Bikram Yoga, Paris, Grands Boulevards

In April, I checked out Bikram Yoga in Tokyo while I was on vacation. Exercise doesn’t have to take a break while we are on holiday, as I have realised, is not just my personal mindset because one of my two friends whom I travelled with was also hitting the gym almost on a daily basis! I suppose besides that we try to incorporate exercise into my daily lives, much like how we need to eat and sleep each day, it also helps us to burn off excess calories from all that good food that we enjoy when we are on holiday.

Maybe the fact that I am trying to maintain a regular exercise regime also affected how I think about what my job requires. Last year, I had crazy travelling schedules, by my measure; it wasn’t entirely hectic, but having to be out of the country each month, for either a week or two each time, could seriously disrupt this routine, besides screwing up my body clock and causing some health problems. Jetting across timezones can take its toll on my physical as well as mental health and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It might also be due to age, where somehow the body is not reacting well to the physical stresses of travelling, coupled with other forms of stress that this endeavour creates. Finally, I have probably also felt the desire to spend more time with my family now. Although I am still not what some would describe as being very close-knitted with my family, time does change people to a certain extent.

Anyway, on this last business trip to France, I decided to find out before I went if they had a Bikram studio too. Well, most big cities have some form of Bikram yoga, and I found two studios located in Paris, which I thought to check out during the weekend. I couldn’t go on weekdays because the office, as well as the hotel where I was putting up at, isn’t located within the city, and it easily takes about an hour to get to the heart of the city. On the first day that I arrived that was Sunday, I made a trip downtown but was too tired physically to want to drag myself to the class. From the website, I saw that they conducted lessons in English, once a day, at each of the two studios. As I could only make it for the 4pm class, I wasn’t able to last that long outside and still pull through, so I left Bikram for the coming weekend.

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On Saturday, I was out shopping on my own downtown, and after not having much success there, I found my way to the studio at Grands Boulevards. It is about 10 minutes’ stroll from Galeries Lafayette (on Boulevard Hausmann), and very near to the Grands Boulevards metro station. I spent a lot of time walking that day, and since the weather was rather good, I just walked around the city the entire time. The studio is pretty small, and it only opens its doors 30 minutes before class starts, so I was standing outside this door for quite some time since I reached way before 4pm.20130627-092623.jpg

They have a small changing room with lockers that you can operate with a one-euro coin, refundable when you open it, and 4 shower cubicles. It isn’t a large place, smaller than Bikram Shinjuku in Tokyo but it wasn’t crowded. The first time I went, the studio was only about half-full, which numbers probably about 10-12 practitioners, I couldn’t remember. The studio could supposedly accommodate up to 25 persons but perhaps being a fine Saturday afternoon, most people are out enjoying the weather in town. It was much warmer on Sunday, and so the studio was also more unbearably hot and humid, especially when the fans were not switched on at all. Sunday was also a day when most shops are not open, so that probably explained the higher turnout for the same 4pm class.

Perhaps the studio being small, the instructors could really focus on the students, and they even knew them by name. Also since I was a guest (of sorts), and obviously being very different in how I look as compared to the others, they would also call me out on the postures if I wasn’t doing something correctly. It was rather stressful at some point, but it’s a great way to improve! I had fun during the two days of practice at Bikram Yoga Paris, and I’m not sure if I will ever return because France is just too far away (and expensive to travel to too), but the instructors were great and I think the price is pretty ok, cheaper than Tokyo! I got myself a promotional offer, which was a 10-day pass at 35 euros. Considering that even though I only went for 2 classes in 2 days, it was already worth it cos a single class is priced at 25 euros (without adding on the costs of towels and mat).     20130627-092632.jpg

I wonder where will be the next city where I will get to practice Bikram Yoga at. It helps heaps that they had English classes in Paris, because although the 26 poses are always the same and the routine is the same, Bikram Yoga is still a dialogue-based class where we try to follow the instructions when to go into the pose and so on. When I was in Tokyo, the classes I went for were in Japanese (they also had limited English classes too) and I just went through the routine without knowing if the instructor would have been trying to correct me.

