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Monday, October 8, 2012

Belated update on Spain

Barcelona was fun, mellow, beautiful, fairly reasonably priced; somewhat unsafe feeling at times, but I would recommend going there.  Getting around was easier than in Copenhagen. Things were closer to each other than they looked on the map.  The street names stuck in my head easier and were typically fairly well marked.
I arrived on Friday night and was ecstatic that a great friend from Kansas City was able to meet me there for the remainder of the trip. My solo excursions to Denmark were fun and somewhat liberating, but I always seem to have more fun when there is someone to share in the fun and experiences.

Barcelona was a very crowded city. Unemployment is very high and I had heard pick pocketing was a big worry there. It seems that every "exotic" destination you go to, at least a couple people are going to warn you about pick pockets.  Personally I've never had issues with it, thank goodness. Mostly, I try to be aware of my surroundings and my personal belongings and be discreet and alert when poring over my maps to determine how to get to the next stop. We did feel uncomfortable when a profusion of guys appeared on every street corner after dark trying to coerce us to buy pop or "sexy beer". When we declined, they started offering hash, marijuana, ecstasy...

The first stop Saturday morning was Segrada Familia - the church forever under construction. It was very different than how I had expected it to look. It's hard to convey the sheer amount of detail of this building in a photo. It is also tricky to get a good photo between the throngs of people while trying to avoid photographing the construction. With so many things on our list of things to see, we decided against going inside for a tour.

Next we went to Casa Batllo which was a home designed by Gaudi. It was interesting as well. Gaudi had such a strange, unconventional, drippy style. Very distinctive. The entry fee included a free audio tour. I hate those stupid things.; The idea is great, but in practice, they suck. They all seem to think that we came to whatever historical site we're visiting, solely to listen to their existential, quasi-poetic, long-winded drivel.Each room, you're supposed to press a number and listen to this thing - there's always a pause before they begin and then a tinkering of mood music followed by rambling that never seems to get to a point. They also have the tendency to turn people who are listening into oblivions; completely unaware that they're blocking the only exit from the room.

After that, we wandered Las Ramblas - the main street that goes through the Goetic and Raval neighborhoods - filled with wonderful, quirky, local, shops and cafes as well as the standard tourist trap spots.  We got all of our gift shopping done that morning in that neighborhood at very reasonable prices.  We had a lovely lunch of quiche, cappuccino and cava (Spanish champagne) in an outdoor courtyard with great people watching and perfect weather.  After wandering through neighborhoods and shops, we stopped at another plaza in the afternoon and had some red wine (and cappuccino - you do that a lot when you're with Marcie).  There was a pretty fountain in the center surrounded by palm trees, kissing couples, a few breakdancers, and a few well mannered children and Yorkies ( they seem to be the dog of choice in Barcelona).  We sat at this plaza smiling, laughing at anything and nothing and each took no less than 20 photos a piece - most of them of our two wine glasses and red carnation against the neon green table we sat at.

We ended up at the sea and saw a pirate ship and a sculpture of a humongous, smiling crawfish and then headed in search of dinner (barely before my stomach ate itself and my legs feel off from walking so much!).  We found a charming restaurant in the El Raval area called El Gran Cafe.  White tablecloths, sharply dressed waitstaff, low light from beautiful art deco style lamps, cozy interior, serenaded by a piano player perched in a small balcony near us, playing his own arrangements of songs ranging from Adele, to Coldplay, to Enya, to Evita.  It was delightful. I ordered the duck with potatoes au gratin and wine marinated pears and Marcie had the paella. Delicious!!

The next day we went to Parc Guell which was designed by Gaudi.  We weren't sure we were going the right way until we noticed about 6 outdoor escalators, one after the other, leading up a very long, tall hill and figured we were on track.  The park sits on top of the hill and has a wonderful view of the city.  Lots of walking, lots of tourists as well as locals scattered throughout playing Spanish guitar or another playing classical tunes on a hammered dulcimer or another playing the didgeridoo while another made pumpkin sized bubbles.  :)  Very cool, but unfortunately very packed - probably would have been better on a week day.

