Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Traveling’

Fondation Louis Vuitton: The building is remarkable, the art not so.

November 26, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Art, Places, Traveling No Comments →

museum front

Finally the van approached the Fondation Louis Vuitton and we could see the building with our own eyes. It is amazing. It is as if a zeppelin crash-landed on Waterworld, and the scavengers made a giant sailboat with the parts. How does it stand up? More importantly, how can the art inside compete with the exterior?

how it's held together

We were disgorged by the van into a long queue for tickets, even if it was just two and a half hours before closing time. Tickets in hand, we joined the next queue at the main entrance. Above the main door is a big, glittering LV logo that made me feel like I was entering an enormous handbag. A guard inspected our bags while a lady with a clipboard asked each visitor where she was from. There was some discussion over whether some Americans with a baby in a stroller should be admitted. The experience was not unlike being judged by the doorman before gaining entry into a trendy nightclub. lobby


Read our article at BusinessWorld.

The second best bakery in Paris

November 21, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Food, Places, Traveling No Comments →

2nd best
Every bakery claims to make the best baguette in Paris. This bakery in Montmartre does not care to be in that overcrowded group. It proudly proclaims itself the second best in the region.

grocery cat
The cat at the grocery doesn’t care because cats don’t eat carbs (except in Italy, where cats eat pasta), but he’s very friendly.

Paris, beyond macarons and Birkins

November 18, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Places, Traveling No Comments →

view of paris from montmartre

Paris is beautiful and filthy, like a supermodel with a PhD who doesn’t change her underwear. Or a very hot guy genius with skid marks, except that Paris is obviously feminine. Male or female, it goes without saying that they will cheat on you with everything that moves. And you still would, because it’s Paris.

There is the real risk of getting Stendhal Syndrome—overdosing from the sight of so much beauty that you lose consciousness. Try not to succumb outdoors, as you will either land on dog poop or a homeless person. The homeless are mostly Eastern Europeans begging on the streets. There are shelters where they can spend the night as it’s getting very cold, but apparently it’s safer to sleep outdoors. In Montmartre, which is clearly divided into immigrant and bobo (bohemian bourgeois) sections, the residents have expressed solidarity with the newcomers, providing them with hot food and doing their laundry. Periodically the homeless immigrants are rounded up, given 300 euros, and deported. They come back.

Read our column at

Here’s a very abridged translation of Valerie Trierweiler’s tell-all book about her relationship with French President Francois Hollande.

And a report on how Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin couldn’t name any books by Nobel laureate Patrick Modiano. Oh the scandal.

A flea market in the country

November 18, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Places, Shopping, Traveling 1 Comment →


If we lived in Paris we would hardly ever buy anything new. We would furnish our house with things we found in flea markets and vintage stores. There are some huge flea markets in the city, frequented by professional buyers who snap up the good stuff and sell them to collectors on e-Bay. We went to one in the country, where families who have lived there for generations just want to dispose of their grandparents’ things.


The flea market was the size of a hangar and crammed with relics from other people’s lives. It’s a good thing we had only one hour to spend before catching the train, or we’d still be there now, sifting through years of abandoned possessions. We were hoping to unearth some magic object that would choose us to be its next master.


There were shelves and shelves of china and kitchenware. We found an escargot dish for 50 cents. There was a stack of old porcelain that we kept going back to until Kristin turned over a teacup and saw the Limoges label. Sold! The sticker said 3 euros and we thought it was the price per piece, but it turned out to be the price of the lot. Now our cats can eat out of Limoges china (Thank you, bubble wrap).


We were on the lookout for something we could pass off for a missing Juan Luna and sell for Php55 million pesos (with the proper authentication), but all we found were some fake Renoirs.


There were also some massive tribal masks, if you could stand to have them staring at you all day.

Returning Mont-Saint-Michel to the sea

November 13, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Places, Traveling 1 Comment →


We spent the weekend in the country with friends who look like Kristin Scott-Thomas and Julie Delpy. Every time we looked at them a Coldplay song played in our vestigial heart.


