Monday, July 20, 2009

France 2009 July 19 Vorey to Roissy

I slept like a log. It was quite chilly and my little alcove was great. We had breakfast at the hotel. Service was less than perfect, and the milk was curdled, but it was a lovely setting and we enjoyed ourselves. We walked across the little bridge where there the weekly market selling everything from cheese, chicken, mattresses and crocs. Chloe and Camille both got Crocs which we discovered smelled so chemically that we all started getting sick. Quickly the crocs went into the trunk in a plastic bag.

The scenery all the way to the superhighway at Clermont was fantastic. Lots of perched fortresses (especially liked the view of Polignac, chateaux, and panoramic views.

The highway drive soon became quite monotonous and seemed to take forever, although there wasn't too much traffic. We figure there must be a restriction on semi trucks on Sundays – there were none! We had a picnic at a rest stop that had a bouncy tent.

We arrived at the airport with our rental car driving on a very empty gas tank which we filled before returning. We had tried to get gas earlier but they were out of gasole (diesel). Traffic through Paris wasn't awful.

The bus driver to the hotel didn't help us at all with out bags but we managed. We looked out our window and saw a lovely church, cemetery and park so we decided to walk to the town. There was a path with lots of flowers and posters about beautiful places in France. While Gwyneth watched the children play in a playground, I went to a convenience store and got wine, cheese and waffle chips. We had snacks in the room before Gwyneth took the kids to the pool. I repacked my bags for the flight and ordered room service for us all. When they got back from the pool (which was gorgeous – it had colored lights which cycled from green to purple and clear) Harry Potter I was on TV in French and we ate and watched. Gwyneth and I shared a risotto and the girls shared pasta.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

France July 2009 July 18 Nice to Vorey

Very long day for me – I woke up about 3:30 and got up at 4:30 to take Suze to the airport. It was very eerie to be out at that time; mostly kids who had been out all night. I left her off at the airport after she had checked that her flight was on the board, I tried to go home so I could park at the apartment, but got incredibly lost. I have no idea where I was. I even went down a one way street the wrong way.

Back at the apartment we finished packing and cleaning. I had know idea how to check out, so I called the management folks—got no one and finally called the owners in England. I went for the car and was easily able to park out front and load. Gwyneth sent me to the bakery for a last baguette for our lunch. We took off and drove a couple of hours before a windy lunch at a rest stop. Then the awful stop and go traffic started. It took us 6 hours to go about 125 kilometers. We bailed and crossed the Rhone River and went through the mountains to the hotel Gwyneth had reserved. Some of the route will be the Tour de France next week and the rest was thgou rugged mountains. Pine forests and rolling fields.

We stopped for gas at a local store and bought the Montelimar nougat and rustic bread.

The hotel Gwyneth booked is a gem at the confluence of the Loire and the Arzon Rivers. I took the girls for a walk and then they had a floating island meringue at the hotel cafe. The girls loved the room's massage chair. I loved the fact there were four beds, and I got one in a little alcove so it was like my own private room.

Friday, July 17, 2009

France 2009 July 17 Nice

Suze and I went to Cimiez on the bus. It is the rich part of town, up on a hill. First we went to the Matisse Museum (free entrance) a villa on the grounds of the Roman ruins. There was a good Rodin/Matisse exhibit. Each had taught the other his craft. Then we walked down to the Chagall museum, This one cost big bucks (9.50 each). It was a grey day, so a good choice of things to do. We took the bus back. Suze and I had sandwiches at the apartment. I bought the wrong book for Gwyneth at the museum, but I did buy a book mark I liked – turns out it was the paper cut out that is on the exit wall of the museum.. Gwyneth and the girls went to see Harry Potter in English and Suze and I went souvenir shopping. We walked a lot and it was hot and frustrating.

Back at the apartment Suze and I went to the beach. The sun was out for quite a while and we swam and then lay on the stony beach. Some guys caught two jelly fish in the water. We decided not to go back in the water. Wonder why?

Gwyneth and the kids came back from the movie and their pizza lunch just as Suze and I got back from the beach.

Suze and I went out to eat in old town. Took us a while for me to find a restaurant I liked. We shared a Nicoise appetizer and a bream fish main course. The waiter talked me out of adding polenta to the mix.

I bought bubbly and Suze bought cookies at the gourmet chocolate shop to celebrate her birthday with everyone before packing.

France 2009 July 16 Side trip to Eze

We all slept very late because our late return from Saint Tropez. Suze and I went to the market for fruit. When we got home we were ready for our bus trip. We carefully read the bus schedule and got to the bus station 20 minutes early for our venture to the perched village of Eze. However, the bus was 45 minutes late and the bus driver got out, locked the bus and walked away with his girlfriend. Another bus came about 15 minutes later, into a different, unannounced quai, so we were last on the bus. At least we all got seats and it was a gorgeous ride to the village.

