I cannot remember the name of the cemetery, but I'm sure it's Googleable...which, quite clearly, I'm too lazy to do. So basically we went to the cemetery, expecting to find the graves with ease since they're Chopin and Oscar Wilde (like, Chopin and Oscar Wilde). What we saw upon arrival, however, was this huge cemetery full of turns and bends, and the directory at the entrance was not of much help at all. It was also partly our fault; we didn't realise that we should've taken note of the path numbers (okay, they didn't call it a 'path'; I'm only using this word 'cause it's what they use in the Chinese cemeteries here and obviously I can't remember the word they use in the Paris one) and we just walked on like heroes, expecting a huge sign over the two graves announcing to tourists and fans that Chopin is buried here.
There was no sign. Not over the graves, not even anywhere in the cemetery telling us where to go. The cemetery turned out to be the resting ground for a heck lot of people, not just famous people like Chopin and Wilde and Marcel Proust. It therefore made sense that there weren't any signs pointing to those graves because a cemetery isn't meant to be a tourist attraction. Which is great and I totally wouldn't argue against that and I totally understand the need to respect the dead, but it still doesn't change the fact that we got utterly lost. I had half a mind to go back to the entrance and look at the directory again when we found ourselves in the middle of nowhere without a single soul around (OMG, no pun intended), but we'd walked quite a distance by then and it really was too far away.
Thankfully, we walked on and saw actual flesh-and-blood humans, some of whom were either looking for what we were looking for, or have already found what we were looking for. They had maps which we evidently didn't see, and with the help of a few kind souls, we finally located the graves.
Chopin's was gorgeous. Wilde's was awe-inspiring. Apparently his fans don't give a shit about the sanctity of his resting place, because it was covered in handwritten messages left by his admirers, not to mention residual lipstick stains, of all things, left by female fans who seemingly forgot he was gay, or male fans who are gay themselves (ha ha ha god I'm so crevrer). Reading those messages brought a lump to my throat. He lived two centuries ago, and yet, long after his death, his works have affected people to such a palpable extent. It was amazing and almost incredible and unfathomable, and it makes you realise how insignificant you really are in the grander scheme of things.
There are lots that I can wax philosophical about but I'm not really in the mood so I'll pass.
9. Arc de Triomphe:
I'm putting this in because I named it in my picture collage. I wrote the preceding sentence because there's really not much to say about this monument. First, I don't know the first thing about the history behind it (I assume it was associated with a victory of some sorts?). Second, as per every single fucking tourist attraction in Paris, going up to the top required a few Euros, but more importantly, it was the end of a very, very long day when we reached the Arc and I was wayyyyy too knackered (OMG stupid Firefox doesn't have the word 'knackered' in its dictionary! Bloody Americans) to climb anymore steps or walk anywhere that wasn't the way back to the hotel. I suck, right? I think so too.
What I can say about it is that it's situated at the end - or beginning, depending on where you're at - of Champs-Elysees. Along the way you get these glimpses of the Arc and they provide binoculars in the middle of the road at the pedestrian crossing for you to view the Arc. We got to the crossing immediately in front of the Arc, and I must say that the view of Champs-Elysees was prettier than the Arc itself. It was 8-ish or so, the sun was setting, and looking broadly at a long stretch of shimmering lights against a backdrop of purplish pink with cars zooming by on both sides, feeling the wind in my hair, made me forget about the tiredness in my muscles. It was quite magnificent, it was.
We did this on our last day because it was just behind our hotel, and what a great decision it turned out to be - the sun was FINALLY out! The previous four days were grey and sun-less. (The same thing happened in London: The sun showed its face on our last day there. How tragic.) The sun made the trip to the Sacre-Coeur extremely worth it despite how scorching it got after a while.
There's this thing about the sky in Europe that, first, made me notice skies at all, and second, that Singapore, for some reason, does not have. The blue of the sky is this ridiculously rich, brilliant shade of blue, and when it's sunny, the clouds are big and fluffy and made of pure white, like cotton candy. It was so pretty, first, in London, then in Paris, and then in Greece (but of course, more about this in subsequent entries). The Sacre-Coeur is atop a small hill that was a breeze to climb up. Looking up at the church from road-level was this incredible picture that nothing can ever capture - not technology, not the best artist ever, nothing, not even words. The white of the Sacre-Coeur against the brilliant blue with pure white clouds hovering over it - just...it was quite literally perfect. Just perfect.
