Thursday, October 30, 2008

Random notes

Just a bunch of random stuff from the last two days.

I bowled on Tuesday, and bowled badly. It's my lowest two game total since I got to the UK. Meh.

When I left the bowling alley, it was snowing. Actual snow, that was sticking. When I got to work this morning, all the cars in the neighbourhood had half an inch of frozen snow on them. Bizarre.

I went to salsa lessons tonight. I've never done dance lessons before, but Sonja and I had plans, which were slightly changed by the fact that her flatmate, who is moving out soon, wanted her to come to salsa lessons, so she invited me to come. I can't believe how much fun I had. I think we're all going again next Wednesday.

I'm also going out to a pub for some live music with the same group of people on Saturday, something Sonja and I had planned to do a few weeks ago, but where thwarted at when the airline called her for a flight.

I'm hoping to visit my aunt and uncle the weekend after that.

It's past midnight now, so I'm off to bed. I've got a busy day tomorrow, I expect, thought Friday will be nice and relaxing, as we've all been given the afternoon off. Woot!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Stupid Alarm Clock

My alarm clock woke me up an hour early this morning. Stupid thing. It was set correctly when I went to bed, and last night sometime, it jumped ahead by an hour, so it woke me up at 6:30 (when it said 7:30.) I'm not kidding. It picks up the radio time signal broadcast and re-syncs itself every morning at 2am or something. Sunday morning was the daylight savings time change here, so on Sunday, I moved my alarm clock back an hour. Well, the stupid thing doesn't automatically do daylight savings time (even though it does automatically set it's time), so it turns out what I was supposed to do was tell it we're out of DST, instead of adjusting the time myself. I think in the future, I'll just get an alarm clock that isn't so "smart".

I other news, I went for a very nice walk on Saturday, from Oxford Circus to Shepherd's Bush Green. Unfortunately, I put on thin socks, and nearly wore blisters. If it wasn't for that, I think I would have finished the walk all the way home. Along the way, (mostly due to walking through Mayfair) I realized I was seeing more Maserati's than Mazda's. How bizarre is that?

I also went for a drive on Sunday at 7am, just after sunrise, which was perfectly uneventful, despite being absolutely terrified nearly the whole time. Thankfully, traffic was very light, as expected. Hopefully I can do that again in a week or two, and it won't be quite so terrifying.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Quiet Weekends

On Thursday evening, I was rather surprised to arrive home from work to find a parcel waiting for me, even though I couldn't remember having ordered anything. In the dim light of the entryway, I was only able to make out a "Canada Post", but then realized with a burst of excitement what it was. Taking it into my room where there was light, I could see it was declared as "Candy", and was from my grandma. Every Halloween she makes these amazing chocolate puffed wheat squares that she hands out, and passes around to the family. In this day and age of paranoia, I don't know how many children would be allowed to actually to eat homemade Halloween candy, but my grandma includes a little slip of paper in each one with her name and address on it. I can only hope that given that, parents let their guard down enough for their children to try these, because they're delicious! I'm so happy my grandma sent me some. She's sent me some every year that I've been away from home, and I'm just tickled that I'm still getting them, despite being 28 years old, and living half the world away.

I've decided that this weekend, I'm going to give driving a try again. I got up early today, Saturday, so that I can get up even earlier tomorrow, and take one of the car club vehicles out for a couple hours early in the morning, when the roads are virtually empty of traffic. I'll just stay around on my neighbourhood, where I know the streets, so I don't have to worry about getting lost. I want to just drive around, and get a feel for where the corners of the car are, so I don't have a repeat of last time.

I was out for drinks with Sonja on Thursday, and we talked about driving, and I mentioned how I enjoy doing road trips, but explained about my fender bender here, and how it's made me nervous about trying to drive here again. It turns out Sonja quite likes road trips too, and also wants to do one to Cornwall, so the thought of having company to go on some road trips has been a bit of an incentive to get used to driving here.

This morning, I've found a French cafe down on the high street, and I'm having a café au lait and contemplating breakfast as I get these words down. I usually come out for brunch sometime after 11am. It's only 9:30 today, and it's been pretty chilly here since last weekend, so sitting on the patio at my usual places it out of the question, so I thought I would try somewhere new.