small spot of Parisien shopping

There were hordes of summer holiday-makers in Paris at this time, and needless to say many of them were Asians. From the speech, they were of various nationalities, Singaporeans included, forming queues outside the luxury boutiques like Louis Vuitton and Chanel. I wonder if we Asians are only aware of these brands that when we travel overseas these are the only shops we go to, or we want what everyone else has. I went to the Chanel flagship at Rue Cambon, took a walk around and decided to come out. Granted, I used to and still am pretty enamoured with pretty leather pieces that I see because the smell of leather can be so intoxicating at times I wish I could own more leather bags! But it is quite senseless to put my hard-earned money on a leather product that because I am unable to devote absolute TLC to in our climate that can be really unkind to leather, money spent just goes down the drain. I don’t even call it an investment like some would say, because if I am unable to take care of it, what investment value does it have, say 10 years down the road? I have witnessed the wear and tear and gradual deterioration in condition of my bags and sorry but money really comes by tough. Unless you don’t have to work for your money then maybe it’s a different story altogether. Unfortunately I am no heiress privy to a multi-million inheritance.

Still, I did do some shopping while out at Paris during the weekend there. Weather was fantastic because the rain held up and it was bright and sunny, yet not too hot. It was pretty scorching on Sunday when I was out for hours under the sun without the benefit of much cloud cover in the sky, but Saturday was good. These were my spoils.

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I know, Zara and Longchamp is so predictable but Zara is cheaper in Europe! I was in Zara a couple of days ago and a price tag that read 39.95 Euros was somehow costing S$79.90, which totally baffled me. I bought that item by the way, which I didn’t see when I was in Paris, otherwise I’d just have killed myself. I am pretty unadventurous when it coems to shopping for clothes, so my usual places to buy clothes from are Zara, sometimes Mango, and what else? Someone please bring me shopping!

And Longchamp… ok I wouldn’t say that prices are great but for the price I paid for the Le Pliage canvas foldable bags and my heavy use of them, I think they are indeed great value for money items! I have a few of the Le Pliage items bought from some previous trips but a medium long-handle that I carry in Singapore to yoga and abroad for my business trips showed that 65 Euros I paid for it was totally worth it. There was this Longchamp bag that was introduced sometime ago that I was lusting after for a while but never really made the plunge to buy, a full-leather bag in the same shape as the Le Pliage canvas tote, but with short handles and a long strap that can be used for cross-body slinging for the medium sizes and above. I thought of getting the small but then the strap is too short so I thought the medium made more sense. Colour-wise, I really loved the mustard yellow and red that they had for summer, but red seemed a bit too much for me for daily wear, and yellow would show up dirt more easily. Considering that I am one of the worst persons when it comes to taking care of bags, I decided to stay on the conventional route and chose a dark classic colour instead, dark blue. Was deliberating between camel and blue, but eventually settled on the blue. 20130626-090134.jpg

The lighting was amber, which explained why the bag looks like it’s black instead of blue. But I’m glad I got it, so now I can finally stop thinking about it. I was actually thinking of getting another medium long-handled Le Pliage in mustard and thought I could get it at Charles de Gaulle airport, but unfortunately they didn’t have that colour in the outlet that was in Terminal 1 of the airport. Oh well, perhaps the next time then.

finding my way home

It has been a few days since I have returned from the so-called City of Love, or City of Lights, I don’t know which is the true moniker but those are the two that I have heard of.

While I was away, I had been hearing and reading of reports of the annual haze that would blanket Singapore, and this year it seemed especially serious and bad, with the PSI hitting the 400-region, somewhere we have never ever come close to before. Even the last reported worst situation that took place in 1997, the highest-recorded reading was 200+ and I remembered back then, it was already very bad because I recalled being out in town and when the haze hit a bad patch, the burnt smell was choking and visibility was greatly reduced.

