Sightsee Paris by boat

View of Notre Dame from Paris Batobus Boat

I love taking the public transport and cycling when I travel.

I had the chance to take the boat on the Seine when I was in Paris. The Batobus (translated as boat-bus) was probably more for tourists than for local though.

Batobus Musee d'Orsay stop
Batobus Musee d’Orsay stop
Unknown stop
Unknown stop
Tickets for Batobus
Tickets for Batobus
Le dauphine boat
Le dauphine boat
Retirees in boats having a meal
Retirees in boats having a meal
Paris in summer on the Seine
Paris in summer on the Seine

On the Batobus

Stuffy
Stuffy

Since passengers sat in the boat under a glass cover, I felt like I was in an oven. Most of the passengers looked grumpy from the heat.

Route on Batobus
Route on Batobus
In the boat
In the boat
Notre dame de Paris from afar
Notre dame de Paris from afar
Notre dame de Paris
Notre dame de Paris

I didn’t get the chance to catch the sunset on the boat because the sun was setting around 9pm in Summer but I’ve seen photos of the lovely purple-orange sky.

Should you take the Batobus?

If you have time and a student card, the Batobus packages are quite worthwhile.

The boat is also good for shuttling you from each important site to another. Highly recommended.

Other Paris reads:

A walk among the dead in Montparnasse cemetery

Montparnasse cemetery, cross against a blue sky

[To increase the level of spook, check out My visit to the Empire of Death before this post.]

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.

Secret door of Montparnasse cemetery
Secret door of Montparnasse cemetery

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.

Plaque about Cemetiere de Montparnasse
Plaque about Cemetiere de Montparnasse

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.

Map of Montparnasse cemetery
Map of Montparnasse cemetery

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”?)

Grave of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre
Grave of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre

Grave of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre
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.
Souvenirs from fans of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre
Souvenirs from fans of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre

Souvenirs from fans of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre Love the family portrait
Souvenirs from fans of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre
Love the family portrait

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

Road sign in the middle of Montparnasse cemetery
Road sign in the middle of Montparnasse cemetery

After contemplating life at the grave of de Beauvoir, I decided to walk about in the graveyard.
Cross in the sky
Cross in the sky

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.

Chinese grave at Montparnasse cemetery
Chinese grave

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.

Tombstones in Montparnasse
Tombstones in Montparnasse
Familles Daniel Meyer et Ernest SAMUEL
Familles Daniel Meyer et Ernest SAMUEL

Graves in Montparnasse
Graves in Montparnasse

Yes, really large.
Cordoned tower of Montparnasse cemetery
Cordoned tower

Family grave
Family grave at Montparnasse cemetery
Grave with leaves
Grave with leaves
Statue of sad lovers
Statue of sad lovers at Montparnasse cemetery
Obelisk
Obelisk at Montparnasse cemetery
Fresh flowers
Fresh flowers at Montparnasse cemetery
Tombstones at Montparnasse cemetery
Tombstones at Montparnasse cemetery

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.

Bad feng shui?
Bad feng shui?

Do you have a favorite cemetery?

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My visit to the Empire of Death

Warning.

This post contains some disturbing images. If you are not comfortable with looking at bones (and one rather creepy photo of a photo of skeletal remains), please stop here.

Thank you

Today is October the 31st Halloween so I thought it would be appropriate to have a spooky post to mark the occasion.

In case you’ve missed it, we in the Chinese world have a Ghost Month which does not involve dressing up in costume.

The Empire of Death in my blog post title refers to the inscription before the real entrance to the Catacombs of Paris.

Stop! This is the Empire of Death
Stop! This is the Empire of Death

When I was planning my May 2011 trip to Paris, the Catacombs was on the top of my list, right below the Lourve and the Eiffel Tower.

I first knew about the underground ossuary [Definition: A container or room into which the bones of dead people are placed.] from TV.

The Catacombs was shown on the rather unscary Scariest Places on Earth, hosted by Linda Blair who played the kid in The Exorcist. I was fascinated by the number of beautifully arranged human skulls.

By the way, I don’t think I’ve shared this, but I am a lover of anything spooky. New Orleans, I will visit you one day for your creepy plantations.