Work has been really great lately. For the last week, I've been working on something that's totally up my alley (writing Java code to parse a proprietary little endian binary data stream) and have been pairing on it with one of the guys that interviewed me. He's really smart, and a very experienced developer, so I've had to push myself as hard as I've ever done to keep up without worrying that he'll think I'm stupid, so it's been draining, but rewarding. For those who don't know the term, pairing is when two of us are sharing one computer, one person typing, but both of us putting all our brainpower into it, and helping to make sure neither of us makes any easy to spot (easier to spot when you've not typed it yourself) mistakes. It's much more demanding and draining because you can't just flip over and check your email for a moment, so it's the "navigator"'s (the guy who's not typing) job to call for a break from time to time, so we don't wear ourselves out completely before the day or week is over.

My weekends have been pretty quiet since I got back from Paris, I haven't really gone and done anything much. I wandered around with my camera last weekend, or the weekend before last, and took some photos, which are on Flickr now. I had thought about going out late at night this weekend, with my tripod, to do some nice night long exposures, maybe paint some photos a bit with a flashlight, but I decided to get up early to get driving experience instead. If I can get to bed early enough this morning, I may even do that tomorrow morning before the sun rises instead, if the time change tonight (it's fall-back this weekend here in the UK) doesn't mean it's too light at 5am. The time change does mean it'll be dark earlier now, so I can always do it another time, without having to stay up quite as late either. I found a photographer's website last night that does hour-long exposures of alleys and various urban things in the wee hours, and the photos are absolutely stunning. I also looked at another one of a guy that does "industrial landscapes", which are something I'm quite fond of. The photos were nice, but I found that he overdid the HDR a bit, so they ended up looking like something rendered out of the Half-Life 2 game engine, instead of photos. I think they would be beautiful without quite so much HDR.

I've been thinking about going out and buying one of those digital photo frames. Last weekend, I stopped at three different photo shops, to find out how much it would cost to get some 8x10" prints done to hang up around my room. The least expensive I could find them was £8, which is highway robbery! That's $16! Costco does them for $1.39! I just can't bring myself to pay over 10 times the price for a simple print. Hence, I'm thinking about the digital picture frames. I've seen some that are up to 15" (an 8x10 photo is only 12") for around £150, which is the same price as doing about 19 8x10" prints here. If I get a 10" or 12" frame, it's even less. The resolution obviously won't be as good as a print, but I don't really care, I just want to have some of my photos (of here and of Vancouver) on display, even if it's just on display to myself.

My food has just arrived, so I'll finish it up there.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Great Bowling

I had a great time bowling last night, after having taken a week off while I was away. I went to the pub next door to the alley for the colcannon I usually have. The previous two weeks that I actually went bowling, there were football games on, so the pub was too busy to go try eating there, so it's been a month since I had it, which made it taste extra good.
My first game of bowling was absolutely horrible. I bowled a 95, which is my worst score in two months. However, when the second game came around, I totally found my groove, and somehow managed to score a 183. I had spent the entire first game throwing a bit to the right, and then being unable to pick up the spares. For the second game, I managed to correct the right curve, and had 3 strikes and something like 8 spares. That score put me into 2nd place in our league. Hopefully I can do something like that again next week.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Paris Trip correction

As I was having my breakfast this morning, I realized I'd gotten something wrong about my Paris trip.

On Saturday morning, after breakfast, the first thing we did was headed down to a flea market on the left bank, near the Porte de Vanves metro station. We spent a couple hours wandering through there, looking at all the antiques, but I didn't find anything that caught my eye. On the way back to the metro after that, we walked past a rack of bikes that were locked onto some electronic mechanism. Apparently in Paris, you can rent bikes from these stations, and when you're done with it, return it to any of the other stations, though I suppose only if they have a free spot.

First trip to Paris, Part 2

I've uploaded photos from the trip.

On Monday, the three of us went to the Eiffel Tower. It opens at 9:30, so we tried to make it there by then so we would avoid the lines. We had a bit of a slow start in the morning though, due to a lack of coffee in the apartment. After having just some sliced apple, grapes, and yogurt for breakfast, we went out and found a Starbucks so we could all get out fix to-go. We then hopped on the metro to get over to the left bank, where the tower is. We got off at a stop just beyond the gardens leading up to the tower, and walked through the gardens, admiring the tower as we approached. Strangely, the Eiffel tower seemed somewhat shorter than I was expecting, though no less impressive. It's an absolutely beautiful building, to my tastes at least. Despite having gotten a late start, the lineups still weren't bad when we got there. The lineup goes into a buildings built along the side of of the concrete bases of the tower's four legs. There's also a security check, like a mini airport security station. They even took my camera bag and checked to see if it fits in one of those little metal cages they use for checking the size of airline carry-on bags. It didn't quite fit, so I probably won't be able to fly with it, but they let me up with it anyway, after having a look inside. We also had to go through a metal detector, just like at the airport, but they didn't go so far as to x-ray our bags.