Sunday morning in miserable weather we went to Mont-Saint-Michel, a 40-minute drive on the autoroute. We were directed there by the GPS, which had a bland male voice and was given to mysterious detours (visiting his mistress, perhaps). We took to calling him Gertrud.

It turns out that a day of pouring rain and howling wind is the perfect occasion to visit Mont-Saint-Michel, as it is the only time the place is not covered in tourists.


Mont-Saint-Michel is an island fortress from the medieval period. It is less than a kilometer from the land, so during low tide pilgrims walk on the tidal flats from the coast. The danger from incoming tides and quicksand only makes it more thrilling.

We took the less exciting route, the new bridge. Due to siltation and other environmental changes wrought by progress, the island is barely an island anymore. Efforts are underway to give Mont-Saint-Michel back to the sea in a reverse-reclamation project.


Inside the walls are hotels and restaurants, including La Mere Poulard, where an omelet costs 49 euros. It must be fried in gold. We had the local specialty: mussels and fries and cider. There are bookstores, chapels, old Norman houses, and you can’t take a step without bumping into a souvenir stand.


And you have to climb. We’ve mentioned that Mont-Saint-Michel was the model for Minas Tirith in The Return of the King movie–where was Shadowfax when our quads were crying?


The views are spectacular, and since it was the first Sunday of the month, entrance to the Abbey was free. We decided to sit out the abbey tour to give our lungs a break and reconnoiter.


Paris, City of Queues

November 12, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Art, Places, Traveling 5 Comments →

You don’t need the Paris museum pass. Go to Mariage Freres at the Place de la Madeleine, buy three tins of tea instead.

Serves us right for trying to be practical while on vacation (from which we will need a vacation). We bought a Paris Museum Pass, which promises that we can make unlimited visits to the museums and that we don’t have to fall in line—we can go straight in by just flashing the pass.

louvre queue
Lines at the Louvre. Go on the first Sunday of the month, when admission is free. In the dead of winter, when there are fewer visitors. Then you can imagine that the zombie apocalypse has happened and you are trapped in the Louvre. There are worse fates.

We bought a 2-day pass for 42 euros, with the intention of cramming the 7 exhibitions we wanted to see after we got back from the Austrian sticks. True, experience tells us that we can go to just one or two museums before we get art overload and our brain shuts down, but we figured that by averting our eyes and ignoring everything but the shows we wanted to see, we could fool ourself into staying alert.

fondation queue
The Frank Gehry-designed Fondation Louis Vuitton in the middle of nowhere, the Bois de Boulogne. Note to Ricky and Raul: We went. The building is the event, as Noel would put it. The collection: Non-event of the year, possibly the decade.

Immediately we found out that the museums we went to were, for some reason or other, not covered by the blasted pass. The Paris Museum Pass IS NOT HONORED at privately-owned museums and temporary exhibitions at public museums. It is not good for the Marchel Duchamp exhibit at the Pompidou, the Garry Winogrand show at Jeu de Paume, the newly-opened Fondation Louis Vuitton, and even the newly-reopened Picasso Museum. It is so useless for our purposes, there should be a line for hapless gits so we could flash the Paris Museum Pass and someone could say, “You can’t use that here.”

picasso queue
We queued up for an hour at the Picasso. Apparently only a certain number of people can be admitted at any given time, or else you can’t see the art for the crowds. The press of humans is useful for staying warm as it is getting very cold.

Only get the Paris Museum Pass IF it’s your first time in Paris, you’re on a package tour, you’ve never seen the permanent exhibits at the Louvre, Orsay, Pompadou and the other majors, and you need to see everything in 2, 4, or 6 CONSECUTIVE DAYS. And you have a car and driver, because getting from one place to the other using public transportation (and we love the metro, though it smells exactly like the Quiapo underpass) will eat into your time budget. And your brain won’t overload and shut down.

We should’ve used the 42 euros to buy lunch with a glass of champagne at Fauchon dammit.