Despite sleeping at 3:00am in the morning, I woke up at 8:00am. I couldn’t fall back to sleep so I headed to the hostel basement for breakfast.
To my horror, the scrambled eggs were not there. I was hoping eggs would be refilled soon and I even hung around after finishing my bowl of cereal. Unfortunately, there was still no eggs no matter how long I waited.
I head back to my room and got ready for the day out. I wanted today to be museum visiting day since I had not been to any museums in Santiago yet. Plus, most museums close on Monday so I had better get my fill of museums on Sunday.
The first museum on my list was the Museum of Memory and Human Rights. I bought a transport card–adorably called “Bip”–and loaded it with some money. A ride on the subway is 600 peso (S$1.50).
When I got to the entrance of the museum inside the subway, I found out that it was closed I then remembered that today was elections day. I went out of the subway to take a look at the museum.
Near the museum, there were several TV cars and a few policepeople standing guard. I wondered if the building next to the museum was where voting happened.
I took a peek at my Tripadvisor app to see where to have lunch. I walked down the street, hoping to find the elusive restaurant but failed. Instead, I captured a few photos:
I headed back to the subway station and looked at the map. I saw a subway station called Cementerio. I remembered reading about how the cemetery here in Santiago is worth a visit.
I hopped back onto the subway and switched a line to reach the cemetery.
When I got there, I wanted to see if there were any restaurants around. Since I did not have a good breakfast, my energy was quickly sapped away. I needed food.
While I was waiting for the traffic lights, a young man in a small old car turned into my street, grinned and yelled, “CHINO!”
I didn’t know if that was supposed to be racist or just for fun. I should learn the word for “asshole” so I can use it in situations like these.
There were no restaurants around the entrance of the cemetery. Instead, there were stalls and stalls of florists, all selling blooming flowers.
Santiago General Cemetery
Without lunch, I walked into the cemetery.At first, the building on the left looked like an administration office.
Looking closer, I realized that the floors had shelves with plaques. This wasn’t an office. It was places to put urns.
There were many of such constructions in the cemetery–rectangular boxes with inscription in the front and presumably urns in the back.
Unlike Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires where only the “elite” were kept. The Santiago General Cemetery seemed to have a mix of rich and middle class.
The rich had elaborate mausoleums or underground tombs while the middle class were kept in rectangular space. It’s a little like real life where the rich could afford bungalows while the middle class stayed in flats.
The cemetery was huge! I didn’t walk from one end to another since the other end looked really far.
Interestingly, the cemetery had a few large buildings housing many different people. One of these was the “Circle of Reporters” where I assumed the remains of famous reporters were kept.
This concept of keeping related people in the same place after life is quite fascinating. I had always assumed that people want to be “kept” near their families after they die.
I discovered one grave that was decorated with a lot of flowers and children’s toy. There were many notes printed on marble, thanking Carmenita for something. At first I thought this was where people came to pray for love.
After poking around my Spanish translation app, I deciphered that women who want children would come and pray for one (or two).
Soon, it was time to head back. I took the subway back to the hostel. I walked around and discovered a large supermarket. I bought a large pack of green apples before heading to lunch at a restaurant.
Then I got back to the hostel and had a refreshing siesta.
When I learned about La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, I knew that I must visit the place. I didn’t have an exact visit schedule so I slotted it in for today.
Since Google Maps does not have public transport directions for Buenos Aires, I did the safest thing and walked all the way from my hostel.
Good thing Buenos Aires has a grid system. I just needed to walk straight and turn when there is a bend and continue walking.
On my way, I stopped by a GIGANTIC Carrefour for a pack of biscuit (in case I get hungry from the terrible hostel breakfast) and a cup of coffee at the Carrefour Cafe.
I found out that raw steak is sold at as cheap as A$22, making me determined to make my own steak instead of spending A$80 outside for a restaurant steak.
Back to the cemetery… I found it easily since the crosses and angels peeped over the high walls surrounding the resting place.
The place was amazing. Larger than life statues were littered everywhere looking mournful.
Many of the mausoleums were exquisite. My sister mistook the crosses for churches when I sent her and mom photos of the cemetery.
I walked for so long that I decided to take a rest at one of the partly sunny benches. I read through several chapters of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban during the wait.
At last, it was time for me to leave. Before that, I visited Evita’s grave. It looked more like a small black marble box, not as glamourous as many of the “houses” in the neighborhood.
After seeing the cemetery, it got me wondering what people nowadays prefer to be placed after they die.
Swindled by a restaurant
As I walked back from the cemetery, I peeped at the different menus. Alas, everything in proper restaurants cost about A$80 (S$20). I was in my miserly mode of mine so I didn’t go into any of them.
In the end, I found a dingy place near my hostel that offered set meals for A$45. I was tempted by the photo of the steak.
When I went into the restaurant, there were 3 men sitting side by side with their backs to the counter. They stared at me when I walked in. Oh well, I guess none of them wanted to handle the foreigner so I grabbed a menu and read the dish, adding a “Si?”
They said, “Si.” I mimed sitting down and one of the man nodded.
He asked, “Frites?” I replied, “Si.”
The dish took a while to cook. When it came, it was decent but not spectacular. If I wanted spectacular, I should have just gone to the A$80 shops.
When it was time to pay the bills, one of the man asked another man something. The other man said what clearly sounded like “30 pesos” in Spanish because the “t” was audible.
But the change I got back from the first man was change for A$45. I stared at the bill, turning it over to see it taped down the middle.
I could have asked the guy who gave me change, “30 pesos or 40 pesos?” I could do these numbers but it didn’t seem worth it making a scene for what is only S$2.50 of change.