Next we went to Parc Citadella next to the Barcelona zoo.  There were people playing ping pong near the entrance, we headed toward the food stalls in the center and stopped aghast at the sight of the most beautiful fountain I've seen in my life.  A very large emerald green basin fed by white dragon sculptures atop another basin surrounded by lacy, ferny plants being fed by more fountains and sculptures of Venus and other Greek gods & goddesses and topped by a brilliantly gold sculpture of Helios in his horse drawn chariot.

There was a nearby food vendor - basically a trailer with a kitchen inside - which offered a variety of dodgy looking tapas and drinks.  We ordered beers (Estella Damm is the tasty, locally made beer of choice), cappuccinos and Tex-Mex chicken nuggets and pulled up seats with a great view of the fountain and the locals with their well behaved Yorkies and children.  It was perfect.  Somehow those scary looking nuggets dipped in ketchup & mayo were better than the tapas we would have for dinner that night.

It was a wonderful weekend.  Work went well.  My Spanish coworkers were very hospitable. I would have loved to have had more time to explore Barcelona, but feel pretty good about all the beauty, shopping, excellent food and drink and fun (oh yeah, and work!) we were able to fit into our short visit.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Glyptotek, Tivoli Gardens and Canals, Oh my!

My second day in Copenhagen started off a bit slow with repacking everything and lugging my 46 pound suitcase, laptop, and bag o'crap into the metro and across town to the Imperial Hotel.  By the time I got there, I was ready for a lunch and nap.  The room wasn't ready yet, so I opted to have a nice leisurely lunch at the hotel's Italian restaurant:  Ristorante L'Appetito.  I chose a wonderful pasta with steak, mushrooms, and a white cream truffle sauce followed by a wonderful cappuccino. I had noticed that everything in Denmark was expensive, but this was particularly so - somewhere in the neighborhood of $30.  The charm of sitting on the patio in the sun, being waited on by a handsome, Italian fellow and just having a nice place to sit, was quite welcome.

By the end of the meal, I had gathered enough  energy to make the short hike to the Glyptotek museum.  WOW!  What an amazing place!  As you walk in, you are greeted with a view of the "Winter Garden" which is an idyllic, enclosed garden with towering palm trees, orchids, hibiscus, classically styled lily pad ponds and sculptures scattered throughout.  There was an entire room of Jean Baptiste Carpeaux and another of Rodin and another Degas.  For most of my visit, I was the only person in each room I went through.  There was a wonderful hush that added to my awe at the stunning collection of sculptures. Comically, the hush was broken periodically by the occasional, exceptionally loud screamers riding the roller coasters in the nearby Tivoli Gardens.  There was also a quite nice collection of French Painters, but it was the sculpture collection (as well as the Winter Garden) that really made this my favorite stop in Copenhagen.

At the suggestions of the bartender at the Irish pub, I took a canal tour.  On the walk over, I noticed a group of people looking over a bridge into the water below.  I was surprised to an eerie, underwater sculpture titled "Merman and His Seven Sons".   I never would have noticed it if I hadn't seen the group gazing into the waters. 

The canal tour was quite nice.  The guide gave the tour in very fluent English, Danish and German as we boated under bridges low enough to reach up and touch and low enough to make one feel the need to duck for fear of concussion.  The Danish pride themselves on being one of the most environmentally aware countries in the world; not a solitary piece of trash in sight.  The day was sunny, beautiful and uncharacteristically warm and the canals were lined with locals taking in the sun, picknicking, enjoying the locally made and favorite local beer, Carlsberg, and children were diving and swimming in the canal.  Definitely reinforced the resemblance to Amsterdam in my mind.  The canal tour took us past sights such as the Little Mermaid sculpture, windmills, the Opera House and a barge that was covered in sand that had been worked into the most elaborate sand castles I've ever seen.

I headed back to the hotel just in time to meet up with Alex for dinner.  We strolled around a bit and ended up stopping at Rosie McGee's Mexican/Scottish Cantina.  The decor was a very impressive collection of sturdy leather chairs, dark, polished, carved wooden panels and even included "John Lennon's library".  There was a very pleasant band playing a nice collection of folk and rock covers.  It was interesting to see the Danish take on Mexican food - slightly less cheese than the American-Mexican version and corn thrown into the mix.

