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July 20th, 2004

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02:22 am - 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.

Current Mood: bittersweet but pretty +ve

(13 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:July 19th, 2004 07:12 pm (UTC)

*is somewhat seethingly jealous*

Glad you had fun. :)
[User Picture]
Date:July 19th, 2004 10:40 pm (UTC)

I adore you completely.

[User Picture]
Date:July 20th, 2004 02:19 am (UTC)
*huge grin to see any comment from you*

Hate to hear that Customs and/or Immigration gave you a hard time, but glad you're safely through now. Have edited comment to add a little more.

So much love and so many snogs - and more!


[User Picture]
Date:July 20th, 2004 07:47 am (UTC)
have you been into your email yet? i mailed you last night...

still sleepy, still sluggy, but as full of love as ever! *smooches madly*
[User Picture]
Date:July 19th, 2004 11:39 pm (UTC)
"No love for Paris Charles de Gaulle airport's Terminal 1"

Try doing CDG in a wheelchair...just love the way they get 8 times as many planes in without actually increasing terminal space...buses.

"I will not be upset if Paris does get the 2012 Olympics in the end"

Hey, that's almost pro-french??? We don't allow that sort of talk over here across the pond!!!

Not sure, but considering a trip in Dec to the minor countries of France and England.....will let you know if it comes to pass.... ;)

Glad to see that your romance is working out so well. Very happy for you both.

Finally, where's the Quidditch plan!!!? LOL

(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
Date:July 20th, 2004 07:44 am (UTC)
f000000! t000000b!

you have forgotten the part about being barefoot the entire time. when you were a lad. ;)
[User Picture]
Date:July 20th, 2004 10:21 am (UTC)
Ooh, Paris has amazing food. One of the main reasons for visiting Paris is the food. It's easy to go to the wrong places though. If you ever go again, I'll try and give you long complicated directions to some good restaurants as I don't know addresses or anything useful like that. It's been almost a year since I last went to Paris, must go again soon.
[User Picture]
Date:August 5th, 2004 03:05 pm (UTC)
Yes please! We certainly weren't too impressed with what we found, so recommendations for next time (probably not soon, but I notice jet2.com have tickets from Leeds-Bradford for just GBP 12 + GBP 12 taxes each way...) would be most welcome. Thanks in advance!
Date:July 20th, 2004 11:09 am (UTC)
Hmm. 2.40 cents beneath the intertotobank rate... That's actually better value than 1% + £1.50 my cashcard charges - at around €1.50 to the quid, anything less than 3.5 cents below is better. Thanks for the tip!

CDG terminal 2 is no better at queueing. This is France, and the stereotype about the French being poor queuers is not entirely without merit, at least when compared to the English. I have particularly poor memories of CDG, as it's the only place where a check-in attendant has ever used my APEX ticket against me (and subsequently got moaned about), and it's the place where I spent nine interminable hours being jerked about by an incompetent airline. Hence the icon.

On the upside, thank you very much for blazing the trail again, I think I may as well do Paris myself in a couple of months. It's the bit about l'Eurostar that was the clincher.
[User Picture]
Date:August 5th, 2004 03:07 pm (UTC)
You raise an excellent point: I'm not sure what rate my cashcard charges. The machine fee is, I think, 2% (maybe 2.5%) with a minimum of £1.50 - £2, the rate seemed to be a good 2%-3.5% under Interbank. Impressed I wasn't.
[User Picture]
Date:July 20th, 2004 07:34 pm (UTC)
Can you just hop into the train anywhere and then make your way to the right car? Or is it set up so that once you're in, you're in and can't change to a different car?
[User Picture]
Date:August 5th, 2004 03:11 pm (UTC)
Very good question.

With the Eurostar (London to Brussels) you can. It has an unusual formation whereby First Class is in the middle, with standard class at both ends. Unfortunately/fortunately we were at the end which necessitated a long walk at London and a long wait for the people at the other end at Brussels.

With the Thalys train we took from Brussels to Paris, it's harder. We got up from the station to the platform to see train carriages numbered 27 down to, eventually, 21, which was worrying as we were in number 8. We panicked and jumped into any carriage only to find that you could not indeed make your way through. It turns out that the Thalys train was made up of two 8-carriage trains end to end, with engines at each end of each 8-carriage train and no way between the two trains; one car was predictably numbered 1-8, the other was numbered in the 20s. Very unnecessarily worrying, but perhaps if I had allowed a little more time and looked a little harder in the station I might have been able to find this out.
[User Picture]
Date:July 21st, 2004 01:14 pm (UTC)
A postcard from Luxembourg is splendid. A stamp from Luxembourg with elfin children larking in the water beneath the castle is splendiferous.

Congratulations on taking the travelator. I have noted your journal's new title (-:

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