I am in Germany for a review this week. Changes of time: The restaurants and bars now stay open after 10:30.
On Friday nights... :-)
I am in Germany for a review this week. Changes of time: The restaurants and bars now stay open after 10:30.
On Friday nights... :-)
Link: English version
A notre retour de Tahiti, nous avons commencé à réfléchir à notre prochaine destination. Je me suis fait l'avocat de la Grèce, mais Céline m'a convaincu que l'Australie était une meilleure option. Nous avons trouvé des billets d'avion pas trop chers et une location sympa: une jolie petite maison, très originale, au coeur de Surry Hill, un des quartiers les plus branchés de Sydney. L'Australie, c'est génial. Nous avons adoré Sydney, où nous avons passé trois semaines. Cela nous a laissé pas mal de temps pour découvrir la ville, même si Anaïs a un peu limité notre emploi du temps. Mais nous y étions préparés, et de toutes façons, nous avions l'intention de nous reposer. Nous étions rarement prêts avant midi, et jamais rentrés après dix-huit heures. Nous avons visité la "city", l'opéra (extérieur et intérieur), Circular Quay, le zoo de Taronga, the "Rocks", avons fait un peu de shopping, visité la tour de Sydney, le musée Australien, le musée d'art contemporain, le musée de New South Wales, la cathédrale de Sydney, le musée de la marine, Darling Harbour, l'aquarium, le nouveau "Wildlife center", avons fait un peu plus de shopping, fréquenté quelques restaurants, et ainsi de suite... Nous avons mis les meilleures photos de notre voyage online.
Côté bouffe, Sydney est un paradis. Du moins, quand on vient des US. Les restaurants servent généralement des plats excellents, savoureux et variés. En sus de la cuisine occidentale/Pacifique, nous avons pu essayer la cuisine italienne, thai, indienne, meditérranéenne et népalaise. Les restaurants sont assez chers cependant, comme beaucoup de choses à Sydney; plus cher même qu'à Hawaii, qui est pourtant considéré comme un des états les plus chers des États-Unis. Un détail appréciable, quand on vient des US: les australiens ne mettent pas d'aïl dans tous leurs plats, contrairement aux américains!
Parmis les autres raisons d'aimer l'Australie et ses habitants: ces derniers sont vraiment très accueillants et sympatiques; ils sont écolos juste comme il faut (ils recyclent, eux, pas comme à Hawaii); ils utilisent notre bon vieux système métrique; et il écrivent "harbour" correctement. D'un autre côté, ils ont des araignées gigantesques. Et des serpents. Parmi les plus venimeux au monde. Yak.
Link: version francaise
After coming back from Tahiti, we looked into the next destination. I advocated Greece, but Celine convinced me that Australia was a better option. We found a reasonable air ticket and a good housing deal: a nice and very original little house in the middle of Surry Hill, one of the hippest quarter of Sydney. Australia is great. We loved Sydney, where we stayed 3 weeks. Plenty of time to discover the city, even though Anaïs imposed a fairly restrictive schedule on us. But we were ready for it, and this went well with the secondary purpose of these vacations: get some rest. So we were rarely out before noon, and never back after six. We saw the Sydney city, Opera House (from the outside and the inside), Circular Quay, the Taronga zoo, the Rocks, did some shopping, saw the Sydney tower, the Australian Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of New South Wales, the Sydney cathedral, the Marine Museum, Darling Harbour, the Aquarium, the new Wildlife center, did some more shopping, went to a few restaurants, and so on... There's a companion page here with the best pictures from our trip.
Food wise, Sydney is a paradise. At least, when coming from the US. Food is generally excellent, tasty, and varied. We had western food, but also Italian, Thai, Indian, Mediterranean and Nepalese food. Restaurants are on the expensive side, though, as many things in Sydney -somewhat more expensive than Hawaii, which is already considered as one of the most expensive states in the US. Another goodies: you won't find garlic in every other plate, which is a blessing when you're French and coming from the US, where garlic is way overused.
