Saturday, May 17, 2008


Eifelsacrenotrerougetriumph - my insanity riddled brain came up with this word as a summary of some of the cool things that Bel and I saw over our 3 day long weekend in Paris a few weeks ago.

Stéven and Emilie were kind enough to put us up in their appartment in the Montmartre quarter of Paris, and take the time to show us the sights, sounds, and smells of Paris. Not only did they do that, but they also fed us on countless occasions with great parisien croissants, chocolate croissants, sweet breads, cheeses, italian inspired salads, and homemade crêpes.

The back end of Sacré-Cœur on a cloudy paris day.

Half the European AE team working hard for the money.

Apropos Crêpes - if you ever get the chance, you have to try them with Confiture de lait, which is a combination of milk and sugar boiled into a spreadable caramel sauce - really to die for.

Also worth trying is the Côte de boeuf, which is a beef rib dish with the bone removed, charred on the outside, and medium (our choice) in the middle. Stéven and I shared this in some little back-water restaurant in Paris, and it was sensational!

Parisian life can be hard - time for a nap.

Back-water parisian café - unfortunatley couldn't seat us. :(

Pyramid and small arch at the Louvre.

In terms of things to see in Paris, I would recommend finding yourself a local (could post Stéven's contact details here, but that would be a little cruel) and get them to show you their favourite places. If you have to, or want to visit the sights (like I did), then it is worth climbing up to the dome of Sacré-Cœur to get a ripper view of Paris, including the Eifel Tower in the distance. Also the view from the front of the Louvre up the Champs-Élysées, and a stroll through the park adjacent are worth a look in. You can safely skip the Moulin Rouge, IMHO, as it is just dodgy looking and really nothing special - plus there is no massive elephant house on the roof. :( Climb the Eifel Tower? - I don't know, as we didn't do it, but I hear that the view from Sacré-Cœur is better anyway.

Spider sculpture in front of the Louvre.

I'm fond of the pond in front of the Louvre.

Oh yeah, try and avoid the cafes and restaurants that are set up for tourists. See if you can find some little "bobo" (Bourgeois Bohême) cafes or restaurants in the back-water where you can find some nice food at decent prices - but make sure you have a friend for help with the menus, and just for all round good company.

Paris put a spring in Brushy's step.

Grande Arche de la Défense

The tower from a small side street.

So, thanks heaps to Stéven and Emilie for putting us up, and putting up with us. You guys are welcome to come and see Frankfurt and surrounds with us any time you want.

Have to arch your back to shoot the Arc de Triomphe.

How you doin'? Brushy with Stéven's sunnies.

Cool statue with a pigeon problem.

Free Tibet!...and me from these skates!

Being towered over by the tower.

Crazy fishing guy at Pont Neuf.

Tulips at the back of Notre Dame.

Brushy's favourite shot of the Eifel Tower.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Athens - home of the High Achievers

In April, my company decided to hold an event in Athens for the High Achievers in EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa). Due to some obvious failure in judgement, or a typo when entering the names into the list of invitees, I was invited.

The first evening in Athens included welcome drinks and a buffet dinner in the hotel, where we were entertained by a belly dancer, who proceede to make all the girls react like "oh, they are definitely FAKE!", and the guys just feel uncomfortable sitting there watching it with their wives/girlfriends sitting next to them. I am pretty sure I tried to sink into my seat as she danced past, so that she wouldn't try and
get me involved in the dance...and I am pretty sure that everyone realised that I didn't want to have a bar of it either.

Day two started with a "Pentathlon" through the heart of Athens, which was supposed to be a team building event. There was certainly some team building going on in my team, but more like a bunch of us teaming up and hating the others who were acting like dicks and holding us back. Competitive much?
In the Pentathlon we had to find a bunch of stuff, answer questions, take photos of other weird stuff etc, in order to earn points and try and be the team with the most points at the end of the day. Due to our team work, or rather the lack of it, we ended up coming in 10th out of 14 teams - but at least we had formed some bonds with some of our teammates, and it gave us plenty to bitch to our new found English friends about later. :)

Guards outside the Parlament doing their funky march. Dress and funny march were introduced by a Bavarian - figures.

Bel running away from a horse that just tried to go her.

Dinner on day two was at some seafood restaurant down by the ocean. This could have been a great night, except for the 3 guys who made up the "band", who proceeded to ruin it for everyone...IMHO. I have no problems with people singing traditional greek songs - in fact, these were good. The trouble began when they started with the english songs, without knowing the tune or the text...

The next day saw Bel and I pile into a bus with a bunch of others, and do a city tour of Athens. The tour took us past the Olympic Stadium (old one), the Temple to Zeus, and a bunch of other really old stuff, before landing at the Acropolis and Parthenon.
Interesting fact - the Acropolis is what most people would view as the rock or the defense like structure on top of the hill. Acropolis means "high city", and many of them can be found around Greece. The Parthenon on the other hand is the massive temple to goddess Athena, who is the patron goddess of the city of Athens.

Herodes Atticus Theatre on the slopes of the Acropolis.

Erechtheion on the Acropolis - temple to Athena Polias and Poseidon Erechtheus.

Top corner of the Parthenon hiding the hot midday sun.

The Parthenon covered in scaffolding - disappointing, but won't change any time soon.

The hotel that we were staying in was right in the heart of Athens, directly opposite the Temple to Zeus. Unfortunately our hotel room looked out on the pool (if you pressed your face really hard against the glass and looked left) and a renovation site - so we decided to go take a closer look.

'Brushy getting his Temple of Zeus on.

A free-standing and a collapsed pilar of the Temple to Zeus.

That evening we had the HA Gala Dinner in a really nice museum and estate outside of Athens. The food was sensational (IMHO) and the entertainment wasn't too bad either. On the one hand we had the traditional greek dancers who were jumping about slapping their feet and saying Opa!. On the other hand we had another band that was good when doing traditional greek songs, and awful when they started with the renditions of english classics. Tip guys - stick to what you know! :)
One of the guys on our table had placed a special meal request for the evening, due to an allergy or distinct dislike of mushrooms. The first dish that they brought out for him (and the rest of us) was a steak with some other stuff, and mushrooms. He sent this back, due to the mushies, and what did they bring him in return? Mushroom risotto! He sent this back, and they offered to pick the mushrooms out of it for him, before he kindly informed them that it would be better to just remove the mushrooms from the other plate and give him the steak instead. :)

The final day saw Bel and I hoof it around the city to take in a few final sights. One of these included what I will call "The running of the Illegal Immigrants". This is an event that involves the illegal african immigrants selling fake Gucci, Luis Vuitton, etc handbags on the popular tourist streets. At some point the cops decide to storm the street, and the illegals pick up their sheet with all the handbags wrapped in it, and run for their lives. It is kinda scary seeing a bunch of these guys belting up the street towards you. But you know, as soon as the cops buggered off, or were too busy arresting someone, the ones who were part way through a trade came back to quickly secure their cash before disappearing again.

Temple to Hephaestus, god of Metal, Fire, etc. in the Ancient Agora.

The base of a pilar basking in the shade of a palm at the Temple to Zeus.

So, if you get the chance, go and check out Athens. The city has a lot to offer in a very small area, so it is great for even the slackest of tourists - just be prepared for the bad air quality and excessive eating. :)