[Trip] England – Southend

We decided to go to Southend for a day trip in one of our weekend. It is about 1 hours direct train trip from London Liverpool St station. When we first arrived, it remind me of Manchester main train station (for some unknown reason). It was quite a sunny day when we arrived, we walked through the high street before getting to the pier (be careful of scammer in the high street). When you got to the end of the high street, that is another view. This time, it reminds me of typical US beaches from TV/movies. Anyway, we wandered around down the beaches and the arcade opposite of the beaches. Basically there are about 6 arcade game store, they are quite big ones as well. The beach was packed with people as it was quite sunny hot day. There was an adventure island which is a theme park at the entrance of the pier, there is no admission fee to go inside, but the rides do cost. We didn’t go on the rides, we saw a lot of teenagers and children going on the rides.

We walked through the longest pier in UK, it is about 2.5 km long, there is a train that can take you to the end of the pier. We chose to walk it, it took us about 20 minutes to get there, it is quite a nice walk. At the end of the pier, there is a surf living museum and a conference centre. There was a wedding which took place when we were there. There isn’t much to see at the end of the pier, but it is quite nice and relaxing to enjoy the sea view while having an ice cream. When we got back to the shore, that is when the low tide was. We saw the muddy side of the beach when the low tide came. To me, it was 2 different views. A nice beach during the high tide and muddy shores during the low tide. For lunch, we had skate and chips at a kiosk next to the beach. I think it is a family owned kiosk, as we saw almost everyone from the family helped out including the kids, as it was a holiday during that time.


[Tips] London Russian Ballet School Performance

So we went to a ballet performance recently, because my workmate’s daughter is in the London Russian Ballet school. I never have been to a ballet performance before, so I might check it out. The performance is done for a charity. The performance is held at New Wimbledon Theatre, it is quite close to Wimbledon station. We picked this one because we haven’t been to Wimbledon town so we might as well check out the town itself. Wimbledon is quite nice, the town has everything you need, from supermarkets to clothing stores to café. It doesn’t feel like an English town, it is more like a London suburb (then again, Wimbledon is part of London as well).


The ballet started at 7:30, it has 3 parts to it. First and last part is ballet and second part is contemporary dance. There is a 30 minutes break between second and last part of the performance. The first part has a solo pianist which play for the entire first part of the performance. All the ballet dance danced to their music, it is so elegant. You have to put in perspective that these dancers are under 18, to perform to an audience it takes some gut efforts. All of them did really well in the performance, they are so flexible and graceful throughout their routine. The second part is a big change from the first, where it went from ballet to contemporary. It was pretty interesting to see the performance and the story line. The last part was back to ballet with pre-done music. I quite enjoy the performance from the students at the school. I felt so amazed and it was an enjoyable night.

For more information, please visit their website: http://www.londonrussianballetschool.com

[Trip] France – Paris

Paris is the capital city of France, it is also known as City of Love or City of Romance. When we first arrived, it was cold and beautiful, I finally understand why they called it city of Love. You can get to Paris via car, plane or trains from London. Flight will be fastest, it takes about 1 hour to get there. Eurostar takes about 3.5 hours to get there, driving would probably take you more than 12 hours, depending on how fast you drive. We have been to Paris by flights and trains. In France, most speak French. But if you do give your best effort in French and they can see you are trying hard, they are quite nice to switch to English for you. We had no problem getting around Paris with our limited French. In Paris, it uses Euro as their main currency, you can withdraw Euro via ATM in London or Paris or go to money exchange stalls. Paris weather is quite nice in summer and winter. It can get cold during winter so be prepared to bring some winter clothing. Summer is nice and cool, not much of the humidity.


To get around Paris, it is quite easy via their metro. You can get the daily pass or 48 or 72 hours pass which allows you to be on the public transport. You can get the tickets at the metro station, it is quite convenient. The metro comes regularly, so you don’t need to worry about catching it at a specific time. However this cannot apply to Eurostar and other regional French city trains. We haven’t caught a bus at Paris, so I’m not too sure how it goes. Paris is structured by district, so just remember where the tourist attractions are in what district. This may help you to get around in Paris. Paris is quite big and quite far distance between one tourist attraction to another. It is much easier to go there via metro if you are in Paris in a limited time. We got lost a few times, ended up going to the attractions via metro.


