Thursday, 24 July 2014

The Essence of Luxury

 At work, I deal with luxury items on a daily basis. I talk and walk luxury, and can only hope that I don't end up breathing luxury. I have access to the most coveted pieces that women swoon over and their men would kill for -- or rather, they would kill their men for if the latter don't deliver. 

My luxuries extend to the littlest things such as not being micromanaged, wearing a tiny summer dress and flip-flops on sweltering days, online shopping, and reading and writing during off-peak periods -- all at work. Occasionally, the boss makes me tea. Yes, you read it right. These are lavishness that make the sometimes insufferable daily grind a little bit more bearable.

Did I mention having a catnap on a sofa inside my office? I was on my break, by the way. Otherwise, that's abuse of privileges.


Over the years, my definition of luxury has evolved from my starry-eyed amazement at gilded, window-shopping variety of things with ridiculous prices that don't necessarily reflect aesthetics, to the search for aspirational intangible measures that can command the highest price tags should they ever be retailed.

Trouble is, they can't be purchased. You can chase them, but their reputation for elusiveness will leave you catching your breath out of frustration. Like vouchers, once lost, they cannot be redeemed. And once gone or spent, they can't be retrieved or reversed.  

In this day and age when the purchasing power of social classes is no longer demarcated by a pronounced disparity (except still with big-ticket items such as a house), anyone with enough means can have a piece of something that used to be exclusive to the moneyed lot.  

The most desirable though are never on display. They don't have a set price but their worth is inestimable, and their value is measured against substance more than just quality. 

 These are some things money can't buy and everything else that MasterCard can't cover.

Luxury is...

When your decisions aren't constantly based on limited resources and restrictive grown person's life requirements which involve both time and money for the former, and a job, mortgage/rent, bills, and debt for the latter (some would probably even say partner and children), then you are amongst the very lucky ones who can afford to take unpaid time off work -- at your convenience -- to travel or maybe go back to school or just simply take a break, and you still won't get the bailiff knocking on your door. Who wouldn't want to take the next exit?

To stretch it . Or be able to put to good use what you're served. Time is the one thing you can spend and save and it enriches your life both ways. Of all the intangible luxuries, time is the leveler as we all are entitled to exactly the same amount, but some get to allot theirs to activities we all would rather indulge ourselves in. . .if only we had the time.

It's not so much the physical youth as the youthfulness of your points of view in life that eventually matters. The idea that you can do anything and there's so much more ahead of you despite the niggling thought that you're past your sell-by date is hard to come by when you have lots of responsibilities on your plate. The fountain of youth sits on our mind and is waiting to be tapped.

Second Chance
If nature's gracious enough to grant you one, it's a sin not to take it. Close your eyes, breathe, and just give it a go.

True Love
I would never ever admit that I'm a romantic. Well, there, I just did. The concept of true love for me is never overrated. But I speak of true love in whatever shape and form. It's not just about that special person in your life. It could be your passion, that place you'd love to live in, your home, your dreams. It's luxury to feel settled where there's no gap left to entertain the buts, what-ifs, could-haves and would-haves.

Totally underrated. Sometimes, hammock days are well deserved. Or, maybe just an undisturbed peace and quiet in your little corner.

Friends and Family Within Reach
I'm very lucky to live, work, and play in a city whose desirability factor can rival that of New York's and Paris's. But there's a trade-off: I'm miles away from my family and closest friends. As I don't have the freedom to see all of them as much as I would love to, the unsettling feeling I speak of crawls in. Technology and social networks have virtually placed them cheek by jowl with me, but I long for their physical presence. It's such a luxury to see them once or twice a year. Some I had not seen for at least a decade. And I do wonder if I'd last another decade seeing them only via my mobile or computer screen.


Some people have grasped the art of being in the right place at the right time. Those who slam fate say that you make your own luck. It would be a privilege to have a brush with some then and be able to tweak it to your advantage. After all, we can all do with some help.

What is your luxury?

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Paris, Mon Ami

I'm probably one of those who aren't head-over-heels in love with Paris. That you have to be enamoured of the city of love is something of a cliché to me, but I can't help but be infatuated with Paris whenever we briefly meet again. That is, as long as I don't have to witness taxi drivers having a brawl outside Gare du Nord and tripping over our suitcases.

I was over for the weekend for work, and this time around, I managed to stroll and revisit some familiar sights and take in the beauty and peace of unfamiliar corners on my way back to my hotel. Come along with me.

The LGBT party continues, says a close friend, when I sent him a photo of this rainbow-coloured chair at Hotel Du Ministere along Rue de Surène. The receptionist says only 10 of these exist. It's called 'Proust Geometrica' designed by Alessandro Mendini for Cappellini.

