Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cinq Cent Soixante Jours a Sceaux (560 Days in Sceaux)

The bus stopped at the place it always stops for me on my way home from work. I stepped out of the bus, and turned to my right, after all, that is the way home. I noticed the Christmas lights hanging across the street and realized I had not been in the marche de Sceaux since the Christmas lights were up. I turned around, and headed eastward toward the market. The Christmas light displays here in Sceaux are not spectacular, but they nevertheless signal that the festive season has arrived. As I entered the market, I came upon one of my bakeries. They were making crêpes outside, and I could not resist. A piping hot French crêpe to enjoy as I stroll through the open market lit up by Christmas lights, nice.

This past weekend, I actually entertained guests. They were not French, but American expatriates like myself. I provided five different cheeses, and serve spaghetti with marinara. The pressure was on, as they were of Italian descent. I had seen the Godfather many times, I know how to make a good marinara. Good time was had by all, and the fact that they were using the French bread to soak up the marinara, I took that as a good sign.

The weather is not nearly as dreary as it was a year ago. There has been more sunshine, and everyone is grateful. We are, however, coming up on the one-year anniversary of the "big snow" in Paris. They say that 30 cm fell in one day, and for those of you not familiar with the metric system, that is about 4 1/2 feet (not really, I'm just joking, it is really about 12 inches). So far, there is no indication that the weather is coming get that cold or that we have that much moisture moving in. All that really means for me, is that my flight to Houston on Sunday is likely to get out on time.

And now for the running update: my running us back to where it was before my massive head cold and and injury. It took about six weeks to get up to speed for being off about six weeks. I'm running with the metronome regularly now, leaving it on the entire trip. Running and proper cadence is important, it helps me to focus on proper form. My form is improving, but I'm not even sure I can say I maintain good form for half of the run at this stage. There are periods during the run when I feel my form is nearly perfect, and I do feel like I could go on indefinitely. This great sensation will go on for a quarter to half a mile before my concentration breaks down and I have to refocus. The whole purpose and perfect in the form is to be able to run without any prospect of injury, regardless of the distance or the terrain. I am progressing, and small increments of progression do add up.

I wish I could say my mastery of the French language is progressing as well as my running, but I cannot. I do not get enough immersion in the language to train my ear. I can quite often articulate what I want to say, but once they begin responding, I am lost. I will keep trying, because I feel it is an excellent learning opportunity, and one should be a student all of his life.

I'm looking forward to going back to Houston for Christmas. My side of the family is gathering at a beach house on the Gulf of Mexico during Christmas. The beach house sleeps 26 people, but there were only the 16 or 17 of us, so we will have plenty of room to enjoy one another. If I did not get to post again before the holidays, I want to wish you and your loved ones a very Joyeux Noel et Bonne Annee (Merry Christmas and Happy New Year).

A bientot,


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Cinq Cent Trente Sept Jours a Sceaux (537 days in Sceaux)

It has been over a month since I last posted, but it has been a busy time and I got to spend two weeks in Houston on business. Of course, that also means I got to see the family. It is been a busy time at work, it seems that we spend the last half of the year setting the plans in place for the coming year. I guess this is the job of headquarters; look ahead, plan ahead, inform everyone else.

I will say that the expatriates at headquarters do miss one another when we are traveling. We are often traveling alone, and the one thing we share is that we are all a long way from home, and do not mesh 100% with the culture in which we find ourselves. I notice this especially when I return from Houston after my last trip. This is my first expatriates assignment, but for the two or three others in our little group, this is one of many such assignments. Yet, when we all find ourselves in the office together at the same time, there is a bit of celebration. We almost immediately began to plan our offsite lunch. The offsite lunch is something we noticed our French comrades and other European comrades do not embrace. We enjoy getting off the site to fresh in our minds, get a little bit of perspective, enjoy the culture, and let loose a little bit. The esprit de corps is refreshing.

I hit the big FIVE-OH last week. No, not in years, that happened some time ago (but I feel less than half of that, believe me). I sampled my 50th cheese since being in France. As I mentioned earlier, I was not into cheeses at all when I lived in United States, and only began my pursuit here as a hobby, something to do to avoid going completely stir crazy.