And the view from the top? In a way it was even better than the view from the top of the Notre Dame because it was unfettered by safety wires. On the other hand, I guess the two aren't really comparable since the view from the Sacre-Coeur was more of Montmartre than anything else. But all the same, it was gorgeous. We weren't close enough to the La Defense area to see the skyscrapers (or if we were, sadly I didn't notice) so it was this spread of houses and then the sky with the horizon chucked in somewhere in between. Amazing stuff.
We originally planned on visiting a flea market, but the two of us were so lazy after we descended from Sacre-Coeur (like angels HAHAHAH whatever!) that we decided to hang around Montmartre. Despite staying there, we hadn't really seen much of it...and for good reason, really.
There was, quite simply, nothing much to see. There were a lot of shops, we did more shopping, we borrowed McDonalds' toilet (as usual. The one thing useful about McDonalds' when you're in Europe? You can - almost - always count on it to have a toilet. The only exception that I encountered was the stupid Bond Street Tube station McDonalds' in London. Grah). Most importantly, WE FINALLY ATE ECLAIRS.
And I tell you, the two eclairs I ate were the best eclairs I have ever, ever eaten. I wasn't too hot on the idea of eating an eclair at first because the ones in Singapore haven't been too impressive: they're small, the filling is some irrelevant and off-point vanilla whatever, and there's nothing much to crow about. But I figured that since I was in Paris, I had to eat an eclair because it's fucking France, you know what I'm saying?
So on our last day, while wandering around Montmartre, we randomly came across a pastries shop. We'd been looking for eclairs for a while and when we saw it we were all, "OMG MUST GO AND SEE!!" And indeed they had eclairs. Mag got a chocolate, I got a coffee (sorry, kafe). Mag bit into hers first and immediately declared it divine. I was fumbling around for a piece of tissue or whatever to get rid of my lip balm before I ate (I cannot stand eating my lip balm or drinking my lip balm) and when I finally bit into it, I swear, I DIED AND FUCKING WENT TO HEAVEN.
It was so good. SO. GOOD. The eclair was fat and the filling just freaking oozed out of it like nobody's business. It was so so so so SO amazing and I am only exaggerating a little when I say that not a day goes by when I don't think about that stupid eclair.
It was so good that I just had to buy a chocolate one when we passed by another pastry shop. It was also damn good, but I preferred the coffee one. I think the secret laid in the cream: It was smooth and slightly watery and the amount of sugar was just right. DAMN NICE. I'm not a food connoisseur at all so I'll just leave it at that.
12. Other notable mentions:
-Mag bought a bar of Crunch chocolate (a BAR of CRUNCH chocolate) from the convenience store behind our hotel and it was like WTF omg blooody amazing and it was CRUNCH. Before that I didn't give a shit about Crunch because the shit we get in Singapore tastes like crap; it doesn't come in bars and it just tastes fucked up. The crispy bit tastes all lou feng (um how to say lou feng in English? It's what happens when you leave biscuits and crunchy stuff in the open for too long which makes it all soft and gross) and the chocolate is disgusting. But the Crunch in France? OMG OMG OMGGGGGGGGG OMGGGGGGG. I haven't mentioned English Kit-Kats, have I? I'll save this for my second London entry!
-We finished the entire bar on the Metro ride to like, okay I can't remember where we were headed.
-Tell me if we weren't the only ones that thought the following incident was made of 100% WTF: One fine morning, Mag and I were walking around our hotel, looking for breakfast. We were off the main road. Out of nowhere, this dude came up to us with a map and asked us if we spoke English. Mag was nice and decided to help him and answered in the affirmative. When someone asks you if you speak English, it kind of means that he intends to communicate with you in English, right? But that man suddenly went off in French which, quite clearly, neither of us understood. He managed to tell us in random smatterings of English that he wanted to look for a hotel which was in this spot, and here he pointed to the map. Mag tried to tell him, first, that we didn't fucking speak French, and second, that we had no idea where the hotel was because, hello, we weren't from the area.
Then out of absolutely NOWHERE marched this tall white French guy (the first guy didn't look white). He flashed us an identification card and perhaps he also flashed us a badge, I can't remember. He proceeded to tell us, very rudely, that he was a policeman and that he was patrolling the area to keep it safe. Then he totally demanded to see our passports. Mag and I had no idea what was going on and I think I had "WTF" written all over my face; I was frowning and staring at the alleged policeman as if he wanted to steal my money (which, yes, was the first thing that flashed into my mind). And you know what? As he demanded to see our passports, he actually jabbed me in the arm. WTF!!!
