Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Christmas with a special flavour.

I made a Christmas tour this week-end. It's a great thing to do in Alsace. Christmas tour here is when you are hopping on a car and going from one town to another, to a village, and then again to another town and so on... And you literally get wrapped in the spirit of true Christmas and medieval Alsacian vibe. For a moment, you - no matter how old you are, no matter from what culture you come - get back to your childhood and find yourself in a beautiful fairy-tale.

And this almost forgotten feeling of buying hand-crafted stuff and local home-made sweets and specialties..! Feels a little bit like at your grandma's when you're chatting with a lady who is selling fine embroideries while sitting and making them at the same place.

I totally adored Christmas tradition in this part of France. My hat off for that to the Alsacians!

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

What a feeling!

What a feeling it is! Barack Obama made it! He won the race, defeated prejudice and stupidity and he made. Though why he? People made! I haven't been there personally, and I probably should not be that much concerned as I am not an American, but why does it feel so strangely proud and joyful and hopeful..? Something good upcoming!

Monday, 20 October 2008

Live like it's Heaven on Earth.

It was not written by me, but I thought it was so meaningful that couldn't help publishing it for you:

His name was Fleming, and he was a poor Scottish farmer. One day,
while trying to make a living for his family, he heard a cry for help
coming from a nearby bog. He dropped his tools and ran to the bog.

There, mired to his waist in black muck, was a terrified boy,
screaming and struggling to free himself. Farmer Fleming saved the lad
from what could have been a slow and terrifying death.

The next day, a fancy carriage pulled up to the Scotsman's sparse
surroundings. An elegantly dressed nobleman stepped out and introduced
himself as the father of the boy Farmer Fleming had saved.

'I want to repay you,' said the nobleman. 'You saved my son's life.'

'No, I can't accept payment for what I did,' the Scottish farmer
replied waving off the offer. At that moment, the farmer's own son
came to the door of the family hovel.

'Is that your son?' the nobleman asked.

'Yes,' the farmer replied proudly.

'I'll make you a deal. Let me provide him with the level of education
my own son will enjoy If the lad is anything like his father, he'll
no doubt grow to be a man we both will be proud of.' And that he did.

Farmer Fleming's son attended the very best schools and in time,
graduated from St. Mary's Hospital Medical School in London, and went
on to become known throughout the world as the noted Sir Alexander
Fleming, the discoverer of Penicillin.

Years afterward, the same nobleman's son who was saved from the bog
was stricken with pneumonia.

What saved his life this time? Penicillin.

The name of the nobleman? Lord Randolph Churchill .. His son's name?

Sir Winston Churchill.

Someone once said: What goes around comes around.
Work like you don't need the money.
Love like you've never been hurt.
Dance like nobody's watching.
Sing like nobody's listening.
Live like it's Heaven on Earth.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Some business...

A week ago I went to Kazakhstan on a business trip. It was my first time there. We stayed in Astana all the time. I liked the city: it seemed very spacious and bright and clean.

Since I've not been able to make it to Ukraine for this or that reason for quite some time already, it appeared to be a very nostalgic trip as well. It's been a long time since I saw the "width of the Russian soul" reflected in the urban architechture (no sarcasm implied).

But talking business, it was a curious trip. I realized that the countries have made incredible changes, which I know did not come easily after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but at the same time there's such a long way to go yet. And I realized that the root to these further changes is no more in financial or political or fiscal reforms. It is in the mentality of people. And now it's the hardest part: how to open it up to the rest of the world, how to make them think they are just the same - not worth or not better (the latter being the prevailing point of view among the locals themselves, which stretches itself to quite scary circumstances) - that they can achieve the same once they respect the world and want to be an EQUAL part of it..? Is it an achievable goal..?

Friday, 12 September 2008

French humour and the Danish wedding

This should have been in the "cultural observations" post, but since I am mixing up the thoughts today, it will go here: have you ever heard French jokes? I mean, French people joking. Oh, brother, why are they so blunt and awful? And the most annoying thing about it is that all the French vividly laugh about them and you (if you are not a French) feel very funny in such moments, like as if you a) so dummy that you didn't get the joke or b) so intelligent that you are far above that rural humour or c) don't understand the peculiarities of the language and he actually meant something different or d) other option (please specify). But, oh brother, they are so low level.

That, by some funny coincidence, one of the topics we actively discussed last week-end at my table during my friend's wedding.

