Thursday, August 30, 2012

Latin Quarter of Paris

The Latin Quarter of Paris is located in the 5th and 6th arrondissements of Paris, situated on the left bank of the River Seine.

Like any European capital, Paris is a lovely city to discover on foot, well, that is neighbourhood per neighbourhood. So after our coffee break near Notre Dame Church we continued our walk to the direction of the 7th arrondissement via the Latin Quarter. The neighbourhood is colourful with a highly energetic pace. Narrow alleys everywhere and oodles of bistros overflowing the streets with outdoor café terraces. A very popular place for the student crowd I reckon.

While discovering this area Bru suddenly had a major craving for potato fries. I’m not a fries person so I passed. I wanted something else, but I don’t know what, and I am not hungry yet.

Earlier that morning, we were told by the boat cruise company below the Notre Dame that the cruise ticket we have is only valid for the boat company located near the Eiffel Tower. There’s not much that we can do but go to the Eiffel Tower area in the 7th arrondissement, a place that I actually wanted to avoid at all costs.

We initially thought of walking from Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower via the Latin Quarter but after an hour of walking and realising that we are not yet halfway through, we gave it up and took the metro.

Paris is surely lovely to walk around, but not when the temperatures are boiling between 35C and 40C.

Here are pictures of Paris’ Latin Quarter:


Here is Bru asking the boat company about our (free) cruise ticket that we received from our hotel. Unfortunately we have to go to the Eiffel Tower area because the boat company that our ticket is valid for is located there.



Crepes sold everywhere. It probably is the number 1 street food in Paris.


The popular French bistro.




Cool design garage and side doors.



Crepes are typically French, but Nutella not. It's Italian.


Travel Period: August 2012
Destination: Paris, France

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Parisian morning: A stroll on the River Seine and a quick encounter with a Parisian stranger


Bru and I. Bru does not like the sun. She avoids it more than I do =)

It’s just been 2 weeks since I was in Paris and now it felt like forever. My life is fast-paced, mostly because of my work, so I try to squeeze in a lot of ‘me’ and ‘doing nothing much’ time into my schedule to recover, keep my sanity and put my feet firmly on the ground. Work can sometimes be overwhelming so a short or long trip in between to unwind and forget about corporate slavery is always welcome. I should not complain because this slavery has rewarded me the €€€.

So on our second day in Paris, we will be taking the free boat trip from the hotel but before doing so Bru and I would like to do a typical Parisian stroll along the River Seine, from Bastille to the Notre Dame Church area where we will have coffee.

Here’s some of the pictures we took during the stroll:



Playing the tourist here.

At the café around the corner of Notre Dame we had coffee. Our table was tactically located for people watching, which I never take any less anyway. We were sitting right on the corner street with a view to the Notre Dame Church.

While Bru was at the toilet freshening herself up, I briefly and awkwardly met a Parisian stranger.

French men by the way are generally not my type. I don’t know why. But they are a charming lot, and romantic and often tell a woman that she is beautiful. Something that the Dutch totally lack. A French man can woo a woman and sweep her off her feet, while the Dutch will never get the hint even if she says, ‘It would be nice if you surprise me tonight with some flowers, or a dinner perhaps.’ But the smooth talker French man has higher chances of taking a mistress on the side than the boring, loyal and reliable Dutch man (I know generalisations again!).

Alright, there goes your stereotypes =). Haha.

Anyway, I was totally embarrassed, red-faced. In front of everyone, this Parisian man came up to me and declared his admiration. I thought the ground has swallowed me up? Is this really so normal in Paris?! He even wanted to join me but I quickly told him, fumbling as I speak, that I am with someone. He got the hint, smiled and left me with quixotic phrases to mull over about. The whole encounter left me a bit speechless whilst cafe goers were sporting a smile on their lips, obviously entertained at this spectacle. These kinds of things rarely happen in the Netherlands you know. But I do not go out a lot as well spending my time sitting on cafe teracces...

I’ve had worse encounters with men in Spain and in Italy. The French man however has more finesse. They know how to deal with the complex art called ‘woman’.