We walked to the top and had a very leisurely lunch with lots of wine. Chloe loved her pesto pasta, shared with Gwyneth and Camille practiced using a spoon and fork to eat her tomato sauced pasta. I had an Italian salad and Suze had pizza. Suze and Gwyneth walked to the top through the cactus garden, but since I had been there before and it was very hot, I stayed behind while the girls had ice cream.

After we got home, I walked to the store and Suze took the girls to the beach. We all decided to go shopping late, but the stores were closed. Suze, Camille and I had dessert in the old town.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

France 2009 July 15 Saint Tropez

(Most of this is plagiarized from Gwyneth's blog.) We got going late in the morning. After a little breakfast, we headed to the car to drive to St. Tropez so Suze could see it. It took a couple of hours to get there by the highway. We found a nice parking lot in the center of town and got out to walk around. It was hot, hot and Gwyneth's leg was aching. We went down to the harbor where there were lots of great big yachts. A crowd was gathering for one big one that was docking. Some people there said it was the yacht of a famous designer that throws "products" to the crowds when he disembarks. We kept moving on, but it was hot, and there were more cars there than could fit. Some super fancy and others delivery and garbage trucks.

We walked back to the car to get the beach stuff and trekked down to the beach. We walked through the front door of a very opulent beach club, out onto the beach and then down to the beach to a sandy beach where the kids could play. We had some sodas at the little cafe (they were done serving lunch) and then the kids went swimming. I walked back to the car and moved it to the cafe from town, but the traffic was miserable. And it took us a very long time to get to Frejus, where we stopped at a Quick for dinner. The kids were thrilled. Gwyneth didn't like the hassle, especially of eating in the car!

From there, the drive was quite beautiful and there was very little traffic on the way. We went through the Esterel, Cannes and finally into Nice. At the apartment, we showered and fell into bed as it was quite late.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

France 2009 Bastille Day in Nice

I was out early geocaching. Found a cache on the Promenade about a mile and a half away. There was a lot of activity with workers setting up venues for the day's Bastille Day activities.

I stopped at a Patisserie on the way home for breakfast items. Everyone had eaten when I got back, but somehow the croissants and chocolate rolls disappeared anyway. Suze and I took the girls to the beach. It was crowded but not too bad. I was a little leery of the gypsy family who sat down a little to close to us, so we moved our stuff over.

Chloe had a meltdown after swimming over ice cream. Meanwhile we went to one of the few vendors left at the market for fruit and back to the apartment for lunch and Laurent's family wine we had bought in Vezelay. Suze and I took Camille to the viewpoint above the harbor. The walk to the elevator that we rode to the top was through the twisty streets of the old town; stairs back down and a walk through different old town streets.

Gwyneth met us outside the apartment to go to the parade which was just some military folks and a fireman's band and speeches. Boats came by for a salute as did some fighter jets overhead.

Back to the apartment for pizza, fruit and salad for most, and my choice of curried rabbit.

Traffic past the apartment was heavy with people heading to the beach. We went down for the fireworks which were super. The beach was packed with people and it was a mob getting back toward the apartment. We got snacks at a small store on the way back.

Monday, July 13, 2009

France 2009 July 13 Nice to Monaco and Back

Chloe and I began the day going to a bakery, and a park.

When everyone was up and dressed we walked the few blocks to the bus station and took a local bus to Monaco. The bus (only 1 euro each) was very crowded and Gwyneth's knee really hurt -- not a good plan when she had to stand.
Crankiness prevailed so G and I took the girls to a little playground near the Grimaldi Palace while Suze scouted out the tour train ticket possibilities. The walk to the train was lovely -- it went through the cliff side botanical gardens. Suze, the little girls and I took a quick side trip into the cathedral where Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier and where they are both buried.

Trolley Tour

The trolley tour was pretty good -- you could choose among about 10 languages to listen to the commentary.

After the tour we found a little Italian restaurant and ate inside. It was very humid out, and cloudy so the AC was welcome. I had a mixed platter of appetizers, the little girls shared pasta Alfredo, G had basil pasta and Suze had a white pizza. Camille had a very fancy ice cream dessert. A nice bottle of wine and 130 euros later we took another bus back along the coast. The first bus was full and the next almost so, but everyone got to sit for most of the ride.

