Sunday 28 May 2017

Going Home... but some work to do!

Tuesday morning, I woke early and after breakfast, took the Metro and tram down to the Confluence where I met Jerry, the sound guy, at church. They have two speakers very high up at the front but there is nothing we can do about that because they are part of the installation of the church. And the church is borrowed from the Roman Catholic Church. The sound would be much better if they were lower down. People's voices sound ethereal and un-worldly, maybe that was the intention!  The rest of the gear is mounted in a small trolley and is owned by the church.

I made various recommendations and we went through all the gear which included three wireless microphones. I suggested getting a small clip-on electret microphone for Ben, the priest. In general, they were using the microphones too close to the mouth the result of which is an increase in low frequencies and a subsequent lack of intelligibility. 

After our meeting, I went back to my hotel to check out and then I wandered around Bellecour before taking the Metro to the station at Part Dieu. The photo shows us waiting for the platform to be displayed.

The train is a Spanish AVE which makes the journey between Barcelona and Lyon every day. The journey takes about 4 hours, 20 minutes. Between Brive and Perpignan, the train trundles along at the same speed of all the other trains because France has not built a high-speed track to connect Perpignan with the track to Marseilles and Nice. I think they are doing that now. It has an engine at each end which would be sufficient to pull (and push) the 18 carriages of a Eurostar train but this AVE has only 8 carriages, so it appears rather over-powered. It was designed for the TGV Atlantique, built by Alsthom in France.

The journey was pleasant and the time passed very easily. I arrived back in Girona just before 7pm, in time for my Meetup group in Plaça de la Independencìa. So I will end with a photo from the meetup! You can see that it is authentic because my suitcase is parked over on the right!

Thursday 25 May 2017

Swimming in Lyon!

On Monday morning I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to do! In the morning, le Musée des Beaux-Arts and then I would go swimming!

I exchanged a few messages with Ben, the priest at the Anglican church and at one point in the day, we decided that I should meet the sound guy, Jerry, at the church on Tuesday morning before I checked out of the hotel and headed for Part Dieu station.

I have visited the museum a couple of times before but this is the first time I have taken a real camera, my Nikon J1. By far the best part of the museum is the chapel which is full of amazing and beautiful sculpture.

I have added one or two of my favourites here.

Boucher: Aux Champs
This is by far my favourite because I describe it as a little bit "Harry Potter", as though the young girl is coming out of the stone, having been captured there for many centuries!

Rodin: Paolo et Francesca (from Dante's Inferno)

Maillol: La Montage

After wandering around the chapel for a long time, I then went up to the second floor (Floor 0 is the ground floor in France and Spain for those of you who are used to the ground floor being 1!) I skipped Antiquities because I had been there before and headed for art in the 19th and 20th Century. There, I found paintings by Renoir and Dégas and many other great artists of late 19th and early 20th Century.

I stopped for a coffee on the terrace and continued on to the modern art section but the selection was not brilliant. Maybe the Pompidou Centre has nicked all the best pictures!

After visiting the museum, I bough a sandwich and iced tea in Monoprix and went back to the square close to the hotel for my lunch. Next stop was the swimming pool so I didn't want to eat too much. 

After swimming, I arranged to get in contact with Ben at the church to arrange a meeting for Tuesday and, after an exchange of messages, we fixed a time of 9am for me to meet Jerry, the sound guy, at the church.

On the way back from the pool, I discovered a narrow street full of restaurants close to my hotel and the prices seemed quite reasonable so I decided to go back there.

At around 6.30pm I had a beer and made the mistake of ordering a large glass of Leffe. It was very expensive, €6.80, and after I had drunk about half of the glass, it started doing strange things to my head. It had alcohol, sure. But I should know better with this beer, the same thing has happened with Leffe before. So I left the rest of it!

 Here is the street where I had my evening meal.

I had half a bottle of wine and it was about €8 which is not too bad for here! The meal was a duck steak with a generous salad and chips.

And after that, I went back to the hotel, just a short walk away.

Tuesday 23 May 2017

Sunday in Lyon

Sunday in Lyon was just great! I decided to go to church in the morning. The Diocese of Europe is just like a diocese in the UK such as in Oxford or Gloucester. It is very large because there are very many Anglican churches in Europe. By "church", I mean it in the sense of a community because many Anglican groups "borrow" a local Roman Catholic church when it is not being used for services if they don't have one of their own. The church in Barcelona is an Anglican church, not borrowed!

In Lyon, the Anglican community borrows a centre of worship with many rooms and a church space. I looked up the service on the internet and went along at 10.30am. The church is close to the Confluence of the two rivers in Lyon, the Saone and the Rhone. They are what makes the city so attractive, one is never far away from water!

