Sunday, September 24, 2006

mmmm French Food....

Originally uploaded by cornasdf.
Next trip on the corp card is gay Pari’. Caught a train on a Monday evening. That eurostar is a very nice way to travel. Much less constricting than the plane. The train from LDN to paris is about 3 hours. It feels similar to catching the train from NY – DC. Same deal w/ time as well. By the time you get out to an airport on the outskirts of town, fly, and come back into the middle of town, you have taken as much time as the train from the middle of town to the middle of town. Add the excessive scrutiny, lest the terrorists win, the math becomes simpler. Plus, the food is a bit better than airplane food.

Checked in to the hotel. I had done a bunch of searching to pick a hotel next the office I was supposed to be going to. I ended up w/ a Holiday inn. Looked at a bunch of more local hotels but as far as I could tell, the local hotels tended to be “quaint”. Put another way, maybe….small and run down. But I am learning that is just a Paris hotel. They seem to all be pretty shoddy (shy of the Ritz). They had some euronet for internet access. I have seen the network in other cities. It seems to be a single sign on for many big cities. I don’t travel enough to subscribe though and the single day access is too expensive.

The hotel was just around the corner from the business offices but it really didn’t matter b/c I wasn’t working in the business office. The office I was working at was changed to the outskirts of town. Luckily, I was also on a train line that went right there so my commute was manageable. The paris metro was pretty good. The trains were plentiful and I like the countries w/ the timetables on the platform (x mins to next train, etc). They don’t have any concept of the express train and it closes though, I suppose they only have single tracks. Another annoyance was the tickets. I bought some 10 pack and it came as 10 individual tickets about the size of a couple of postage stamps. Not only were 10 individual stamps annoying to keep in your pocket but they kept failing on me. When you give the stall your ticket, it returns it so the first time a ticket read as bad, I figured I had already used. The next time I was pretty sure and by the third time I was positive that the ticket was bad. Finally, I went to the booth clerk to see if I could communicate my point. I needn’t have worried. I saw a couple other people exchange out their tickets in the same way. It seems to be pretty common. Indeed, I had a 30% failure rate. How is this acceptable? The tickets are marketed towards tourists, locals use monthly passes. So, secondary revenue stream for them I guess. Grr…

This is feeling a bit like a rant, Paris actually was pretty nice overall but there are quite a few things that stuck in my craw, so to speak. I am really glad I don’t keep my money in a French bank. I was there for maybe 2 hours of effective work. They seemed to think it would take 3 days. They were right. 80% of the time was me and 2-3 of their employees waiting for another part of the bank to call us back. We didn’t to anything until 3:30 – 4 pm the second day I was there. Thinking about it, many people explained to me that a good night out in France is going to a café and arguing about things. I can totally see the allure in that. But when I don’t speak the language and we have work to do… I drank more coffee in that week (good café too) than I had in the previous 2 months. All day we sat and drank coffee. An in, “We can’t work on that part b/c we need a server guy. I called his desk, didn’t get him… Let’s sit for an hour and debate (en francais) about how hard it will be to get anything in done in the bank.” If there was ever a business case for Active Directory it was this bank. Getting anything done was so difficult b/c they are only half using MS technologies and many of the simple tasks are very difficult. I really just wanted to get the damn thing in, I had plenty of other work I could be getting through.

One of those other things was the pop quiz at work. They called it budget. I had 24 hours to put it together. It could have been worse. I sat outside a café in Bastille and found some stolen internet access and finished the budget. It was actually a nice pleasant evening.

The French food ##(*$&(#*& rocks. What is it about even the basic French food that makes you want to chew more slowly? Savor each layer. I had a couple of fairly simple meals that were just great. One misadventure was the escargot. I realized I hadn’t had the snails before. I got some pot of snails and mushrooms and sauces. The sauces were great. The snails reminded me of eating dirt. A very earthy flavor, shall we say. Meh, still better than oysters.

After working T-Thurs and barely getting the damn thing in, I took Friday off and stayed the weekend in paris. (Did I mention they told me the last day that they were just going to erase it next week?) Audrey, a girl from the bank, had mentioned that the Louvre is mostly empty at night. Friday night is not the empty night. The Louvre is one of the top art collections in the world. All of these pieces have been studied in depth. What better way to bring that knowledge to the people than the audiotour. Don’t get the audio tour in the Louvre. Maybe 30% of the collection even has audio snippets posted. Only a very few of the pieces I was interested in had the tour. Of course the mona lisa has it, some of the good stuff did. Not all of the good stuff and none of the secondary stuff that looked interesting had an audio entry. Still, lots of cool stuff. I like the classical sculptures myself. And I did see the code of Hammurabi which was pretty cool.

During this tour, I stopped and did a meeting w/ some of the CP guys for the budget. After spending half an hour talking out a storage solution I got off the phone feeling good. A thought started to occur to me, one that crystallized over the next few days. Work is one of the most interesting and fulfilling things I am doing right now. Is that great or totally pathetic. Jury is still out on that one.

Spent Saturday wandering around Paris. I had done the major stuff when I was backpacking, I didn’t feel the need to find the Eiffel tower again or the Notre Dame. I really didn’t feel too touristy at all. I wandered around, spent a long time playing Sudoko in a park. Saw “Little miss sunshine” (recommended) on Champs d’elysees. Went over to MontMartre and Pigalle.

Managed to connect w/ Felix’s sister, Veronica on Sunday morning. We found a café on Rue de Roquette and shared a nice breakfast of croissants, cheeses and meats. Yum, how french, good food and conversation.

I couldn’t leave france without a couple of bottles of wine. I picked out 4 bottles at the duty free and managed to leave them on the train. Doh!... Ah well, think how nice it will be for the next person that sits there. I wonder if they will be afraid of them and call out the bomb squad. If they throw those out rather than drink them, the terrorists really have won.

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