Here I will try to keep a journal of what I've been doing each day and what my impressions of Paris have been. I tried to keep a journal of my trip across the US in 1995 but only lasted for about 3 days. Let's hope that this one turns out a little bit better.
Well, the flight was pretty uneventful. I think I got a whopping 4 hours of sleep. I ended up reading a good deal of the Hobbit before I finally crashed.
My plane got in to Charles De Gaul airport at 8:30 AM. I didn't get out of the airport until 10:30. It was the biggest mockery. They had 3 or 4 planes all arrive at the same time and only had 2 single file lines to process the people. Next time I'll be sure to get a seat in the front of the plane.
I took the RER into Paris. It was a little confusing because the conductor only spoke in French and my French is not quite up to par. I eventually got to my hotel after one wrong stop. I was half inclined to just lay down and take a nap for a couple of hours so that I wouldn't feel so tired. It didn't take me long to decide against that course of action as I was very eager to get out and see the city.
I scrapped my plans for heading down to Notre Dame. I have been convinced not to visit Versailles on Tuesday so I will do the whole Notre Dame, Latin Quarter, etc...thing tomorrow. What I did today was much cooler, I think. I just started out at the Arc de Triumph and headed wherever my feet took me. I did a bit of backtracking and circles and aimless wandering but it was really cool. I got within eyesight of Notre Dame and considered walking over but it was getting close to the time where Chris passes out from not eating so I started meandering back. I can't believe how much I saw without even having any kind of plan as to where I went. I'm sure that I saw plenty of things that I never would have if I would have planned the whole thing out. Of course I probably missed even more by not planning. I still have a little over 2 full days to see this city though so I'm not worried.
Well, I'm going to cut today's journal short here. I have to make a few phone calls before I start uploading this. I love this place. I'll write more tomorrow.
Well, it's 12:30 AM and the second day of Paris is officially done. I hate to disappoint all of my fans, but yesterday ended quite a bit earlier than I would have liked. I was supposed to go out with Frank LeGrand's sister, but she couldn't make it so I got it into my head that I would relax for a little while and then go out a little later. That little bit of relaxation that started out at 7:30 PM ended up being 14 hours of sleep by 9:30 the next morning. Needless to say, I was a little upset that I had wasted quite a good bit of my day.
I still haven't updated the itinerary and I probably won't be able to until I get to a more stable power supply. The one in my hotel room gives me one second of power for every 10 seconds of no power. As you can imagine, I have been operating on very low power for quite some time now. I had just enough time to update the photos page this afternoon before the entire laptop shut itself down. I will probably get away with just being able to update this page this evening.
A quick recap of my day. I started out back at Arc de Triumph. I figured out how to get on top of the thing (it wasn't hard, I just wasn't paying attention the first day). I got some great photos from there. I hiked over to the Eiffel Tower and got some picture from up there as well. I was supposed to meet Frank's sisters for lunch near the Arc de Triumph at 12:30 but I was held up for a while at the Eiffel Tower...the trip down took quite a bit longer than I had expected. I met up with Marie-Aude and Bridgett (I hope I spelled both of their names right) at 12:45 in front of Marie-Aude's work. We had a lovely Italian lunch and expanded all of our vocabularies. Bridgett took me to the subway and rode with to Place de la Concorde. From there I walked to Ile de la Cite and toured Notre Dame and the Memorial de la Deportation. I then walked over to Ile St. Louis and then to the Latin Quarter. I just bummed around in the Latin Quarter for a while...it was very cool...and eventually headed back to Ile de la Cite. Once back on the island I toured the Saint Chapelle church and then the Conciergerie. I crossed back to the right bank on Pont Neuf (a bridge). Almost every museum is closed on Tuesday so I walked through the Louvre (for those of you who haven't been there, you can walk through this place without actually going inside it). It was really amazing that something that big is just a museum. From here I took the metro back to my hotel and updated the photos page.
At about 7:15, Marie-Aude and I went to a restaurant on Champs Elysees for dinner. I don't remember the name of it. I had Salmon and some really good French wine. We then went to Haggen Daz down the street and had ice cream. We then went to another restaurant on Champs Elysees to hang out for a while. It was quite an enjoyable evening. I learned quite a bit about French culture and cleared up many misconceptions I had about French life...I think that Marie-Aude may have had a similar experience regarding American culture.