Les Fromages de France
Vache qui Rit
St. Agur
Chevre frais
Chevre vieille
Chausee aux Moines
Crottin de Chevre
Crottin de Chavignol
Saint Nectaire
Saint Felicien
Fromage pur chevre
Bleu de brebis (blue sheep cheese)
Saint Marcellin
Saint Paulin
Le Montagnard des Vosges
Chevre de Palet
Bleu d’Auvergne
Fromage de Brebis Corsica
Sainte Maure
Cure Nantais
Saint Andre
Saint Albray
Le Vieux Pane
Fourme d'Ambert
Bleu Gourmage
Tomme de Savoie  20111105

When I first began this cheese adventure, I was a little hesitant about all the wild and strong flavors I might encounter. Now, when I see a cheese I have not tried, I buy a small portion, knowing that if I do not like it, it will find its way into the trashcan. So far, only a couple of cheeses have met that fate.

I have signed up for the 2012 Paris half marathon in March. I feel like I am making a bit of a comeback on my running, after being sidelined by a severe head cold and the dreaded "top of foot pain". The combination of these two kept me from running for almost 6 weeks. I feel like I'm starting over again, especially when it comes to technique. Technique will be very important in the half marathon run, because it was at a similar distance that I discovered my technique was off and causing problems with my fifth metatarsal during the summer. It has been a bit of a challenge to get my wind again, but it is coming. I intend to conservatively manage my increase in mileage, based on my ability to hold technique during the run.

From the first of November to the end of March represents the dark season for those living in the area around Paris. We have, however, been blessed with a few days of sunshine, like today. Today is an absolutely cloudless sky, and the colors of fall which remain are vibrant. I went on a bit of a walkabout today, mostly in the Parc de Sceaux, and you can see my pictures here: http://twitpic.com/photos/lonewillheath

This coming week represents what should be my last week of travel before the holidays. I am traveling to Southampton, England on Monday and Tuesday, then off to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Wednesday through Friday, landing back in Paris early Saturday morning. The trip to Kuala Lumpur was unexpected, and cost me my trip to Marrakesh. But this is business, and that's why I'm here. I have a lead on another opportunity to go to Morocco in January. 

I'm looking forward to Christmas with the family; we are gathering with my side of the family at a very large beach house on the Texas Gulf Coast.

That's all I have for now, thanks for coming along.

A bientot,


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Cinq Cent Deux Jours a Sceaux (502 days in Sceaux)

I guess you could accuse me of being a slacker. I have not posted since the end of July. In my defense, I took vacation in August, work for a couple of weeks here in France, then traveled back to United States on business for the last half of September, and then it then involved in very intense business meetings since. I will figure out this blogging while on the road thing soon enough; I know many people make a living doing just that.

The vacation in August was a great time to reunite the family and friends. I enjoyed the times hanging out around Houston, and then I took my biannual trip to the Hole in the Wall area of Wyoming. This was the third trip I've made with Jack Schaffner and my faithful border collie, Mick. We went up and over the fabled Hole in the Wall Pass again, and also explored Buffalo Creek Canyon. Each afternoon, we would sit in the shade of the Jeep (outside of the Jeep in very comfortable folding camping chairs), much like the two brothers in the movie "Secondhand Lions" and watch a literal kaleidoscope of color interplay between the setting sun and the scenery all around us. It was one of the most fascinating interplays of light and nature I have ever seen. You can view pictures and video; I shot a lot of video this time since we have so many pictures from the previous two trips, at this link.

Up until the time I left for vacation in August, the weather in France have been very cloudy, even during the summer months. I love sunshine. Winter and early spring are tolerable when I know that sunshine is coming in the late spring and the summer months, but when the sunshine does not return, it is difficult. By the time I took vacation in August, Texas was experiencing drought conditions and temperatures over 100°F. I was probably the only guy in Texas happy to see both of these things; not the drought necessarily, but the sunshine and the heat. I drove across Texas in my open-air Jeep on my way to Denver and the Hole in the Wall. When Mick and I arrived outside of Amarillo at 11 o'clock at night, we found our campsite, threw a sleeping bag down beside the Jeep, and Mick and I slept under the stars. Too hot and tired to pitch a tent, and the big star filled Texas sky told me there was no reason to worry about rain that night. We packed up early the next morning and finished our journey to Denver.