Dinner took longer than expected, so we didn't have enough time to visit the Tivoli Gardens as we had planned.  We arrived just before closing time and begged our way in for a quick few photos before needing to leave.  Tivoli Gardens is claimed to be the second oldest amusement park in the world.  It's rather small, but extremely quaint.  The perfect blend of cheesy carnival with old world, vintage chic.  I was quite glad to hear that our Copenhagen teammates had booked reservations for dinner the following evening in one of the many bustling restaurants in the park.

The restaurant looked like a Chinese pagoda from the outside, but served traditional Danish food.  We had a nice introduction to smorrebord - small pieces of rye bread with various toppings such as chicken salad, Danish meatballs and curried herring.  The Danish meatballs were delicious!  I was scared of the herring but was surprised that it was actually quite tasty.  Ambjorn is from Sweden and Christian is from Denmark - it was quite entertaining to hear them banter back and forth about Swedish meatballs being only fit for handing out at IKEA or being far superior to Danish.

After our meal, I talked Alex into riding a quick, fun roller coaster called the Daemon twice.  In World's of Fun tradition, I made my best rock star freak out face in time for the camera and Alex kindly bought a copy.

Great times!  Barcelona up next!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Solo Copenhagen

Copenhagen is clean, sophisticated, convenient, high  quality and a bit cold... kind of like me.  The subway is very easy to navigate and immaculate.  The Quality Inn was conveniently located a few minutes from the metro, the beds were very comfortable, the staff was quite helpful... it was quite unfortunate that the rooms smelled of sewage.  On the upside, I could see the ocean from my window!

My first day consisted of arriving at 7:00am, thankfully early check in with no issues, then jumping on the metro and heading to the botanical gardens.  After an inordinate amount of time on google maps, I was able to navigate by metro  to  the gardens and then to  the  Rosenborg Castle.  The streets in Copenhagen have a quite nasty habit of having 28 letter, infathomably unpronounceable names and changing these  cryptic names every block or two.  In a way, that made it that much more rewarding to figure out though.

The botanical gardens were pleasant, particularly, or perhaps especially, because they were free.  If I were  to be honest though, they didn't stack up to many of the gardens I have visited, if the St. Louis or Longwood or even OP Aboretum were a 6, this would be a 3. In fact, when I walked across the way to the Rosenburg castle grounds, I was immediately struck by how much more lush, established and well laid out these gardens were in comparison to the university botanical gardens.

The Rosenborg was very well thought out.  Long, finely graveled lanes led to beautiful sculptures or rose gardens or to the castle  itself.  By the time I got to the castle, it was raining quite steadily, so I welcomed the chance to duck indoors.  As with everything in Copenhagen, the  entry price was high.  Though the castle was small, I enjoyed it overall - especially the mirrored room and the treasury.

By the time I was done there, I was starving and exhausted.  I wandered  to city center, home of the longest walking road in Europe (or so they told me) and made the tourist mistake of choosing a place the  ir close and has an open seat - the Cafe Phonix.  I ordered a marinated Greek sandwich that was decent but way overpriced.  I then headed home on the metro and took a well deserved nap. An hour later, I pulled myself out of a bad dream and otherwise good sleep.  I took expatriot and coworker Rachal's advise and checked out the shopping in city center.  Rolex, Cartier, Burberry, insert-expensive-brand-I-don't-know-here.  It was cool to be walking free of worry of cars.  As I planned, I could check out a couple fountains and sights on the way home. I thoroughly enjoyed wandering from beautiful spire to charming canal to the next.  Few people were about so I got some nice pics of  the sights or the undiscovered views such as this.

For dinner, I took Danish coworker Christian's advice and headed to The Globe Irish Pub. The place was pretty well empty, but still had a nice feel and the Irish bartender took pity on me and coaxed me into drinking nasty traditionally Danish shots.  I had the chili at his recommendation and was glad I did.  

Well, I've been trying to publish this blog for two days but wifi and the blogger app don't seem to be playing well on my tablet.  I've given up on uploading photos for now.  I'll give it a shot from Barcelona tomorrow!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

S&OP Roadtrip part 2

I have to repeat the first line I opened my first blog with:  Sometimes my job doesn't suck.