Yes, last week-end I went to my friend's wedding to Arhus, Denmark. Was a tough trip in terms of schedule (4 hours of sleep in three days!) but quite rich in terms of impressions.

So, back to cultural discussions: I was lucky to sit together with an Englishman and an Argentian (though already englanized) girl at one table as we allowed ourselves all the possible burst of political incorrectness (in its kind sense) as only Englishmen can allow and all the possible impolite (read loud and careless) merriment as none of the North European nations can afford. I hope I didn't sound too mean. In fact, I really like the Danes, very nice people, very... correct, polite, emotionless, structurized, quite... So quite that I felt really awkward when I came to a flock of relatives from the Danish side and introduced myself (as a newcomer), they kept quite and still looking straigt at me questioning "what's next". And their eyes seemed sooo "questioning" that "the next" could be only something as crazy as jumping into the chilly Nordic sea (the restaurant was on the very sea shore) or stripping just in front of them...

Then there were long 5 or 6 hours of sitting and eating. Food was good, but in the of this eating time even we ran out of jokes and started entertaining ourselves with the ongoing football matches. Oh boy, it was long! And then - as I mentioned before ALL is very structured there - half an hour fresh air break - and finally the dances!! The music was really good. Great, in fact. All four hours. Sharply. But we had some fun - thankfully there were three other Ukrainian girls and we could move that respectful crowd a little bit :-)...

Voila, my North European wedding experience...

But I liked the country. I was a bit afraid going there - remember in Finland I got drenched and frozen after two days of never ending autumn rain in the middle of summer. But it is a nice country. Would like to come back and see more... for sure.


Wednesday, 3 September 2008

This too...

Yes, now a bit sad, worrisome, funny feeling... C'est dure as they would probably say here in France...

It's a great feeling to be a modern active (business-) woman, but in (such) certain moments one somehow understands, or rather feels with every pore, other values. Why people cannot live their lives as if they are themselves imagining it to live? I mean just at once, immediately, like in a wink. I guess I know perfectly the answer, and I guess I am still that great optimist I used to be to be able to accomplish all this... It still feels very sad. But one thing I am becoming more and more sure about: dream and dertimination hand in hand will lead you to whatever you only can imagine. It needs time, and it is painful, but so - oh so - sure and ... probably correct...

Yes, as my gtalk friends can see in my status: The best way out is always through.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Cultural features.

Okey, I guess I got a bit fed up with all these national differences which we as foreigners (or rather citizens of the world) have to deal with hopping around Europe (now). I mean, they are not necessarily bad, but... sometimes they do get under my skin.

And thus, I am starting a post where I will be collecting my cultural observations. I will be updating it furtheron as new ideas come. And please note, all listed here below is strictly subjective. So, you can agree or disagree... But who would care about it?!

And, since I am in France now, I will start with the French...

1) I am almost sure that the French people like to talk just because they enjoy listening to their own selves. The annoying thing about it is that they don't often realize that others don't necessarily enjoy their talking too.

2) But the French bread is the best, for sure.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Just Amsterdam. Or..?

I have just one simple comment about my trip or rather an advice: JUST GO THERE! You have to go to Amsterdam, and there's no other option! Man, it's one of the (or maybe the) most beautiful and feels-good cities I've ever seen. But another ... well sorry for being boringly exhortative... go their with your loved ones. You will feel the city (literally) much better :-)

The city just embraces and gives out all its stories and secrets. And week-ends are too short to listen to them all. :-)


Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Kiitos from Finland.

Hello again!

Just came back from Finland a few hours ago. It was a biz trip and I usually prefer not to put my biz trip impressions on the blog, but this one had a few things worth saying.

But since I have been hopping from ome plane to another for the past three days, I am dead tired right now to put it all in an eloquent way. So, just not to forget...

First of all, we landed in our final destinqtion - Oulu - in 1 am in the night and..... really, first time in my life I saw it.... we stepped out of the airport into a broad day light! (Uuuu, dizzy, what's going on?!)

Well, yes, it was that famous white night. Now, in summer season (which in Finland lasts from the end of June to the middle of July as we were explained) it is North day - light 24 hours. Well, it is kinda cool for the first day (or rather night), but guys, furthermore your brain just starts going mad of abnormalities and refuses to sleep when it has to, while merely switching off when it is supposed to work. Actually, you are just making those nights for yourself by pulling down the blinds.