This is my third time in  Lyon and my second time visiting the church and I remember Ben, the priest, from the last time I came. He is English as one would guess. The service was very informal and, being a sound guy, I noticed that the sound was not too good! There are two loudspeakers at the front but very high up and the acoustic of the space is very reverberant. So that when Ben was speaking, his voice actually appeared as an ethereal voice from above although he was only a few metres from me. Ben used a hand-held microphone and I thought I would ask him later why he didn't use a small eletret clip-on microphone but I never got the chance to speak to him on Sunday. But then I didn't need to!

After the service, coffee and tea were served and later a meal was prepared by a charitable group which the church runs in order to help people in the community in Lyon. I also met two students who had been helped by the group. There was one young girl from Mosul in Iraq and she gave me advice on my French accent because she had trouble understanding me. I hesitated to comment on the fact that there is probably very little of Mosul left.

Then I got chatting to a young woman, Natalie, who seemed to share all the same interests as me, everything from quantum computing to sound. And when I said that my original job was as a sound engineer, she asked for my help in improving the sound in church. This, of course, I was happy to do. We exchanged details and she said that she would speak to Ben. More about that later because I ended up going back to the church on Tuesday (today, as I write this on the train going home).

It was a beautiful day and I walked back to Bellecour along the river. The water is remarkably clear as you can see in the first photo. And then I made a great discovery! A swimming pool - outdoors and very close to Bellecour. I had bought my swimming costume and goggles so a visit there was placed on the agenda for next day.

 I had a tea and cake outside McDonalds and returned to the hotel. I did some catching up on my blog and I went for a walk around the local area. 

In the evening I had a terrible meal but it was my own fault because it was evident from the photo in the menu that the chicken was pre-cooked. And you know what happens? It ends up solid and tasteless. The half bottle of acidy red wine was 14 euros. The bill was 33 euros! In general as I said before, France is very expensive to visit but I am sure that to live here would be much cheaper. Prices in supermarkets are more or less the same as in Spain, it's the bars and restaurants which mark up the prices horribly!

Monday, I went to le Musée des Beaux-Arts. I have promised myself for a long time to go back there. Part of the reason is the chapel which is full of beautiful and amazing sculptures, this time, I took my Nikon camera. But I will write about that tomorrow afternoon (Weds) when I can upload lots of photos!

Monday 22 May 2017

A quick post!

I can't wait to tell you about my days in Lyon! Why I loved the place and how I fell out of love! I have 4 hours on the train home tomorrow (23rd), a Spanish AVE from Lyon to Girona leaving at 2.30pm. So I will have plenty of time to get my blog up to date!

From Paris to Lyon.... rapidly!

On Saturday morning, I expressed a wish to....... Oh, erase that, very pompous!

On Saturday morning we walked down to the river from the apartment because I wanted to see some of the real Paris. I seem to have been in museums or food shops most of the time!

The sun was hot but the air was quite cold. We took some photos and walked across to the Isle de la Cité and Notre Dame Cathedral. There were lots of people around and there was a bread baking fair. Here are some photos!

 Outside Notre Dame

 We then walked around to Île Sait-Louise which is about the most expensive place to live in Paris and then back to where we first crossed the river. We then had a look around the huge BHV Marais store. I wanted to see the art department but only in order to feel smug that I bought some really good materials in Ukraine about 10 days ago, much cheaper!

We then visited the multimedia department where Louise had a chat with a robot.

We had lunch in the restaurant on the top floor. I calculated that I would have to leave the apartment at 3pm to catch my train. I left a little after that but still got to Gare de Lyon in good time.

The track between Paris and Lyon was the first TGV route in France back in 1982 and I travelled on it when it was still quite new. I was visiting Canal+ TV with my French distributor when I was making synchronisers for video and audio, but the journey was wasted. They wanted a chase synchroniser, not a control synchroniser. One follows the movement of the tape and the other has a control panel for the operator. The chase synchroniser has no control panel. The whole story of the synchroniser was a disaster; I was completely out of my depth and the product never worked well.

I wish I knew the speed of the train because on one section of track, it went faster than anything I have experienced before. The engine two coaches ahead of me was screaming like a banshee. I thought the regular top speed was 300 km/hour. But a shortened train actually achieved over 500 km/hour but it was specially prepared. The journey took a little under 2 hours. So before I knew it, I was in Lyon. I took the Metro to Bellecour and checked into Hotel Elysee. I had a beer by the square with my book of French nouns. Then I had a (very expensive) steak and went to bed!


Sunday 21 May 2017

Friday in Paris

I woke quite early on the Friday, not having slept very well. Tom and Louise woke up a little later around 8.30am and I offered to go and buy something for breakfast. I grabbed the keys on the sideboard and bought some freshly squeezed orange juice and some bread and croissants. Ah, I remember, I had previously bought some tea bags. Being American, Tom and Louise are more into coffee.