Suze and I took Chloe to the grocery. Snacks were the evening meal. Later Suze and I took the girls to the beach. All but Camille had ice cream (she got licks of ours). After a short while on the beach, Camille and I returned to the apartment and Suze and Chloe spent a long time on the beach watching fireworks and in line skaters and then the crowds in Place Massena. See all photos

Sunday, July 12, 2009

France 2009 Nice July 12

We went to the market, which turns out to be just down the street a few blocks near the beach. We got tons of olives, fruit and salad stuff as well as sunflowers for the apartment. I made lunch and then we went to the beach to sun and swim. The girls got violet flavored ice cream in colored cones before heading back.
At the beach

Soon it was time to get Suze at the airport. Her plane was late, but it was rather fun waiting!


My Girls!

She dragged her duffel bag from the parking garage to the apartment. We relaxed a bit with olives, cheese, bread and wine and then I cooked pasta for supper. We walked to the beach and up through the lively Place Massena.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

France 2009 July 11 Uzes to Nice

Up early this time. Stopped for breakfast in Nimes whose center was quite dismal, but there were some pleasant spots near the coliseum. Girls had hot chocolate and we had coffee, The coliseum there is used for bullfights now. We picked up a few groceries just in case we got to Nice too late.
Arena for Bullfighting in Nimes

We had intended to sight see in Arles, but got into horrendous market day traffic. It seemed as though everyone, including the perstitent window washer men, had to point out to use that our front license plate was about to fall off. A rivet had come out and every time we stopped I had tried to make it stay straight. After about 20 people pointed this out to me -- "Je sais, merci!" I sulled off on a side street in a quiet commercial area and G and I tried to fix it with dental floss. I gave up and ask a man who had come out of an auto retpair place to help me. He went back to the garage got the proper tool and fixed it! (The whole conversation was in French!). So now Arles is no long the town where Van Gogh lived, but the town where I got my license plate fixed!

Traffic from then to past Marseilles was like going to Cape Cod on a Saturday. Stop and go, wrecks, etc. The last part was much better until we got almost to the parking garage and we got in traffic so slow that it took uys an hour to get about 5 blocks. We did find the parking garage we had reserved thanks to G's fabulous navigation skills. It is about a .6 mile walk to the apartment, much on the Massena walking street.

The apartment is fabulous! Huge, modern and bright. We went out in search of groceries and then out to get the lay of the land. All of a suddenit was very noisy. A gay pride parade like the one we had seen in DC, went by the cross street just up from the apartment!
Gay Pride Parade
View from Apartment!

I heated a risotto dinner and made pizza for G and the girls. After lots of nice wine, I slept wonderfully.

Friday, July 10, 2009

France July 10 Chambery to Uzes

Hotel Preverenches
Hotel Preverenches

We got a little later start than anticipated, but it was a cool, crisp morning.

It took us a long time to find a place for breakfast -- the typical French croissant and coffee for G and me and chocolate pastries for the girls.
Camille in Coliseum in Orange
Roman Theater at Orange

We never did see the snow capped alps because the clouds hung over the tops. The drive into Provence was pretty. We stopped in Orange to see a Roman coliseum that is still used for performances, and took the tour.

We ended up at Pont du Gard, a vast arched bridge where we had lunch and phoned hotels looking for a place to stay -- made a reservation at an expensive Best Western. The girls actually waded in the water while Gwyneth took photos up stream and I sat in the shade.
Pont du Gard
Pont du Gard

The Best Western Hotel was actually quite nice. The girls enjoyed the pool (and I also got in a bit). Gwyneth and I order wine poolside which was served with a dish a olives on the side. Then we ordered fries and hot chocolate for them and more wine for us. It was really nice!

Aftermath at Uzes
Aftermath at Uzes

Thursday, July 9, 2009

France 2009 Paris to Chambery

I got up in the middle of the night to rehang the clothes that didn't get dried in the bathroom washer/drier combo machine. Then up early to finish my diary and start cleaning up. Made a pot of coffee, took a shower and got ready to go. Gwyneth did the final kitchen clean while I cleaned the fridge.

The elevator is being refurbished, so we had to lug everything down to the RC (level O) from our 5th floor apartment. The rental agent did carry my bag which made life better. Gwyneth and I had decided to walk from out apartment to Place d'Italie where the Hertz rental car place was because we could avoid lugging out bags up and down the Metro stairs. That worked quite well. We got the car with little problem.

Stopped for sandwiches at a rest area and had more French fries ( I know -- pommes frites) than imaginable. We stopped at Vezelay-- a town Laurent told Gwyneth about. It is a world heritage site and worth. It is where the reputed relic of Mary Magdelene are enshrined. We bought a bottle (expensive!) of Laurent's family wine and a local wine as well. The kids had knock off ice cream dots.

