Paris vs. New York

20 01 2011

“Don’t you think when you first come here, you come because this is the capitol of everything possible?”





Two great cities. Two amazing films. One hell of a traveler’s itch.
A collaboration of short films rolled into one about finding love, losing love, and about the cities that we love. Released in 2006 Paris Je T’aime is the first of the Cities of Love segments followed by New York, I love You, released in 2008. The films’ concept follow the lives of local Parisians and New Yorkers in showing us what (may be) the real deal of the respective cities. Each short film is about eight to ten minutes long and at some point intertwines with the rest of the other short films creating a story quilt of a city.

In Paris Je T’aime the shorts are created via its 18 arrondisements (originally 20, however 2 of the shorts did not blend in with the rest). In the 5th arrondisement, we follow young man sparking an interest to a young Muslim woman while in Le Marais (4th arrondisement) a young man believes he has found his soulmate through another young man who works at a print shop. Both shorts develop a sense of ‘love at first sight’ theme that goes beyond borders on rules about love.

Some romance are darker and deeper: In the 12th arrondisement we are lead to a married man who is falling out of love with his wife but made a decision that will change the course of their marriage. We then follow a young couple in the 10th arrondisement where a young blind man believed that his actress girlfriend falls out of love and breaks up with him.

A not so star-studded, Hollywood-flooded film it makes up for its collection of amazing directors: Coen Brothers, Alfonso Cuarón, Wes Craven, Vincenzo Natali, it is no wonder the collaboration is critically acclaimed.

As you wander through arrondisements, chapters of peoples lives, and a platter full of Paris’ beauty, you wonder, ‘Who wouldn’t fall for the city of lights?’

“They say a lot of things about Paris…they say it’s a place where people come to discover something new about their lives. They say it’s a place where you can find love...

Like its Parisian version, New York, I Love You delivers stories through its boroughs. Unlike its Parisian version, it is not a big slice of apple pie; I guess New York figured, “They already know what we look like!”.

The film version focuses more on its real apples: The New Yorkers themselves. You think you know them? Not until you see the characters in their (literally) intertwined lives.

Take a look at “Camille“, a young and struggling musician finds a muse through a woman he has yet to meet, but will they ever? In “Love of Violets” a lady checks into a hotel where she befriends a bellboy to find a lot of similarties of him in her. In “Prom” a young man gets his wish fulfilled on a special night while on “Alchemy” a cassanova learns his lesson that sometimes his suave just doesn’t work.

In a city of millions one way or another these city slickers will cross paths. Don’t take your eyes off the screen because you’ll miss at where they did somehow. Unlike the former film, this version is more fast paced – a typical American style of film. Had it been set like its European version, which has a slower pace, then it would have been a snooze fest. But then again, New York itself is a city that never slowed down.

A great concept and I await the release of other versions in the Cities of Love series. What could be next? Wikipedia says that Rio, Shangai, and Jerusalem versions are in the works already and that Moscow, I Love You was already released in Russia in 2010. How about Madrid? Well, have you seen ‘Kilometro Cero’?

After seeing both films, it isn’t hard until you find yourself looking online for a plane ticket to come back to the first city you fell in love with. Perhaps they’re Paris or New York too.

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‘Rubbish’ is the word of the day.

8 03 2010

Accents.
There is something peculiar about them. One lousy word out of somebody’s mouth and you should be able to tell where a person comes from. From a simple word of hello comes a million ways of saying it.
Hel-low, hullo, allo or even hey is an acceptable greeting.
Usually accents differ from one country to another, or even one province to another. In Canada alone, accents differ almost in ‘time zones’ and not by provinces.

Not in the case of England.

Ahh the British accent. It is undoubtedly hard to pin down what a British accent sound like when almost the next town will have a different accent from the next, and sometimes can be as brutal as understanding another language that isn’t English. And no, don’t even try to mock their accent by copying what Hollywood made us believe all Brits sound like, they’re not all posh and proper like the Queen.

In the small town of Baldock in the heart of England I caught up with a group of young British drinkers in a watering hole called The Engine Pub. ‘Twas a chilly night but a small group have gathered outside to smoke where I joined them. Correction: ‘Twas a chilly night but the entire patron of the bar have gathered outside to smoke where I joined them. As the tourist in town my friend have introduced me to every single one of them where they offered if I’d like a smoke ‘Sorry, I don’t smoke. I’m fine with the beer’ and I took one gulp of the fine brew.

