This summer (or early spring), unlike the past two summers, I did not go roll around in the mud in Thailand. Instead, I went off to Europe with my favourite person. We went to Paris - where besides the usual sights (Louvre, Versailles, Arch of Triumph etc), we also went to Père Lachaise Cemetery. There we visited the graves of Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison, by a stroke of serendipitous luck, I came across the grave of Annales historian Fernand Braudel. We alsoa appreciated the sorrowful yet serene beauty of a european cemetry which was very different from a Singaporean one.
Our next stop was Les Houches, a small sleepy alpine village in Chamonix valley located at the Rhones-Alpes region of France. Mother-nature took our breaths away as we were atop Aiguille du Midi at 3824m. I was happy and grateful to share that special moment with someone whom I love very very much.
Following Les Houches, we went to Lugano, Switzerland. From Lugano we visited Berne, Zurich and Luzern. There is something lacking in Switzerland - it had no soul. Perhaps Bunnell was right, he told me before I left, that it is a place very much like Singapore. We concluded that Switzerland’s only saving grace was the beautiful lakes and mountains of its natural landscape.
I was glad to leave Switzerland for Florence, Italy. I got to see Brunelleschi’s magnificent dome and Michelangelo’s tomb. We also attended a mass in the beautiful San Miniato - I will always remember the calmness I felt as I listen to the old monks sing hymns of worship. Likewise, I will always remember that same calmness as I step into the simple Santa Maria Novella basilica.
We left Florence reluctantly for Venice. Venice turned out to be a big bore - we spent half a day there, and decided to spend the next day in Verona. One of the best decisions we made this trip, Verona is the most beautiful Italian city we went to. It is exactly how I imagined Italian cities to be like. We spent bulk of our time in Verona exploring the Roman Theatre across Ponte Pietra.
Finally, the last stop: Rome. I’ve heard a lot of bad things about Rome, most of my friends didn’t like the city. We went with a slight sense of dread, but after the first afternoon at the Flavian Amphitheater and Palatine Hill, we were sold. I like to think of Rome as the perfect postmodern city in which the ancient, the old and the new exist in harmony in the urban landscape.
From Rome we visited Vatican City. With another bout of good luck, we saw the pope and attempted to listen to his sermon in Italian at St. Peter’s Square. Then we went into the Basilica and were blown away by the interior. We went up to the top of the dome designed by Michelangelo, everything looked perfect from such great height.