I was told when I got here that even if June, July, and August are cloudy, which they often can be, September is always perfect. I guess "always" finished in 2011. It was cloudy when I returned, and I found myself quickly missing the sun and heat of Texas and the Rocky Mountains. I knew, however, that I could find sunshine in France. I made a little weekend trip back to the South of France, staying on the Mediterranean Sea just east of the city of Perpignan. The sun was indeed shining, and the Mediterranean its beautiful deep blue. I visited Collioure again, a small, storybook town famous for its small fishing boats and their sails. I also traveled to Figueras, Spain, home of the artist Salvador Dali. I could have traveled onward to Barcelona, it was only 45 min. further, but one can only do so much in a weekend. I also visited the town of Cucugnan, a small village in a rather steep valley. If you look it up on Google Earth, it will note some of the key attractions of the area. It is a place to which I expect I will return.

Here is the latest update on the cheese journey (41 to date):

Vache qui Rit
St. Agur
Chevre frais
Chevre vieille
Chausee aux Moines
Crottin de Chevre
Crottin de Chavignol
Saint Nectaire
Saint Felicien
Fromage pur chevre
Bleu de brebis (blue sheep cheese)
Saint Marcellin
Saint Paulin
Le Montagnard des Voges
Chevre de Palet
Bleu d’Auvergne
Fromage de Brebis Corsica
Sainte Maure
Cure Nantais

That is all for now, thanks for coming along.

A bientot,


Sunday, July 31, 2011

Quatre Cent Trente Deux Jours a Sceaux (432 Days in Sceaux)

Yesterday was a busy day, especially since it came on the heels of the day before, which was a 24 hour sojourn from Perth, Australia.  Flying from Perth to Kuala Lumpur took five hours -- five hours to basically fly from Perth to the equator!  In KL, I caught the twelve and a half hour flight to Paris, landing Saturday morning at about 06h30.  I had the whole weekend in front of me!

I traveled the last two weeks, first to KL on business, and then on to Perth.  I spent the weekend in Perth, and it was good to be among English-speaking people again.  No slight to the French, but my comprehension of the language is so poor I cannot even make casual conversation (I am only here half the time anyway).  In Australia, such things were much easier.  I must say, in addition, the service I received in Australia at the hotel and in restaurants was second only to the USA, based on my traveling experience, and a close second, at that.

I knew I had to stay awake all day yesterday (KL and Perth are 6 hours ahead of Paris), so it was a good day for cleaning: vacuuming the carpet (more dirt than I can see or even recall bringing in), mopped the kitchen floor (why is the water so black, it didn't look THAT dirty...maybe it should be done more often than once every six months...), dusted (no one had been around, where did all THAT come from...maybe I'd better check that six months thing again...), did laundry, went to Monoprix (grocery store) and Marche de Sceaux, and put away all the stuff I had taken on the trip.  Still, I went to bed at 8:30 PM, and slept pretty well until 4:30 AM.

I ran this morning, and it felt good.  The stuff I learned in the clinic is helping, though I have not been able to keep it up 100% of the time, my lapses are the exception now, rather than the rule.  I ran some 20+ miles while in Perth, as they have a beautiful running trail along the Swan River.  A full loop is ten kilometers (6.25 miles), but from my hotel it was just over 7 miles.  The metronome thing (see the last blog entry) is working well.

I also took a run in KL, a beautiful city in the heart of Malaysia.  Go.  The places (KL and Malaysia) are 'must see'.  The run in KL was my first since my clinic in London, and everything worked too well: I burned myself out with an 8:32 mile run right out of the chute, and spent the remaining two miles trying to recover.

Between my Sony Reader, my Acer Iconia, and countless hours in airports and airplanes, I have done more reading than I have done in years.  Here is my list of read books (not a lot for some people, but a lot for me):

  • Lyrical Ballads and other Poems (original 1798 version, scanned by Google)
  • The Johnson County War
  • Anthem
  • Area 51: The uncensored history
  • ChiRunning
  • Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy (I read this series went was first published, but that was 30+ years ago)
  • The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
  • Life, the Universe, and Everything (to which the answer is 42, but the question and answer cannot co-exist in the same temporal frame)
  • Barefoot Running Step by Step

Yes, I study as much as I read for pleasure...

Books still being read:

  • The Journey
  • Tarantula
  • The Fountainhead
  • Atlas Shrugged
  • My French Lesson (a WikiBook, so I can study French while traveling)

I also carry with me (on my Reader and Acer) a host of Greek reference books, music books, sheet music, technical papers, etc.

I go back home to Texas for 3 weeks of vacation in five days, I am looking forward to it and all it contains!

A bientot!


