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France, Travel

France 2014: My Sister’s Big Fat Wedding

Last August, I flew 10,781km from Singapore to the Charles de Gaulle airport, Paris.

It’s been practically half a year since my virgin trip to Europe, and each memory still itches like a scab. I miss it terribly.

It wasn’t just a holiday to France – my sister got married there, I stayed with my brother-in-law’s family and I finally stepped foot on a place I’ve always wanted to visit.

 

 

I survived my first ever direct long haul flight that took approximately 12 hours via Air France with my brother.

I loved how I could just enjoy movie after movie, with a rad in-flight playlist of a curated mix of ambience/chillwave and electro/indie tunes.

My sister and her husband were taking SQ (business class, damn it) on a later flight so upon arriving first, we decided to admire the lavender plants lining the roadside.

My reaction was “wth!? never give chance sia?? I just took a step out & there’s already LAVENDER growing and a perfect 18-degree weather??”

Um okay that’s my pink bag & JC’s father who helped me roll it to the car hahaha…

Sunnies: ‘Super’ sunnies by @dhsunglass, Orchard Gateway unit 02-04. 

After we picked my sister/her husband, we drove to his lovely home at Guyancourt, slightly out of Paris.

We stopped by this bakery near the neighborhood to “dapao” breakfast!


 

HOME

Our home at Guayancourt, pronounced “Guee-yon-kee”

Guyancourt is located in the south-western suburbs of Paris, 21.2 km from the center of Paris, in the “new town” of Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines.

After touring the house, our door bell kept ringing as more and more cousins came over hahaha it felt like the scene on Lord of The Rings – The Hobbit, where everyone was crashing the Shire.

Then Frédéric said, “hope you guys aren’t too tired, because we have planned everything for today!”

So we unpacked, settled ourselves in, and went downstairs for home-cooked meal in the backyard before our next pitstop…



PAINTBALL

We drove to some place in the outskirts for my virgin paintball experience!!

Surprisingly though, a hidden talent was unravelled in me…. playing paintball. It’s gonna be on my frickin resume okay?

I was the last 2 survivors standing and was only shot once (on my helmet) haha.

The groom’s hand bleeding… it really DOES hurt.

Philippe’s damage..

And so, after a tedious session of rolling around, crawling on muddy sand, dodging balls, while wrapped up in layers of clothes, AFTER A 12-HOUR FLIGHT, we had another surprise… which they kept mum about until we saw this…

 


FOOTBALL @ LE FIVE FOOTBALL CLUB

It was yet another virgin experience playing football in a bubble…and I’ve heard they brought this to Singapore already.

Believe me, this was one of the craziest workouts I’ve ever done within that short time frame.

I’m relatively okay with fitness (I mean I still run like a dugong but I’m pretty toned) but this sucked the life out of me.

I had to run, snatch, roll around (which felt like pushups & sit ups consecutively inside a ball while being shoved around by the law of physics).


 

HOUSE PARTY

Later that night, JC held his bachelor’s party at home (which was more of a house party/get-together with friends who drove for hours just to be there).

In France, there’s this pre-wedding tradition where everyone will bring an item that signifies something memorable for the bride/groom and they’d have to guess who gave it, and what memory that item linked to. It could be his kiddy PJs, a pair of rollerblades which caused their first tooth broken or something like that.

After the guessing game, they’d have to place these items in a “memory box”, nail it, and bury it. When their first child is born, they’d then have to dig it up and reminisce about these things.

We played air rifles too.

Some other images over the days we spent at home, including cooking Vietnamese pho:

After dinner we’d make crepes… haha

DIY-ing my sister’s wedding guestbook and photobooth props haha

Moving on, here are a mix of city images I collected over the few weeks in France…


 

EIFFEL TOWER

Erected in 1889, it was named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower. The tower is 324 metres tall, about the same height as an 81-storey building

For the first 2 minutes of every hour at night, the eiffel will sparkle like a glittery Christmas tree.


AROUND PARIS CITY
 I still recall how obsessed I was with the movie Moulin Rouge and had a huge blistering crush on Ewan McGregor.

JC brought us up to a restaurant at the peak of a shopping mall so that we could catch a glimpse of this panoramic landscape that reminded me of the movie Taken cum vampire movie.