Once we were through all the security, we bought our tickets to the top, and got in line for the elevator. You can walk up as far as the second (of three) platforms, but it's quite a lot of stairs, and I think you pay the same to get to the very top regardless of whether you walk the first two. The elevator itself was quite interesting. Because of goes up the leg of the tower, it goes up at an angle, not straight up like a normal elevator. It's also two stories, with entry and exit doors for each. I don't know how many people they fit, but it reminded me of the Grouse mountain gondola. It stopped briefly on the first platform, for people who had only paid to go that far, before continuing up to the second, where we all exited. We didn't stop to admire the view, but immediately went and got in the line for the elevator that would take us from the second platform up to the very top. The ride up was a bit nerve wracking, because we were crammed into the elevator like sardines, and Lynne and I were pressed up against the door, which neither of us were terribly comfortable with.

When we reached the top, it was all made worthwhile. The view from there is incredible. There's two floors, the lower one enclosed by windows, and the upper one open to the air, but fenced off quite securely. The lower floor had photos and indications where various buildings throughout Paris are, but we skipped that and went straight to the upper floor, and Lynne and Britt pointed out all the locations that I couldn't find on my own. I quite like my new(ish) camera lens, with the long zoom (35mm equivalent is 320mm) and image stabilization, as it made for great viewing of things way off in the distance. I was able to just barely see the pillar and statue at Bastille, near the apartment, halfway across Paris. The Arc de Triomphe looked so small from the top of the Eiffel tower. After having our fill of the view, we went back down to the second platform, and took a quick look around from there, though the view from the top was much better. Rather than crowding into the elevator for the trip down, we decided to take the stairs, which was nice because it offered some more nice photo opportunities.

After the Eiffel tower, we went for lunch. As we were walking back along a gravel path, away from the tower, a woman stopped and "picked up" a ring from the path, holding it out to us to show us how shiny it was. Lynne told her no thanks, in French, and then told me that it's a common scam. They have a very very cheap metal ring, that they then pretend to pick up, and offer to let you have it. When you accept it, they then ask for payment. There's all sorts of variations, from pretending to be of some religion that doesn't allow you to keep it, to just plain giving it to you, and then asking for money.

Britt and Lynne had a favourite restaurant nearby they were going to take me to for lunch, but unfortunately, we found it closed when we arrived. Apparently most small family run places close Sunday and Monday, so we had to try three more places from their Zagat rating book before we finally found one open, but fourth try was a charm. At Le Florimond, the waiter was extremely friendly, and the food was incredible.

To start with, before we had even ordered, they brought six bite sized little loafs, similar to carrot cake, but with a hint of curry to them. We all ordered an aperitif, and I went with a Gewurztraminer late harvest, which was somewhere between the Kerner late harvest I'm so fond of, and an ice wine.

We then each ordered the three-course set menu, and all started with the same entrée, the terrine de lapin á l'estragon, rabbit terrine with tarragon. Terrine is kind of like pate, but more coarse, with bigger chunks. It came with bread to eat it on, and was absolutely delicious. I was a bit apprehensive about ordering it, as I've never had terrine before, but after my first taste of it, I was in heaven. It's probably one of the tastiest things I've ever eaten.

For the main course, I think we all ordered the same thing again, gite de boeuf á la moutarde, or beef shank with mustard. It was basically beef stew, in a red wine sauce, with carrots and something very similar to scalloped potatoes. Everything was so incredibly tender it was actually a challenge to get it to stay on the fork. Again, it was absolutely delicious, but not so world-shaking as the terrine. With the meal we shared some quite nice red wine, though I didn't happen to catch what kind it was, as I'm not a huge wine drinker.

When the food and wine was all done, we ordered the third course, dessert. It was nice to be able to choose which dessert at that time. When I've ordered from a set menu here in London, they've all made me choose the dessert up front, even when I've asked if I can do it later. I had clafoutis d'ananas, which is baked custard with pineapple in it. I thought that perhaps the pineapple would be too strong to have with something like custard, but somehow, either done specifically, or as a side effect of how it's cooked, the pineapple flavour was much weaker than one would normally expect pineapple to be, so it went very nicely with the custard.

After dessert, not with, as is the proper French way to enjoy one's food, we all had coffee. With the coffee came a tray with lumps of sugar on it, as well as some small biscuits, and chocolates.

