On New Year’s eve

It’s nearly new year’s eve here in Paris, and I’m finally start to feel better after a few days’ sickness. What a place to be sick, too! Love Paris on my fourth trip here – it feels so familiar and easy. This trip we’re not attempting to have every experience and see every sight – we are seeing a number of previously unseen sights including Fountainebleau (possibly tomorrow). 

I havn’t written any blog entries during the holiday – havn’t had the time, and thousands of people are doing that anyway – what would another blog entry add? But I thought I’d post a few thoughts.

One of the best metro experiences was in Berlin when three people got on the car, one with guitar, and they soon performed a song and dance number for about 3 minutes – it was the best metro music do I’ve seen and they must have raked in donations. The guy with the guitar had a moose sewn onto his jacket. Maybe I can give up policy work, sew furry toys on my clothes and perform on trains/metros.

One of the most disturbing sights was Karl-Marx-Allee in the former east Berlin – almost an embodiment of overwhelming monolithic anti-individualism in a “grand boulevard”. Unforunately I didn’t see the DDR museum – maybe next time.

This holiday I’ve really enjoyed taking audioguide tours of castles and other buildings. Previously I often found audioguide tours a bit long and dreary (e.g. the audioguide for the Palais des Papes in Avignon), but this time, I’ve enjoyed them for some reason. I completely recommend the audioguide tours for Westminster Abbey and Schloss Charlottenburg. The audioguide for St Paul’s Cathedral was ok, although a bit light on material, while the tour and audioguide of Kensington Palace (full of gorgeous wood and decoration) was strangely disjointed. 

We visited Kensington Palace on one of the foggiest days I’ve seen – before saying anything else about Kensington Palace I have to recommend its Orangerie for the most beautiful afternoon tea and architecture. The KP tour starts, without any explanation, with a description and demonstration of the attire required to visit the English Royal Court in the 1800s. After looking at the working conditions of the seamstresses in the 4th room, the next 8-odd rooms on the tour are devoted to a memorial of Diana on the 10th year since her death – the rooms are all painted white and filled with pictures and video of Diana, with no audioguide dialogue nor description/explanation for visitors. It might be assumed that visitors already know the Diana story – but while I enjoyed watching some of the videos, it was a bit unsatisfying.

After going through the Diana memorial, the tour suddenly reverted to the history of Kensington Palace, which is beautiful. It’d odd to discuss KP in such details, but there you have it. London was surprisingly interesting – it’d be good to live and work there. Found two very good TV shows – Peep Show (check out this page for related info) and Whose Line Is It Anyway? – very funny.

I recommend visiting Helsinki – the food (e.g. reindeer, elk and herring) was surprisingly good, and the centre of the city is really quite beautiful. It’d be great to return in summer. It was odd for the sun to (gradually) rise at about 9am and (gradually) starting setting at 2pm – I’m trying to imagine how it is in summer. For the first time ever, I saw live tigers, lions, leopards and snow leopards within touching distance, along with brown bears, musk ox and other creatures (at the Helsinki zoo).

That’s enough for now. Happy new year’s eve to all. We’re back home on Jan 7 after a few more days in Paris and then a short visit to Singapore. Enjoy!

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