I accompanied my sister & JC when they toured certain spots for their pre-wedding photoshoot. This was a wall in a tiny park that had “I love you” scribbled in all languages.


MONTMARTRE

Why, of course, how could we miss this charming enclave?

Montmartre (click for wiki page) – a cobbled-stone town up the hill, sprawling with painters, homely bistros and quaint shophouses.

The French love crepes, specifically Nutella crepes (I suspect I’m part French hence the name Chevonne just kidding).

I used to eat Nutella right out of the box. Once, my brother and I managed to copy the taste of this orgasmic, silky brown cream of sweet decadence in our very own kitchen. We just randomly threw in cocoa powder to some other ingredients, baked it, and voila.

Okay, this was my choice… the vodka crepe… not the best idea.


 

THE BASILICA OF THE SACRED HEART

French: Sacré-Cœur Basilica

Sacré-Cœur, Paris: A Roman Catholic church and minor basilica, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in Paris, France. A popular landmark, the basilica is located at the summit of Montmartre, the highest point in the city.

It’s a really touristy landmark so please be aware of people carrying “strings” that look like friendship bands offering to give them to you – they’ll tie a dead knot and request that you have to pay them for it.


 

NOTRE DAME

À notre dame de Paris

Notre-Dame de Paris;French for “Our Lady of Paris” is a historic Catholic cathedral in the fourth arrondissement of Paris, France. The cathedral is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, and it is among the largest and most well-known church buildings in the world.

Lol…. and a wild 21st century poster appeared……….. trying to cover up with a printed poster that camouflages with the actual building.

Certain alleys or places under bridges had a strong urine stench (toilets aren’t very accessible in France as compared to Singapore)…


 

LOUVRE


 

LOVERS BRIDGE

Honestly, this tourist hotspot didn’t interest me. Part of the bridge even gave way because of the weight – the giant bicycle lock was the most amusing.


 

ARC DE TRIOMPHE

The Arc de Triomphe (in English: “Triumphal Arch”) honours those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. Beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.  


 

PICNIC LUNCHES FOR WORKING ADULTS

I love this calming culture in France, where office workers would have picnic breaks in a park…


GOOD AFFORDABLE RESTAURANTS IN PARIS

1) Carpaccio Buffet @ Bistro Romain

Located in the district equivalent to our local Orchard Road, this place has a good carpaccio buffet. So for about SGD30ish you can get free flow of fresh beef/salmon carpaccio.

 
2) Cepe Figue 
(good affordable French bistro)

I highly recommend this homely restaurant Cèpe et Figue if you are looking for good yet affordable French food in Paris in an unpretentious setting.

This place was probably the quaintest restaurant I’ve ever dined in – though a bit claustrophobic.

It was simple yet memorable, somehow. It had old rusty metal grills and small yellow window shutters, fitted with run-off-the-mills design and layout, but food was good and ambience warm.

 
3) Le Lotus 
(Excellent Vietnamese food, especially pho)

Address: 121 Avenue d’Ivry, 75013 Paris, France
Phone: +33 1 53 61 00 61

4) Café Procope
(Oldest restaurant in Paris)

After dinner, we strolled down the cobbled street in the cold weather after a lovely dinner.

Dropped by the oldest restaurant in Paris, adorned with rococo artifacts called Café Procope, in rue de l’Ancienne Comédie. Was opened in 1686 by the Sicilian Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli.

Though I didn’t dine here personally, it’s a nice place to pop by.

Address: 13 Rue de l’Ancienne Comédie, 75006 Paris, France
Phone: +33 1 40 46 79 00

5) Grom (Gelato)

Created by two young Italians in 2003, Grom has grown into an international ice cream chain with boutiques in Europe, the States and Japan.

But their caramel ice cream with pink Himalayan salt and cioccolato fondente made from Venezuelan chocolate are still as good as ever. And sorbet lovers won’t find a better version of limome (lemon sorbet, made from Sicilian lemons) anywhere else in town.