Our March trip to my company's European offices was an overwhelming success.  Everyone involved was impressed and pleasantly surprised with how much more effective this style of meeting was over our usual one massive meeting in our main European office.  The first trip was comprised of 6 of us from the main US and UK offices visiting first the Paris office (Belgium associates joining us there) and then the Munich office (with Austrian and Italian associates as well).  With smaller groups, we were able to have candid, open discussions and develop focused plans that could tangibly improve efficiency.  I came home from the trip re-energized and inspired, glad to be contributing and wishing that I could focus my career on this sort of thing full time.

The meetings were so successful that it was determined that we needed to roll this out to our remaining European offices as well and that we should have these meetings yearly.  An opportunity to go back to Europe every year once or twice??  Oh, ok, twist my arm.  ;-)

The Globe Irish Pub "Tree room"
I leave Monday for Copenhagen.  I spend 2 days sightseeing solo then Alex arrives Wednesday night and we visit the Danish office Thursday and Friday.  I've never traveled solo before - sure I've flown by myself, no worries there - but I've never vacationed solo.  I'm sure it will be fine and might be liberating, but it's been niggling at me a bit.  I'm a very social person when it's people I already know.  I'm not good at projecting an open attitude and meeting new people.  Christian from the Denmark office recommended The Globe Irish pub.  We'll see how it goes! For other activities, I'm thinking the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek sculpture museum, Rosenborg Castle, and Tivoli Gardens (second oldest amusement park in the world).

Park Guell
Park Guell
Friday evening, Alex will fly back home to England and I'll move on to Barcelona.  Great friend and travel buddy, Marcie will be flying in from Kansas to join me for the remainder of the trip.  Our hotel is 10 minute walk to the beach.  Looking forward to checking out the Gaudi architecture, tapas, parks, and I'm sure with Marcie along there will be mandatory shopping!  We are going to have a blast!

Alex and Becca will fly in Monday morning and we'll meet with the Spanish office.  I'm bummed that Carolina won't be in the office!  She's a sweetie and tells me that my Spanish is much better than it honestly is.

Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court Palace
On Tuesday evening we'll fly to London and head to Southampton.  Lots of work to be done and information sharing to be had there.  On Friday evening, we'll head to Farnborough to meet up with dear Jenni who is graciously letting us stay in her flat through Tuesday and showing us around to such places as Stonehenge, Salisbury, Hampton Court Palace and has promised us a nice Sunday roast.  Can't wait!  Her flat is a 40 minute train ride to London.  Marcie and I haven't decided what we'll do there yet, but despite having been there 5 times, there's always more to see.  I wouldn't even mind seeing the Tower of London a 4th time.  One thing I do want to catch is the Tate Museum where there are a number of John William Waterhouse paitings.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Second trip to Europe in a month

Tomorrow my friends and I head out for the European vacation that has been in planning for many, many months and has undergone a number of transformations.

It began when a couple of friends invited me to join them for part of their month long trip to Avignon in the South of France.  An excuse to go to Europe is hard to resist so I started thinking.  Then, when a British friend, Jenni, told me that she was getting relocated to Switzerland (just a train hop away from Avignon), the thinking became much more serious.  I sent out feelers to my traveling friends and got positive hell yes's from Beth & Marcie.  We started saving our money and dreaming up what we would do when we got there. 

I was going to school taking some web application classes and one of the assignments was to create a web page that involved a topic that we researched.  Since I had research to do on my trip and my Avignon trip friends were looking for a place to share information, was born.  :) 

As the weeks and months drew on, it ended up that my British friend would be staying in the UK after all.  We still thought Switzerland would be a nice place to visit, but then Stephanie came along and said that she wanted to join our trip and said, "We need to go to Amsterdam! Please, please, please!!"  We sent numerous emails and spent a number of evenings poring over dozens of travel books.  We even poured red wine all over Marcie's laptop!  Oops.  :/

At last it was decided we would spend 16 days between three cities Avignon, Amsterdam and Paris, 4 days in each city, 3 days spent traveling. 

There are so many things to see.  When people ask what I'm most excited for, it's really hard to say.  Today, I'm most looking forward to a day trip to Nimes where we'll see Roman ruins, aqueducts and an area and stop at the Jardins de la Fontaine. 