Other reasons to love Australia include: people are *really* nice; they are environment friendly (unlike hawaii, they recycle); they use the metric system; and they spell harbour correctly. On the other hand, they have freaking gigantic spiders. And snakes. Some of the most venomous things on earth. Ugh.
The sharpness of your crest-lines,
The color of your lagoons,
Infinite variations of blue.
We just spent 2 weeks in Tahiti. A wonderful experience. We kinda decided at the last minute. We chose to spend one week in luxurious hotels (4 nights in Moorea and 2 in Bora Bora) and the next in a small, cosy pension (like B&B) in the neighborhood of Papeete. Everything was great. The highlight of our stay was an afternoon snorkeling with Black tip sharks and sting rays at Bora bora. I have put some pictures in our gallery for your browsing pleasure. I am attaching a few more below for immediate perusal.
Interesting challenge today: I had been invited to give a review talk to a colloquium in honor of Pierre Léna (my PhD advisor back in 1989-1992), called "Vision in Infrared Astronomy", and held in Paris (Carré des sciences dans le Vième). I would have loved to go there, to see all those friends and Paris, but I couldn't, realistically. Travel across half the world for a 35mn talk, just after having been there twice in the past 3 months was just too much (and last time I took forever to recover from the trip). I told so to Daniel Rouan, the top organizer. He looked for an alternate but couldn't find any on such short notice (1 month). So I ended up giving my talk remotely! Voice through skype, and Daniel was presenting my keynote presentation from his mac. Keynote 3 makes for such nice presentations. The transitions are gorgeous, as well as the layout. You would lick the slides. Anyway, it went really well, except for the fact that it was at 4:30AM Hawaii time (and that I locked myself out of the Gemini building 1/2 hours before I had to start talking! Panic, thanks Chris). Got a few positive comments from Daniel, Patrice Bouchet and Pierre Léna himself. Way to go.
That's it. We've done it. I registered at Netflix a few days ago.
Eighteen bucks a month. Three movies out at any given time.
I bought "A brief history of the human race", from Michael Cook, a week ago in the compass bookstore at the SFO airport. Quite good, especially the early and late parts (I'm 2/3 into it). I was particularly impressed by the treatment of "could history have turned out differently?". The author actually gives a convincing answer to it: No. This answer is supported by evidence; nature has concocted several experiments for us: notably, it separated several groups of humans before the start of history (the author defines history at the appearance of farming, so about 10000 years ago), and kept them isolated since then, up to the 15 century (for the America) or the 19th century (for Australia). Beside a different calendar (farming did not appear in the America before the fourth Millenium BC, and did not appear at all in Australia), which can readily be explained by the different geography/faune of the said continent, how things unfolded in America is not fundamentally different of how they happened in the rest of the world, with civilizations based on similar principles, writing, farming, markets, rulers, etc. Interesting question and answer. The book is full of similar smart insight, although sometimes it lacks of a conducting wire/idea.
We just spent a fantastic week-end in Maui with Andy and Cietta. I met andy at the same conference I met Céline, so some time ago now. Anyway, Andy and Cietta are now in Madison, and they rented this nice B&B in Hana, Maui, for a week, and invited us over for the week-end. That was short, but great. The road to Hana is still the same: tortuous, treacherous, winding, but really scenic. We spent the Saturday and Sunday morning with them and after that rushed back to the Kahului airport to take the Island Air flight to Hilo (via Kona). Overall a very enjoyable week-end, with lot of nice food and friends!
All the nicest pictures in our gallery.
