Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom)

The Dom in all its Gothic glory.
Everyone knows most major cities have iconic buildings you must visit: Taipei 101 in Taipei; the Empire State Building in New York City; the Eiffel Tower in Paris, etc. For Cologne, it's the Cologne Cathedral, also known as the Dom. 

The Dom towers over downtown. I say "towers" rather reluctantly since you can feel yourself under its shadow as if its something menacing - and it does look menacing because of it's Gothic appearance. Yet, at the same time, the Dom is a church, so perhaps "protective" would be a better way to describe it's presence. Either way, you can't miss it even if you tried. I don't know why you would avoid it. Even if you aren't an architecture buff or of religious persuasion, a short one hour stop at the Dom is worth it. A person can't even make an excuse for not visiting it since it's across the way from the main station.


Cologne: My General Impressions

Right outside Cologne's busiest station.
On the train to Cologne!
A  display about German
World Cup uniforms.
Cologne is now by far one of my favorite cities. The people, the landscape, the sites...everything was awesome, particularly the people and atmosphere. Americans often stereotype Germans as being extremely stern and proper, the sort of people who aren't able to cut loose and have a good time or carry on a lighthearted conversation with a stranger. However, like most stereotypes, I don't believe that is the reality. The Germans I encountered were friendly, accommodating, and clearly loved to have a good time. I would describe the environment in Cologne as tremendously warm.

In my opinion, Germans have a "work hard, play hard" mentality. Everyone appeared to fall into their roles effortlessly by day, yet when evening time came, especially during the weekend, everyone seemed to be out having a good time. 


The Louvre

The main entrance to the Louvre is just under that glass pyramid.
It might sound a little crazy, but my least favorite museum visit was the Louvre. I don't think it has anything to do with the actual museum, the exhibits, the location, or anything. I think it mostly has to do with the timing both because I went at a busy time of day and my trip to France was short (10 days). I think if I had gone later in the afternoon after lunch, there would have been less people in the museum. Also, if I had several days to return to the Louvre,  I would have seen a lot more of the gems the museum has to offer.

A courtyard outside one of the wings of the museum.
Instead, I visited in the morning with a friend when all the tour groups were coming in - well, in general, a lot of people were arriving at that time because, I assume, many tourists start a least one of their days in Paris at the Louvre. Due to the number of people, it was difficult to get a good look at and take pictures of the famous paintings and sculptures. I would definitely recommend spending a complete day or two at the Louvre checking it out. I think this might be a little hard for tourists who come from out of the EU though. If you are an EU citizen 25 or under you can enter any museum within the union for free. If you are that same age but not an EU citizen, you get a discount, but perhaps it might not be big enough to justify paying money to get in the museum multiple days in a row since, unfortunately, there is no multiple day pass to get into the Louvre. In my opinion, it would definitely be worth it. 

When you disregard my mistake in terms of timing when going to the Louvre, it does live up to expectation as it has a seemingly endless catalogue of things to see. The map that you can pick up at the first floor of the museum is offered in several languages and tells you in detail where all the popular paintings and sculptures (Mona Lisa, Seated Scribe, Gabrielle d'Estrees and one of Her Sisters, etc.) are located. There's no need to worry if you're directionally challenged like myself, haha. All the different rooms in the Louvre are named and color coded, and there are several people around which are paid to help you get where you'd like to go.


Tuileries Park & Musée de l'Orangerie

Just inside Tuileries Park.
A manmade lake in the park in front of
the famous Luxor Obelisk with the
Arc of Triumph in the background. 
I chalk it up to my unfamiliarity with Paris, but I didn't know that Musée de l'Orangerie was in a park until I was led there by my friend. I didn't think it would be anything special, but Tuileries Park is gorgeous and worth a stroll or a sit if you're tired.

The day I was there, several people were visiting as it was a beautiful day. In my opinion, parks in Paris often have a "beach" feel as there is usually gravel rather than grass on park grounds. So, I felt everyone at Tuileries Park looked like a bunch of over-dressed beach-goers, especially around the artificial lake since it resembles a swimming pool. Nonetheless, the scenery was great, and I was content to be one of the many enjoying it.


Montmartre & The Eiffel Tower

The magnificent Basilica of the Sacred Heart
There are so many monuments, museums, restaurants, parks, etc. to visit in Paris that I had a difficult time determining what I wanted to see and what I could stand to pass up. I spent a noticeable amount of time in museums both in Paris and in the other cities I visited on my trip to Europe as many other places only needed a 1-2 hours to enjoy. Two of those places were Montmartre and the Eiffel Tower. Both offer stunning views and several areas to take great pictures, especially on a clear day. Luckily, I was blessed with several sunny, clear days throughout my trip, except on the day before I left!
The famous Eiffel Tower


Paris: My General Impressions

A statue of Joan of Arc
This summer, I went to Europe and visited three cities in three countries: Paris, France; Cologne, Germany; and Brugge, Belgium). I saw a plethora of interesting sights, encountered many nice people, and made several memories. I am going to recount all of my experiences here on my blog, starting with Paris as I spent most of my time there.

I have to say, I'm an extremely lucky person. During my first year in Taiwan, I met my friend Sica from France through a message board about living in Taiwan. She happened to be interning in the French department at the same school I attend. From day one we hit it off nicely, and I promised I'd visit her in France. After working hard and saving up, I was glad to have the opportunity to take the trip. Staying with a friend was not only nice for my wallet but soothing for my heart as I was comfortable the entire time and could follow someone who knows Paris like the back of their hand.

