Hello peeps, this is the last post to wrap up the trip in France. So the crazy me proposed the idea to Mau if she wanted to take a day tour exploring the French Riviera (Côte d'Azur), but that tour started in Nice and we were going to stay in Marseille. She said okay. It's pretty crazy and very very gung ho of us, considering it takes almost 3 hours by train from Marseille to Nice but we actually did that. I was just curious about Nice and Cannes so I guess I was interested in seeing what they're like.
We made it on time. Were rather confused on how to meet the guide that supposed to pick us up but we met him. His name is Arthur and he was handsome and super cute. His company has a weird rule requiring him to dress formally with suit and tie. I was actually smitten by him when I got to talk to him, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. Let's start with the trip and pictures. To be honest, I kinda forget the details of each of the places we saw. First stop was on top of a hill where we had a gorgeous view of Nice. The water and the sky was so blue and I have to admit that it was really really stunning.
I think we saw more of Nice and its beaches on our way back. I've seen the stunning Nice like the picture above, the beach where people suntan in the nude, as well as the city. It's a bit of a contradiction. The city is chaotic like any other French cities that are not small. I remember waiting to cross a street and there were teenagers girls screaming at each others at the top of their lungs. It was pretty scary for me, simply because I think I'm not used to these kinda things in the proper Singapore. Anyway, since we had time to burn when we were waiting for our train back to Marseille in the evening, we managed to go to FNAC and I got a picture book. I haven't started reading it though. Somehow I think it's important to get a book, one to help me improve on the language, two ... well just because I suppose to be the geeky one who reads :P Anyway I was rambling away there.
After that photo stop above, we went to Fragonard Perfume Factory in Èze. I love perfumes!!! We saw how they make soaps and perfumes and then we were given some perfumes to smell. I wish I can buy a lot of things there but in between not having much space in my luggage and not suppose to spend too much money unnecessarily, I only got 1 bottle. Then we explored Èze a bit. I remember thinking that it was quite pretty.
Then we were off to Monaco. I have to say it is a very very rich place. You can feel the rich atmosphere :P There were many yachts and when we were there, they're also preparing for the F1 race which took place at the end of May. The palace was a bit under renovation, it seems. I guess because the Prince is getting married in July, they are sprucing things up. Arthur did say that they are trying to fix everything so that everything will be ready to welcome all the guests for the wedding and obviously they want the wedding to be bigger or at least matches Prince William's. So anyway, in front of the Saint Nicholas Cathedral (where the wedding will take place), I had a little conversation with Arthur. Well he started it, asking me where I arrived from that morning. I asked if he's french because his english is pretty good and I wondered if could it be he's from Monaco. That would be something, wouldn't it? Meeting a citizen of Monaco. Well he's french, was bornt in St Barts, but moved to Paris when he was 2. He said the reason why his english is good is because he studied for his master degree in the United States. He tried to explain to me where St Barts is exactly but we just settled that my geography knowledge sucks and he laughed. Man! He's so cute when he laughed :P The curious me apparently wasn't satisfied that I told him his name was misleading and I asked if his dad was British. He said that yeah it's rare to see one being named Arthur but he said he sees more and more kids with that name but he's the oldest one he knows :P I asked what's the french version of it, it's basically the same, just with different pronunciation, that got us really laughing :D Anyway, on our way back from the whole trip, we found out he has a girlfriend (Sad!!! They always have someone, don't they? or gay?). His master degree was for Marine Biology from the University of Hawaii. Upon finding that, I exclaimed, you should be a scientist! In which he said, I am a scientist. So the curious (or kaypoh me) asked, why are you doing this then? He said when he was graduating, there wasn't any decent paying job. There was one in Kenya but the girlfriend wasn't ready to move there. Then there was a job offer from Exxon but he promised his teacher not to take it. Well he did get the scientist job in Nice but it's starting in June, so I guess meanwhile he's just doing this whole tour guide thingy. You know regardless of me being so "kaypoh", I did hold my tongue and I didn't say, well I hope you really end up with your girlfriend because you are making a life changing decision based on her. See, I guess I really don't know what it's like to have that one great love in which you are willing to let go big things in your life. I like to think that, that great love will always be there no matter what and allow me to reach the things that I want to reach. Let's hope that I'll have it someday and I'll let you know what it's like, if it's worth sacrificing the things in your life or if it's really like the fuel that help you reach your goal in life. Maybe it's both :)
Hmmm ... upon writing all this, I feel it's very very bad of me to be writing this guy's life here. I know I would feel rather annoyed and shock if someone write such details description about me online without asking my permission. Hmmm ... well maybe he will never find out? If he does, he seems like a nice guy and I will be more than happy to remove all that I wrote about him. So anyway, that's Arthur. Mau was amused in seeing how taken I am by him :D Well it's always nice to see a handsome nice guy!!! and he's real nice. Well maybe he's required to, to be polite and all, but he seems genuinely nice. I am blinded :P Okay, enough about the boy. So this is Fontvieille, Monaco. For more picture of Monaco, you can go here.
