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!