Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I was nothing while I was waiting.

You told me you would come, 
so while I was waiting, summer turned to autumn;
and then I watched the leaves of my destiny fall;
I watched the winds of time and turmoil, sweep them away,
I was nothing while I was waiting. 

You told me you would come,
so while I was waiting, I wrote an ode to love,
and then I watched myself burn it.
I watched my lungs fill up with smoke and my lips maroon by caffeine,
I was nothing while I was waiting.  

You told me you would come,
so while I was waiting, a bourgeois boy curtsied,
and since there was no time to fall in love. We didn't.
I watched as we made love, with and without our bodies,
I was nothing while I was waiting.

You told me you would come,
so while I was waiting, I met a hundred insignificant people;
and then I watched them plunder my dreams, smother my voice, 
I watched them stab my spirit and then my remnants drain into the gutters,
I was nothing while I was waiting.

You told me you would come, 
but the rain has come instead, like an endless murmur it soaks my brain,
and slowly it covers my body and lulls me into a dreamless sleep,
I watch as my name is crossed off lists, and glance fleetingly at the coy seraph,
I don't remember who I'm waiting for, 
Am I waiting?
Am I asleep?
Am I the seraph? 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The overestimation of friendship

"Everywhere is nowhere. When a person spends all his time in foreign travel, he ends by having many acquaintances, but no friends". Seneca 
Now how is one supposed to react to such a quote? As much as the next avid traveller, I would want to say fuck Seneca. But then, my love for Italy and all that originates herein, comes in between. After giving this some deep thought, I wonder (uh-oh). Does the dude have a point? I mean travelling is a major part of my life. So is the rest of it filled with only mere acquaintanceships? Where is all this coming from. Do you want to hear a nice long story? No. Probably not. So I'm going to try to get my point across short and sweet. I am addicted to Will and Grace! Ever since I returned to France and the weather turned so grim, all I have done is feed myself, conduct my classes, feed myself again and stream Will and Grace videos. I love them. They are so beautiful. They are so perfect. They are so not real. Watching the episodes all over again, has made me laugh so much and at the same time crave a best friend like Will or Grace. Someone who's going to laugh with you, cry with you, poke fun at your whims, who's got your back and never judges your choices. Growing up, my life was like that of a lemon. We all know about lemons, we know they exist somewhere, we just don't think too much of them. That was me. Basically anyone who ever acknowledged my presence, was my friend. Such wise decisions come gift wrapped with bad company, early experiments with alcohol, cigarettes and skipping classes. Please do not consider me a hobo! In my defence, I did all this because I wanted to fit in with my "friends". Outside the circle of doom, I did meet some amazing people (two of whom I cannot imagine my life without. Muriel* who is an air hostess and my best-friend since school. Ariella* and me met in higher secondary and we have a love-hate relationship but we still dote on each other) and yet I find myself looking very often for my very own Will or Grace. When I fall in love, it's despicable. The other person in the relationship becomes the third important "friend" in my life and I soon find my self divulging every minor detail about myself to this person I might have met a month ago! Amour is crafty, it spreads a pleasing veneer on the faults of your love-interest and how nice it is to believe you've found the perfect friend in your lover! Buy one get one? I don't think so!
I see my younger cousins today and my ex-students on Facebook. They're facing the same dilemma as me. For this weekend, most of these lemons have organised drinking parties via Facebook. The majority will be attending because they are cool and they may even get to wear make-up. Tomorrow, they'll be untagging some pictures where their eyeliner ran down to their chin and puke down their cool trademarked shirts. Who did this to us? The situations are different. But I can see myself clearly in them. 
It's the media, it's our parents, teachers who tell us who our friends should be. Few days ago, I registered on an international penpal site which helps you improve your language skills through communication with native speakers. But clearly it's like a dating service and soon I found my self scrutinising all friendship adds. I was am looking for the perfect friend.
Now I'm thinking, screw this! So what if someone prefers solitude? So what if we have only two friends till the end of time? What could happen if those two friends had the biggest flaws? I say accept and adapt. For all those lemons getting sloshed tonight, stop being defined by the people around you. I was once in your place (and the third friend at the time was a slimy wanna-be rapper from a suburb in Bombay, who stole money from me to buy wowie aka Cannabis Resin). Friendship is definitely overrated and stop looking for it in every random person! Not everyone deserves to have you as a friend. I need to be selective about my friends of course but at the same time, not so much that I can never find any good quality about them! This lemon has learnt some valuable lessons. Friendship is not as glossy as portrayed on TV. Will and Grace are beautiful together but their kind of relationship is purely fiction. All I can do is come to terms with my solitude or start building relationships based on mutual respect and recognition! 
In other news, I'm pretty sure my Will and Grace episode has loaded entirely, wish me happy watching :)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sunny Saint Valéry!