From there, we'll hop on the train again and head South to the sea.  It'll be too cold for a swim at Le Grau-du-Roi beach, but we'll still dip our toes in and I'll pick up some sand to add to Stacy's sands of the world collection.  (I think I am the largest contributor to the collection so far.)

We'll be going on a wine tour on Saturday which sounds wonderful by all accounts.  All too soon, we'll be hopping on the train for 6 hours to Amsterdam.

The place I'm most excited about in the Netherlands is the Keukenhof gardens - about 45 minutes from Amsterdam. Our timing should hopefully be perfect for tulip viewing.

Jenni will be coming in from the UK to join us.  Very much looking forward to seeing her!  May even have a chance to share a drink with another UK coworker who will be there for the weekend.  :)

In Paris, there are so many great things to see, it's hard to know where to start.  We're lucky enough to have my coworker Nicolas show us around the Palace of Versailles and then we get to show him around the Louvre.  Can you believe he's lived in or around Paris all his life and has never seen it???  We're only planning on a one day stop at the Louvre though I have heard that you can't see the whole thing in a week.  We'll have to choose wisely...

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Hello Munich, you beautiful town, you!

Tuesday night, we arrived at the chic, clean, trendy, sleek, and minimalistic Motel One Munich too late to do much other than check in.  One thing that I found pretty amusing off the bat was that the hotel reception was an extension of the bar.  The hotel greeters/concierges or whatever you call them were also the bartenders.  There was a pretty decent sized crowd hanging out in the lounge area, animatedly into their soccer game on the many tv's hanging around the lounge.  Everything including the dress (and the eyes) of the staff was teal, black, and white.

Work meetings went swimmingly again.  We got a nice tour of the German office.  It's a brand new office for them with a nice view with the offices creating a U shape around a large, shared indoor courtyard with lots of light.  The kitchen/lounge area had a cappuccino maker. At the beginning of our tour, Olaf took a "forecast" of how many of us wanted cappuccino's.  By the end, he had delivered the best cappuccinos of the trip and brought a couple extra as "safety stock" for any drop in orders for those who saw how much the rest of us were enjoying ours. 

That night, we went to the city center near the Opera House.  I was charmed and dizzy with the sheer volume of beautiful architecture in Munich.  Miriam (my brilliant German coworker/guide) had made reservations for 12 of us at a place called the Spatenhaus. They had what I thought was an odd and profuse number of small, horned animal skulls on the walls, but this apparently is considered the standard in restaurant decor for Munich.  The menu was huge! It rivaled the Cheesecake Factory's menu, but instead of a huge section on
cheesecakes, half of this menu was devoted to booze. I'm ok with this.  I was pleased to see Franziskaner, a beer that Tiberius's father, Bill, stocks at his lavish Septemberfest party.   Here there were 5 different flavors of Franziskaner but the waitstaff assumes that Americans only want the blonde.  At Olaf's suggestion, I had the  crispy suckling pig with potato dumplings.  It was as delicious as the name sounds and the Bavarian creme for dessert was incredible.

My American and English coworkers all headed home that Friday night or Saturday. Miriam & I scooted out at 5:00 Friday to begin a wonderful weekend.  I must have easily said "Wow, that's beautiful!" 100 times.  The architecture, the people, the food are extraordinarily beautiful.  I was humbled and impressed with how many people could speak English and speak it well - even after an impressive amount of beer.  ;)

There was a beer festival going on.  I would never have imagined to see so many liderhosen or dirndels!  And the beer steins are as big as your head.  The only people present at the beer hall that night that seemed grouchy were the poor waitresses carrying 6 per hand while squeezing through the drunken masses.  The beer hall was huge inside and out with row after row of wooden tables; everyone standing on their benches while listening to the band play such songs as Dancing Queen, Sweet Caroline, and Ein Prosit. We found a couple open spots at the end of a table and climbed up on the benches with a fun, and friendly group.  Miriam is a big fan of toasting, we said Cheers many times that night.  Very cute.  I wondered if all Germans toast so much or if it was just her. 