Next. I dunno, whether it was those few days when we were visiting Finland, or whether it is like that anyways, but it was rainy and chilly aaaal the time and it poured even more depression on the brain, which desperately tried to find sunshine in the 24 hour long day.

Sauna. Oh, yes. We didn't have time to go there, eventually (I wouldn't anyways), but Finland does have this cult of sauna and as one can trace it everywhere, sauna appears to be one of the beloves (though few) entertainments. Even my shower cabin in the hotel was somehow customised under a sort of steam shower - sort of sauna...

We were wondering along the Oulu strees under the incessant rain, trying to find a "cozy" place to eat. We ended up in a ... MEXICAN restaurant AMARILLO Original taste Wings. Well, I bet the food was far from the Nordic traditions, but we shovelled it up like three hungry vikings and half of the restaurant were staring at us, most probably wondering where those uncivilised funny patterns came from.

And, I guess it was true we were three barbarians from the seemingly civilized western europe in this severe and proud country.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

I am very honestly confessing that I stole this story, or rather not. I read it, and liked it a loooot. So, thought you might like it too ;-)

Once upon a time, there was an island where all the feelings lived: Happiness, Sadness, Knowledge, and all of the others, including Love. One day it was announced to the feelings that the island would sink, so all constructed boats and left. Except for Love.

Love was the only one who stayed. Love wanted to hold out until the last possible moment.

When the island had almost sunk, Love decided to ask for help.

Richness was passing by Love in a grand boat. Love said,"Richness, can you take me with you?"Richness answered, "No, I can't. There is a lot of gold and silver in my boat. There is no place here for you."

Love decided to ask Vanity who was also passing by in a beautiful vessel. "Vanity, please help me!""I can't help you, Love. You are all wet and might damage my boat," Vanity answered.

Sadness was close by so Love asked, "Sadness, let me go with you.""Oh . . . Love, I am so sad that I need to be by myself!"

Happiness passed by Love, too, but she was so happy that she did not even hear when Love called her.

Suddenly, there was a voice, "Come, Love, I will take you." It was an elder. So blessed and overjoyed, Love even forgot to ask the elder where they were going. When they arrived at dry land, the elder went her own way. Realizing how much was owed the elder,

Love asked Knowledge, another elder, "Who Helped me?""It was Time," Knowledge answered."Time?" asked Love. "But why did Time help me?"Knowledge smiled with deep wisdom and answered, "Because only Time is capable of understanding how valuable Love is."

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Transhumance or The big cow exodus

So, today I was back on the track of my travels. Went hiking to Ballon d'alsace again. But a different one...

Well, when my friend was inviting me for this... exercise, he sounded like that: "There are cows, a lot of cows! And they are walking. And people have to walk behind them to the top of the mountain!" Well... when I heard, I honestly had very mixed feelings: a lot of walking... in a place where I have already been... behind the cows... in a most probably rainy weather... climb to the top of the mountain when I am so tired after a crazy work week... My sleep-seeking brain has even invented a refusal startegy: to call 15 min before the early morning departure and say something to stay peacefully in bed whatever it could cost.

I guess the nature itself conspired against me, because I was woken up early in the morning by the bright sun beams bursted into my bedroom. And then my mind gave up: get up and move! In an hour we were heading on to Giromagny, the start point of the whole THING.

In reality, the whole as I quickly found out at the place, was the fest of cow exodus (sorry, but really can't find another word to describe it) for their summer pastures, uphill in Ballon d'Alsace. The cows are adorned and let out to the towm main square where the musicians are playing all kinds of triumphant and merry music to commemorate the Day and to probably cheer up the animals. Though the latter is probably really useless as the cows seemed so excited that they definitely did not need either cheering up or stupid people's snaps and poking - they were eager to go to their summer camp!

After all people's pomposity organized to at-least-as-they-thought pay respect to this almost sacred animal for cheese loving France, the gates were finally opened and the happy cows rushed (literally) to the top of the mountain. Those curious, sporty, local or just crazy gapers headed on to follow the herd, me being among them.
It was a very intensive, but enjoyable march along the beatiful mountain road. Crispy mountaineous air did not help sweating as we tried hard to keep up with happily running cows. Somewhere in the mid-way, the whole cow-people crowd made a break and we had a chance to taste a wonderful mulled wine... while cows didn't. Huh...

