May you all have a lovely 2008!

December 31st, 2007 by matt

Been pretty quiet around here. I’m still recovering from that really horrible flu which means that, when I’m not resting, I’m trying to catch up at work. yuck.

On a positive note, I’m taking a much needed vacation to the US in about 3 days. Very exciting.

Hope all you people who read this have a wonderful 2008!

Merry Christmas!

December 25th, 2007 by matt

For those of you reading this today (you shouldnt be! šŸ™‚ ), I just wanted to wish you a merry christmas. I managed to get down to Brighton before the entire UK shut down (it really does), but I’ve got a nasty flu which made for an unpleasant time but Dina and Adrian have been very nice and helpful. So it’s been a nice relaxing Christmas. Hope you’re all having the same.

Lots of Paris Photos

December 22nd, 2007 by matt

OK, technically, the previous post was the last one on Paris. However, I’ve had a few people who have seen that I usually take more than 3 photos of a place mention that they’d like to be able to access these photos outside of my apartment. Now I could easily do this with flickr or ofoto or a million other sites that I have no control over. Instead, I’ve set up an area where I’ll try to dump my photos on a regular basis for all the world to enjoy. While I’ll not upload really shitty pictures or ones where I took 7 trying to get the right angle or focus, it’ll pretty much be raw. The photos are about half their original size (otherwise, it’ll load veeeery slowly) but they’re still quite large. If i feel like a photo needs an explanation, I might add one, but that’ll be it. And i’ll just add a link to the blog when a new one is created. So, without further adieu:

Matt’s Paris Trip — December 2007

(If you want to see any and all photos I might have on that site, check out the Main Picture Page)

Musee d’Orsay

December 22nd, 2007 by matt

Much of what I previously posted ended up being moments while I was walking around the city. Cold or not, I wanted to use the downtime I had (mostly in darkness šŸ™‚ ) to see a little more of Paris. I did manage to do a little sightseeing in the daytime too, though. I initially thought it would be possible to check out the Louvre, but I ended up working longer on Sunday than expected and figured I’d need a full day to see it. So I went for something a little smaller, but equally as nice, the Musee d’Orsay. It was originally built as a railroad station, but it now houses a great collection of late 19th and early 20th century paintings, sculpture and decorative art. I was impressed. First of all, it uses the space it occupies in an interesting way. Once you go through the absurd security and buy your ticket, you begin in a large hall:

orsaymainhall.jpg

They’ve lined this part with large sculptures from various periods. Off the hall are some smaller galleries to check out. The rest of the museum is laid out chronologically, but it’s hardly linear. You should start by heading up to the fifth floor and working your way through the proto-impressionists and then on to the impressionists themselves, which is what the museum is best known for. It was a good cross-section of artists from that time period and contains a decent number of master works from these artists. In this section, there are also places that provide nice views of Paris as well.
You then travel towards a nice hall (the museum got a big makeover in the 80s incorporating the station into a modern museum nicely) that has artists like Gauguin and Rousseau:

orsayhall.jpg

Now, if you wish to see the Naturalists and Symbolist art that came a little after the Impressionists, you go back down to the second floor. However, since the majority of the building is the main hall, there are many sub-floors to explore as well. Once you’re on the second floor, it provides a nice place to sit and soak in the atmosphere amongst the sculptures. That includes this cool bear which sits in view of the Great Clock of the station:

orsaybearclock.jpg

The clock is still working.

Also make sure to walk to the end of the main hall to see the inner workings of the Grand Opera (which I STILL haven’t been into yet) and a cool scale model of the area around the opera house.

Overall, it’s a lovely museum. The collection is excellent and it’s laid out in a meandering way which slows you down and allows you to appreciate the location as well as the art. They’ve kept the element of the old railway station intact so you also get to see a slice of French architectural history as well.

