Travel

I’m leaving on a jetplane. On a train. On a bus. On a boat. On my own 2 feet.

Together with my best travel/food buddy, I bit the bullet and took a 12-hour bus ride to Georgetown, Penang recently. We had only one objective: FOOD and true enough, we completely pigged ourselves out over the 3 days.

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The last couple of entries were transcripts on the partial diary I scribbled in a little notebook I had.

After that last entry, I made a trip St Victoire mountain at Francis’ suggestion and had a lovely time walking about in the little village located at the base of the mountain. I also had dinner again the following evening with Francis, his student tenant and her friend. It was great fun and we swopped emails, and it was a pity that I forgot to take some photos over dinner.

I left Aix for Nice , and managed to find a nice new dorm there thanks to a tip from a young American lady bunkmate I met in Aix. Nice is a really touristy seaside city, with it’s pebbled beaches a prime attraction for tourists from all over.

I made a day trip to Monaco which is just a 20 minute train ride away. Monaco is actually not a part of France, and is known for its rich-and-famous residents, luxury casinos, and the annual Grand Prix held infront of its lovely harbour . I trooped uphill to Monaco’s Prince’s Palace to catch the daily changing of guards .

After Nice, I returned earlier than planned to Paris to catch up on the sightseeing that I have yet to finished. I faithfully made my way to the Arc De Triomphe , stopping for a moment at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Eternal Flame that accompanies it. I walked down Champs-Elysées Avenue and made a stop at the Place de Concorde to admire the 3,300 year old Obelisk of Luxor , a gift from Egypt to the then King Louis XV of France in 1836. If you think about it, it must have been quite a feat to transport the 23-metre tall, solid granite column weighing over 250 tons all the way from Egypt to Paris… But if you were to think a little harder, you would marvel even more at the ingenuity of the Egyptians who constructed the Obelisk with such precision, considering the level of technology available 3000 years ago. I would love to be able to visit Egypt one day and see for myself the grandeur of their engineering miracles.

I spent an idyllic afternoon walking about the Tuileries Gardens, feeding a family of ducks . After which, I stopped and admired the gorgeous Opera buildling which was located just 2 minutes away from Galeries Lafayette. I was to spend a total of 2 whole afternoons at Galeries Lafayette, the famous department store, hunting through the countless luxury brands available, for the perfect presents to bring home. I saw, for the first time in my life, a queue forming outside the Louis Vuitton boutique, and only realised much later how cheaper it really was here in Paris. It was a great regret that I did not pick up an LV purse or two before heading home.

Except for the series of unfortunate events that kicked off the trip, and the severe bout of homesickness initially, I had a good time, particularly in Aix. I have truly learnt my lesson that very often it’s not the monuments and sights that makes for great travelling, it’s the wonderful people that you have had the good fortune to meet and know along the way.

Au revoir, France!

Just had a shower, a really nice HOT shower. I had a pretty amazing day after I dumped my stuff at the hostel. He started to show me the sights around Aix’s main city area and then I ended up waiting for him to meet this son to pass him some ravioli. We chatted a bit and I found out that he was a chef and he invited me to dinner. I was little hesitant at first, and then he told me that a Chinese student rents a room from him and we would have dinner together. I thought, oh what the heck, and decided to risk it and see how it goes. We dropped by the supermarket and picked up a bottle of pink wine which I paid for (€4, and well worth every single cent) in exchange for dinner. We then carried the groceries back to his place and true to his word, I met his Chinese tenant 王榀 and her friend and four of us had a good dinner and a long chat. The old gentleman, Francis then dropped off at the youth hostel because it was too late and the buses weren’t running anymore. It was all in all a great experience, one which will probably never happen in Paris.

I’m sitting on a bench outside the hostel in Aix, waiting for the reception to open. Yeah, some hostels have lock-out periods and the reception is also closed for part of those hours.

Getting out of Lyon this morning was a bit of a pain because the metro lines that ran to the train station weren’t running (technical failure or strike I couldn’t tell) and so after running around and waiting fruitlessly for almost an hour, the friendly guy at one of the metro stops told me to walk (after I told him the tramway which ran to the train station was also closed) from another station. Luckily it was only about a 20+ mins or so walk. Good thing that I left the hostel first thing in the morning because I wanted to change my reservation to Aix instead of Marseille. It is yet another sunny day today. I think I’m getting a tan on my face and am considering buying a pair of shorts here. I haven’t seen the main town of Aix yet but it seems to be one of those small towns that I’m pretty fond of. There’s supposed to be at least 2 open-air food markets tomorrow morning and I’m looking forward to to that and also the flea market too. I started reading the book that my friend lent me last night. It’s a pretty good book and quite scary to read when you’re alone at night in a dorm surrounded by strangers, in a foreign city far away from home. Bad news is that I’m reading the book too quickly and I’m more than two-thirds through already. I decided to write more in the notebook but I think I will be running out of pages soon. It’s going to be a tough fight; a new book to read or a new notebook to write in. If I’m lucky, I mean really lucky, I might find both tomorrow and hopefully cheaply too.

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