i remember being sick and flailing my arms speaking rubbish and demanding panadol. where is my panadol?

france and amsterdam. amsterdam first. we had a quad room booked pretty well last minute on expedia. miguel was extremely amused by the red light district, considering they didn't have things such as that in argentina (well neither do they in singapore, in fact). well, amsterdam is clearly famous for nightlife, and it had pretty good nightlife. they have clubs where they actually bother with the lighting, synchronising it with the music and having the coolest special effects ever. interesting city. rijksmuseum and all. it wasn't that nice, mostly they had rembrandt, while vermeer's girl with the pearl earring is only at the mauritshuis in den haag. i particularly like that one though, it's positively bewitching how she stares at you. on the way back, a man was just chatting to me. "why does everyone think amsterdam is about sex, drugs and rock and roll?" "i said sure, i'm sure there are museums and all." then he walked in front and the french police cuffed him for drug posession... he later came back and said it was a 90 euro fine... it's astounding how lenient it is.

after yet another gruelling eurolines ride (through den haag, rotterdam, utrecht, breda), crossing dover-calais again. the bus was pretty late because of the little arrest thing, and i pulled in at victoria about 9... i had enough time to drop by at sainsbury's for shavers and books etc for books about the cuban revolution (che guevara etc...) don't know why... it was just within reach.

bus to gatwick, flight to marseille. 2nd time in france this past year. as we arrived, ze french questioned us. where are your return tickets? where are you staying in paris. well, the point was that we didn't want everything planned, so we left some things open (it's tiring to keep sticking to schedule though). we struggled through in english, then i decided to speak french. it made things easier, and i'd soon use that a lot... marseille was gorgeous... sunshine! a nice 15-16 degrees... with the vieux port chock full of yachts i'll hopefully be able to afford one day. very nice mediterranean architecture... and we took a taxi (just like in the film) through the roads as we passed by the forts and drove along the sea... brilliant. sorry, i'm listening to dylan's 2004 special performance for victoria's secret and it's distracting me. "make you feel my love".

we stayed in an auberge de jeunesse in bonneveine, a bit far from town. we came across olympique marseille's stadium, and basically we tried traditional provencale food. i got a lot of kick from being in an actual french restaurant (though perhaps we were a bit young) and ordering "eau sans gas" etc... we had bouillabaise but it wasn't that impressive. it's nice to have fresh seafood after some time though... later on jingxiang would even try sea-urchin which was really disappointing. big rambutan thing, but little meat in between. we went on a day trip climbing over rocks to see the clear waters of the calanques. we were to hitchhike back... fun experience! got us there quicker. we were lost due to miscommunication as to where luminy really was, and i spoke to the friendly guy on the car who bitched about red lights. jillian and jingxiang disappeared for 2 hours, contributing to the great big mystery of our trip.

many traditional sights in marseille, generally architectural ones. we came across a german guy doing his national service in a bar in france (wtf!). andre got to practise his german. we found many shops named andr� btw. and gare st-charles is an example of overwrought gallo-roman architecture while it was still in vogue. had good kebab just down the road and nice coffee.

aix-en provence was the provincial heart of provence and our next stop... a short train ride away. it was so quaint, tiny and charming, and the cours mirabeau was a wonderful place to stop and watch the world go buy while consuming crepes and the famous salmon panini (was it really that good). imagine sipping coffee and seeing students protesting the cpe singing "c'est la revolution". i saw too how they closed the lyc�es in marseille... it's amazing how high school students have this culture of protest ingrained in them. in seemed more a day of fun and games though and the police were rather civil. jillian spotted a david beckham lookalike. i swore i needed sunglasses. stopped by the mus�e granet where i hoped to find some cezanne but it was under renovation and showed many other works instead.

we then took a train through to nice, and we passed by cannes, antibes, and all the other resort destinations along the french riviera for the rich and famous. clearly not our type. nice was an unhappy place, unfortunately. we followed through again to auberge de jeunesse camellia, and we went for a simple dinner near the train station. but we were busy eating, and as jillian went for mayonnaise, her bag was snatched. a chase started to no avail. it was the first criminal thing i've experienced in all my travelling so far, and i guess we were a bit lax. we went to the police station to do the formalities.

nice wasn't that fantastic. probably in summer, where the pebble beaches fill with sunbathers. nice view from the cemetery hill, and i had fun on the spider web thing rediscovering my childhood. narrow streets, with old italian street names. i think it reverted to french rule only in 1860, which explained all the plaza garibaldi and italian sounding names. more panini and gelato! very italian-ish cuisine. i almost got killed by a self-cleaning lavatory until andre told me how they work and no jesse, you cannot save 20 cents. so theft, and not so nice streets. crazy drunk frenchman at hostel who kept saying jackie chan to us... he was surprised i knew where lille was so we managed to make small talk. the train away from nice cost 80 euro which shocked a lot of us. but on the train i discovered my skill at spades. i was taught by the great master himself lin jingxiang. i regret not being able to beat him on the trip though but i hope i gave him a good sweat which he never experienced before. not bad for a newbie. the scenery was nice but would be nicer if the famous vineyards and lavender fields had been in bloom.