I know! You've seen enough of Saint Valéry and you know all the sights in town because I've put up umpteen number of photographs. But I haven't done any of the above with my new Canon 500D :D Plus I can't travel to a new exotic location to photograph because I'm broke :( thanks to said Canon camera. Major fail. But hey, no fret. I love the camera and this no money phase too shall pass. 
Today was such a blissful day. It came by after such a long bout of cold and grey weather. Literally the whole town was outside taking in the sun! It's a strange thing how we never appreciate what we have (been there said that). Back home, I despise the sun. I find ways, both strange and annoying to avoid it on my skin. But now that I live in Normandy, where my lips chap at every given chance, where my knuckles turn bright white from the cold, where I can pinch my nose and still not feel it. During times like these, I think about my Goan sun. Something which was so truly mine, so precious but so overlooked! Well today the sun came out in Normandy and it brought out all the colours in the region. The north of France is not as vivacious as the south. But a nice sunny day is all you need to spot it's delightful eccentricities :)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sovereignty of the Swan: Geneva

I know I already posted about my trip to Geneva, Switzerland here. I just had some spare photos left and I couldn't bear the thought of never sharing them. Like I said Geneva is a very peaceful charming place but it is also very expensive and chic! The people are quite friendly and the city boasts of a multi-cultural atmosphere! There aren't too many attractions in the town. However one of the really impressive things in Geneva is the Jet d'eau, which is the name for the largest water fountain in Europe. If you love nature and swans in particular, you should go to Geneva. You'll be blown away! :)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

La Foire Saint Romain, Rouen

La Foire Saint Romain (Fun fair in Rouen) is the largest in France. It is held between 22nd October to 21st November on the left bank of the River Seine in Rouen. The fair is named after Saint Roman, who was the Bishop of Rouen in the VIIth century. Legend has it that he killed the famous "Gargouille" monster that was wrecking havoc in the town. The fair has been taking place in Rouen since the XIth century! How does one feel being part of a 11th century old tradition? Hungry! You are spoilt for choice here! For the sweet lovers, this is heaven only more colourful and noisy. My favorites are Churros and Pomme  d'amour (which literally means apples of love :P Here apples are mounted on a stick and coated with various flavours of icing sugar, chocolate, coconut, etc).

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Last of Autumn in Amiens.

Bad news. Autumn is over, finito :'( I was happy I managed to chronicle the season as much as I possibly could in the last two months, but I still feel I didn't have enough time to really see all of it's shades. But the ever charming city of Amiens can still charm you, even on the cloudiest, greyest and foggiest of days (like today). It has so much charisma, that it reminded of my stint in colourful Burano, Venice.
In Amiens, you can find cobwebs laden with diamonds. 
Amiens has so many colourful windows, it's perennially spring. 
On the most cloudy day, nothing is more awe-inspiring than the big grand cathedral!
Amiens keeps a secret. But if you scout long enough, you will get the blues!
You will be baffled by the strange man that stands in the middle of the river all year long!
People entering and leaving such colourful doors, must never be unhappy!
Aimless wanderer can always find the pretty nothings!
Autumn hurriedly packed her suitcase and left,
she didn't care about me nor the lovers nor the bereft.
On the way she dropped some precious belongings, 
we want to halver the last of her, yet we have no right;
Lady Winter watches our funny plight, quietly musing.
 Soon our knuckles will turn pale and she will delight.
Soon every inch and every breath will turn too ice.
Then Lady Winter will try to be nice.

Monday, November 15, 2010

My camera is HERE!!!