After Monaco, we went to St. Paul. There's a lot of art shops / galleries there. Some are interesting. Again like all the places in Côte d'Azur, this place is also for the rich and famous. Apparently Michael Schumacher recently bought a property there.
Next stop was Cannes. Err ... I can't say much about Cannes. People were preparing for the film festival at that time and by the beach they also started setting up tents and stages for parties and such.
The last stop was Antibes. We saw the old lighthouse and the view from the hilltop was amazing. The blue water and sky looked rather peaceful. Then we also saw some of the rich yachts docking.
Did I fall in love with Côte d'Azur? I have to say no, not really. Somehow I feel I'm not rich enough for it :P The blue water of Nice is amazing though especially on some part of the beach when there weren't many people. Anyway, I put everything in 1 set in flickr, except for Monaco because it's a country on it's own, you can see them here.
Coincidentally on the flight back to Singapore, I sat next to this french girl from Nice. She looked so young, at most 22, maybe not even 20 yet. I have to say, at my age, other people are most probably younger than me, even perhaps Arthur :( Anyway this young girl was travelling to Bali alone!!! Again the protective older side of me came out, I was praying for her so that she would be okay. It's her first time in Asia. She does speak english but her tendency was to speak in French. She should be back in France now. She said she was going to be spending 12 days in Bali. I hope she had a nice experience and comes back to Bali soon. I'm passionate about people visiting Indonesia :) Anyway it's a totally different place and culture for her. I was really amazed by her. I told her that she's so brave, in which she said thank you, grinning. I admire her. YeeMaggio asked me why I admire her when I had already done a trip alone myself to a far away land, in which she admired me for that. I guess because I did my first trip alone at an older age, with some knowledge of the local language, with a comfortable amount of money. To be travelling alone to a far away land at this girl's age was just amazing for me. I do have to say, everyone has their own time in this world. I don't think I was ready to be travelling alone at her age. God gave me the right time for my journey and with that faith, we should believe that whatever it is, it will come at the right time for us. Okay, so that's it guys, the end of the France part. I actually feel a tiny bit sad now :P It's like closing a chapter but I do have to start the Spanish chapter and I'm kinda very interested to see the pictures. It's late, buonanotte tutti!
Hello peeps, before I continue with the story of my trip in France, let me just begin with normal life first. Well actually I'm not gonna talk much about this week. Yesterday I had Indonesian lunch with La Gioia, YeeMaggio, and NanSee. I kinda forced these non-Indonesians to have Indonesian food just because I hadn't eaten Indonesian food for almost a month. I think since before I left for my trip. Lunch was at Tambuah Mas and it was really really good (at least for me), the fried chicken wasn't its strong suit though. After lunch we went to watch Kung Fu Panda 2. I actually wasn't so keen in watching anything in 3D anymore but La Gioia seemed to be more interested in watching it in 3D, so we did and I have to say that it was a good choice. I think the 3D effect was nicely used and overall I think the movie was really really good. I think it's even better than the first one and it's rare for a sequel to be better than the first movie. I think the story has more weight in it (can I use the word 'weight' to describe the story?) and also I love it because the cinematography is beautiful. As for the characters, I think Po the panda is showing more and more of Jack Black's mannerism in its movement. His vocabulary is also definitely one that comes from Jack Black. The bad guy this time around is a peacock and I think he's really cool when he spreads his wings. I think it's very clever of the people in Dreamworks to make full use of the characteristics of each animals. I think it's also very clever of the writers not to show Po to be extremely amazing in his kungfu, instead they showed him relying on his friends a lot in each fight. I guess the part where I was perhaps rather disatisfied was when he was shown to be able to master moving a water drop easily, but I suppose it's a movie afterall. Oh yeah I have to add, Po called his teacher Master Shifu, it's actually redundant! :D Well, it's been 2 pretty good movies in the past 2 weeks. Next week is when Hangover 2 comes out. I really hope it's not gonna be so bad. So far the summer blockbuster movies have been pretty good for me, looking forward for more :)
Now let's talk about the trip. So after 2 nights in Avignon, we moved to Marseille. We didn't miss the train this time around :) It helps when your hotel is just next door to the train station. Actually Marseille wasn't in the early plan. I planned to just stay in Paris and Avignon while we're in France. However I made the mistake of not reading the day tours that I wanted to take correctly and so we kinda run out of ideas on what to do in Avignon. I was looking around at other cities in the south of France and somehow Marseille was chosen. I actually kinda forget why this city was chosen after all the other cities. I guess because it allows us to keep our schedule in going to Barcelona and though it's far from Nice, it allows us to arrive in Nice just in time for a day tour that I wanted to take in Nice. It's rather a crazy story which I will tell you more in the next post. I turns out I need to write another post to finish my story about my time in France.