More Paris in December

December 20th, 2007 by matt

I reach the penultimate Paris post with a simple couple of photos:

champelyssexmas.jpg

Here’s the Champs-Elysees looking toward the Arc de Triomphe. I love the blue lights on all the trees that frame the Arc so nicely.

ferriswheelparis.jpg

As far as I can tell, this Ferris Wheel was put up ‘temporarily’ in 2000 and has been in the Place De Concorde ever since, sitting halfway between the Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe ever since. When IM Pei’s pyramid was built, people freaked out about it not fitting in with its surroundings. Meanwhile, this Ferris wheel breaks up one of the more famous stretches of city in the world, and I didn’t even know it was there until I was walking towards it. Still, I think this photo is pretty cool with the ferris wheel sitting in front of the obelisk.

What is this?? — It’s Pari Roller

December 19th, 2007 by matt

(My mom found what this is — Pari Roller. Nice idea. I’m glad I stumbled upon it that night. It was fun to see. I also now realize a quick search for “Friday night rollerblading paris” turns this site up nice and easy. Good catch mom!)

After a long day at work, I was about 5 minutes from my hotel and I stumbled upon this. It was definitely organized since they had people in yellow vests and were tailed by a police escort and they all stopped at traffic lights (the reason I managed to get them all together was there was a long light that had just changed). It looks almost like Critical Mass on Roller Blades, but it was 11pm. There isn’t exactly a lot of traffic to disrupt, even in a big city like Paris. But it was on Boulevard Haussmann, which is one of the bigger streets.



Oh yeah, youtube compresses the shit out of this stuff, so it’s not nearly as good a video. I do like the woman trapped in front of me and how she even thinks for a second about trying to cross in the middle of it. Anyone know what this event is?

Dinner in Paris

December 18th, 2007 by matt

Ok, I have a number of posts for Paris and I have no particular order. My time there was short and it was mostly spent in the basement of a building setting up the new network, but the free time I had I feel as though was well spent.

My last trip to Paris, which I still haven’t posted about (the film is still on 2 disposable cameras), I ate very well. Two or three of the meals I had were just amazingly satisfying. However, it was during these times that the stress of knowing very little French was overwhelming. It’s very hard to look at a menu and have no clue what 1/2 of it is. So there’s a little adventure involved. This time around, my first night was a late night (finished work around 9:30pm) and I let my French coworkers choose and they wanted Italian. Good pizza, but not French food. My second night, I wanted French food, but I was tottering around exhausted and didn’t want to stress too much about it. I found a review in a crappy guidebook I had about a place that pretty much did steak called Le Relais De l’Entrecote. So I braved the cold and trekked out to find it. I walked up to it, realizing it was a Saturday and worried it would be a little full. Well, it was packed to the gills. Being very tired, I ended up settling for a baguette, cheese, swiss cookies and some Belgian beer. Not bad, but not quite the same.

Sunday rolled around and I decided that this place seemed intriguing. It was in a posh section of the VIIe arrondissement but the street it was on was full of mostly quiet, relaxed restaurants and this one was teeming. I figured, Paris being a city of late, marathon dinners, I would go near there and see when they began seating people. I showed up around 6pm and the place is pitchblack. But there’s already 4 people waiting out front and a sign on the door shows they open for dinner at 7pm on Sundays. Still, it’s completely dark inside. It’s freezing, so i head down the street a ways to get a beer and warm up. I show up at a quarter to seven and the line has only increased to about 8-10 people in front of me but the restaurant is still empty and dark. It nears 7pm and the line is about 20 people. Suddenly, at almost exactly 7, I see a couple of people stirring inside (you knew it was 7pm because the Eiffel Tower was completely lit at the top of the hour). Then, the lights flip on, the doors open and they start seating us.

I didn’t have to worry about my crappy language skillz because there was no menu. I got a nice seat i a corner to take in all the action and a friendly waitress wearing some sensible version of a french maid outfit. She asked if I wanted wine (yes, a house red please), water (still) and how I wanted my steak (medium). Meanwhile, in 10 minutes, the place was full, a line for the second seating was forming already. They started with a nice simple salad of greens, walnuts and some sort of mustard-based dressing. They have a private label house red which was nice.