We stopped at two playgrounds along the highway as well before wandering the area near Chambery looking for a place to stay. One of the parks had playground equipment all designed to look like different varieties of mushrooms!
We ended up next to alps in a quite lovely hotel, Hotel Pervenches outside Chambery, which is near Grenoble and not far from Geneva Switzerland.a few miles from town and went back to town for pizza, wine and salad.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

France 2009 Paris Day 7

I definitely used my alarm clock to get up after the cruise night! Went for baguette again, and was one of the few to get to the conference on time! Keynote was a VP of the university. I made a little thank you speech at the hand off to the next conference session and spent a lot of time talking to folks about conference and Board details.

Lunch and then back to the apartment for a little rest. I packed most of my stuff. Gwyneth and the kids had gone out touring to Cluny among other sites. Her leg bothered her more today. A ton of planes -- I mean maybe forty flew by, some guarding bigger planes. No idea what it was about.

I took the girls to the Museum of Natural History across the street. Chloe had a meltdown in the gift shop and I had her call Gwyneth for guidance on what she could buy. (She got a stuffed bat) and Camille got a French animal card game. I took them for ice cream on the corner and went to the patisserie to get a treat for Gwyneth and to the grocery for a few supplies.

Gwyneth and I tried to do a wash and didn't quite understand, so we ended up with soaking wet clothes strung all over and the windows open on a cold night to try to dry them!

France 2009 Paris Day 6

Chloe's birthday. (07-07) I went to the patisserie but it didn't open until 7:15 and it was only 7, so I walked to Rue Monge and bought both a baguette and a little chocolate meringue to serve as a cake. I d put the gifts with the cake on the table. Chloe wanted to open one, so she did before I left.

Sally Fincher was the opening keynote. Went to a couple of sessions and then lunch in the cafeteria. I had fish. Coffee on the patio which overlooks the Seine. Went to some talks and a panel then back to rest before the cruise.
Pretty Side of Museum of Natural History
Gwyneth and the girls came back from a busy day including the Le Jardin d'Acclimatation in Bois de Bologne and we had a quick little birthday party.

The buses arrived at the cruise area about 8:30 pm and we stood around until almost 10 before they even let us on the boat.
At night
Food was good, and the views spectacular. The cruise finished about midnight and by the time I got back to the apartment via the Metro it was after 1 am. See all pictures here

Monday, July 6, 2009

France Day 5 Paris and ITiCSE Conference

I was up early for the conference but Gwyneth got both girls up as well so they could get ready to go to Euro Disney which opens at 10 am. I got to my conference at about 8 after returning to the apartment about three times -- forgot my whatever including the umbrella since it was raining when I got outside.

The conference opening was in a room ill prepared for it being bright outside. The keynote was about a new take on Bloom's taxonomy and how the speaker used his own version of syllabus analysis to "prove" that computer science was at a higher level of cognitive processing than natural sciences and huge about higher than math. Hmmm.

Eric Roberts decided he wanted his interview now, so he came to the apartment and I interviewed him. I managed to record 2 hours and 20 minutes! An additional benefit of Eric's coming was that between us we figure out the trick to opening the three-way window in either direction.

Then we went to his hotel and got his wife Lauren to come along for lunch. We found a little Egyptian restaurant where we got falafel, a bean dish, hummus and tahini with salad and pita. It was quite good. We were the only customers in a restaurant complete with hookas.


Back to the conference for the last speakers of the day. I hurried out through the Jardin des Plantes to the store to get necessary supplies and dropped them off at the apartment before returning for the buffet reception of cold cuts and veggies. I left as the cheese course came out.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

France Day 4 Paris

I got up at sunrise (around 6 am) and the light was lovely. I processed pictures and email while I waited for the troops to arise. I went off to the ITiCSE venue and it was good to see there were no problems today but the entrance was weird because it was Sunday and the university was officially closed. Three entrances, three days, not bad!

Finally at about 11:30 we set off for a Camille day. She wanted to go to the coliseum and then the catacombs. The coliseum was a success -- taking us to a subway station quite close that we didn't know about plus its concomitant shopping and a wonderful pedestrian market on Rue Mouffard.

We took the metro -- two trains to Denfert-Rochambeau and found a lovely creperie for lunch. The place was a bit funky and the toilet seat was red with a polka dotted lid! Chloe didn't like the chevre on hers but everyone else was quite happy.