We arrived to the long-discussed "top of the mountain" in total 4 hours. There I was indeed surprised to see huge tents already installed and waiting for their tired and hungry hikers (in no way cows meant, though really sorry for the cows). When we found ourselves inside, the first thought that came into my mind was: "Gush, but isn't it Oktoberfest back in Munich?!". It appeared very similar to me. Big crowd of thirsty for good fun, food and drinks people and live music. And onwards, there was a lot of fun, and amazing (also very similar to German) food and amazing local wines (not beer thankfully ;-)). And people were dancing and laughing and everyone looked relaxed and restful.

It was a good day. Thank you Sun for waking me up!

Thursday, 8 May 2008

"...Thank you for the music..."

This Saturday Belfort is hosting a big music festival, FIMU or Festival International de Musique Universitaire. It is really unusual to now see this good old, usually so conservative, town to wake up for this international hassle which is gonna take place in a day. Just saw all the scenes and rock pavilions which had been constructed in just one week. The whole Vielle Ville (Old City, Altstadt or whatever you can call it) just suddenly changed its face: couzy squares and little streets now have to bare all the rocker insanity on their long-standing medieval shoulders.
They told me it was one of the best times to visit Belfort. It turns into a smaller version of Cannes during its famous cinema festival. Well, you dare Belfort!

Sunday, 27 April 2008

The Goals.

Hi Everyone! It's been a while I didn't touch my blog. Well... now it got busier and tiredness and business more and more often extinguisheany desire to go and spring out emotions to the world. I have two things, which I feel like I wanner write about... And they are not particularly linked.

But anyways! I had a beautiful week-end. (Thanks to E. - my travel companion - who was finally back) Went to Saut du Doubs, an a-a-awesome place on the border right between France and Switzerland. I was told that it's the best time to go there now as the river is in its full water. And it was really amazing: it showed all the natural power of the young spring and the frantic current of the waking up mother-nature. The waterfalls and the whole
forestry were great! It seems I haven't tasted such air for years.You know, it was really funny to pass a bridge which connects French land, on its one side, and Swiss land, on its other side. And even more funny: on the other side of the bridge there was a table with all notes like "You are now crossing the border. Please keep ready your passports or other ID documents". And all this in a real wild forest where not only customs officials, but a forest-guard is not a very frequent passer!!

I was longing for a week-end like this with a proper sun and a real May warmth! To catch the first sun tan on the face and to doubt whether to take off the coat, since it's warm, or to keep it on, since the wind is still mean. In a word, it was probably the first proper fest of SPRING in Europe this year. And it was generous.

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The second point is... Well... I am sitting right now in a totally dark room at my place. After another amazing week-end day-out in the nature. And I don't want to switch on the light - yeah-yeah, one of those "no-people-and-please-no-light" moods. Yeah... and listening to Leslie Feist. One my American friend advised me, so I finally got to find her records to listen. Kinda not bad. Yes, so! And I got suddenly (and probably stupidly) nostalgic. Nostalgic and a bit... empty. Looked through the pictures, mine and some of my friends. And somehow felt that so much is behind. So much efforts, feelings, emotions, hopes, achievements and falls, people, friends, intentions etc..... MBA is over, many of the life stages are in the past. So, what now? I realized that all my life I had goals, very strong personal goals I was stubbornly moving to. I don't mean that I don't have a goal now. It is just that I think I am getting a bit (ok wanted to say older, but will say ->) wiser. And now the goals turn into some "bigger life pictures" and it both scares me and makes me feel somehow weeker and more vulnerable, I guess. I understand that I probably should no more be "egoistically" stubborn in moving where I want, but then... how to live without this "break-any-wall-on-the-way" movement? And how to keep up with all those dear and loved ones? Well, I don't know the answer, at least now. And don't want to switch on the light.

Friday, 11 April 2008

Week-end incroyable!

Last week-end I had a bi-i-i-i-g trip. In one set covered Switzerland and a fair part of France! :-) But what a travel it was!

So, we started on Saturday morning, early beautiful morning. The plan was already made: Basel - Colmar - Strasbourg. And so it occured with... mmm, slight interventions in-between.

