France, 2012

I was in France last week [in case you were trying to unsuccessfully reach me] for the 4th International Conference on Plasma Medicine (ICPM-4).  Excellent event and very well-put-together by my colleagues in Orleans; but this post is not about that.  I did have very little free time which I attempted to spend walking around the cities I’ve visited.

Here is a composite of all the videos I took (or the ones that do not completely suck).

For the last 9 years this sign greets me at the beginning of every fun journey.  Somehow I just wish there was a bit more to it than just this.  Put a smiley face on it or something :-).

Jets are as crammed as usual and, trust me, the food still sucks and is promising to only get worse.  Plus there are no free drinks anymore and they raised the price of a bottle of wine [one-glass-worth] to $7…

Charles De Gaulle

For some reason I love this airport.

Even the used condom trash cans :-).

The boxy concrete.

And the circly concrete.

Great idea for an ashtray and looks quite easy to cleanup.

Driving to Orleans now, planning a stop somewhere for some real food.

Etampes

Random little town with “food this exit” signs.  Etamtes proved to be quite something.

Oh, just noticed that the car takes diesel.  Looking around, looks like most cars do.  I suppose it is cheaper that way.

Great parking lot for a downtown of a small city.  Compare that, wound you, to American parking lots [Google image search] :-).

Ah, gosh!  They have the same stupid ads here as in USA.  A few drops of rain and you have to scrape this stupid thing off your windshield with a razor.  Quite annoying and makes me that much less likely to attend your event.

Beautiful French streets from the centuries past.  Many really adore this but I like wide and well-planned American cities.  Yes, this is good to look at but must be terrible to drive here where two cars can barely make it through.

What a way to desecrate a church!  Let’s paint something on the walls.  No, better yet, let’s print giant plastic stickers and paste them on the walls.  I suppose America’s terrible design techniques are making it here as well…  Sigh.

Well, this is new.  A poop pedestal.  Yes, you are reading and seeing right.  They collect all the pool from the grass and place it on this white concrete square.  What is this, some kind of a religious thing?!

Black [or nearly black] petunias for sale.  Never seen that before.  Perhaps I need to get out more often.

Gorgeous side streets are everywhere.

Old frescoes get repaired with crappy concrete.  Functional, I suppose.

Very neat garbage cans and ever-so-organized parking spots.

Fire hydrant and a mail box.  Somehow very French.

When was the last time you’ve seem notices posted on the clean billboard [is that what these things are called?]?

Again same style ashtray as in Paris.

No comment.

Again, no comment.  The French just live like this.  This is their Sunday church.  Nice!

Gosh, I need sleep, clearly.

Orleans

I’ve been to Orleans a few times already and every time I fall in love with this city more and more.  I think it is France at its best.

Here we’ve arrived at GREMI where the conference is going to take place.

Imagine going to the University like this.

And here’s the conference poster.

Most of these buildings were built after the war — immediately after — so there is the concrete architecture and the chairs from the 60s… Unfortunately this is likely to survive another 100 years so we are better to get used to this style.

My hotel room is nothing short of “eeeek” by American standards but the French consider this a luxurious hotel primarily because of the age of the building.  Well, at least the water pipes work [most of the time].

Tiny room, less-than-expensive decor, very simple.  However, the service is excellent and unobtrusive and, well, not like I am planning to do anything more than sleep here.

Right outside the locals are playing a strange game with metal balls.  I was watching for long-enough to get a hang of the game and kind of figure out the rules.  Also got a beer from one of them :-).  Very nice people.

The whole idea is to throw 2 or 3 of your balls [could not figure out why some players get 2 and others 3 throws] as close to that tiny orange one as possible.  The closest one wins.

A creek runs by the hotel.  While everything is “natural” there is, clearly, landscaping going on; but you cannot really tell where or when.

Oh, a dead duck that nobody ever retrieves.

I bet every morning someone polishes this gravel road.  But it looks oh-so-natural, does it not?

Old vases with beautiful plants look just like they simply belong there.  Nothing here looks artificial or out of place.

Even the fresh repairs to the building, in a few years, will blend with the surroundings [once the wood ages a bit].

Semi-clean running track by the river.

The French skate.  I have seen more inline skates here in a day than I see in Philly in a month; and I belong to a skating club!

Hotel lunch bar, for just 13 Euro has prosciutto and escargot.  Yummy!!

Even the rain here is somehow different.

Early morning fog [barely visible] covers most of the city as I am off to the conference at 7am.  Sleep?  I’ll sleep when I’m dead :-).

Trolley system is quite nice, fast, and polished.

Local girl preparing a corner restaurant for the opening.

Graffiti here is nothing special, not like in Paris.

I can’t recall the front of this statue; but from most of the angles all you can see is her ass.  Ah, the French! :-)

Center city is preparing for the weekend’s music festival.