I didn't have my passport with me which I told him as much, but Mag did. She also looked very suspicious and confused, and she was like, "You only want to see it right?" The alleged policeman nodded. She took it out, showed him the page with her picture (I think?) and the policeman went, "Okay, good, thank you."
And that was the end of it.
I can't remember what happened to the other guy; we just crossed the street to the convenience store (where Mag bought that ridiculously amazing Crunch bar). To this day I have no idea if the guy was legit. I'd be more prepared to believe him if 1) he hadn't fucking jabbed me; 2) he'd been nicer about it; and 3) he hadn't bloody demanded to see our passports like we were hookers from China or something. Considering it was Montmartre, if he had been legit, he probably thought we were hookers from China. But then again, it was some ungodly hour in the morning and it was in broad daylight. It would've made more sense if it'd happened in the evening or something but...it was early in the morning. We were looking for breakfast.
I don't know, I still think it was major WTF. My mom thinks so too, but my dad thinks the alleged policeman could've been legit. Well, if they were con men trying to steal our money, they they should consider looking for another crime to make a living with, because nothing happened to us, thankfully. Mag bought the Crunch bar and we went off to have breakfast in this Turkish kebab place that also served a variety of baguette sandwiches, like the majority of food stalls in Paris does.
-Speaking of food: I. LOVE. BAGUETTES. I already had a mild love affair with baguettes before Paris; I liked the Delifrance one and it used to be the only thing that stopped me from declaring that Delifrance was an utterly useless piece of shit. But after eating real baguettes, Delifrance has ceased to have any useful element anymore. Seriously: Any random kiosk in Paris selling baguettes sell freaking good baguettes. The amount of sandwiches we ate in Paris in lieu of proper food was quite ridiculous (the difference in the prices was even more ridiculous) but I did not mind AT ALL because baguettes are just amazing. AMAZING. AMAZING. HAVE I MENTIONED AMAZING.
-On the downside, here's a cautionary note to whoever is planning a trip to Paris/France and reading this: Never, ever eat Italian food in Paris. Why? Simply put: It sucks. We found an Italian restaurant at the small Galeries Lafayette that had this set dinner for ten euros that consisted of a selection of pasta and a drink. The pasta sounded good on paper and we hadn't had a proper meal at all before that (except the dinner at Pizza Express with Khel and Pet in London) and we wanted to pamper ourselves a bit, so we decided to eat there.
Big. Freaking. Mistake. Some other table ordered the same thing as us and when they got their food, we took a look and instantly regretted our decision. When our food came, the regret intensified. When we started eating, the regret came full circle. It was the worst ever pasta. EVER. Ever. You know how Pasta Mania is often derided as sub-standard pasta that's not worthy of a pig to eat? Well, the pasta we had that night was so. much. worse. It made Pasta Mania look like fine dining. It had utterly no taste. Mine was some stupid Mediterranean vegetables with tomato sauce (I realised after a while that I really had no idea WTF Mediterranean vegetables were. Apparently a brinja (shit how do you spell this? Brinjaw? It's a bloody eggplant. Stupid Americans) is Mediterranean. I hate eggplants. But yeah, it was so tasteless that I added a shitload of cheese which amused Mag enough for her to take pictures of me frantically and ardently adding cheese to my pasta.
Mag ordered a carbonara which she said was the worst pasta she'd ever had. We wanted to redeem this shitty dinner, so the next day, while taking a break from the Louvre and looking for lunch, we ate again at an Italian place. My pasta was much better, though still bland compared to what I could get in Singapore and for much less, too; but Mag's carbonara was just as bad. Therefore, we concluded that the French cannot cook Italian food for nuts and one should never, ever eat pasta in Paris. Not sure about pizzas 'cause we didn't try, but Parisian pasta? ABSOLUTELY UNTOUCHABLE. Don't waste your money. You'll thank me for this.
-Still on the topic of food: I hereby declare that I had the best coffee I ever had in my life in Paris. On our first day, we went on the walking tour around Central Paris (very good tour, by the way...that is, when we actually listened and weren't going off taking pictures) and the tour guide stopped at this cafe for a thirty-minute break. Mag and I got ourselves coffee. I had a latte (kafe creme) with regular milk because, duh, we didn't know what 'soy milk' was in French. I swear, apart from English coffee, nothing else has been as good as that single cup of coffee since, or any cups of coffee I had in Paris, for that matter; I just remember that first cup more because it made a very strong impact and vivid impression on me. I didn't even mean to smell it but I smelled the strong aroma of milk anyway. When I order iced lattes in Singapore, I always complain about how there's no fucking coffee and it's like bloody milk and people are always like, "Uh, it's a latte."