OMG I am so happy, my Canon EOS 500D arrived! It came like an hour back and I'm going loco with it!! I was not expecting French post to be so quick but hey! good for me. Sadly I have to leave for class in another hour so I have to control pathological photo taking tendency. Voilà first two pics of many more to come! So worth the money spent and the month of self starvation to follow :)

Roma=Amor, My Eternal City.

After the really sober Renaissance architecture of Florence, I was eager to experience Rome. Rome with it's sheer Baroque magnificence is undoubtedly one of the most stunning cities in the world. Baroque comes from the Portuguese word "barocco" which means "irregular pearl". In Italian it means "grotesque". This is a very dynamic, detailed and complex architecture. Primarily, it was funded by the Roman Catholic church who wanted to show their religious superiority and also win back the masses who had joined the Protestant movement. The main goal of Baroque art and architecture is to dazzle the spectator and boy was I dazzled! I am also such a huge fan of Audrey Hepburn and after watching my favourite film Roman Holiday (over hundred times), I have always hoped for that special moment in my life when I would be in Rome and run into my Gregory Peck on the Spanish Steps. Ya, so that did not happen. I was at the Spanish Steps of course and all I ran into was hordes of tourists and Indian con artists. Yes, Indian salesmen who bugger the hell out of you to buy their little souvenirs. That story comes later. I'm going to put up my pictures from 2 trips to Italy (May and July) together (Well because it just makes sense to not repeat the similar post).
While in Rome, I stayed at Camping Tiber which is a beautiful place and really cheap. The downside is that it's really far away from the city (an hour minimum). However they do organise a shuttle every half an hour to get you to the local metrostop and then it takes you 20 minutes to get to the city. I would recommend the place since it was so much cleaner and inexpensive as compared to the hotels right in the centre!
So Roma, beautiful Roma! You have had the strangest impact on me! I have never been to a place which has never made me want to leave! (My dad always said I'm the cat on a hot tin roof, I have to keep moving). But Rome was different, I guess it's because there is so much to the city! It's full of magical chaos. Everywhere you turn, everywhere you look, everyone you talk to is so unique and full of life! I had planned to stay here just 4 days but I decided I should make it a week, in order to really nurture my electrifying Roman affair :)
I love the red hues everywhere in Rome.
Roma is such a huge city and it's impossible to fit everything in a week! So I returned a second time and I still did not see all of it. I will keep going back (next trip December 2010 woohoo!) to finish discovering eternal infinite Rome! I never had a single bad experience here (as everyone predicted I would). The city is infamous for pickpockets and beggars. Really? In that case which town isn't? I took care of my belongings on the metro and trains like I would do in Paris or Bombay or anywhere else. It's common sense! I hate it when guidebooks and websites berate any place. How dangerous an area is, always runs parallel to how stupid you are! (If you're going to get pissed drunk and then decide to ride the metro, si signore, you will get pickpocketed or worse mugged! anywhere in the world)
So below are some places I have visited among countless others and which I found to be spectacular. There are tons of others lying in my hard drive but I don't want this post to get any lengthier than it already is. So ladies, gentlemen and unicorns, I present to you the itinerary of a single bohemian girl in Rome
Fontana di Trevi
Rome's most famous fountain was the first on my to-do list. I had to really hunt for it and then finally as I found the path, I could hear the water gushing forcefully from quite a distance. I held my breath as it magically appeared on my right and had to gasp! This is beyond doubt, one of the most remarkable pieces of Italian Architecture ever! It has so much life, it's as if the carved horses are riding towards you through the waters of the fountain! 
I sat here a long while and watched so many tourists just throw away their coins (Legend has it that if you throw a coin into the fountain with your right hand over your left shoulder, you would ensure another trip to Rome). I was sure I was going back to Rome so I gave my self the pleasure of people watching and then amused myself when they would repeat the same process all over again just to get a good photo. Each day, 3000 euros are thrown into fountain! Where does all that money go?
A few minutes away (just follow the multitudes of tourists), you will find the Pantheon. Another magnificent structure, except for the part that was being refurbished. I got talked into taking the audio tour (costs 3.50 euros) and I don't regret it because I learnt so much about the building! I had no idea that the Pantheon is 2000 years old and it's the most intact of monuments on earth dating back to this period. This is an active church and tomb of many important Italians such as the First King of Unified Italy, Vittorio Emmanuele II and his successor King Umberto I.
