* Please forgive me if I haven’t come round to visit your blog yet! (or responded to some of your emails…the nice ones! ) I AM catching up with everyone but Hsin-Yi is just taking it slowly and only doing it when her RSI isn’t bothering her too much, so we’re a bit slow! And instead of trying to visit or email EVERYone in a couple of hours, we’re just doing a few every day now, so she doesn’t sit at the computer for too long in one go. But we ARE on our way!
My humans started their French adventures in the “City of Love”…Paris!
Both their mummies were coming to meet them there, so they could all have a holiday together. Paul’s mummy is called Mum and she was coming from England while Hsin-Yi’s mummy, Ma-Ma, was coming from Dubai – and nobody had seen each other for a very long time so it was great to catch up!
They were all staying together in an old part of Paris called St-Germain-des-Pres, which is on the Left Bank of the Seine River and is where all the famous writers and artists and other ‘Intellectual Humans’ used to live. It has lots of beautiful old buildings and shops and wonderful atmosphere!
You know, Hsin-Yi always likes to find small, “boutique hotels” to stay in ‘coz she likes to stay in something ‘different‘ with more “character” – and so she did lots of searching on the internet and found a great little place called Hotel Odeon St Germain. It was really tiny (the lift could barely hold 3 (skinny!) people) but so quaint and gorgeous! And the Hotel Humans were so lovely and friendly and helpful too. They were even very patient with Hsin-Yi’s pathetic schoolgirl French! Before they left home, my humans had heard lots of scary stories about the rude, snooty service in France but it certainly wasn’t true at that hotel! (sadly, it was true in some other places )
With just a few days in Paris and loooooong list of things to see, there was no time to lose! My humans came straight from the airport, dumped their bags and rushed out to explore the streets of Paris…
Check out these amazing gelato flavours!
And wow – even the ice-cream in France is stylish & beautiful!
One the most famous & beautiful places nearby was the Jardin du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Gardens) – so that is where my humans headed first! This is a huge park FULL of beautiful flowers. You know how much Hsin-Yi loves parks and big, open spaces where she can see the sky and the horizon and doesn’t feel crowded in by lots of horrible, concrete buildings - and she loves cities that will keep aside space for proper big parks for people to enjoy…look, can you believe that you’re in the middle of Paris?
The next morning, bright & early, with both mummies in tow, my humans borrowed a car machine and set off on a day trip to Giverny. They had specially arranged this trip for Mum & Ma-Ma because they knew that mothers always like flowers & gardens…and there is one of the most famous gardens in the world at Giverny: the Monet Gardens!
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It was a bit scary driving out of Paris, even though Paul has been using a car machine for many, many years and knows how to drive on both sides of the road ( in France, they drive on the opposite side of the road to UK and Australia/NZ)…well, it’s just that the French drivers were awfully grumpy and didn’t seem to care about the lines on the roads at all! And Paris is so huge, with so many tunnels and roads all criss-crossing each other, and so many “one-way streets” (and all signed in French!) that my humans got very lost and were very grumpy too by the time they finally got out of the city!
But thankfully they made it to Giverny in one piece! Unfortunately, it was really, really grey & rainy on that day – in fact, it was pouring by the time they reached Giverny, so since it was nearly lunchtime, they decided to check out the nearby La Musardière crêperie first and hoped that the rain might stop by the time they finished lunch and went back to the gardens…
You know, crêpes are a kind of very, very thin French pancake and you can have them with all kinds of yummy fillings, like the traditional ‘lemon & sugar’ or chocolate, of course, but also exotic things like coconut or cinnamon apples or peaches & Grand Marnier - or even salty things, like ham and cheese!
My humans decided to save the crêpes for dessert so they had a “proper” lunch first – Paul had French onion soup and Hsin-Yi decided to try some foie gras! Well, she wouldn’t normally eat foie gras (goose liver pâté) because it can be really horrible the way they force food down the goosies’ throats to make them grow bigger livers – but she decided that she couldn’t come all the way to France and not try one of its most famous dishes. And she had to admit – it was really, really yummy!
Mum decided to be really naughty and just have her sweet crêpes AS lunch – hee! hee! Well, I guess when you’re on holiday, you can be a bit naughty!
And you know how Paul & Ma-Ma always do one silly photo every time they go on holiday together? (remember their silly one in Shanghai last year?) – well, this is this year’s!
