Working in Bristol

Monday morning I did the train thing to get myself up/out from London to Bristol to meet up with Elspeth. The train ride was OK – basically the same as catching an interstate train in Australia, and nothing at all spectacular like the TGV. Some interesting countryside going past though – Bath looks like a nice sort of place to spend some time…. maybe on a future trip.
Elspeth and her husband Jeremy are doing well and have a very nice and modern flat overlooking a park/square basically smack in the middle of Bristol. Their little 1 year old Sophia is pretty damn cute – blonde haired, blue eyed and very entertaining.
Once there soon got to work, planning how Elspeth was going to manage building and distributing demo’s, some basic catch-up training for what’s changed while she’s been away and so-on. Nothing really all that interesting to blog about, but then the work aspects are the real reason for me being here in the first place !!!

Leaving London

Sunday I spent most of the day riding around London on an open top bus, jumping on and off quite often to see different things. Surprisingly at one of my hop-offs I managed to score an old camera tripod that was being thrown out – the perfect tool for a second crack at some night time shots and address some of the critics !!!
One interesting thing that I’d never dreamt of seeing was a highspeed Police chase down a busy London street…. a fully laden London Bus being chased down and ordered to pull over by a horse mounted Police officer, who subsequently then gave the driver a massive telling off followed by a ticket !!!
The highlight of the day would be the British Museum… I could spend a week in there looking over everything and still barely scratch the surface… just amazing to see so many great artefacts in the one place.
Am now about to check out of the hotel and take the train to Bristol to spend a few days working with a colleague of mine Elspeth, so Bye Bye London !!!

London !!!

The food and wine in France was great, but I missed having a nice cold beer for lunch…. so first stop after checking into the hotel was down to my "local", the Stanhope Arms for a spot of lunch and a beer. And wouldn’t you know it – they have Hoegaaden on tap – brilliant !!!
It feels a bit odd actually being back in an English speaking country… seem to find myself thinking what I would say in French… didn’t realize how much I was enjoying the challenge actually.
Tomorrow planning on doing an open-top bus tour, so this arvo was just a wander around and see what I could see….

Last night in Paris

Well – after a fair bit of sight seeing last night, and over 14 hours doing the same again today, it’s time to crash out on my last night in Paris…. I’m totally wrecked.
Quick run down – walked down through the Musee de Louvre (didn’t go in though since short on time) and was there to get the sun clearing the main building and hitting the pyramid, then the Le Jardins de Tuilieres out to Place de Concorde, down the Ave de Champs Elysees, slight side detour past the Grande Palais and Let Petit Palais and then onto the Arc de Triomphe. Took the Metro over to Le Tour Eiffel…. went up it of course, and luckily the top floor (Sommet) was open even though the ticket booths on the ground said it wasn’t…. then took an open top bus tour around everything. Jumped out and spent half an hour or so at Le Cathedral de Notre Dame, then back on the bus to finish up back at Trocadore just over from Le Tour. Well and truly dark by this time, so decided to take the Metro back to Arc de Triomphe to get some night photos of it, then headed back to the hotel.
Highlights are definitely Le Tour Eiffel… amazing combination of architecture, technology and just sheer artistry…. and of course the pyramid at the Louvre, which I find I love the contrast of more and more.
Not surprisingly I took lots, and Lots, and LOTS of pictures throughout the day…. just shy of 450 I think. Had a great day, but honestly I think I’d need a month to do Paris properly… I haven’t even been inside a single Musee yet !!!
I’m sure I’ll sleep like a log, but unfortunately have an early start to the day for catching flights etc. Oh well – c’est la vie !!!

Woohoo – Paris !!!

Real quick post that I’ve just gotten to the hotel in Paris, which is right near Le Pont Neuf and the Louvre.
Interesting hotel… elevator only just big enough for me to stand in with my pack on…. so "tres petit" probably doesn’t do it justice.
Pretty tired after a long day at work, so although I should probably be jumping into bed I’m instead going to head out sight seeing for a bit… can’t waste a night in Paris !!!

Mercredi – la nuit dernière à Lyon

Back in the Lyon office on Wednesday, and after a bit of a debrief – yes, it was confirmed that things went well on Tuesday and that I would be finished up in Lyon by the end of Thursday.

So Julia went about arranging things to get me back up to Paris on Thursday evening, which meant that Wednesday night was my last in Lyon. Weather was perfect during the day, and nice and still and clear at night…. and although not the right time of year for the "Fete des Lumieres", I decided to test Lyon’s reputation with my camera regardless.
Not bad results I think, considering I didn’t have any of my night photography gear with me !!!

Tuesday customer meeting

Nothing too exciting to blog about on Monday…. just working from the Lyon office preparing for the customer meeting the following day.

Tuesday needed to get out to Chalons to visit the customer – it was about 150km drive, so Jeremie picked up a hire car and we were off. Nothing too special scenery wise – freeway’s look pretty much the same the world over – but yes, French drivers are definitely crazy… Jeremie was fine, but some of the antics from other drivers on the freeway were unbelievable !!!
The customer meeting went pretty well – we were met there by Marc, who is a colleague from another office and is the Key Account Manager for the customer. Marc explained that the day was part fact finding mission for Jeremie, partly for me to confirm that our product would suit the situation and finally to also build confidence with the customer that we had the right solution for his requirements. I didn’t have to provide "the answer", but just make sure that we had a good understanding of the problem and confirm whether our product was a good fit.
The good fit part was easy – the customer’s requirements were a pretty standard thing for us, but an interesting twist to the day was that although the customer representative (Stephane) had a fairly good understanding of English, he wasn’t confident or comfortable trying to speak to me in English !!! This meant a large part of the day consisted of me thinking things over and then asking questions, followed by sometimes lengthy discussion between Jeremie, Stephane and Marc (in French) with finally either Jeremie or Marc translating the back to me…. for me to then think some more about what the answer meant we needed to do or know. The whole process was a bit like a game of Chinese Whispers but carried out in French !!!
Although an unusual process for me, it all panned out OK though – Jeremie got the information he needed, Stephane seemed pleased that we were knowledgable on his scenario and that the solution would suit, and Marc was pleased that Stephane was happy….. I was of course stoked that I’d both seen another customer site in a slightly different industry for me, and I’d also learnt a few new French words. Win, win, win and win !!!