The beer hall closed earlier than I would have expected.  11pm I think?  So our new friends suggested going to a place called Ruby's.  Munich already reminded of my favorite local band Alacartoona, who's female vocalist is the lovely and amazing, Ruby Falls.  How could I resist going to a place sharing her name?  What a great way to end the first evening in Munich!!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Goodbye Paris

Our meetings in Paris with our French office and our Belgian office went so much better than any of us expected or hoped for. With all of today's technologies at our fingertips, it's easy to think that we can accomplish anything through email,phone calls, web or video conferences. This week certainly proved that there is no replacement for good old fashioned face to face meetings. We had met as a large group of 30 or so a number of times, but even that didn't hold a candle to being able to sit, listen and understand one office at a time.

After a productive day of meetings, we took the subway to Chez Flottes for dinner. We were ushered into a basement room with one huge table surrounded by mirrors and curtains. We joked that if we were in the states this room would be reserved for the mob. Our American and UK contingent arrived promptly on time and waited for over30 minutes for the French and Belgians to navigate through the fierce Parisian traffic by car.

Ok, on to the good stuff... Food! I was surprised that most menus in Paris featured lots of steak, some seafood and very little or no chicken. Chicken being my favorite meat, I was excited to find a free range roasted chicken with potatoes. I know, doesn't sound very exotic or French, but it was delightful! I followed my French coworkers lead and ordered an Affligem Belgian beer or three. A great pairing. I told the Belgians that Belgian beers are my favorite beers to which they said, "I'm sure you'll tell the Germans the same next week!"

For dessert I figured it had to be done and ordered the creme brûlée. Omg was it good! I tapped the spoon on the crust a bit, enjoying the crackling noise, then dug in, pretty much inhaled it and decided it was the best creme brûlée I had ever had. It was all I could do to keep from licking the bowl.

Favorite quote of the night was from an English coworker,"they must have thought I was pissed but I was just extremely knackered!" Speaking of being knackered, we were pretty tired from a full day & jet lag,so we retired to bed straight from dinner.

We had another great day of meetings (I can't believe I just said "great" and "day of meetings" in the same sentence.) and then, after only two nights in Paris it was time to head to Munich.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Paris, take deux

Well... I had a nice blog all written up from Paris.  I was just getting ready to post but wanted to add a few pictures.  Apparently that was a bad idea. Everything I had written went <poof!>  Argh!  I may have woken my hotel neighbors with my cursing. So, here's another try without pics.  Those will have to come later.

We arrived in Paris around 8:00 in the morning.  Charles de Gaulle airport was an absolute breeze.  We went from plane to customs to baggage claim to taxi in less than 30 minutes.

After dropping our bags off at the Mercure hotel in the "La Defense" neighborhood near the office, we hopped in the free shuttle bus to the subway.  It was a little confusing trying to figure out which tickets to buy, but once we got on the subway, it was remarkably simple to figure out how to get from point A to point B. 

First stop was the Eiffel tower.  It was immediately viewable after stepping out of the subway passage.  I excitedly grabbed my big 'ol 35mm Nikon D60, turned it on, and nothing happened.  Doh!!!  Why do I do this???  I even had a spare battery... back at the hotel.  Ah well, at least I had my subpar phone on my camera. 

Since it had started to sprinkle, we declined paying to get to the top of the tower and opted for a stroll along the Seine.  During our stroll, we came across the relatively new, Le carrousel de la Tour Eiffel, which is at least partially powered by pedaling the horses.  Pretty odd.  There was a little covered area near the carousel with two stationary bikes manned by two rather dour looking people.  I couldn't figure out if they were grouchy because they had unruly kids on the ride or if it was their job to sit there & pedal.

Next stop Notre Dame Cathedral.  We got there just in time to hear the end of mass.  The air was filled with incense, French priestly voices, and finally delightfully creepy organ music that reminded me of The Phantom of the Opera, but somehow reminded my boss of "(Domo Arigato) Mr Roboto" by Styx.

We hopped back on the subway (they seem to be located in the ideal location to the interest points to allow the shortest amount of walking), crossed our fingers that our tickets would still work, and headed for the Musee d'Orsay.  I've heard and read that it's a very cool museum set in a former train station.  Unfortunately, the line was incredibly long, particularly since it had started turning from a sprinkle to a more substantial rain.  Of course I had an umbrella... back at the hotel.  I blame jet lag.