I had better cut this short. I am about to run out of battery power, and my knee is absolutely killing me. For those of you who don't know me very well, I have had problems with my left knee since high school. Hopefully it won't keep me from seeing everything I want to see tomorrow. Until then...Au revoir.
Well, apparently two days of hiking everywhere have ruined my ability to walk anymore. I got up relatively early today and took the metro up to Sacre Coeur. It was amazing. I think that I liked this church even more than Notre Dame. It wasn't quite as big but I think that I liked the architecture better. I think that the stairs leading up this place are what finally killed me...they go on forever. On my way back to the metro I discovered a sort of escalator/gondola leading down the the level of the metro. If only I had found this thing earlier.
I took the metro up to La Defense...it's some sort of big industrial park to the west of Paris. By this point I had also figured out the metro pretty well. At the heart of La Defense is a big thing called the Grande Arche (probably spelled wrong). It was pretty amazing to think that it is really just one big office building. I think that we should have more things like this in America...I don't know about any of you, but I'm pretty tired of only seeing squares and rectangles.
After La Defense, I had lunch with Marie-Aude and Bridgett again. We went to an Italian restaurant this time. The food was pretty comparable to most of the things that you can eat in an Italian restaurant in America.
After lunch, my knee was bothering me too much to do much of anything but lay in my room. I got to finish reading the Hobbit (I know it sounds pretty sad but I did actually want to read it). I did venture out of my room for about an hour to do some shopping on the Champs Elysees. I picked up a CD by an Irish group called The Corrs that Marie-Aude had recommended to me. I wasn't able to listen to the CD as I had lost all power to my laptop and couldn't get it to charge again. I guess I'd just have to wait until I got home.
I woke up this morning and realized that there was still quite a few work related things that I had to do before I got to heading down towards the Thompson Center. So, I spent my last morning in Paris doing very boring things.
At noon, I hobbled down to Marie-Aude's work to have lunch for the last time and to pick up a gift for her brother Frank. To my surprise, a few of her coworkers joined us. Even more surprising, one of them used to live not more than 5 miles from where I now live. It's a small world after all.
I arrived at the Thompson center at about 3:30. This gave me an hour to relax before I had to start working. When I first arrived in my room I was a little bit disappointed because the room was so small and didn't seem very homey. The entire Thompson facility seemed to be sort of uninviting...cold almost. At 4:30 all of the Cap Gemini employees met for the first time. It was a little awkward for me as I didn't know a single person there. It seemed as if everybody else knew at least one or two other people there (that wasn't really true, but when you're standing around by yourself it's easy to think that way).
I don't want to go into specifics about what we did (work related) but I'll just say that it was a lot of fun. I went into the Discovery Program thinking that it was going to be a lot of boring business stuff (with me being an ultra-techie this was not very appealing). I couldn't have been more wrong. It was definitely business related but it was so much fun. I think that what was even more fun was meeting the people from all of the different countries. I had never been to Europe before so I had a LOT of misconceptions about these people and their countries. I very quickly got to know quite a few people from quite a few different countries.
At 8:00 we started dinner. I thought that the highlight of dinner was when all of the members of each country had to sing their national anthem. Many people weren't confident that they'd be able to pull it off but everybody did a great job. The food left something to be desired but the company and the wine and beer were all excellent. After a few drinks we were all feeling quite loose and began to open up to each other on a much more personal level...we were telling jokes and old stories and breaking down barriers between our cultures. I found it utterly amazing how much we all had in common and how many of our beliefs and views were so much in synch. I had a really great time sharing stories and fun with some of the best Swedish, English, French, Scottish, Swiss, Belgium (I don't know how to make that country possessive), Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, Irish, and yes, even American people. The night ended for me at about 2:30 AM. I don't remember what time I got back to my room but I stayed up for a while once I got there. I was feeling great about being in the Discovery program. I couldn't wait for the next day to start.
