Saturday, March 15, 2008

Hail Germany!

Woah, you must be thinking Alvin is unusually unusual today with three back-to-back posts. What are the chances?! But according to someone, I'm gonna strike the lottery soon too, so.

I'm leaving for Germany tomorrow with yet another all-girls entourage. This is one exciting trip though! Coz it's a rail-drive trip, and we're gonna rent a car and drive up the German autobahn! For the uninitiated, it's the German highway and it has no speed limits! Erm, I'm not the speed daredevil here and am more apprehensive than anything since it's a left-hand drive and forecasts say there might be snow! Double whammy. Let's hope we won't get whacked for being a roadhog driving like a turtle.

So anyway, the rough plan is to visit this Alpine region, Berchtesgaden, where Hitler had a bunker and then spend 2 days in Munich. Then we'll hop on a car for 3 days and drive down the Romantic Road to a couple of small towns before hopping back on a train to Berlin for another 2 days.

Sounds good? Yeah, it sure will be! Too bad if you ain't travelling w me. Hahaha.. Pray for our road safety though. = )

J'adore Paris

What can I say about Paris that you don't already know/expect? Well, not everyone loves it apparently. But I think it's hard not to fall in love with it, especially if you're a big city boy like me. Sure, I love nature and the waters, the beach and the lazing ard.. But when a city is buzzing with such romantic old town charms, a twinkling beacon of light the French call "La Tour Eiffel" and a river flowing under 35 bridges right in the city.. How could u not like it?

Imagine this: It's wintertime at the end of the year, you walk down Champs-Élysées.. You're on a shopping boulevard with trees lined up towards the Arc de Triomphe and which are full of dancing blue lights. Behind you, a large ferris wheel and carousel centre in the heart of the city.

Then, in the near vicinity, the famous Louvre museum stands with the magnificent glass pyramid adorning the courtyard of a 800 year old Palace. And u chance upon another musical carousel in the middle of the park.

As if that wasn't enough, further along the Seine river, you spot yet another buzz of activities, this time with yet another 2 carousels beside an outdoor skating rink and igloo, just cause it's christmas time. All of these in front of another palace.

Oh, and once in a the Centre Pompidou contemporary art museum, we were able to spot the disneyland castle in the horizon of the night sky. Magical.

In all, I've had almost a full 2 weeks of touring Paris, so I think as far as tourists go, I know the place pretty well. Sure there're the Notre Dame Cathedral and Da Vinci Code's Saint Sulpice, or the Moulin Rouge and Paris' Red Light Montmarte.. And as much as there is much to see and do in Paris, there is at least as much atmosphere to feel and soak up .. Be sure to drop ur first visit with a special someone and capture all the magic that Paris has to offer.


1) French people really do not like to speak English at all. But the younger generations in general are more adept at it. A simple 'Bonjour' and a genuine look on ur face asking for help will do the trick when you ask "Do you speak English?" or "Parlez-vous Anglais, s'il vous plait?"

2) Same goes for waiters at a restaurant! If it's busy, they are the king! MANY "s'il vous plait"s will finally get u ur menu or bill.

3) Metros run to everywhere in the city at intervals of 500m or less! Unless you're a cheapskate like me who prefers to walk everywhere anyway, get a booklet of 10 metro tickets (carnet). It's cheaper than individual tixes.

4) Latin Quartier has cheap and pretty good French 3/4 course meals at ard 10 Euros. Can't beat that! And do urself a favour and eat at Léon - a mussels restaurant chain that converted even a non-fan like me.

5) There's a free museum in the evenings every Wed - Sat for under 25s! And every first Sun of e mth is free-almost-any-attaction day.

6) Miss the sunset view at Basilique du Sacré-Cœur at your own peril! It's Paris' highest vista point and it's totally free. The Tour Eiffel, on the other hand.. so-so for the view. But if you're a checklist kinda tourist, you'd do well to visit it of course. I got suckered into it twice. But pay only for the first level elevator and u can climb ur way up n save urself a few Euros and calories in the process.

More Paris pics here

Birds of a feather

You know how it's always that you don't appreciate things when you really should?

