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I’m currently ensconced in a comfortable, fluffy hotel bed in Amsterdam. I was so exhausted from trekking to Amsterdam via Delhi – Moscow – Paris that I passed out for 8 hours straight once I got to the hotel. I’m digesting a huge (since I missed dinner) hotel buffet breakfast before I hit up all of the museums.

The past week or so has been a whirlwind of eye-opening experiences. I really enjoyed the golden triangle, spending tons of time with NYC friends, meeting new friends, experiencing an Indian wedding extravaganza, and cannot wait to go back and learn more about India. We travelled in luxury but there were snippets of the India’s harsh reality – children trained to be hawkers at a young age, illiteracy, poverty, threat of terrorism, etc.

In typical Irene fashion, the trip had its fair share of bumps — I brought the wrong camera charger, found a generic replacement in Paris that I thought was defective, but thanks to some pre-falling asleep strokes of brilliance was able to make it work. I also barely made my outbound flight (thank you, flight delay), barely got to Paris Nord in time for my train to Amsterdam (no thanks to flight delays, but thank you, nice Aeroflot flight agent) but had enough time to find a pharmacie open on a Sunday* to stock up on more Dermaphil Indien lip balm, which is my new favorite.

Since I’ve been between computers, I haven’t had time to install Adobe Lightroom to process my pictures. All of the pictures below were taken with my Nikon D80 or iPhone and post-processed on my iPhone via applications: tadaa, Instagram, or Diptic (which had a massive update and is my collage app of choice).

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, but do have a few that I’d work on regardless of the New Year that can be shared on the web:

    • Eat healthy. I really want a Vitamix blender, I can’t tell you how many veggies I throw out because they went bad.
    • Work out. I’ve fallen off this bandwagon.
    • Get to airports earlier. My previous just-in-time strategy is nail-biting stressful.
    • Make better shopping decisions. I love J.Crew’s style resolutions, particularly the edit closet and wear more black.
    • Purge / eBay. I’m glad that many items sold in my eBay store while I am away!
    • Read books. I read a ton of blogs and magazines.

(click to enlarge)

*I transited through Paris on a Sunday, which means that most shops are closed. The pharmacie I went to did not show up on any Google blog posts and I needed something closer than a 10-15 minute walk given I had substantial bags to lug. I found it the old fashioned way — I stuck my head outside of the station and looked for a green, lit “+” sign. So if you’re in the Paris Gare du Nord train station on a Sunday and need a pharmacy close by, head to the Pharmacie Centrale du Nord on 132 Rue La Fayette. They are open on Sundays from 10:00 – 20:00. The best exit point from the massive Gare du Nord station is the doors opposite of the Thalys tracks (~7,8,9). Head straight away from the train station.

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…Paris, New Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, and Amsterdam!

Merry Christmas!

I didn’t expect to be traveling out of the country so soon after my extensive travels this summer, but a girlfriend is getting married in India so a bunch of us are heading there to celebrate New Year’s and her wedding together! I’ll be stopping in Paris and Amsterdam on my inbound and outbound. If anybody has any recommendations on these places, please drop a note!

Source: Paris (image, image), India (image, image, image), and Amsterdam (image, image)

I’ve been super lazy about consolidating my pictures. I don’t think I’ve touched Lightroom since a month ago? So, for my non-Instagramming friends, here is a snapshot of recent purchases.

Shu Uemura closed their US counters a few years ago. As much as I love shopping online, it just isn’t the same! I had a few hours to kill in HK and went a little crazy at the IFC mall. Enough to qualify for their VIP club, which comes with a facial and eyebrow shaping that expires in August. Grr. I love Shu’s concealers and am glad I got two point concealers — they aren’t sold in the US (yet?). Their packaging is cute but I think it’s smaller than the old old concealer that I got the last time I was in HK. I’m also in LOVE with the ultimate natural mascara (which was a push by the SA after she gasped at my eyelashes) because it holds a curl better than any other mascara I’ve tried. I used the basic mascara a long time ago and this is its successor. Reviews on MUA are very mixed.
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A few overall traveling observations before I get to Angelina.