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Quarte Cent Dix Huit Jours a Sceaux (418 Days in Sceaux)

It is early in the day here in France, but it has begun nonetheless and I thought I would share a little bit before I begin a busy, although quiet, day.

In addition to running, the other activity that keeps me busy (outside of work) is guitar. If you were to examine my music collection which includes well over 20,000 tracks, you would find that the one thing they shared in common is the guitar. And I'm speaking of the guitar as an instrument used across many genres: classical, Latin, flamenco, electric blues, country blues, rock, country rock, "psychedelic", and so on. I wish I could learn to play them all, not for fame and fortune, but just for the enjoyment of it all. As it is, I study classical, Latin, flamenco, electric and country blues. Oddly enough, until today, I never incorporated a metronome into my practice. When practicing scales, I would simply count to myself (out loud to keep myself honest) and think that that was sufficient. In my running class yesterday, we used a metronome to establish the tempo for running, which magically forced me to shorten my stride (over striding was one of my running flaws). Last week, I read an article about Ana Vidovic, a young guitarist who has been amazing the classical guitar world since she was 16 years of age. Now, at the ripe age of 31 years old, she is renowned for her flawless technical skills, and highly developed expressiveness with the classical guitar. In the article she stated that she still practices scales using a metronome every day. A long time ago, in dog years, I read that Andre Segovia suggested that practicing two hours of scales everyday was essential for the guitarist at any level. I am not a great mathematician, but I could see some things beginning to add up. The great flamenco guitarists even say there are only three important aspects of playing great flamenco: tempo, tempo, tempo. They further note that one should spent 20 years learning tempo before they begin playing flamenco as a solo guitarist. Yesterday I found that at the crossroads of running and playing guitar there lies a metronome. Who could have imagined?

Breakfast today was simple and French: half of a baguette with a little bit of butter a lot of raspberry jam, and of course, 2 cups of coffee (not the little bitty French cups of coffee, but my Texas sized cups from Starbucks). It rained last night, the air is cool, and there is much to do before I travel tomorrow, both around the apartment and work. I will try to make an update or two while I'm on the road, and again, I thank you for coming along…

A bientot,


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Quatre Cent Dix Sept Jours a Sceaux (417 Days in Sceaux)

This was a busy week, but a short week as well. During this past week, the French celebrated their National Celebration, or, as they more commonly referred to as "Quartoze Juillet" (14th of July), just as we more commonly referred to Independence Day as "Fourth of July". We got the day off at the office, and 80% of the office took the next day off as well. There were only a few of us on the fifteenth of July, and most of us made plans to get out early.

A colleague from work joined me for the eve of the fourteenth of July, which is often celebrated in the smaller villages around Paris, since Paris plays host to the Big Event. Cheese, bread, saucisson sec (dried sausage, a delicacy in these parts), and samplings of the fruits of the South made for a pleasant, though late, evening.

On Friday, the fifteenth of July, I left work early to catch the Eurostar to London. I've mentioned previously problems that have developed in my running. I made all the adjustments I could make, but I recognized I needed expert help. Fortunately, there is a certified ChiRunning instructor in London (unfortunately, there is not one in the whole of France). I contacted the instructor, and she was available for private coaching today. We met at Regents Park in London, not far from the Eurostar station, and we had typical English weather: it rained on us the entire time. Nonetheless, we went through all the elements of ChiRunning, she videotaped while I ran, we analyzed the tape, and we identified a couple of flaws in my technique. Now of course, it is up to me to put what I've learned to practice, and hopefully I will be back to pain-free running in no time.

I leave for Malaysia and Australia on Monday, my first trip to that part of the world. While I know I will enjoy the non-business parts of the journey, I also know that the close of this trip brings me closer to Houston.

A bientot,


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Quatre Cent Treize Jours a Sceaux (413 days in Sceaux)

Sometimes being here in France is mundane.

This week was little more than long hours of work, followed by short hours at home. Mind you, I know that is the way most of us live most of the time. It is no different here. My biggest issue this week was that I could not run. I have developed a callous under the fifth metatarsal of my right foot, which is causing some pain. As a result, I had to minimize my excursions out of the apartment, which means I listened to a lot of music, which is seldom bad, and watch a lot of movies, which is not as entertaining to me as you might think. But they do help me deal with the austere boredom I would have otherwise. This weekend I watched the following movies: "Gladiator", "Dirty Harry", "Joe Kidd", and "Cat Ballou". An eclectic mix, for sure, but that kept things from getting too boring.