Throughout the meal, Lynne and Britt commented on a group of about 10 retirement age French men that were having lunch at a table on the other side of the restaurant, all dressed up in their suits. At a closer table, there was also an old lady, that tried to pay her bill four or five times in the time we were there, with the waiter telling her each time that she'd already paid. She seemed like she might be a bit of a regular there, and the whole scene was rather sweet.

After that epic lunch, we went separate ways, and I walked back under the Eiffel tower on my way to the Palais de Chaillot to see the Cité de l'architecture, the French architecture museum. It was a bit more expensive than I had expected, but it was quite enjoyable. It was very quiet there, with hardly any other tourists around, so it was quite a nice break from all the hustle and bustle around outside. I spent a couple hours quietly sauntering around from cast to cast (it's a museum all full of casts made from various bits of architecture around France) in a somewhat library like environment. The only time there was much noise at all was when a small school group was brought through, and even they were somewhat muted. The clack-clack of my camera was the loudest noise there, aside from them.

When I had had my fill of peace and quiet, I ventured back outside, to walk east along the Seine, as far as Pont Alexander III, Lynne's favourite bridge. It's certainly the most ornate bridge I saw there, with two gilded statues on large pillars at each end, and smaller sculptures as well. On my way there, as I was walking along the river, a friendly looking fellow bent down as he was walking towards me, and "picked up" a shiny ring, which he flashed at me as he grinned hugely, and said something in French which I couldn't understand. I was certainly glad that Lynne had filled me in on the scam earlier in the day, or I might have been taken. After walking across the bridge to see the statues on the other end, and to take some photos of Les Invalides, I headed for the metro at la Madeleine to head back to the apartment.

Tuesday and Wednesday were much less eventful. I had been to see all the things I wanted to see in Paris, and then some, so I took the next two days to just relax. On Tuesday, I spent a few hours at the Musee Carnavalet, which is all about the history of Paris, and has many wonderful paintings of the city. It was really neat to see paintings from decades, or even hundred of years ago, of the same places I had been in the last three days, to see buildings that were there when the painting was created, and to see how much had changed. One thing I noticed was that Pont Neuf, the oldest bridge in Paris (despite being French for "new bridge") was by far the most popular subject of the paintings in the museum. I would say that at least half the paintings there were either paintings of Pont Neuf from farther west up the Seine, or were paintings of the view to the west from Pont Neuf. I hadn't been there yet, so we walked over there on Tuesday, after dinner, in the middle of a rainstorm, and were soaked to the bone by the time we did get back to the apartment.

On Wednesday, I really just relaxed, and didn't do much of anything. The day started a bit oddly, with me being locked in the apartment. For some reason, it seems a lot of doors here have locks where you need the key to unlock them from the inside. That was the case with the apartment we stayed in, and when Lynne and Britt left, early in the morning to get to the department store as it opened, to take advantage of the sales, they locked the door behind them. When I woke up and was ready to leave, I discovered I couldn't, because the key I had been using was in a lock box on the other side of the locked door. Thankfully, Britt had given me her cell number, so I was able to reach them, and Lynne came and let me out. I shudder to think what my day would have been like if I hadn't had any way of reaching them. I spent most of the rest of the day just relaxing in the park, or even just in the apartment, until Lynne and Britt finished shopping, and came back. We went for a late lunch at a restaurant that specialized in muscles, and we all had an enormous pot of boiled muscles, in a sauce with bacon and mushrooms, and drank Belgian beer.

After lunch, I finished packing, and was on my way not too long after. The ride back on the Eurostar was more or less uneventful, though my seat didn't have a power outlet at all this time, and I hadn't charged the laptop, so I ran out of juice part way back to London, which was a bit frustrating. On the way to Paris, my seat had an outlet, but it was a European plug and I didn't yet have an adapter to be able to use it. I got a full set of travel adapters for Christmas last year, but what I hadn't realized until I was packing is that while those work for my Canadian gizmos, I bought this laptop in London, so it's a UK plug, and I had no European plug adapter for those. I bought one my first day in Paris.

One random interesting thing I noticed about Paris is that nobody drives interesting cars. Just about anywhere in London I go, if it's a busy time, I'll see Jaguars, Porsche's, M-series BMW's, Aston Martins, high-end Audi's, all in any five minute period. Just as I was typing this, a BMW M-Coupe drove by. In Paris, everyone seems to drive perfectly functional, but utterly boring cars.

