Thursday, September 28, 2006

From morning to night I stayed out of sight

I am back in Denmark, back with Hans, Megan and Scott. It was a long day of waiting for my flight, getting screwed by EasyJet, and followed by a very quick flight to Copenhagen.

I have found out how EasyJet manages to keep fares down. It is not from using cheaper airplanes (actually was impressed with the plane I was on, really nice shape), or by using secondary airports, which is another good idea, but it is by charging the shit out of you for every little thing that you want extra. They state that you get an allowance of one hold bag, at 20kg. So I paid the extra 7.50Euros for the extra bag which is cheaper than the 15 Euros at the airport, but that wasn't enough. When I got to the airport, I find out that the payment for the second bag wasn't enough, they wanted money for the extra weight. The way the wording is on the website (I have checked again) it makes you think that when you pay for a second bag, you get another 20kilos. No no silly, you only get 20 kilos, they charge the shit out of you for the extra weight, at 7.50 Euro a kilo. So, in the end I might as well have bought another ticket, since it cost me another 75 Euros to get my bag on the plane. They have you over a barrel when you get to the airport. Seems like a bit of a scam to me. (I expect some lawyer from Easyjet to send me an email asking me to remove the company name, but if they are a good company, maybe they will take the critisism n stride)

Sigh, enough bitching. I had a nice dinner with Hans at a local pizza place, and now I am waiting to see Megan when she gets home. I get to meet up with her tomorrow for lunch, then we could maybe plan some things to do over the weekend, and something for me to do next week.

Wow, only about a week till I head to Frankfurt for my flight home. It is getting exciting, thinking about being able to order dinner in my native language, answering questions in English, and just not travelling. I am tired of living out of a bag, not having all the things that I am used to having at my home.

I am also looking forward to seeing people that I miss. I am very happy to have had a chance to see my friends over here in Europe. A week with Leanne and Alex and the kids, and now with Megan and Hans and Scott. It has been a good trip.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Leaving all and changing sides

It is about 19h16 and I am about to go out again to take more photos of Berlin. I had a busy day today, saw the Tiergarten, Siegessaule, the Kaiser-Wilhem Gedachtniskircher, Brandenburg Gate, and the Bundestag (although not in that order). I plan on trying to get a few night shots of the city, in particular the Brandenburg Gate, and the Bundestag.

Berlin is an amazingly beautiful city, with so much history to it. So much that we in North America just aren't taught about. (another good reason to explore the world) Just by going to look at a simple monument, you learn a ton of history!

Anyay, just wanted to leave a quick note, hopefully tomorrow I will get a chance to see a few other things, like Checkpoint Charlie, and the Fernsehturm (which was at one time in East Germany and was built to showcase how great the East Germans were, only it was designed by a Swede). I would love to see the Wall, but there are only two placs left and one is now an art exhibition and the other is a ways out of town. I might have to settle for the art exhibition, and not the original piece.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Barely define the shape of this moment in time

Just a warning, this is kinda long, I wrote most of it on a 10 hour train ride to Berlin.

Here it is, Monday morning, and I am off to a bad start. We hit a bit of traffic on the way to the train station, and I missed my train. I watched it rolling off down the track as I ran down the stairs. Damn Swiss rail and their perfect schedules!!!

I was luck enough though to be able to get a second train, about an hour and a half later, so I am not completely in panic mode yet. I really didn’t want to call the hotel in Berlin and tell them that I wasn’t going to show up, although I am sure that the kids would be very happy if I had come back to the house.

I am going to miss the kids, they where very unhappy about me going, poor little Adrien was in tears last night going to sleep because I made sure I said my good byes then. They even got up early to make sure that they got their final hugs in before I left. It was quite funny, both of them still mostly asleep, wandering in to the room like Night of the Living Dead or something. But, they got one more good bye from me, and that made me feel better.

So now I sit and wait, after all that rushing around this morning, I could have just slept in a bit and let Leanne sleep a bit longer too. She is still on Indian time, so it wasn’t too early for her.

Since I am typing this in the train station, and I really don’t feel like paying for internet right now, I will add this later today, and probably a bit more about my journey to Berlin.

