‘Traveling’ In Translation: In-Between Worlds | World Tour #9

Yes this title is an attempt to make a pun with the title of Sofia Coppola’s masterful movie ‘Lost in Translation‘, which you would all have watched, I am sure.


So we left Las Vegas with a somewhat sore feeling. After being forced to get a cab from the hotel to go to McCarran International Airport, when no other option was left to us, and waiting for several hours at the airport (where we felt more at ease than anywhere else in Vegas at that point), we eventually took off and escaped from the Nevada desert, happy as ever to leave the sounds of the slot machines behind us.

It was Monday the 23rd of July, and on that day I set foot in Los Angeles for the first time in my life.

Those Weird Hours In Between

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We had almost 24 hours until our next plane, which would carry us in more than 10 hours, to Japan.

Things went smoothly, so we didn’t have to think about it. From the airport, we took the free shuttle to our hotel (what a change after Las Vegas!), checked in the huuuuge beautiful room we booked and we proceeded to chill out.

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We didn’t even go out of the hotel to explore Los Angeles a bit, but honestly we weren’t in the mood to do so. Things are a little blurry but from what I can remember, we went to the hotel restaurant and ate very good food, and then I watched a movie my father had told me about on the flight that day, which I had wanted to see ever since it was released in 2004: ‘Flight Plan‘ with Jodie Foster, a thriller set on a plane which was interestingly written, but scared me about planes when I wasn’t even scared…

Preparing Yourself For A Whole Other World And An Inevitable Culture Shock

All I could think about was counting the hours separating me from leaving the US and FINALLY landing to Japan, and seeing it for myself, after so many years of wondering how it would be like.

For the record, I have been learning Japanese for almost 2 years now, and obviously learning about the culture as well, from many different sources (YouTube, books, TV shows, Netflix, documentaries, social media and so on). So I already knew a lot about Japan. In fact, in some ways even more than I knew about the US… That’s something I’ve already talked about, but what I knew from the US before our trip all came from 70s to 90s TV shows and movies. Nothing current.

I had the same level of excitement for Japan that I got for New York City, which is saying something because I had wanted to go to New York since before I could even have memories… I can’t even describe how happy I was.

That night I couldn’t sleep very well either, which was expected…

I knew well enough how much of a disorientation and culture shock we would feel when arriving in Japan, and what’s more, in Tokyo. I tried to explain it as much as I could to my father. I remember I told him about:

  • the fact that the weather there was extremely hot and humid (because it was summer), which neither of us had ever felt before;
  • the fact that nothing was his size there (my father’s really tall), especially in Tokyo and especially after staying in the US for 2 weeks, where everything is too big;
  • the fact that people smoke in restaurants, but aren’t allowed to smoke in streets except in very specific areas;
  • the fact that there is A LOT MORE PEOPLE everywhere, especially in Tokyo;
  • and of course the simple fact that we were going to leave one continent for another, and not any one of the continents: we were going to leave the America for Asia! Which would have been okay if either of us had ever been to Asia before, but we hadn’t. A huge culture shock was inevitable.

He listened alright. And as I talked about it, I tried my best to really think about it. But in the end, neither of us was truly prepared for what was coming.

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Ever wondered where Sofia Coppola got her title from for her famous movie? Well I’ll just leave that quote here for you to think about…

“Poetry is what is lost in translation. It is also what is lost in interpretation.”

Robert Frost

Until next time,

With love,

Lilly

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Why Las Vegas Was A Downer & Discovering Sin City | World Tour #8

We left San Francisco feeling refreshed and reconciled with the United States… Little did we know we would spend the worst 3 days of our trip in Las Vegas, despite us being so excited to go!


Can an introduction get more gloomy than that?

The thing is, we didn’t enjoy Las Vegas as much as we would have liked to. It all started on the evening of July 21st, Saturday, which was the day we flew out to Las Vegas from San Francisco.

We just started off from the wrong foot I think.

Slot Machines Everywhere

Our first impression of the city, or rather the airport, was actually funny: the first thing we saw when entering the airport after land-off were slot machines, right at the exit of our gate! We were in Las Vegas for sure, no doubt about it!

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And then, we went outside.

Oh. My. God.

That heat. 40 degrees Celsius, 104 degrees Farenheit. If you’ve never been in a desert, you can’t understand what I mean but my skin actually tingled under this heat!

The Hunt For Public Transportation

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Getting out of the airport, we tried, and I do mean we tried, to take a public transport to join our hotel. But there was nothing available. It was basically impossible.