June 2014

June 2001

My first trip to Paris was in 2001 when I was 11. It was a funny trip as my dad I had only three days there and no plans or contacts. We had no clue where to go, what to see, where to eat, etc. Therefore, the highlight of our trip was seeing the Eiffel Tower and riding on a crappy tour bus. I remember I enjoyed it though as it was one of the legs of my first trip overseas (London, England and Lagos, Nigeria were the other stops on the trip). Naturally though, this year's return trip to Paris was significantly better. Seeing the city with adult eyes was markedly different in a positive way.


Ximending (西門町): Where the cool kids go

Ximending is all about bright lights and crowds.
Still daylight, just getting started.
You need two things to fit in at Ximending (西門町): an edgy outfit and some swagger. What if you only have one or the other, or neither? That's okay, you might not be one of the cool kids, but at least you could come to Ximending and enjoy the atmosphere. It's a place not unlike Harajuku (原宿) in Tokyo, Japan. There are many unique shops and resturants as well as seedier areas which give Ximending a slightly gritty charm. Come to Ximending with an open mind and no objective; you'll be sure to find or see something interesting and leave without disappointment.

The bustling exit 6.
If you want to be ejected right into the thick of things, the best way to get to Ximending is to take the MRT to Ximen station and leave through exit 6. Or, you can begin your evening with a little shopping and food at Shilin Night Market then take bus 250 from Jiantan Station to Ximending. Either way, you will end up in a prime position to start your stroll through this interesting section of town.


In Pictures: Kaohsiung's interesting buildings

There is a lot of interesting architecture in Kaohsiung. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see them all, but here are some photos of the famous Tuntex Tower (378m, 85 floors), which used to be the tallest building in Taiwan (it lost to the famous one in Taipei, you know), an interesting building down the street from Tuntex Tower (if you know the name, I'll be grateful if you tell me!), Kaohsiung Exhibition Center, and Holy Rosary Cathedral.

Tuntex Tower, shaded by a tree.


Miaokou Night Market (廟口夜市)

One of the best night markets I've been to is definitely Miaokou Night Market (廟口夜市) in Keelung (基隆).  I think the variety of food found at the market makes it stand out, especially the types of seafood.  The night market is the main attraction of the city, and it's worth going to Keelung just to eat there.

Even when it's raining, you can't keep the crowds away from this market!
This is the more touristy section with clearer signs and lanterns.


Blasian Cooking: Spicy stew noodles

山東大麵 (Large Shandong noodles) are
perfect with stew.
I think anyone living abroad for a long period of time begins to miss the comforts of home, whether it be shopping at certain stores, sleeping in your old bed, or eating certain foods.  For me, food is the only thing I really miss about home, aside from my family and friends of course.  Don't get me wrong; I love the food in Taiwan, and I eat pretty much everything and anything (stinky tofu, pig's blood, etc.)  It's not American food I miss as I don't typically eat fast food.   It's Nigerian food I crave.  Rice and stew, dodo (fried plantain), egusi soup (soup made with melon seeds)...the list goes on!

Luckily, I had the luxury of having my dad visit me last month.  Naturally, I was happy to see him, but I was also ecstatic about mom's cooking him, frozen and wrapped tightly so it would be safe during the 24+ hour journey.  Of particular note was the peppery, Nigerian tomato stew.  Why?  Because it goes amazingly well with noodles!


In pictures: Formosa Boulevard Station//美麗島站

Formosa Boulevard Station in Kaohsiung was opened in 2008.  It's very well known because of the Dome of Light in the middle of the station which was designed by Narcissus Quagliata.  Honestly, I think it looks just okay in person, but if you want to take pictures of it, you're very likely to pass through the station if you visit Kaohsiung!


Tiger Hill & The Humble Administrator's Garden

Two of the most popular places in Suzhou I visited during my 2011 class trip to China were the Humble Administrator's Garden (拙政 園) and Tiger Hill (虎丘).  Out of the two locations, I think I liked Tiger Hill more mainly because the pagoda there was gorgeous, but both are very scenic and popular spots worth visit.

At Tiger Hill.
Close to the Humble Administrator's Garden.


I am now 24! (+National Palace Museum & restaurant review)

Taking pictures of the yummies
before tucking in!
It seems like only yesterday when I celebrated my first birthday away from home, but my 24th birthday has already come and gone!  I'm lucky this year because I got to spend it with my dad; it was great to enjoy the day with a familiar face.  Lately, I've been subconsciously comparing my life with others which has blinded me to the fact that I'm doing quite well.  My goal is to keep that in mind, and keep working diligently in the years to come!

Anyway, I had a chill day checking out the National Palace Museum and then eating some awesome dim sum at Brother Hotel.


Lunar New Year 2014

A common sign placed in
front of businesses closed
during the new year.
A few days ago (January 31st) marked the beginning of the new year - the year of the horse!  Last year was my first new year here, and as I explained, it was a bit of a shock to the system for a few reasons.  But this year, I'm used to the stores being closed and all the chaos associated with preparations for the festivities.  I planned well and ran my errands at the bank and post offices before the government offices closed, yet I had to make a couple of killer trips to the grocery store right before the holidays started which meant pushing through crowds and not being able to buy certain things that were sold out.  But now, Taipei is relatively quiet and I'm enjoying it!  It's nice to ride the bus or walk down the street without there being too much of a crowd in places that are usually jammed with traffic.

New years items on sale at Carrefour.