I also did a bit of reading of the history as I was totally unaware of Viennese royal history. In fact, I never knew there was an Austrian kingdom in the past or that the famous Maria Antoinette of France is actually from Austria.

My dad was hungry and wanted to buy sandwiches from the cafe. He asked me what I wanted so I just picked and chose. The next thing I heard from my mum was that he was angry. He wanted me to help him buy the sandwiches etc. Jeez.. I was with my sister when she was near the ticket counters already. Seriously, what the heck with the sudden "boss" syndrome wanting to be served sia -_-"

I find the palace tour to be rather interesting despite my lack of knowledge of history and the fact that photography was forbidden. The audio guide performed its role rather well. There were a few interesting things which caught my attention: 1) Why are the beds so small? I thought the Westerners were rather tall people.. I don't think I can even fit into those beds. 2) How are those windows able to protect the inside of the palace from cold winter? 3) I am so jealous of the paintings of the royal members. I would also love to have my own face painted that way. Haha..

While touring the palace, I saw people taking photos with olden days royal costumes and hairs but how come I did not get the chance to do that leh :'( Haiz..

My sister told me that the gardens were great, especially since phototaking is allowed there. The garden really sprawls across huge area. Just outside the palace, it is a open area with 16 statues lining on each side of it. There are many gardens, and even a zoo, behind these statues. At the end of the statues, it is the Neptune Fountain. After the fountain, it is a gentle slope with Gloriette on top of it.
Back view of the palace as soon as we stepped out to the garden
Neptune Fountain
Don't ask me why the colour of the water is like that
It was a dilemma whether to walk that far to the Neptune Fountain or even to reach Gloriette given the scorching sun. My main concern was whether my body or my sister could take it. Not funny if one of us fainted because of the heat or something. Haha.. Since I did not want to return to this place anymore, I decided to satisfy my curiosity to explore right to the end and to be on top of that iconic structure. Nothing fantastic about the view from top there but I felt a sense of pride and achievement. Lol.
The Palace viewed from the top of Gloriette
There were many other smaller gardens but there was no way and energy for us to visit every one of them. My sister only recommended one, the nearest to the palace, which she said was the best. I shall not comment whether it was good or not since I am not into flowers and gardens. Lol. The name is Crown Prince Garden so not suprising if that is the best one. Haha..
Crown Prince Privy Garden
I was honestly very tired after all the walking and I wanted to go home already. My dad still wanted to walk around. Sigh.. We went to Maria-Theresien-platz and it was sad that Maria Theresa's statue was under restoration. The Platz was in between 2 gorgeous museums but we did not go in since it was already rather late. We continued walking through various Platz, which I can't remember, until we reached back to Stephansplatz. Sigh.. and the shopping continued. Grr..
Maria Theresa statue
We ended the day with a dinner at a Chinese restaurant, which again was not very nice. Bleah.. We also went to an ice cream shop to get our Sachertorte. On top of that, I was tempted to Tiramisu and Apple Strudel too. I knew it would be too much for my tummy but since it was our last night in Vienna, I might as well enjoy Viennese delicacies to the max. Haha... Ironically, only the tiramisu was fantastic.. and tiramisu is an Italian delicacy lol.
An intriguing clock we found at Stephansplatz

Friday, August 30, 2013

Euro Trip Day 9: Vienna

The trip was over.. for me. Haha.. Honestly, I was not to eager to go to Vienna as I did not know any interesting places of attraction there. To me Vienna is a place of classical music and it will be only fun to visit if I am going to watch cool concerts etc. The day did not go as smooth as planned. When we arrived at the tram stop, the whole line broke down! Sigh.. We never took any bus in Zurich and had no idea to go to any train station via bus. It was not helpful to get a racist officer who spoke to us in God-knows-what language but spoke English to the locals. I ran back to the hotel and thank God the receptionist was able to give me clear instructions.

We reached the train station 2 minutes before the train's departure. It was a mad rush and again thank God for an elderly couple who was running ahead of us. That gave us a few more seconds to get on the train. Actually we could just wait for the next train to the airport which would be in another 10 minutes time. However, we were all just too anxious and did not want to take the risk of missing our flight. One hell of a morning. And my mum was sulking with all the running -_-.. OMG! It was not as if I wanted the tram to break down lor!! Unexpected things happened and we gotta think of alternative. No point sulking and blaming ourselves for not leaving hotel earlier bla bla bla.

Everything was a mad rush in Zurich airport. We were planning to use up our Swiss Franc coins as we would not be using anymore of it. Everything was expensive in the airport and I also did not want to buy useless things. In the end, I bought a mini water bottle for 9.90 CHF. That was already on 50% off. Gosh..

