lux_valleyOn spec I took the TER to Luxembourg. Travelling anywhere by train here seems to be fun. The shear scale of investment in trackwork. Why we thought it was a good idea to unload cars in Port Kembla then truck them up Mt Ousley back to Sydney I don’t know. Of course you see endless trains full of German cars heading across the landscape here.

All the industry is clustered along the tracks. So you get a backroom view of a lot of operations. And relics like the abandoned BF site between Thionville and Hagondage. (wish I had my camera out for that one).

Luxembourg itself is pretty interesting after a week in Metz. Lots more languages spoken in the streets. Lots of tourists from everywhere. My favourite were the American bemoaning how expensive everything was. It was outrageous. Must be novel for them.

If you haven’t been before, it is an old fortified town straddling a deep river cut valley with shear sides. I’ll not try to do a better job summarising what’s there see wikipedia. But the things I enjoyed were the cool of the valley, looking up at the heavily fortified city. I wonder how impressive it must of looked before they dismantled most of the fortifications?

I’ll go back with May at some point and do the underground tour of the fortifications.

I also checked out the ArcelorMittal headquarters. Odd, isn’t it. See the tiny logo on the column left of the door (ok, there was a limit to what I could resolve with my camera), but given the choice of building I was surprised by the restraint.

Fun at the supermarché

churchThis is the start of the long weekend here. Note: that means nothing much is open, so I needed to go shopping, and buy some essentials. Naturally things are really crowded as everyone tries to buy stuff on the way home from work. This would always be a test of my minimal French vocab. Problem 1. They have problems with the till, so credit/debit card only. Problem 2. None of my cards worked. (“Anglais carte” with some disgust was heard). This meant trying to pickup everything and find a working till for a cash transaction. I’m not popular with the other people in the queue. The cashiers were nice and understanding though.

Getting some incidentals in another shop I thought I was doing fine. I thought I got all of the etiquette right, I was getting by with my CD learned shopping phrases. Then I get something unintelligible. She repeats it a couple of different ways, then “No you don’t have one!”. Only then did I realise she was asking about a store loyalty card.

Local customs

metz_breakwallI’m getting used to some of the French work customs slowly. I had not realised that when you arrive for work you should visit the office of everyone already there, shake hands and greet them. I’ve shaken more hands in the last couple of days than in the last year in Australia. I guess the handshake is kinda dying out in Australia, mostly being used for formal occasions now.

It’s the little things

notqwertyIt should be obvious, but it isn’t. If future exchange happens, think about how you will handle non-qwerty keyboards. I nearly touch type. I can’t tell you how much pain I’m in right now. At least I’ve managed to get the default locale to not be in French (try working out what compiler error messages are….)

They have no qwerty keyboards in the office, so my choices were learn the French layout, or switch to a qwerty layout. Using a French layout presents some problems, I mostly touch type, so I was reduced to hunt-n-peck typing speeds, also I have my laptop here, so switching between the two was problematic. Of course if you switch, then you _have_ to touch type. Now the key labels don’t match what you type. I guess I’ll be a better touch typist from this adventure. I sympathise with overseas students in our labs so much more now. Of course I might give in and put stickers over the keys……

Made it in one piece

gare_de_lestLots of hanging around waiting for my train, but TGV is a great way to travel.

It really does leave on time within a second or two of schedule. It stayed slow through Paris, then it really opens it up outside. There is no sensation of speed since you travel through endless fields, everything is a fair way away. Mind you when you pass another TGV at speed going the other way it is quite a physical jolt. While sitting at the one stop we made before Metz, other TGV went past, THAT looked fast.

Sami and I had a miss communication about where to meet. He said “meet a the bank, and just stay there till we find one another”, OK. So looking on the platform for a Bank, no Bank, alright try in the station, nope, what about just outside, nope. OK go and wait at the lobby….That’s where we ran into each other. “Why didn’t you stay at the bank” Um I was looking for a Bank. Bank=platform. Oh.

Off to France we go

fishThanks to everyone who came to lunch today. I’m off on my French adventure starting tomorrow. New contacts, opportunities and hopefully some good work. Not that I’m going to miss the STI rush season too much!

In any case, with the time differences, real time contact is going to be a little difficult while I’m away. But since we now have sharepoint available remotely, I’m going to try maintaining this blog as I go. (emphasis on try)

bye fish

I’m going to France to work for 6 weeks

Ok, for the benefit of my extended family, this is probably a bit of a surprise. Obviously a work trip takes time to organise and you are wondering why I didn’t tell anyone till now….

Well, this one took a while to get off the ground. A fair bit of back and forth firstly to get approval to make it happen then to get a final date to start. So up until about 3 weeks from leaving, dates were still up in the air (with the strong possibility to just delay by several months).

So with that explained (how ever badly) here is a summary of things so far…