Yes, I KNOW it's a bloody latte; I ordered the damn thing, thanks, and I'm anal, not retarded. The thing is, a latte with coffee with milk - a lot of milk. But it is still coffee with milk - a lot of milk. More often than not, though, I find myself drinking milk with this strange aftertaste that's supposed to represent the coffee and I'm like, "I DID NOT PAY FIVE DOLLARS TO DRINK SCREWED UP MILK." Because I didn't.
The latte in Paris, in abject and very depressing comparison, was absolutely nothing like that. The milk was rich, but it did not totally drown out and extinguish the coffee; on the contrary, the two complemented each other in this ridiculously palatable blend that is what a latte is supposed to freaking be. But what I'll always remember about my first cup of coffee in Paris is definitely that strong aroma of milk that hit me instantly when I sat down in front of my coffee and held it in my hand to drink it (I scalded my tongue a bit, by the way; not used to drinking hot stuff). And I'm not even a milk person because I'm mildly lactose-intolerant and it does screwed up things to my bowels that I'm not going to talk about here.
But oh, that coffee was so good. The cappucino I had in the cafe opposite the Sacre-Coeur on our last day was also amazing. I don't know if they put sugar or anything; I don't think they did because it was Paris and people who know how to make coffee properly know that the sugar is added separately by the customer (hence it always annoys me shitless when I order iced latte in Singapore and some retarded "cafes" put sugar syrup for me. This is why I've resorted to telling cafes that I want my latte unsweetened just in case they're retarded). But whatever it was, I've had cappucinoes before, most notably one in TCC in Singapore that made me feel extremely nauseous after I drank it, and was never a huge fan. After that cappucino in Paris, though? I CANNOT GET IT OUT OF MY MIND. It was just so damn good. The coffee didn't have that unpleasant bitter aftertaste that some coffee tend to have (especially the ones in Singapore oh my god) and it went smoothly down the throat and was even a bit sweet, which I think was due to the chocolate powder they sprinkled on top. It was amazing. If Mag didn't have a horrible experience there, I'd recommend that place to everyone.
-So what was Mag's horrible experience? We got us a table and Mag went to the toilet. She didn't intend to order anything; I was the one that badly needed caffeine to cure my crankiness. This aging waiter with a raspy voice that would make him prime candidate to play Scar in the Lion King if he actually spoke English (oh, he could do the French dub!) came and took my order. Originally I wanted an iced cappucino because it was quite hot outside but he understood "iced" to mean "desserts" and he showed me the desserts menu and served me a warm cappucino. But that was fine since "glacier" in French means something like ice-cream and "glacier" in English is almost synonymous with ice, so whatever.
The shit hit the fan when Mag came back and the waiter asked her if she wanted anything. She very amicably and politely told him that she didn't want anything. And guess what? The waiter was all, in a combination of broken English and sign language, "You used the toilet. You must order something."
What. The. Fuck. But that wasn't the worst part, oh no! Mag was quite amenable to ordering because she's an agreeable person by nature, so she took the menu, albeit with a slight degree of unwillingness. She was looking at the menu and ten seconds later, the waiter came back and asked her what she wanted. She told him, quite politely, "I'm looking at the menu. Give me sometime."
He went away - FOR THIRTY SECONDS. Basically he kept pestering her and harassing her to order and even made "recommendations" to the point that Mag got all pissed, naturally. Eventually she decided to get an Earl Grey, which was all well and good...until her Earl Grey teabag and hot water came and she poured out the water, just to discover that it was this weird pale green.
?!?!>!!?!?!?!?!?! Since when was water of that colour? She didn't want to deal with Raspy Voice so she called for a manager and explained to the best of her ability to someone who didn't speak English very well that she ordered tea and her water was some weird colour. And guess what? Raspy Voice appeared like the kind of villains in Disney movies he sounded like and started teaching Mag how to drink her tea. He took up the teabag and went, "The satchet!" (In French it's pronounced "seh-shay". Like sashay.) He shook it and gestured to the pot of water and rambled incomprehensibly (to us, at least) in French. He kept doing that which only made Mag more pissed, and I was all, "Yeah, but her water is some weird colour."
Finally the manager dude decided to stop the madness and just change the water for her. It came back clear. By that time we were quite convinced that Raspy Voice had something against Mag/us, but when we left he actually smiled at us in fake goodbye.