Okay let's go back to Marseille. We arrived, put our bags in the hotel, and instead of exploring Marseille, we went straight to Aix en Provence. Since I didn't plan to stay in Marseille, I didn't read up or plan much about exploring the city. I instead read about Aix en Provence and I did hear about this city from LM who stayed there during her holiday last year. So I thought it's a nice city and so we took the bus there. When we got off the bus, we're actually a little confused about where to go and we met a young South Korean girl as we were looking at the map. Her name was Wang Yong (I think that's how you spell it) and she's studying in Bath, England currently. She was alone spending her easter holiday in the south of France. I thought it's pretty brave of her, being 22 and all and alone, and not speaking the language. By the way, she went to the Buckingham Palace with her friends to see the kiss during the wedding day. Anyway, we found the center of the town, went to the tourism office, got a map, and started walking. I didn't feel much for this city. It was bigger than Avignon and I didn't feel it to be pretty charming. Our first stop was a bakery which was amazing. Every single thing there was amazing! I love it! I got some calisson. I think Aix end Provence is its birth place. People are raving about it, including the uncle I talked to in Paris, but I'm not really a big fan of it. It's not as extremely amazing as I expected it to be. Well maybe it's just me. So anyway, Aix en Provence is Cézanne's hometown. The map I had shows many places related to his life. We ended up visiting the Granet Musesum but I don't recall we saw much of his works there. I remember seeing a work from Picasso though. It is a small museum. Then we walked around and I was not impressed with the town. We ended up in Vendome Pavilion, the small garden was pretty nice, we didn't go inside the building though.
This is where I decided to just go back to Marseille and see what Marseille has to offer and so we parted ways with the South Korean girl. Meeting someone her age often makes me realize how old I am and it gets me feeling rather like the older sister or something that I really hope she'll be alright in her trip and nothing bad happens to her. Anyway, I have only few pictures of Aix en Provence, you can go see them here.
Knowing that we don't have much time to spend in Marseille, I only had one thing that I wanted to see there and it was the Basilica Notre Dame de La Garde. For some reason (which I also don't know why), I am one who don't really take public transports if I can, in the cities I travelled in. If somewhere in the world wide web it is written that you can walk there, I would walk there. I'll take the metro because I think that is straight forward but I don't take buses. This time around, Mau kinda made the decision of no, we're not gonna walk there, we're gonna take the public transport! I have to say, she made the right decision. First we took the metro down to the old port (Vieux Port). This is a port where there are many boats dock.
Arriving there, we went to the tourism office to ask about the least painful way to go to the Basilica up on the hill. The nice guy told us the bus to take and after some time waiting, the bus did arrive. It happened to be a crazy day because there was a pretty massive jam. I got a seat next to a french lady and I asked her if it's like that every day. She said no and she wasn't sure why the traffic was so bad that day. When we got through the jam, it was time for the bus to navigate through the very narrow and pretty steep road up the hill. Both me and the lady thought it was very incredible that the bus and its driver could do this. The lady was pretty nice. She thought I was a japanese and I think it's hilarious. Thanks to her, we go off at the right stop which is actually the last stop for the bus. The bus stops in a few bus stops near the church compound but if one doesn't stop at the last bus stop, one still needs to climb up to reach the church. The lady said she lives next door to the church but there's nothing else but the church in that area so I wonder if she's actually a nun but I don't know what the french word for 'nun' is so I couldn't ask her. Little conversation like this really made my trip memorable. I got to talk to a stranger and obviously my french is bad but to be able to speak to her in french and she understood me and I understood her, I think it's pretty cool. It would be good if our conversation can be deeper and longer, however I can only speak so much with my limited french and I don't think she speaks english.