Then out came the steak and frites:parissteakdinner.jpg

The frites were tasty and the steak was nicely cooked. The sauce was interesting. Apparently, it’s one of those ‘we’ll never tell you the secret ingredients’ kind of sauces. There was definitely olive oil and mustard in it (they like mustard), but beyond that, I have no idea. But it was all really really good. Even crazier, the portion seemed a little small, but I was feeling happy and mopping up the sauce with some bread when out comes my waitress with another portion. Seconds! Cool! I finished it off with a helping of Lemon Sorbet soaked in a shot of Vodka. The dessert was when it was revealed that they technically have a menu. It’s for wines (but everyone was having the house red) and desserts.

So basically, they march people in and they serve you one dish that they do very well. I’ve never been to a restaurant where people are waiting outside for it to open. They operated on their own schedule and they knew what they were doing. I walked out full and very content to find there was still a line standing out in the freezing cold. Another successful French meal! Here’s the inside which was nicely decked out and felt like a large French bistro:

relaisinteriors.jpg

A Parisian Christmas

December 15th, 2007 by matt

Last night, after a late dinner preceeded by a long day at work, I was walking back to my hotel which is right off Boulevard Haussmann. This also happens to be conveniently where the very large department stores are located. And, for the holidays, they appear to go all out. The exteriors are decked out in many many lights and the displays are linked together in winter themes, all done very nicely. It might have been 11pm and the stores might have been closed, but the windows were crowded with people checking out what the offerings this season were. Allow me to demonstrate pictorally:

galerielafayette.jpg

This store takes up a city block and the entire store is covered in lights. It’s very impressive to check out.

auprintemps.jpg

The next block is home to Au Printemps. Even without the lights, I think this would be an amazing 19th century building (just look at the sign on it). Their lights were a little more subtle but had strobes flashing as accents as well.

I mentioned the window displays. Here are a couple of samples from Au Printemps

dancingowls.jpg

Every other window contained scenes of automated marionettes. This is a chorus of owls which would raise their wings in unison. A band is playing to the right of the photo. There were also scenes of foxes and deer.

storewindow.jpg

In between the whimsy were the more classic windows with maneqins but still fit with the white winter theme of the more lively windows.

Back to Paris

December 15th, 2007 by matt

Another month, another trip to a European city šŸ™‚

parishoteldec.jpg

Here’sĀ  my standard ‘suitcase in front of hotel bed pic’

The trip had a very cool beginning. The Eurostar to Paris has moved stations from Waterloo to St Pancras. They’ve taken a classic old station and fixed it up very nicely. On top of that, they’ve built dedicated rail through South London, which is notoriously conngested which means you can get to Paris in 2hrs 15min. Even better, St Pancras is literally 15 minutes from my flat, which means I can get from London to Paris in about 2 1/2 hours. Very cool. Here’s a shot of the trainshed at the station (I believe it’s one of the biggest in the world):

stpancrastrainshed.jpg

I’m here for work which has gone very smoothly so far. Coming up, some damn cool shots of Paris at Christmastime.

Cat Mummies

December 12th, 2007 by matt

Just to return o’ so briefly to the theme of Egypt, here are some cat mummies:

catmummies.jpg

Now, I love my cats, but this is a bit extreme. I would never do this to Anna and Chewy no matter how much I like having them around. And, as it turns out, neither did the Egyptians. These are not mummies of beloved members of their households, but actually sacrifices. Again, each animal signified some trait that was good to have as a person passed into the afterlife. So, they’d round up a cat, break its neck and bury it with the person. They also had fish and eel mummies to the left of these fine felines. Poor animals.