Some of the art-deco Metro signs haven't changed for many years!

The plan for today was for Louise to go shopping with her friends who came to the party and for Tom and I (being chaps) to go to the techie heaven, Le Musée de Arts et Métiers. I had been there on my last trip to Paris and I think this was Tom's third time!

Louise left before us and when the time came for us to leave, Tom reached for his keys where I had left them on the sideboard but they were not there. We quickly came to the conclusion that Louise had taken both sets of keys. We closed the door behind us knowing that we could not go back unless we managed to contact Louise.

We walked to the museum and, although we had 3 previous visits between us, we still started in the wrong direction. We went to the transport hall and the Foucault Pendulum whose path appears to move across the table but, of course, it is we who are moving!

 I love the shapes of these gears, totally impractical!

We both wanted to see Cray-2 which was a super-computer from 1985. By today's standards, the memory and speed can be found in a phone such are the rapid changes in technology during the ensuing years. Quite amazing!

 These last two photos are of a loudspeaker array which would interest my friend Keith! The photo is of the microphone. It sounded brilliant but the position in which to stand was very critical. Sounds familiar? I didn't see the point really.

We left the museum at around 3pm and I had the brilliant idea of going next door to a Carrefour City store where they would be sure to have sandwiches. We returned to a stone bench outside the museum and had our lunch. Louise got in touch and we arranged to go back to the apartment at 6pm. 

I wanted to visit the Pompidou Centre which is very close to the apartment so off we headed.


There was an exhibition by Ross Lovegrove the British designer with an amazing collection of objects, part way between art and practical objects. I didn't take any photos I'm afraid. If I had started, I would not have stopped! We also visited an exhibition of 3D printing. Some of the objects were quite large so I cannot imagine how long they took to make!

Then we went up to the top floor where there are splendid views of Paris. All buildings are about the same height, no skyscrapers in Paris! They are all parked outside the city in La Defense which we could see on the horizon.

On the upper floors, we visited the permanent exhibition of modern art but our feet were killing us by this time, so we whizzed around quite rapidly. Museum feet!

We walked back to the apartment and called up Louise on the phone to let us in!

I offered to buy supper and I suggested a takeaway, I thought it would be cheaper!! (smiley emoji for Tom and Louise). We agreed on Italian and Louise and I took a short walk around the corner. We bought a lasagna and some other pasta-type things and 3 large meat balls. I bought a bottle of wine. In general, Paris is very expensive... to the extent of many items being twice the price of those in Girona. Tea in a bar, 4 euros and 40 centimos for the milk!

With the help of the wine which one of Tom's friends had given him for a birthday present, I slept a lot better desite the guilt at drinking his present but the more I drank, the less guilty I felt until I finally fell asleep. At one point I had been considering moving to a hotel but the second night was much better.

Tom and Louise had planned to go out on Sunday with an early start. My original train reservation to Lyon was Sunday afternoon but it made sense for me to move it back one day and travel to Lyon on Saturday. And that is what I did!

In the next post I will write about our walk around Paris on Saturday morning and my journey to Lyon. I will do that tomorrow (I have to go out now to an English-speaking meetup). I am writing this on Sunday evening, in Lyon of course. I go back to Girona Tuesday afternoon.


Friday 19 May 2017

To Paris

It seems as though I just arrived back from Ukraine and I am back off on my adventures again. I arrived back on Monday, went to a meetup but only two people came. Tuesday, we had our regular meetup but we sat outside for 45 minutes because the owner, Eugeni, was late. But that was his plan for the rest of the summer so we have to find a new place to meet. I chose Lapsus in Plaça de la Independencía for the next two weeks. And then I went along to Girona Grapevine on Wednesday morning at 11. The group really needs someone to be there early to grab a table because we cannot reserve a space. My favourite is below the passage near to the bar where I can pull three tables together. But three weeks ago, I wasn’t able to do that and we ended up in the middle of the bar. Then when a number of people arrived at mid-day, there simply wasn’t space for them. And I never know how many are coming anyway. I suggested taking another table close by, but this was resisted. One person said, “I think you are losing the war”. Another time, I was told to “move up” by one of the people coming at 12.

Sometimes this situation becomes a little fractious and I can do without that! 

This week, the same thing happened again but it was another of the members who ended up being the villain of the peace by refusing to “move up”. Instead she said that we should simply overflow to another table nearby. This makes sense but there were people who wanted to create an “L” shape of 4 or 5 tables. But there is no logic in this. People at either end of a long table can’t communicate anyway because they are too far apart so it makes no difference if we are on two separate tables or one enormous “L” shape!

