Venice – not again!

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When it rains, it pours! 

There was a time I have given up on the hope of seeing Venice in my lifetime. But one day, in 2007, it happened! Then in 2009, it happened again! And this year, next week to be exact, I am going to see it for the 3rd time! I will be playing the role of a tourist guide to my sister and her family for a 14-day visit to Paris, Venice and the Mediterranean coast of France and Italy and I would like to take this opportunity to say I am going to disappear again for 2 weeks. Don’t worry, I’m coming back with more photos so watch for it!

Meanwhile, here is a preview of what I am looking forward to doing in Venice:

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Get inside the Basilica and be awed by the splendour of the interior and the gold mosaics that decorate it

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Find the first ever female gondolier, a job exclusively reserved for males for the last 900 years

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Check how really “crowded” Venice is, in August, August being the peak of the high season. After all, this city is always crowded whatever time of the year.

And many more “tourist-cliches” photographs! Until then, bye-bye!

The Tourist – which one are you?

Half my  joy of travelling is watching the sightseeing habits of tourists. 

Architecture interests me a lot; the landscape, the food, the local culture,  moreso, observing  the locals going about their daily fare.  But nothing tickles me most than surveying how tourists behave, how they dress, what they carry with them, who are they travelling with.  Certainly it forms part of my learning process that no book or “theories on travelling” can teach me.  Luckily, I am always surrounded by tourists and even luckier to live in the topmost tourist destination in the planet.

So what are the types of tourist cliches and which one you belong to? 

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The Carefree Traveller.  She is comfortable with her clothes, she doesn’t concern herself with bags or knick knacks, not even a camera. 

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The Vigilant.  He is always suspicious of the people around him so he makes sure that everything is tightly held.

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The Travel Buddies.  They cannot travel alone.  For them, travelling is much more fun when shared with friends.

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The Package Tourist.  Planning an itinerary, accommodation and transport is a headache so to make it simple,  join a packaged holiday.  It’s a good way to make new friends anyway.

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The Gadget Freak.  Not content with one but two mobile phones, that’s travelling in the 21st century.

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The Romantic

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Me-and-My-Pet Traveller.  Either she cannot find a reliable dogsitter or she finds travelling  much more fun with her pooch.

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The Mystic Traveller

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The Artistic Traveller

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The Artistic Traveller (2)

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The Japanese.  Well, it’s not really a cliche but her hat is a Japanese cliche!

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The Budget Traveller.  She lives on cheap snacks, stays in cheap hostels so she can see more of the world for less money.

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The Souvenir Hunter.  He buys souvenirs not just to gather dust at home but something he could wear.

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The Guidemap.  She sticks to the “tourist route” drawn on the map.  She doesn’t realize that the real adventure is found in the offbeaten tracks.

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The Snapper.  She carries a camera that looks like the hubble telescope and cannot go anywhere else without it.

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The Poser.  She doesn’t care if she falls and get broken bones, as long as she has lots of photos to take home – but usually, there won’t be  a single sign of the city she posed from as they all would be facial and body shots of her. 

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The “I’ve-been-there” Poser

As opposed to the Facial and Body shot Poser above, others would like to have proof that they were actually there!

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The Window Shopper.  Whatever age, whatever interest he has, as long as he has time to look at the latest arrivals.

August in Paris

Did you know that Paris is practically devoid of Parisians in August? 

That if you are planning to do business or make an appointment with a Notaire* or even reserve a seat in your favorite restaurant, chances are, you will be disappointed because nobody is there.  Your business contact in the Champs Elysees is off to the south of France;  your Notaire has taken his holiday in Corsica and your favorite restaurant’s answering machine is saying “Sorry, we are closed for our annual holiday.  We will be back early September. Please call again later.”

And you know what –  the only people running the city (literally) will be the tourists.  Oh yes, in August, Paris is almost deserted except in tourist spots where throngs of tourists mill around. 

I wanted to experience more how August is like in the capital so I scoured  two areas of Paris the other day –  one,  frequented by the locals and the other, by tourists, and here’s what I found:

Most shops and restaurants are closed for their annual holidays

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“To better serve you, we are renovating our offices.  We are closed from 3 to 31 August 2010.” (A Property Agency)

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“On Holiday.  We will re-open on 24 August 2010” (Boutique)

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“The restaurant is closed from 25 July to 22 August 2010” (Restaurant)

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“Closure of our Shop, Saturday 17 July 2010.  Re-opening early September.  Wishing you a good holiday.  Till then….Sylvie” (Boutique)

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“Operation Peaceful Holidays” (Notice from the Brigade de Gendarmerie and Police Nationale)

Because most houses and shops are empty in August, the police has to do some extra patrolling jobs.  In order to benefit from the scheme, one has to report to the Police Station of his absence so his house could be put under closed watch.

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This regional train in Ile de France is almost bereft of passengers in August.

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Even metro stations outside of the tourist spots look haunted

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Where have all the cars gone?

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Place Monge gets very very quiet without the Parisians

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Normally,  Parisian employees would be queueing up to this sandwich shop in rue Mouffetard at lunchtime

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A narrow street off the Sorbonne at this time of the year could be a good place to play badminton

Now, I tried going to a tourist spot – The Sacre Coeur in Montmarte and here’s what I saw:

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Looks like there’s a stampede!

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The road to the Basilica is packed!

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Even the funicular is packed!

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A couple can barely kiss each other because of the moving crowd

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Never have I seen these steps to the Sacre Coeur packed like sardines

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These steps are converted into an auditorium to watch street performers

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Souvenir hawkers such as this vendor are normally ignored by passersby, but in August, they make brisk business

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And the foot of the Eiffel Tower in August

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Just outside of Paris, this town of Limours is haunted

*Notaire – a public officer who performs similar functions as a solicitor

Driving on a Sunday in Ile de France

Ile-de-France is that region surrounding Paris which comprises of 12,000 sq.km of suburbs interspersed with chateaux, farmlands, forests and historic towns and villages. (see website)

It’s been nearly two months since we made Ile de France our home but we never really had a chance to do serious exploring because H and I seem to be eternally busy working:  he – to make money and I – to  look after him so he can keep on making money.  Even our sacred weekends are  full  just by puttering around the house, doing renovations and improvements so our new life in this quiet hinterland of the capital is comfortable. 

But the picturesque countryside is all around us.   Just driving to the supermarket or searching for DIY shops or going to a Sunday vide grenier leave us completely overtaken by awe and admiration.  It’s like driving through history where the only sight lacking are the horse-drawn carriages with their duke and duchess-looking passengers,  and on the side of the road are peasants in their farm clothes carrying baskets of produce, and of course, knights in their shining armour coming out from every corner – huh, my imagination is getting mixed up!

Here are some pics I’ve taken mostly from our moving car:

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St Cyr sous Dourdan

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Fontenay les Briis

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Clairefontaine

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A Gite (bed and breakfast) near Dourdan

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A roundabout in Dourdan

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Another roundabout in Dourdan

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France has a big budget on street maintenance and that includes flowers and gardens that change every season

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wheatfields

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stopping by to buy fruits and veggies

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The vendor has a comfortable accommodation behind the curtains so selling on the road is not a big deal.  By the way, the peach and the plums that we bought that day were extremely good! 

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These 3 motorcyclists decided to spend the night on the side of the road – a kind of “Tent and Vroom Away!”

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