There was public transport, we could see buses going around, but it said on the bus stop you couldn’t go on board without a ticket but there wasn’t any ticket machines ANYWHERE, neither outside nor inside the airport. We asked, no one could answer, no one knew.

That was incredible. So, to recap, in every single country, in every single town, you had a choice of either take the public transit from an airport, or take a cab, to go in town.

But not in Las Vegas.

Because you see, if you’re coming to Vegas it means you’re prepared to waste your money, so why not start right now?!

I was boiling. My father was pissed off. We were FORCED to pay 20 dollars each to take a taxi.

The Land of Ocean’s Eleven

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The Legendary Strip, Las Vegas

Anyway, after that experience, we arrived at our hotel, which was a bit ex centered from the Strip, but actually fine. Despite the fact that the staff was late for more than 2 hours to give us our room. But, let’s talk about nicer things.

One of my favourite movies of all times is Ocean’s Eleven, both:

  • the first film of 1960 with Frank Sinatra playing a perfect Danny Ocean, and also Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis Jr. and Joey Bishop,
  • and the remake of 2001, with George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts and so on.

And one of my favourite quotes from the film was dancing in my head while we went outside again in the heat, to go and see our first casino: the one and only Caesar’s Palace.

“You guys are pros. The best. I’m sure you can make it out of the casino. Of course, lest we forget, once you’re out the front door, you’re still in the middle of the fucking desert!” Reuben, adressing to Rusty and Danny

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The Caesar’s Palace was actually incredible both outside and inside: this was to become my favourite of all the casinos, thanks to the atmosphere, the architecture and the decorations inside. I loved it!

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My father being a fan of Gordon Ramsay, we went to eat at one of the many restaurants he holds in Vegas, and it was absolutely delicious… The Pub & Grill was inside the Caesar’s Palace, and it wasn’t even that expensive!

 

 

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After that we went for a walk inside the casino, which took us about an hour just to see one side of the casino, and the sights were incredible: the giant shopping mall (because beside playing, the only thing left to do is shopping) felt like it was outside, thanks to the huuuuuuge illusory sky, put under the high ceiling.

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Okay, THAT illusory sky was incredible. I can’t say otherwise, and we were awed that first night.

We went to bed on a rare kind of hype: we knew that most people around us in that desert would not sleep that night, stuck in front of slot machines, blackjack and poker tables, where we left them.

New York City isn’t the only city that never sleeps after all.

The Hunt For The Best Casino

“The Strip” is how you call the boulevard containing the bulk of the most famous casinos in the world. It starts from the Las Vegas Sign “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” at the south, that you will most certainly see if you come to the city by road.

Here is the Strip:

The Strip

As you can guess on this map, the casinos are HUGE buildings, built one after the other on either side of the boulevard.

After that first night, my father and I proceeded to go and see all the casinos:

  • The Flamingo: it seemed a bit old next to the others, like coming straight up from the 70s. Lots of tables to play card games, as I can recall.
  • The LINQ: we definitely passed through it to go and see the Venetian but I can’t remember a single thing about it! In fact, the casinos all looked the same except the most famous ones.
  • The Venetian and The Palazzo: okay. The Venetian rivaled with my favourite casino so far, the Caesar’s Palace. That casino was incredible both outside and inside. They had recreated Venice’s gondolas and canals! And Saint Mark’s Square! The Palazzo was the five star hotel of the same complex.

 

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  • Trump International Hotel: by the time we got out of the Venetian complex, it was midday, and when we looked at our next destination, we saw another building, far away in the distance, that looked ENTIRELY made of gold: of course it had to be the Trump Hotel. It was too far away, and looked a bit ‘too much’… but I bet the view of the Strip from there is incredible.
  • Treasure Island: we didn’t end up going either because it was too far away and the heat was unbearable…
  • The Mirage: I remember this hotel-casino perfectly because of its decorations inside: they had recreated a jungle under a glass roof with sounds of tropical fauna and flora being broadcasted!
  • Next was Caesar’s Palace that we’d already explored the night before, so we only passed through it. We also ate there, but the food wasn’t that great. Or maybe it was the heat that got the best of me.

By that time, after seeing all those things that looked incredible but absolutely insane considering we were in the middle of the desert, our enthusiasm began to decrease slowly. Such a display of who got the best decorations, inspiration, and theme… all of this with water in any form, it was nonsense!

We made a halt at our hotel on Flamingo Road, and took a little nap before going out again.