I made it on to the next train, so here I sit on the way to Bassel where Switzerland, France and Germany all meet. If I remember correctly, Bassel is a big station, and it is there that I have to find my train to Berlin. I am taking an ICE train through Germany, something that I have never done before. Well, going to Berlin is something that I have never done before either. =) Last time I was in Europe, there was two Germany’s, something a lot of young people never knew. It is amazing how much the world changes.

It is nice to look out the window of the train and watch the Swiss country-side flying by. Very green, grey and wet; ya it is raining. It is supposed to be nicer in Berlin, just overcast but no rain. That is okay, I don’t mind the rain or the sky being grey, I have had a lot sunshine this summer. Switzerland is so…umm, perfect. Everything has it’s place, and everything is in that place. This is a HUGE change from southern France where everything is a mess.

Something else I will need to remember very soon is my German, it has been 15 years since I was last force to speak it, and I think that I forget most of it. I will be spitting out French when I want to speak German!

Hmmm, just past a castle, nifty!

Well, enough writing for now, I think I will sit and enjoy the scenery for a while.

Next train!

I am now on a German ICE train, traveling about 160km/h through southern Germany, and can I say, what a nice train! Very nice inside, very smooth ride and even some pretty German ladies to chat with. Since I missed the first train (I looked at that a bit more, there was a mix up of the itinerary and the tickets, the itinerary said Geneva, and the ticket said Geneva Airport, so the train that I was supposed to be on was actually already at Geneva Main by the time I got to the airport station.) I am now arriving in Berlin about 19h00 or so. I just hope that the hotel that I am in will have staff available when I get there, unlike the hotel in Aix where they go home at 20h00. It would suck to not have a room when I get there!

We have just stopped at Freiburg, in Deutschland and it is still pouring outside. Autumn is definitely here. I hope that the rest of my trip isn’t going to be wet, I really don’t have the correct clothing for rain. I keep hoping that Berlin isn’t going to be raining, it is still a ways away and we are heading more north than east right now so I am also hoping that the direction change to east will make a difference.

Enough for this leg of the trip, time for a little snooze. Train rides always make me want to sleep.

Cool! I just looked up and the train is doing 250km/h, not to shabby! I am guessing that I am in what was once East Germany, I didn't see any old border crossings or anything. The train stations are a lot more spread out now and this means that we can go faster, which is good because we are running late. I have been told that it is normal for DB trains to be late, while the Swiss trains are never late.

Bit of a jump now, I am in Berlin, survived the multi-level nightmare that is the Berlin Hbf (train station) with it's poor directions and lack of info. Considering all the tourists that come through there yearly, you would think that things would be a bit easier. I saw many with backpacks looking lost in there (me included). another stupid thing was luggage trolley's, you could get one on the train platform where the train arrives, but there was no place to leave it other than that platform, so I lost a Euro when I left it where I had to get my Metro train. Scam??? I think so.

Eventually, thanks to a good Metro system, I made it to the station near my hotel, about 6-8 blocks from the station, which isn't that bad but I am carrying about 60-70 kilos of stuff in three bags. It was a long walk, only to find out that somehow my reservations had been screwed up and I wasn't supposed to be here until tomorrow! Luckily, the girl at the reception siad there was a room available, and that it was now mine.

So, I made it, I am here, and although I am really tired, I am excited to see Berlin. I don't know what I want to see, but I want to see it. =P

Sunday, September 24, 2006

On the wall hung a tall mirror

It is my last day in Geneva, I leave for Berlin early on the morning train. Leanne came home from India yesterday, so we actually had some time to visit this time, which is nice compared to the last time. Maybe my next visit, I will actually get to visit with her longer than a day.

It has been nice getting to know Alex, he is a wonderful guy. His job keeps him busy, so we only got to visit late in the evening, but I think that we have become good friends. And the kids, well, I am really going to miss them. Next time that I will see them, they will have grown so much, that I may not be able to pick up Margaux, and Adrian will be able to pick me up! (well, maybe not, I hope to see them sooner than that!)

Berlin will be interesting, last time I was in Europe, it was still difficult to get to, and the two Germany's were still divided. Places that I want to see are the Vandenberg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, the Holocaust Memorial, and of course, the Wall. I really don't know if I will have time to see it all, three days will go fast, but I am going to try anyway!