Anyway I was blown away by the basilica. Its location being on top of the hill, I guess made it not so easy for people to visit. Well maybe because it's already pretty late in the afternoon when we were there that there weren't many tourists and I liked it that way. Also because of its location, you can see a great view of Marseille. The sky was blue and bright and you can see the blue sea as well. It was breathtaking. The church itself is so beautiful for me. Granted it's not the biggest and richest (richly decorated with gold artifacts and such) church I've seen but I love it. The lady said, La basilique est très jolie. I thought jolie (cute / pretty) is understating it, I thought it was really really beautiful. I wished I could tell the lady how I love the church. It's bright and airy and being bright is such a plus point because many of these old churches tend to be dark inside them but this church is naturally bright with its windows. It has a lot of decoration related to ships in it. It makes sense because Marseille is a port town. I think it makes it pretty unique. As for the facade, the marbles reminded me of the Duomo in Florence and Siena. I just read in Wikipedia, it seems the white marbles did come from Carrara, the same place where the marbles that were used in the Duomo in Florence and Siena come from. The basilica really took my breathe away. The wind was strong though and at one point it made it pretty scary to explore the outside area. The silly me felt scared I would be blown away. Hmm ... now that I wrote such glorious compliments about it, I kinda missed being there, seeing the view I saw and feeling what I felt. It made me hope and wish I can go back to Marseille again one day, see the church, and spend longer time there. It felt pretty peaceful to be seeing Marseille from the top, especially knowing that it's so busy and chaotic down there. The church is the only thing we saw in Marseille, so I don't have many pictures of the city. You can go here to see pictures of the Basilica and Marseille's Old Port (Vieux Port).
By the way, the hotel we stayed in Barcelona was very very near Plaça de Catalunya and Las Ramblas. I was thinking that it must be so crazy there yesterday with the Champions League final between Barça and MU, which Barcelona won :) Also, with the recent Spanish protests happening which I think will continue to happen in the near future, I feel kinda blessed that it didn't happen when I was there and at the same time, since I fell in love with Barcelona, I really hope that things will get better in Spain soon and this beautiful and amazing city don't get ruined.
PS: I couldn't remember where I watched this music video, most probably in Paris. Anyway I made a note to get this song and I did and I got the whole album, Cantina Paradise, and I LOVE IT!!! It's interesting to know that the singer was bornt in Marseille :)
So let's continue with the story of my trip, though actually it's better if I go to sleep now, but since there are so many things to go through, I better get them all out before I forget them. Let's begin.
So it was on Tuesday (May 3rd) that we were supposed to leave Paris and head to Avignon. We actually missed the train! By 6 minutes. I don't know whose fault it was and perhaps there's no point of assessing whose fault it was but I couldn't help to take it as my fault. If only I had made it so that we left the hotel earlier and if only I had been more alert perhaps we wouldn't have been lost on our way to the metro station (which we had used a few times) and didn't lose so much time. I was pretty devastated because I don't like mistakes and failures. I put a lot of F in my facebook's status that day and Carl said that I wasn't meant to take that train and I should take it easy. Still, an 85 euro mistake is (still is) very hard to swallow :( The new tickets cost more than double than the previous ones and I still feel kinda upset about it because I planned this and yet it got screwed up. If God wants me to learn about letting go and accepting failure in this trip, I know I still fail pretty badly in that. I just can't take things not going as I want them to be, but that is the very essence of life, no? Okay, enough ranting about things that I shouldn't keep in my heart anymore.
We made it to Avignon although a bit rather wrongly. We supposed to arrive at the Avignon Centre train station but the replacement tickets that Mau got, got us to Avignon TGV train station. Luckily there's a shuttle bus and for some reason, it was free. I have to say that in Avignon TGV train station, we saw a bird who's flapping its wings frantically and yet it didn't move at all, it just kinda hovered in the sky. We don't know why and we are kicking ourselves for not taking any picture or video of that bird. Other people were looking at the bird as well but I didn't see anyone taking any picture or video either. Anyways, back to Avignon. Avignon is a town on the south of France. Our hotel was near the station. I'm gonna tell you how directionally challenged I am. To go to the main sights of Avignon, one just needs to follow the straight road that runs from the train station to the centre of the town's historical landmarks. A straight road and I managed to take a turn somewhere that I was a bit lost when I wanted to go to Palais des Papes!!! Stupid me!
