April 29, 2014

Paris Part 1

The Eiffel Tower (my Grandfather in the leather jacket)

As some of you may or may not be aware, I journeyed to Paris to celebrate my 16th birthday and my mother's 50th birthday. We met my grandparents in our Paris apartment and spent 10 glorious days in the beautiful city.
Moi devant le Tour Eiffel

After a very stressful ride to the airport wherein we almost lost our seats (a little birthday treat to ourselves, seats in business class on Qatar airways: très luxurious and so out of this world) to another moody passenger with upgrade certificates burning a hole in his pocket and I ran into my high school Religious Studies teacher on his way to Italy. Finally we made it onboard and arrived at Charles-de-Gualle after a small middle-of-the-night stop in Doha.
(Ignore my grunge-y looking away from the camera, it wasn't intentional but believe me, this is the best shot) My outfit for our first day in Paris, "posing" in front of our apartment door

A beautiful taxi ride and a few jumbled mutterings in French later, we were greeted by my Mother's parents in our Paris apartment on the ground floor of a very eccentrically designed building, right next to the Champ de Mars, the lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower. Our very first appointment in France was, what else, a wine tasting in a neighborhood next to the Louvre museum (that place is HU-UGE). The young man leading the wine tasting was cute and flirty and Californian and reminded me somewhat of Tyler Oakley as I adjusted my too-big tights many times over.
My wonderful jet-lag sleepiness selfie, wearing the pajamas I received on the flight actually

That night I suffered so terribly from jet lag and innate sleepiness that I fell asleep as the three adults stole away to make our dinner plans. I woke up at 10 PM to a crappy take-out box of pasta as dinner. I didn't mind, I was that groggy. I fell asleep less than an hour later and woke up to a cat snuggling next to me in bed.
Not my photo by ANY means, but an accurate representation of Snuggles

Since we were on the ground floor with a heavily floral-ed courtyard next to us, Mother and I decided to sleep with the window open to catch a nice breeze. Unfortunately, Snuggles decided to come in with it and we were forced to sleep with the window closed (as she came back the next night, and the night after that with a friend or two).

Nearly the same outfit as the day before, red/pink-ish shirt with a tucked collar from a local department store, grey jeans from Forever 21, jean jacket from Eddie Bauer, and dove grey flats

The next day I was refreshed and ready to explore Paris. We started off with a photo shoot in front of the Eiffel Tower, right outside our door! (Actually, Mom and I started the day by walking around the Champ de Mars and all the side alleys, quite a breathtaking place Paris is)
A beautiful courthouse/official building on our way to Notre Dame
The official motto of France: "Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité"
Beautiful Notre Dame

We started by visiting the Notre Dame cathedral. I could just hear Quasimodo ringing the bells. The cathedral itself is absolutely humongous and really fed my love of amazing architecture.
Dem Arches Tho

You had the option of lighting candles every couple of feet down the main hall, prayer candles that lined the functional church part of the cathedral

I've always appreciated gothic architecture…maybe one day I'll live in a Notre Dame replica? Nah, doubt it. 

Absolutely gorgeous stained glass can be found all throughout the cathedral…this is one of the main pieces that I nicknamed the "Rose Glass"

Gorgeous paintings and statues can also be found throughout the Notre Dame
A sign protesting a proposal to close the hospital that still services patients today; there were several spray-painted signs all across the gate of the hospital 

After the Notre Dame, we moved across the island towards the prison where Marie Antoinette spent her final days and the Sainte Chapelle. (And in case you were not aware, as I was not before this, Notre Dame is located on an island in the middle of the Seine river, accessible by two people bridges and two car bridges. One of the city's oldest and still running hospitals is located on the island)
Gate leading to the Palais de Justice, a judicial platform still used today that also includes Marie Antoinette's jail cell

We first visited the Sainte Chapelle, which was ornately beautiful. Like most of the monuments in Paris, it was undergoing renovation but the spectacularity of the chapel was not lost through all the scaffolding. 
The main floor of Sainte Chapelle; again, the arches!

I spent a solid ten minutes walking around the main floor, reading a few of the signs in French telling about the chapel but mostly studying the most welcoming preservation of Gothic architecture I've ever seen. We were pointed to a small hallway that led to a very narrow round staircase that made me feel like I was in The Princess Bride or something.

The stairs emerge, finally, onto the upper floor of the chapel. This is where the bulk of the renovation was taking place. The frescos and the stained glass windows were being restored in the chapel. The high ceilings gave the room a never-ending feel, as if you could wander in it forever when really it wasn't as long as it was tall.
First view of the upper floor of Sainte Chapelle; beautiful through all the scaffolding
The elevated pulpit gave me an idea for a book and the chandeliers twinkled off the colored glass.