It wasn’t surprising then, that airport operations were affected, since planes need extra care in taking off and particularly landing, when visibility is compromised. The flight I returned on on Saturday morning was not delayed, but we had a rather bumpy landing. And it was pretty evident that the sky was blanketed in a cloud of grey, and perhaps I was being imaginative, but I thought I could already detect whiffs of the haze while still being in the plane as we waited for the doors to be opened. Standing in line at the taxi rank also afforded me a hazy view of the situation, and truly the air quality was bad. I couldn’t breathe properly, and was glad to shut the doors of the taxi and proceed home.

That morning, the haze was rather bad, though an improvement from the days before. I was also monitoring the PSI when I was still in Paris, even though there were some comments circulating online about the veracity of the published figures on NEA’s website, I guess it was still a gauge of how things were.

Thank God that the situation became better during the rest of Saturday, and from then until now, I kept praying that the winds will continue to stay in our favour. It’s unfortunate that our neighbour up-north is now bearing the brunt of the forest blazes, but I’m thankful we have clearer skies now. Despite that the weather is now extremely humid, a marked difference from before I left for Paris, I think we all would rather have just the humidity and enjoy clear blue skies with clean air. Before this episode, even if we always expect that haze to return each year during this warmest periods of our climate, we never imagined things would become so bad that at a point in time, there were so many people wearing masks out on the streets. Not even in Tokyo have I seen so many masked people.

The weather in Paris was unpredictable, alternating between bright sunny days and gloomy rainy days, with temperatures fluctuating from the 10s to high-20s. It was all very nice there, in terms of weather, and even the weekend I spent where we were blessed with glorious sunshine on both days. But I am still happy to be home; these are the days when I would appreciate home and my family. July is coming around soon, with half of 2013 almost gone. Time is passing too quickly…

bowing down to consumerism

Hello from Paris, the city of lights or as some called it, the city of love. For many, I think it’s the city of shopping, based on the hordes of tourists I see everywhere spending towards the benefit of the French economy. I am not exactly a statistic of that. On Saturday, when the shops are all open in full force, well at least the areas that I was at, walking along Rue St. Honore can be an extremely dangerous affair if you have weak willpower. The cobblerstoned street, flanked by all the various brands that you can think of, luring you in with the glitzy window displays. I don’t know, maybe I have greater priorities in life now but shopping doesn’t seem to factor as high anymore. Despite that everyone’s gushing about shopping in Paris and coming out triumphant from the Chanel flagship at Rue Cambon, I went in, took a short turn and glanced at the accessories, before emerging empty-handed. Walking past the Pradas, Louis Vuittons and so-on, I did a double take on the pieces of leather lining the shelves, and what would have got me really excited and tempted to walk in and swipe my plastic a couple of years back, no longer hold as strong a pull. What’s wrong with me?

Sunday in Paris is a totally different story altogether. Although Champs Elysees still brims with the busloads of tourists with queues forming outside Louis Vuitton, Laduree, Paul and Brioche Doree (yes, even bakeries!), the rest of the shopping activity takes a backseat on this day. The places of interest are abuzz with people still though, with (again) queues and crowds forming at the Louvre, Notre Dame, and the Palais museums. I was just walking around and getting baked in the scorching sun. Even though the day started slightly chilly, it got gradually warmer and the merciless sun without the benefit of any shade made my skin burn. And all this was below 30 degrees. Just a few days before the temperature was sliding pretty low close to 10. It’s beautiful weather that we had in the weekend, but today the rain came back and throughout most parts of the day, it was just gloomy and wet.