When you go to bed at 2:30 AM, 5:30 AM rolls around pretty damned early. We had to be up well before the sun so that we could have breakfast at 6:30 and be on the bus to Behoust (for those of you who don't know, it's the chateau down the road where Cap Gemini University is located) by 7:00. There were a number of us who weren't feeling quite well through a good part of the day after being up so late the previous night. We arrived at Behoust and had a bit of time to kill before the days activities started so a few of us wandered about the chateau and some of sat in the big cushy chairs and tried to fall asleep for a while. We conducted our business for the morning and had lunch at the chateau. We said our good-byes to the residents of Behoust and headed back to the Thompson Center.
The rest of our afternoon was filled with work until we had a heavenly three hour break before dinner. I think I can speak for a majority of the residents of the Thompson Center when I say that a good many of us used that time to sneak in an hour or two of sleep.
The evening was spent pretty much in the same manner as the last evening. I got to know everybody even better this night. I couldn't have imagined being able to hang out with a better bunch of people. I got to bed at about 1:30 AM which I found kind of odd since the common area closed at 12:00. I guess that I had been having too good of a time talking to everybody to want to leave.
Once again, we worked today...but only for the first half of the day. We had lunch, a bit more work and then an hour break before we headed back to Behoust for relaxation, dinner, and partying. During the hour break, Peter (an Englishman) and I went to the common area and played Jenga with Sinbad (a Dutch guy). We had most of the residents of the Thompson Center crowded around watching as we set the Thompson Center record of 31 levels. We all then got on the busses and headed to Behoust.
We arrived at Behoust a little after 4:00 PM and immediately stripped down to our bathing suits. We took over the pool house in a matter of minutes. The jacuzzi was great, even though we always had no less than 10 people in it. There was a slight risk as there was an almost constant stream of cans (sodas and beers) flying over from the bar. A number of people started up a game of water-rugby that seemed to go on for quite a while. A number of the Swedes and myself retired to the Saunas for a long time. We started out having separate saunas for the men and the women, but thanks to Panos, we ended up with lovely co-ed saunas. I had never been in a sauna before, but needless to say, I can't wait to go into another one. Of course I will probably have to travel to Sweden to get the same quality sauna.
Sometime after 7:00 PM and before 9:00 PM (I had lost track of time due to a lack of watch) we all exited the pool house and retired to the chateau for dinner. After dinner we had the entertainment. It was great. The Thompson center did a song about some of the things that we learned in the Discovery program...and I don't think I'll ever be able to get the song out of my head. I would write the words here but it's one of those things where you just had to be there to get anything out of it. Every SBA (for those of you not familiar with my companies organization, an SBA represents a certain part of the world) did a short skit or song that had something to do with their culture. This was the best entertainment I had seen in a long time. I hope that somebody was videotaping the whole thing as I would love to see it again. The highlight (well, maybe not) for me was getting to do a shot of very strong vodka with the members of SBA3 (the Scandinavians). I swear I think I'm going to move to Sweden in the next year or two.
After the entertainment, we had our dance. It was great. We danced with each other for hours to songs that some of us knew by heart and some of us had never heard of before. After a couple of beers I wasn't feeling quite so much pain in my knee. I lost track of a few people that I had started out hanging out with, met some new friends, got lost somewhere on the properties at Behoust, and ended up having a glass of Champagne with a group of complete strangers at 3:00 AM...after the 2:30 AM bus had left! Somebody must have called another bus for us because we got back to Thompson center a little after 4:00 AM. I believe I was asleep by about 4:30. I had enough wits about me to set my alarm clock to 8:30 AM (the latest I could possibly get up and still have any breakfast).
Any immunity to pain in my knee that I had felt the night before was now gone at 8:30 AM. I was in excruciating pain. I had only coffee for breakfast...I needed all the caffeine I could get. We had one last meeting to discuss the benefits, concerns, and knowledge we had gained. All in all, I think that we concluded that we had a great time and would never forget the experiences we had, the knowledge we gained, and the people we met. We said our good-byes....I was quite sad to be going...and headed our separate ways. I had to take a taxi to the airport as I had an early flight, while most everybody else took the busses back to Paris. I wish that I could have taken more time off of work so that I could spend a few more days in Europe. I guess I'll have to wait until the summer time.
The flight back was uneventful. I didn't get any sleep but I did get to watch the Horse Whisperer. It was a pretty good movie. My flight landed just before 5:00 PM (east coast USA time) and my trip was over.