After wandering in awe upstairs for a couple of minutes, we trekked back down another identical round-about staircase and emerged back where we started. This is when we noticed the pattern of the ceiling was the classically French, gold fleur-de-lis. 

After Sainte Chapelle, we made our way to Marie Antoinette's final residence: the La Conciergerie prison.
 More Princess Bride + cute guy feels were waiting for us at La Conciergerie (one because of the location the other sitting behind a desk: figure out which is which)

The prison wasn't easy to find and in fact, we could have walked right past the entrance without even knowing what was inside. You walk down enormous steps once inside and wind up in this giant arch-maze (I loved every minute of it, my grandparents and their aching knees…not so much)
Is it gauche to pose in a prison…even if it's no longer used?

We went immediately to the prison wing, bypassing the gardens which we would have stopped to see had we not all been yearning for a break.
The hallways were dim and wide enough for two armed guards to drag a nearly lifeless, former-Queen of France to her death in the guillotine (plus the hundred other prisoners that faced the same fate)

I would have hated to be a prisoner of the revolution in this prison: the beds were small and two people were forced in a small little cage of a room. Marie Antoinette got an "upgraded" suite, with an actual bed and two grown guards watching her every move. 

The black-clad mannequin is meant to be Marie Antoinette, her room had a window and a bed with a desk and wallpaper. Just to the left of where this photo was taken, two guards would stand watch 24/7, making sure the evil Queen wouldn't escape or do something crazy. 

The normal prisoner's rooms: two convicts to a small room with only one chair (if they hated Marie so much…why give her a better room? Doesn't make sense to me but okay)
Even the jail keepers little hut wasn't big
A marker reading: "Maximilien Robespierre passed his final moments in this place on the 28th of July, 1794."
The ladies kept in the prison were afforded a small courtyard where they could garden and socialize, even a sink where they could wash their clothes

Our first 2 days in Paris were absolutely amazing and I couldn't wait to see what the rest of our stay had to offer. 

(Read Paris Part 2 here!)
April 7, 2014

Beautiful Singapore!

Selfie Time on the bus en route à la aéroport

On Friday evening I traveled to Singapore along with 5 other members of my Academic Bowl team and 1 of our moderators. This trip was a rapidly planned excursion that we were all sure would end in near-distaster. We weren't entirely wrong…
Two of the three Freshmen on our team, awaiting our plane at NAIA (Ace and Eugene: top to bottom)

Our flight was delayed leaving Manila which resulted in us arriving at 12:06 AM in Singapore. We were all exhausted and starving as the meals we were served were none too plentiful.
 My roommate Ace and I eating the Cheetos we purchased in the airport onboard the plane, still on the Tarmac

We finally arrived in Singapore and, despite the late hour, I couldn't help noticing how absolutely gorgeous the country is! It's clean, it's efficient, and the greenery is beautiful--a nice change of pace from the smoggy concrete jungle I live in (though I do love Manila more than words as well).
Brian, the third and final Freshman, snoring behind us on the plane

Before we even got to the hotel, there was drama. (Isn't there always?) As soon as we got on the bus I reached for my iPod that I had slipped into my travel purse. It wasn't there. I ransacked all my bags and was on the verge of tears when we got to the hotel, my iPod was nowhere to be found. Ace and I were talking in the lobby when Eugene picks up her bag and we hear an "Oh!" My iPod was sitting on top of Ace's duffle bag, and had been for the past hour. I then nearly cried in relief, though it may have been the late hour.

We stayed in Hotel V, a really nice hotel, perfect for our little group. I think I speak for all of us when I say we crashed as soon as we got in our rooms. But before we could sleep, we absolutely had to eat. So we all trekked downstairs again and to the little convenience store on the same block as our hotel. It was then that Ace discovered she had lost her wallet that contained her ID, money, and phone. This wallet was not found until the next morning; she had left it on the bus.
My breakfast: fried fish soup with tofu, spinach, and celery. #Yummy

All of us woke up at 6 AM to eat a "team breakfast" before heading to the competition. Thankfully there was a mini "food court" right next to our hotel and we could delight in some genuine Singaporean food. (These little food courts have different stalls/booths where people cook the food right in front of you. Each stall has different options and there are thousands of combinations you can put together)

We walked back to the hotel and one of the other teams, Shanghai American School Puxi, was waiting in the lobby. We were all riding the hotel together. I think the presence of our competitors made us all nervous, everyone started to fidget and I could tell our hearts were beating at a hummingbird pace. The other team showed off their smarts on the bus while Ace and I started lamenting the absence of our two Captains: Seniors Armand and Kabir, "Armanstah" (alternatively "Ourmonster") and "Thank You Brain". 
Ace with the very funny Mr. Harvey