  • The Bellagio: ahhhh, the famous one, the one from Ocean’s Eleven, in front of which is shot the most beautiful scene of the whole movie – maybe one of the best scenes EVER (if you don’t know what I mean, go and watch it RIGHT NOW: here). It was beautiful inside, and we wandered around for quite a long time.
  • The New York Hotel: from the Bellagio we took the air train to the New York Hotel. Besides Venice, Paris, and Rome, there was a hotel (with a giant mall inside again) around the theme of New York. A Broadway version of NYC streets were recreated inside, with big luminous signs and such
  • The Luxor: Okay, that one was insane too. It had the shape of an enormous Egyptian pyramid, and the hotel rooms were disposed along its sides, all the way to the top!

 

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  • Mandala Bay, The MGM Grand, Excalibur…: we saw the outside we gave up seeing each and every casino because they were so far away from each other, and the heat really was unbearable. You have to realize, it was 45°C, 113°F. It made my skin prickle, actually boiling under the sun! However, we did see the MGM Grand but it wasn’t that great compared to the other casinos we saw. Or maybe we were just fed up to see the same thing again, and again.

What Shocked Me In Vegas

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  • No security to enter the buildings: I was so used to France’s terrorism counter-plan that I was shocked to see we could enter and exit any of the casinos and hotels without being supervised or checked. Of course cameras were everywhere, and considering I looked underage (despite being almost 25…) I was told off by cashiers walking around many times, when I approached some tables and walked among slot machines (before I told them my age, obviously). Which makes room for another funny quote from Ocean’s Eleven:

“I know more about casino security than any man alive, I invented it, and it cannot be beaten. They got cameras, they got locks, they got watchers, they got timers, they got vaults, they got enough armed personnel to occupy Paris!

… Okay, bad example.” Reuben, addressing to Rusty and Danny

  • Air conditioning & fountains everywhere: could Vegas be more of a pain in the ass of the Earth? I think not. All this fun is actually destroying our planet. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, do some researches about Lake Mead and how Las Vegas literally drained it over the last few years, alongside other phreatic tables… So of course, it depressed me after a while.
  • People dressed like strip dancers all the time: even during the day! I can understand the need of being almost naked under the heat, and especially during the night, but during the day? It was like people were partying non-stop! And of course that’s what they did.
  • People allowed to smoke & drink everywhere, inside & outside: I witnessed with my own eyes the absence of restrictive laws in the Nevada state… but it was too much. People were going crazy. Hopefully we didn’t smoke, and only drank a little bit.

The End Of The (S)Trip

All in all, we spent 2 nights and 2 days in Vegas, from Saturday the 21st until Monday the 23rd, and it was too long; we eventually got bored on Monday morning and went back to McCarran International Airport 3 hours early.


And that concludes our trip to Las Vegas, which I won’t talk about again. Sure it was something to see once in your lifetime, but only once! I’ll probably never go back again for visiting, maybe for work and even then, I think I’ll pass. Vegas wasn’t for me!

And our journey continued from there to Los Angeles!

Until next time,

Lilly

aka The French Hat


Want to know what happened next during our summer trip around the world? Keep up with our adventures in my World Tour series!

On Top Of The Californian Hills | World Tour #7

Our second day in San Francisco started with a huge Starbucks latte in hand, which was fortunate in light of the day we had ahead of us.


Coffee At Alamo Square Park

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Ahhhh, the Painted Ladies. What a beautiful sight! I’ve taken many more pictures of them than those two, but I can’t overload this blog… I was finally being able to see them with my own eyes!

Their colors were indeed so vivid and each and every one of them was completely unique. To think that people actually live in them blows my mind as those may well be the most photographed inhabited houses of the world!

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We then went to take the bus that would take us west, to the Golden Gate Park where fun would never end!

A Morning At The California Academy Of Sciences

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© California Academy of Sciences / San Francisco

Although it was sunny until then, when we arrived at the huge building of the California Academy of Sciences it was almost raining. Ahhhhh the joys of being in a oceanside town…

Anyway, we rushed inside, to discover an ENORMOUS T-rex squeleton, welcoming us right at the entrance! We took some maps of the Academy and began the exploration.

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This wasn’t a museum, nor anything we’d ever visited: this truly was a temple for Science! There were so many things to see we didn’t know which one we would choose to start!

  • An Aquarium
  • a Planetarium
  • a Rain Forest
  • and a Natural History Museum !
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The Bio-Dome

We began the visit with the Rain Forest Dome, which was absolutely amazing: there were birds, fishes, turtles and butterflies everywhere inside !