Maybe I am just sensitive but I do find some Parisiens snooty, even the ones working in the cafes. I would really have liked to sit at a sidewalk cafe and enjoy a coffee and maybe sink my teeth into a tart but these cafes don’t make me feel welcomed at all. The wait-staff seem to look down on you if you are not having a fancy big dinner at their cafes, and so after trying it once, I ended up just ducking into a Starbucks. I don’t suddenly feel all the warm hospitality that I would have received in some Starbucks outlets elsewhere in the world but at least there seem to be less animosity. It’s weird how even in the supermarkets, the cashiers appear judgmental.

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Years ago, someone told me something that I made a joke out of. As I reflect back on those words today, I think maybe there is some truth in it after all. In many areas of my life, I need to change my perspective, but it can be so tough. I’m trying and each day I struggle to remind myself about it. Maybe if I think that this is not going to last much longer it will get easier to steer myself in that direction.

I can’t seem to stop eating. OMG!

Paris

We took an early train to Paris and arrived shortly after an hour on the Thaly’s train. Perhaps it’s such a short distance, that’s why there wasn’t much baggage space available on the train, so that I left my luggage standing near the doorway. That kept me worrying about whether the train was going to make any calls at stations along the line, and maybe when the train doors open, my luggage may drop out. Well, it arrived safely at Paris-Nord, just as we did.

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As our room wasn’t ready yet, we decided to go out so that I could go “run an errand”. Stopped by a cafe along the long way to grab a bite and I had a coffee with a very rich raspberry cheesecake. I realise that the Europeans and English seem to be quite fond of using spoons, or maybe even not use cutlery at all. When we order cakes and stuff here and around the region, they will invariably give you a fork to eat it with. Over there, they’ll serve the cake with a spoon, or for pastries like muffins and the likes, they don’t heat up the muffin, and you’re expected to eat that with your hands. Thing is, these muffins are much oilier than the ones we have here, and as we all know, public restrooms are not easily available for you to wash your grimy hands thereafter, so it’s good to carry around a handy pack of wet-wipes for those fingers after food.

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We got a room on the 4th floor, and it was a really nice and spacious room! What’s more, they gave us a chocolate in the shape of the Arc d’Triomphe, and 4 complimentary bottles of Evian. The room was nice, but the weather wasn’t exactly kind to us. Seems like for the past 2 times and this current short visit to Paris, the weather here is always pretty extreme. I would really hope for a time when I can enjoy this city in a cooler state of weather and not have to feel so exhausted because the heat kills everything for me. For your information, the day was sweltering, and at night, it poured, and as luck would have it, we were caught in it, without so much of a decent shelter to hide at.

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But oh well, before the rain, I managed to make a guilty splurge at Rue de Cambon, where the shop was just bustling with activity inside with lots of shoppers! I think it’s overseas when you don’t have as much qualms about stepping into a luxury boutique, because you don’t really give too much thought to what the snooty sales assistants might think of you if you just walk out without buying anything. Or maybe, when we are there already with the intention to buy, they are generally quite professional and friendly, and afterall, I am probably not going to see them again! Plus, sales people in Singapore really need to be trained in the area of customer service, yes, they should be put in a facility and be trained like dogs because they need to be.

So anyway, we spent quite a fair bit of time waiting for the sun to set beneath the horizon so that I could see the gradual lighting-up of the tower, and then we had to wait even more till about 10pm before the sparkles came on! As much as I complain incessantly about the terrible heat that I had to bear each time I go to Paris and how it made me hate the place, I am always in awe when I sit beneath the Eiffel Tower and especially when the lights come on. The entire magnificence and glory of the massive structure makes me feel so small and insignificant amongst the crowd of tourists and locals, and therefore makes me want to go back each time I get the chance to be there.

Of course, the rain that fell on our way back made me forget about whatever it was I was feeling when I was sitting admiring the tower.

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It was a short one-night stay at Paris, and that wrapped up our tour of the United Kingdom and a part of Europe that took us to various cities from London, to Edinburgh, Glasgow, back to London, Brussels and finally Paris. It felt good to be able to get onto the flight back home, yet it is always with reluctance that we have to bid our vacation goodbye.