At this point another man stepped out of the bar and joined the small crowd.
“Oh right mate, this is Ashley. He’s visiting from Canada,” introduced my friend.
“Is that right? Welcome to Baldock,” he said then turned his attention to his friends.
“Right, do you want to hear a funny story?”
“Yeah!” cheered the crowd. I like funny stories and I eagerly pressed my ears to listen to a fine British comedy.
And this was his story:

“Neyhmart whone gown to brafthmension nees. Haha, garth brooks woke moyne apple struddle cowabonga gwonwon nasa roysell maine. Hahahaha, anddeyn gowsbow too olsentwins morgrowber then I gown maccarenawoe wayworth mowbobby lorne marone carmentime nofthlemone. Then two nightingale mowed lowallow browndye gobbledygook shamwow quotahorne seyne showarone rubbish.”

I beg your pardon?
The crowd roared into laughter while my eyes wandered in amazement. Was that in English or did I just hear Swahili? While the patio was filled with laughter, my thoughts were filled with…[crickets chirping].

“Did you understand what he said?” asked my friend.
I shook my head and he begged him to tell the story once again.

“Okay. Neyhmart whone gown to brafthmension nees. Haha, garth brooks woke moyne apple struddle cowabonga gwonwon nasa roysell maine. Hahahaha, anddeyn gowsbow too olsentwins morgrowber then I gown maccarenawoe wayworth mowbobby lorne marone carmentime nofthlemone. Then two nightingale mowed lowallow browndye gobbledygook shamwow quotahorne seyne showarone rubbish.”

To this day, I still don’t know what the story was about. Perhaps it was about a tourist lost in translation.





Round Ireland with a Fridge

3 01 2010

“I hereby bet Tony Hawks the sum of One Hundred Pounds that he cannot hitchhike round the circumference of Ireland, with a fridge, within one calendar month”

£100 is a lot of money. More so, a lot of money to put a bet on. Though on one drunken night, Tony Hawks agreed to conquer the stretch of the Emerald Isle in one month – by sticking his thumb out – and in an even more bizarre fashion, accompanied with a common household, a fridge!

Go on, raise an eyebrow, but Hawks have managed to do so and even became a travel icon and stole the hearts of the Irish people. Whether his decision to go forth with the bet was an excuse to go on an adventure or to save himself from embarrassment of not fulfilling a so-called-drunken bet, you will flip through the pages laughing out loud as he describes his misfortunes, mishaps, encounters and road less traveled stories of Ireland.

A bestseller, this book will definitely take you straight to the hearts of the Irish people. Their generosity, kindness and openness to strangers (especially hitchhikers) is definitely a reason alone to love the Emerald Isle.

“Have you ever made a drunken bet? Worse still, have you ever tried to win one? In attempting to hitchhike round Ireland with a fridge, Tony Hawks did both, and his foolhardiness led him to one of th ebest experiences of his life. Joined by his trusty traveling companion-cum-domestic appliance, he made his way from Dublin to Donegal, from Sligo through Mayo, Galway, Clare, Kerry, Cork, Wexford, Wicklow-and back again to Dublin. In their month of madness, Tony and his fridge met a real prince, a bogus king, and the fridge got christened. They surfed together, entered a bachelor festival, and one of them had sex without the other knowing. And unexpectedly, the fridge itself became a momentary focos for the people of Ireland.”





A Town Like Paris

28 07 2009

“At the age of twenty-eight, Bryce Corbett was stuck in a dead-end job in London, nursing a broken heart and hungry for some kind- any kind- of change. On a whim he applied for a job in Paris, and before he knew it, found himself with a job offer in hand on his way to the City of Light.
So begins Corbett’s love affair with Paris- home of l’amour and la vie boheme- and he determines to make the city his own, no matter how many bottles of Bordeaux it takes. He rents an apartment in the trendy neighbourhood of Le Marais, happily settles into the French work/life balance (six weeks of paid vacation), braves the local gym (neon-spandex mandatory), and fumbles his way through more than a few awkward lessons in French love. From the smoky cafes to the glittering nightlife, Corbett samples everything his ewfound culture has to offer, apprearing in on a French television game show, hobnobbing with celebrities at Cannes, and attempting to parse the amusing nuances ehind French politics and why French women really don’t get fat. Still, he remains an ex-pat at heart – until he dinds himself falling in love with a Paris showgirl, a beauty whose sequin-clad high-kicks are the toast of the Champs Elysees, proving that in a town like Paris, you never know what will happen next…”


Mostly comedy, partly romance, and a great introduction to Paris, this book is hard to put down. Corbett takes us on his wild adventure about the city of Lights almost giving us hints of the how-to-become-a-Parisian during his journey and a few funny tidbits about one of the world’s most beloved city. He takes us to the backstreets, the underground, the secrets, the unkown, the experience of what it’s like to be an ex-pat in Paris, something that guidebooks just wouldn’t cut for you. This book is for lovers, ex-pats, and travel fans (though as my female friend have suggested, this literary is a guy’s book, once you read it you’ll know why) or just anyone who feels like they’re in the urge of doing something bold out of their ordinary lives to make it a little bit extra-ordinary.