Parc de la Tete D’or

Unfortunately outside the hotel window Sunday morning was all cold and drizzly…. not exactly the best weather for sight seeing, so I settled myself into catch up on some e-mails and other things.
Luckily though, shortly after lunch time it cleared up a bit, and I was able to get down to the large park down the road – turns out it’s the main park for Lyon, so is quite large with lots of interesting things in it… including a botanical garden and a zoo !!!
Did I mention that it’s large ??? Walking all the way around (and taking photo’s as well) took about 4 hours, so it nicely filled up a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Monday will be more working from the Lyon office… hopefully get all nicely prepared for the big customer meeting on Tuesday.

Sight seeing in Lyon

After much thought, I’ve decided to skip blogging about Friday… it was "just another day in the office" in French style… spent giving Jeremie some training as well as talking/thinking about the big meeting next week.

Today (Saturday, or Samedi en Francais) was my first free day, and I planned to make the most of it !!! So with a map courtesy of the hotel and some broad suggestions from Julia, I headed off for a wander around Lyon…

I could try and write a description of where I went, what I saw etc. – but I think photo’s are easier. The highlights though would have been the place Bellecour (a large square in the center of town), the whole suburb of St-Georges and the Musee de Minatures et Decore de Cinema.

The whole feel of Lyon is totally different than anywhere else I’ve been…. obviously all the buildings and the layout is a big part of it – especially over in St-Georges with its Pavé streets – but there’s also this sort of relaxed chaos going on. It’s hard to define really, but think cars driving around erratically, but not really moving veryquickly…. people who walk out in front of cars without looking, the cars stop for them without sounding their horn… and then everything sort of coming to a complete stop for a good lunch and a glass (or two) of wine.

For my lunch I decided to use a bit more of my Francais and dined in Cozy de Lyon, which was a little restaurant in St-Georges right under the Funiculaire St-Just (funicular railway). What did I have I hear you thinking… well I went for the Menu de Jour, which consisted of Sala de Lyonnais pour entree (green salad with bacon strips, a poached egg and a vinaigrette dressing), Penne aux Moles (Penne with Mussels, which was just AWESOME), Fromage for dessert (Brie style soft cheese and crusty bread) et deux verre de vin rouge (two glasses of red wine). I’d done a lot of walking by this point, so I felt I deserved it !!!
The last little surprise was walking back to the hotel… I came across a gorgeous black 1960 Karmann Ghia… parked the way it was I’d say so that no-one could touch park into it !!!

Thursday – customer meeting in Paris

Thursday morning I was back on the TGV again, heading up to Paris for an afternoon meeting with a large mining customer.

The plan was pretty simple… TGV to Paris Gare de Lyon, then take the Metro RER A to Reuille Malmaison and call Philippe when I’m there to get me into our head office, known as Le Hive.

The TGV part was easy… Julia had already organized the tickets, and I already knew which platform etc. Changing onto the RER A at Paris Gare de Lyon wasn’t that difficult either… thankfully the ticketing machines are coded to provide English displays as well as French…. and even getting the correct train on RER A wasn’t all that tough, with pretty stock standard indicator boards and the usual network map inside the carriage.

The fun only really started once I’d gotten outside the train station at Reuille Malmaison…. my phone decided to stop working and wasn’t talking to the network properly, so I couldn’t ring or txt ANYONE !!! After about 10 minutes of messing around powering it on and off multiple times, I realized I was going to have to ask for help. Hmmm…ok… read up on my phrase book how to ask someone to use ther phone – this should be interesting !!!

So after finding someone standing around at the station who wasn’t already in their phone and obviously wasn’t in a hurry, I went in and started with my by now well practiced "Bonjour. Je ne parle pas Francais. Parles vous Anglais ?"… which unfortunately got me a "Non… a little."…. ok, so keep trying in French…. "Est’ce que je pourriz utiliser votre telephone sil vous plait?"…. and amazingly, she handed over her mobile phone !!! Challenge #4 passed – borrowing a phone in another language.

So once I had Philippe on the phone things started to run smoothly again, and he walked down to the station to take me back up to the main office. "Le Hive" as they call it is just massive…. about 2000 people work in the one building apparently, and although I was only there for a quick bite to eat before heading out to the customer, man was I impressed. The cafeteria seats about 300 people with a bistro style servery area and about 4 meal choices plus dessert and fruit etc… all very tasty looking as most food seems to be here in France. Best of all, it even has it’s own coffee shop joined on…. and French coffee isn’t good for my "one caffeine hit per day" rule !!!

After lunch it was a short drive over to the customer’s office at La Defense. Even though the meeting was mostly in French other than my product demo, I think it went well – there were a lot of positive comments in both English and French at the end. Walking through Place La Defense on the way to the Metro, Philippe explained that it’s part national monument and part technology park… some very cool modern architecture, but unfortunately I hadn’t taken my camera so couldn’t get any photos. Hopefully I’ll get some sight seeing done in Paris at the end of next week though.

From La Defense it was a simple Metro back to Paris Gare de Lyon, then a TGV ride back to Lyon – since it had been an almost 14 hour day I crashed into bed at the hotel almost straight away.