My boss, another lovely colleague, and I, skipped the obligatory work drinks to saunter along the grounds behind the Palais Royal through to the courtyard of Musée du Louvre, and marvel at the world-famous Pyramide du Louvre, cross Place du Carrousel (but made a detour to Pont Des Arts first) to wander along the stretch of Jardin des Tuileries, and cap the night off by Place de la Concorde, waiting for the Eiffel Tower to be lit at exactly 10pm, which we decided to forego as we had an early start the following day. I'm sure the Tower would still be around when we go back in six months' time.

This would be my happy place; I love lone wooden benches in parks

Or a few together, where I can indulge my solitude

Who needs Evian when you've got this drinking fountain in your garden?

Or is it for washing one's feet or filling up the bucket to water the greens? For whichever purpose, I want one. I was told I can get quaint fixtures such as this in Lille.

Believe me, it wasn't this dark, but it was unfortunate that I left my camera at home, I had to make do with my camera phone.

I didn't even check which store this was, but I loved the window display. When in Paris, I don't really bother with the luxury fashion stores, but certain windows aren't to be passed up.

Deserted public spaces in London are a rarity, so this Parisian scene was an ultimate treat

Sunset view of the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel leading to Jardin des Tuileries, which we'll cross later

The Pont Des Arts footbridge in Paris made the news in early June this year when part of the parapet (it was still barricaded last weekend) collapsed inwards due to the weight of the padlocks attached to the metal mesh. There are love lock bridges in other cities but the Parisian one is the most renowned.

Here, lovers leave padlocks inscribed or engraved with their names to symbolise their love.

Looking through the mesh of love

I must admit I was secretly hoping to find a namesake on one of the padlocks while scanning thousands of it. But then again, all my namesakes are either dead, dying, or someone's grandmother as my first name was last fashionable before World War II. I bet anyone above 65 would only care to place  padlocks on their safe.

The love lock bridge over the Seine. How can you not fall in love here?

Lots of space reserved for all of us who haven't left their padlocks yet. Some people left their hearts in San Francisco; I have yet to lock my heart in Paris.

photo courtesy of my boss

The stuff that films about love and serendipity are made of

Julia and Mike got engaged here. . .

And this couple just got married. . .

And guess who found his very own padlock placed on his behalf? My boss's padlock was located exactly 61 planks from the Louvre side. I know, it sounds like a line in The Da Vinci Code. Can you imagine if I was tasked to find his padlock to culminate my probation? I probably would have been looking at the other end, and that would cost me my job.

The lamp post now also serves as a lock post

Back to the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, built to commemorate Napoleon's military victories before 1806. The arc is perfectly aligned with the obelisk in the Place de la Concorde, and inspired the design of Marble Arch in London.

The quadriga is Peace riding in a triumphal chariot. I must say that I'm partial to Berlin's Brandenburg Gate quadriga, which incidentally, was taken to Paris by Napoleon, having been the first to use the Brandenburg Gate for a triumphal procession.

I found this woman at Jardin des Tuileries. I probably would have done the same--but in a bikini and a pareo.

And oh, this grazing goat. . .

. . .who lingered at me as he (?) knew we shared the same zodiac sign. We're soul mates.

I suppose that one distinctly Parisian acitvity is sitting on lounge chairs around public fountains at dusk. We were discussing how we couldn't possibly engage ourselves in this back in London. I advocate silence and need a regular dose of it. I chose a chair directly opposite the obelisk in the Place de la Concorde. It's one of those moments when I didn't need a book or music, but could use a glass of wine instead, except I don't walk around town with a bottle of wine at the ready.

I did mention that I don't check out the luxury shops when I'm on a short trip to Paris, but when you're in the vicinity of this prominent shopping mecca, just allow your sartorial voice to guide you.

One of my favourite luxury brands. Can you guess which one this is?

If you've read or heard on the news about passengers being trapped in the tunnel for five hours, I was luckily not one of them. Mine was a more 'luxurious' wait for a couple of hours to get on board the Eurostar from Paris to London, and another hour to be cleared to cross the underwater channel. Of all days, it had to happen on the day I was coming back from Paris. 

Via my Instagram: the queue on Monday night at Paris Gare du Nord for the Eurostar trip to London's King's Cross St.Pancras

My blogger friend Forcailini would surely be chuckling about my Gallic adventure as she also virtually witnessed my eight-hour delayed flight to Amsterdam last year when two birds were sucked straight into a plane's propeller, causing a combustion, and prompting a shutdown at Heathrow as authorities were alerted of what was thought of as a terrorist attack. 

I seem to have jinxed short-distance trips, the only way to undo the hex is to take long haul flights instead.

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