Address: 81 rue de Seine, 6e


TYPICAL FRENCH FOOD

Some lunch photos of typical French food you can find in bistros all around the city:

This is called Andouillette: a coarse-grained sausage made with pork, intestines or chitterlings, pepper, wine, onions, and seasonings

If you’re a fan of the pungent tastes of intestines/organs, then I guess you have to try this dish that’s pretty common in France. I could smell it when my brother ate it so yes it’s really strong haha.


 

 

MERCEDES SHOW ROOM

Dayummmm…..

In comparison, there are really cute cars in Paris haha:


 

CITY OF VERSAILLES

 This is one city near Paris that you must visit. It is located in the western suburbs of the French capital, 17.1 km (10.6 mi) from the centre of Paris.
It used to be the capital of France and I preferred it much more than Paris – less graffiti, noise/pollution, more peaceful, quaint cottages and beautiful architecture.

I could seriously live here. The pace, beauty, artifacts – heck, even drivers stop for you.


 

CHATEAU DE VERSAILLES

The palace of Versailles (old capital of France).

This grand baby is a MUST-VISIT.

When the château was built, Versailles was a country village; today, however, it is a wealthy suburb of Paris, some 20 kilometres southwest of the French capital.

The court of Versailles was the center of political power in France from 1682, when Louis XIV moved from Paris, until the royal family was forced to return to the capital in October 1789 after the beginning of the French Revolution.

Versailles is therefore famous not only as a building, but as a symbol of the system of absolute monarchy of the Ancien Régime.

This place is GINORMOUS, but here’s a view of the back entrance, certainly not as grand as the front though but the staircase is mind-blowing…

Astounding beauty of these rococo architecture, it reminded me of Van Helsing, at the masquerade scene where vampires would be dancing without reflections in the mirrors haha.

The queen’s bedroom

King’s bedroom


 

AFFORDABLE SHOPPING IN FRANCE

(for non-luxury shoppers)


1) Velizy 2 (hypermall)

If you’re like me who isn’t really into luxury labels but still enjoy affordable shopping, then this is a mall that locals living in the outskirts of Paris go to.

I bought the most stuff here from a shop called Pimkie, equivalent to their Topshop/Bershka etc. I love how peaceful the mall was and has a wide range of stores – I will never shop in crowded places.

If you manage to hit about $180+ euros in one store, you can get the 20% tax rebate in the airport (but please do go much earlier as China people hog up about 80% of the queue in the “more expensive airplane” terminals).

Address: 2 Avenue de l’Europe, 78140 Vélizy-Villacoublay, France
Website: http://www.velizy2.com/W/do/centre/accueil 

2) Citadium (streetwear mall)

It has about 4 levels of streetwear, with the Nike store at the top – that’s where I got my white Nike air force/air revolution. You can also check out the “Orchard road” shopping boutiques that have been covered in a lot of news I’m sure, but I didn’t get much there except Sephora makeup.

Address: 56 Rue de Caumartin, 75009 Paris, France
Website: http://www.citadium.com/

 

NATURE OUTSKIRTS OF PARIS

JC brought us to this Tolkien-like abode at the back alley of some cottage houses. They reminded me of the Shire.

 

 

PORT-ROYAL L’ABBAYE

Port-Royal-des-Champs was an abbey of Cistercian nuns, southwest of Paris, that launched a number of culturally important institutions. The abbey was established in 1204, but became famous when its discipline was reformed in 1609.

There was nobody around except for 1 caretaker, a goat and a donkey who came up to me. Reminded me of a scene in The Walking Dead.


HORSE FARM


 

VAUX DE CERNAY

This is another must-go place to visit – it isn’t a hot tourist destination, but it’s peaceful and historic, apart from the fact that it looks like another default desktop wallpaper setting.

It was a Cistercian monastery founded in 1118 when Simon de Neauffle and his wife Eve donated the land for this foundation to the monks of Savigny Abbey, in order to have a monastery built in honour of the Mother of God and Saint John the Baptist.

The buildings, after passing through various hands, were partly restored after the site was bought by Charlotte de Rothschild in the 1880s.

It has now been converted to an alluring vintage (moderately creepy) hotel for 1200 persons, complete with restaurant and heliport – still using the nearby spring as the monks did centuries before. Visit http://www.abbayedecernay.com for more info.

Located in the Chevreuse valley in the Rambouillet state-owned forest, it’s an enchanted place and the perfect spot to recharge your batteries. Its extraordinary architecture emerges from where power and mystery preside.

