Teesside Snog Monster (jiggery_pokery) wrote,
Teesside Snog Monster

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Am back, am safe

Another holiday has sadly concluded and I am staying overnight in Potters Bar once more for a work meeting tomorrow and the long trek home back North. Happy birthday to byrlakin for the tail end of the 19th, too.

I'm probably not going to do a full day-by-day account, but here are some pseudo-random observations:
  • dezzikitty really is as fabulous as I know her to be and the more of her I get to know and the more things we do together the deeper our love gets.
  • There is a little cluster of competing foreign exchange shops near Victoria Station in London and the competition provides very attractive exchange rates for travellers. I have a theory that an excellent exchange rate optimisation strategy for British tourists flying from London involves taking sterling from a bank and exchanging it into overseas money there. (Happily, my tiny amount of real-world data backs up this theory. 7th July: Interbank rate, £1=€1.4999 ; Barclays Middlesbrough commission-free rate, £1 = €1.4280 . 8th July: £1=€1.5006 ; FX Link in the little arcade opposite Victoria Station commission-free rate, £1 = €1.4760. That's about 3½% more cha for your ching right there.)
  • Much love for the Eurostar under-the-channel train. It is fast, beyond the first fifty miles or so in the UK, and whisper-quiet.
  • No love for Paris Charles de Gaulle airport's Terminal 1. It looks like a giant squid, which is good in theory, but is not conducive to efficient queueing at the sort of loads that a modern airport imposes. (Perhaps a fix might be to have 40% as many sets of check-in desks, on the basis that closer interoperation between airline alliances these days means that unnecessary duplication can be avoided, but twice as many desks at each one?) Presumably Terminal 2 is better, at least when the roof isn't collapsing.
  • Friday 9th to Thursday 15th July: Meg, I and 16 other LJ folks share a farm in a tiny little village in south-east Belgium. This village has no shops, one brewery (closed for annual holidays) and about half a dozen buses per day in each direction. The bus stops are about 15 minutes' slow uphill walk away, or 10 minutes' descent at night. For shopping, walk 30-40 minutes one way to the next nearest village (which has a similarly sparsely served train station), 30-40 minutes the other way to the local peace commune or about 3½ miles through (damn cool) dark and hilly forests to the nearest station on the main line. We do quite a lot with the little on offer and the degree of planning required makes it all more fun, sort of.
  • Enjoyed seeing lots of pleasant people once more and also enjoyed meeting many new fine folk with considerable amounts to admire. Groups of 18, all slightly roughing it, are bound to have some disagreements and dissatisfactions but we did very well indeed considering the circumstances. I'm sure I was responsible for my share of frayed nerves, too.
  • Luxembourg City has fantastic ice cream and a restaurant which serves wonderful carpaccio raw(?) smoked beef but does rather less well at supermarkets. Rochefort's caves (it has two grotto cave complexes; I refer to the one in town) are highly recommended.
  • Thursday 15th July to Sunday 18th July: Meg and I go to Paris and stay in the Hotel Residence Bassano (excellent) a cannonball's flight away from the Champs-Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe. Do the obvious touristy things: one (1) Tower, one (1) Centre, one (1) launderette, one (1) art gallery with famous art and fantastic ceilings, one (1) ridiculously cool fast people mover than I've been geeking over for about a year... not completely convinced that the rollers-plus-belt solution is the one to solve the world's problems (or perhaps an alternative implementation where the rollers provide a less dramatic rate of acceleration but do so for longer would be considerably better?) but it has a lot in its favour.
  • Huge long trains (Eurostar, Thalys, etc.) with carriage numbers going up to 18 or 20+ are undoubtedly efficient things, but a pain to walk alongside them on the platform with copious luggage to find the right carriage. A people-mover here might be of tremendous assistance.
  • My French might generously be described as inaccurate, as you may have seen, but it was about enough to get by to a first approximation. The French were very polite and obliging (even the Paris drivers, contrary to the stereotype, though perhaps it helped that I visited when many Parisians were on holiday?) to the point where I will not be upset if Paris does get the 2012 Olympics in the end. Very impressed with the city and its people; slightly disappointed with the food. (amuzulo, do you know l'Etoile Verte, a restaurant under the French Esperanto HQ? Pretty good.)
  • I do think we should turn the famous twelve roads converging onto the Arc de Triomphe into a magic roundabout, though, as an example of best practices in traffic management being disseminated around the European Union.
  • ETA: Getting a cold while on holiday is no fun, but a likely consequence of 18 people from around the Western Hemisphere bringing different sorts of germs to the party. Actifed Jour et Nuit is damn fine medicine - seems to be more effective than what we have in this country.
  • ETA: I was most remiss in not publically thanking the Chat00bage organisers kazzik, malachan and (though, alas, we missed him) titanic_days for their sterling efforts in ensuring other people had a good time. I salute you all!
  • ETA: From the World's Funniest Narrowly-Avoided Potentially Serious Accidents file, my 23 kg. (51 lb.) suitcase which I drag behind me on casters turned out not to be as well balanced on the step of the up-escalator below mine as I thought it was. It fell and became a boulder rolling down the escalator. Thankfully, very thankfully, dragging it was so slow that we were the last people from that particular tube train load to start climbing and so nobody was hurt; also thankfully, it found a stable position at the bottom of the escalator before too much longer and found its own way up the stairs. Probably sufficient excuse to actually hit the Big Red Button and stop the escalator, on retrospect.
  • Life is good. I adore Meg with every part of me that is capable of adoration and having to wave your girlfriend goodbye is one of the most painful things I have ever had to do, especially when the high points of the holiday have been among the zeniths of my life, but there are other good things going on in my life. Would appreciate it if you were to indulge Meg and I with missing-my-honey-like-mad kid-glove treatment for a few days, though.
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