[Trip] France – Common Street Scams

Before we went to Paris, the boy was reading about the city on what to eat, what to see and what to expect. One thing he did read about was the common scam and street crime in Paris. We were prepping ourselves to avoid the scams. Anyway, when we went to the street of Paris, we noticed the clipboard scam, which people ask whether you speak English and then ask you to fill out a petition/survey. What this scam does is another person will come up from behind and try and steal your wallet in your pocket/bags. Basically if you say no and walk away, those people will avoid you. Similarly you would see one which is to do with gold ring/baby, the person will drop the gold ring or throw a dummy baby towards you. When you go down and pick it up, the person will try and steal your possessions.


Another one we saw was the red string bracelet, basically the scammer tries and put a string on your arm (they do quite quickly). When you realise you have the string in your arm and tries to take it off, the scammer would say you bought it and give me a certain amount of money (we heard cases which they say 20EUR). If you say no and won’t hand over the money, scammer would have its support and basically they would gather around you and make you feel threaten. We have heard cases which they did get scammed and they bargain down to an amount which the victim is willing to pay. We did come across this scam however the boy pulled away the arm and gave the scammer a death stare. The scammers walked away and that is how we got away from it. Another way to avoid the scam is to scream as loud as you can if you cannot walk away, screaming can cause a scene and alert people around you.

[Trip] France – La Vallée Village

So we decided to go to Paris Outlet, as my side tend to love shopping. Of course, being girls/females, shopping is sometimes our number 1 priority, especially when there is a bargain. We went to La Vallée Village (France version of England’s Bicester), we got there in the morning, by train, take RER A and it is a couple stops before Paris’ Disneyland. It is about 15-20 minutes before the station. You walk through the town and shopping centre before heading to La Vallée Village. In the village, it looks similar to Bicester, where most of the shops are the same. Although the prices are in Euro, it was slightly cheaper than Bicester. Same as Bicester, you can get your tax refund at there as well. Unfortunately we flew out to outside of EU from London, which means we will need to do the tax refund from London.


If you love shopping, you can spend the whole day there. There are about 80 stores to browse through, sometimes it is cheaper than you buy from retails as they were last season’s clothing/product. There is plenty of rest area for those who don’t like to shop for a long time. There are café/small food stalls in the area if you need snacks. However nearby there is a shopping centre with restaurant if you need a full meal after shopping.


[Trip] France – Lourve

Lourve is where Mona Lisa is located, it is also where part of the da vinci code movie was filmed. When you look from the top, you thought this art museum is small. But when you look for inside, it would take you about 2-3 days to get through the museum. We weren’t in Paris for a long time, so we spent half a day in the Lourve. I think we only covered about 15-20% of the museum. There are a lot of famous artworks stored at the museum. To get there, you can take a metro to the Lourve (there is a stop for the museum). It is about 3 minutes from the station. There are a lot of entrance points to the museum. First you will need to go through the security (checking for any weapons) before you can go inside the museum and buy your tickets to the Lourve.


There are about 3-4 levels inside the museum, each level has about 4 main sections of it. Each section has about 8-10 subsections which are filled with artworks. Of course, if you want to see just Mona Lisa, there are signs and directions which would lead you to see it. It takes about 10 minutes to get there from the entrance point. Like every tourist attraction, there are a lot of tourists who visit this place. There are a lot of people around the main corridors of the entrance, especially at Mona Lisa, it is always packed with people (Be aware of pickpockets).


[Trip] France – Champs-Élysées and La Fayette

Like what I said before, Paris is known for its famous brand and shopping. In Paris, if you want to go to the designer store, you will need to visit Champs Elysse and Gallerie La Fayette. They both are located relatively closed to each other, about few metro stop away from each other. Champs Elyesse is basically Paris high street which one end is the Arc d’Tromphe and the other end is the park. Through the high street, there are a lot of boutiques store and as well as designer stores. It is a nice walk down the street, if you love shopping, I think you can spend the whole day at Champs Elysse. I quite like the LV store, outside in one of the display window, they have a massive LV suitcase and also they have 3 storeys in the store. When we went inside (of course being a cheap traveller, we only window shop), there was a lady buying 10 LV handbags at once. Through the high street, there are a lot of cafés and restaurants around, so if you are not a shopper, you can rest up and eat up in one of the café. We spent about ½ day on the champs Elysse, just browsing at the stores.


La Fayette is a large shopping centre, it reminds me of Harrods in London. The store itself is quite beautiful, I love the architecture and the design on the roof. It is just amazing and grand when you walked in the middle of the building. The shape of the building is like a dome where the stores are built in a circle so you know where you go or where you start. It can get tricky in the building, as it can be like a maze especially on the ground floor. They have a lot of designer store in La Fayette and a lot of tourist groups go there to shop, especially they can take advantage of the tax refund if they travel outside of EU within 30 days.


