Published: January 8th 2011December 31st 2010
I have neglected posting for awhile, due to travel and busyness, but I will cover the highlights of the last couple of weeks in several blog posts.
My family arrived for Noël (Christmas) and new year’s, and we have been doing touristy stuff, hopping around Europe a bit. My Swiss cousins and ex-pat uncle met up in Paris a few days later. In Paris we stayed at an appartement that they rented that was properly in Paris, 6th arrondissement. The appartement was a mish-mash of ancient relics (e.g. wooden heads looking like they belonged on the helm of a ship), and ultra-modern conveniences (a towel-heating rack in the bathroom). I quickly forgot my modest and frugal Orly abode, and adjusted to a temporary lifestyle of wealth and consumption.
We did a lot of walking in the unaccommodating cold and snowy weather, and saw some typical sites, like Notre Dame cathedral, some museums, and a lot of restaurants. My sister and I had had enough of the generic tourist activities, so we checked out the Cité des Sciences et Industrie, which is basically a giant science museum. I was lured there by subway ads advertising the exhibit “science et fiction.”
They had some cool stuff on star trek, star wars, and a bunch of other mostly American science fiction TV shows and movies. The rest of the museum was pretty cool also, with hands-on exhibits on science such as light and optics, physics, astrophysics, and even mathematics. I was wondering how they would make a mathematics exhibit hands-on, since it’s kind of an abstract subject, but they had some cool stuff experimentally giving examples of the Pythagorean theorem, brachistochrone curve, and Normal distribution. Overall I thought this was better at melding the science with entertaining exhibits than anything similar I have seen in the US (altho the Exploratorium in SF is pretty good also). In France, science and math seem to carry less of the “dork stigma” than in the US, and the museum seemed to be filled with pretty typical people. Closed on Sundays
It seems to be almost law (maybe it is?) that almost every store closes in France on Sunday. For example, this excellent and famous bread place just down the street from our appartement was open on Christmas Saturday, but closed all Sundays. I find this kind of irritating, since Sunday is a great day
to do some shopping for groceries, etc, but my local hypermaché (hyper>super) is closed on Sunday.
Malade I got violently sick on our last night in Paris, and have arbitrarily decided to blame it on food poisoning from a cheese that I ate a lot of and no one else ate much of. This is probably totally wrong, but whatever, I need a scapegoat. The next morning, Dec 28, we took the Eurostar rail thru the chunnel to London, where we were pleasantly greeted by about 7C warmer weather for our stay. Trying hard not to throw up again, I missed a lot of the nice snow-covered countryside on the ride. It was actually weird to have people on the street speaking English instead of French, but I quickly got used to it. Cambridge
In London we did more touristy stuff, museums, parliament, Big Ben, eating, etc. Did a daytrip with my dad and uncle to Cambridge, which is a 1 hr train ride away, and is supposedly the more picturesque of the Oxbridges. I don’t fully understand these universities, as they seem to operate like a confederacy of colleges. Cambridge has something like 35, and you have to
"proof" by experiment
They rotate this so that the yellow fluid can be seen to just fit into either the two smaller square or the biggest one. Pythagoras really could have saved himself a lot of trouble with this. ;)
apply to an individual college, altho as far as I can tell, faculty is affiliated just with Cambridge and not with particular colleges. Sounds like an administrative nightmare. Some of the colleges here date back to the 1200s, and are really old-castley looking. Pretty cool, except all their courtyards were closed for the holiday so we couldn’t go in and explore, altho I had a good view of the quad that looks just like the one they run the race around in chariots of fire. People were still “punting” which means using a long pole to propel a boat down the little river ringing Cambridge. It was pretty cold tho, so we didn’t do this. En Suisse
On new year's eve, my sister and I departed from London with my uncle to pay a visit to his place in Switzerland, and do some skiing. I will cover this bit in the next post.
There are more photos below