Palais des Papes was the first thing I saw in Avignon. I didn't it like much. It gave me the creep. I think because it's old and rather dark and I just can't see how the popes could love staying there. Maybe it was rather nice back in its heyday. So I didn't spend much time there. Here you can see the picture of Palais des Papes and the one with the gold Virgin Mary is Notre Dame des Doms.
After leaving the palace, I wondered around and next door there's the entrance to the garden Rocher des Doms. I love this place. It was not completely void of people but there's not really many people there and I just had a nice time, strolling alone, looking at everything and taking every view. I was feeling rather at peace and I guess I calmed down because now that I think of it, I didn't think about the fact that I missed the train when I was there, I was just thankful to God for being able to be there. There's a cave like structure with a fountain inside it. The only way I can explain it is it's like an open cave. Anyway you can go to the top of it and it's pretty fun navigating yourself among the rocks. I spent quite some time looking at the people there and looking around, there's a small vineyard nearby. Definitely my favourite place in Avignon. I didn't actually visit many places there. I did cross one thing that I wanted to do in France, which was to go to Carrefour :P Anyway, digressing. After which, I went to see Pont d'Avignon / Pont St-Bénézet. The ticket covered both Palais des Papes and Pont d'Avignon. Pont d'Avignon is a bridge which is now only half of what it used to. Flood caused a lot of damages to the bridge and so some parts of it collapsed. Now it's like a bridge which is a bit stuck in the middle of the Rhône River. I didn't listen to the whole audio guide. Basically there's a story about a shepherd (Saint Bénézet) who got a vision from God to build a bridge. The local government said there's no way and no point of building a bridge. Then he kinda managed to lift / put a heavy stone as the foundation of the bridge and people then became believers of him and started building the bridge. So that's Avignon. As I said, I didn't explore much. There were a lot of shops selling lavender products (Provence is famous for its Lavender) but I didn't get any. I thought I'd come back to the shops, but I didn't have the time to. To see more pictures from Avignon, you can go here.
The next day we had Provence tour. The day started with visiting Orange. We saw its Triumphal Arch and the ancient Roman Theatre. Granted the Roman Theatre is not as what it used to be but it is still a working theatre. If I recall correctly, I think a production of The Phantom of the Opera is gonna be staged there soon. I think it's so much fun and definitely memorable to perform at such an old stage in which it has been used for hundreds of years.
After Orange, we had wine tasting at a vineyard, Ogier, which is at the Châteauneuf-du-Pape area. I don't drink a lot and often but I kinda like visiting vineyards :) and now I kinda like the smell of wine as well :) Anyway at Ogier, the grapes are grown on 4 different types of soil, there's the soil that are covered with rocks like pebbles and other are covered with other types of rocks. The same grapes grown under these different soils do produce different taste of wine, it's interesting.
After the wine tasting, we headed on to the village of Roussillon. This place is so beautiful for me and its images really lasted in my head. When I was in Provence, I didn't think that Provence was so amazing actually. I kept on comparing it with Tuscany and I was thinking of how I love Tuscany more. However Roussillon with its colors were just amazing for me. The ochre landscape is striking being set against the blue sky. I love it so much! There's a hiking track that one can follow to explore the area. Unfortunately we didn't have much time to spend in this village that I only explored a little bit of it. I felt kinda sad about it. Even though I only went in for a short walk, I love it so much. The colors were amazing for me. Even though the part which I walked in was small and the landscape were totally different, but because of the colors I kinda had a James Franco's 127 hours moment there :P I really really think this place is awesome. I guess because I've never seen anything like it before.
After Roussilon, we visited Gordes. Unlike Roussilon, this village is kinda all white. With the sun shining brightly, Gordes appeared kinda shiny :P As I was looking at the pictures I took, I really have to say that this village is quite pretty :)
The last stop was to see Pont du Gard. Pont du Gard is an aqueduct, which means a bridge which was used to transport water as well. It was big and the sun was still in the sky but it hit the wall at such an angle that my head was telling me how I love the way the sun kissed it. I love it because it just looked so majestic and as usual I'm a sucker for historical and old stuff and to see something like that, I was just in awe, in full of gratitude to God that He gave me the chance to see such things. My travel always made me feel thankful to God for being alive and for being able to be in the places I've been and see the things I've seen. Is it wrong for me to say that I need to travel more, simply because travelling brings me the moments I am most thankful for my life?