Thus, it has been reborn and brought back to life: a cellar transformed into a music lounge and a gothic lounge with its enormous chimneys, a former lay brother refectory into a restaurant and re-baptised ‘the prayer table’, a surprising monastic room with two spanning ridge beams and sandstone capitol columns.

They are surrounded by more than eight centuries of history. The former cloister, reading gallery, mill and chapter house have found their existential callings.

The Cistercians created these magical places blessed by God and protected by the Kings of France.

The church organ. Can’t believe I got to touch something that’s still standing from centuries ago!


 

CHATEAU DE RAMBOUILLET

The Château de Rambouillet is a castle in the town of Rambouillet, Yvelines department, in the Île-de-France region in northern France, 50 km (31 mi) southwest of Paris. It was the summer residence of the Presidents of the French Republic.

The château was originally a fortified manor dating back to 1368 and, although amputated of its eastern wing at the time of Napoleon I, it still retains its pentagonal bastioned footprint. Many notable people have walked these lands including Marie Antoinette.

We also visited a nature park where wild deers run free – which we caught a glimpse of but too bad I didn’t have a telephoto lens to take a picture (I bought one after the trip).


 

BERGERIE NATIONALE PARK

This farm is a MUST-GO if you want to get up close and personal with goats/donkeys/cows/horses/pigs etc kept in humane conditions as they get to walk outside quite often. It’s located in the peaceful outskirts where they hardly get tourists.

The National Sheepfold Rambouillet, or Bergerie Nationale de Rambouillet, was founded in 1784by Louis XVI .The oldest surviving sheep are from Napoleon I st and Napoleon III .

Warning: there’s a male goat named Ernest who can shake hands and smile, and is the only male for a bevy of females, but his scent will stick to you for days even if you use the best products and sanitizers.

The milking process


 

HORSE RIDING

Went horse riding in the woods – bucket list ticked.

Clung onto a horse’s neck and survived a fall – bucket list ticked.


 

THE PEOPLE

Some of my fondest memories made in France were because of these guys (pictured below).

We spent the other days just relaxing in the house, playing air rifle on the roof or volleyball/table tennis in the backyard, cycling around beautiful places in the neighbourhood, playing hide and seek in the corn field, and even picnicking in a golf course that looked like a teletubbies land.

My trophy for being the winner in the hide & seek corn field game hahaha.

Night-cycled home in the cold with a lab coat (which was technically our picnic mat) with the only source of light coming from the car that the cousins drove.

PART 2: MY SISTER’S FRENCH WEDDING
 
Attend a French wedding – bucket list ticked
Get the sister married – bucket list ticked (just kiddinnnn)
Attend a Vietnamese wedding in France – bucket list Nike-ticked
Club inside a historic chateau – bucket list Nike-ticked
Woke up extra early that morning to do hair and makeup for my sister & some relatives.

This fairytale-like chateau was a dream come true.

It spanned across a few acres of land, with a river that stretched out to a pavilion while geese would sunbathe in the day on neatly mowed grass.

And we had the entire place to ourselves…

My reaction was…..

Yup, mind blown.

As my sister’s husband is Vietnamese-French, we had a Vietnamese ceremony first…

As my sister’s husband is Vietnamese-French, we had a Vietnamese ceremony first…

Then after some photo-taking, we rushed back to the room to change for the European version…

A FRICKIN HORSE CARRIAGE ENTRANCE!!!

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OI YOU THINK YOU KATE MIDDLETON ISIT! Just kidding. 🙂

JC: “Actually I was thinking of a helicopter, but then we thought a horse carriage would be better so people can ride it after we get down…”

 

In the evening, we sat in the courtyard and had some refreshments while my sister & JC showed a video of the Singapore wedding (they held another one earlier last year) projected on a roller screen.

This little cousin practically slayed with his dance moves hahahha

And so, the party ended at 6am.

But magically (or painfully) at 1.00pm, all the guests at the wedding were invited to a hotel breakfast where they could “wrap up” the night sans the intoxication – a really sweet culture I must say.

I wish my eyeballs could have snapped some images I could share but here’s a compressed post to sum up how my first France trip went – and more to come.

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