This Singapore Kindness Movement publicity stunt was floating around on Facebook but I know the truth behind Singa's resignation.
Singa Didn't Resign:
1. @mrbrown: #SingaDidntResign He was lion.
2. @mrbrown: #SingaDidntResign He went to LA to develop his career with Wyclef's jeans.
3. @mrbrown: #SingaDidntResign He was asked to be Emeritus Senior Courtesy Mentor.
4. @mrbrown: #SingaDidntResign He abdicated.
5. @mrbrown: #SingaDidntResign He was asked to leave for having an affair with the Merlion.
6. @mrbrown: #SingaDidntResign He went to join the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.
7. @mrbrown: #SingaDidntResign He stepped down to make way for new blood.
8. @danielgoh: #SingaDidntResign He asked for a transfer to the zoo so he can be the mane attraction.
9. @joleeqh: #SingaDidntResign He's getting ready for GE2016.
10. @ShunfuMart: #SingaDidntResign He is under investigation for misappropriating money to fund a new career in pop music.
11. @mrbrown: #SingaDidntResign His job was taken by a more polite foreign lion willing to work for less.
12. @gweezilla: Rumour is, #SingaDidntResign. He was pushed.
13. @mrbrown: #SingaDidntResign He was asked to be the director of a $2 company belonging to a political party.
14. @Fake_PMLee: #SingaDidntResign , he will be replaced by another animal but this time it will be political so that the public can assess its performance.
15. @mrbrown: #SingaDidntResign He was made director of "Special Projects".
16. @Fake_PMLee: #SingaDidntResign, he is now mascot without portfolio.
17. @Fake_PMLee: #SingaDidntResign, his work permit was revoked after taking part in Merlion Park #GE13 protest.
18. @mrbrown: #SingaDidntResign He is going for Sir Alex Ferguson’s job.
19. @mrbrown: #SingaDidntResign Teamy the Bee stabbed his back and questioned his productivity.
20. @ShunfuMart: #SingaDidntResign He's being charged with under age "kindness".
21. @mrbrown: #SingaDidntResign He was fired for mounting a crane.
22. @mrbrown: #SingaDidntResign Teamy the Bee stabbed his back and questioned his productivity.
23. #SingaDidntResign He just liked it better when he didn’t need pants at work.
We sat in our Turin hotel in Italy and wondered, just before bedtime, where next? We had our Hertz rental car, our Bike Friday Tikit and Moulton foldies in the car, and no plans for the next few days. Looking at the map of north Italy, I spied a mountain range… in France.
Just above the seaside city of Nice, was the Mercantour National Park, one of the nine National Parks of France. About 45km from Nice, was little mountain town of Roure, in south-east France.
"Let's go there! We can hike in France!"
So off we drove, making a stop at the Italian factory outlet stores near Turin to look for presents for our families, before reaching Roure. Crossing the French border was painless but we did encounter some challenging driving up the mountain roads, especially when it got higher and the road narrowed to one lane. Yes, you do have to be careful going up a winding mountain single-lane road. Also it was raining.
But the drive was worth it. We reached there before the sky got dark and settled into our lodge, a place called Auberge le Robur, run by Pauline and Christoph Billau. And oh my goodness, the VIEW.
Even in the rain and the fog, the view was stupendous. And we were in time for dinner (it is also a well-regarded restaurant).
So, with a three-course set menu of home-made French cuisine, and a killer view of the foggy mountains, Ryan and I tucked in. This is the asparagus starter, and below is the main course of veal confit.
We went for a walk after that and it felt like we were walking in an old French movie.
In the morning, the view was even better.
We hiked around a bit, then when the rain got a little heavier, we drove for an hour to the next town, St Martin Vésubie, to have some late lunch.
I think this was the coldest part of the trip, with temperatures reaching single digit degrees Celsius. We came prepared with warm clothing so it was totally manageable.
We must have been the only Chinese fellas for miles around. Plus it was off-peak season so there were not many tourists. Pauline told us over breakfast (French toast and awesome cheeses anyone?) last year, she had a Singapore couple who got lost in the mountain roads trying to drive to her place and it was almost midnight. So she got them a place nearer where they were by calling another innkeeper because she didn't want them driving in unlit mountain roads late at night.
I guess we have to thank our capable GPS for getting us there safely. We also made sure we gave ourselves sufficient time to drive there from Italy, so we would reach Roure before nightfall. Always a wise thing to do when you are driving on unfamiliar roads in a foreign country.
One of the nice things about self-drive trips is the sheer random possibilities. Ryan and I were still deciding on our last night in Milan, where we should go next. As he poured over Google maps on his iPad, he exclaimed, "Hey, there is a little Italy inside Switzerland!"
I looked at where he pointed and it was a place called Campione d'Italia. Turns out that Campione d'Italia is a small Italian municipality under the Province of Como in the Lombardy region, within the Swiss canton of Ticino. By some twist of historical fate, Campione d'Italia chose to remain a part of Italy and the residents are Italian citizens even though it is separated from the rest of Italy by Lake Lugano and the mountains.
We thought Lake Lugano may not be a bad place to visit, so we drove our Hertz rental car towards the Swiss border, to Campione d'Italia to have a look-see. It is indeed a beautiful place but it looks like the main economic centre of the town is the casino.
Our drive across the Swiss border was fairly painless but it did cost €35 because you have to pay for a Swiss toll fee. We got a little taken by surprise by this fee and at first we were thinking, "Wah, Switzerland so expensive ah? Even their toll is €35 for one time ah?"
Then we found out that it is valid for a whole year. You stick the expensive sticker on your windscreen and it lets you drive around Switzerland's tolled highways for "free" after that. ORRRRRRH.
Switzerland IS expensive though. Our next stop after Campione d'Italia was Lugano (see the lovely flowers in the photo below). The city is by the lake by the same name and it is really pretty, except things there are twice the price of things in Italy. And you pay in Swiss francs (it's about 120 Francs to 100 Euros).
We cycled through the park by the lake and around the town area and really enjoyed it but we still had other places to go. So we loaded our bicycles into the spacious back of our Hertz car and drove towards Turin (or Torino, as the Italians call it).
We decided to spend the night at Turin. It is the home of the Torino and Juventus football clubs and it is a city rich with history and culture. The baroque, neo-classical, and Art Nouveau architecture here is awesome, and when you cycle through its generous city squares, you feel like you are riding through another time period.
We also visited the stadium where Torino was to face off with Juventus in a match, thinking we would be able to buy tickets on the spot. You watch Italian Serie A matches on tv and the stadiums are usually not full, so we thought it would be fine. We kind of picked a wrong time to go because the whole city of Turin seemed to be there for the match. I guess we should have known it would happen because a match like this means all the supporters of both Turin-based football clubs would show up to watch the match. All we could do was hear the cheers and atmosphere from outside the stadium as we walked back to our car, stepping on broken beer bottles and past large groups of riot police out in force.