The flight using FlyNiki was enjoyable. I did not expect it to be a full flight service so it was great to get food and drink. Unfortunately, it was another case of bad customer service from the Europeans. English is not the airstewardess' first language so her pronounciation was also rather bad. She asked "Ham or Cheese?" which I misheard as "Ham and Cheese". So I was like "Huh? Are you asking or what?". Anyway, the bitch should know that there is a think called ham and cheese so she should pronounce her OR much better if people were to catch her the first time right.

At Vienna airport, it was another nightmare of carrying luggages. Sigh.. We had to take the CAT (City Airport Train) and they only have one directional elevators i.e upwards. As we were going downwards to the train tunnel, we had to carry the luggages down the steps. I know that carrying up will be more tiring and perhaps that is why they only have the elevators for going up. But still, WHY CAN'T THEY JUST BUILD BIDIRECTIONAL ELEVATORS!!

The journey on foot to the hotel was a repeat nightmare of what happened to me in Paris. My dad relied on his memory and we ended up walking a looong way to reach the hotel. The hotel had nice lounge but the room was meh :'( The toilet was so small too.

After resting, we went for lunch. My dad die die wanted to find the Chinese restaurant that he went 2 years ago. The restaurant looked grand but the food was rather terrible. We chose 3 different dishes but they all tasted the same: soya sauce taste!! Bleah.. I noticed that just across our hotel is a strip club with a giant poster of a naked woman facing the main street. Wow.. An eye opener for me as this kind of thing does not exist in Asia. Haha..

It was almost 2pm and my dad suggested to go to Schonbrunn Palace and the following day would be reserved for shopping. What a horror to shop for 1 whole day!! I was not in the mood of taking photos plus I felt tired after all the carrying of luggages so I managed to convince him to go shopping first now and reserve the following day for places to take photos.

We just spent the whole afternoon at Stephansplatz. It was a giant place full of boutiques. My view of Vienna was changed. The shopkeepers spoke good English and they were very friendly. This would definitely be a good shopping place for me the next time I go Europe. Hehe.. I bought the Swatch watch which I had been aiming from Paris. Lol.. After that it was crazy shopping time for my mum and sister.
A random Catholic statue at Stephansplatz
Unfortunately, Stephansdom was still being renovated so it was not a nice sight to see. Yep.. thus it was a day with almost no photo wor..
Still undergoing preservation, surrounded by tall building, and against the sunset, Stephansdom did not look good in my photo :(
For dinner, my dad decided to let us enjoy Western food. As much as I was tempted to get Wiener Schinitzel (something unique to Vienna), I was finally swayed over to order a mixed grill of beef, chicken, pork, and sausages. It was a terrible choice. Haiz.. For the drink, everything on the menu looked rather uninteresting and the plain water was too expensive. I decided to order something I never tried before: Edelweiss beer. Quite shocked when it arrived in a big jug like those I usually saw in movies. Haha.. Wanted to end the day with another Viennese culinary:  Sachertorte but the restaurant currently had no stock of that. Bleah.. 

Basically it was not an enjoyable for me. Not even that Swatch watch made me happy.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Euro Trip Day 8: Jungfraujoch

The day that I had been waiting for was finally here!! Perhaps it was the climax of the whole trip as my main goals for the trip were to take calendar photos (i.e photos in great scenery) and to experience snow for the first time in my life.

The time taken to reach Jungfraujoch from Zurich was at least 4 hours. It required several change of trains at Bern, Interlaken, Grindelwald, and Kleine Scheidegg. It was quite challenging to change train at Bern and Interlaken as the time window was only 4-6 minutes. I tell you that it is no joke to run from the middle or back of the train (2nd class compartment) to the front, look at the board for the platform of the next train, run to the platform, and run to the middle/back of the train again in that short period of time. Miss any train and you have to wait half an hour for the next one. Not worth it to miss.

From Interlaken, there are 2 ways to go up: via Grindelwald or Lauterbrunnen. As Harry Potter geeks, the name Grindelwald was more appealing to my sister and I and we went via Grindelwald for the trip up and via Lauterbrunnen for the trip down. At Kleine Scheidegg, it was disappointing to know that some trains were reserved for tour groups. Sigh.. Gotta wait about 20 minutes for the next one. With all the heat and the crowd, it was not a nice thing.
The view on the way to Grindelwald from Interlaken
The view on the way to Klein Scheidegg from Grindelwald
From Kleine Scheidegg onwards, the change of elevation was quite steep. If you see the map, it seems that Kleine Scheidegg to Jungfraujoch is just one direct train. There are actually 3 stops in between for toilet breaks and acclimatization. Once we entered the tunnel, it got kinda boring and we were just waiting when it was going to feel cold.
The view on the way to Jungfraujoch (before entering tunnel) from Klein Scheidegg
We reached Jungfraujoch past lunch time. The hunger and the cold did not stop me from wanting to take photos in the tunnel. However, my sister was already like a car running out of fuel. No response when I spoke to her. The day before, she was boasting that she would not need to eat anything since everything was expensive up there. See la big mouth. In the end she also had to eat.