About the Dome : Housed within a spectacular 90-foot-diameter glass dome, our rainforest exhibit is the largest of its kind in the world. With temperatures of 82–85°F and humidity at 75% or above, it will instantly transport you to some of the most biodiverse places on Earth. (source: California Academy of Sciences website)

It was a one-way path: you had to climb up a sort of sloped access ramp that was going all the way up to the top of the dome, and then you had to take a lift right at the middle to go down again.

So right after visiting the dome–and dodging hundreds of butterflies– we took the lift to go to the “Water Planet” area: it was still on the RainForest “journey” but focused more on species found in water.

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It was amazing, AGAIN. There were all sorts of fishes, turtles, insects, snakes, lizards, frogs and toads… likely to be found in a rainforest, such as the Amazon Rainforest or the Congo Rainforest.

To stay on the water side, we then pursued our visit at the Aquarium.

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The underwater way

And let me tell you, I had never seen so many species at once. Again, so many types of fishes, sharks, mollusks, shellfishes, corals, jellyfishes and so on!

Also, I really want to say that this aquarium was beautifully built: every fish tank was amazingly showcased, in a particular light for each one of them… A lot of work has gone into making this aquarium one of the most amazing I’ve ever seen.

We took some beautiful pictures in front of the fish tanks:

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And gazed at the huge, magnificent coral reef for a long time…

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And when we got out of the aquarium space, we came face to face with Claude, the Albino Alligator of the Academy!

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It was already midday by then, so we had lunch at the Academy’s restaurant, and we sat outside because the sun had made another appearance and we weren’t going to waste it!

And then we rushed the visit of the Natural History Museum, wanting to see the Planetarium as soon as the visit would open, but there were way too many people so gave up and didn’t end up seeing inside the Planetarium. Until next time!

Japan In California: The Japanese Tea Garden

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Right next to the California Academy of Sciences was a closed area that I wanted to see: the Japanese Tea Garden. The entrance fee was $9–for non-residents adults, and we stayed for over an hour.

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We enjoyed the calmness of the park despite the crowds of people, and took some of the coolest pictures of the whole trip!

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San Francisco Beach

Yes. We went to the beach. But it only had the name! Forget what you have in mind about Californian beaches… San Francisco rather looks like a French Normandy or Brittany beach!

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And we actually FROZE TO DEATH on this beach! haha That chilly wind though! The parents were muffled in their coats but I wasn’t feeling too good myself!

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After walking all the way to the ocean front, we went all the way back to the road to take the bus again.

The Golden Gate Bridge, Again

Yes, we went to see it again, but as the day before, it was literally wrapped up in fog, so we didn’t get to see it very well. But again, until next time!

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Lombard Street, Or The Crookedest Street In The World

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You can’t come to San Francisco without going to see Lombard Street: even on foot, we struggled to go up the hill right behind it (to arrive at the top of the street) and it was hard to climb down!

Yes, because there were many people, but also because the slope and the stairs were quite steep!

And I found the sign explaining a bit more about the street:

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And there were beautiful houses on that street, the blue one with the magenta flowers being my favorite one…

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The Cable Cars

To sum up this wonderful day of exploration and to come back downtown where our hotel was, we went to take a Cable Car (also because it was included in our CityPasses!).

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We waited for over an hour in a loooooong line outside, but it was worth the wait: the experience was amazing (I know I say this a lot, but really, it was!).

In fact I filmed the whole trip up and down the steep hill on the way downtown and will be posting that on my YouTube Channel as soon as I get the chance to edit the footage!

India In Our Plates

All in all, and from what I can tell, the best food of all the United States was in San Francisco!

The restaurant we went to to eat dinner was The New Delhi, and we very much enjoyed the food! It was delicious, and beautifully served.


Annnnnd that is a wrap for San Francisco! All in all, we didn’t stay very long, two full days and three nights in total.

The next day we went to the San Francisco International Airport: my mother took a flight to come back to France, and my father and I took a plane to Las Vegas. And our journey continued…

With love,

Lilly

aka The French Hat


Want to know what happened next during our summer trip around the world? Keep up with our adventures in my World Tour series!

San Francisco, Or The Fog City | World Tour #6

Around nine hours after leaving New York City on July 18th, we arrived in California and I set foot on the west coast of the United States for the first time in my life.


8 long hours on the plane helped me realize I wasn’t in New York anymore. The 7 magic days there were over. But I didn’t feel sad. A very different and beautiful place was awaiting me: San Francisco.

After a long-awaited dinner in a renowned Japanese sushi restaurant the night we arrived, here is what we discovered on our first day in San Francisco.

