Saturday, January 31, 2004

Ok, this is my first big work road trip and using this blogger, so I did all kinds of stuff prior to my finally logging on and using this... below are the posts.

Paris by Day, Airport by Night

Staying at the Hyatt Regency Charles de Gaulle right now. I have meetings here through Tuesday, so it doesn't make any sense to stay anywhere else. I think I am moving to Madeleine or Vendome this Tuesday for the remainder of the week.

Weather very blustery, windy and rainy. So I took the early bus back home. The Hyatt now has a bus that drops you off right at l'Opera, takes only 35 minutes. Nice compared to the 1 hour train ride that I did in the past.

What do I like about Paris? It is just so incredibly beautiful. Best shopping? No. But the people watching in this city is second to none - there are so many places to perch. Cafes, bars... endless. I went shopping at l'Opera, Place de la Madeleine then got bored and took the Metro to Le Marais. Such a cool area, I got lost going from street to street, they are all so tiny, and just when you think you've seen everything, you are on another street. They are so cute. I found a great tea shoppe but it was so busy, I passed it up. Don't need tea anyways - that is for London!

Decided not to do any cultural things today... but there seemed to be an interesting exhibit at the Centre Georges Pompidou - modern architecture. But it is such a ghastly building it is hard to even attempt entering it... I took a picture of it peeping above a tiny street, see the photo. The guts of the building are on the outside, that is why it is so well known. And ugly.

There was a huge line of people trying to enter this place called ' Le Point Vergule' - that means 'the semi-colon' (as in punctuation - the ; ), and I think it was a comedy club. Comedy in french? Is there such a thing?

Well, I am going to retire for the night. Tomorrow I may go downtown again to buy these shoes I saw in Le Marais, but I also want to work out and relax, so who knows. We'll see.

Fri 30 January 2004

Thalys Train

I’m on the “Thalys” bullet train now from Brussels to Paris. It goes so fast… the conductor just announced (in French, Flemish and English) that “[he was] informed that the train has just surpassed 300 km/h.” That’s 186 mph! The still has some remnants countryside is very rural and pretty… the sun is shining, and the snowfall from Thursday over the hilly fields and on the village church roofs.

Fri 30 January 2004

As I sit in the train station, it is interesting to see that what must be a gay bar called “Pullman” (no comment) is actually in the station. There is only one woman – obviously a lesbian – behind the counter, and the music is pumping loud bad europop. The bar is circular, with cheesy faux-wood paneled walls, and varied dart boards, Hollywood star posters (Marilyn, Madonna) and beer emblems are all around. Needless to say, I just walked on by.

It is neat to watch all the people scatter about the station, looking for the signs. There is so much activity, old and young people confused or lost or just looking for something to do. There must be at least 5 “Relay” newspaper stores in the station, and at least 5 caf├ęs. It is very modern and looks cleaner than when I was here last year.

Friday 30 January 2004

This morning Demet and I had breakfast in the hotel lobby prior to departure. Nice people at the Hyatt Regency Brussels-Barsey, and I look forward to meeting them encore une fois!

Thu 29 January 2004

What a wonderful day. I woke up so late – 10am – that I ended up rushing to get some food and wash up, then off to Gare du Midi to pick up the rental car. It had snowed last night – 2 inches – and I was nervous to drive to Brunssum/Heerlen. Lo and behold, however, the road was pretty clear and in fact the sun cleared as I neared the Netherlands.

I keep forgetting it is only an hour drive from Brussels to Brunssum, so it is very easy to stay at the Hyatt and still do my thing back home. I drove straight to Ubach over Worms to get chocolate. The woman remembered me from last year, and I made her day – I ordered €100 worth. As she was preparing it, I walked over to the Edah grocery store to get some basic items for the next two weeks. I love going to grocery stores in foreign countries, they are so interesting – what do people eat, are there convenience items, how do the costs compare?

No pretzels in Europe…

Heerlen had changed much, but again for the better. The architecture is so great, very modern. It really has come along way since I lived there, or since my visit in 1998. The shopping is much better too. It was interesting to see a stray U.S. soldier in uniform here or there. Found an electric adaptor at a hardware store, after searching HEMA and the V&D. Only €1.95 !

I listened to CFN and AFN (that’s Canadian/American Forces Network) radio. No CFNB anymore – they don’t broadcast out of Brunssum, which is too bad. Still neat to hear it.

I went back to AFCENT (now AFNORTH) and saw the school, then dinner with Doug DeBacker. It always feels so comfortable hanging around there, in some ways it is like I had never left. I am totally able to drive around with little reference to a map, and I don’t get lost. It isn’t a big area… anyways, I had spinach lasagna at a great Italian restaurant just across from the weekend marketplace. I found out that the Eden Park is still run by the same family, only the kids now run it!

When I came home (weather was dry and clear), I logged on-line and chatted with Andy for an hour. Funny how you can be 5,000 miles away and the internet can make you feel you’re at home.

Wed 28 January 2004

I don’t have an electric adaptor… stupid me, I forgot the plug difference. The hotel is looking to see if I can buy one… meanwhile, I am borrowing Demet’s to recharge my computer! DUH!

Wed 28 January 2004

Arrival in Bruxelles/Brussels

Arrived in snow. Big flakes. Welcome to Brussels?! I don’t ever remember snow. I slept well on the flight, and although customs took an hour, it was great to get to the hotel. I took a little nap, then met up with my colleagues for dinner. The hotel offered a full menu for the trainees and the trainers, and I was invited. It was very nice, and we watched it snow in the terrace as we finished our dinner. Good to meet all the hotel personnel, and to see Philippe and Demet.

Tomorrow…. "Home" !

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