Anyway, to see more pictures from the tour, you can go here. The weather was great but the wind was crazy. Adeline, the nice and sweet guide, explained to us that the wind is known as Le Mistral. I remembered Mr. Ben explained this on his first class with us. It's a really really strong wind. There were times when I felt that I was being pushed. But this wind drives away the cloud and as a result you get a really really blue sky. Yeah, it also causes them not to have much rain, I think they have less than 30 days of rain a year but since they have rivers all around, I think they're doing okay and Provence is not actually a hot place. I remembered when we were driving, I loved how the strong wind caused the grasses to move like waves, it looked pretty nice. Still, I can't really say I'm a big fan of the wind :P I'm gonna stop now. I think one more post about France and we're done with France *hopefully* Darn, it's really late now, I really have to go to sleep. I really don't know how to face Mr. C tomorrow :( Buonanotte tutti!
Ciao tutti! I'm back. I've been back for a few days now. Arrived here on Wednesday and I've been trying to install myself back to real life, normal routine and such. It hasn't been going great physically though. I'm still feeling so so tired. I'm tired and yet I don't sleep well and I get headaches sometime. Perhaps this is how jetlag feels like. I want to blog about the trip and post pictures and all but with close to 20 GB of pictures, 4700 something of them, I don't know when I will finish sorting and uploading them all. I'll try my best getting them out and writing about the trip, okay. I'm gonna start now but let's just begin with what's been happening with life since I came back first.
Well I never discuss certain things about my life and it will remain so. Let's just take it as I've been living the normal life routine as usual and normal life routine include french class on Saturdays. Yesterday was my first time attending class with Mr. C. Jacq told us that his class is tough and stressful. I didn't expect it to be really really stressful and yet it was, I was at lost for words, literally since I speak only little french. The class is suprisingly so big right now. I don't like it because it feels less personal. Our level is supposed to be advanced but I don't think I'm advanced enough for him :( The rest seems to be keeping up with him, it's crazy. His choice of topic is also very advanced that it's a totally different ball game. Another really stressful thing is his workload. Man! Students days supposed to be way behind me now. I need to really step it up but I just don't have any energy for it now.
After class was lunch at an Italian restorant with La Gioia. I'm still missing Italia so very much, so I'm all into pasta and I finally got my panna cotta. One of the waiter in Rome told me, since it's not summer, they're not serving panna cotta yet. I don't know if he's right. After lunch we went to watch Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. I'm a huge fan of Captain Jack Sparrow so watching this movie is a must. I don't know if it's because I was so tired but I kinda had to force myself to stay awake at the front part of the movie. Well perhaps the movie is not as exhilarating as one always hopes in a Pirates movie but I will still always come back because of Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow. He's still so awesomely cool. As for the story, I think it was so so. It was pretty straight forward. No major twist or turn. I don't feel much for Penelope Cruz's character. There are 2 new characters added in the mix, the clergy man and the mermaid. They seemed to be added to fill the void which was left by Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley. These characters were played by not so famous actors (yet) but I thought they were pretty nice actually. I choose the clergy man over Will Turner any time and I also think the mermaid was prettier than Elizabeth Swan :P As much as perhaps I'm not so impressed with this movie, I will definitely come back for future pirates movie for as long as Captain Jack Sparrow by Johnny Depp is in it :) So that's life, let's talk about the trip.
I'm only gonna write about the time I spent in Paris, simply because those pictures are the only pictures I managed to upload in flickr so far. I arrived in Paris' Charles De Gaulle on 30th April 2011. The flight in was with Air France. I didn't like Air France much, but since KLM and Air France have merged, I have no choice in it. I was so happy that it was KLM that brought me back to Singapore. Anyway, arriving in the airport was rather weird for me because after we landed we actually took the stairs to get off the plane and walked to the ground in which a shuttle bus was waiting for us. It was early morning (6 am something) and it was so cold. Immigration check was a breeze. The officer just asked me to scan my finger in the scanner and no other question was asked. I was very very pleased about it. Then I followed what my research told me and waited at the train departure area until Mau landed. She did land and we found our train, found our hotel and we did discover that the Eiffel Tower was within walking distance from our hotel. We went there and parted ways because she was trying to meet her friend and I wanted to visit Museum D'Orsay.
Since May 1st is a public holiday in France too, it kinda threw off my plan, because many things close on that day and on Monday, many museums are closed :( Anyway, I couldn't find the metro station in Eiffel and I didn't feel like taking the metro as well. The metro and the metro stations are not really nice. The stations sometime smell of pee and it's dingy and the trains are not any better. I don't understand why people need to open the door to the train themselves. We are so pampered here in Singapore. So anyways, I walked all the way to Museum D'Orsay which was a really long walk but I got to see Paris. There was sun but it wasn't so hot. Reaching D'Orsay, I was so disappointed because the queue was crazy long and I didn't have the time to do that because I had a Versailles tour in a few hours :( So that was the first disappointment. I decided to go for lunch instead.