Getting Our City Passes

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This isn’t sponsored by City Pass® but I thought I would talk to you about them.

At first we were a bit worried those passes were just a rip-off for tourists, so we didn’t get any in New York. But we decided to get one each in San Francisco, as advised in my Lonely Planet® guide. What a wonderful choice we made: it allowed us to get around so easily and go on so many more adventures, not having to pay for it each time!

In short: we paid a rather small price each ($82) to get 4 tickets available in the listed attractions + 3 days of free MUNI public transportation as well as rides in the famous Cable cars! What more could we ask for? The price for the attractions were discounted at more than 40%, and they were:

  • The California Academy of Sciences
  • The Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise Adventure
  • The Aquarium of the Bay
  • The Exploratorium or The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

We did each and every one of these attractions and had the best time ever 🙂

To get our passes, we went to the San Francisco Visitor Information Center, located on 900 Market St, Lower Hallidie Plaza, near the Powell BART Station, but you can also buy them online, or before each of the attractions listed above!

Morning At Pier 39

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After getting our passes, we took the MUNI streetcar to Pier 39, one of the main spots of San Francisco. And it was everything we wished it would be.

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The sights were so typical, and to me it looked as if I had directly been taken to a movie set.

I mean there were just so many things to look at! So many cool-looking signs, shops, buildings, colours! This was definitely the hip spot, and I took great photos there.

Every single time I looked around I discovered something I hadn’t seen the first time.

Of course there were lots of people there, as this is definitely a must-see, and even though it was pretty early in the day, it was difficult to take pictures without anyone on them!

One of the main reasons I wanted to come to the Pier was to see the famous sea lions! The bay is notorious for being the habitat of many sea lions, that come and rest right next to the Pier!

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We looked at them for quite some time as they were so funny to listen to and observe! Very playful creatures 🙂

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Bay Cruise Adventure

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We couldn’t come to San Francisco without going on a boat trip to see the Golden Gate Bridge up close. So that’s what we did, with the Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise Adventure!

We hop on a big boat, which took us right below the famous bright orange bridge, and back around Alcatraz Island, all of this while telling us a bit about the history of San Francisco and those two sights specifically.

Although it was a bit cold, we had the best time, and you know I LOVE BOAT TRIPS!

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Alcatraz Prison

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Even seeing it now of the picture I took gives me chills. To think that people were actually imprisoned there, even Al Capone, feels very disturbing. Also, seeing it in person after having heard all those escape stories is really strange: how on earth could inmates have gone past those sharp rocks, and jumped into the ice-cold water without dying?

Also, it was funny to see how so many shops were DEDICATED to Alcatraz goodies and clothes! I loved it!

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Lunch At The Crab House

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You see those two huge crabs? Well they ended up in our stomachs, and I even wiped the melted butter off the pan (sorry, not sorry)! It was the most delicious meal EVER.

As neither of us had had to shell whole crabs before, we just had a few moments we’re not exactly proud of, as we couldn’t understand how we were supposed to do it! But then the waiter-in-charge came, cracked every part down, and we ate the whole thing(s)!

Afternoon At The Aquarium Of The Bay

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I don’t have much to tell about this aquarium apart from this:

  • There is a freaking underwater tunnel with actual SHARKS inside the water. YES. They swim directly above your head.
  • You can TOUCH small sharks, ray mantas, starfishes and anemones. YES.
  • If you ever come to San Francisco, you have to visit it. YES.

That’s all I need to say! We had a great time!

Quick Visit To Chinatown

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After leaving the Aquarium, we took the streetcar again, and then the bus, heading out to Chinatown.

This district is only 3 streets large per 5 blocks long, but it was like we landed it China: I much preferred this Chinatown, compared to the NYC Chinatown: the colours were beautiful, it was well maintained, and there were actual Chinese people walking around!

As a matter of fact, when we arrived we were stopped in the middle of the street because a shooting was going on! That was a funny thing to watch for a while 🙂

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Evening At The ExplOratorium

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At first we weren’t sure what it was: a museum? A science institution? Well, we found out that it was actually both of those things.

Our love of science was fulfilled as we had the best time walking along those corridors, experimenting every science installation that seemed fun!!! Hundreds and hundreds of installations, designed to make you learn more about scientific facts and phenomena, gathered on 3 levels! This was HUGE, and full of people!