I took leave, vowing to have enough guts to confront that swindler in the future.
O Google Tranlated “Can I buy a SUBE here?”, memorizing the translation and using a broken version of it to ask for a SUBE. Extra points for understanding the lady’s question of how much I want to load into my card.
I didn’t plan for my third day in Paris to be full of death.
In the morning, I visited the Catacombs. When I was doing my travel research, one guidebook or another recommended Montparnasse cemetery where among the dead laid Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre.
I do not know much about de Beauvoir, apart from her being a famous feminist and a on-and-off partner of Sartre. I learned fake existentialism from a French-teaching armadillo on the University of Austin Texas’s Web site.
I do not remember how I got to the cemetery. I might have taken the train to Rapsail stop, since Google Maps is telling me that it’s a 1.5km walk from the exit of the Catacombs.
Following my trusty portable map and some road signs, I reached the Montparnasse cemetery area. There was a high wall separating the dead and the living. I wish it was a short gate so I could have jumped over it and get finished with my itinerary.
There was a high wall separating the dead and the living. I wish it was a short gate so I could have jumped over it and get finished with my itinerary.
I walked the a long stretch of road to the gates. For someone who do not know what is behind the walls, the vine-covered bricks might mean a private garden lay behind. A garden of the dead.
When I did reach the gates, I studied the map of the cemetery. The map was too high up for me to take a good picture to use as a walking guide. Instead, I studied where de Beauvoir and Sartre laid and mentally mapped my way there.
Looking for de Beauvoir
It wasn’t that easy finding their graves. I was expecting something grand with wreaths decoration which was why I missed out the grave when I walked past it a few times.
The tombsone was a pale marble, hidden among the other gray grave markers. Craved on the tombstone in gold were the names of de Beauvoir and Sartre and their birth year and death year. (Is there such a thing as a “deathday”?)
The tombstone was small, I had expected something flashier given how big they were when they were alive. There were a lot of souvenirs on the tombstone. If it weren’t for the seriousness of being in a graveyard, I might have laughed out loud at the gifts.
I particularly like the drawing of de Beauvoir and Sartre. A few lines from a de Beauvoir admire were scribbled on a piece of paper, probably torn out of a journal bought especially for the trip to Paris. A train ticket stub. A withering flower.
I regret not buying a bunch of flowers near the gates of the catacombs although it’s a little silly since the dead would not be able to smell them.
I didn’t expect de Beauvoir and Sarte to share one grave, like they aresharing an apartment. I thought that they each had their own plot of land, instead, they laid next to (or even on top) of each other.
Knowing what had passed between them during their final years, I wonder if the people who buried them were too romantic and decided that they must be together even in death.
While looking at the grave, I was overcome by sadness and wiped a few tears. What does it mean to live and be famous when in the end, we all would die and end up buried in the ground.
A walk in the park
After contemplating life at the grave of de Beauvoir, I decided to walk about in the graveyard.
The graveyard was shady, and very much like a park or a garden. I sat down at one of the benches and regretted not buying a picnic. Come to think of it, I might have lost my journal in the graveyard. I guess that’s much more poetic than losing it in the public toilet.
There was a grave marker in Chinese but I do not know the history of the two people who laid inside.
There was another lady in the graveyard that day. She was refilling her bottle at one of the taps. I was worried that she might be drinking non-potable water.
The cemetery ground was large. I didn’t find other famous people’s graves even though there are supposed to be more.
I did find some lovely graves.
Yes, really large.
I was surprised to see an apartment next to the graveyard. Being raised in a Chinese culture, any accommodation next to a graveyard means “bad things will happen”.
But Montparnasse didn’t look that much like a graveyard, so I suppose not much bad things will happen.
My blog is turning into a Visit Japan blog with all these posts about Japan! We interrupt your regular program with a visit to Kellie’s Castle in Ipoh.
I first read about Kellie’s Castle in a guidebook. It sounded like a fairy tale gone wrong. Let me tell the story with a bit of help from Journey Malaysia.
“Once upon a time, in a land far far away, a Scot by the name of William Kellie Smith made a lot of money in Malaya.
“In 1909/1910, he built a Moorish-styled manor for his family (wife Agnes Smith and daughter Helen Agnes). When his long-awaited son was born, he decided to extend his house into an even grander building.
“Unfortunately, the great building was never finished as many of the workers caught the Spanish flu and died. Smith was said to have died in Portugal of pneumonia.
The wife, daughter and son who left Malaya never returned.
“Nobody lived happily every after.
Yes, that is the sad tragic tale of Kellie’s Castle.
From town to Kellie’s Castle
As L and I were not familiar with the public transport, we took a private cab recommended by the Tune Hotel Ipoh receptionist. I believe it was a RM40 trip to the site and back to Ipoh town.
The castle wasn’t as creepy as the travel brochure portrayed. Kellie’s Castle wasn’t the grey stone castle of Scotland which I had imagined. Instead, the walls were mostly brick red.
Most of the castle was crumbling. There were dangerous areas on the upper floor with nothing to protect the visitor from falling of the building.
One of the rooms was reportedly haunted by a young girl. The problem is, I don’t think Helen died when she was young. I think it’s one of the stories people make up to pretend it is more mysterious than it is.
Behind the red building was a crumbling yellow house. This used to be the original manor but was somehow damaged really badly.
I mostly felt sad wandering in the unfinished compound. Some of the walls were newly painted but most were uncovered and other had moss crawling all over.
What made me happy were the two sets of people having photoshoots.