Mau joined me for lunch and then we were off in our Versailles tour. Versailles is one of those things in my life list that I wanted to see in life. I grew up with Japanese comic books and one of the things I read was Rose of Versailles and its spin off, Lady Oscar by Riyoko Ikeda. In fact Rose of Versailles was kinda my source of information for the French revolution which is not really a good source since it was peppered with fiction. Anyway, I'm thrilled that I finally got to go there. The compound is huge and looking at the map, I didn't see all of it. Since it's so big, perhaps one needs a whole day to explore the whole thing. I love the garden. It's huge and a bit like a maze. One can just get lost in it. Imagine if you live in the castle and you need to get away from someone, you can just choose a section of the garden and just enjoy the fountain, the air, and the sun. You can see some pictures here.
The next day was Sunday. We had a Giverny tour. Thank God that as I confirmed the Versailles tour, I enquired about this tour and found out it leaves in the morning on Sundays instead of in the afternoon as written in my print out. I don't know much about Giverny, I just stumbled into it when I was browsing on tours in Paris. Monet the painter spent a lot of time and his remaining days in Giverny. So we were visiting his house and his gardens and I have to tell you, it's the most beautiful garden I've ever seen in my life! He has 2 gardens. The first one is in front of his house which is bursting with colors of flowers, it was amazing! It's not so big but not so small as well, you can find your little corners of peace there. I was told that the flowers are different depending on the seasons and I can imagine so. When I was there, there were many tulips and many other flowers. The colors were just incredible! The second garden was a very short walk away. It's sometime called the water garden or the japanese garden. This is the garden in which he had the pond which inspired his water lilies paintings. Unfortunately when we were there, no water lilies blooming. It's still a nice garden, it's different. It's more green but you get the pond and the small river running around it. It's a different kind of feel and seeing the reflection of the plants on the water is amazing. I still love it but I guess I like the colorful garden more. Too see the pictures I have of them, you can go here. Monet's house itself is rather small but it's not so tiny or anything. I just find some of the bedrooms to be really small, around the size of my room actually. I do like his sitting room though (I think it's called the sitting room). It's kinda spacious. Right now it's filled with replicas of his paintings but I can imagine how nice it is to be sitting in it, in his sofa, reading, having tea, sleeping, again enjoying the nature outside from the windows and the sun and the air. A good relaxing existence, I imagine :P
We were actually joined by Mau's friend and her colleague in this tour. After Giverny, we went for lunch and headed to Basilique du Sacré-Cœur. The way this church is located reminded me of Trinità dei Monti. You have to walk many flights of stairs to reach Sacre Coeur but the feeling I got getting to this church was that of utter strangeness. There were so many people in the areas below the church doing all kinds of different things which is weird considering that it's happening in front of a church. Well some were pretty harmless but people making out and drinking beers in front of a church is just too strange for me. Well to be fair perhaps those grounds don't belong to the church so they cannot say anything about it. Anyways I felt really really bad that I didn't actually try to take any picture inside the church at all. There was a mass going to happen and yet they still let tourists in. It was so weird.
After that, Mau accompanied me to go to the Pantheon. I wanted to go to the Pantheon because the one in Rome captivated me so much so I wonder what the Pantheon in Paris would look like though I know there will not be any hole in the center of its roof. We got lost. When we got there, it was closed. Perhaps because it's Sunday but it could also be because it's May 1st. Then we walked and overcame being lost many times and we reached Notre Dame de Paris. I have to say that I was very very bad. There was a mass going on and again like in Sacre Coeur, tourists could still go in and people were taking pictures all over and I was one of them :$ Yeah I am very very bad! It's so weird. On one side I get that they perhaps want to be nice by letting people come to see the church eventhough there are masses but on the other side I felt it was so distracting to be praying and listening to a sermon when there's so many noises and camera flashing from the tourists. When I was in Rome last Friday (the 13th), I wanted to enter the Pantheon and there was a mass. They actually closed it for the tourists during the duration of the mass and people just had to wait outside by the door. It's inconvenient but I guess it's better that way. I guess it's just 2 different ways of doing things in France and Italy. So anyway, I didn't go up the Notre Dame de Paris. Perhaps one day when I get to go back to Paris, I'll do this and I'll take better pictures of the gargoyles.