On Friday, I find my way to the airport, and get on a EasyJet to Copenhagen, then on to Ringsted to see Megan and Hans again. It looks like Meg has been planning my visit for me, which is good because I wouldn't know what to go see otherwise and she probably knows me well enough to know what I like to do.

Then, my trip is over on October 7th. Back home to my dust bunnies and mountain of mail.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Sitting on a unicorn

Another day of being worn out from walking. I spent the day wandering around Geneva, taking photos, and feeling very under dressed compared to the business men and bankers in their expensive suits. Geneva is a beautiful city, with lots of walking areas, old history, and of course, the Lake. I found some beautiful fountains as well. It is funny, it has been 15 years since I was last in Geneva, yet it hasn't really changed from what I remember. I even found a really amazing fountain that I have one photo of from 15 years ago, that isn't a very good photo. Fifteen years of practice, and a much better camera, and the photos have become amazing. Go to my Flickr page and check them out.

I am sitting here now, tired from all the walking yesterday, planning the next couple of days. Alex (Leanne's husband) has suggested that I go to Annecy in the French Alps. He grew up there, and from the books and website photos, he is absolutely correct. Good thing that I have a spare flash card and battery form my camera!

I need to figure out what else to do while here. Leanne doesn't get home from India until Saturday, and I leave on Monday, so I need to find stuff to do in the mean time. Today, I will go into Geneva in a bit and take a boat ride around the lake, a nice easy day after all the walking yesterday. I just hope the haze clears a bit, it will make the photos less appealing otherwise.

And soon I will be home, I am actually getting eager to be back in Vancouver, traveling this long is tiring, and I need a week of sleep to recover.

Okay, I didn't make it into Geneva, I ended up playing with the kids all day. And having a nap. I think I really needed the nap part, and the kids were a blast all day. I love kids, and these two are really special, but I still don't want my own. These ones I get to give back later.

Tomorrow I get the car to go to Annecy, where I can take a million photos of the place, and try and not make the same photos as the other 10,000 on Flickr. I am sure that I will take many of the same shots, but at least I will know they are mine.

Friday Alex is having a dinner party in the evening, and then Saturday Leanne comes home, so the kids will be very happy to see their Mom. Then Monday, off to Berlin!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Distant bells

The minutes are counting down till I jump on the TGV and leave Aix-en-Provence. My bags are packed, the room has been checked a dozen times, and I am about to hand in my key.

First stop will be Geneva, actually St. Julien en Geneve just on the French side of the border to stay with Leanne and Alex, well, mostly Alex as Leanne is in India for a few days. From there I will do some day trips and maybe an over night trip to Paris, since Paris is pretty much booked for the week I wanted to be there.

And I will be able to see Margaux and Adrian, the youngsters that call Alex and Leanne Mom and Dad. They are sweet kids, and I love to play with them.

It is a nice feeling knowing that the end of this trip is near, I miss home, and family and friends. It has been a fun and busy summer, with long days at work, but chances to see things that I probably wouldn't have otherwise. Three more weeks to quickly see a few more things, see friends here one more time then on a plane back to Vancouver. For those who actually care, I will be home on October 7th about 14h10. Come say hi to me when I get there! (some of you live close enough that you shouldn't have any excuses!)

See you all soon

Friday, September 15, 2006

Straight into the shining sun

My last night at work in France, my visa is up at midnight, and I am going travelling for a few weeks before I get home.

This kind of jumped out at me, the boss wanted me here longer, but he didn't get the visa extended, so I get to leave. Didn't give me much notice, so I am hastely planning my quick trip around Europe, which will include Paris, Geneva, Berlin and Copenhagen (again). Then I will come home, I am really looking forward to seeing everyone and to eating strawberry waffles again.

See you all soon!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Off again

Sunny day in Denmark, and I am sitting in the airport, waiting for my flight. It has been a very short visit, but a very good one still. Getting to see my ling lost friend and her new hubby was absolutely amazing. It was very soul restoring, somthing that I really needed. Living in Aix, I have a good understanding of what Meg went through when she first got to Denmark, not knowing the language, not knowing anyone, etc., so I can appreciate it when friends make the effort to say hi once in a while.

The wedding party was a blast, we ate lots (fabulous cake) and there were many speeches, and of course dancing. Hans is a dancing machine! I got some great pictures of him working it up on the dance floor, doing his best disco moves.