We came to Basel around 10:30-11:00 am. From the first minutes I could sense this big city (well, big compared to Belfort) spirit. And besides, it was Switzerland, which per se meant a business flavor floating in the air. It was a pleasure seeing so many busy looking people in Versace business
suits talking to each other on the streets, walking talking on the phones or just loitering around and shopping, but still with a very busy view. We went to the central area to take a breakfast. After that there was a lot of roaming around and glazing at shop windows - the so called lache-vitrine, if my French knowledge does not betray me. We passed a fussy market square, which seemed very French to me, though the city itself was entirely German speaking as opposed to Geneva. It was funny making my way through the crowd of people and not cars. And it felt good!
We left Basel at around 3. And headed on to Colmar. It did not take very long, just about 1.5 hours, to get there. My anticipation of the town was: it is gonna be a little provincial ville, so what am I gonna see there? But E. was (thankfully) persistent taking me there and, oh how grateful I am for it now! To this town, we arrived at a big parking place and the first thing that surprised me was that there were so many trees in blossom just everywhere.

Taking little narrow curly and very clean streets we moved on to the city center. And I found myself in a museum. The only difference was that everything was real, people around, houses, trees, cobble roads. Live museum! Everything, every house, every balcony, every wall, every cafe, every person seemed to have had medieval history. And it didn't feel weitr at all. It felt peaceful and timeless. We wandered in Colmar and ate straberries, and drank chocolate, and tasted local spécialité - special salty bagels, the name of which I cannot remember now to my shame. But then there was time to leave since we already stayed far longer than was planned. Strasbourg was ahead...

We took our time for driving from Colmar to Strasbourg and, again, it was not long: in Alsace everything is not far from :-).

As many of you may know, Strasbourg is an officially pedestrian city. So, we had to leave the car at suburb parking space and take the tram to the center. We went down on the Kléber square and took a quick tour around the city center. It looked week-endly busy and the style (no matter how trivial it may sound) was sensed everywhere. We had a short tour, but it was getting darker and we potentially had to head back to Belfort. And it was that time when that insane idea was born - to stay overnight so that to see more of Strasbourg the next day. And so we did. And we, thus, had enough time for a proper diner when we tasted another Alsacian specialty choucroute, which is a close relative, if not a twin, of German sauerkraut served with a variety of meet and sausages.

Next morning we continued with Petite France, the oldest area of Strasbourg, incredibly picturesque and, indeed, very ancient. We went to the famous Strasbourg cathedral and saw famous astrologic clocks. An impressive mechanism to see! It was raining from the morning, which as I was told was a very typical Strasbourg weather, but it somehow didn't spoil the grandeur of the city and my impresson, even for me - the one who absolutely cannot bear rain.

We left Strasbourg around 3 pm and I understood that what I saw was still a tiny part of what Strasbourg could offer. But... at the end of the day, it's not the last time I was going there ;-)! The week-end was approaching its end and we had to go back to Belfort. But, it wouldn't be us, the two adventurous souls, if we would just drive peacefully home.

We decided to make the way back through the mountains. Vosges mountains. The car was climbing higher and higher and suddenly (you would never think) it started snowing heavily! Please keep in mind that it was 6 April on the calendar! I was naive enough not to take any warm clothing and shoes. And the weather was sensational enough to seduce us to get out of the car and to play snowballs. So, in the end I was wet and freezing, but who cares about such trifles. We stopped by at Gerardmer, a beautiful town in the lowland - a retirement dream. It was a little town scattered across the bottom of the bowl, formed by the mountains and the lake in the middle. We grabbed crêpes in the quay restaurant. It was a bright sun shine outside, trying to correct the weather's mistake melting the sudden snow piles. It was a short, but very bright impression, therefore when we left I thought that I should do my best to come to Gerardmer once again, with my special one.

Having gotten over the Vosges mountains, we had to cross another chine called le Ballon d'Alsace or also le Ballon de Belfort. There, weirdly enough, it was sunshing and felt really hot. So hot that we even discussed laughing that during those two days we expereinced at least four seasons, all at once.
When I started this post, I realized that I would never put into paper (into Word.doc in this case) all feelings and impressions I had during this all-around-Alsace week-end. So, forgive me for the dry facts and missing 99% of my bright emotions here. But I have an excuse: come and see it all yourself!

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

A challenging journey.

