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Travel

Street Dancing in Paris

Whenever a crowd is gathered along Champs Elysées, I know there has got to be some kind of a performance taking place! Lunch time today, I saw a crowd near the Charles de Gaulle – Etoile metro and I hurried to see what they were watching. I can hear loud music as I got near…then I saw some feet in the air — uh-oh, this I must see!

I elbowed my way through the thick crowd of people and baguettes (it was lunch time), and watched some serious street dancing! My goodness, these people can actually toss themselves so high up in the air — I can’t believe it! I had to catch my breath whenever they do their stunts, then when they land safely on the ground, we all clap our hands out of relief, I guess. Too bad I wasn’t able to get pictures of them air-borne…my cell phone camera just wasn’t quick enough. :) The show lasted for a good 15 or 20 minutes, after which a hat was passed among the crowd so we can make a donation. I happily dropped some coins, and was also able to shake hands with some of the performers — totally oblivious of the swine flue alert…hehehe! :)

I hopped and skipped on my way to the bank…15 minutes late for my rendezvous. But at least, I was able to get some pictures for my blog:

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Learning French My Own Way

Ah, finally…a time to blog! :)

I was so busy with work that I literally forgot that I have my very own space in cyberworld. But now that I’ve complied with all my deadlines, I can blog guilt-free!Yey!

Aside from work, there is something that really keeps me busy here…and that is learning French! I have heard so many things about the French people before I came here — the most common being, “The French are such snobs, if you speak English they won’t even look at you!”. But guess what, when I got here, my first impression was that the French are the most courteous people I’ve ever met! My neighbors greet me “bonjour” when I pass by them, the baker always says, “au revoir, bonne journée” when he hands me my pain au chocolat, and yeah, “s’il vous plaît” is in almost every sentence I hear. And about them being snobs, think of a reverse scenario…a French goes to an English-speaking country and starts asking directions in French…see what I mean? :)

I promised myself I’ll learn the French language for two reasons: first, out of respect for the French people because I am living in their country; second, because I want to be a multilingual Executive Assistant — and hopefully work for UNESCO or something like that. :wink:

Learning this language has been quite a journey for me. My solid foundation on the French basics courtesy of Alliance Française de Manille did wonders for me as a beginner. It pays to have a really good teacher in your foundation class, I tell you. I remember that my foundation course emphasized proper pronunciation, and learning how to say French words correctly gave me the motivation and confidence to say simple French sentences without turning red. :)

And then I moved on to studying on my own and bought Rocket French online for $99.  They also have this free 6-day trial, 60-day money back guarantee, and it has, by far, the best reviews online so I didn’t think twice of asking my hubby to buy it for me. Hehe. I never did regret getting it. Rocket French is interactive, has fun games that facilitates learning, and it has audio features that helped me polish my pronunciation. It has worksheets, too, so you can actually test how much you’ve learned after each lesson. It was absolutely the best complement to my foundation courses at Alliance Française de Manille.

And my all-time favorite way to learn French is through Michel Thomas! This man is incredible! Our friend, Marc, gave us the French with Michel Thomas Foundation Course and I literally listen to it over and over again. I fall asleep with Michel Thomas in the background. I love it soooo much because within 30-minutes of listening to it, you will be able to form French sentences in your head quite easily, promise! He teaches you French in baby steps then builds up on it and surprise, surprise, you are able to form really long French sentences — on your own! Oh, I can go on and on about the Michel Thomas Learning Method because it has really helped me learn French faster than I could ever imagine. In fact, on my birthday, I think I will ask for the Michel Thomas Advance Course audio-book. :)

So there…so far, this has been my love affair with the French language. I hope that I would someday speak like a native. Hehehe! Just to have a little fun, I plan not to show up in my favorite bakery here for a couple of weeks…then, go back and surprise the friendly French baker who goes out of his way to accommodate my halting French. I will say 3-5 sentences in straight French, without blinking, and see if he gives me a free pain au chocolat. Bonne chance à moi!

Blueberry Confessions

For a moment, I savored how short life is and threw my no-sugar-diet away. And the culprit? A yummy blueberry pie from the patisserie near my apartment — Paul.

Whenever I go out and pass by Paul patisserie, I am always curious why so many people are going in. Yesterday, being a lazy afternoon, I joined the queue of people and was introduced to Paul’s yummy pastry selections. When I saw this freshly baked blueberry pie, I forgot about my healthy diet and handed my 2.50 euros to the cashier. I spent the afternoon in heaven. :)

Miraculous Medal

I have always wanted to join a European religious pilgrimage when I was young. Of course, at that time, I never even thought that I will live in Europe one day. So now that I am here, my first agenda was to visit the nearest pilgrimage site in the city where I live in — and that is the Chapelle Notre Dame De La Medaille Miraculeuse (Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal) at 140 rue du Bac 75007 Paris.