I am writing this on a French TGV approaching Paris and all this arguing about tables is a long way behind me in Spain. I plan to relax and enjoy myself among my dear friends Tom and Louise.

I left home at 9am, took the 9.30 train from Celrà which arrived in good time to catch the TGV from the subterranean high-speed train station in Girona. I have to buy two tickets for the journey, one to Perpignan and then another from Perpignan to Paris. Otherwise I don’t get my discount.

Who says wifi isn't dangerous? This is what happened to my KitKat when I put it in my bag forgetting that my little wifi gizmo was buzzing away. It gets quite warm, so that is definitely dangerous for chocolate!

Tom and Louise were at the staton to meet me and we took the short ride to their apartment. Then, in the evening, we celebrated Tom's birthday in a restaurant near by.I had woken up really early and by about 10pm I was feeling really tired. We got back to the apartment at 11 and Tom and I tried to fathom out the sofa-bed in the lounge.

It was rocking backwards and forwards noisily but I found the solution by launching myself onto the bed at which pòint something somewhere locked into place and we were "go" for sleep. Except that, by now, I was a bit stressed and over-tired, there was noise from the courtyard outside and I didn't fall asleep until 2am, so I was rather zombie-like the next day.

Monday 15 May 2017

And..... going home!

Sunday, Marina was ill and couldn't see me so I had a leisurely morning in hotel before checking out at 12. I hadn't heard from Marina so I was feeling a little despondent. At least I had won a small victory. The hotel had a special offer of a room for 3 nights for the price of one. I noticed the promo on the reception desk. So I had asked for the same. But the answer was that I should have asked for it when I booked. I replied that I won't know about it unless you tell me about it. I pressured the girl quite a bit, very politely and she said she would ask her manager. The answer came back, "No". I said that it was fair.

At checkout, the receptionist handed me a wad of notes to the value of one room. And at checkout, I had to settle my tab in Abajor. And the money covered the tab! So I handed the money back, more or less!

I went for a last coffee in McDonald's Café and finally Marina phoned to say that she couldn't see me. I worry about her health. I had lunch in Koritza at her suggestion, went back to the hotel and at about 3.30pm took a taxi to the airport. It's a better class of taxi if booked from the hotel but it's a little more expensive. 5 euros! I don't mean 5 euros more expensive, that was the price!

The rest was very simple. But I was at a small tea bar waiting to board the plane to Kyiv, there was a handy mains socket by each of the bar stools. Someone ordered a tea and the young girl said to him, "Sit down". I had lots of fun pointing out to her that it was rather strong and that she should say, "Take a seat". I pretended to walk away with the bar stool. She, and her colleague thought it was funny, there was no possibility of her being offended.

Last night, I stayed in Ligena Hotel near to Kyiv Boryspil Airport and this morning I took the flight to Barcelona. I was so busy writing on the plane that I hardly noticed the time and before I knew it, we were flying down the coast in Barcelona El Prat.

I am getting towards the end of my posts for this trip and I am on a train approaching Girona, so that makes perfect timing. I have a meetup to organise this evening in Girona and on Thursday I go to see my dear friends Tom and Louise who are in Paris for a month.

I arrived in Girona at 15.40, just in time for a Sarfa bus back home. That would have left me with 45 minutes at home before having to come back to Girona. Hardly worth it but that is what I was planning on doing it. Two things thwarted that rapidly! I came out of the station and the bus station was abandoned. I quickly realised that the new bus station was now open. But as I turned to go down to the bus station, who should I see but Susan, a friend from my Meetup group. We chatted for a while and then I went down to the bus station but I just missed the 15.45 bus and I decided to wait for the bus at 4pm. But that would have left me with 30 minutes at home. Crazy. So I went back out into the sun. The bus station is a big soul-less concrete space. I find it deeply depressing. No thought has been given to the design, it simply functions. And this is the country of Dalí. And Mirò.

I think I will submit a plan to make it attractive. I mean, there is no colour. Imagine it in France, lots of pastel blues and yellows. Also the colours of Ukraine. The parking space numbers were clearly designed by an engineer. No imagination. A square chunk of metal on a post. Yeah, I am depressed. 

I am writing this very last part of the post in my favourite tea shop, Casa Moner. Anyone who lives in Girona will know that there are several shops in the chain, selling break and cakes. Then, in the tea shop, I can choose a cake to have with my tea. I had Earl Grey tea and a mandarin tart. The text that I wrote in the plane was saved in the Dropbox folder of my little Acer One so, as soon as I got back online in Girona with my larger laptop, there it was in the Dropbox folder to be cut and pasted into the blog! Cool!

And with that, I close my blog for Ukraine. I will write about my visit to Paris of course. I plan to come back via Lyon and spend a couple of nights there.