Firstly, we went to the Sphinx. The view was amazing.. the weather was amazing.. but the place was not amazing for photo taking. The area was rather small as compared to the crowd. In addition, there are a lot of wires etc. Taking photo of the scenery was also challenging due to the height. I was quite scared that I would shake and drop the camera. Haha..
The irritating poles and wires at the Sphinx
View from the Sphinx. Numerous zooming to avoid the wires
Next stop was the Snow Fun. Well, I did not actually walk to the snow slide part (which was too far) or to attempt the flying fox (no time already!). But it was still fun. The first time I stepped on to the snow: I slipped and fell down o_0 Haha.. It was kinda embarassing but who cares. The sky was clear and it was summer. The actual temperature was about 6 degrees C and according to science H20 exists as water rather than ice! Lol. No wonder the snow provided no support. It took us quite awhile to get used to it but we walked quite far. I even took jump photos. After falling once, no big deal of falling another few times but I did not fall haha..
See how far we could still go.. Those small dots on the snow are people
I gotta mention that I was absolutely pissed with my sister. All pictures that she took for me was dark. The snow looked grey -_-" In her pictures that I took, the snow looked white! The sun looked like a great spotlight and her photos looked great. I can even proudly say they are worthy to be in a magazine cover or a tourism brochure! Jeez.. and my pictures taken by her were all shit. Bleah..

For me who was so eager to play with snow, the melting snow was disappointing. It was like playing with the ice that you scrapped from the inside of your freezer. I was expecting something more solid. But oh well, something to tick off my death wishlist: I HAVE PLAYED WITH SNOW!! Tee hee..

The Alpine Experience and the Ice Palace were not particularly appealing to me. After spending 30 minutes under the sun and jumping a few times, I felt rather warm and I removed my winter wear. Surprisingly, the weather was now bearable even with my normal clothes. Lol.

The trip downhill was terrible. The queue was already snaking and I could not get a seat. Sigh.. It was very tiring for my legs to stand when the train was travelling down from a height of ~3500m to 2000m. I would roll towards the front of train if I did not use my legs as "brakes". And I was falling asleep during the trip too. Huhuhu... Thank God that the downhill trip has no need of acclimatization and stopping at the 3 stops in between. Otherwise my suffering would be prolonged by another 15 minutes.

It was great to be back at Kleine Scheidegg. We went up the hiking track for quite a bit to take gorgeous pictures. The view from Kleine Scheidegg is amazing.. even better than from all-white view from Jungfraujoch. One Japanese guy asked me to help take a picture of him. Why did I mention him? Because he had a unique camera. Instead of looking from behind the lens, I had to look from the top of the camera. It was quite weird. Haha.. In the morning, there was a guy with St Bernard dog for a phototaking opportunity. I was planning to have one but he was no longer there in the afternoon!! Sad sad sad dammit!! Ever since I got nothing to buy at the souvenir shop, I had been planning to get a picture of me hugging that cute dog!! Grr...
Kleine Scheidegg..
The picture does not do justice! The nicer pictures which I have contain my face and thus I can't post here
The trip back to Interlaken via Lauterbrunnen was mindblowing. It was a mistake to travel up via Grindelwald. The view from Lauterbrunnen was beyond description: mountains, valleys, greeneries, waterfalls. Simply WOW!! Unfortunately, due to unfavourable sun position as we travelled downhill, I took no photos to show the greatness of God's creation T_T 

Subsequently, it was another adrenaline rush to run for each connecting train. My parents went separately with a tour group and arrived back in Zurich about 30minutes later. I decided to go to nearby Starbucks to wait. I ordered something I could not find in Singapore: Banana Java Chip. The taste was not fantastic though. Haha.. But the seating area was amazingly spacious with sofa etc. Totally different from Asian-style of squeezy seating area.

It had been a tiring but absolutely amazing day. I definitely would like to go there again, especially to spend more time at the hiking area to enjoy the view. And the next time I go to Switzerland, I will definitely choose Interlaken or Lauterbrunnen to stay. Yesterday I wanted Lucerne but now I changed my mind. Lucerne is great but scenery beats town view hands down! Lol.. Plus it would take significantly shorter time to reach Jungfraujoch from Interlaken or Lauterbrunnen. I will love to go up before other tourists arrive and then go down when other tourists are going up. It will be amazing to be able to spend a longer time in the snow, perhaps even to try a skiing, playing the snow slide, and have fun with the flying fox.

Oh an another thing, definitely have to go there when the weather is slightly colder to play with more solid snow :D

Monday, August 26, 2013

Euro Trip Day 7: Lucerne

I felt quite excited about Lucerne after all the planning I did the night before. However, the remnants of the anger and irritation from the day before still lingered. The weather forecast and the grey skies which welcomed us as we exited from Lucerne station only made the sombre morning worse.