Well, that's it for the trip. My first time in Paris, my second time in France, something I've wanted to do again since I was 13 years old. There's one thing accomplished from the bucket list.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

First trip to Paris

After 14 years of saying "I'm going back to France one day", I've finally done it. Here I am in Paris, enjoying French red wine, with baguettes and cheese, just like I remember doing so many years ago on the bank of a small pond somewhere in Normandy.

A month or so ago, my mom ran into her Aunt Lynne at a wedding, and in chatting, they talked about how I'm living in London, and how Lynne visits Paris every year. Lynne invited me to come stay with her in Paris for a few days, since she's renting an apartment, and is there for a couple months. I was thrilled at the opportunity, so I was happy to take her up on the invitation. Her daughter Britt, who happens to be my age, was planning a visit as well, so I arranged to be there at the same time so that we would both have someone our own age to hang out with as well.

On Friday, I left work and caught the tube to St. Pancras station, where the Eurostar leaves London. Unfortunately, due to the fire that happened in the tunnel a few weeks ago, they still weren't running a full schedule, so I ended up on a train leaving an hour later than what I had planned for, arriving in Paris at 11pm instead of 10pm. The journey over wasn't nearly as comfortable as I had expected either, for the price, which is quite a bit more than the discount airline fares. The seats are nothing fancy, and actually seem quite old and worn. They don't even recline at all. Strangely, for much of the journey I had to keep poping my ears, because there was something very weird going on with the air pressure. It wasn't not just when we were going through the channel tunnel either, it started as soon as we left the station. It was quite uncomfortable, and made me wish I had some chewing gum.

When I did eventually arrive in Paris, it was dark, and I was tired, so I just did my best to get to Lynne's apartment as quickly as possible. There was a long line for metro tickets, because the card reader in one of the two ticket machines was broken. I stood in line for that one first, not realizing the problem. When I put my card in a couple times, a woman approached me and said something to me in French, at which point I got to use my first phrase of French: Je ne comprends pas. She then told me in English that that machine wasn't working, so try the next one. Well, that meant braving the line again, but I did what had to be done and was eventually rewarded with ten little tiny metro tickets. The machine spits out ten separate little tickets, not a book of tickets like for transit in Vancouver. In London, everyone uses the Oyster cards, because it's so much cheaper, and much easier.

I called to let Lynn know I had arrived, and found my way through the station to the right train just fine. I was thankful for having had experience with the London tube though, because the style of the maps and overall skills of navigating the tube carried over nicely to finding my way around the Paris metro. After arriving at Lynne's apartment, she made me a wonderful chicken sandwhich on a baguette, and we chatted briefly, and quietly, because Britt was asleep in the other room, before we both called it a night.

Saturday morning, we started the day late with a very light breakfast of yogurt and baguettes with jam, before heading out to get lunch. The Galeries Lafayette, a large department store, has a food court that they said was very good. Food court is hardly the word for it though. The closest thing I've seen in Canada is the food fair at Ikea, though this was certainly a cut above that. I had some very nice Lasagna Bolognais, a green salad with boiled egg, and a dark French beer. Out the window I caught my first sight of the Eiffel tower. After having been to, and up, the Eiffel tower now since (more on that later,) I think that it is probable the most impressive modern structure I've ever seen, and quite possibly the most beautiful. I've always liked things along the lines of "form follows function", and the Eiffel tower fits the bill nicely.

After lunch, we walked down the street a few kilometres to the Arc de Triomphe Etoile. It was very busy, with quite a lineup to to up to the top, so we just walked around the base, where it's free. It's much bigger than I expected, a very imposing structure. We didn't stay long, as it was quite crowded. We then walked down Champs Elysees toward the Louvre, battling the crowds the whole way. Along the way to the Louvre are many things to see, like the Grand Palais, the Petit Palais, the Obelisque in the Place De La Concorde, and the Jardin des Tuileries. At the very end of Champs Elysees, outside the Louvre, is the Arc de Triomphe de Carrousel, from which you can see all the way down the Chanmps Elysees, past the Arc de Triomphe Etoile to La Grande Arche at La Défense.

Near the Louvre, we took a break to rest our feet, and the sun cooperated by coming out from behind the clouds for a good 15 minutes while we reclined in some chairs by the garden. When we'd rested enough, we continued the walk back to the apartment, near Bastille. The apartment is just off Place des Vosges, which is a nice square with a park in the middle. All the buildings facing the park have an identical facade, so standing in the park and looking around is rather odd, but the park is very nice, with four fountains and a large monument in the center. Aparently it's one of the few, if not only, park in Paris where you're allowed to sit on the grass. We finished the day with a nice relaxing sit around in the apartment, eating baguettes with sausage and cheese, and drinking some French red wine.

