France

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Debauched in the Alsatian vineyards

The bloody fickle internet connection is perhaps the only failing of Chez Leslie – a quiet pension on a residential street off Colmar’s train station – since we’ve arrived 4 days ago. I’ve been relegated to sitting by the door in a lonesome chair like a errant child being punished just to get 1 small bar of connection. There’s even Fluffy, the house cat for occasional entertainment. Beyond that, Colmar has thus far, defied all expectations. Visiting Alsace is like getting an insider’s tip to travelling in France; there are many Europeans here (most are German it seems, and even more from the other parts of France) and I’ve hardly...

La Petite France

It seems everyone is captivated by Paris, but I’d fancy a more romantic notion of Strasbourg as a miniature model of France, even though the actual Petite France occupies merely a corner of the old city. Sitting at the German border and several miles west of the Rhine, metropolitan Strasbourg hums with activity always, combining the whimsical nature of the French and the precision timing of Germany – even the trams glide smoothly on every couple of minutes! Accommodation is near impossible to get when the European Parliament is in session, but even all the more so when an influx of European tourists (many predictably hail from the right side of the border) descend...

From the Blue Lagoon to the Alsatian flats

A 12-hour journey that began at 4am in the morning in Grindavik, Iceland’s Blue Lagoon clinic ended on a whimper (literally) in Strasbourg, a city sitting at the edge of the German border, tiring enough to erase a near-perfect day yesterday spent in the Blue Lagoon and soaking up the silica mud. We joined busloads of tourists for the 45-minute shuttle from Reykjavik, driving to snow-covered lava moss with the distinct advantage of staying over at the clinic for a night – which simply meant we got free entrance into the Lagoon and more time to dally. Situated 5-10 minutes walk down a winding path from the actual building through flammable...

Exhausting defiance

My travel planning process typically runs across 2 veins: juggling foreign, captivating landscapes from which the instinctive need to explore arises (the heady rush is really quite intoxicating) and the harsh reality of cost-cutting after realising that the reckless planning is potentially busting the humble budget. It’s a common sensibility that probably fits me squarely into the peg called “budget travel” but the penchant for seeking out strange itineraries such as this upcoming one that crosses that oh-so-fine line into “luxury travel”. I’m also quite certain that the travel companion (TC) – who had initially agreed rather enthusiastically to another jaunt in Europe after my sales pitch – is regretting...

An accidental Tourist in Amsterdam

I missed the flight back back because of a delay in the Paris airport having something to do with radar failure that caused all planes departing CDG Paris to be delayed by 2 hours. Incompetent fools. I reached Amsterdam cursing and swearing hard after seeing the word ‘departed’ for my flight status – more infuriatingly so, the KLM/Air France service desk refused any more help other than rebooking the flight back home 24 hours later, stating baldly that it was the fault of the Paris Airport and not theirs. Realised that there were 3 other people (unfortunately French) who also missed the same plane, and like unwilling stragglers who needed to bond quick,...

Paris Revisited

The ticks on my list indicate that all that I think are necessary sights have been ‘covered’; it is naturally the most artificial (not to mention superficial) of lists a visitor of a place can make. At every turn, there are tourists; nearly everyone gets caught up in everything French. Even the Americans attempt to say Bonjour, Bonsoir and Merci reasonably well before lapsing into the familiar curled r’s. The city spirals out in a roughly circular fashion, and I walk for a long time, only to get the Eiffel tower back in view again after crossing one of the numerous bridges. The sunny day makes the scene more inviting;...

Going Au Naturale

My place on the TGV to Nantes is next to a French lady who teaches English to high school students, and we abruptly fall into conversation after I stutter a nervous “Anglais?” while stumbling into the seat. The 2 hours fly by La Loire en route to Angers St. laud and Nantes; soon enough we arrive in Nantes with a neck ache acquired from the awkward chatting position on the train. The French lady helpfully translates the conversation that is going around us – a man a few seats in front speaks loudly on his mobile, predicting wrongly that we would arrive early; a woman travels for the first time...

Viva la France

I arrived in the touted “City of Lights” by the Eurostar in the mid-afternoon heat engulfed by an all-encompassing smog which made it a bit hard to breathe. So goes the secret of the shrouding mist that creates the accidental romantic ideal of Paris – it does make for good photos though. Just as it is daunting to write about London, it is no less for Paris. What can be said that has not been said in countless novels and other travelogues?   Paris is massive, dirty and sprawling (tourists crawl every available space unfortunately) – it is as though the French Kings competed to build palaces after palaces using...