Sunday, January 25, 2009

25-01-2009 (Week 2) - Berlin

This week we travelled to Berlin. However, before I describe the Berlin activities, there is something else that I would like to share with you. Thursday night we went out to some bars in downtown Toulouse. Not actually downtown, but an area known as St. Pierre. Myself and a co-worker of mine, Tim Slattery, happened to wonder across a foosball table with some native Frenchman playing foosball. We proceeded to ask for the next game as best we could. The game started off very poorly. As I recall, we were down 3-0. It was then that we shook off our jitters and proceeded to win the game on the last goal. We then soundly defeated our next competitors, cementing Wichita's place in foosball history. (For the purposed of this story, it' best if you correlate foosball ability with how much your host country likes football (soccer), thus making our victory an upset. :)

Berlin was a great city. Although I must admit, for the larger cities, one weekend will never be enough time. The biggest impression left on me by Berlin was the Berlin Wall (That's also what I wanted to see the most). We walked along a 1.6 km part of the wall still standing. It was amazing to think that such a structure would divide such a large city. And it was definitely clear which side of the wall you were on. The city on the east side of the wall was poorly underdeveloped, with not much industry or new businesses building there since the wall came down. It seems to me Berlin has done a good job of preserving some of it's history as a reminder, as evidenced by the wall and the bombed out church.

Friday night might after we checked into the hostel we went immediate out to sample some of the finer brews Germany had to offer. Because Schlotterbeck had lived there during a semester in school, he knew some people and we had planned on meeting up with them. He received an address from his friend and we proceeded to head there (on the way sampling one of Germany's finer Kabobs). As we continued to get closer, we noticed we were venturing deeper and deeper into east Berlin. This is noteworthy because some bitter cultural differences still exist. The Germans call this "Mauer im Kopf." (literally: Wall in the head) We were walking near what looked to be an abandoned building when we heard, "thump, thump, thump,..." and saw people standing out near the street. We made a walk-by of the situation to assess. What we assessed was a dark alley with one lit up door, with two huge Germans gaurding it. We then decided to walk down said alley. We go to the door, and just kinda shuffled around for a few minutes until we saw a few people go in. We then decided just to walk in like we knew what we were doing. that's when the two aforementioned large Germans confronted us.

They told us there are private birthday parties inside and asked why we were here. Fortunately for us, Schlotty's friend has told us there were birthday parties inside, so we just said we were invited by a mutual friend, and they let us through, simple as that. The inside of this building is what you would expect it to look like based on its outward appearance except there was loud techno music and several bars on each of the two levels. Most of us danced the night away while eating orange slices that were being passed around and trying to avoid crazy good dancing by girls who had ginormous mullets.

Another interesting aspect of Berlin is the metro. There are no gates, no gaurds, and no stopping anyone that wanted to get on the metro from using it. It is a 100% honor code system. You could just walk down to a station, and jump on a train without anyone knowing any better. Although we hear if you get caught, the fines are steep, and the German police are 'unforgiving.' So needless to say (even though I'm saying it), we bought our tickets every time.

I wish we would've had more time to stay around and see more of Berlin, but we can always make a return trip...right?


Enjoy the video blog.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

18-01-2009 (Week 1) - Biarritz and San Sebastian

Week 1

This week was very event filled. Remember, I arrived on the 9th of January. That Friday we went to the grociery story and stocked up on some food. Saturday we went down town and just explored the town a bit. I decided to take a gamble on a dish. Pied du porc. For those of you who know French, you know it's a gamble. For those of you who don't, see the video for more details :)

Sunday, January 11th we took off for a city in southeast France. Carcassonne. This is an old city most well known for it's castle. It's castle, in fact, was the setting for the original movie Robin Hood. This was a great day trip seeing as Carcassonne is only about an hour drive from Toulouse.

My first week of work also went smoothly. I'm staying busy already and working late everyday (sometimes because I get in late). We've done the usual things that people do in France like drink beers in the street, eat kobabs at 3am after leaving the bars during the week, and driving 6 speed manual transmission mini-vans.

Wednesday I got my first chance to go to the Ultimate practice. I must've impressed, because they invited me to play in the French Outdoor National Championships this summer. Or, maybe they just ask everybody, who knows....

This past weekend was filled with more travel. Biarritz, France on Friday, January 17th and then on to San Sebastian, Spain on the 18th. Both are coastal cities and very beautiful. The picture above is from Biarritz.

We found a casino in Biarritz where believe it or not 3 out of 4 people in my traveling group came out ahead (props to Brian and Schlotty also). Unfortunately for Jeff, he ended the night over 50 Euros in the hole. In San Sebastian, we hiked a hill adjacent to the bay opening, and had a great view of the sunset as well as the entire town. After the hike, we all took a siesta before attempting to close down the discoteque. Unfortunately, we only made it till 6am. And in my opinion, we were the best dancers there....

WARNING: The video is kinda long and it has a lot of me talking. I will correct that for future videos... :)

Biarritz Pics

San Sebastian Pics

Friday, January 9, 2009

09-01-2009 - Arrival

09-01-2009 - Tom's First Blog

This is my first attempt at a blog, let alone a video blog, so bear with me as I refine the process to make it better (that's the engineer in me). Consider this a preview blog to the others to come.

My company has chosen me along with some other talented engineers to go to France to work on a contract we recently signed. This blog will detail my travels and allow friends and family to keep up to date on what I'm doing while I'm away. The picture seen to the left is a good picture to start off with. It is the capital of the city where I am staying, Toulouse.

I arrived in France on Friday, January 9th in the morning. I was suppose to stop along Chicago on my way out and pick up my work visa. But due to poor communication on Spirit AeroSystems part, I discovered only hours before my flight was suppose to take off that my visa, in fact, was not in Chicago as I was previously told. However, on the fligh overseas I did get a nice surprise. See the video below for details. Hope you enjoy and feel free to make comments!

Tommy D.