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After almost 3 hours spent there and LOTS of scientific experiments and discoveries made, we decided it was time to leave, because we clearly didn’t have time to see everything… So, we went outside, and had a breathtaking view of the Bay Bridge

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That day we had dinner at the Fog Harbour Fish House, the first restaurant located on Pier 39. My mother and I had a clam chowder in bread bowl, specialty of San Francisco, which was absolutely delicious and looked like this:

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And then it was time to head back to our hotel!


Yes, we did A LOT of things that first day, as our first day in New York City, just because we were so excited to be here, and frankly we had the BEST time ever.

Hope this post made you wish you’d come with us!

Signing off,

Lilly, aka The French Hat

Reflecting On The Big Apple | World Tour 2018 #5

My story with New York City started some 20 years ago, which is about as far as my memory can get.

The City Of My Dreams And Tears

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Growing up, every wall of our home was filled with pictures of New York, mostly beautiful, huge puzzles that my Mom had assembled and hung on our walls. And I remember dreaming about jumping inside the pictures, seeing in real life what seemed to be this perfect place, with colours and lights everywhere…

My parents actually went on their honeymoon in New York City, some 27 years ago. In that faraway time, the Twin Towers were still standing, and terrorist threats were only an possibility, not so vivid in the minds of all inhabitants of the world.

I actually remember where I was that day in 2001, even though I still was very young, and I also remember the minute of silence we did at school. Even then, my eyes teared up, although I didn’t have any idea of what was really going on, except the essential: that people, lots of people, were killed.

Five years later, as my mom and I were huge film-lovers, we went to see the movie United 93, true story about this plane filled with civilians, that ended up crashing in the countryside rather than on the Pentagon, which it was aiming at. I cried my eyes out. This was heartbreaking.

The 9/11 Memorial

So, when we went to the 9/11 Memorial… and of course, I cried again. All those names, written down on the sides. Those huge holes in the ground, where the towers once stood. All those trees planted in memory of those who have died. The new tower, symbolically surnamed the ‘Freedom Tower‘. All those people reflecting, families praying in front of the name of their loved one, flowers put inside the carved names of those whose birthday it was that day… This was all too much. But I needed to see it, be there. Experience it. And try to understand, as best as I could what the scar that that day had left on the world was like.

If you ever go to NYC, I urge you to experience it as well. If your memory of this horrific event is blurry, either because you were too young when it happened or just not even born, please, document yourself. Because I believe it is our history that shape us, and the collective memory we share that makes us humans.

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The One World Observatory At The Freedom Tower

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The Freedom Tower, ending its course in the skies above…

We took time to visit the One World Observatory, which was one third of the price of the Empire State Building and just as good, if not better, for the view of the City. The tower is very futuristic, and the explanations on its observation deck pretty good. We stayed at a presentation given about the City and its history, and it was great!

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Conclusion: Until Next Time…

All in all, my time in New York City left me the feeling I imagined it would, but was truly unexpected as for its visual and some of its vibe. When we first got there, every minute I was thinking to myself ‘What the hell! this building is too big/short! this isn’t at the right place! this isn’t the right colour! this shouldn’t be here!…‘ What happened is that I had gotten a mental image from movies, TV shows and documentaries over the years, and that image was completely wrong. I just felt like everything was off, not as I imagined it, and it made me feel very sad for a few days…

But after a while, almost as if an adaptation had taken place, I just knew what everybody was looking for there: the energy of the place. Its incredible energy. One that can drive anybody, one that can touch anyone, and most of all one that can adopt any of us! Any colour, race, religion, politics, age, tastes… are accepted there.

New York truly is a haven, and although it might not be the case anymore in the future, due to the closing of frontiers, people who live there are the most eclectic I have ever seen in my life, coming from absolutely all horizons…

I definitely have a lot I still need to see and experience there, because in that sort of place, you’re never finished, and it still amazes you after decades of knowing it…


Hope I gave you enough insight, and transmitted you the will to visit New York City!

Signing off,

Lilly, aka The French Hat

Winning The World Cup & Enjoying Manhattan | World Tour 2018 #4

We had a total of 6 days in New York City: from July 12 to 18. In the first three days we spent a lot of time walking, at an average of 20 km per day, under a heat of 33 to 37°C! So for the last three days, we took it easy:

FIFA World Cup

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Waiting for the match to start…

On Sunday morning (July 15), we woke up a bit later, and went to a nearby pub to watch the FIFA World Cup final match between France & Croatia. It was such a good experience, and even more as France won!!! Since then, every person we’ve met in NYC has congratulated us for that win as soon as they understood we were French haha! We got to Times Square just in time to see french supporters singing their joy and  walking down the street screaming their joy!