On Sunday I went off on my own for the entire day, braving the capital of France with a pocket map, and a French phrase book, both kindly lent to me by Lynne. She and Britt speak French quite well, but I can barely remember a handfull of phrases in school. Thankfull, phrases like "I don't understand", "I don't speak French very well", and "Do you speak English?" go along way, when paired with a "Bonjour", and simply being polite, so they know you're not an American tourist.

The first place I headed for on Sunday was the Arc de Triomphe. It was drizzling out, and I guessed, and rightly so, that it would be less busy as a result. When I got there, there was virtually no lineup, and the rain wasn't even very bad, to a hardy Vancouverite like myself, or so I thought. After climbing the long, vertigo inducing spiral staircase to the top, I was treated to an incredible view of the city, and my first unobstructed view of the Eiffel tower. I had a great time up there enjoying the view, and taking photos, but eventually the wind and rain drove me to seek shelter, and dry off my poor camera.

My next stop, being the first Sunday of the month, was the Louvre. The museums in Paris are open for free on the first Sunday of the month, which conveniently coincided with my trip, so I got to see the Louvre for free. As a result, I didn't feel the requirement to try to see it all, to get my money's worth, so I had a very nice relaxing time there, saw only the things that were specifically on my list, or that I happened to wander past on my way. I saw the Mona Lisa, though briefly. It was very busy in that room, not at all surprisingly, so I didn't bother getting in line to get close. I just snapped some photos from a distance, over the heads of the crowd. I haven't looked at them yet, but I hope one turns out.

Speaking of photography, I'm very impressed that nowhere I've gone in Paris has had any problem with photography, though some places do have signs saying that flash photography is prohibited, not that that seems to stop most people. I was fully expecting the Louvre to make me check my camera and bag when I went in, but they didn't even bat an eyelash at the camera at any point, and didn't seem to have a problem with the size of the bag I was carrying.

Back to the Louvre though. I also saw the Venus de Milo, which was the only other thing listed on the guide map that I actually recognized. I believe there's a Picaso gallery, but it was closed. I think the most interesting thing I saw at the Louvre, which will not surprise my parents at all, was the excvavation of the royal castle that used to be on the same site. I'll have to google around and do some research, but it seems that at some point, someone found some stones or something, and discovered that there was a burried palace/castle under the Louvre, from many many centuries ago. They've excavated what they can, though much of it is underneath existing buildings, and you can walk through it, which was absolutely fascinating.

When I finished at the Louvre, I decided to take a break for lunch, seeing as it was about 3pm at this point. I found a nice little cafe away from the Louvre, back towards the department store from the previous day, and had a very nice lunch. I ordered something called Croque Madame, which is a Croque Monsieur with a fried egg on top. A Croque Monsieur is a couple slices of break, with ham and cheese in it, and I think cheese on top as well that's toasted. It also came with a small salad with very nice dressing. While I was eating lunch, I saw a fellow come in, and standing at the counter nearest the door, order just an expresso, which he then drank there in a matter of a minute or two, left some change on the counter, said merci, and left. It was straight out of the movies, I had no idea people here actually did that sort of thing.

After lunch, it was still drizzling, so I decided to go see how the line was at Notre Dame. I took the metro most of the way, because all the walking from the day before had tired me out, and I didn't want to exhaust myself too quickly. I got off the metro on the right bank, and walked over one of the many bridges onto the island in the Seine that Notre Dame is on. Along the way I passed some other incredible old buildings, including Saint Chapelle and the Conciergerie, but nothing quite so impressive as Notre Dame, which is impressive indeed. The lineup was pretty bad, despite the rain, so I contented myself with walking all the way around the cathedral, and seeing it from the outside. That was really all I had wanted to do anyway, so I went away quite satisfied. The flying butresses along it's back are quite a sight.

On my way to Notre Dame from the metro I had also seen the Tour de St. Jacques and the Centre Pompidou, also known as the inside-out building, which many Pariesiens consider to be an eyesore. When I was done at Notre Dame, I headed in the direction of those two. Unfortunately, the grounds around the Tour were closed off, so I was only able to take some photos from the street. The Center Pompidou was very interesting though. I had a great time walking around outside, taking photos, but again, didn't go in. By that time, it was getting rather late so I walked back to the apartment, which is actually quite close to there.

More on the rest of the trip later.