I think I’m a lousy tourist.
While I love travelling, I don’t get very excited about visiting tourist attractions. I mean, I enjoy them enough when I do see them, but I never plan my holidays around them.
In fact, I never plan my holidays.
I like to just go to a foreign country, breathe in the air, take in the everyday sights, look at the people and the local shops and kind of just relax and live.
Case in point: When I was studying in Australia, I didn’t visit a single tourist attraction in all my three years there. I just enjoyed living.
Unfortunately, the pragmatist in me said I had to visit the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, at least, while I was in Paris, in order to justify the cost of travelling and staying there for five days.
I visit tourist attractions in order to avoid potential embarrassment in future conversations with random people.
Random Person: Oh, you’ve been to Paris, have you? Oooh. How was the view from up the Eiffel Tower?
Me: Um… I don’t know. I didn’t go see the Eiffel Tower.
Random Person: Wha— oh. What about the Louvre? You must have seen the Mona Lisa!! Is she freaky up close and personal or what?
Me: I didn’t go to the Louvre.
Random Person: Oh. How many days did you say you were in Paris for?
Me: Five days.
Random Person: Right. Oh, I see. Not really into the cultural stuff, eh? Ah, I know! You must have gone into the Moulin Rouge! Must have been really exciting and colourful, eh?
Me: What Moulin Rouge?
Random Person: DID you say you’ve been to Paris?
It just saves a lot of trouble if you behave like normal people once in a while and go squeeze with other tourists to gawk at specific things.
And that’s why, in my five days in Paris, I only saw maybe five attractions when I could have seen 20 had I been a more conscientious tourist.
But I did enjoy walking through the streets. For two days in a row, Piers and I decided to walk for hours instead of getting on the Metro to get to our destinations. Along the way, we saw things we wouldn’t otherwise have seen.
Like the hooker streets, for instance.
Well, that’s just a name we give it. I’m sure they don’t really call it that in Paris.
So, one day, we were just walking in a general direction towards a specific destination, orientating ourselves with a map and Piers’ HTC compass app.
It’s fun, just walking and not knowing what you’re going to see along the way. For three days while we were in Paris, the weather was perfect for walking. Cool and sunny!
Anyway, as we walked down a quiet street, we saw a plump middle-aged woman in heavy makeup dressed in netted stockings, PVC micro mini and a huge faux fur coat, leaning against a car and just staring into space nonchalantly.
I think we both silently wondered about her as we continued walking. The inevitable realisation dawned on us when we discovered some choice shops in the neighbourhood.
And then, it was, like, “Are you seeing what I’m seeing?”
“OMG LOL YES.”
Then, more and more elaborately-dressed women started popping up as we walked down the long street. Some were alone, some were in groups. They were all middle-aged with big hair and inappropriate dressing for daytime.
Obviously, I couldn’t take very good photos of them because I didn’t want to be killed by any pimps that might have been lurking around unseen.
Piers was very thrilled with the sight because he says they don’t have “hooker streets” in England so it was like a novelty for him.
When he was in Singapore to visit a couple of months back, Minou, Unker Kell and I took him to Geylang for dinner one night. After dinner, while walking to the car, we passed by a couple of Chinese streetwalkers. When we told him they were prostitutes, he was shocked and didn’t believe us for a while. Haha.
Anyway, the next day, during our walk, we chanced upon another hooker street. This one was populated by middle-aged Asian women. Well, they were slimmer and a bit younger and not as provocatively dressed as the Caucasian ones and they were in a more public place.
Behind these two in the picture are three more of them. We watched them stand around, occasionally strolling back and forth, while we bought Nutella crepes from a stall on the opposite side.
You see a LOT of stalls and even restaurants selling Nutella crepes in Paris. So strange, but so tasty!
I suppose we were quite lucky, or maybe Paris is just full of interesting things to see. Even walking around randomly, you’ll keep seeing beautiful buildings and ornaments and structures you don’t know the name of.
I didn’t photograph everything we saw, but here are a few nice things we encountered within an hour or two of walking.
We ended up sitting by this fountain to have a drink and enjoy the afternoon sun.
I think we didn’t eventually get to where I wanted to go to because, every day, our plans would keep changing along the way depending on our mood. I think I wanted to go to a flea market or something that day, but I never did get to one.
It’s quite fun, though, not having a fixed itinerary. I think an ideal holiday would be one which is at least two weeks long, so you can spend a week visiting tourist attractions and another week just exploring randomly.
Maybe half a week on touristy stuff and 10 days exploring! =D
We did manage to see some attractions, which I’ll blog about another day, but I think what I’ll remember most from this trip are the unexpected sights and the cafe-sitting.
Not too criminal, is that?