Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Traveling’

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.

How to understand the French Revolution

November 09, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Design, History, Places, Traveling 2 Comments →


Visit Versailles, the former royal palace, 30 minutes from Paris on the train.

Noel, it makes you look like a minimalist.

Seeing how the absolute monarchs of France lived while their people starved is more effective and visceral than any history book. Sheesh, we’d cut off their heads ourselves.


The ridiculously wealthy (and those who wish to be identified, however mistakenly, as such) ought to think hard about flaunting their possessions in society magazines and other media. The people might get ideas.

Into the woods in Altwartenburg

November 07, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Places, Traveling No Comments →


The plan was to take the train to Salzburg (You say “ZAHLZborg” in your best Terminator impression) early so we could visit Mozart’s house (and ignore the places where they shot The Sound of Music), but we got lazy.


We took a walk instead, in the very Grimm Brothers forest by the house.


Our host was James Hamilton-Paterson, the author of three of the best books about the Philippines: Playing With Water, America’s Boy, and Ghosts of Manila. James should be the most famous English writer on earth, but that would be his definition of horror. He is usually referred to as reclusive.


We have the great privilege of being able to pester him in the sticks. It is like visiting your wizard uncle. Last time it was in Tuscany, where the nearest neighbor had a crazy dog who barked at jet trails.


In the woods are the ruins of a castle owned by the local count, who built another castle nearby in the hopes that the Kaiser would use it as a hunting lodge. The Kaiser did visit, and he stayed the night.


Some years ago rock concerts were held in the ruins, but the residents complained of the noise. It must’ve drowned out the sound of their neighbors’ refrigerators from a mile away.


While tramping around in the mud, we asked James about other writers he has known. J.R.R. Tolkien was his tutor in remedial Anglo-Saxon at Oxford. He didn’t learn anything. He hadn’t read The Lord of the Rings, either, so he wasn’t particularly awed. Professor Tolkien never gave him tea (much less Barliman’s Best ale from The Prancing Pony) unlike another tutor who introduced him to Glenmorangie.


James had attended the ancient King’s School in Canterbury, the same school that expelled Patrick Leigh Fermor for holding hands with a grocer’s daughter. Another alumnus, W. Somerset Maugham, had visited the school and James, being their literary hope, had been assigned as Maugham’s guide. “Don’t let him get too close to you,” James was warned, in case the old writer had a taste for spotty 17-year-old boys.

Maugham gave James this bit of advice: “Don’t trust typewriters, my boy. They can’t spell.”

Things to do in Normandy

November 06, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Drink, Places, Traveling 2 Comments →

fresh air
1. Overdose on fresh air. We’re in Villedieu-les-Poeles, founded by the Knights Hospitaller during the Crusades. The name means “City of God of Pots and Pans”, though if you mispronounce it sounds like “City of God of the Naked.”

2. Go fishing. Our friend’s place is called The Mill in the Forest. Because there’s an old mill and a forest. (“Trouble at the mill.” “What kind of trouble?” “I don’t know, I wasn’t expecting a kind of Spanish Inquisition.” “No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!” Every time we hear the name we have to do this.) There’s also a pond teeming with carp. Does anyone know about carp? Does the pond have to be cleaned? Isn’t it a self-regulating ecosystem? City slickers need help.

3. Recreate the Allied landings. Which happened on another beach, but close enough. This trip is turning out to be a WW2 retrospective, backwards.

4. Befriend a direwolf. This is Gaspar, the biggest German shepherd we’ve ever seen. He guards the calvados (apple brandy) distillery.

5. Drink calvados (KAL-va-dos). It cures sore throat instantly. They also make cider and pommeau—cider and calvados.

6. Do not get freaked out by the silence. It’s so quiet you can hear the neighbor’s refrigerator, and the nearest neighbor is a mile away.

7. Sleep early in your cozy attic room, because tomorrow you’re going to Gondor.

minas tirith
The island fortress of Mont-Saint-Michel was the model for Minas Tirith in the Lord of the Rings movies.