Perambulating to Paris

Today’s ultimate destination is the City of Lights… Paris! Where the biggest Tesla Coil in the world, the Eiffel Tower, resides. Simply outstanding. Macaroons and super hot French girls on the street. Escargot and high fashion and Old World charm. Will Paris be all I think it is?

Off to the Tube for the first part in a long commute after a brisk walk in the British air. The air is chilly but not yet sharp… My tropically-sensitized body has not yet accustomed itself to the climate and I am sneezing like a squirrel which has drank a few shots of sugar solution. All the way to heathrow, where I will then attempt to do all the necessary in a foreign airport. O Changi! May many odes be written in praise of your efficiency and familiarity. Now to settle in and await the inevitable end of the line… The Tube line.

Walking around Heathrow terminal 5 now looking at anything I want to and I realized that traveling alone is very fun. You can do anything you want. Like walking aimlessly around the airport. Heathrow T5 has a very space age feel to it. Clean white lines and everything is squared away nicely. And a kid just backpedaled into me because we are looking at Lego.

Airports are fascinating places… Perhaps the most fascinating of transport hubs. They speak of distance covered and to be covered, people in various states of array and disarray, frazzled parents, hyperactive kids, world-weary businessmen, deliriously happy newlyweds, large laughing and bickering families, wide-eyed travelers. A sampling of humanity. The greatest variety. In all vocations and purposes, all gathered to travel, to move. That very human urge to keep moving till you eventually find a place to call home. But home isn’t a physical location. What a paradox! We are constantly on the move in search of something which is not found (but might take physical form) in the vast distances of Earth, but is instead found within, somewhere deep inside the tracts of the heart. But can it be said that in physical movement we also engage in a mental and spiritual exploration of self? Ah!

Many tasty things abound here. Yet the thing I like most is the cheese… All sorts of cheeses are readily available. I had a tuna olive and provolone panini for lunch. I have honestly no idea what provolone is meant for, but it tasted good! Sandwich heaven.

And now I am aboard the flight to Paris. And I am typing because I am sitting in the emergency exit row, so I have a) more leg room and b) have to stow my bag in overhead so that in case of emergency! There will be no obstruction. There is a Singaporean family behind me. I looked at them and immediately though, Singaporean. A glance at the passport confirms it. What is it that allows people to recognize their fellows so instinctively? A melange of body language and subtle cues… I would like to know the specifics dearly. But right now I am regretting not choosing a window seat because I would dearly like an aerial view of Paris as the plane comes in at Charles de Gaulle.

And we have touchdown in Paris! Everything is in French. Oh dear. The trials of being monolingual… At least customs is clear, not many people flooding the place. But now the baggage claim line has stopped and everyone is waiting for their luggage. O the vagaries of travel! Subject to the whims and fancies of machines.

What did I just say about being subject to machines? Now there’s work being done on the train from the airport to the city center… Here comes figuring out alternative transport. Ack! Luckily I don’t do any figuring, there’s a replacement shuttle bus to city center. Anxiety thus assuaged, I turn my attention to the local vegetation, and consider what it would be like to fight in European terrain. At least it isn’t going to be tropical-hot…

On the shuttle bus now. The amount of leg room is nearly zero. Good thing I’m small by European standards… What if one of those Nordic demigods stepped into the bus? He would call upon the wrath of Thor that runs in his veins to smite the bus in scorn of its proportions. But looking out of the window, I see the beauty of the sky. It’s just sky and clouds. In Singapore you don’t get to see it because of all the high rise and the vegetation. But now I’m looking at the vast expense… It boggles my mind and I cannot contain it within my finite comprehension. We are tiny beings! The sky is beautiful though. Under a Parisian sky I contemplate my smallness and frailty of mortality… Truly in the face of Creation we are confronted with the reality of God.

And now I am aboard the Parisian rail – the RER, though I must admit I have no idea what it stands for, and definitely no idea how to pronounce it. Will the train ride be exciting? Something else is that once again there is very little leg room on the train. Strange isn’t it? In Paris and London the people are bigger but their transport is smaller than Singaporean transport… Hooray for SBS and SMRT!

Paris isn’t as chilly as London. Further south? Geography and history are more closely linked than most people would guess, I think. Geography influences so much! The development of civilization and migrational patterns, dispersal of natural resources… Which in turn affect the way the wheel of war- that most terrible engine of human history – will turn. Maybe I’ll do a Geog module in school when I go back. Something to do with geopolitics and civilization in general. The RER is really hot. Blessed are we who dwell in Singapore, where air conditioning companies make a killing each and every day.

Paris strikes me as very Southeast Asian… I was going to say that it is like Malaysia, then I realized that its more like Vietnam. Wait a minute! It’s Vietnam that is like Paris. Oh here we go again… Colonialism in action. This is what they mean by the effects of colonialism stretch across the years, decades, centuries. Paris is a lot more gritty than I expected. The people are so diverse! My Asian-ness stands out though, even amidst the ethnic variety here. But there was this nice Frenchman who took the bus with me, and then the rail. He bid me bon voyage as we got off the rail. It flowed beautifully off his tongue! I was a bit stunned and attempted to say the same but settled for bye as my brain struggled to switch languages.

Hey! There’s a metro station called Alexandre Dumas, another called Stalingrad, another called Phillipe Auguste. And there’s Victor Hugo and Rome. Whoa!! I would like to meet the designer of the line or whoever came up with all the names and probe his mind. Nothing springs immediately to mind on why this would be the case. The Frenchmen I can understand but Stalingrad and Rome? So much to understand. Oh Singapore! Would that we did not diss history in the classroom as simply an alternative subject for those who can’t do physics and chemistry (yours truly as a fine example, but I have grown to love history) but instead celebrate it as something which is alive and to be learnt from.

And now for quite literally the final leg. Off I go on foot to find this apartment. And here I am on the very streets of Paris! Whoa!

And I’ve made it. Whoo! Hello Yan Yo Eliza Wai Kit. No more solo zach for some time.

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