Our first stop at the Lucerne station was the tourist center. With the unfriendly weather, I was going to ask for transport trips to save time as well as to plan which places to "sacrifice" if weather or time really did not permit. It was a great surprise to hear that I could visit all the places which I intended to visit ON FOOT with a total time of 2.5 hours. I honestly did not expect the city to be that small. Heh..

Chapel Bridge and Water Tower
Not far from the station, the Chapel Bridge (Kappelbrucke) and Water Tower were already visible. It was Sunday and most shops were not open. Or perhaps it was still too "early" that there were hardly any tourists. Great time to take pictures. While the clouds protected us from the sun, it made taking photo challenging with poor lighting condition.
Mill Bridge
After crossing the bridge, we walked along the Reuss River to reach the Mill Bridge (Spreuerbrucke) which pales in comparison with the much more well known Kappelbrucke. After crossing the bridge, we continued along the banks of the river to our next destination Musegg Wall (Museggmauer).
The less impressive Spreuerbrucke
Musegg Wall
We came to a hilly region and when the path diverged into two, I made a wrong decision. I followed the "busier" road which led us to residential area. Musegg Wall consists of 9 towers although only 3 allow visitors to climb up. At the end of the residential area, we reached the clock tower which is the 2nd visit-able tower :'( The correct road was actually the one which looked more deserted. Sigh.. Quite disappointed not to climb the first tower as it seemed much more exotic than the clock tower. Having said that, the clock tower was already a nice experience on its own.

Lion Monument
The sky was getting darker and I had to thank God that it did not rain and thus we visited the Lion Monument (Lowendenkmal). I am not a fan of statues but if time and weather permit, I don't mind visiting a landmark of the city. Hehe.. The timing was rather good too as after we were done camwhoring, 2 buses full of China tourists came. Yuck yuck..
Lion Monument
Do you see a pig? The crevice where the lion lies has a pig shape. There is that the town government failed to pay the artist the second half of his wage after the completion of the monument. The artist was snubbed and thus carved the pig.
Church of St. Leodegar
Our next destination was the lake side. On the way, we made an unplanned detour to a church which turned out to be the cathedral (Church of St. Leodegar). I was blown away with the architecture, especially the interior. One thing which caught my interest was the part behind the main altar which was closed by a large iron gate. Hmm...
Church of St Leodegar
I wonder what's behind the iron gate
Lake Lucerne
The lakeside was unexpectedly boring. Yup, it was Sunday and even tourist attraction things like boat trip around the lake was not open -_-". I thought the lakeside would be interesting as I planned to walk all the way to the end.. Haha.. We decided to look for lunch instead. My sister was horrified with the prices of the restaurants at the lake so she wanted to go to Aldstadt (Old Town) instead. Of course, I knew she also wanted to do shopping so for the first time I felt glad that the shops were closed. Lol.. Otherwise can forget about lunch liao :p
The unimpressive view of Lake Lucerne
We went to one souvenir shop and was quite surprised that the shopkeepers were either Chinese or Indians. Hmm.. Just to cater to tourists I suppose. I decided to buy a winter cap. Okay sounds lame as it was still summer. I would be going to Jungfraujoch on the following day and I had no idea how cold it would be. My mum lost the winter hat which she lent me a few years back so I decided to get one. Better safe than freezing to death on the mountain tomorrow. The cap had a nice Swiss feeling to it: red colour and a white cross embossed at the front.

My sister was mentioning about her intention on having cheese fondue since arrived in Zurich. I did not mind to fork out 40 francs for that because firstly, I knew everything was expensive here and secondly, that was something unique to Switzerland. Well, in the end it was her who could not figure out her mind and we ended up with Burger King for lunch. Well.. I did not mind that either. It had always been my intention to experience how different the fast food chains in different countries would be.

The time after lunch was neither here nor there. We had to return to Zurich early because our parents would be arriving in the evening. However, if we went back straight after lunch, it would be too early and we would end up going back to hotel (and I would be lazy to go out again). I suggested that we walked to Richard Wagner museum to kill time. From the map, the distance from the main station to the museum is similar to the distance to Musegg Wall so I thought it would not take too long.

Ironically, when we had no more mood to take pictures and we wanted to walk, the clouds disappeared and the sun was scorching. Ultimately we did not reach the museum. Lol. After 30 minutes of walking, we were still halfway. We stopped at Sea-park. Although it looks like a beach, the water is actually a lake and not a sea!! Haha.. What a misleading name! The journey there was rather scary too as we had to walk through a bus parking lot and a deserted industrial buildings. Well it was Sunday so of course nobody was working at the factories.