According to me, the most important tomb has to be the one of the Italian painter Raphael (as you enter on your left). Before he died he had ordered a statue of Mother Mary and after his death it was placed on his burial ground. There is a verse engraved on his tomb that fascinated me. This inscription was a gift from Pope Gregorio XVI who disentombed the body to verify if it was Raphaels'. It was indeed the body of the illustrious painter. The verse reads in bold letters "Here lies Raphael, by whom Nature feared to be outdone while he lived, and when he died, feared that she herself would die."
The most interesting part about the Pantheon is the dome/obelisk and the floor. Until a few years ago, the dome was the largest in the world! and the floor is equally fascinating. The dome of the Pantheon has a wide opening in the middle and is never shut even when it rains. When rain water pours onto the ground, it is immediately absorbed by the porous floor which carries the water away through complex drainage systems beneath the ground (dating 2000 years as well!).
This spectacular plaza incarnates Italian life. When I was here, the weather was at its best, the sky was the bluest you will find during spring. Piazza Navona is alive with so many artists and musicians all over and they are so friendly and allow you to take pictures. There are many restaurants here but if you're travelling on a budget, you'd want to skip these tourist traps. For reasonably priced food, head to the nearby Campo di Fiori (a crowded flower and fruit market) that has great restaurants all around and the feel is very bohemian, easy going. I love the artists enjoying their afternoon break with wine, the couple sharing a cigarette, the hungry bohemian girl devouring the amazing Pizza Piccante with tomato, mozarella and hot salami! yum!
At Piazza Navona, don't forget to sit on the steps of the beautiful church of Saint Agnes in Agony (The church contains the skull of Saint Agnes who was beheaded at the Piazza because she refused to marry the son of the Prefect Sempronius. Since Roman law did not permit the execution of virgins, she was forced into brothels and then sentenced to be burnt at stake. The wood on which she stood, refused to light up and hence an officer had to draw his sword and behead her :'( yes, the story gave me the chills too) and admire the breathtaking Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain designed by the infamous/demi-God Italian architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini, dedicated to four major Rivers of the world, namely the Ganges, the Nile, the Danube and the Plate.)
The Wondrous COLOSSEUM
I am not a huge fan of ruins. You need to have a fantastic imagination when you're visiting ruins and I can't really boast having a good one. But the Colosseum/Flavian Amphitheatre has fascinated me every since I studied about it in sixth grade. Irregardless of how you feel about it's history, this precious vestige of Ancient Rome is going to take your breath away! And if you're an Audrey Hepburn fan like me, there are no words to describing the joy you feel as you head there by the same road she took in Roman Holiday :)
The monument is 1500 years old, it is capable of seating 50,000 people and it was used for gladiatorial battles, public announcements and also as a market place. You can buy a dual ticket to enter the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. 
If ruins are your thing, you should head to the Roman Forum. This valley comprises of fragments of Ancient Rome's marketplace, government buildings, temples, etc. Most of the buildings date back to 600 BC and one is surprised to find so many intact! 
Altar of the Fatherland/Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II/ Il Vittoriano are all names used for this gargantuan monument dedicated to Vittorio Emanuele II, the first King of a Unified Italy. It is a fairly recent structure built in pure white marble and completed in 1935. Most Italians are not too happy with this brazen white monument (which can be spotted from most parts of the city) that doesn't blend in with the neighbouring ruins. I personally loved it! The views of Rome from here are fantastic. In the modern day, to find such an intricately built structure is so rare and this was a real treat for me!
P.S. It is very important to be respectful in the premises of the monument. It is after all a shrine and the guards will come and tell you to behave yourself if they find the need to. At the entrance you will find the (gorgeous) guards protecting the statue of the Goddess of Rome, the Tomb of the Unknown soldier and the Eternal Flame
Basilica di Santa Maria in Ara Coeli
If you're feel energetic enough, climb the 122 steps on the left side of Altare della Patria and you will reach the majestic Basilica of Saint Mary/The Altar of Heaven. This is my most favorite church in the world. It's constructed in a Romanesque/Gothic style and unlike it's subdued exteriors, the interior of the church is over whelming! Never in my life have I seen so many chandeliers, so much gold, so much detail, so much glitz in one single church! 