I was also able to do some "serious" guitar practice. By "serious", I mean I pulled out the instructional DVDs for my blues guitar playing, and pulled out the Carcassi studies for my classical guitar playing. I must say, both were enjoyable sessions, not something I always have the time to do (believe it or not). I even studied a little French this weekend, a skill at which I am improving little by little. My French teacher at work and I spend at least 90% of the hour now speaking in French. The other 10% of the time I have a really stupid look on my face and cannot understand anything.

Everything got washed this weekend, even the sheets of the bed. I also finally got the toilet cleaned, having lived with it stains of previous renters for a year, I finally pulled out the tried-and-true cleaner of all things: bleach. I poured a half a gallon of bleach into the toilet before I left for work, and when I came back 12 hours later, it was clean. I was completely victorious. Bleach, when it has to be positively and absolutely cleaned right now.

The running is good for my mental health, something perhaps I had underestimated until this weekend. I am being wise about my "injury", and resting until the pain goes away, but it is not easy. I wanted to make the Eiffel Tower run this weekend, but I will not be able to do so. The Eiffel Tower run involves making my traditional Pont Neuf run, taking a right, and following the left bank of the Seine River down to the Eiffel Tower. It is almost half a marathon. I will wait until I'm healed.

I'm sorry this was less than exciting, but it was a rather ordinary week, and we do have those in France. Thank you for coming along, and joining in my journey.

A bientot,


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Quatre Cent Trois Jours a Sceaux (403 Days in Sceaux)

It has been over a month since I last reported to you, I have been very busy with travel and with work, leaving little energy for recreational activities. My guitars have gotten dusty as well. With the cancellation of my trips to Brazil and to Houston for the end of June and early July, I have gained a few days of normalcy here in France. And thusly, I begin today's blog.

I did something today that I have not done since I've been here. My bakery of choice underwent renovation late last fall. It was completely remodeled, new owners, and the outcome was a more modern facility. It was more of an integrated facility, not just having pastries and breads, but also having a small coffee shop, and tables in the front whereby patrons might take a cup of coffee or even eat a sandwich purchased from within. I had bought sandwiches there before, making a lunch out of it in the park. Today, I stepped out of character a bit and actually sat down and had a cup of coffee. And, as it was close to lunch, I also selected a sandwich and brought it to my table as well. It was the first time I sat down in a public meeting place and had a meal by myself. I did a little people watching, though people watching in Sceaux is not as interesting or fascinating as people watching on the Champs Elysées, it was nonetheless a welcome pause. Oh yes, the coffee and sandwich were good.

In early June I took a business trip to Houston. It was great to be home again and visit with family. My dog and I ran every day, and I let my sister-in-law to run her first 4 mile run. I also got to enjoy my daughter's new swimming pool, and of course the beautiful grandchildren she has provided. Work was intense, very long days, that was good to see so many familiar faces again. Even though I was officially in Houston for 13 days, it seemed to go by very quickly, and soon I was back on the airplane heading to France.

Three short days after my arrival in France, I flew to Saudi Arabia. This is my first trip to Saudi, and I must say I was treated well at every point of service. Make no mistake, this is a kingdom ruled by Islamic decree, which means that even an international hotels one will not find a drop of alcohol. The thing that surprised me the most was not the heat, I expected the heat. We are actually considered in early summer in the month of June, the sweltering heat does not come until August and September. I ran while I was there, as is my custom, but the wind and the sand in the air limited my mileage considerably. The wind easily lifts the calcareous sand and creates a haze that lasts throughout the day. That same gritty haze gets into one's lungs as one is running, though not noticeable except for the rawness one begins to feel in the throat. The sandy haze, when coupled with the heat, limited my run to 3 miles (5 km).

After a series of client meetings over three very busy days, I flew into Kuwait. I had flown through Kuwait before, but have never stopped and stayed overnight until this trip. Again, I was greeted with pleasant and cordial hospitality everywhere I went. I was excited to get up and run the next morning, because it was clear (no sand in the air) and I could run right along the coast of the Persian Gulf. I know that one has to get up early to run, as this was my lesson back in April when I was in Qatar. I went out at six o'clock in the morning to running Kuwait, and it was already 95°F (that is 34°C). Again, my run was limited to 3 miles before I begin to feel the effects of dehydration. Nothing serious, mind you, but when you feel it coming, it is best to play it safe. Later that day, the temperature hit 117°F (47°C), and the sand darkened the afternoon sky. My meetings went well in Kuwait, and as a result I will be returning there in mid to late October to conduct a workshop.