A long day. Most of the morning was occupied by packing, after which we walked in Little Italy, Chinatown, Soho and TriBeCa. We were back at the apartment at 3:30, and left for the airport shortly before 4:00PM. There was a lot of trafic, but our taxi took us through secondary streets and we were in La Guardia at about 4:40. So, we though, ample time before boarding. Well, it turns out that Céline misread the itinerary: She thought we were taking off at 7:25 whereas we were arriving at this time! So we missed the plane!! The rest of it is a long story. We were put on standby on the next two flights to Miami, but could not get on. Eventually, a nice American Airines employee rerouted us to Chicago in a flight that was leaving the same evening. There was more cold sweat as the flight was horribly late (about three hours) and we were afraid it would simply be cancelled. It didn't happen. We arrived in O'Hare around 12:30am, got a room in the airport Hilton, and had a very quiet -although short- sleep.
January 1rst! We're in 2006. New York is quiet. Very quiet. It's Sunday, and the morning after new year's eve. What do you expect? We're with Marc and Laura and have decided to walk and take the circle line mid way around Manhattan. So we walk. From the City hall to Wall Street, and then to the Fish Market, where we stop for lunch. A good lunch. I find the food in NYC generally quite good. The beer is excellent too !! Once the lunch is over, we have only the time to hop in a taxi to go to west 42nd street, pier 83, where the circle line tour starts. I leave my gloves and hat in the taxi. They were MK apparel. Too bad, but I'm not gonna track them down the lost and found at the taxi company. That was a bad time to lose the warm apparel because we are outside on the boat bridge, and even though the conditions are not extreme, it's pretty darn cold. Anyway, here we go, on this 2 hour tour, half way day time, half way night time. It's very nice. On the way out, we pass Liberty Island, then pass the southern tip of Manhattan, under Brooklyn and Williamsburg bridges. I take a bunch of pictures (the boat moves around a lot, and I hope some of them will not be too blurry, which turns out to be correct).
When we are done, we take the bus back to Grand central station. We shake M&L at 5th avenue -they have a rendez-vous with their friend. We finish the evening at an excellent (encore) Afghan restaurant.
At the menu today: Grand Central Station, NYC Library, Hair Spray, back to apartment, Dinner at Jules's Bistro and the McSorley Pub (again) to wait for the big twelve.
It's snowing this morning ! Marc and Laura left earlier to try to go up the Empire State Building for the second time. They will give up because of the lack of visibility and the long line. We are heading up the green subway line to Grand Central Station, then follow 42nd street to the New York Library. We've over two hours before the broadway show, so we go ahead and embark on the free visit of the premises. Our guide is exceptionally brisk and interesting. Impersonation of the cultured and efficient librarian, defender of knowledge ! This place would be a heaven for Ruth, with 14 million books and 48 million artifacts (includes maps, etc). It's a "closed stacks" library, i.e. the visitor can not access the books and shelves directly, but request books after consulting a catalog. And it's free. Subsidized one third by public funds, two thirds by private donations. With one hour left before the show, we head up the 5th avenue and stop in the café Europa for a quick lunch. We reached the 52nd street with ample time to spare before the show. Hair Spray will last two and a half hour, with an intermission. It's an explosion of colors, and music, and dance. We like it very very much. Oddly enough, Céline had already seen the story somewhere. She does not remember where though. May be in a previous life?
When we get out, Time Square is starting to fill up -even though we are over 5 blocks from the place and seven hours from midnight (we'll meet some people from Kansas City the next day and they will tell us that they spent 7 hours standing there at Time Square to attend New Years eve). It's starting to snow again, and we're tired, so we decide to go back to the apartment and possibly have a quick nap to save our energy to outlast midnight (well, especially Céline). Marc and Laura come back soon after we get there. Everyone gets ready, and at 7:30, we head up for Jules's bistro on 8th street, two blocks up from our apartment. We have a good time, a reasonable meal, and finally we get kicked out shortly before the second service, at 10:00. We decide to give a shot to McSorley again, even though we firmly believe it's going to be even more packed than yesterday. But we are wrong! There is almost no one. Incredible. We even have a table, at which we wait for midnight patiently. Céline has brought "confettis", that we merrily throw at each other when the time comes. It seems to me that most of them end up in our beer, spoiling the good brews. The new year has begun!