That’s excactly what Bryce Corbett did.





CAPTURE: Punting

9 06 2009

On a fine beautiful day during my trip in England my friend suggested we head to the city of Cambridge, about an hour train ride away from Baldock (an hour and a half to two hours train from London). A quaint, peaceful small city, Cambridge is known for its University (Cambridge University, 4th oldest University in the world).

Like the rest of England, I was thrilled to see cobble stoned streets, cute little shoppes, century old houses, gargoyle-guarded church, cafes and botiques. Walking around the campus of Cambridge University are constant reminders of ‘Keep Quiet’ to give the students the peace they need to study. However, what stood out for me the most is a Cambridge tradition called punting.

Punting is a past time for Cambridge students (and locals), where a flat bottomed boat is proppeled by a long pole along the river Cam within the University. It isn’t like a Gondola ride in Venice but observing students flip through their thick text books while sitting on the simple raft and the chauffer pushes the raft along the river looked more serene for me. I could have gone for a ride but there were still a lot of places I had to see around Cambridge so I patiently waited until a ‘punt’ boat came along. It wasn’t easy waitig at the top of the bridge for boats to come by below you.

There were times were three boats came at the same time, and then just one but it went by too fast. Until I waited patiently for this punt to float along the river, slowly and took a few snapshots until I got a good one.

Punting” photo taken by me. Cambridge, England





London: As far as the ‘Eye’ can see

24 03 2009

“Getting into the pod was tricky, it was almost like performing a secret dance that nobody can ever teach you, you just had to learn it by yourself.”

            
The weather had not been very cooperative that day for me when I decided to go and explore London on my own. When they said ‘It rains in London’ I wasn’t expecting it to be during the time I was visiting. But I pulled my courage together, I only had a few days to explore the city and I might as well make the most of it. Standing under a roof on a store right across from Big Ben, I tried to wait the rain out. It wasn’t raining heavily but I did not dare to walk in the puddle while wearing my brand new shoes and get my new hoodie wet. And so I waited it out. Ten minutes had passed the rain subsided to a minimal splatter and that was my cue to dash out of my roof protection. As I walked past Big Ben, the clock tower chimed announcing that it was 2:45 pm throughout London, and that’s when I realized I’ve got to get going before the weather gets worse and before time flies by. As my luck, it had started to spatter again as I crossed the Westminster bridge but halfway across I realized there was no point of me trying to avoid getting wet when I already was. Looming above the old houses, flats and office buildings London’s newest landmark stood out like a canopy tree in the middle of the Sahara. The tall structure, the perfect circular figure, the way it let light pass through it and the way its windows shone back any ray of sun (had it been sunnier) unlike most of the infrastructure that stood before its time, people were in awe and amazement when they look up. However, the real awe would be seen from up above inside this observation wheel.

Observation decks take you to another dimension to size up the city, you will see the heights, the distance, horizon and a bird’s eyeview. During my time in London, I just could not pass the opportunity to go on the London Eye. Standing at 135m it has become London’s modern landmark since 2000 when it opened and has attracted 3.5 millions of tourists a year. Used as a metaphor for the turn of the new century, it was designed by an architect couple David Marks and Julia Barfield. When I visited London, it was one of the few things I have been waiting to see next to Big Ben. Ranked as the 4th largest observation wheel in the world, it holds 32 “pods” (capsules) and rotates one pod slowly for half an hour giving the riders enough time a 360 degree view of London.

I turned around once more to get a glimpse of the Houses of Parliament where a few dark clouds hovered around it. I quickly took my camera out and was careful to not get it too wet, and took a snapshot. Realizing I was getting almost soaked up, that was when I wish I had bought the umbrella earlier at the local store. Once I crossed the bridge, I hung out at a café right outside the London Eye and waited the rain out again. Trying to keep warm, I grabbed myself a cup of coffee before heading out and getting my ticket (14pounds) to go up the observation wheel.