Traveled to Germany last week-end... Came back on Tuesday morning. Now it's Wednesday evening and I am still so tired.
It was something like this:
- booked my train tickets Belfort - Mulhouse - Strasbourg;
(just on the day of my departure, which was Thursday, the whether decided to go insane and to turn winter in the middle of spring. So, all things like snow, wind, minus temperature were there altogether)
- arrived to the station and <...> the train Belfort - Mulhouse cancelled. Duhh... And no idea when it can potentially start running as they told me there was some accident on the track;
- called a friend of mine and he took me to Mulhouse by car. Well... this world still has quite a bit of good people around. E., thank you!
- cought up with the train to Strasbourg. Hooray, now everything's gonner be awright.
- aha, wait! Life is not that simple;
- the bus tickets I booked in a hurry before appeared to be... (how to put it in a better way?) for the previous day. Hmm... and don't even ask me, how it could happen. I don't know and period. But I already had a serious session of 'self-analysis and reprimands';
- having discovered this, tried to buy train tickets, but - voila - the ticket desk happily closed for Easter and automatic machines did not sell tickets for the international travel;
- decided to try and buy on the board;
- I told you, life is not simple!;
- an "amiable" German train driver just refused to sell me the ticket on board giving the following reasoning: "Where are you coming from? - Belfort? - Why didn't you buy in Belfort? - [Because I bought the tickets for the bus etc etc] - Mademoiselle, what bus?! It is the train station! " Duhh... So, with the half-empty coach he just left, even after half of the Strasbourg station personnel was begging him to sell me those stupid tickets and take me! Well, it must be something cultural, I don't want to talk about it...;
- had to spend that horrible cold night at the station. Thanks to the French management of the station for their caring attitude, they gave me a separate waiting hall where it was warm and secure;
- fuhh...
- didn't sleep the entire night. In the morning, took a train. It was also DB, but luckily they were sell tickets on board (as the ticket desk was still closed);
- Voila Germany...;
- every train I had to change was delayed and no one could tell me whether I could take the next corresponding one. In fact, no one knew anything!;
- ok-ok... Arrived.;
Traveling back was just a bit easier as I took the Night Express. Though it was no less cold, but it is no one's fault, right?
- only on the way from Mulhouse to Belfort it appeared that the track was not yet mended and the train stopped half-way in Altkirch. They provided a bus - no problem. The only thing is that it took 1.5 hrs instead of the left 15 min to get to Belfort... Duhh...
- I dunno. I am just so tired.

But the Easter week-end itself was really good. Was worth all these challenges and I even had one bright sunny day near Rhine with beautiful live jazz music!!! :-)

That's it! Stay tuned. :-)

Monday, 17 March 2008

78e Salon International de l'auto & Accessoires Geneve

It was one of the few moments in my life when neglecting all the MBA sustainability effect and any imaginable and unimaginable human virtues my mind was screaming: "I want only money, I want lots of it and I want it right now!!!".


Duh... I don't know where to start and what to tell you about, folks. My companion, at least had a clear picture in the end which car he exactly wanted. I left the exhibition with luxury and technical shock and with a dozen of options of what I could potentially want.

Jaguar, Aston Martin, SAAB, Audi are just the few coming into my mind at once.

It was luxury, glossy, serious, flirty, appealing and frightening... all at a time.It was very busy. I would not imagine that there were so many people in this little Europe willing to "cash out" enormous sums of money for those
terrific pieces of iron, glass, leather and plastic. But it is good! Very stimulating. For instance, instigates to go and win a lottery, or... rob a bank... or, worst case, WORK HARD. ;-)

After a few hours of roaming from Mercedes to Porsche and on, I was looking at the cars as at the pairs of shoes. And everything looked normal, and everything looked affordable. :-) I was wandering, and wandering, and wandering, and every other model looked better than the previous one until I realized that we were walking in circles and that all the comparisons were fake.

In the end of the luxury tour we went out to have a grab and found ourselves eating (don't laugh here) a kebab!! Yes, yes! I am not a great fan of such kind of meal and I don't remember when I was eating it the last time, but, oh, how much I enjoyed that one! We were probably so tired of walking around and bored with luxury ;-) that we were devouring those kebabs stupidly looking and laughing at each other.

Yes, a gorgeous day! And now I know where to spend my next salary!

Sweet Geneve

Went to Geneva this week-end... My first time I went there... What to say? WOW! No.


From now on this city is awarded the price of the "dream place" to live in! [Though it doesn't mean that the contest is over] ;-)
The reason why I "suddenly" decided to go there is because there was the biggest auto exhibition going that week. The biggest in Europe. And, since MBA is over, I thought why not to look for this or that iron beast for myself... :-)

My companion made me get up very early as for a Saturday morning - 6 am! - so that we could depart at 7. All went really well and we left Belfort on time. It was a crispy morning and the sun was showing its tender, childishly hesitating beams to the sun-starving city. The closer we were getting to the Swiss border, the stronger and the hotter it shone.
At 10 am, if I am not mistaken, we stopped by a ferme-auberge for a breakfast. It was a cozy place with smorgasbord majoring in local sorts of cheese served, surprisingly enough, on the billiard table :-) Local cheese taste and the crunch of croissants immediately sweaped away any subtle memories of last two weeks of rainy March Belfort.