I started queuing up before 10 a.m. so I could finish the walk through the Catacombs early and visit the rest of Paris. There was a short queue when I reached.

Entrance to the Catacombs
Entrance to the Catacombs

It took a while before I was admitted into the tiny room selling tickets. With more body language than my broken French, I asked for a ticket and an audio guide.

I recommend getting the audio guide, or else you will be left with walking past graffiti and skulls without knowing what on earth is happening. (Not much is happening, by the way.)

The audio guides also make the visit seem more like a video game. Looking for the next audio point is like trying to find the treasure chest in old Chinese RPG games.

Ticket room to the Catacombs of Paris
Ticket room to the Catacombs of Paris

There are a few exhibition areas in the tunnel, telling the history of the Catacombs. One of it featured this rather scary photo of skeletal remains.

OK, this is rather creepy
OK, this is rather creepy

Be prepared to walk, a lot

Before going to the Catacombs, you should know that there is a lot of walking involved.

Walking up the stairs,

Catacombs of Paris
Light at the end of the tunnel

Walking down the stairs,

Well well well...
Well well well…

Walking in puddles.

Catacombs when it's wet
Catacombs when it’s wet

Walking in low roof areas.

Watch your head
Watch your head

Walking in the semi dark and so on.

There are no toilets in the passage so do your business before heading in.

As the tunnels are built underground, there are signs showing which part of the streets you are at.

Underneath Rue Hallé
Underneath Rue Hallé

The catacombs was not built in one day and neither is Rome, so I heard. But the tunnels were not built to keep human bones and was partly an old mine.

On parts of the walls, you can find carvings of years when that particular part was built.

Established since 1781
Established since 1781

Entering the Empire of Death

Show some R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Show some R-E-S-P-E-C-T

The real part of the ossuary comes after the long walk. You’re not supposed to take flash pictures inside but so many tourists were happily flash snapping away. Grits teeth.
Not to do list
Not to do list

Behind the walls of skulls are piled up bones which reminds me of the bones song: “The thigh bones connected to the hip bone.”
Interesting patterns, who thinks them up?
Interesting pattern, who thinks them up?

Catacombs of Paris
Skulls and thigh bones
Curved wall with skulls
Curved wall with skulls
Great interior design
Great interior design

Poetic Death

There were a lot of poetic inscriptions.

My favorite was this:

Where is Death?
Where is Death?

“Where is Death? Always in the future or the past.
And when she is present, she is no longer here.”
(The “she” being Death.)

My second favorite:

At the banquet of life
At the banquet of life

“At the banquet of life, unlucky guest,
I appeared one day, and I die:
I die, and on my grave, where I come slowly,
No one will shed tears!”

 Blessed is he who
Blessed is he who

“Blessed is he who keeps the hour of death in sight,
and who spends his days ready to die.”

O death
O death

“O death that your judgment is filled with fairness” (Help with translating this, please.)

Not quite poetic
Not quite poetic

Great walk

YQ at Catacombs of Paris
Happy camper!

I like the Catacombs a lot. The tunnels did not feel creepy since the bones are arranged beautifully.

It makes Death seem less scary.

But I am sort of disappointed that I didn’t feel any paranormal vibes. Maybe next time!

Visiting information
Catacombs of Paris (Catacombes de Paris)
Web site: http://www.catacombes-de-paris.fr/english.htm
Nearest subway and RER: Denfert-Rochereau
Open from 10a.m. to 5p.m. (Closed on Mondays)

Interesting sites nearby: Montparnasse Cemetery

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What travel means to me in one word

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ESCAPE

During my trip in Paris, I had an unhealthy obsession with escape signs. I didn’t really know why I felt compelled to take photos of every exit sign I see and to seek escape signs where I can’t see them.

In the description of a Facebook photo album titled Escape in France (related photos here), I wrote:

I discovered that I’m actually very fascinated with escape signs. In a novel, this would have deep meaning but in real life, it means I’m weird.

These few weeks I had been feverish with the wish to travel. Then one day, I realized recently at work (my mind wanders) that for me, travelling means to escape, to be free. 

But to escape from what? 

Is it to be away from the usual scenery and to be in an unfamiliar place? Is it to be away from the local food and to taste something different? Is it to smell a different air?

That, I’m to afraid to answer.

This post is part of BootsnAll’s 30 Days of Indie Travel project. Day 29: ONE WORD

What does travel mean to you in one word?  

The rest of my posts for the project can be found here.

City of Lights, Day 15 of 30 Days of Indie Travel Project

Eiffel Tower
Eiffel Tower

Parisian cliché

Saying your favorite city is Paris has become a cliché, especially for jaded young Singaporeans who already have traipsed across Europe right after their university graduation. They’ll likely tell you that while their favorite European city is Stockholm, there’s no place like home where the transport system and the government works.

(On another note, Tokyo is slowly becoming another cliché but the people here still do not think of it yet because they like sushi and J-pop so much.)

Despite what they say, my favorite city is still Paris.

Continue reading “City of Lights, Day 15 of 30 Days of Indie Travel Project”

Picnic by the Seine

My first meal in Paris was a picnic by the Seine. In the piercing early-summer sun, overlooking the Notre Dame de Paris.

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Here’s my unfortunate choice of not too French food. :(

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A short entry about my first day in the City of Lights.

This entry is part of BootsnAll’s 30 Days of Indie Travel project. Day 11: Feast.

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The rest of my posts for the project can be found here.

Gift of Fear, travel edition

Blog title taken from the title of a book that everyone should read: The Gift of Fear.

Travelling as a single woman takes guts.

Despite putting on a brave front telling people about my solo travels, I have to admit here that I feel panicky before every single trip.

“What if something bad happens??!” Worst case scenarios run through my head: my body floating in the Seine, found dead in my hostel room, etc–all sorts of scenarios from bad detective novels.

Despite all my paranoia, nothing really bad happened to me on my trips. *touch wood*

That said, there was a scary incident in Paris. It is scary on hindsight but (fortunately) I wasn’t that afraid then–more annoyed than scared.

Here’s a recount of the event (with edited paragraphing) from my Paris travel blogpost (a copy and paste of my e-mail to my friend):

No need to panic but some random guy threatened to kill me.

Was walking out of train station to where I live. Heard someone calling out from behind. Ignored (bcoz you never know who it is, and quite a few mad men around). Shout got louder as I walked away. I exited, thinking I was safe. At traffic lights, a China man (only reasonable term I can use now) said something loudly to me. I turned to him. He looked red in the face and smelled a bit drunk. He rambled on loudly in his dialect. I never opened my mouth but gave him a look that said: What the f do you want?

He ended his rambling, asking: You are China person (def not “overseas Chinese” in this case), aren’t you? I shook my head and looked away to behind him, holding on to my not-give-a-shit look.

Then he said: Next time you do this, I’LL KILL YOU.

He walked off.

While i feel frightened now, I’m glad I held on to my BITCH PLZ look.

Fullscreen_capture_1162011_101938_pm

This was where the scary thing happened, in the evening with the sky slightly gray.
Credit: Google Map 

Additional information about the incident. It was late in the evening in summer but there was still some light. The tunnels in the Metro were winding. There was a cafe opposite the exit–but no one sitting outside to witness the incident.

As I said I was not afraid when it happened. It was in my instinct that the guy did not have a gun or a knife with him. It was also instinct that told me: Put up a brave front.

Moral of the story: Trust your instinct but bring pepper spray, just in case.

How would you have handled such a scenario?

This post is part of BootsnAll’s 30 Days of Indie Travel Project: Day 6: Fear.

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The rest of my posts for the project can be found here.

Paris Day 1 Adventure: Musée des arts et métiers

After settling down in my petit apartement–meaning opening my suitcase and tossing out things I think I need and making it look as messy cosy as I can–I prepared for my Day 1 adventure.

On the top of my list Musée des arts et métiers and then the Louvre and d’Orsay to get my year pass. Although I have yet to buy tickets to Paris again, I felt it was both exciting and romantic be a member of those two famous museums.

I probably wouldn’t even have Musée des arts et métiers on my radar if I weren’t living nearby. But I glad that I was because the museum houses some automatons–which Wikipedia explains as “self operating machines”–or antique robots.

I believe the museum was housed in an old cathedral. It has a beautiful facade.

I missed the “Night at the museums” by just one night. Imagine how romantic it is to be inside a museum near midnight. Would the exhibitions come to life? I must must visit Europe one day around mid-May to be at one of its museums till late.

Back to the arts and craft museum. Once I entered, I saw the guy with the most fascinating hair. He was, of course, very handsome with large brown eyes and stubble. Stubble seems to be in, judging by the number groceries-shopping men sporting the look, or perhaps the weather just encourages hair growth.

Anyway, while I think men who man (ho ho) museum counters are definitely top on my sexy list, this young man had the weirdest hair that I did not know whether to give him a sticker for being dashing or just imagine him with normal hair and give him two Well Done stickers.

His hair looked like something out of a Japanese manga. I am serious. Imagine having hair past your shoulder and putting half a tube of gel on your hair. Then you make all of your hair stand up like a mohawk. After the mohawk, push all your vertical hair to a side so that you have hair that is parallel to the ground.

That was what this brown-haired, brown-eyed, stubbly dashing man looked like. I dared not take even a papparazzi photo of him because I would definitely offend him. All I could do was snap photos of him with my eyes and keep the copy somewhere in my brain.

After saying my greetings, I asked for a musuem ticket for the youth, en anglais… He was kind enough to answer in English and asked if I was under-26. Indeed I am and turns out, my entrance is free. I also asked for a ticket to the Théâtre des automates which just so happens to have shows the day I planned my visit.

Then I asked for an audio guide–which I didn’t really use because I didn’t felt the need to listen about irons and abascus.

The nearest show would be on in about 40 minutes time so I walked around a bit, feeling impatient most of the time.

After 20 minutes of listless speed walking past machines and more machines, I was terribly bored. I decided to take a seat in the theater and wait for the show to start.

The theater is actually a semi-circle small room with benches set like stairs. Down there were several automatons, all behind glass walls.

I took a set in the center of the middle row, not sure which would be the best seat in the house.

While I stared at the lifeless machines, in came an American with his five-year-old (possibly) daughter. The child had very short hair a la Shiloh and was dressed in gender neutral clothing, alright alright, boys’s clothes. She was talkative, asking her father questions.

The father was tall and had curly hair. He was patient with each of her questions. And I realized that there are men in this world who are: wonderfully bilingual, patient with children and would bring their children to the museum. I have much more faith in mankind now.

One of the questions the girl ask was whether the demonstration would be in French.

-Yes, it will be in French.
-Why isn’t it in English.
-Because we are now in Paris.
-Oh…

The girl then went on to demonstrate that she speaks Father by telling her father in French that this (ticket) is his and that this ticket is hers.

As I listened to the little girl talk, my womb started sending my wireless messages that it is time to get my own little curly haired tomboy who spoke in cute French. But of course I need to find someone to donate their seed.

Finally, the theater was filled up. The curator came in. He was a large man and held the keys to the wonderful little robots.

Luckily, most of what he said I half understood. The little robots activated by the turning of keys. One of the things on show was a moving picture where the little people and clouds would jerk from left to right.

There was also Marie-Antoinette’s musical instrument playing automaton. You can see it in action here.

Something went horribly wrong when the curator started explaining about the Marie-Antoinette doll.

My phone started ringing. The Nokia ringtone. My face burned with shame as I dug around for the phone. I pardoned myself and dashed out, with my phone ringing all the while.

I heard in the audience in French, “Oh it [the automaton] has started playing.” I found that amusing.

I finally found my phone and it was a missed call from my parents. I must remind them never to contact me, and for only me to contact them.

When I returned to the theater, it was reaching the end of the show. The audiece said their thanks and filed out while some stayed back to ask questions.

I continued my tour of the museum. Nothing too fantastic except the first-gen Apple iPod I saw.

Also, there was a urinal in the public toilet. Imagine walking in on some guy taking a piss!


The cathedral part of the museum was lovely.


But I was really hungry. really really hungry. It was time to leave.