Lake Zurich again in the evening
We returned to Zurich to pick our parents up. And if I saw gay couples in Amsterdam, Zurich is where I saw lesbian couples: from the middle aged ones up to the butch-looking ones. Lol. I was quite irritated that my father wanted to go to Lake Zurich after dinner. It was still bright but it was already 8pm++!! Jeez.. I was tired and I wanted to rest for Jungfrau on the following day :'( But since it was our first time meeting at this trip, I decided to be a good boy and bear with it. Already could not tahan quarrelling with my sister so I should not create another conflict. Haiz..
Lake Zurich
After looking at the pictures online, I should have stayed overnight at Lucerne instead of Zurich. The view of the Kappelbrucke (with lights) and Reuss River and Lake Lucernce (with lights from the buildings around it) were much more magnificent than in daylight. Huhuhu T_T Perhaps next time..

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Euro Trip Day 6: Zurich

The day started early because we had an early train to catch from Paris Gare de Lyon to Zurich. With enough rest and past experience of carrying heavy luggages through Paris metro system, I was well prepared and guarded my mood well. We reached Gare de Lyon rather early and our train was not listed at the board yet. Tried get a help from the staff at the station to no avail. I guess he just could not be bothered attending to an Asian. Thank goodness our train finally appeared on the board.

It was a cool experience to sit in First Class with a ticket costing only 8 Euro more than 2nd Class. Comfortable seats, breakfast served, and peaceful quiet environment with classy First Class people that allowed me to have additional sleep.

We reached Zurich at noon and we spent quite a bit of time at the Tourist Information Centre to book a tour to Jungfraujoch for our parents as well to ask for directions to our hotel. Switzerland is my number 1 destination during the planning of the trip and just with our first impression with the Tourist Information Centre, I fell in love more with Switzerland. They are very warm, welcoming, helpful when giving information (lengthy information), and the most important: they speak English!

After we alighted from the tram, we opened our maps to see which direction we should walk. A lady who alighted with us knew that we were tourists and immediately asked where we were going and pointed out the direction. Wow.. kindness from a stranger which I had not experienced even once since I stepped my feet in Europe 5 days ago.

We were kinda lucky that we managed to stay at Mercure Hotel (4 star) due to their promotional rate. The room was fantastic: large room, thick bed and thick blankets, plenty of towel which comes in various sizes, bathing robe, plenty of power points, bath tub, TV in the bathroom, and free drinking water from the minibar. Whee..

Ironically this was where everything turned sour. I wanted to pay for laundry in hotel but it was Saturday and they did not do laundry on the weekends! Haiz.. as my sister wanted to play her mobile game, I decided to wash 1 shirt and 1 pair of jeans. After that, I asked her about our plan for the rest of the day as I honestly had no idea what places of attraction that we had. No answer as she continuously played her dumbass game.

When we wanted to find a place for lunch, we were like idiots. We just looked at the tram map not knowing where is what etc. The town was also kinda eerie with very few people and traffic at 3pm. Hii... We just had random lunch in whatever food place which was open. And my assumption that everyone can speak English in Switzerland was proven wrong. That shopkeeper girl was an embarrassment to Swiss! Haha..

Lake Zurich
We went to Lake Zurich which I thought was boring. We actually just took a random train and alighted when we saw the lake and people were alighting too. Anyway, we were too far from the "shore" as well as from the mountains and the photos taken look like photos of open water. Not to mention the lack of wind which did not cool my mood down. Then it started to drizzle for few minutes and then it stopped before the cycle repeated itself.
The unimpressive view of Lake Zurich
Ganymede statue
My sister walked towards some nice looking buildings and entered a church which I had no idea what. Basically I just hate to walk aimlessly without knowing where to go or what places to visit. I definitely did not enjoy it and from the day's experience, I posted this on facebook: "Always know that it was a wrong decision but this is the first and the last time I am doing this..". 'this' refers to travelling with my sister.

My aunt sensed something wrong and called my sister in the evening. I was taking a nap but again, I somehow was awakened when I sensed that someone was bitching about me. Lol. As expected, she complained about the Disneyland, my umbrella, my laundry etc. Of course she left out the parts that she refused my offer to plan for Disneyland trip and for Zurich, how she pretended to know where we were going when she didn't know, how her mood was screwed because of her period, sunburnt, and hunger, etc.

To prevent the similar thing from happening again, I decided to plan which places to visit for our following day to Lucerne. That made me slept at 3am in the morning but it was worth it! Why? That will be a story for Day 7 :)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Euro Trip Day 5: Paris

So we were still in Paris and the theme for the day was: I AM FRENCH FRIED. After a grueling day under the sun at Disneyland, it was another day under the sun at the city area. The day's destinations were major landmarks of Paris: Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Champ-Elysees, Grande Arc, and Louvre (although only to see the pyramid).

Eiffel Tower
We alighted at Bir-Hakeim and then walked about 10 minutes to reach the foot of the tower. The queue for the elevator up was already snaking like crazy. I wanted to climb using the stairs since not many were queueing that. However, my sister did not want as she was still feeling tired after Disneyland -_-" Ok lor... Seeing that throng of tourists, I thought Eiffel Tower would be a quick stop as I dislike having random people in my photos. I was wrong.