The queue moved at a steady pace, I reckoned the rainy weather didn’t help in attracting tourists to come out but that did not stop the few like me. Looking up, the roof of the queue was made of glass so we could observe the London Eye as it hovered above us. As the line moved forward by the minute, I watched people come and go on every pod that rotates by us. The capsule holds about 15 people giving enough space for everyone (and mind you the capsule was big).

                         

“For about two to three minutes, our pod was on its highest point that if we were to have a chance of getting a great view of the city, it was the time to get the flashes going.”

                        
Finally, it was my turn for me to step into the pod and enjoy the 30 minute ride and hoped that the weather would finally subside that I could take at least a few decent photos. Getting into the pod was tricky, it was almost like performing a secret dance that nobody can ever teach you, you just had to learn it by yourself. The capsule continues to move while you try to step inside, and you had to do it quick before people behind you would have to get on too. Joining me in one pod was a young Middle Eastern couple, an older Eastern European couple and a Canadian family (their daughter had sewn the Canadian flag on her knapsack). Looking at the pod next to us, a group of young kids struggles to get in as they did the dance that I had performed earlier.

The pod’s glass exterior had water spots on them from the rain that made it hard to take photos when you get close to the glass. I waited for a bit and just enjoyed the view, I figured I’d have half an hour chance to get the snapshots that I wanted. Looking at the pod next to ours the kids ran around and about the pod, trying to get a glimpse of London on every corner. Looking up, the pod above us had about 15 people in it where everyone scattered all over and found themselves a spot for a view.

The weather eventually cooperated so that the sun came out for a while letting rays of light streak through the dark clouds. Looking down River Thames, boats went by and went under the Westminster bridge while London’s short skyline zoomed across the horizon. The streets were wet down below but they made a great effect in photos that let the streets appear glossy. I walked across the pod and faced East where St. Mary Axe (also known as the Gherkin building) stood. Dark clouds hovered around that part of the city and I quickly lost my interest in getting a good shot. Suddenly, I got a tap from the older Middle Eastern man where he pointed out to me the rainbow that streaked behind the Gherkin. I smiled to thank him and asked him and his wife if they would like me to take a picture of them? The gratitude was repaid. The rainbow bought my interests. I walked around the pod again to face the south east, looking down I noticed the line-up to the London Eye. It was longer than what it had before when the sun finally broke out.

Once our pod reached the very top, we were given a short opportunity to get this high up the observation wheel and watch the city of London unfold before our eyes. It was surreal for me to know that I was in England’s biggest city, I have always wanted to visit the UK since I was a kid . For about two to three minutes, our pod was on its highest point that if we were to have a chance of getting a great view of the city, it was the time to get the flashes going. The Canadian family asked if I could take their photo for them. I found out that they were from British Columbia in a small town 4 hours away of Vancouver and that their daughter was going to study in Geneva and moving to Europe later that fall.

Looking around, I grasped London’s horizon: the Big Ben towered above nearby, the old city bustling with their famous black cabs on the streets, chimneys popped on the roofs of houses and offices, bridges connected the city over the Thames River, and constructions sites where newer and (possibly) more modern looking flats were being built. The city embarked in historical infrastructure while it built its modern sites, stood beside each other. The London Eye, then, wasn’t just a symbol of ‘the turn of the new century’, it showed me how it happened as I stood watching.

 

“Looming above the old houses, flats and office buildings London’s newest landmark stood out like a canopy tree in the middle of the Sahara”

The wheel slowly rotated and we eventually reached ¾ of the cycle when we heard on the PA to get our stuff ready and prepare for landing. I can imagine being having claustrophobia, this would have not been a good idea, neither would having to go to the ‘loo’ while on the flight. The pod’s door opened at touchdown and we were all subdued again to dance our way out. “Careful, watch your step,” one of the employees said and finishing off with “Thank you, enjoy your day in London”.

 

Walking away from the giant ferries wheel, I looked back in admiration of this modern architecture. It surely stood out from London’s old buildings, towers and bridges, and its symbolism as a ‘turn of the new century’ certainly holds to that. I checked my watch telling me it was almost 5 pm, almost dinner time for me to find a place to eat. I unfolded my tourist map to make my next plan on where I should head next? Picadilly Circus seemed like a great idea. As I pack my map back to my napsack I sniffled, I’ve been dying to grab a hot cup of tea.

All photos taken by me