After Notre Dame, we went to the Eiffel Tower. The sun was setting and it was getting cold and the queue to go up the tower was crazy. We didn't go all the way to the top because we were tired of queuing. The view was pretty nice though. I think the Eiffel Tower is kinda over rated but yeah I get the draw, it's iconic. I didn't step into Champ de Mars at all though. Again perhaps this is one of the thing I have to do if I ever come back. Anyway, here's a picture of Paris taken from the tower. To see more pictures of Paris, you can go here.
The next day was Louvre day. The museum is so big and we were there before opening time (9 am) and I think I left sometime before 3 pm. There are just so many things to see. I did see the Monalisa. It's a big draw there. The pushing and shoving was crazy, I didn't like it very much. To see some of the things I saw, you can go here.
After Louvre, I actually didn't have anything planned. Initially I thought I would go to the Orangerie to appease my disappointment for not being able to go to Museum D'Orsay. However, after Louvre I just had enough arts for one day, so I decided, okay I'm just gonna walk pass through Jardin des Tuileries and perhaps walk in Champ Elysees and see how far I could go in that straight path. That's when I met a french uncle. He happened to be walking along and I responded when I think he was talking to himself saying it's raining. It was rather drizzling, a light rain. With my limited french we managed to have some conversation. My french is so sucky that I didn't even use the formal form in talking to him, I feel so sorry for that. For him though, I think I'm some kind of this interesting thing. Here you have an Asian girl from Indonesia who's alone, who happened to speak a bit of french. I asked if he knew where Indonesia is. He said yes, it's the first area which was hit by the tsunami. He commented on why I learn french. My answer that it was for interest didn't satisfy him much. I know, who would want to be tortured by french grammars and conjugation just for fun? I guess it's the unexplainable me! The weirdest thing happened when he invited me for a meal. I was stunned and shocked and since he's forward like that, I was also forward in telling him it's weird for an Asian to be asked this considering we just met less than 15 minutes ago. He said it's innocent, anyway it's during daylight, if it's during the evening it is perhaps kinky :P Well we parted ways in the middle of way. He still tried to interact with me, telling me if I don't have anything to do, he could show me the church Madeleine which was very beautiful. I heard of the church but I was thinking that I don't want more stranger things to happen, so I declined. In retrospect I think I did kinda throw caution to the wind when I talked to him. I mean I told him about my trip, that I'll be visiting Avignon, Marseille, Barcelona, etc. In Indonesia and other parts of the world, talking to a stranger could get you hypnotized and you'll end up in a bad place and I perhaps disclosed too much information to him. But thank God, nothing bad happened and he was perhaps really harmless. He told me that I'll eat better in Avignon and things'll get cheaper than Paris and I should be extra careful in Marseille and Barcelona. So he's a nice uncle, I guess :)
Anyways, so I continued walking and I reached Arc de Triomphe. It's a really really really long walk. The fact that I did that under the light rain without umbrella is rather remarkable. I have to say I was so proud of myself but I was even prouder with what I did next. I did plan to visit Arc de Triomphe but it was for the days before and since I was rather tired, I didn't get to do it the days before. So anyway now that I'd reached it, I decided that I shoud really go to the top. I paid the 9.50 € entrance fee. I read in the internet that there was a lift but I couldn't find it and I ended up having to take the 214 stairs up! I realized something about me, I hate circular / spiral staircase especially when it's inside a closed structure. I'll start to get disoriented, claustrophobic, and dizzy. There were thoughts in my head that I wasn't going to be able to do it and I thank God almighty that I made it. As dramatic as this sounds, but I really want to say that I almost died doing it. I was rather out of breathe and mentally it was hard. I couldn't be so proud that I managed to do it considering the many steps I have taken since morning and the view from the top of was just so rewarding for me. It was really really so rewarding. After I was done, I saw that there was a lift and I took it to go down. The staff at the lift was looking at me funny perhaps because he thought that I shouldn't be in it, but he didn't say anything. Upon reaching the bottom I saw that they're preparing some sort of ceremony or something at the Arc De Triomphe. From the taiwanese guy who talked to me, I found out that they do this everyday but I don't know if he's right. I think it's their way to respect all the fallen soldiers. So that was my day that day. My last day in Paris. After writing all that, I have to say that the last day was pretty remarkable. I accomplished something on my own and I got to talk to strangers. I do have to say my most memorable moments in this trip were the moments I spent alone and I feel great about that. Okay that's all for now, I'll try to write the next part and get the pictures out soon.