i took a lot of rubbish videos with funny commentary. come to my place and i show you all!

paris is big city. i remember my first time in '97 being amazed by france, and how i was simply bewildered by the metro system when i was changing from gallieni to gare de lyon. our first contact again was from gare de lyon, and it was sopping wet, just like london. we walked through an unglamorous part of town, to yet another auberge. this time we didn't have to disturb any old man staying over from corsice (cough nice) shouting "s'il vous plait!". i must have though the rest some french cause jingxiang kept saying "putain". this auberge was one of the largest in france, and had a nice bar with plenty of people.. i've been in france before, and paris, so i sort of knew where the sights were. we went to see the louvre, and the eiffel at night. i remember our long treks for food. but to see the eiffel sparkling at night, giving out the bronze orange glow. i love orange... wonder and amazement... and right across was the trocadero... with a quote that sounds remarkable: (it's a riddle i think)

Il depend de celui qui passe
Que je sois tombe ou tr�sor
Que je parle ou me taise ceci n'en tient qu'a toi ami
N'entre pas sans desir

i kept wondering what it meant, but this is an attempted translation... apparently is is by paul val�ry and it sounds pretty beautiful. i think it is a reference to the mus�e de l'homme located on the other side, and the collections of things in there.

"it depends on he who passes,
that i am tomb or treasure,
that i speak or am silent depends solely on you friend,
do not enter without desire."

i love it. beauty is there if we look for it. it's so apt for a museum, and i like the way paris enshrines its artists. to be honest though, i always felt there was an edgier side to paris in the banlieue, to the strikes, the people cheating on the metro by squeezing through with another (that was fun), even the graffiti that covers every inch of the massive underground. and the inspiring names of the metro stations. sebastopol. charles de gaulle. france is a country that doesn't forget. at the same time, it was riddled with unrest. we chanced upon and anti-strike demonstration calling on the student protestors not the jeopardise the rest who wanted to be in school, and not for a vocal minority to paralyse a government which has been democratically elected for by the rest. this a french guy tried to explain to me, i lost him after a while but i guess this is the idea. also spoke to a french guy at esprit who was speaking about cultural differences between him and his thai girlfriend, how asians work much harder and find it difficult to adapt in france sometimes, how the euro sucked and the 35 hour work week was good. i appreciated that i had some iota of french it makes people friendlier. some people in france are still overtly racist though. i got my fair share of konichiwas and verbal slights.

the arc de triomphe, which napoleon did NOT grandly march through (my facts were wrong, it was only finished after he had lost). hitler did march through it to rub it in. it commemorated most modern wars to the algerian war of independence and the vietnam war. it opened up to the champs-elys�es, apparently named after the elysian fields of hell of greek mythology where spirits would dance with pleasure (the french love classical allusions don't they). on another day i got approached by this dodgy chinese man who gave us 1100 euro!!! to help us buy louis vuitton. i went in to see hordes of japanese and japanese sales assistants! and i got turned off and decided it was probably something wrong to go in and buy 400 euro stuff with someone's money. something had to be wrong. either counterfeit stuff or piraters. the japanese love paris. i saw lots of them... but LV... euck.

We had mcdonalds and kfc after a while due to budget constraints. huifang gave an address for the Marche aux Puces at St-Ouen, a bit on the outskirt of Paris. I got myself sunglasses there! Pretty happy. I could now look cool. we visisted the singaporean embassy in paris too where jingxiang found his aston martin vanquish. it was refreshing reading the straits times! a bit depressing though. we visited the eiffel tower again, and place de la concorde, the opera house, the pantheon, where they were selling daffodils to raise money for cancer. the girls each got one. a wonderful street parade with a sexy woman dancing on stilts (i have video!) and nice percussion. We wanted to play "he loves me, he loves me not", but daffodils have only 6 petals. very predictable. the standard of busking was amazing. there were the funny child rappers carrying their FUCKING AMP around in the metro and rapping. jingxiang couldn't stop laughing. i like the way they were so tongue in cheek and blowing kisses at everyone. there were chinese men/woman playing the erhu, and the live blues 4-piece outside the notre dame, where we sat down and just listened to pretty good standard blues. these people flew allt he way from america to busk. reminded me of aix where there was another rock band.

we saw ferraris, the renault f1 story. more unfortunate incidents. i trusted guidebooks and those printed tourists things too much and i didn't foresee how the louvre would be closed early on monday when it was supposed to open late. so i missed la joconde (mona lisa) AGAIN. next time maybe. met lots of people in paris, it's a pretty popular place to be and easy to spot singaporeans. it ended with a mad rush to the bus station and a tiring bus ride (my umpteenth on eurolines again).

concluding remarks. i probably missed some detail. hopefully i will go over it again if i have more time and not studying too hard. i enjoyed the trip with everyone... there were no conflicts expected from a really big group, some disagreement, but not shouting. got to know everyone better. know who wakes up early=). who gets red when drinking. ME! things like doing huifang's travel log and laughing at her many photos. so... photos next.

No comments: