An aspiring wordsmith with an ephemeral attention span, drawn to stirring ideas and visual images that evoke thought and awaken an inner consciousness. Ever eager to grasp an understanding of differing perceptions arising from cultural nuances and subtle variations in the way we view the world around us.
The owner has a weak spot for fast cars. He is at times prone to misanthropy but given some space, he will return to his happy self. He craves excitement brought about by change to his surroundings and the people he meets, for stagnation and predictability bore him and cause overwhelming disinterest.
On the first day of our road trip in the UK, we left our friend’s apartment in Baker Street, London, early in the morning, rolling six days’ worth of combined luggage across a few streets towards Edgware station to pick up our rental car from Sixt (more on our rental and driving experience in another post).
We planned to drive from London to the Lake District in a day, so had to stop along the…
When we were in London last year, Pris put forward Hawksmoor and Gaucho, two restaurants immediately known for their steaks. Hawksmoor‘s website bills itself as “the best steak restaurant in London”, sourcing its beef from native cattle breeds in Britain, which are supposedly the most flavourful. Gaucho, on the other hand, serves up the “finest Argentine steaks” with a dedication to the…
I’m not the biggest fan of Asian cuisine in general, and it takes some really punchy yet mainstream flavours to gain my acceptance where regional food is concerned. As a result, my exposure to Indian food has been limited to the very basic roti prata, murtabak and occasional curry. It was therefore quite an eye-opener for me when one afternoon, we decided on a North Indian restaurant near the…
Last year, Pris took me to dinner at Wooloomooloo Steakhouse and till this day, I still look back on the brilliant cut of steak that I ordered and find myself salivating a little.
The dimly-lit restaurant includes design features such as racks of chopped wood, wine glasses and an open-concept kitchen at the end where the chefs cook and entertain some of the overseeing diners. The full-length…
Having been lured by the modern European-style plating from the listing on Chope, we found ourselves at Portico, a casual dining concept along Alexandra Road close to Labrador Park.
With prices for alcoholic beverages as expensive as they are in Singapore, we plumped for three glasses of Torresella Prosecco Extra Dry NV on offer at just $10. For added context, the menu listed each glass at $7…
Japanese cuisine has become an increasingly popular choice for Pris and I when it comes to dining out, so it probably comes as little surprise that both our birthday celebrations this year have been at popular Japanese establishments. For Pris’ birthday, I made dinner reservations at Bincho.
Open by hotelier and restaurateur Loh Lik Peng under the Unlisted Collection‘s umbrella brand, Bincho…
The day after we ate at Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner in London, we planned to have lunch at Burger and Lobster on our way to visit Hyde Park. Opened in late-2011 in the upmarket Mayfair, Burger and Lobster has been making a name for itself serving essentially two items on their food menu. No prizes for guessing what those menu options are!
The place doesn’t take reservations, so even though we…
This was the year’s big trip, and quite a while in the making. We went in the first half of May for two weeks, starting and ending in Paris. The country offered a welcome respite after months of relentless work commitments that refused to yield to our pleas for mercy.
The Parisians, aloof as they apparently are, weren’t as cold and unfriendly as I read about in popular travel literature, perhaps because I made stuttering attempts to converse in my embarrassing French before gaining their sympathy and continuing the rest of the dialogue in English. Ironically, I needed very little effort to impress them. Tres bien.
We quickly realised the need to adjust our expectations of cafés in Paris, notably that they often have very limited menus compared with what we’re accustomed to in London, Sydney or even Singapore. A number we went to only offered limited variations of coffee and an assortment of pastries with little else. And if you’ve never been to France, don’t look forward to being served warm bread (even at restaurants) unless it’s fresh from the oven - the idea of warming bread up seems like too much trouble. Being unapologetic about a limited offering also seems to be the Parisian (or French) way, it seemed.
With an appetite for Paris beyond its usual tourist spots, we ventured into the Butte-aux-Cailles neighbourhood. Located in the city’s 13th arrondissement, it contains a cluster of narrow cobblestoned streets with bustling cafés and offbeat shops.
Walking through Cité Florale
We booked a day tour with France Tourisme to visit the Mont Saint Michel as well. A numbing seven hours on a coach bus for three hours on the picturesque island monastery isn’t an experience I want to relive, although I’m glad I checked this off my bucket list.
Tip: Spend a couple of days in Normandy if you’re in France and planning to visit the Mont Saint Michel. Also, if your visit is motivated by photographic objectives, I find there’s little justification to visit the island itself. You’ll be better served being some distance away, even with a wide-angle lens.
Popping out of Paris and into the countryside, we took the TGV to Grenoble to pick up our rental car, before driving to Briançon. The in-vehicle GPS in our Nissan Juke (if there’s anything that wouldn’t be missed by its absence, this car is it) took us on the scenic route, literally, leading us into Italy before looping back across the French border into the ski resort where we would spend the next two days. When street signs start to take on more “z”s and “o”s, you wouldn’t be faulted for guessing that you’re on Italian soil.
From the car park at our ski hotel
The Grande Rue (above) is also known as the ‘grande gargouille’ after the drain that runs down the middle of the street to prevent flooding
Briançon, a fortified mountain town surrounded by alpine mountains and several derelict forts, turned out to be a lovely area for a countryside retreat. We particularly enjoyed the much slower pace of life here and would love to return just to unwind and maybe go skiing.
The Pont d’Asfeld - a technical engineering achievement of the Ancien Régime
Next, we headed to the seaside town of Nice, where we spent the next couple of days visiting the Promenade des Anglais, the old town and enjoying predominantly Italian cuisine for a change. Ultimately, though, this leg of the vacation was the least memorable. I did enjoy my brief conversation with our hotel manager who is from Morocco, however. When he shared that he was visiting Barcelona for a vacation of his own, we mentioned in passing to beware the pickpockets in the Catalan city, to which he good-naturedly replied that he’s from Morocco and by default won’t have a problem in that type of environment.
The last leg of our road trip took us to Aix-en-Provence, where we spent four lovely days exploring the town and its surrounding vineyards, including the Barrage de Bimont and Picasso’s penultimate residence at Château de Vauvenargues.
En route to Aix-en-Provence, via the Gorges du Verdon, with the body of turquoise water from the Lac de Sainte-Croix behind me
Sweet strawberries in ridiculous abundance sans stupidly-inflated price
Keeping the wine kosher
Back in Paris, we re-visited the Eiffel Tower from a distance at the Trocadéro, after a fine meal at Restaurant Victor. We were fortunate enough to get ourselves into a nice position amongst the crowds to snap a few photos as the lights brightened in contrast to the deepening navy blue sky.
Two weeks in France has done nothing to change my appreciation of the French language and its culture, peculiar as the latter might be in some instances. The diversity of its people and the evolving immigrant demographics, particularly in Paris, make it an exciting melting pot of cultures comparable to the other international metropolises in the world. There is something about the French culture that’s difficult to put a finger on, which perhaps adds to the constant intrigue. This is probably also the reason I will continue to be interested about the country in the years to come.
Phil McNulty, chief football writer, BBC Sport