Finally, with their tummies very full, my humans and Mum & Ma-Ma staggered back to the Monet Gardens….but it was STILL raining! So my humans decided to just buy some Monet umbrellas from the Monet Gardens shop (Ha! ha! – well, I guess they make good souvenirs! The shops was doing GREAT business that day!) – and go out and enjoy the gardens anyway!
Thankfully, the rain did stop a bit from time to time, so Hsin-Yi did manage to get some pictures to show you…she says they would have looked a lot better with sunshine – but they still give you an idea how pretty all the flowers were!
You could even go into Claude Monet’s house and see where he worked on his famous paintings…
…but of course, what everyone really wants to see is the famous lily ponds in the Water Gardens, which Monet painted in his famous paintings!
Even in the rain, the gardens were magnifique!
If you want to see some of the paintings that Monet did of these gardens, you can see them here:
But wait, the exciting day wasn’t over yet for Mum & Ma-Ma…when they all got back to Paris, my humans told them about the next surprise: they were going to take them to the Moulin Rouge!!
No, it’s not just a movie – it’s a real place! It’s a “legendary Parisian cabaret” – which means it is a very (in)famous place in Paris that has amazing - and slightly naughty! – shows, with beautiful girls (and some boys!) singing and dancing in wonderful costumes.
Well, it is “slightly naughty” because the pretty girls wear fabulous costumes but they don’t cover very much of their bodies! In fact, they don’t cover anything on top at all! And of course, they do the very famous (and naughty!) Can-Can dance!
But Hsin-Yi says it is not naughty in a bad way – it is really beautiful, like Art – and you “sit in a beautiful ballroom and get served dinner with champagne, by elegant waiters in black tie” before the show and it is a wonderful, magical experience that you can’t get anywhere else. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t let people use camera machines inside the Moulin Rouge so my humans couldn’t take pictures to show you what it was like – but the place did have their own Photographer Human who took 1 picture for my humans (below).
* Note from Hsin-Yi: I was actually quite surprised when I was looking up links for the “Moulin Rouge” for this post, to come across travel articles (such as this) warning people not to take their children to the show and making a big fuss about this “adult entertainment” like it was some kind of sordid strip-show…really, it is nothing of the kind! There is nothing “sleazy” about the show at all – yes, the girls are all topless and often wearing very little else but the whole thing has a totally different vibe – more like an appreciation of the female body as an Art form, the way sculptors and painters do.
It is the kind of show that – sadly, I think – doesn’t exist much elsewhere in the world now. Like something from a bygone era, when people were able to appreciate things on a “higher level” - through the colours, shapes, costumes & patterns of dance coupled with the music – rather than just obsessing over body parts. Of course, I understand some people have more conservative views than others (my goodness, I come from one very conservative culture: Chinese, and grew up in an even more conservative one: Arabic/Islamic! ) – but I honestly felt that unless you have a VERY prudish frame of mind, you would not find anything offensive about the show.
As for children, I was pleasantly surprised to see several French families there with very young children (as young as 5 or 6) watching the show but when I thought about it: why not? They were not watching google-eyed or giggling in embarrassment – they were just like: yeah, pretty ladies dancing, oh, they’re naked, they’re beautiful, no big deal… I actually think this sort of relaxed European attitude to nudity and the female form helps children grow up with a much healthier, positive mindset, than the sort of attitudes that’s prevalent in the West today, where there is either some sort of furtive, “dirty” association with the naked form, leading to shame & guilt - or the unnatural obsession with “perfection” in the airbrushed form seen in magazines…in fact, I noticed that the girls were in a variety of shapes & sizes – and all ‘natural’ with not one sign of Botox or boob job – and yet all beautiful in their own ways…and it was really refreshing to see this confident, unapologetic display of the beauty of the human form, in all its shapes, colours and sizes. This, I thought, was a far better message to be giving our children, than the usual shameful, negative connotations, which often lead to body dismorphia, furtive sexual promiscuity and/or self-mutilation.
In fact, the only dance number that made me feel uncomfortable was one where a (practically naked!) girl was writhing around in a tank of water with a python…but only because I was worried about the welfare of the poor python! )
Stay tuned for more of my humans’ adventures in Paris!
(to be continued…)
PS. So how do I look with the Monet umbrella? Like a stylish French doggie?
Click here to read Part 2
Click here to read Part 3