It seems that for most people, going up the tower is the main attraction. The park at the foot of the tower was relatively empty which provides a good opportunity for my camwhoring session. My sister and I even did a few jump shots which was quite embarrassing even though there were not many people. Lol.. I could jump pretty high so I only jumped a few times. My sister, however, had to jump many more times. Not sure if I sucked with the camera or if her jump sucked (did not try to "fly"). I believe it was the latter. Haha.. One Italian couple approached me to help them take a photo which I obliged. Funny thing was only the guy could speak English. Not sure if both could speak French but I just found it intriguing when someone who can't speak English go travelling.
Eiffel Tower from the park beneath it
We walked across the Seine River to reach Trocadero. It was quite a fair distance. With the number of stops we made to take pictures, we could easily burn ourselves 30-45minutes under the sun. While the river was fantastic, the view from Trocadero was nothing similar. The sun was exactly behind the Eiffel Tower and it simply looked black in photos. Add a suntanned me in front of the sun, I just looked black in pictures. Frustrating.. We met another tourist couple here. The guy was a better cameraman than my sister. He helped to take the picture of both of us and the humans looked coloured. Grrah.. should have asked him to take my solo pictures too.
River Seine
From Trocadero.. The sun looks eerie..
Arc de Triomphe
The moment we exited the metro, I was disappointed. Eiffel Tower was majestic but the Arc looks better in picture than in real. Or perhaps, the Arc looks grander with its light at night than in the bright daylight. Not in the mood to take pictures because a lot of people were standing at the same area to look and take photos with the Arc. Oh well, there is a big road separating us from the Arc so everyone simply stood at the road side. We went over to be directly under the Arc and my impression still did not change: it looks better in picture and it looks grander with its light at night.

Anyway, it was not all negative as I learnt something here: the Arc has a lot of history behind it. I also did not expect to see something like the Tomb of Unknown Soldier beneath it. Lol.. Prior to this, I only know the Arc as the inspiration of Final Fantasy VIII Sorceress Festival at Deling City at the end of Disc 1. Pardon me. Lol.

We continued with a trip along the famous Champ-Elysees which was dubbed as the inspiration of Singapore's Orchard Road. Can't say which one is better. I prefer Champ-Elysees for the wider pedestrian pathway while I prefer Orchard Road for the shopping malls. Yes.. with such a hot weather, I appreciate a walk through various connected shopping malls with aircon rather than visiting boutiques/shops one by one. Haha..

We visited a Swatch shop and I decided to buy a watch. Since we were still at the beginning of our trip, my sister suggested to buy it near the end because as long as we are in Euro zone, the price would be the same. Cool with me. 

Our ultimate destination, however, was Disney Store. Okay.. I still had a pang of regret for leaving Minnie behind at Disneyland the day before. I realised that Disney Store and Disney Parks had different items T_T There goes Minnie.. In the end, I succumbed to impulse and bought Aladdin and Jasmine soft toys. Lol.. I thought the plushies were ugly looking when we browsed Disney Store website in April and I was so sure not to buy back then. In fact, I was more interested in Aladdin and Jasmine's dolls ala Barbie. Lol..Unfortunately, Jasmine looked damn ugly in that one and the box made it difficult to fit into my already full luggage. No time to take the picture of Aladdin and Jasmine, though.

Grande Arc
The official name is Grande Arche de la Defense but I swear I saw it written as Grande Arc in the metro. Of course I could be wrong! Haha.. I had no idea about this so when my sister described it as "a more modern version of Arc de Triomphe", I was excited and my imagination ran wild.

Outside the la Defense station was Les Quatre Temps shopping mall. Again, my sister wanted to do her shopping. Emotions ran high because 1) it was already pretty hot and the aircon in the mall was not switched on and 2) there were still many places to visit and I did not want to waste time.

This Arc was even more disappointing than Arc de Triomphe. With no carvings whatsoever, to me it was just like a concrete monument and I refused to walk all the way from the mall to underneath it. I was already French fried and looking at the distance.. no way.. I ended up taking photos at the grassy area outside the mall. Lol.
We were still *that* far from the Arc.. This is with several times zoom :p
The Musee du Louvre
I thought there would not be anytime but since the museum is also in yellow line (same direction as our hotel) and the sun was still up high, I decided to pay a visit. Initially, I was reluctant to go if I did not go in to the museum. Oh well, with the limited time, of course we only came to see the pyramid (from far) and the inverted pyramid.
The famous inverted pyramid.. I would not know this if not due to Da Vinci Code
This is the closest I can get to the top side of the pyramid
At the park, I saw plenty interesting things like the a ferris wheel and some grand buildings. But something triggered a "sandstorm" and we decided to just quickly go.