We wanted to be at the American Museum of Natural History by the opening time -9 o'clock- but got there only at 11:00 or so. The line was very short, and we were in in a brisk. This museum is quite large, and very nice. We started by the astronomy section, with this large sphere in the midst of a huge hall, and other planetary bodies, and galaxies, suspended around it. After that, we had a rushed lunch and proceeded to the dinosaur "new finding" special exhibition. Before we left, we visited the geology/geophysics section.
We went out of the museum just before sunset, and went directly to a restaurant (UNO). After that, we splitted: Marc and Laura went to meet their friends (Tobias and Anne?) and we went to Time Square to try to buy tickets for a broadway show. Time square was a mess. Very crowded. We eventually found the discount ticket store, but none of the 3 shows we were interested in were available -in general, New York was very crowded during this period: that includes museums, and shows, and any place under cover.- So we proceeded directly to the theater showing our first pick (Hair Spray) and bought tickets for the next day matinee show.
After being back to the apartment, Céline was tired -me too- and we had a very quick cereal dinner. Marc called me a bit later to say they were going to a pub in the neighborhood and ask if I would join. This pub was supposed to be the oldest pub in the US, so of course I was interested to see it. It was indeed worth it. They probably haven't dusted the place since the opening day. The walls were covered with posters from the late 19th and early 20th century, old furnitures behind the bar, weird objects hanging from the ceiling. But very cool beer, and one they serve by 2 (i.e. if you ask for one, they bring two). And it was packed! I mean, really packed. But we eventually found a free spot at the bar and stuck there for a while.
Today is new year eve. We're right now resting before going out for diner, and I am taking advantage of this time to catch up on this travel diary.
Well, on Thursday the 29, the first thing we did is go to Willoughby to buy a new digital camera. I had thought about it quite a bit and decided to buy a Canon Rebel XT (Generation 2). It's got great reviews and is one of the cheapest (not anymore but still a very good deal for the money). I wanted it in black, and got it in this color. I got the body plus a 18-55 (for digitals) for $999, and then got talked into buying a 1GB flash card and a 75-300mm zoom. The seller throw in a case and some little things to convinced me. I also bought a set of filters. The package came with bundled software, and I tried PhotoStitch.app wich looks really good to make panorama and the like. It can produce JPEG/TIFF/... but also QuicktimeVR.
So, let's rewind to the first day and illustrate the words with pictures: We went to Willoughby on 31rst street with 5th Avenue. We spent a bit less than an hour in there and then started walking up 5th avenue toward the Rockefeller center and St Patrick Church, where we had a rendez-vous with Marc and Laura.
We ate in a nice and cozy cafeteria in 50th street or so. After that, we attempted to go to the American Museum of Natural History, but the line was really too long, and also the Darwin expo was sold out. So we gave up, got out and crossed central park to reach the Metropolitan Museum of arts, where we spent the rest of the afternoon (Marc & Laura went to the Guggenheim).
Today we arrived in NYC ! Early afternoon, but it was 3:00 when we finished moving in the apartment we rented and headed for lunch. Céline is now resting, and after a dinner at the Indian restaurant below (actually, immediately below the apartment), I am up waiting for Marco and Laura. They are on their way in; they drove from Toronto (Ottawa for Laura), and should be in Manhattan as I write this. The apartment is kind of basic, but it'll do. Bit noisy though.
We discussed somewhat about the plan for the next days with Céline earlier. Here is an excerpt: boat around Manhattan, Battery park, NY public library, Central Park, Rockefeller center, 5th avenue, Grand Central station, AMNH, and Metropolitan Museum. I also want to go shopping for a EOS rebel II (with a 16-50mm lens or something like that, to complement the 28-80 and the 80-200 that I already have in Hilo).
Extensive program! We'll have to start early tomorrow.