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My European adventure: Hollywood, Bollywood and the Statue of Liberty!

Updated: Jun 26, 2020

Guest Travel Blogpost by former Channel NewsAsia personality and ex-broadcast journalist Patwant Singh:

With the Covid-19 pandemic besieging the world, the global travel industry has almost come to a standstill.

Flight restrictions and lockdowns have put a stop to many a traveller’s holiday plans, both near and far.

Europe, an all-time favourite vacation destination, could now be inaccessible for quite some time with the virus still pervasive.

Luckily for me, I managed to catch the famous European sights just before the Covid-19 scourge hit planet earth.

My Europe vacation began in late November last year (2019), lasting over 2 weeks and stretching into the pre-Christmas celebrations.

However, it was not without some surprises, both pleasant and unpleasant, especially at our first stop in London.

On the day we arrived, Tower Bridge was the scene of a terror attack, with police shooting the attacker dead, but not before he killed 2 and injured 3 innocent victims.

The news soon sank in that this was real and not a scene out of a Hollywood movie and thank goodness we had arrived a little later or might have witnessed this horrific incident unfold in front of us.

With the bridge out of bounds, the obligatory selfies had to be taken from a distance.

Thankfully, the rest of the London tour went without incident as we visited the usual tourist destinations like Buckingham Palace and the London Eye.

What stood out for me though was the added cheer brought about by the festivities welcoming Christmas.

Busy shoppers soaking in the glow of Christmas lights on Regent Street. Photo Courtesy : Patwant Singh

The Christmas lights on Regent Street were officially illuminated in mid-November and shoppers could enjoy the light-up from 4 to 9pm daily. Video Courtesy : Patwant Singh

Bright lights in the shape of fairies greeted London shoppers at some of the up-market shopping districts.

Another unique sight, albeit created by mother nature, awaited, me as my entourage crossed the channel into continental Europe was the striking façade of the majestic White Cliffs of Dover along the English coastline.

A spectacular natural feature that owes its unique colour to a rare, pure form of limestone that is similar to chalk.

A view of the White Cliffs of Dover from our ferry as we cross the English Channel into France. Photo Courtesy : Patwant Singh

From chalk, it was onwards into the land of cheese and wine, and one cannot visit France without a stop at the Eiffel Tower.

Paris with the tower and other palatial buildings including the river Seine, is a must-see for a first-time visitor.

What stood out for me though was a place called Colmar that is now getting more prominence.

Situated in the heart of the idyllic Alsace region in northeast France, the picturesque quaint town is akin to a scene out of a storybook with its half-timbered houses, rustic canals and lush flora and fauna.

The historic Old Town is littered with medieval houses dating back to the 16th and 17th century.

It has the most eye-catching and unique half-timbered Alsatian houses.

The Old Town in Colmar with the medieval architecture. Photo Courtesy : Patwant Singh

As part of the Christmas festivities there are special light projections on these pretty buildings. Video Courtesy : Patwant Singh

Colmar has another link to fame from more recent times, a 12-metre high replica of the Statue of Liberty.

That’s because the French city is home to the celebrated statue's sculptor, Auguste Bartholdi.

The real monument in New York city was a gift by the French government to the US in 1881.

A replica of the Statue of Liberty in the French City of Colmar was dedicated in 2004, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Bartholdi’s death.

Photo Courtesy : Patwant Singh

From France, we crossed over into Germany and headed to Lake Titisee in the Black Forest, where we attended a cuckoo clock making demonstration in Titisee-Neustadt.

The clock making tradition has stood the test of time, but dating back further into history is the scenic lake, which is Germany’s most popular tourist spot.

It was formed about 2.6 million years ago by the Feldberg glacier in the Pleistocene era when the area was home to sabre-toothed tigers, giant sloths, woolly mammoths and mastodons.

A panoramic view of the Lake Titisee which covers an area of 1.3 square km. Photo Courtesy : Patwant Singh

Speaking of glaciers and snow, an exciting excursion up the peak of Mt. Titlis in the Swiss Alps was the next stop on the itinerary.

We were treated to a 360-degree panoramic view of steep rock faces, deep crevasses and distant snow-covered mountain peaks as the gondola rotated its way up the summit.

The cable car ride takes about 30 minutes to reach the top of Mt. Titlis which is some 3000 metres above sea-level. Video Courtesy : Patwant Singh

Once on top, it was a snow haven especially for a Singaporean lad like myself growing up in the tropical heat.

Having also gown up on Bollywood movies, I was caught by surprise to meet Bollywood legend Shahrukh Khan in his element dancing in traditional Indian attire.

The writer with his wife flanking the famous cut-out of the Bollywood icons. Photo Courtesy : Patwant Singh

A life-size cut out of Khan and his co-star Kajol, from the runaway Hindi movie hit Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (commonly referred to as DDLJ), is displayed in an open-air cafe atop the mountain.

The cut-out is in honour of Khan’s movie, and the many other Bollywood productions, shot in Switzerland over the past few decades.

From the heights of the Swiss Alps to the depths of the Adriatic Sea,

Venice, the city of love was the much-anticipated next stop in our European sojourn.

It is a favourite haunt of Hollywood stars and movie sets, the latest being the Spider Man movie in 2019.

The coastal city is undoubtably known for its canals and gondolas.

The gondolas can sit from two to four persons and are steered by a single gondolier. Video Courtesy : Patwant Singh

Tourists on a gondola navigating one of the many canals of Venice. Photo Courtesy : Patwant Singh