Another Arc? Yes, it is all sand and hence the sandstorm.
After a quick dinner, we returned to hotel. I thought we would still have time to actually enter Chateau de Vincennes but we arrived at about 7pm. And surprise surprise, the electricity in the hotel was down! Lol.. Thank goodness everything returned to normal within half an hour.

So that was all for France. I missed out Galeries Lafayette (which I initially thought as a giant shopping mall in Champ-Elysees) as well as Notre Dame (my sister said it closed quite early and I refused to go if I could not go inside). My sister thought 7pm was still early and she was a bit bitter that she could not go shopping or visit the Notre Dame. Well, common sense told me to have an early day because on the following day we had to leave early to catch a train in Zurich. This bitterness was carried over until the showdown in Zurich. That will be a story for tomorrow. Heh!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Euro Trip Day 4: DISNEYLAND PARIS ^o^

The day that I have been waiting for has finally arrived. It is ironic for a 26 year old guy (read: man) to be excited to go to Disneyland but I have a sad childhood. I had never been overseas when I was a kid. So don't talk about Disneyland. Lol. Indeed this is my first time and although I am not a big fan of Mickey and friends (at least not as big as an anime fan I am), I am still very excited.

Right from the evening before, all the ingredients for a disastrous day were in place. My sister was more interested in playing the rides while I was more interested in looking at things, watching performances, and taking pictures with Disney characters. She refused my suggestion to plan the timing as certain performances and photo-taking opportunities had allocated time slots. Just bear in mind this paragraph to see how ridiculous my sister became at the end of the day.
Welcome to Disneyland ^o^
The journey to Disneyland took about 45 minutes but we arrived there at about 10am, just nice since it was the park opening hours. There were already a lot of people and there was a long queue for the bag check. We cleared that at about 1030am and the excitement began. We started with Disneyland Park. Just by looking at the buildings, the surroundings, the shops, and the displays on the shop fronts from the point of entrance up to the Main Street area already blew us away. Hehe.

Not to far from the entrance, we queued up for photo taking with Goofy. It was not to crowded and it took us only about 20 minutes to queue. Not to mention that there are quite a few late teenagers or adults in the queue too. Yay! I noticed something nice about the person inside Goofy: s/he really immersed her/himself into the character and goofed around while interacting with whoever's turn. Some people in the queue may find this irritating if the main purpose is just get a photo and be done with him. However, I thought it was a nice touch to spend a few minutes for people who have been queueing for a long time rather than a quick "come here-take photo-and go". There is another interesting thing which I was not aware of. There is this culture of asking for the autograph from these characters. Lol. Well, they will just write the name of character down but I think it will be something that children will treasure.

I realised that the parts marked by Mickey's finger in the maps refer to the places where certain characters will appear for photo taking opportunitites. Thus my main aim was to search for these places first. We then saw Eeyore as we passed by Central Plaza. The queue was not too long and my sister wanted to go there. I begged to differ because I rather find Mickey, Minnie, Donald, etc first. I regard them as more "important" characters to me and I don't want to waste time for Eeyore and miss out on the rest. I tried to reason with my sister (anyway we had 2 cameras so we could separate if she wanted) and she grudgingly agreed.

We continued to Adventureland to the next Mickey's finger and I found none. Only after the trip I realised that these characters would only be around at certain timings only -_- Anyway the next one was Meet Mickey Mouse which is a phototaking with Mickey Mouse. As expected, Mickey is the most popular character and he has an attraction just to take photo with him. The queue was very long but it was indoor. The queue-ing area is a stage and various Mickey cartoons are shown so that people do not get bored when queueing. Again, Mickey was as animated as Goofy and that made the 1 hour plus of waiting worthwhile. There was a professional photographer for Mickey and after taking photo, we could purchase pictures (which of course I bought).

In search of our next Mickey's finger, we decided to enter Alice's Curious Labyrinth (Alice in Wonderland). After that, we were disappointed to find that photo taking with Disney Princesses were not going all time like Mickey. There are only 4 timings to get queue numbers and since it was still too long until the next timing, we decided to walk around first. The next stop was Sleeping Beauty's castle. On the level one was a souvenir shop. My sister spent too long time there that we only continued to the basement for the Dragon's Lair or the dungeons. We actually did not go up to see the castle interiors. Darn!!! 

Almost half a day gone and we only had Goofy and Mickey. I asked the information for Minnie's whereabout and that was our next destination: Toon Plaza at Walt Disney Studios Park. Minnie will only appear at 2pm and we decided to have lunch after Minnie first. Surprisingly, there was already a queue. Bleah. Never underestimate a girl who is sunburnt + hungry + PMSing. My sister got infuriatingly irritating as Mickey and Minnie decided to take a break when there were only 2 more groups ahead of us. Well it was so hot so I understood if the people inside the customes need a break. By complaining non-stop, my sister would not make Mickey and Minnie appeared more quickly or anything.

