Le dernier virage

Departing From CDG Terminal 1

‘Le dernier virage’. There was a time, that this short announcement from the cockpit would be the signal that told me I was home. Sure, I would, at the moment that I heard it, be still in a seat on a plane, but those three words would mean the journey had come to an end. The plane would have arrived at its parking stand, only one last turn (dernier virage is French for ‘last turn’), and we would come to a stop. Only a bit of waiting for the doors to open, an almost-run through the terminal and a short taxi ride would separate me from actually being home. But this, the parking stand at Charles de Gaulle airport, was always a good proxy, a good moment for that ‘I-have-come-home’ feeling to kick in.

Those three words, I still repeat them to myself, every time a plane I’m on has landed, and found its way to the parking stand. Le dernier virage, and I have arrived. But there’s much more to arriving at airports. That is exactly what I am going to discuss this weekend with some wonderful people in the Quality Hunters Workshop in Finland. I’m very excited about that. The fun thing is, even if you’re not in Finland this weekend, you can participate. Simply follow the Quality Hunters blog, Facebook page and Twitter account or hashtag #qhworkshop for updates. And don’t hold back: join the conversation!

Jazz and Paris

This might not be a novel idea, but Paris and Jazz go together very well. On a recent taxi-drive to Roissy, the taxi driver was playing his self assembled jazz cd, and the tones and voice of chet Baker and Miles Davis were the perfect soundtrack for an early mornign drive through, and then out of the city. The tranquil pace with which the city starts to come to life, the slow rolling of the car (due to speed limitations, not traffic jams this time) and the trumpet of Miles and the almost feminine voice of Chet. Wonderful!

Continuing Gardien Issues

The continuing story of our ‘conflits the voisinage’ with our gardien and her family reached new heights last night. It’s really amazing how anti-social people can be and how much that can influence your sense of feeling at home in your, well, home. This time, they did not try to wake us up early in the morning by stomping around on the floor of the empty office above our appartment, but they really made an effort in banging and making ridiculous noise at 2 am. Just as we were getting ready to go to sleep, after sitting on the sofa, watching a movie and just being relaxed. Apparently, that makes too much of a disturbance to our gardien. Okay, I’ll admit that at one point during the evening, there was a lot of noise of people laughing, chatting and noisily going down the stairs of the service stairwell behind our appartment, but the gardien must know by now that we never use these stairs. Our access to it is efficiently blocked off, and it’s just too much effort to use them, while we have another stairwell by our appartment’s front door. Fortunately, this time I was fast enough to grab my camera and record the noise making. I even caught one of her family members on cam, entering their appartment right after the noise stopped. He saw me recording, and afterwards even rang our doorbell. Very sorry, but I ignored that. I am not going into a ‘conversation’ with crazy people in the middle of the night. Especially not since previous attempts of conversations all ended in our words being fenced off by false accusations, screaming and lies, every time we tried to start to speak.

I just hope the housing agency will take proper care of it this time. The building owner doesn’t care enough, and, maybe rightfully so, until now choses to believe the lies of their employee. But guess what, they’re on candid camera now.

Another Big Greve Coming Up

Next Thursday there will be another big greve in France. Last time I decided to take no risk and work from home. Afterwards it turned out that going to the office would have probably not been a big problem. So I am still figuring out what to do. Considering the weather, the Velib and working in a park a good options. But my mind is not yet made up. What will you do?

Another big greve in Paris next Thursday; what will you do?


General Strike Coming Up

Paris, and in fact the rest of France probably, is in full preparation for a big general strike next thursday. Although in the past seven months we experienced some strikes, with minor invonveniences, it wasn’t at the scale of this one. Apparently, all public transport is out for at least a day. Even the minimum service, required by the government, won’t help us this time.
That this was going to be a big one, I realized in the office. Colleagues are not only talking about it, but also preparing for it. A good-bye lunch for a colleague has been put forward, meetings for Thursday are being cancelled, colleagues that were supposed to come over from our other offices are postponing trips and colleagues living in other cities or countries are going home a day early. I will probably work from home, a luxury my m/gl does not have. How she will go to the office, remains to be seen. If she’s lucky, she can get a taxi, but they will also probably be overbooked and unavailable.
The amazing thing is, that our French friends and colleagues take it as a fact of life. They’re not really annoyed by it, although in general it seems that the tolerance for striking is diminishing in France. I always have found it a rather irritating way of negotiating. I understand that it has been a very powerfull weapon in France, with the unions getting mostly what they want out of it. But what are the costs to the rest of society? And how long will people put up with being victimized? In the Netherlands some of the unions are transforming their ways already. They have public friendly actions. Related to public transport, that would mean operating as usual, but giving the public a free ride (opening gates, no ticket control). This way, the action hurts where you want it to hurt, without the collateral damage.

Finally, La Seine

Fall is turning into winter in Paris these days. The teperature is falling to winter coldness, and the trees have shed their leaves. Although I like the summer and warmth it generally brings, one big advantage is that I can fully enjoy the view from my office window at last. The green canopy is gone, and there it is, flowing just in front: La Seine. And of course, far away in the background, the Eiffel Tower stands guard.

A surprising ride in an unfamiliar hometown

The other day I took the metro to work on an earlier hour than usual. I had an important meeting, that also needed some last minute preparing, so I had to get into the office early. Now, this is not really something to write about. it just happes sometimes, and since I had to travel a bit htis month, it wasn’t even the earliest I had to get up and out the door. What made it special that riding my usual route, the other people in the metro surprised me. It was a completely different set of Parisians surrounding me, as if I was in a different city, or even country. The metro trains have enough room to accomodate a representative mixture of Parisians and tourists, but this mixture had completely different ingredients. And it surprised me a bit.

La Grande Boucle

Today the 2008 edition of the Tour de France starts. Three weeks of cycling through France, and a bit of Italy this year, finishing in a grand finale in Paris. I’m not a very big cycling fan, but like this event because of the strategic game the teams play to get their best man in Paris in the Yellow Jersey. However, this could just be the last tour of this magnitude. Already people have lost interest in this big event, because of the many cases of doping that have been uncovered during previous tours. To some it is even more interesting wether this one will be clean than who will win in the end.

But anyway, I probably will go and have a look at the last stage, since the finish is not too far from my new home! And it will probably be better than the time I saw the peloton of the Giro d’Italia. It came past where I was on holiday, so I decided I wanted to see it. It was at a flat stretch, only 60 kilometers in the race and there hadn’t been any escapes yet. I was standing on the side of a street and from the point when they appeared to the moment they disappeared out of sight, it only took them about two minutes. So that was not too  interesting. But on the Champs Elysees they will run a couple of rounds, probably before the finish, so I might enjoy it a bit longer this time.

Visiting the patron saint of Paris

In the church of Saint Étienne du Mont rests Sainte Geneviève, or at least there is a shrine in her honour. She is the patron saint of Paris, who rescued the city more than once of several disasters. Now that I am about to move to Paris, I thought it time to pay my respects. The beautiful church of Saint Étienne du Mont lies a bit hidden behind the Panthéon in the fifth arrondissement of Paris. Although it is not that difficult to find, most tourists don’t bother to visit it. And that’s a missed opportunity. The church has beautiful details, stained-glass windows, and of course, the shrine of Sainte Geneviève.

I had a nice talk with Sainte Geneviève after a short pilgrimmage from the metro stop through the pouring rain. I spend some time with her, and left the church to be greeted by a careful ray of sunlight. She already was watching over me, and to celebrate I had a good Tartare du Boeuf afterwards

Saint Etienne du Mont from rue Clovis