[Trip] France- Effiel Tower

Eiffel Tower is iconic landmark for France and for the city of Paris. It is such a beautiful architecture, basically if you go on a canal tour, you will see it from afar. It is hard not to know Eiffel Tower, if you go to Paris once, you will at least visit or see the architecture. It is located quite close to the metro station, from the station, it is about 10 minutes walk . You can go up the architecture by foot or lift. It is cheaper to climb the stair to get up the tower and there isn’t a queue for that. However like us, we chose the lift options. There are 2 entrances for the lifts, most people go to the nearest entrance which is the one by the canal. If you took the other entrance (which is next to the popular lift option), the queue is less. You can book online to skip the queue (however you will need to book early as it tends to sold out quite quickly). The queue takes about 2-3 hours during the peak season, however if you go during the off-peak season, it takes about 30 minutes in the queue. Morning period is quite popular, so the queue can be quite long, if you go afternoon or evening, it is less as there isn’t much tour group go there during those times.


There are 2 options for the lift, one is to go where it takes you, the first level. It is basically quite high up already. However if you want to go even higher, you will need to buy the additional lift pass, which would take you to 2nd level and you can walk up to the 3rd level of the tower. In the tower, there are information about the tower itself, how tall it is and when it was built. But you do have the best view of Paris in the tower. The tower can be quite busy and packed with people, so be careful of pickpockets. You can also buy champagne to enjoy the view with it. But it would cost you 9EUR for a glass.


[Trip] France – Food

When we were in Paris, of course we tried their pastry and their dessert. Boy, were they the best one I had? The crossiant is so nice and smell great even before I walked into the shop. The aroma of the fresh bakery is so overwhelming. The first taste of the crossiant is one of the best one I ever had, it is so crispy and yet it is so warm. The yellow colour of the croissant just made the presentation looks brilliant. I also had macroons in Paris, I was so surprised to see that McDonalds sell Macroons as well. I had a few macroons in different type of stores, the ones in Paris is not sweet at all. I can have a few without feeling too full or bloated. They have a lot of different flavours. We had crème brulee for our dessert, it was really good. The dessert and cake are really tasty in Paris, we had a few while we were wandering around the streets.


Their seafood is quite good, we had the seafood platter and it was so massive. It is not a warm platter, but the restaurant is quite warm which made us not too cold after eating a cold platter in winter. The seafood is so fresh and delicious as we both love our seafood as well. At the place, the seafood was fresh and was really delicious.


Foie Gras and snail are food that we ate as our starter when we were in Paris. We both love our Foie Gras, I think the French did the best out of all the places we have tried. They made it not too fattening but yet enough for you to enjoy your next course. The foie gras went so well with the bread, a lot of the bread in Paris is quite delicious. Not only it goes well by itself but it matches with other toppings, such as foie gras and soups. Snail is quite good in Paris, I had snails previously in Sydney and Hong Kong. But I guess I was in Paris, that is why it felt special. The sauce matches with the snail, although snail doesn’t have a taste. It is the sauce that gives the extra kick to the snail. Snail’s texture is similar to whelks, but less chewy and tough. To have this as a starter is enough for you to prepare for your main course.

[Trip] France – Notre Dame and Lock Bridge

Notre Dame is the big church which locates in Paris. At the time when we went there, there was a big seating at the front of the cathedral. Once we went past the seating, there was a queue to go inside the cathedral. Depending on the time you arrived, that will determine how long the queue is. A lot of tour group go during the morning, the queue can take up to 1 hours. But if you went during the afternoon, the queue time may be less. When you look closely, it will be amazed how big the cathedral is and the scruplture around the building is so detailed. Inside the cathedral, it was quite pretty. Just like other cathedral we have been to, there was prayer section, a big mass section and other burial plaque of the people. The stained glass surrounding the building is quite pretty and it has a Biblical scene in each display. You can walk up to the top of the cathedral to look at the Paris city skyline, however we didn’t go up as we went to Effiel Tower instead.


Next to Notre Dame cathedral, there is a lock bridge. I knew about this place when I was watching a Hong Kong TV series, this is where the lovers put a lock on the bridge and threw the keys in the river. It is a way to symbolise the love that never to be released or you can put a secret and lock it up on the bridge. It is amazed to see how many locks are there on the bridge. There were some with huge locks but most are locks within locks. They are all hanged off each other, I read somewhere recently, the locks couldn’t sustain the load of the locks and it gave way and fell into the river. Luckily no one was harmed.



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