San Pietro In Vincoli
Most of the famous Italian art and architecture is locked away in museums and you're expected to pay big bucks to get a glimpse of it. San Pietro in Vincoli has free entry and it houses one of Italy's most well known symbols and very few people even know of. The church of Saint Peter in Chains is home to the actual chains of Saint Peter and Michaelangelo's very own statue of Moses!! 
Just outside the church you can always catch a beautiful sunset with the Vittorio Emanuele monument in the distance of course!
If you're looking for romantic Old Rome, musicians singing Volare and other Dean Martin favourites, charming worn out colours, then you should head to the Trastévere neighbourhood of Rome. It's also famous for it's cheap restaurants but honestly, I didn't find a single one! Italian restaurants will try to fleece tourists for every single service. I had the smallest serving of Carbunara in Trastévere and I was charged for using the napkin, using the cutlery, drinking the tap water and thank goodness I didn't eat the bread and wine they "offered" at the beginning of the meal!
The neighbourhood is tiny, has many excellent gelatarias to satisfy your need for gelato (/Italy's answer to mouth orgasms!) and all the roads with their walls decorated with graffiti and creepers will meet at the main Piazza. 
Rome and this neighbourhood in particular is filled with Indian salesmen. I hate to say this but most Indian men are/could be disgusting. Bad enough I get stared at in India. Now when I come to Rome, I have to face these morons again (who act like they've never seen an Indian woman with a camera before!) And it's not a decent stare, it's more like leering, undressing you with their eyes kind of look which makes me physically ill! If there was a genocide of "gawking Indian men", I would be the first to support this long needed extermination!
Capuchin Crypt
If you're in the mood for an unusual tourist attraction, head to the Capuchin Crypt. It's free to enter but you're expected to donate a euro for upkeep. Basically this is a church decorated with the bones of 4000 Capuchin monks who died between 1530 to 1870. The entire place gave me the jitters. I was amazed how all the decorations, the chandeliers, the crosses, the lamps, the incense holders and even the tiny vials were all made from the bones of Capuchin Friars! They have skeletons in upright and resting positions all wearing the habit of the monks. This was quite an experience and I'm sure as hell never doing it again! Photographing the rooms is forbidden and you can get more information at the monks' website. 
Gianicolo Hill
To get the best bird's eye view of Rome, head to Gianicolo Hill. I loved catching the sunset here. Rome is a big city and you will surely not see everything in one trip. But standing on top of it, the tired traveller has a sense of accomplishment that atleast he had a fleeting glance of every steeple and dome in magical, endless Rome. 
Largo di Torre Argentina
This is my most favourite places in the city and I go here every time I visit Rome. Read why.
The ruins of Pompey's Theater can be found at the square of Torre Argentina. But that's not what draws me here every time. The ruins are home to the homeless cats of Rome and I looooooooove cats. There is a cat shelter called Roman Cats at the square and the felines here are so beautiful and friendly, it makes your heart melt. It if forbidden to feed the cats. They have specific meal times, they have been vaccinated, bathed and all they want is a little attention. I lost track of the time I spent here. My favorite was this magnificent but very feeble black cat whose ear was bitten off and fur was falling out but I didn't mind cuddling him. I could see he was old and with great difficulty he crawled up to me. Some French tourists kept telling me he was "malade" and I shouldn't touch him. I have known cats all my life and I know when one is ill. (Silly, paranoid, ridiculous) French tourists! Have they not heard what Charles Dickens said? "What greater gift is there, than the love of a cat?" The black cat and me sat together on the steps and together we admired the impressive Pompey's theater laid out before us. This was his regal playground which he didn't mind sharing with me. I sat with him till the red sun went down on Rome that day. He had sat on my lap all the while and for once during my entire trip I felt as if I had a friend, someone who would just let me be. Two months later, I was in Rome again and with a heavy heart, I went in search of him. I looked for a long time among the ruins and all his furry friends. I knew he wouldn't be there. I teared up a little. But soon with all the purrs and mewing around, I could sense a wild spirit at play in his old kingdom. That "malade" yet magnificent black cat owned this beautiful theater where we, the humans were nothing but silly comedians trying to impress a cat audience!