Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Traveling’

In the cemetery where Truffaut lies buried

October 30, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Art, Cats, History, Movies, Places, Traveling 1 Comment →


There’s a Francois Truffaut exposition and retrospective at the Cinematheque Francaise. Like the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Literature to Patrick Modiano (whose books are in every bookshop window, taunting us), it exists to make people who don’t speak French feel bad. “But we’ve seen The 400 Blows lots of times, we already know the plot, so we can watch it anyway,” we consoled ourself. But The 400 Blows and the Antoine Doinel movies aren’t showing this week. Noooo!

In the meantime we visited Truffaut’s grave at the Montmartre Cemetery. We’re staying at our friend’s apartment, which is within spitting distance of Sacre Coeur, but only if you’re on the hill or if you’re an Olympic-level projectile spitter.

van gogh

On the way to the cemetery, we stopped at the house where Vincent Van Gogh lived with his brother, Theo. (There’s a plaque on the side of the building.) Sad story. In your lifetime your devoted brother, an art dealer, can’t sell any of your work, and then after your death your paintings go for zillions.

Still, the letters the brothers wrote to each other are wonderful. Read them. Vincent not only had the eye, he had the ear as well. One of them.


The map at the cemetery entrance lists the famous dead on the premises: Theophile Gautier, Edgar Degas, Hector Berlioz, Edmond Goncourt and so on. Even if we have no sense of direction, we couldn’t miss Truffaut’s grave.


Visitors leave their metro tickets on it. The Last Metro, get it? Granted, it is easier than leaving 400 Blows or a piano player with a bullet through him.


We like cemeteries, they’re quiet. A fat stray cat walked in front of us, but refused to be photographed.

* * * * *

Cat of the Day: Prince, of the Del Fierro-Bouyers.Tried to eat our cake because it had lots of butter.

The hearty quiche and the saucy menu

October 28, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Cats, Food, Language, Places, Traveling 10 Comments →


We expected to pass out any minute from jet lag, so we had dinner in the neighborhood. Our friend took us to a restaurant called L’été en pente douce. Meaning “Summer on a gentle slope”—slope, as in the side of the hill, which requires climbing these stairs. (A second flight of stairs takes you to the basilica of Sacre Coeur. A week or so of this and we should have quads of steel.)


The restaurant serves a very good quiche, which is a meal in itself. We had champagne, this being our welcome dinner. A glass of champagne is only slightly costlier than 6 ounces of Coke. Around here Coke is more expensive than the house wine, so have the wine.

Even before the quiche arrived, we were royally entertained by the menu, in French and English versions.

ass of summer

According to various translation apps, the title means “the pot-gossip of summer” or “the pewter-pot summer”, but according to a native it could also be interpreted as “the ass of summer”.

personal of room

The translations, though perhaps overly literal, sound very grand. The French menu even asks: “Do you have an emptiness?” Why do restaurants back home never ask us existential questions?

dry so very dry

Who could resist “a dry wine, so very dry for a muscat that it causes raised eyebrows among wine connoisseurs”?

We were so fascinated by the menu that we had to ask for a copy. The waiter feigned hurt and said, “If you’re just going to laugh at it…” but we assured him that it was the laughter of genuine admiration. The menu doesn’t just offer specials, it proposes them. (“We are the only restaurant to offer this” becomes “We are the unique restaurant to propose this.”)

montmartre cat

Outside, a cat waited to be served.

In case you’ve decided to panic, don’t.

October 27, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Announcements, Places, Traveling 1 Comment →

Who takes care of the cats when we are away? They have a catsitter.

We know that our readers are from the school of overthinking, so this is to assure you that we have not

(a) Had a neurological event
(b) Had an electrolyte imbalance that might lead to a medical drama or fanciful interpretation
(c) Been in a motorcycle crash due to the foolhardy behavior that comes from exposure to the clever cat poop parasite toxoplasma gondii

We just got off the plane in Paris after 17 hours in the air (and 5 in airports, including almost getting left behind in Abu Dhabi).

For the next couple of weeks we’re coming to you live from Paris and Vienna.


“Purpose of travel”

October 15, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: In Traffic, Places, Traveling 3 Comments →


Our real answers to the “Purpose of travel” item in the visa application form

1. Amok prevention. We love living here, but this city keeps pushing and pushing and pushing us and if we do not take a break we will snap. Take this morning. Please. In sane traffic, it would take us no more than ten minutes to get to the embassy for our appointment. This morning it took us an hour and a half, and the only reason the taxi driver agreed to drive us was because we bribed him. (Yeah there are taxi apps. Same principle: They’ll drive you if you’re willing to pay more. And the “kontrata” system is now legitimized as “tips”. In effect we are incentivizing asshole behavior, but people just want to get home safely and with the least aggravation.)

2. Sanity maintenance. We are very, very, very, very, very tired. We haven’t had a proper vacation in years. All our trips have been work assignments. In fact the last real vacation we had—”real” meaning we could do whatever we wanted and we didn’t have to say nice things about the trip sponsor or shut up when something went wrong—was eight years ago, in the same place.


3. Perspective. We love our country when we’re somewhere else and can think about it objectively.

4. The horror of sameness. We need to feel like an alien in an alien land. It makes us think better. Here we only feel like a freak. A bored, enervated freak.

5. The comfort of being in a place where people read books on the train—good books—and cafes give prizes to the best novels written on the premises.