Shoppers are, well, doing their thing.

A girl with a dog.  Somehow so French.  Somehow so nothing-like-I-have-seen-in-USA.

Most people here roll their own cigarettes.  Packs are way too expensive; and for this reason I find people “bumming” smokes from me ever 15 to 30 minutes.

We are at a chateau.

Chateau or not, there are broken novelties that nobody seems to care to fix.  At night, by the way, there are no lights at all.  I had to walk using the iPhone flashlight.

You can rent not just bicycles [why don’t I have any photos of that?!] but scooters.  I think this is the only country I have thus-far seen this.

Shoppers.

Winding staircase takes you to shopkeeper’s apartments.  Downstairs is the store; upstairs is her condo.

Trams are everywhere.

Bit city-wide party tonight.

This is a fire truck?!

Oh, forgot to mention.  English letters are everywhere.  The French seem to have English in-style this season.  It is everywhere in the fashionable stores.  I mean, common!  But, hey, fashion is fashion…

Even the sleeping quarters have a fantastic view here.

Lots of free parking; that is if you know where to find it.

Oh, how I would love to, one day, have a house with my own boat parking spot…

Le Rivage hotel and restaurant is nothing short of impressive and the proprietor, Jean-Piere Bereaud claims to be fronds with the owner of Le Bec-Fin in Philly.  Interesting fella and speaks English quite well.  Matter of fact, most French know English; they just choose when to and when not to use it.

The place and the food is amazing.

Always coffee.  Looks like espresso, doesn’t it?  Well, nothing like not have an American-style mug for a week.

We’re out’n’about town.  After years in academia you start to see the same people.  Katherina and I share at least one conference every year.

Music Festival on the streets.  WOW!  Simply WOW.

French side streets.

French roosters.

Notice the painting on the glass?  Barely?  That’s right!  It blends with the flowers outside so flawlessly that I was barely able to catch it.

Paris

Somehow the drive to Paris reminds me that these humble people are farmers, wine, and cheese makers in their core.  The landscape reminds me of the vast planes of Illinois.

Corner store has a used battery collector.  Perhaps the French care for the environment more than I had thought.

A homeless man owns three bikes.

And lives in a rent-free nice hut.  I even heard radio coming from there.

Horrid American fastfood chains are penetrating everywhere.  However, there is something here called Green McDonalds (they actually have green rather than red signs).  I have to research a bit about that sometime.

Parking meter.

Billboard ads.

And Paris [see the little plant heart in the top right window?].

Overflowing trash condoms in tourist-heavy areas are still reasonably neat for a large metropolitan city.

Look!  An actual reel-to-reel!

And BMW scooter with rain shield.  I bet beamer put AC in there as well, and surround sound.

Green and graffiti are just about everywhere.

While the old building is torn down, the neighbors are held together from folding in.

Ah, Paris.

Now, here is a great idea!  See, in my condo development we also have these “French balconies” so I am always on the lookout for ideas how to plant things there.  Who better to copy than the French?!  I already ordered similar pot from Amazon.

Notice the older buildings and the new one?  How the new construction blends in?  Clarification:  Here you see three buildings.  One, two (with the awning), and thee.  The third one is new while the other two look to be >>100 years old.  New construction does not lack “soul” as much as, say, American new construction does.

WOW, I’ve never actually seen ALL of the rent-a-bike being rented out.  And I do see alot of Parisians on bikes; even the ladies in evening dresses sweating it up the hill.  No wonder they all are so slim.

Lame graffiti is everywhere here, but on the car roofs?!  That’s something new.  I hope Philly “artists” do not take this up.

Ahh, raw beef.  This was a not-too-expensive corner restaurant, and look at the attention to detail, the presentation.

Fresh veggies are sold everywhere.  Same as Starbucks on every corner in US, the French have a small fresh produce mart.

Although hard to tell from this photo, this is a very clever mailbox.  Rather unobtrusive, see, it just bends down and goes into the basement apartment.  Clever.

Interestingly close to my own style, this painting [although this is actually a print, not a painting] hangs proudly overlooking a local park.  Perhaps I need to restart my own work in this direction.  I’ve only thus-far created 2-3 like this.

Heartwarming old Kodak sign.  I wonder how long they can continue struggling.  It is a pity they did not really survive the digital wars.

Much of Paris is at at angle, sometimes a rather steep angle.

Last stop, the Jumping Bunny Cabaret.  A very French and a very cozy place.  Although I do not understand what they are singing about I still very much enjoy the atmosphere.

Excellent trip and I definitely need to come back and dedicate more time to walking the streets.  First time I was in Paris I had a rather negative emotion about it but as time progresses I feel myself falling in love with the culture, the place, and most importantly the people.

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