I woke up at 2+am last night to, lo and behold, marinate chicken! hahahar.. well, before that i had to de-feather all of 6 huge thighs + drumsticks.. and u reali do realise at this point, how terribly trivial such a task is but yet soooo troublesome. Like many other things in life, yeah. And after an hour of plucking and then somemore for mixing my own concocted spice of pesto, paprika, pepper, chilli flakes and oregano herbs.. here they areee.

Well, I've been wanting to cook proper for a long time. That nostalgia is catching up with my limited time left in Ango, I decided to try to make some nice stuffs before i leave, and well I think it was okayz in end, picked more skills today too! like some stuffs make a gd sauce but burn too fast to be a gd marinade, how to peel garlic reaaaaally quickly, and blarhblarh (don't lauff).

But that's beside the point. As usual, we had people over n chatted for a while over dinner or post-dinner or whatever. We just don't do enough of such stuffs in Singapore. So, you know what, let's do this more often next time. Gatherings over home-cooked food and wine. Now, that's another thing we should appreciate when we don't really do.

Haha, didn't take better pictures of the "chicken party" as Kate called it, with the rest of e mushrooms n pasta..

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

My life in a small French town

Time really flies when u're on exchange (it's shit slow when u're in SMU). Well, I'm left with my last exam this term and have just abt half a month left in Rouen before I bid this place goodbye.

All in all, it's been really fun and a nice getaway from the buzz of Singapore. Even though much of life is spent in the halls of and my room in the Ango hostel. I kinda like the room actually, mb more than my own one back home..

All you worry about here is what to eat for dinner, and u spend half ur life cooking.. and then after dinner sometimes u drink and u make merry, play some cards and lotsa serial watching online haha.. the basic hall life that all SMU students are so deprived of. The occassional parties and events. A day trip out to the coast of Normandy (which btw, is even more French - slowslowslow n quiet).

The ever-screaming (but funny) Thai girls, the buncha Hongkong/Chinese friends n roommate, the ohmo-ing Korean and Korean-in-training, a couple of Japanese, couple more Russians, Canadians of confused origins, some fun Mexicanas and ppl here and there make up the Rouen experience.

And it's not that I don't want to venture out but there's kinda nothing much except a few drinking places in town. Shops close for lunch and on Sundays too, so u get the lazy French picture. But the cathedrals are nice. haha.

Yet, it's still lovely to walk in the winter cold and now that spring's coming, flowers of pink and yellow are starting to bloom too. As much as I'd complained about coming to a small town like this.. Manz, I'm gonna miss this place (and esp the ppl) when I finally leave and start travelling.

Oh and notice I didn't really talk about school? That's coz ESC Rouen is soooo slack, there's hardly any work to do and don't even get me started on the exam standards. It's all good for the French, and 100+ exchange students here though. = ) Not complaining.

More Rouen pics here.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

When you're poor and perfectionistic

What happens when you're a poor student hoping to pack as much as u can on ur itinerary?? u plan! and plan.. and planplanplannnn. well my travelling schedule is out more or less all e way til mid-July!

and planning is suchhh a bitch! like the hot ones at the club that you reali shuld do. and so im doing all the planning to get the best and cheapest holiday i can! I've been doing it my whole life anyways.

Will start travelling full time frm Apr coz tt's when I checkout of my Rouen hostel where i'm exchanging.. It's gonna be a great time in Europe!

Jan: London + Paris
Feb: Norway + missed Northern Lights! dammit.
Mar: Germany Rail & Road trip
Apr: Amsterdam + whole of Spain
May: Portugal + Long stay in Barcelona + Nice
June: Italy + Greece
July: Austria + Czech + Hungary

Wanderlust, Caution.

Helloooo. Erm, whoever's reading.. this is a travel blog from the ever lazy alvin.. so we'll nv know how much mileage this blog has in it.. but unlike other travel blogssss.. this one will gooo waaaayyy back to try to recount all of my experiences so far (in due course, i hope it'll happen)..

and then besides the flashbacks, i'll do flashforwards to my new travels! it's gonna b confuussssingg. exactly like 'Lost', if u're a fan.

So. let's cheers to a future full of wanderlusting and some cautions from me. hahaha.. = )