I am a sucker for strategic cafe seating and people watching. Best spot near Notre Dame.




Bru and moi having morning coffee around the corner of Notre Dame Church.

More Paris stories soon! BISOUS.

Travel Period: August 2012
Destinations: Paris, France

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Goodbye Camaguey and Off to Bayamo!

So once again, it is time to move on, to the next town in our road trip journey in Cuba.

Breakfast at Camino de Hierro Hotel in Camaguey
Breakfast at Camino de Hierro Hotel in Camaguey consists of papaya shake and fresh tropical fruits: guava, pineapple and mango. Then we had some omelette as well.

BAYAMO RECAP

We slept very well in Camaguey. We liked our room, colonial-styled yet simple, and I made sure that the air-conditioning is blowing on my side of the bed and not on Blondine’s. She cannot handle the air-conditioning while I cannot sleep without it. This is the dilemma we always have when travelling together which is quite odd.

Blondine, who is born in the Netherlands have a low tolerance for the cold weather. She is always bundled up at 15C when we go out and cannot handle too much air-conditioning otherwise, she will get sick. While I, born and bred in the tropics prefer to go out at 15C (as long as it’s not too windy) without a coat and will not survive the night if it’s too warm in the bedroom. I prefer the air-conditioning blowing on my face and body. Odd, I know.



We woke up quite early the next day and had our breakfast before 8 in the morning. We were first served with fruits and a papaya fruit shake. Then we had an omelette and some bread. Healthy start for the day I must say.

Camaguey                                                 Across the hotel, we saw young students waiting for the rain to stop. 


WITHDRAWING MONEY AT THE BANK

After breakfast, we went to the bank and withdrew money against our Mastercard credit cards. The transaction went smooth and quick. We were actually a bit worried that the same problem at Sancti Spiritus will occur (no connection with Havana), but everything went on as planned.

Funnily, the cashier at the bank asked Blondine to sign on the paper several times because her signature varies greatly from her other signatures. What the heck, haha. She got a bit irritated about the incident but we just laughed it off. She was finally able to get some money! Hallelujah, haha.


This paper trail and signature sample matching are archaic but it still exists in many countries, not just in Cuba but in many western countries too. 

This subject is actually a bit personal to me as it reminds me of my time in the Philippines. 15 years ago I used worked for a large multinational IT firm there. I was managing the payment solutions product line and my customers were the top 20 banks in the country. Back then, there were more banks, and mergers are unheard of. I used to sit down with managers and executives discussing their paper trail and how to eliminate this through digitalization. It was a difficult and tedious subject because many banks were not ready. I am sure the situation in the Philippines now has changed. Here in the Netherlands banking has become teller-less and paperless. This is how it should be.

Our next main destination is Santiago de Cuba located at the southern tip of the country and is the second largest city in Cuba. However, we will have a stopover at Bayamo for lunch and a quick walking city tour.

Click here to check our route: 
Cuban Road Trip


CamagueyCamaguey
Manoeuvring our way around Camaguey. Finding our way out of the city to the main road without a street-detailed map is always a challenge.


Finally, we are on the main road to Bayamo!

COFFEE BREAK ON THE HIGHWAY

While on the way to Bayamo, we encountered this charming Paladar Paraiso 672 along the highway. Here, we stopped for some coffee break. Camaguey to Bayamo is about 3 hours so this was a timely break in our journey.

I ordered the usual black Cuban coffee while Blondine had hers with some milk. She did not like the milk in it. I think in Cuba you better stick to drinking pure coffee with a bit of sugar. You can get good coffee in Cuba almost everywhere. And do trust me because I know good coffee.

Paladar Paraiso 672 CubaPaladar Paraiso 672 in CubaPaladar Paraiso 672 in CubaHorse carriage CubaHorse carriage CubaPaladar Paraiso 672 Cuba Highway
This is one of the few nice pitstops in Cuba. CUC$1 for coffee. Take note this is between Camaguey and Bayamo.

Travel Period: May 2012
Destinations: Camaguey (Camaguey), Cuba | Bayamo (Granma), Cuba

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