He was SO RUDE! And I thought he was quite amusing at first before he forced Mag to order something because he seemed nice and whatever. I tell you, if it'd been in an English-speaking country, if it'd been Singapore, I'd get that person bloody fired. (Speaking of getting people fired, someone in Greece - Athens - is going to get what's coming to her for pissing me off two hours after arriving in Athens, but I'll save this for my Athens entry.) He spilled beer all over this ang moh man which...hahahahahaha.
-Paris Metro: Very old. London's Underground is apparently the oldest of such systems in the world, but the Paris Metro looks so much older. I'd suggest to the mayor, whoever he is, to invest in some upgrading work. The doors on the older carriages - which is about 80% of the trains - are manually operated, which seemed like a nice novelty...until it's your turn to open the stupid door. We were bound for Orly Airport on our last day I think, and the train arrived. No one got off and no one was boarding that carriage, so I tried to open the door. The locals made it look so easy: just push up the metal latch and the door opened!
I pushed up the metal latch. It moved like 2 cm. The door remained close. OH MY GOD. Mag was all, "Are we going to miss this train because we can't open the door?" I tried again to no avail and we did the wise thing by rushing to the next carriage whose door was opened with our bags and therefore narrowly avoided missing the train because I couldn't open the door.
Mag also tried opening the door when we were getting off at somewhere but was also unsuccessful. Worse, some guy opened from the outside and hit her thumb really hard! Oh my god. Okay, the ancientness of the Paris Metro is charming, but coming from London, and being a citizen of Singapore, a country that's serially and unhealthily and disturbingly obsessed with all things New and Shiny, after the novelty wore off I started to wonder if I'd wandered into some Third World country whose government cannot afford automatically-operated train doors. Seriously.
So there you have it: My time in Paris, in brief. (Yeah, this is brief.) It's a great city to visit, but to live? Not so much. Nothing against Paris or the French or whatever, but I got the feeling that you're never going to be accepted unless you spoke French. In lieu of the ability to speak French and any desire to master it because, what do I care, I cannot see myself living in Paris - at all. Short trips for pleasure or work, yes, but for the long term? No. Definitely not.
Still, I must say that Mag and I were pleasantly surprised by how willing people generally were to speak to us in English. After hearing all sorts of stories about how they'd ignore you or brush you off if you don't speak to them in French, I kind of expected a lot of unfriendliness and awful treatment because my endeavour to learn basic French failed dramatically. In fact, I didn't even properly embark on it. So I braced myself for a major dosage of French snobbery, but what we actually got was so far from that. People - shop owners, waiters, random locals on the streets - responded to us kindly or at the very least, politely when we asked them stuff in English and there wasn't any "you don't speak French, I don't talk to you" vibe at all.
But it was still obvious as hell that French the language is an integral and inseparable part of Paris and living in Paris and being a part of Paris. This should go without saying, but coming from a Singaporean perspective, it's actually quite surprising and even a bit alien. I'm Singaporean and I'm ethnically Chinese and most of the time I have no idea what that even means, because my command of Chinese is nowhere as good as my command of English. And there's just something to be said about a people that hold on fiercely to their roots and won't trade their cultural identity for anything in the world. Though I admire the idea in abstract, it's something that I can't immediately identify with because I don't practice it at all in real life - and that makes me quite sad.
But yeah, getting off my soap box now. I need to take out my eyes and shower and then watch Season One of Alias which I bought second-hand in Manchester, but more about that in later entries.
Speaking of Alias, though, OH MY GOD I FLOVE WILL TIPPEN HE IS SO HOT I WANT TO MARRY HIM. I set out to get my Alias DVDs because of Julian Sark (played by David Anders, one of my many husbands) and so far he hasn't appeared yet; he only becomes a regular in Season 2. But Will Tippen? I WANT TO FREAKING MARRY HIM. He's the nerdy intellectual in slightly baggy office shirts and the skewed tie who walks with a slight swagger and has a slight attitude and he's so. fucking. hot. I think I kind of hated him when I first watched the show many years ago (i.e. when I was in SECONDARY SCHOOL) but I don't remember why at all, and now I'm completely in love with him. This is why I cannot watch Alias beyond like, Season 3 or something. Not only did the plot completely unravel and got utterly ludicrous towards the end, Will Tippen also met with some horrible shit that I can't even bring myself to remember because of how horrible it was. So yeah, Season 3 for the Sark goodness, and I'm not revisiting the mess that was the last two season, thank you.
Okay, time to take out my eyes.