Times Square Market: Cheap/Great Stuff

Sunday brought more closed streets in NYC creating more pedestrians areas, and street markets: there was a big one on Broadway, all the way from Central Park to Times Square. We wandered around, purchased cheap sunglasses & jewellery, and just enjoyed being there.

Chinatown: Not What It Once Was…

full-time-explorer-day-on-a-dime-how-to-spend-a-day-in-chinatown-for-under-30-new-york-city-budget-street-pagodaWe headed towards Canal Street, directly by subway. Originally we wanted to see the morning street market on Canal Street on Sundays, but we arrived there too late. That wasn’t a problem as we were still able to visit Chinatown for a while. My parents were very disappointed as it had changed a lot since they last visited. There was a pagoda in particular that they remembered brighter and cleaner…

As for me, I didn’t imagine Chinatown like that, and in retrospect that was the Chinatown I least preferred in the whole trip!

Little Italy

Little Italy was right next to Chinatown, and was so small I barely noticed it. We walked through it for about 20 minutes, purchased ice creams… and that was it. Aside restaurants, we didn’t see anything interesting. I’m sure the place is great when you live in NYC and want to get Italian food, and specialised supermarkets.

The Cloysters

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Going to the Cloysters, in northern Manhattan, was an experience in itself as it was so far: it took us nearly 45 minutes by subway to get there. Once we got out of the subway, everything outside had changed: we had left the noise and the smell of Manhattan behind us, and were now wrapped up in silence only broken by forest sounds… which was very nice.

We went to visit the buildings of the Cloysters for about 30 minutes as they were closing early, at 5 pm.

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The Met Cloisters, located on four acres overlooking the Hudson River in northern Manhattan’s Fort Tryon Park, is the branch of the Museum dedicated to the art, architecture, and gardens of medieval Europe. Deriving its name from the medieval cloisters that form the core of the building, it presents a harmonious and evocative setting for more than 2,000 exceptional artworks and architectural elements from the medieval West.

We then took the bus to go back downtown: we enjoyed the long ride as it took us through Harlem, and all the way back to Central Park.

Carriage Ride in Central Park

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IDK why but I kept wanting to call one of them Philibert as in The Beauty And The Beast haha

On Monday we had the chance to get on a 20 minute carriage ride in Central Park! This was a bit pricyn especially for tourists like us but we take it upon ourselves! haha

The driver was extremely friendly and he told us all about the parts of Central Park we were visiting. He also congratulated us for winning the World Cup, and took lots of photos of us inside the carriage!

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I love this one despite my cringy pose because our horse posed as well!!!

Tour Bus: City Sightseeing NYC

Yes… after almost a week of walking around on foot, we finally gave in and payed A LOT to go on a tour bus. We chose the red company (not sponsored) and it was actually great!

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We sat on the upper deck, even though it was pouring rain at some point: we had raincoats that they gave us and a lot of courage that day! We laughed a lot because we were completely drenched in the end… good times!


This concludes (almost) all the activities we got around to do in New York City, but obviously I wouldn’t conclude like that without talking about the One World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial; so stay tuned for the next article!

Take care & have a good one,

Lilly, aka The French Hat

Discovering Brooklyn | World Tour 2018 #3

On the third day, we decided it was time to leave Manhattan for a while, and cross over the most famous (and most dreaded for pure New Yorkers) bridge of New York, the Brooklyn Bridge, which inevitably leads to Brooklyn.

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Later in the week, we learned a bit about NYC and its actual size compared to Manhattan Island only. This was great information, so I’m gonna share it with you in this article.

NYC is actually divided into 5 boroughs, Manhattan Island being by far the smallest one after Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. The biggest in size is Queens, but the biggest in population is actually Brooklyn: 2,640,711 people live there, which is by itself more than the whole population of Paris, France! In total, the city of New York gathers 8,622,698 people, which places it just under London.

The Crowne Plaza Hotel

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That hotel is outstanding in every way: by its location on 5th Avenue, right at the corner of Central Park, by its magnificent architecture and by the fact it was featured in Home Alone 2 (which most of us my age saw a pretty fair amount of times – not gonna lie).

Who never wanted to see the inside of the Crowne Plaza, one of the most famous hotels of the world? Well I did, and my face was pretty much resembling that when we entered:

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The inside was all luxurious, and the hotel really is an attraction in itself. We then took the subway to head downtown.

The One And Only Brooklyn Bridge

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When we got there the sun was so bright I didn’t have enough of my hat and sunglasses: everything was reverberating way too much! But it didn’t prevent me from enjoying the sight: the Brooklyn Bridge was before my eyes!