Today was a trip into Copenhagen with Megs brother (Scott) and sister (Morgan), and Morgans boyfriend Mike. We walked a lot, took lots of pictures and even did a canal tour around the city.

All in all, it was a great weekend trip. I am so looking forward to seeing them again at the end of October.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Over the mountains across the sea

Geez I feel like a real jet setter. Running off across Europe for a weekend party, what a life!

I am sitting in Amsterdam airport, waiting for my connecting flight (maybe I should invest in a private jet to get me around, less airport lounge time), and watching the other travelers wander by. There is a moving sidewalk here, with a very annoying voice asking people to “mind your step” as every person wanders by. I wouldn’t want to work right here everyday, I would be committed in a week!

It is rather sunny in Amsterdam, I would love to be able to go out and explore, but being that I have already been checked in, I really don’t want to leave the secure area. If I wanted to do some shopping for expensive goodies, this would be the place. Jewelry, tourist trinkets, perfumes and some very nice Scotches. I found a Scotch that I thought about getting, but at 264 Euros, I decided not to. I really can’t afford to drink that well.

So, instead I am enjoying some real landjager and these nifty cheese stick thingies. I used to get the landjager from my Oma and Opa when they came to visit at Christmas as a kid, but finding good landjager back home is tough. So, I will enjoy it when I can.

(Some guy outside on the ramp just dropped his two way radio on the ground…it exploded into little tiny pieces.)

I have been flying on KLM, the Royal Dutch Airline and other than the little Fokker 70 being a bit old and probably in need of a C-check, the flight was good and smooth, and the flight attendants were very nice. The Dutch make some good looking women! I am flying a 737 with KLM for the rest of the trip to Denmark, so I am hoping the service is just as good.

I would also like to comment about the differences between the two airports that I have seen today, Marseille-Provence, and Amsterdam. I will have to add Copenhagen in there later. Marseille is dirty, dark and not at all a pleasant place to hang out. Even in the newer Air France lounge where I was, it wasn’t that appealing to wait. And being that I am working there, I see the outside as being the same or worse. The ramp is untidy, the ramp rats come across as not really caring too much for their jobs. They look un-kempt, and have an air of uncaring. Amsterdam, the ramp is tidy, there are areas of green grass in the middle of the ramp to offset the tons of concrete that is inevitable at an airport.

(Mmmm, cute Dutch girl…sorry, was distracted)

It is true that Amsterdam is a main hub into Europe, much like Heathrow or Frankfurt, and Marseille is a bit of a back water airport, but I think that it is the people that make the difference. The Dutch seem to care about appearances a lot more than the French in Marseille do. Makes for a much more comfortable experience.

Well, I have killed about 20 minutes, an hour and a half to go…

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A state of bliss

Friday is almost here, 1.5 hours to go!

I am catching a ride into the airport with Colin and Pedro, sitting around for a few hours watching them work, then getting on a plane and heading first to Amsterdam for a few hours, then the rest of the way to Copenhagen. After that, a 40 minute train ride to Ringsted and I get to see one of my long lost friends and her new husband.

I have been waiting all summer to see Meg, and I am guessing that she is excited about me coming to her post weding party. I think that I am the only Canadian friend that will be there.

Time to go and pack, I need to get up early.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Now there's a look in your eyes

Sunday night, and I am back at work.

It has been a very long week, over 80 hours logged at work, with one 18.5 hour day to make things interesting. Tonight will be the last night with the propeller guys here, so that means that I can have tomorrow off, before going back again to three day shifts. It will be nice to have the day shifts, some time to rest.

On Friday, I jump on a plane and head for Denmark to see Megan and Hans. I would say that I am excited, but in reality, I am too tired to feel anything more than sleepy. It will be a good time I am sure, three nights to visit and have fun. I will be going back to see them after I am finished work here in France, then I can visit for a bit longer, with less people around.

I also have been told that I will probably be done as of October 15th, so that means a little more than a month to go. It will be nice to have a few weeks off, then back home to see the family and friends that I miss so much. As much as I like being here, it is a bit hard to be alone. I am really thankful for the internet on this trip, it is so nice to be able to chat with people through email, instant message and using VOIP software. Keeps the loneliness to a minimum.

So the home stretch is in sight, I will survive and will make it home again.