Burial church of Pascal
When we went to the catacombs entrance the lne was forever long and didn't move. After about 20 minutes we gave up and went back to the apartment for naps. I began to plan in earnest the walking tour I on the spur of the moment agreed to conduct for the conference attendees. Gwyneth the girls and I headed for the zoo across the street. I worked on my tour details and the others went around the zoo and came back for me. I did get to see the cape buffalo and a very interesting civet like animal, the binturong. The kids posed on the hippopotamus statue. They ftinished the zoo while I went off to lead my tour.

About 10+ people went. I showed them the Arenes du Lutece (the coliseum), the school from where the Jewish children were sent to the extermination camps, the place where Descartes lived, the Rue Mouffard shopping street, the burial place of Pascal at St. Etienne-du-Mont, the Pantheon, Luxembourg Gardens, Sorbonne, Cluny, Notre Dame (where I once again broke a Nikon camera beyond redemption), Hotel de Ville, Pascal's Tower, the Centre Pompidou (but the Stravinsky Fountain was in horrible repair, what a disappointment).

We all split up and I went back to the apartment where I made snacks, including the strawberry tarte I picked up at the patisserie I passed on the way home. Gwyneth and the kids watched TV while they prepared to go to Euro Disney tomorrow and I to my conference.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

France Day 3 Paris

I went to the venue to check on the procurement of printers for the working groups. With their addition and a few power strips, the folks were much happier.

Conference Venue -- me

I met my friends Harriet and Boots for a bit of geocaching and a visit to the newly remodeled L'Orangerie. Gwyneth and the girls had gone to La Viellete for serious playground time, and we met up with them for lunch in the Tuilieres at an Italian restaurant.

Ice Cream in the Tuilieres

After lunch Gwyneth, the girls and I walked (forever) to the Eiffel Tower and then took the RER back to first a grocery store and then the apartment. WE were going to go out to Versailles for fireworks, but we were relieved to find the tickets sold out. We were too tired to go.

After a snack, Camille and I headed back to the grocery to get birthday gifts for Chloe who is quick to tell you that her birthday is in three days! I cooked a pizza. It was after midnight when we went to bed.

See more pictures

Friday, July 3, 2009

France 2009 Day 2 France Miniature

I went out to a boulangerie and got a baguette for breakfast. Then I went to find the conference venue and see what problems there might be -- and there were quite a few!

On my return Gwyneth, the girls and I headed out by train (and bus) to France Miniature. It was a beautiful, sunny day. We walked through all the regions of France in three hours!
More France Miniature

Quite a whirlwind. In the middle of the walk we stopped for the girls to enjoy some of the park's amusement rides. See the video of Chloe and Camille on the zip line and bumper car rides

We took trams from near La Defense on the west side of Paris to Porte d'Italie where we met Gwyneth's co-worker, Kathleen. We proceeded to a Tuscan restaurant that we had frequented on previous trips where they all ate. I left them and joined my SIGCSE colleagues, John and Reyyan. We walked for seemingly hours until we agreed on a restaurant. Began the meal with a kir and had a lovely veal dish.

See more pictures

Thursday, July 2, 2009

France Day 1 Arrival in Paris

My plane was an hour late taking off from Chicago. This gave me a good bit of time to work on the oral history project. I had a good seat -- exit row aisle, so plenty of room and I could sleep. I got a free glass of wine (French Bordeaux) gratis because American Airlines was apologizing.

I didn't meet up with Gwyneth and the girls until 10:30 am when I was supposed have landed at 8:30. They landed at 7 am so they had quite a wait. Gwyneth had already purchased our tickets for the RER and Metro, so that was lovely. However, I managed to have two crises. When I was getting on the train at Charles DeGaulle Aeroport, I lost the $15 strap that I bought in Chicago to connect my bags. Then when I exited the turnstile to go to the Metro, I jammed my toenail on the bag, and my toe bled like crazy. I took off my sandal, wrapped my toe in tissue and put on socks and my Crocs. Thankfully Gwyneth was strong enough to carry both her bag and mine up the steps at the various train stations.

Our apartment is on the 5th floor -- there was an elevator (but no air conditioner). It is very hot (88 degrees). I was able to hook up my computer to the ethernet, but Gwyneth's MacAir can't use it and there doesn't seem to be wireless. She and the kids are ostensibly watching news on TV but they are all asleep.

The apartment really does overlook the Jardin des Plantes. In fact, the natural history museum is literally across the street.

View a slide show.

I tried to nap, but there was a lot of commotion outside -- a multitude of people from Comores were going to the mosque across the street from the apartment building. There was a memorial service for the people killed in an airplane crash. Gwyneth and the girls and I went out to see -- and ended up being swept up in the crowd and seeing Sarkozy's motorcade when he came to address the gathering.

We got some bread, cheese, wine and milk and had a snack before venturing out along the Seine where there were a lot of end of term parties.