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Monday, April 23, 2012

Drink Up

As Singaporeans, we take drinking water for granted. We expect them free in restaurants because our tap and toilet bowl water (for dogs please) can be drunk. We never had to pay for water and when actress Joanne Peh made a racket for being asked to pay for water in Nandos, it reaffirmed our cheapskate way of quenching thirst.

I beg your pardon, some choose water as a choice of beverage not because its free but because its healthier than sugar ladden drinks.

BUT we wouldn't want to pay for water, so it still makes us cheapskate.

As a budget traveller, you will want to drink and take water everywhere. Despite wine being as cheap as water, we still want to save..or so, we thought.

From extensive travelling and drinking (water), i've learnt that not ALL nations give free water.

In Asia out of Singapore, you generally don't drink tap water because being elitist Singaporeans proud of our tap water but not Newater, we don't trust other parts of Asia. So we're happy buying bottled water everyday, not costing more than $1.

In Europe however, its not always for free, which is quite a bummer especially when you later find it on the bill for 3 Euros (SGD 4.70). Unless you know how to ask in an European language before ordering water. Then again somehow in an European country, you don't want to appear cheapskate.

The below is a list which is not exhausive but hopefully gives an indication of free water in Europe. Do note that each restaurant varies too, i make a verdict based on general visits.

If waiters ask sparkling or still, it's usually a hint that they charge for water. You can however ask for drinking tap water, and if they look puzzled, it means they don't have it. The repetition is for confirmation that despite it being tap water, it is drinkable.

When all else fails, count on Macdonald's. They always dispense free water.

Australia: Free
Austria: No
Italy: No
Germany: Free
France: Free
Switzerland: Free
England: Free/ No
Spain: No

Italy was the worst. The waiter in the restaurant despite speaking English didn't bother explaining to us ordering 1 x water means a bottle to be shared among 4. So everyone raised their hands for water and though he looked shocked, he mocked us by bringing 7 litre bottles and charged us Sgd 6 each. Better yet, we can't take the bottles out with us because he refused to give us the caps.

On the topic of water, whilst we pay $3 for a bottle of Evian in Singapore, in the French town Evian, the spring water is absolutely free!
In Evian, where Evian is from, you will find spas offering water treatment with that same water you find bottled in our shores. Up on a slope in the town you'll find a water fountain where it is the direct source of the spring water. It's just one fountain in the entire town.

I took a ferry across lake Geneva for SGD $80 for the entire journey that includes return train, subway and a ferry (board a ferry from Ochy).
In the French town, i found the best fondue melted with 3 cheeses.

I am not a huge fan of cheese but it was by fortune, i decided to randomly into a restaurant that offered cheese fondue. I have a penchant for ordering anything that has a chef's recommendation star next to it anyway.

You're kept busy eating a cheese fondue. The constant stirring, dipping and eating.
I did not expect to finish all but i just could not stop eating!
After a heavy meal (surprisingly i didn't fart alot after. I thought cheese makes you fart.), i went hunting for the Evian fountain. I expected holy water, i expected a grand sight due to the fact of Evian being "branded water" in Singapore..

From afar, i spotted 2 Asian girls filling up their truckload of empty bottles.

They don't let me down. They filled up a good 40 litres worth of Evian, they came from a nearby town.

"Do you bathe in them?" I asked.
"No, no. Just drinking." She replied with a Thai accent.

Alas, the fountain wasn't holy grail as i thought it would be. The floor was wet and dirty with mud prints. I took a 2 hour one way journey to taste Evian.

No wonder Evian spelt backwards is Naive.

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