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March 12-17, 2010
Friends and Families ,
Marianne is still in California and I'd still like her to be able to keep up with the home front. I suppose I could tweet or text, and I do phone, old-fashioned though that may be, but a series of semi-literate utterances ("am on train", "going 200 kph", "at G d Est", "eating fish", etc) just doesn't seem right. Easy, but not right.
Friday, March 12 and Saturday
I had a meeting today in Paris and, since I am generally in Frankfurt and the Frankfurt to Paris train is easy, I was able to avoid the whole flying hassle. It took an early start, since ICE 9558 leaves promptly at 6:00, but the simplicity of train travel definitely makes it worthwhile.
The early start meant the normally bustling Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof was pretty quiet. Even the morning commuters hadn't started arriving, although the subway trip in from Offenbach had been filled with night workers heading home. My reserved, First Class, seat, bought "on sale" cheaper than Second Class, was comfortable and roomy. There was even a regular electric plug for keeping the laptop going. An hour into the three-and-a-half hour trip, Deutsche Bahn served a small breakfast, a benefit of traveling internationally in the First Class car. I reached Gare de L'Est in Paris on time and took a short subway hop to our company headquarters on Rue Lafayette. Total time, door-to-door, a bit over five hours. Flying would have been about an hour or 90 minutes less and far more anxiety. This was a good trade.
My meeting was a meeting. Actually, just I and my Paris colleague, as he briefed me on a project that promises to have me traveling to Warsaw a few times in the next several months. I'll make sure to take pictures! (By the way, my colleague had also taken a train trip in the morning, as he does every morning. In his case, it was a high speed train from 400 kilometers away, almost 120 miles. Parisians will go to great lengths, literally, to be able to raise kids in a quiet French environment while still working in busy, and expensive, Paris.) In any event, the meeting went well, we then enjoyed the company "canteen" for lunch, not a bad deal since we ARE a French company and lunches are important.
After lunch, with some time to catch up on email, I left the office and took the Metro to the Hotel Bastille Speria, on the eastern edge of the Marais district. It is a recommendation from the Rick Steeve's travel books and, once again, I found his description accurate and his recommendation reliable.
After checking in, I grabbed the camera and looked for something to capture. The skies were gray and the light was flat so I'm afraid my photo excursion bagged little; a few shots to remember the gray, but that's it.
After going back to the hotel I killed enough time to start looking for a restaurant. Starting before 7:30 is pretty useless in Paris. Even at this hour, all the real restaurants I saw were empty and an empty restaurant is not inviting. Eventually, I walked past the "Autour Saumon" and saw one couple in the 12-table little restaurant. OK, looked good enough. It turned out far better than that. I had lightly smoked Atlantic salmon, with small salads and a chilled pinot noir. It was truly remarkable. (By the way, within ten minutes of my sitting down, the place was full. Parisians don't eat as early as Americans, but it did seem that everyone wanted to be seated by 8pm.)
As usual, the next mourning I could not sleep in very late. Maybe it's age or maybe it's just an established pattern, but I again grabbed the camera and sought out anything interesting in early dawn light. And, again, nothing too dramatic, although I did enjoy wandering around the Place des Voges, the cultural center of 18th and 19th Century Paris (and hence of the world, of course). The yellow of the street lights showed empty space where, in a few hours, there would be crowds of people and activity. Not the Paris of everyone's dreams, but a nice way to work up an appetite for a leisurely breakfast.
After that breakfast, I chose the 40-minute walk to the train station, because I was going to be early anyway. This northeast part of central Paris is quiet and not noteworthy, but I still enjoy walking almost anywhere in this vibrant city. In the end, I made the train, enjoyed another ICE hop and, at the end, a short S-Bahn trip in Frankfurt.
Then I had to drive home. Normally, I make this drive during the week, often on Friday and it is a traffic nightmare. On this Saturday evening, the construction zones were still there, but the long back-ups in an around them were not. The Saturday trip was a bit over 90 minutes, well under the two or three hours I usually need. I have to admit that, when possible, I was zipping along at 170 or 180 kilometers and hour (>100 mph for North Americans.) The only event was when a truck a few cars behind me blew out a tire. In this case, I was very thankful I had been going fast, because it meant I was ahead of the flying tire pieces and a bit distant from the impressive "bang".
So, now I am home and will see what's happening in our little corner of the world.
Sunday, Pommersfelden Weekend
A quiet weekend. A bakery breakfast. A few chores (including much of this diary.) It would be nice to be able to work in the garden, but the weather is too cold and the ground is still frozen.
Tuesday, Wednesday, Back in Paris
Three days after leaving Paris, I headed back. More meetings, but this time flying was the only practical way. Tuesday morning I left home a bit after 5 in the morning. The plane was at 7 and it arrived, on-time, at about 8:30. There were several work colleagues, although we all seemed headed to different meetings at our company headquarters, a big, black tower in the La Defense business center. I shared a taxi with one colleague, but it turned out to be a problem because the traffic all around La Defense was almost stopped. The normal 30-minute ride tripled.
My first day was a pretty normal series of meetings and chatting with friends. I had not been in headquarters for over a year and I had a lot of news to catch up on. Tuesday evening, I took the Metro down into the center of town, back to the Marais district. I was trying a different hotel, still one chosen from our Rick Steeves guide book. The hotel, however, shall remain nameless. It wasn't bad enough to warn away from but it was too worn and plain to be recommend. OK for a business trip, and located is a very Parisian neighborhood, but I won't be back.
Wednesday morning I returned to La Defense early and had to kill time before my first meeting. This gave me time to take pictures of the dramatic collection of corporate high-rises. This really is a dense collection of company headquarters and is a city all by itself. Anyway, I had another day of meetings and a great lunch at the top of one of the towers. The view from there was the highlight of the trip!
At the end of the day, it was a train-trip back to the airport and the standard airport hassle; neither better nor worse than expected. I did keep thinking of the difference of the train and the plane. From Frankfurt to Paris, the time difference between train and plane travel is negligible, especially if the trip in from the airport gets caught in the Paris traffic. The train wins easily on hassle points. From home in Pommersfelden however, the flight via Nuremberg is the only practical option. Getting to and from a train station is time consuming and local trains to the Munich or Frankfurt connection take time. Too bad.
So, that was that. Thursday was another drive up to Offenbach, a trip so routine as to not warrant a mention. Now, I am back at work, looking forward to next week when my partner returns from too long in California.
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