What we wrote on the visa form


2015 is Visit the Philippines Year

September 08, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Traveling 1 Comment →


Last week, local media and foreign buyers were invited to the launch of Visit the Philippines Year 2015, the Department of Tourism’s campaign to draw 10 million visitors to the Philippines. In 2015 the country plays host to several international events including the papal visit and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit. Visit the Philippines Year aims to have one major occasion per quarter, including a Great Philippine Sale.

To boost the campaign, the tourism department has launched a microsite inside the It’s More Fun in the Philippines website to serve as a general guide to Philippine events. Event organizers and tour operators are invited to go to to have their events listed and promoted to an international audience.

In Palawan, Day 3: Complete and utter vegetation

March 19, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Design, Food, Places, Traveling 4 Comments →

On Saturday Cookie was up at 0600 for the Island-Hopping Tour of Honda Bay. “You drive to the wharf and get on a boat. Then you go to an island and hang around the beach, swim and snorkel. Then you get back on the boat and visit another island. Then another island.”

“Sounds fascinating. Buh-bye,” we said, and went back to sleep. We were too lazy to go to the restaurant for breakfast or even to dial room service. A few hours later we got up and had an instant coffee. We had bought sachets at a sari-sari store because the hotel does not have complimentary coffee or tea in the rooms. (Or provide extra towels even if we need them for our hair because between us and sister we have enough to make wigs for a barangay of bald people. (They charge Php50 for an extra towel.) Or have a mini-bar so we can store snacks. Or have a tub or wifi at usable speeds. Otherwise it was fine.)

Then we went back to bed and spent the next few hours drifting in and out of sleep and channel-surfing on cable. We decided that we’re not missing anything by having no cable at home. Each station has maybe three programs on repeat the entire day. How much Walking Dead and American Idol can a person stand?

At 1500 it occurred to us that we had not seen any local handwoven fabrics (Binuatan doesn’t make textiles) so we texted our fabric guru Rene in Makati to ask for recommendations. He gave us the address and number of Rurungan sa Tubod Foundation, which operates a weaving center in Puerto Princesa.

Cookie returned a half-hour later and reported that she’d gone snorkeling. “But you do not swim,” we pointed out. Apparently the tour operator had a guy who could take non-swimmers snorkeling: you hung onto him and he went into the water, dragging three or four passengers. Like a human bathysphere.

“The tour was fun!” our sister recounted as we had a room service sandwich for lunch. “The beaches are unspoiled, and the sand is different on every island. You would have hated it.” We told her about the weaving center and she asked if they were open Sundays.

They weren’t. And they were closing at 5pm. We asked them not to close till we got there, then we shot out of the room and jumped into the nearest tricycle. The driver did not know where Rurungan Compound was, but he knew the way to Abanico Road. Thirty minutes later we were on a concrete road in a densely wooded area with few houses. It was like going into the woods, and if we’d been in Manila it would’ve been scary. Fortunately we were in Palawan, so this was normal. Twenty minutes later we saw a lady emerging from a compound and asked her for directions. She pointed to the next gate. We had reached our destination.

1. rurungan
According to Laida Lim’s essay in HABI, the guide to Philippine handwoven textiles, a “rurungan” is a group of women living and working in proximity and pooling their resources. The 15-year-old Rurungan sa Tubod Foundation (RTF) creates jobs for women on the island by training them to weave tepiña.

2. weaving center
Tepiña is pineapple cloth woven from raw silk and fiber from the Spanish Red pineapple. The weavers learn the textile production process from growing the pineapples to stripping the leaves and knotting the fibers.

3. shawls
Apart from tepiña, they make a heavier twill textile and a fabric that feels like corduroy. Filipino and French designers have used tepiña in their couture and home decor collections.

4. bags and wallets
We bought several of these pretty wallets and small clutches to give away (and then decided to keep them haha). Prices at the Palawan store range from Php90 to 160. Dammit we should’ve bought more. The large bags cost about Php800. We found baskets with fabric straps that make excellent tote/book bags—we’ll post the photos later.

5. tepina
They also have dresses, blouses, neckties, toys. If you’re in Palawan and wish to visit Rurungan Sa Tubod, call +639178514081 and ask for Beth or Janet. In Manila, you can arrange a private product viewing at their showroom by calling +639175532728.

We’re glad we got out of bed.

6. kalui entrance
Our main event for Saturday was dinner at KaLui, the most famous restaurant in Puerto Princesa, listed among the top restaurants in Asia by the Miele Guide. A reservation is required. As is taking your shoes off at the entrance, so your feet can enjoy the beautiful wooden floors.

7. menu
Making a choice seems like a lot of work when you’re in vacation mode, so we just pointed to the Special of the Day Set.

8. kalui2
Every table was taken. The place is charming—even the washrooms are tourist attractions. There’s a small art gallery and a gift shop selling jams and preserves, bags and wallets…from Rurungan. Same prices, but the weaving center has more merchandise.

10. salad
For starters there was “lato” seaweed salad,

11. tempura kakiage
and vegetables done tempura-style.

12. tuna steak
There was juicy tuna steak

13. tuna in coconut
and fish rolls in coconut cream.

For dessert there were slices of fruit, which was just as well because we didn’t have space left for sweets.

9. kalui1

A day well spent, despite extreme indolence.