I took a flight at one o'clock in the morning to return to Paris, knowing that I would have to land and get to the office as soon as possible. I needed to get to the office to deliver my passport so that we could secure the visa for Brazil, a trip I would be taking four days hence. Unfortunately, I was not able to get the necessary visa and my trip to Brazil, which would've been my first, was canceled, as was the subsequent trip to Houston. All is not lost, there is much work to be done here in France, an opportunity to get my running program normal again, in time to stay in one time zone until I leave for Malaysia and Australia on July 17.

I was able to reach a milestone here the second quarter of 2011 with respect to my running. Certainly the pleasant weather in France makes it easier to get up and run in the morning, but I also put in some miles in the Middle East as well as Houston. All of them together combined for 150 miles (240 km) for the months of April, May, and June. This brings my total mileage for 2011 up to 250 miles (400 km). I have never run such distances in all my life. Some might think I am obsessive about my running, but the running provides the motivation for me to get out of a very quiet apartment (or hotel room) and never requires the mental stress of trying to communicate in French. And please do not think that the French are really difficult about my lack of language skills, though they are improving, on the contrary, they have been very helpful and understanding. But it is a stressful encounter nonetheless, just wrestling with my own mental gymnastics in trying to articulate what I need to say and to process what they are saying. Running gets me out into the culture without the strain of engagement. Besides, it's healthy for me.

After my trips to Malaysia and Australia, I get to take some vacation. I'm going back to Houston August for three weeks of vacation. I just want to hang out, as traveling is pretty much what I do for a living right now. There's some yard work that needs to be done in Houston, there is little boy who likes to play guitar with his pappaw, there is a dog who loves to run, and there is a family to enjoy.

I will update you from the road, but when I go on vacation, like I told my boss, I'm on vacation.

Thanks for coming along, thank you for your encouraging words, a bientot.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Trois Cent Soixante Onze Jours a Sceaux (371 Days in Sceaux)

Memorial Day weekend passed here without the fanfare of the USA, EXCEPT: they played "Band of Brothers" on their HBO equivalent. It was all in French, which was interesting, and I had just finished watching the series the week before (I have the DVD set, very nice, get it!). Folks here do remember the wars, and our part in them. It was very satisfying to see this series on TV during OUR Memorial Day weekend. Merci beaucoup, mes amis!

I am getting geared up for a busy travel season in June and July, when I will hit six countries on three continents. By the end of July, I will have been away from Sceaux almost 2/3 of 2011. Then, after all that, I will fly back to Houston, Texas to enjoy three and a half weeks of vacation. Whew! All the travel is not helping my mastery of the French language, but this job involves a lot of travel anyway. It will all slow down in Q4, as it always does -- I think.

Hopefully, by October and November there will be no further incidents in Morocco, and I can head down there for some sun and exploration as the clouds roll over Ile-de-France. Not much else to report from here, but I thought I would post an update before I return to the USA for business tomorrow.

a bientot!


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Trois Cent Soixante Neuf Jours a Sceaux (369 Days in Sceaux)

Today, I thought I would share the remainder of my weekend sojourn to the Perpignan area, excerpted from my journal. I travel now about 60% of the time, and it is hard to keep up with the blog, but I will continue to do so.

From my journal...


On the RER to go to Vienna, my first trip to this famous city. I wanted to "finish" my weekend trip into the vineyards of the Pyrenees Orientale:

After e-mailing and texting the vignerons (winemakers), I finally received replies. It would be necessary to visit Domaine de L' Arc before noon, and Domaine de Clos des Fees would be at 17h00.

The trip to Domine de L'Arc, was only 15 minutes, and I canght them shortly after 11h00. I tasted their wares. while doing so, the owner's son came in. The boy was five or six years old, and although I could not understand him, it was clear he was anxious for his dad to take him to play football (soccer)..

The thing that is impressed upon me is how small and family-driven these operations are. The ''domaines" do not always have their own vineyards; perhaps they rent, have agreements with those who have vineyards, or they might buy their grapes on the market. Whatever the case, they then select the grapes that are used in their wines, and skillfully craft the wine itself. some of these rather small operations produce 10,000 or more bottles of wine a year. As I said earlier, somewhere, these people know soil and toil.