All those metallic ropes really make a difference in its look, which is absolutely unmistakable. Surprisingly, we weren’t alone on the bridge (hmmm) and it took us about an hour and fifteen minutes to cross it, while obviously taking lots of pictures!

That’s like as good as it can get, really:

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Time in Brooklyn

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When we arrived on the other side, there was a lot to see: a hip-hop festival was being held under the bridge and the music resonated in the whole area which made the walk even more enjoyable. We headed towards the left side of the bridge (coming from Manhattan), at Fulton Park.

We ate at a restaurant called Cecconi’s, where we were seated with a direct view on the Manhattan Bridge. You know, it’s THAT bridge we see in movies, here in Once Upon A Time In America, of Sergio Leone:

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We then walked the entire way to the right side of the Brooklyn Bridge: this was Brooklyn Heights Promenade, which goes from Pier 1 to Pier 6.

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We saw some typical stuff along the way and took some very nice pictures, including the most beautiful picture I have so far (picture of this article), and this was taken on the right side of the BB, at the Old Pier 1.

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As it was Saturday, we saw a lot of people barbecuing all along the Promenade, some of them celebrating birthdays, with children playing everywhere… this was very nice.

Right before Pier 6 we purchased an ice cream, and went to wait in line for the free Governor’s Island Ferry that was departing at about 4:30 pm: yes we took all that time to walk the distance from Pier 1 to Pier 6!

All in all, the time we spent in Brooklyn was a big surprise to me. I didn’t expect to enjoy it so much but I actually did. I guess what the girls said in Sex And The City about it when Miranda and Steve go and buy a house there is overrated, and although it may have been true in the 90’s, it sure isn’t today (expect for the fact that NYC taxis still won’t cross over to Brooklyn).

The view on the Manhattan skyline was absolutely amazing the whole way, the people were all nicely relaxed, it was almost empty therefore very calming, AND it smelled better than on the island of Manhattan.

Governor’s Island

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Not a picture of mine, but it gives a stunning view of Governors Island and Manhattan from air!

You see the green island right in front of Manhattan skyline? Well, this is Governor’s Island! Not very far from Manhattan indeed. From Brooklyn it took us about 10 minutes to set foot on it.

The ferry ride was very short but long enough to help us breathe some nice fresh air from the ocean bay… and get some of the worst sunburns we’ve ever had! But don’t worry they later transformed themselves into a nice tan.

When we set foot on the island, we couldn’t believe what we were seeing: this island basically looked like a movie decor.

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The buildings were all built from those beautiful red bricks that are so typical of America, at least in the movies and TV shows I’ve seen during my life! It made think about The Walking Dead in particular, which wasn’t… very pleasant… kept looking over my shoulder to see whether a zombie was coming after me!

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© The Walking Dead

We tried to rent a trolley out, but we had to wait for an hour to get one… so we decided it was better to go and explore the island on foot. We first sat on a bench to people watch for a while. We also went to see Castle Williams, which was very interesting.

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Castle Williams is a circular fortification of red sandstone on the northwest point of Governors Island, part of a system of forts designed and constructed in the early 19th century to protect New York City from naval attack. It is a prominent landmark in New York Harbor. Together with Fort Jay (Fort Columbus), it is managed by the National Park Service as part of Governors Island National Monument.

During the Civil War, the casemates of Castle Williams were used to house newly recruited Union troops, to serve as a barracks for the garrison’s troops, and to imprison Confederate enlisted men and deserters from the Union Army. After 1865, it became a low-security military prison that was also used as quarters for recruits and transient troops. In 1895, Castle Williams was designated one of the U.S. Army’s ten military prisons.

We then caught the 5:30 pm ferry back to Manhattan, which again, was a very short but extremely enjoyable ride under the evening sun (where we got even more sunburnt).

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Tacuba: A Guacamole Paradise

imagesBack from Brooklyn we went to eat at Tacuba’s, a Mexican restaurant on 9th Av. between 53rd and 54th. The food was very nice, especially the homemade guacamolevery spicy, but the best one I’ve ever tasted. And I also had enchiladas for the first time!

Times Square At Night

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After the restaurant my father and I headed towards Times Square again, because I wanted to see it at night, and as you can see it was VERY crowded that night; but then again, when’s it not that crowded, I wonder.


Next time I go to NYC, I’d like to spend more time in Brooklyn, because that day I really understood New York isn’t all about Manhattan. Not anymore.

With love,

Lilly, aka The French Hat