Discovering “hooker street” and other sights in Paris

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.

 

At the supermarché

 

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.

 

At the restaurant

 

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.

 

Piers reading a map

 

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.

 

Sex shop in Paris

 

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.

 

Paris street

 

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.

 

Paris street

 

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.

 

Nutella crepes

 

Nutella crepes

 

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.

 

Paris

 

Paris

 

Paris

 

Paris

 

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?

A life full of romance and adventure

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I will always remember Melbourne as a place of adventure and romance.

It was there that I spent some of the best years of my life. It was there that I learnt that life is so full of vibrant possibilities.

It was there that the world came to life for me.

When I first arrived in Melbourne, it was winter. The biting cold air, so contrasting with hot, humid Singapore, shocked me awake and alive as I stepped out of the airport. It was about five in the morning. My senses tingling, I couldn’t stop smiling.

I quickly settled down in the city. As part of our initiation into Australian culture, my college organised for us a trip to Lake Mountain, a snow and ski resort. It was my first brush with snow!

There’s a shop at the resort where you can rent waterproof snow clothes and boots, so those aren’t my clothes. I also learnt that day that making a snowball is not as easy as it looks. It’s really hard to get it into a perfect round shape because snow is very heavy! And very, very cold!

We were given a choice to toboggan or ski. I chose the toboggan because skis scare me for some reason and toboggans seem a lot more fun. It WAS fun! I wish I could have stayed there for days, but it was only a half-day trip. I didn’t even get a chance to make a snowman. =(

Then again, I couldn’t even make a proper snowball, let alone a snowman.

By the way, the only places that you can find snow in Australia are in the mountainous areas, which you can find in Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

That works for me. While I find playing with snow fun, I can’t take too much cold and wouldn’t like for the area I actually live in to snow.

Back in the city, I enjoyed going to the park just across from my hostel to play with possums. We’d bring fruits to feed them and they’d start coming to us in droves! It can be quite scary sometimes.

Some weekends, we would go to St Kilda Beach, a very popular beach in Melbourne, to rollerblade! Well, not directly on the beach, of course. Melbourne beaches are so clean and blue and beautiful, even an anti-beach person like me can’t resist them.

Random photo time!

My crazy Hong Kong friend posing in the train tracks while we were waiting for a train:

He is so damn brave. Not to mention totally insane.

I’ve shown you guys my sinking library sculpture photo outside the State Library of Victoria, before. Here’s another!

This is right in the middle of the city of Melbourne. I love the city area in Melbourne. Just walking down the street on a normal day is an adventure.

Really! Maybe it’s the nice weather (although Melbourne is infamous for its four-seasons-a-day weather, it’s still relatively nice on average), very conducive for strolling or brisk walking.

Maybe it’s the old buildings, looking so mysterious and regal and beautiful.

Maybe it’s the people, so infectiously full of life and fun-loving.

Maybe it’s the way the city seems to ooze romance and culture effortlessly.

Maybe so many things!

An ex-boyfriend came to visit me once and we spent many romantic nights walking down the streets together, hand in hand, breathing in the flavourful Melbourne air and taking in the quaint Melbourne sights.

I also enjoyed going to pubs during the weekends, where beer is as cheap as water. I mean bottled water, since tap water is free.

I especially enjoyed the niche pubs you can find all over the city and the suburbs. They feature artistic, bohemian decor and play alternative mood music, the perfect recipe for unwinding and chilling out after a long week of studying.

The years that I lived there felt like a perpetual holiday.

In my second semester, our college took us out on another excursion. I can’t remember exactly where. It could be Falls Creek, which is another snow and ski resort, but during summer, it turns into a nature resort for hiking and whatever.

There’s a huge waterfall.

And a huge tree with a lobang in it!

And a beach near the nature trail.

Aaaah. Victoria beaches just sparkle so. It’s killing me that I can’t hop on a train and go to one of those beaches on a whim anymore.

Another random photo!

I was hanging out with my friends one weekend when we found this place with a pretty red tree. I can’t remember where this is, either. I’m really quite bad at remembering places.

Melbourne holds a ton of fond memories for me. One of them happens to be one of the most romantic things that’s happened to me.

I blogged about it before, here. But if you don’t want to read the long story, here’s a summary:

It was my birthday. I was in Melbourne house-hunting alone. I bumped into a cute guy who was also house-hunting and we started chatting and walking together. He found out it was my birthday and ran off to buy me a gift on the spot.

We had tea together and then we parted ways, never to see each other again. It was quite a surreal, right-out-of-the-movies experience.

I would really love to return to Melbourne and relive all these wonderful memories. So far, I haven’t had a chance to, but I’m hoping, soon!

Here’s a picture of the Flinders Street Station:

I lived a few minutes away from it for over a year. It’s also quite near the famous Crown Casino. Since I lived within walking distance, I would stroll to the casino during quiet afternoons and sit at the 2-cent slot machines all day just for fun.

I never spent more than A$20, though. I’m not much of a gambler. I just enjoy being in the highly-charged atmosphere of the casino. And slots are quite fun, like a game.

There’s also the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV International), Australia’s oldest public art museum housing an amazing collection of ancient treasures to modern works, which I never quite got the chance to visit.

By the way, Qantas now has a great offer. For the price of one airfare, you get to travel to two Australian cities! In other words, pay $869 and fly to two cities of your choice. That’s almost like a double round trip for the price of one!

More info about this deal is available at www.qantas.com.sg.

The Singapore-Australia currency exchange rate is practically one for one right now, so I’m thinking it’s a good time to visit Australia.

If I get to go back to Melbourne again, I would love to pay a visit to Daylesford, also known as Victoria’s spa capital, less than an hour away from the city.

It’s a charming little town, perfect for a romantic getaway. There are natural mineral springs, spa retreats, farms, art galleries, historic shops, gourmet food and wine, and funky cafes.

Indeed, British Airways magazine even named the place “number one funky town in the world”.

It would be so romantic and relaxing!

If there’s time, I also want to visit Phillip Island, home of the penguins. I can’t believe I never went to Phillip Island when I was living in Melbourne!!

Well, it’s just one of those things in life. You take things for granted and then you miss it when it’s gone. Sigh.

Only 90 minutes’ drive from Melbourne, Phillip Island is a popular tourist hangout featuring breathtaking nature, wildlife reserves and beautiful beaches.

I think it’s a great place for friends and family. I want to see penguins and koala bears and seals! OMG I didn’t get to see koala bears when I was in Australia, either. What a moron I was!

Oh, I just read that Phillip Island is also good for water sports (kayaking, surfing) and motorsports (motorcycle, cars). There are actually Grand Prix events held there.

There is also a chocolate factory!! How outrageous that I never visited Phillip Island when it was practically in the next neighbourhood! Argh!

The good news is that there’s a Come Walkabout in Australia campaign now which offers attractive, affordable tour packages to many popular as well as other lesser-known but no-less-rewarding attractions in Australia.

You can even engage a travel specialist to help you book your adventure in Australia if you want a fuss-free holiday. You just have to choose the attractions you want to visit and your specialist will take care of all flight and accommodation details for you.

You can either get in touch with a travel specialist at www.australia.com or call 1800-GO-TO-AUS (1800-46-86-287).

I’m thinking of taking a two-week break to go to Melbourne, soon. But I don’t know if the Goonfather can take two weeks off work. I think his boss will kill him. Haha.

Well, I don’t know if I can take two weeks off myself, for the matter.

But there’s so much more to do and see in life! If not now, when?