I had an afternoon appointment with Clos des Fees, a domaine located in Vingrau, France. Vingrau is a small village NW of Perpignan, and is absolutely picturesque. The mesas -- yes, there are mesas there -- reminds one of the American West. Not quite as dry, as vineyards dominate the fore slopes and valley below, and a little greener on top. This is the part of the French countryside seldom imagined by Americans like myself, whose chief ideas of France are Paris, Normandy beaches, and the Riviera. The green mesas that towered above me, the vineyards all around me -- the gnarly, free-standing Carignan vines complemented by the more delicate and trellised Grenache vines -- spoke to me saying,''Welcome to the heart of Rousillon-Villages" (or more correctly, "Bienvenue au coeur du Rousillon-Villages"). Like the other domaines I visited, Clos des Fees had no sense of pretense or pomp.

I knocked on the door, and Claudia, Herve the winemaker's wife, called down from a window above and asked me to wait. Moments later, Herve opened the door and invited me in. I passed by the stacks of shipping boxes, and came to the opening that led to the vats and barrels room. The vats were in the shorter part of the room to my left, while the barrels extended to my right. In between the two was the "tasting room" -- you guessed it: a barrel with a flat piece of wood on it. Herve grabbed a wine glass and walked over to the furthest vat, stuck the glass under a spicket, and drew a glass of white wine. I thought to myself, "There is not a white wine anywhere on the planet I can say I like, maybe only tolerate one or two, and we are starting here, ugh", all the while, of course, I was trying to make sure my facial expression did not betray my thoughts. I graciously took the glass, made a few motions that communicated I was going to enjoy this, and took a guarded sip. Crisp, clean, light on the tongue, pleasant to taste -- the first white I can say I like. It was 100% Grenache Blanc, and did not carry the acidic, citrus taste of chardonnay or chablis, nor the syrupy sweetness of the Alsacian whites. This was simple, good, refreshing. He then told me he had no other whites to sell, and this particular white would not be in the bottle until later the following week. Wouldn't you know it.

We proceeded to taste his reds, which were all fantastic, and with a few leading questions by me, Herve spoke of his winemaking history and experiences. I made my order, and Herve called to Claudia to come and take care of the transaction. He also mentioned other things, but as my hearing and understanding of French is yet poor, I missed most of it. As Herve was packing my order, and Claudia registered the sale, Herve pulled out two bottles I had not seen before. One was a bottle of the white, the last of his own stash, and the other carried the label "Walden" -- a new red he is creating/developing, named in honor of Henry David Thoreau, the author and inspiration for Herve leaving the safer urban and corporate worlds for life as a rural wine-maker in the south of France. He presented them to me as gifts.

With the Renault Laguna now carrying my cache from the four domains, I made my way back to Canet-en-Rousillon. Herve recommended a more rural return, which took me from Vingrau to Opoul to Fitou -- the rural element of the return -- before catching up to the bigger roads that would lead me back to Canet-Plage. The road from Opoul to Fitou got down to a single lane among the vineyards at one point, after taking me past a ruin which could have been anywhere out in the American West. Driving through the many small villages and towns, I felt like a time traveler, as these communities were pleasantly encased in a simpler era, and my Laguna, interstellar-looking by comparison to the environs, shuttled me in and out of the locales' respective periods.

I have come to appreciate what the French have been telling me: "Paris is Paris, but this, this is France..."

a bientot,


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Trois Cent Soixante Cinq Jours a Sceaux (365 Days in Sceaux)

Today marks one year since I moved into my apartment in Sceaux, France. Let's recap a bit on expectations:

French language: I like languages, and I have learned a lot of French, but not enough to converse. Well, probably enough to converse from my side, but I am surprised at how difficult it has been to pick up the language by ear (understanding what people are saying), as it is not phonetic (like English). I am below my expectations here.

French people: Guarded at first, for the most part, but very friendly when you are welcomed into their circle, which can occur just by being a regular customer at a shop. They are very pro-American, as noticed in various tributes and monuments, but they are not afraid to disagree with their friends. The French people are also physically very active, as parks and greenbelts are in constant use by walkers, runners, bikers, etc. Expectations exceeded.

French transportation: We have had a couple of strikes, but they are always announced and there are simple workarounds. Buses, the Metro, trains do run on time, and any taxi I have used relies on GPS for navigation. The TGV (Train Grande Vitesse: High Speed Train) system is great for getting out into the countryside, and the French make good use of the Internet for making reservations, booking rental cars and hotels at your destination; also flags which trains are available for bringing your bike. Expectations exceeded.