At about 11 am, in a cotton mist, I saw a white boat which like a ghost ship was lingering down in the valley. Oh, my Goodness! "But this is a huge lake!!" (Yes, yes, it's exactly how I merely screamed in the car) It was a big terrific lake in the chalice of the Alps. "Yes, it is le Lac de Léman", answered my companion in his calmness. But I guess my noisy reaction made him think that it was the first lake I saw in my life and so he turned right, away from the croudy main road, and we started descending to that wonder lake through a plethora of little and unimaginably cute villages. He looked at me in a cunning manner and said: "Ok, I have a new idea!". For a second I started douting that we would still catch up with the exhibition, but luckily I stayed silent! Et, voila! We ended up at the very shore of that lake! It was a lovely little town called Lutry. It was very warm, sunshing, the water was calm, almost dead calm. It loked like an idyl with families walking along the quay and grandparents watching their restless little grandchildren. The place had a yacht-yard and the boats were quitely floating on the waves made by numerous swans busy with their morning exercises.

My companion suggested to take a boat to Geneva. We went to the lakeside cafe to ask about the schedule. Lively waitresses did not show any sign of surprise when the two newcomers asked about the nearest boat to Geneva. Instead, one of them ran immediately away and came back with a brochure of the schedule for the whole next year. She showed us the hours of depart and there was obviously nothing in the nearest several hours (or even days). She continued explaining that it is just such season that there were no many boats going and that normally there were many if them awaiting for those willing to sail. Thus, we had nothing else but to absorb the generous sun and to hop into the car explaining to ourselves all the advantages of the previously chosen "traditional" car-journey plan. When we were leaving Grandvaux (neighbour village, next to Lutry), I caught a though that if such places exist on this planet, than Paradise must have been (without any doubt) somewhere on our Earth too!

So, ahead!
In a few minutes my companion pointed out to the left nudging me: "See there? That is Mont Blanc..." Yahoo! Mont Blanc! Finally I saw it! Well, though from the car window, it looked impressive and inspiring. One could recognize it without any fail: yes, yes, yes, it was (who would guess) the highest pick of the mount range.

In a few more shiny enjoyable hours we arrived to Geneve. I will skip the whole story of the car salon as it deserves a separate place in the next post and will take you to a quick tour around the quay of le Lac de Léman in Geneve and the city center. We parked at the headquarters of HSBC in front the lake and decided to walk further, because it was not a big surprise that the traffic was absolutely insane and we had been moving with the speed of 500 m/hr, no more. The city met us with all its luxury and amicability, no matter how surprising the contrast can be. I am afraid to sound arrogant, but walking along the vivid streets I had a feeling of "I-can-do-everything" and "there-are-no-limits-for-me-in-the-world". One could literraly touch HAPPINESS hovering in the air and absorb the ease of life as freely as relaxed citizens were drinking wine and hot chocolate all around the streets.
We, of course, dropped at in one of the chocolateries and had our well-deserved and long-desired cup of Swiss pride. Oh, do I understand why they are so proud of it!

It was getting dark and we had to head back home. My mind was screaming reluctant to leave the busy city. On the way to the parking place, we did not fail to swing by the most expensive city hotel, Beau Rivage, to take the information about the prices. :-) The diligent reception girl for about half an hour was explaining what was included in the EUR 5 800 royal suit. With the view of exhausted billionairs we nodded and thanked and said that it was good to know for the next visit.

And we left the city... And it was unforgettable... And I definitely will come back there again!

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Daily life...