We decided to head back to the hotel & grab some lunch.  Apparently though, no restaurants are open for lunch at 2:00 in the aftenoon on Sunday.  Will have to find out if that is only a Sunday thing or proves true for all days.  For our first meal in Paris, our options were... get this, Mc Donald's or Subway.  We reluctantly chose Subway.

Our hotel was very nice.  Larger than most European hotels I've been in.  The breakfast was much better than a standard hotel breakfast.  Cappucino, pastries, eggs, bacon, sausage, an assortment of meats and cheeses and fruits and cereals, and did I mention pastries?  They had a "grape pastry" that was the perfect mix of flaky, moist, and delicious.

By the way, my experience with the French people is that they've got a bad rap.  The majority of people were quite helpful, some quite friendly and definitely not rude.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Good omens

While at the kc airport this morning,  I heard "Mazzy Star - Fade Into You". I've always loved this song. Might be my favorite by this honey voiced specialist in the bitter sweet.

Our flight to Minneapolis was remarkably ahead of schedule. I was happily seated by a very attractive fellow holding an iPad. It gave me the perfect excuse to strike up a conversation. I am borrowing a good friend's iPad2 so I asked him how to turn it to airplane mode. I inwardly cringed as I fumbled with the iPad to follow his instructions.  Did I mention he was attractive? I mean he was no Dave Navarro (saw him last night playing for Janes Addiction - see pic from last night- OMG! I'm pretty sure that man has more charisma, sensuality, biceps, and pec definition than is legal!) ....

Where was I again? I seem to have gotten all distracted. Oh yeah, attractive plane man. After fumbling with the iPad, and noticing his abnormally large feet in surprisingly stylish shoes, I asked him if he was going to buy the new iPad.

"This is the new iPad." Well, so much for my being smooth. Oh well, we still had a nice conversation. He said the new iPad is definitely worth it. We talked about accents, languages and travelling. He has been to Paris a couple times & had some nice suggestions on where to go which mirrored many of the things I has planned on seeing. The Louvre, Notre Dame, Musee d'Orsay...

I noticed he was reading The Hunger Games on his iPad. I wanted to say something about what a great series that is,  but felt it would be an intrusion. If he was reading a "real" book instead of an iBook, I wouldn't have felt the same. I love my tech conveniences, but there is definitely something to the theory that they are making people more anti social. How many times have each of US been out with friends and instead of enjoying each others company, we are compulsively checking our phones or texting or worse, playing "words with friends"?

I sat there wishing I could start more conversation with him & find out if he was single. He wasn't  wearing a wedding ring, but I did notice that he kept saying "we". I didn't want to be one of those annoyingly chatty plane people so I took out "my" iPad & read through the rest of the flight.

My coworkers and I had a really nice lunch at the Rock Bottom Brewery. We had one beer with lunch. Now we're sitting at the gate with another 2 hours to wait, right next to an Irish bar. It's St Patricks day!  I am really tempted to get another, but don't want my boss & director to think the wrong thing...

Next post will be from Paris! :)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Sometimes my job doesn't suck....

Two weeks ago, my director told me that they needed me on a week trip to Paris and Munich.
I'll spend St. Patrick's Day in the air and spend Sunday through Tuesday in Paris, then fly to Munich, work through Friday evening, see my coworkers off and spend the weekend in Munich. 

I tried to find friends/coworkers interested in joining me to see the sights for the weekend, but found no takers.  I've never traveled solo for fun before.  Munich is a cosmopolitain city with most of it's population speaking fluent English, so I figured I'd be ok with only my Blazing Saddles style German vocabulary. ("Bitte baby! 14 schnitzengrubens is my limit!")  I have always said that travel without companions seems unreal as if it didn't really happen if you didn't have someone to share it with.  I spent a few days getting my head around that and had convinced myself that this would be a good, liberating experience to exercise my independent spirit and attempt to shed this unapproachable vibe I have going on.

Then, I get an email from someone I have never even met from the German office.  She graciously sent suggestions on mueums and attractions and hotels.  After conversing for a few days, she tells me, "If you have no objections, I will be your travel guide for the weekend." Brilliant!!