Money:

  • Every time I return from a foreign trip, I place my leftover currency and sometimes business cards/notes/receipts in a Ziploc bag. You’d think I would consolidate all my bags of currency, especially when so many countries use the Euro, but no. On one trip to my parents’, I was looking for my stash of old J.Crew catalogs. I found 2006-2007 as well as a Ziploc bag from my first trip to the continent back in November 2005. There was over a hundred Euros! At least the currency rate is still in favor of the Euro. I ended up not having to go to an ATM at all during the trip. I still had a bit leftover too, which came in handy for the unexpected…
  • The traffic was horrid during my stay. It took me ages to get into the city. There were also major bus delays on the day I left so I ended up taking a cab. I’d asked the cabbie if he took credit card and he said yes. Well, his story changed when we arrived at the airport. Luckily, I had enough cash! It’s always good to have some local currency with you. After the fact, my friend said the traffic was caused by the local authorities finding an old German bomb from the WW days and having to deactivate it, or something.
  • There are a few credit cards that have no foreign transaction fee (which is usually 2-3%). They save you quite a bit! I tried to charge as much as I could while I was there, hence the leftover currency. I did not get any pushback when using the credit card. They even split our bill at a few places and there was no attitude.
  • When asked to charge in your home currency or local currency, always side with local or you’ll get hit with fees twice. Typically you’re asked this in hotels or Hermès.

Transportation/Navigation:

  • The metro is somewhat convenient. It really depends on where you are staying and where you are going. I was a homebody for a few days and barely finished my pack of ten tickets. I think that’s the best deal unless you’re taking the metro many times, every day. I also wish there was more integration between the right and left banks.
  • I’m a bit slow at technology sometimes, but I just realized I hadn’t been logged into my Blackberry’s Google Maps for ages (I blame restarts). I made a Google Map of all the places I wanted to go and it was so convenient once I realized I could pull that map in as a layer. I have so many places left to go…
  • When traveling, connect your smartphone via Wifi only as much as possible.
  • Yelp is pretty active in Paris, although most reviews often come from tourists.

On to Angelina! Angelina is one of those rare Parisian tourist attractions that is also loved by the locals. There is a long queue to get in for table service and even though it was chilly, it was bearable. I met a friend of a friend here and we shared a pot of chocolate, a cappuccino, millefeuille, and Mont Blanc. I’m glad we shared the famous hot chocolate, although I could’ve easily downed it myself. (Nothing beats the Barcelona hot chocolate!) The Mont Blanc was really sweet. I’d never had an authentic Mont Blanc before. I liked the millefeuille. There is also a takeout area that you can access sans queue. I was slightly tempted to buy tubes of chestnut cream. See Angelina’s Yelp page here.

Continuation of this Petit Bateau post.

Petit Bateau is all over Paris. I have no idea how their sales are like in Paris, but I can’t afford to wait. They were having a small promotion when I was there – 20% off two or more items, excluding anything black or blue {stripes were eligible for the promotion} – and in true Parisian fashion, it was very subtly advertised in the store. I happened to catch a glimpse of the store window on the way in and it was written on the very bottom left. I don’t know much French, but I know enough to know soldes = sale :)

Here are some snapshots of their tiny lookbook. Their baby/kid line is so adorable. I wish they had everything in adult sizes! {Oh wait, they do.}

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Update: This Repetto outlet closed. As far as I know, you can find another outlet outside of Paris at the La Vallée Village. Details here

If you look beneath the surface of Paris, you’ll find catacombs and stock stores, which are known more affectionately to us as outlets. These stock stores have leftover and discontinued inventory from the retail stores, not merchandise produced at an sub-par quality specific for the outlets like J.Crew, Banana Republic, etc. Since I have a Repetto obsession, I had to check out the Repetto one. If you have more time, you can find stock shops here for Maje, Cacharel, Sandro, etc. There was also one blog that outlined when the Maje and Sandra shops restock, but I can’t find the link now.

The Repetto stock store is above their ballet store, which does not have Repetto signage, so pay attention to the address. It is also conveniently close to a metro line and not too far of a walk from the Opera area.

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I’m not sure where I first read about macarons, but I tasted them for the first time when I visited Paris in 2005. I made a beeline for Ladurée. I got a box of 20 and fridged them upon arrival. They slowly died one by one.

For my October trip to Spain, I built a long layover in Paris on the way back because my mom had never seen Paris. A seven hour layover in Charles De Gaulle gave us approximately 2.5 hours of leisure. I planned to pick up macarons for a friend’s birthday from the Ladurée on Rue Royale after an obligatory shopping stop on Rue Saint-Honoré. It was a random Monday and the shop was packed to the brim. I did not have the patience or time to wait in line so I decided to go to the airport location. A painful Blackberry search showed that there is a shop in CDG Terminal 2F. Too bad I was leaving from 2E. Unlike some U.S. airports, the CDG terminals aren’t connected beyond security and they only allow access to the terminal you’re ticketed for. Imagine my surprise when I saw this cart sitting right outside of the Terminal 2E security gate! Mission accomplished. Unfortunately, they did not have the Christian Louboutin boxes…

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