The funniest tube stop name

December 10th, 2007 by matt

With almost 300 stops and a penchant for having names that sound a little odd to American ears (Cheapside, Elephant and Castle, Wapping), you would think it would be hard to come up with the funniest tube station name (which would likely correspond to a name of an area). Well, let me tell you, it’s not even close. I’ll give you a hint:

cockfosters.jpg

(It ain’t Heathrow)

Not only in the stop in question snicker worthy (I’m not the only one. I swear!), but it’s the end of the line for the Picadilly line which means you get to hear it multiple times when going north/eastbound and you get signs like the one above just screaming it at you. šŸ™‚

Someday soon, you’ll have a picture of me at that stop. And I’ll have to find a pub in the area.

Compare and Contrast

December 9th, 2007 by matt

After seeing the vast array of history and culture that the British Museum has to offer, it was time for a little something different. Look at the two images below and please write a 5000 word essay on the differences:

sarcophagusbritmuseum1.jpg

An Egyptian mummy in the museum

harrodsegypt.jpg

An “Egyptian” statue at Harrods surrounded by luxury goods šŸ™‚

I go in circles to say Carolyn and my next stop on our little London tour day was Harrod’s which is one of those gigantic department stores. It’s very large and is very beautiful but it’s quite different from a museum. We were most curious about the food hall since neither of us is much of a shopper. It was impressive, but the numbers of people got a little overwhelming:

harrodsfoodhall.jpg

We decided to check out some of the less crowded parts of the store and take in the wide array of goods to be purchased.

More Egypt in the British Museum

December 8th, 2007 by matt

If you thought I was done with the British Museum after my first trip, you are sorely mistaken. Carolyn and I decided to hit up a little culture while she was in town and, when I found out she had never been, we hopped a train to see some of the British Museum. Last time, I focused on the large monumental Egyptian pieces that had been ‘acquired’ from that part of the world. This time around, it was time for the funerary practices. That’d be mummies. Cool!

When you think of Egyptian burials, you think the iconic image of King Tut. However, when a civilization lasts in various forms for 4000 years, the trends differ, sometimes in small ways sometimes in large ways. For example, as Egypt lost it’s independence to the Romans, you suddenly start seeing the style of the portraits on the front of the coffins/sarcophagus’ take on a very Roman look. There’s one in the museum’s collection that is actually a frieze that looks like something found in Pompeii. There were also different types of wrapping. Depending on the person, the quality of what they were bured in could be quite different.

sarcophagusbritmuseum.jpg

This was a very well-to-do citizen’s sarcophgus. These are the two inner-most parts of her burial. She was buried like one of those Russian dolls with layer upon layer of coffin.

beermakingegypt.jpg

Since the Egyptians belief in the after-life was that you ended up in a world not unlike the temporal world, they wanted to make sure you had everything you needed to live a good life. So they added things like food, coins and, in this picture above, beer to your tomb so you could enjoy a nice ale (right) while chilling out for eternity.

Since Carolyn had never been to the museum, we back-tracked to the monumental Egyptian section so she could see the large statues and the Rosette Stone. This allowed my to get a picture of the arm that used to be part of a very large statue:

carolynbigarm.jpg

It’s not 100 feet long, but it’s pretty big. šŸ™‚

Holiday Party 2007

December 6th, 2007 by matt

So my company in the US has had some cool locations for their holiday party’s the last few years. We dined next to a Tyrannosaurus Rex 2 years ago and last year, we ate with the fishes at the Aquarium. Now, the setup in the UK isn’t quite as large scale, but they managed to put on a nice party for us anyway. It was a little cramped, but I imagine it’s harder to find a space to fit 150 people for dinner. The best part, as I’ve mentioned, was that Carolyn flew into town. So, I got to introduce her to people who she’ll see quite a bit more of very soon. Alas, most of the photos I took look like shit, but here’s at least one picture of me and Carolyn:

carolynmattholidayparty.jpg

Note my new suit! That was quite amusing. I’ve never been known to dress nicely at work and my coworkers, none of whom are known for wearing nice clothes either, were all shocked at how I managed to clean up šŸ™‚

Anyway, tomorrow’s a little touristy fun in London, so I’ll be sure to have more pictures.