We arrived at Singapore American School without any problems and were greeted by the social science teacher named Mr. Harvey. He was the main moderator and the reader for several of our matches. We were given a run-down of events and began the very long day. As always, it was nerve wracking at the beginning but we soon slipped into our groove. Ace and I were elected "Team Captain" for our respective teams and I have to say, I love being Captain. (No surprise there for anyone who knows me)

The competition was fierce and our team was obviously not prepared for it. However, we learned a lot from the experience and made many new friends--which was, after all, the whole goal. The entire day, all 10 teams mingled whilst munching on Oreos, brownies, cookies, chips, soda, grapes, or pineapple. (#BrainFood, yeah right)
With one of the teams we faced-off against, a strong representation of females that I very much appreciated
Ace with some other competitors
The very generous snack room provided a backdrop for this photo with Ace and Jennifer
The highly-trained assassins of Academic Bowl, Singapore American School: the overall winners! (Oh, and Ace is there with Nathan too)
Ace with "dirty rocker" Dylan from SAS Puxi (shhh, don't tell him we nicknamed him that!)
One of our readers, (I believe his name was Granite)…lui è così attraente!

I even met one of the readers that brought back a HUGE feeling of deja vu…but I'll leave those of you who know why with the secret and those of you who don't, well…think "last summer".
All "suited up" for the rounds…we were, by far, the best dressed team there (according to Mr. Sinclair anyway)

Ace and I watched the exciting final rounds, took selfies, ate, and took more selfies. All in all, it was a very productive afternoon. Some of the golden quotes that came out of this weekend were: "Why is there a bow on the ass?", "#HayNako", "TIMBERRRRRR!", and "The Breakfast Club!…NO WAIT IT'S PERCY JACKSON!".

After the lovely competition was over, we returned to the hotel. By this point it was 6:30 and we were all famished and ready for dinner. So we changed quickly, Ace and I changed the color palette of our war paint (aka makeup) and our entire team + Mr. Sinclair + the moderators of SAS Puxi + two people I had never seen before walked to the nearby MRT station.
One of my fellow Brent-1 teammates, a Sophomore named Jaeho, riding the MRT

The MRT stations in Singapore surpassed any I've ever seen before! They were clean, they were all very efficient, and the people were very polite. It was only a couple of stops until we reached our destination: Maxwell Street. I personally didn't know what Maxwell Street was until we got there and once we did, I fell in love.
Ace in the food court

There is a giant warehouse-looking building absolutely filled with rows and rows of food stalls with round picnic tables in the center. Navigating it was like playing that annoying game where you try to get the little metal ball into the five holes except more fun + food!
One of Ace's many dishes
And the lovely little kitchen she purchased it from

Ace immediately flocked to about three different stalls and ended up with about five different dishes…I know there were squid balls, (goat?) rice, and soybean yogurt/pudding involved.
My lovely food dish
The lovely stall where two women prepared my food…smelled absolutely wonderful!

I went with a more conservative choice: teriyaki salmon, rice with teriyaki sauce, spiced cabbage, and miso soup. It was so delicious! I was completely stuffed after this, and after having two bites of Ace's pudding which was masarap.
Jaeho, Ace, and Arthur

Our team all sat together and had one of the funniest conversations I've ever experienced. First, Brian ate the paper on the bottom of his Korean dish--making Arthur and Jaeho both flip out and leaving the rest of us in hysterics. Then we started talking about…anatomy (as to not scar your minds) and that part was hilarious as well.

Ace, Eugene, Jaeho, and Arthur's head

We were all exhausted at the end of our meal so we wandered back to the hotel and stayed shut in for the rest of the night. Early the next morning, Eugene, Ace, and I all strolled down to the same food court for breakfast. I, however, was not hungry so I watched Eugene and Ace eat their breakfasts. Immediately afterwards we were forced to take two as the bus hired to transport us to the airport was nowhere to be found. 

Not only did we all sleep on the bus, we also slept on the plane before we even took off. We also slept on the bus ride from the airport back to school where we had dropped our school stuff on Friday before we left. 
Home again! Beautiful, maganda, beau, bello, hermoso Philippines

So…it was a truly hectic 24 hours in Singapore and it was truly one of the best school trips I've ever had in my life. My roommate was a blast--we ate Cheetos, Oreos, and Pringles in bed while watching vines and that "sittin' on a toilet" video on replay. Eugene and Brian were sweet and my "Mafia boys" as I called Jaeho and Arthur were very funny and lifted my spirits whenever they started to droop. 

I cannot wait until I get to visit beautiful Singapore again…I highly recommend it!


[P.S. I'll leave you with another photo because…respiro pesante…così così così attraente!]