It is in this chapel that Mama Mary appeared three times to a novice,Catherine Laboure, in the year 1830. Perhaps, the most significant outcome of those apparitions was the request of Mama Mary to make and distribute the Miraculous Medal, the design of which was shown by Mary herself to Catherine. This happened in November 27, 1830 at 5:30pm during Catherine’s meditation, and the official transcript given by Catherine is as follows:

Catherine first saw a picture of the Blessed Virgin, standing on a half-globe holding in her hands a small golden globe, with her feet crushing a serpent. From the open hands of the Blessed Virgin, beautiful rays of light where shining and at that same moment Catherine heard a voice saying:“These rays are symbols of graces that Mary obtains for people.” Then an oval formed around the apparition and Catherine saw emblazoned in a semi-circle this invocation, until then unknown: “ O Mary conceived without sin pray for us who have recourse to you”, written in gold letters. Then the picture turned and St. Catherine saw on the reverse side: the letter M surmounted with a little cross and below it the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Catherine then heard these words: “Have a medal made on this model. Those who will wear it with confidence will receive great graces.” (Source: Official Website of the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal)

We spent an hour touring this beautiful chapel and we lined up along with other tourists to buy Miraculous Medals for ourselves. I wanted so much to go near the altar and have a good luck at the incorrupt body of St. Catherine, but they were having a special ceremony for the Sacred Heart of Jesus and I was unable to go near. I guess I will just have to come back to take a look at St. Catherine and pray at the foot of altar where Mama Mary said these words:

“Come to the foot of the altar, it is there that graces will be showered on all those who ask with confidence and fervor”.

For those who wish to send their prayer intentions to the sisters of this chapel, you may do so here. I pray that all your prayers will be answered by God in one way or another. :)

Where to Stay in Paris

Paris is flooded with tourists all year round, but most especially during summer. They say that Parisians escape to their country homes to avoid the mad rush in the metro and almost anywhere during this time. And I guess with the throng of tourists flying in, the hotels are fully booked around this time. But I think there’s a better and cheaper alternative to hotels if you don’t mind cleaning after your own mess — rent a Paris apartment!

There are a number of agencies who rent apartments short term or long term, and they usually have reasonable prices and their apartments are well located. I can really vouch for one agency — My Flat in Paris. We have rented with them for a couple of times already and their apartments are really beautiful, well-located (Central Paris), and well-kept. Their service is superb, too. Not to mention that they speak English really well, so you can go ahead and forget about the language barrier. :) And if you are fairly new here in Paris and wouldn’t want to risk getting lost from the airport to your rented apartment, you can also ask them to arrange an airport pick-up for you and their chauffeur will promptly pick you up at the airport and carry your luggage, too. I cannot overemphasize what a big relief it is to have someone help you carry your luggage. If you’re lucky, your apartment will have an elevator, but if you’re not, you will have to deal with very narrow stairs…and I tell you, it is not easy to trudge all the way up with your bags in tow.

Now, if you are preparing for a really grand Paris vacation, why not rent a designer Paris apartment? A La Carte Paris specializes in such, and I guess they are the only ones who market their apartments as “designer apartments”. I have met the owner of this agency, and I can say that he really takes great effort in providing world-class accommodations and have really put his heart in coming up with great designs for each of their apartments. You should see his office! It’s really nice and warm in there…so I guess you can expect the same in any of their 70 apartments in Paris. Their apartments are also located in Central Paris, and they have already prepared booklets for their guests which has all the information that a tourist will ever need to have a wonderful vacation in Paris. Isn’t it thoughtful of them? :)

For those who are coming over to Paris to work, I think it’ll be a great idea for you to get an apartment near La Defense, Paris’ business district which is just outside the Paris border. I came across the family-owned apartment rental, 5Pierre, which has apartments in the La Defense area. I have personally visited one of their apartments and found it to be nice, practical, and with well-thought-of layout — well-suited for busy professionals.

But of course, apartment renting might not suit everybody. It is still nice to have somebody fix your bed and bring you breakfast — especially if you’re on a holiday. So go on, book a hotel and pamper yourself if you must. Paris hotels won’t disappoint, I’m sure. :)