It's two weeks I am in France. Got to know many interesting people. I think I already even managed to establish dinner-out tradition in my department. Hehe... They call it team-building, isn't it?
Got some bureaucratic "complications" at work, but honestly don't want to complain about it here. First of all, I think I have already steamed out a bit by complaining to some of my friends directly (hehe) and, secondly, it's not the main thing in life, isn't it?
So... My further impressions! When I first came to Belfort, I was told that it's a very sunny place. But... it has been more than a week now that it is either raining or pouring! And I got really confused. Then the locals told me that it's March which usually likes to play up like that. And they almost assured me that once March is over, it's gonner be the promised sunshine again! Ok, we'll see... But they better be right.
Since, again, it has been raining a lot these days I did not really travel or do anything exciting. Meanwhile, managed to explore some local bars. Well... as I mentioned before... seems like I became a (co-)founder of team building events here. So, there are cozy places to go to... Meal is good and (of coz) wine too! In addition, in some of the bars one can experience an authentic treatment of the owner. And it's hilarious. In brief: the owner tastes wines, which he serves, with each of his clients. So... u can imagine that by the end of the day he gets so... "tasted" that he starts kicking up a row in his own bar/ restaurant. And it ends up being picturesque and very funny!
Another thing is that I think I found a permanent apartment here. Finally(!) because it was getting very annoying living with awareness of absence of your own place for quite some time. The one I found looks very cute. It's in the very heart oof the city, in the old city center. and it faces the citadell, a famous Belfort sightseeing. Hope it goes well this time. :-)
These are the updates, in brief. A vrai dire, I am lazy ro write anymore now and I am wrapping it up for now!
Au revoir and stay tuned.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Voila, la France!

Et voila, je suis a Belfort!

Yes, it was a challenge for me! In a sense that I was really unaware of what waits for me in Belfort, whether I should be excited... happy... or scared about it.

You know, after all the international and dynamique (sometimes frankly crazy) life I had during my MBA, it was quite a defy to relocate to Belfort. Yes, for those who did not know, I moved here for work. By some quirk of fate, the company I decided to work for - a big, globally presented, corporation - located one of its major facilties in this mysterios (for me yet) region.

Mais, alors, enough of boring introductions. C'etait mon premier week-end a Belfort!!!And I must confess, I adored it!!! As S keeps saying, it's all about people, it's not places which matter... I've never had any relatives in France and I don't have very close friends here either (besides, of course, KP who knows that he is more than just a friend..., but a professor and life advisor ;-)).

So, I was very much pleased when the company representative, Amel, met me in the airport in the evening, which is in Basel (Switzerland),
by the way, and took me comfortably to Belfort. The trip took around 1.5 hours and I sincerely enjoyed the scenaries in addition to the lovely chat I had with my companion.

She took me to my apartment, which was reserved beforehand. It appeared to be a nice place, hotel-type, a new concept for Belfort lodging culture overall, as I understood. The apartment (studio in fact) is furnished and equipped, though no crockery, or blankets or linen or things like that

("C'mon, girl, it's not your German student paradise and don't become too spoiled", I said to myself). It was a minor inconvenience, which luckily did not manage to spoil my first impression. Well, another thing, the studio is pretty, but so tiny. It definitely will not be enough to host all the friends I have been so avidly inviting to come and stay at mine. So, I want to look for a bigger one, will see...

Ok, back to my impressions! The next day after my arrival, which was Saturday - the last shop-open day of the week here - I went out to look a bit around. I most probably looked so lost J that one of the neighbours I met (it was the first time that I saw him) kindly offered his help with some issues, which I had to arrange with the administration of the residence. I guess, I still looked lost afterwards J, as even after that he suggested to help me and show around the city a little bit and show me the shopping spots too. Since I was a complete rookie and he had a car (an important thing to have in this area), I didn't hesitate long to agree... Et voila, I already made my first purchases in Belfort! My biggest pride was a cable for the Internet connection, RJ45 - seems to be la spécialité of the French communication system.

Those were the main impressions of the first full day in Belfort, my first Saturday...

The next day, I had a chance to travel outside Belfort. Wow! What else to say? Despite all my "all-should-be-planned-ahead" nature, I seem to like surprises and steep turns! Alors, the second day of my being in Belfort (!) I travelled to ... Alsace!!! Yahoo!!! I first went to Mulhouse to visit the train museum, a famouse one and worth seeing, even if you are not working in train manufacturing. After that I (also spontaneously) decided to go further and to see a little village called Riquewihr. Why Riquewihr you can ask? Well, tous simplement, I was told that it's an adorable place to visit! So, why not? And, folks, it was unforgettable! It was a formidable fairy-tale village! Gosh, you must see it some day!!! It's a true fairy-tale world with all the fairies and witches and toy houses with real people inside those houses etc, etc, etc... It's the village of eternal Christmas and never-ending childhood!

Ooh! Well, it was a marvellous end of the marvellous week-end. Qui vivra, verra, but I definitely liked Belfort and more!