We already had Mickey so we actually only wanted Minnie. Minnie was animated etc but this Mickey seemed bored. Haha.. Anyway with that done, we had our lunch and then went to the nearby shops. After that, I actually wanted to go back to Disneyland Park to go to the castle and get a queue number for the next photo taking session with the Princesses. My sister preferred to walk in the Walt Disney Studios as we only went to Toon Plaza and ate lunch.

We saw the Disney's Stars 'n' Cars passingby halfway. After that, for no reason, my sister just got angry that we missed that and brought back about Eeyore. Of course that just called for a war. Hey, I suggested to plan things the night before which she refused and now she got angry because we missed out the parade! Go eat shit man! After that, we split. Bloody shit! Did she think that I was not angry that I missed out the parade, the Princesses, and the castle??!! Zz.. I am sure if things were planned the night before, things would turn out better.

After splitting, I went back to Toon Plaza area and to my horror I saw so many Disney characters for photo taking. There were Daisy, Minnie (alone), Pluto, etc. The queue for each was quite short (perhaps about 10 people) but there was no park officers to help me take photos. Haiz.. I did not dare to queue and ask the the person behind me because there was no guarantee that they understood English. And people on the queue were mostly family with young children so honestly, I was quite embarassed.

I decided to return to Disneyland Park although I knew I already missed the Princesses :( Decided to look at the shops. One complaint about Disneyland: what's the point of stamping our arms before we exit when we have to show our tickets to re-enter? Lame shit! My sister's ticket was with me. I regretted being too nice and worried for her not able to re-enter for the main parade at 7pm: Disney Magic on Parade! She mistook that gesture as me feeling guilty and scared to leave her alone in a foreign land. Pui.. Wasted $20 trying to get her. In the end my phone lost roaming signal when she tried to contact me so I hoped she got her dose of worrying too. I was happily shopping then. Lol.

To get a clear view of the parade, we were being kiasu and started choping seats since 615pm. Lol.. Crazy I know but well.. it's once in a life time. Lol.. My sister used my camera to snap photos while I used hers to record video of the parade. In the middle of the parade, my camera ran out of juice. I had to fumble for the spare battery in the midst of recording. Haha.. 
Still so bright and hot at 630pm! Embarassing plastic bag but who cares :p
I wanted to go home after that as I did not want to wait for the Disney Dreams! show which only happened at 11pm. My sister checked the shops out for Abu soft toys. Unable to find at Main Street area, I suggested to go to Adventureland because Aladdin's area was there so perhaps the shops there had Abu. No Abu but out of curiousity, we actually entered Le Passage Enchange d'Aladdin. Basically there are a lot of dioramas depicting various scenes from Aladdin. This is the only Aladdin-related thing which I encountered. Bleah.. No Aladdin and Jasmine on the 2 parades also :( 



Even until we exited the park, my sister was still wanting to try her luck for Abu and her key chain. We went to Disney Store at the Disney Village. She got her key chain but not her Abu. 
Disney Star Wars! Saw this at one of the display outside Disney Store
I bought the following items
-"Meet Mickey Mouse" photos: 18 Euro
-Disneyland Paris 20th Anniversary Vinylmation set: 20 Euro
-Eiffel Tower + Mickey figurine: 20 Euro
-Mickey Mouse small plushie: 20 Euro
-Peter Pan plushie: 20 Euro
-3x Disneyland Paris medallions: 6 Euro
Taken at the hotel.. Forgot to include the medallions
In the end, I did not buy Aladdin resin figurine :( It was available but the size and the weight just made it impossible for me to carry it to from Paris to Swiss, Vienna, Holland, and then Singapore :( Wanted to buy Mickey's giant gloves as well as Goofy's sorcerer hat (green in colour!) but decided not to as they were quite bulky and I was running out of luggage space. I did not want not to buy so little and that was why I bought Peter Pan plushie. Lol. I am not a fan of him but I thought it was kinda cute to have a "human" plushie. Lol. Anyway he was wearing all green. Random reasons I know. Haha.. My sister was the one who wanted to buy Mickey Mouse plushie. She kept thinking about it so in the end, I bought it! Lol.. Didn't buy Minnie because we had one Minnie at home. Now also regret about it. Huhuhu...

I knew my sister still felt sore that I did not want to stay to see the Disney Dreams! Parade. Initially I wanted because I thought the park closing hour was 10pm. The park closed at 11pm! Just imagine if the parade ended at 1130pm, we still need to walk quite far to the train it could easily be 12am. Another 45 minutes train journey and we would be walking back to our hotel at 1am!! Asian tourist carrying big shopping bags walking in the middle of foreign land at 1am in the morning?? No way I was willing to take a security risk..

And more importantly, we still had another day in Paris and there were still tonnes of places to visit.. Gotta save time and energy for Paris landmarks after all..

I am a bit lazy to share pictures of the parade. Haha.. Will do it another time becase there are a lot of photos. Hoho..