French market in Sceaux: classic!

French food: I do not eat out except at company-sponsored events, and the occasional lunch away from the office. I will not score the French based on my cooking. :-)

French cheese: Cheese is the "strongest" part of French culture, and I have come to appreciate the classic cheese plate (at least 3 different types and textures of cheese). There are, apparently, at least a different type of cheese for each day of the year -- minimum of 365 cheeses in this country! Most French people, however, have sampled less than 20 types (my count stands at 30).

France's regions: I like the south, especially the department (state) Pyrenees Orientale (East of the Pyrenees Mountains); which is also the Catalan region of France. I enjoy the culture altogether there.

I appreciate you coming along on this journey, which will likely continue another year (though such things are never certain), and hope you enjoy my snapshots of life in France.

a bientot,


Friday, May 20, 2011

Trois Cent Soixante Jours a Sceaux

I ran this morning, to the south of the hotel. I ran 4.03 miles, 9:28 pace-my fastest since I began running, and certainly my fastest 4 miles pace ever (in the mid-80's, Jimmy "If it can be fried, my mama can cook it" Addison (he is from Gulfport) and I did 7:30 for three miles). This was my first run of 4 miles or more when every mile was under 10 minutes: 9:59, 9:12, 9:16, 9:21 -- the first mile was slow in part to trying to figure out where the trail went...a good start for the day...

The drive to Colborne was beautiful -- as expected. I had to park by the train station; rather, on the street to the train station. Note to self: next time, park at the train station. Because of the November visit with Pam, Collioure had a very familiar feel to it. It was prettier, as all the trees had leaved, and all businesses were open. Though it was obvious they were not at the peak of tourism on this Friday morning in May, it was clear everyone was readying themselves for a busy summer.

I found the pitchers for which I had been searching in Collioure. six generations of handmade creations, and I bought two for wine and one for water. One of the wine pitchers is brown -- the traditional pitcher, and the other is blue, a newer model -- near as in only 45 years old. The artisan of these pitchers, now in his early 80s, apparently sculpted as well, and I am told that his work be seen along the Port d'Orleans metro stations.

The drive from Collioure to Terrats was picture-perfect. I drove, with the help of Tom-Tom, all two lane roads. I do not think there were many options anyway.

Finding Domain Ferrer Ribiere (DFR) was difficult, as these are really working enterprises, for people who know toil and soil. after walking around town for awhile, one can see nothing from a car and this is a small village, a lady asked if she could help. she explained where I could find DFR, ironically, I had turned the car around in their "driveway" on my initial pass through town.

The place is a concrete barn, and an old one. No signs to tell you this is DFR, no client reception area, either. I walked right through the steel double-doors, past the vats, came upon some barrels, and immediately happened upon a bearded man in a t-shirt having lunch at a makeshift workbench/table. We exchanged pleasantries, and I agreed to let him finish lunch and we would meet up later to discuss business.

I then found myself sitting in what seems to be the only restaurant in town. after lunch, I will make the 200 yard trip back to DFR and the vineyards rolling behind it.

Another note of interest: for every French flag I have seen, I have seen two dozen Catalan flags or sheilds.-the yellow with red stripes colors of Catalonia dominate the area. This area falls within the sovereignty of France, but it is not French --it is Catalan in culture and pride.

Had a very satisfying lunch of ham and pasta, baked with a layer of cheese upon it. The restaurant is a very "local" kind of place. It was interesting, listening to the chatter ("chatter" because I do not understand, not that their talk was frivolous) of everyday people, not tourists, everyone seemed to know everyone else, except for that guy by himself at the big table, the one in the black t-shirt and khaki pants, who speaks French with a bad accent, and who is writing in a black book with a large, odd-looking pen...

I returned to DFR, and found that Bruno Ribiere was ready and waiting. I found out he was an advertising executive at one time, but a desperate hospital event made him change his career to agriculture. Like I said, these places, especially when they are called "Domain", are not fanciful or highbrow in anyway. If you are comfortable in a machine shop or an automobile garage, you would be right at home at DFR. Oh yeah, their products are among the best I have known in France.

Thanks traveling along,


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Trois Cent Cinquant Neuf a Sceaux

Finally on my way, heading to the southern coast of France, near Perpignan, at over 200 mph (TGV: Train Grande Vitesse -- High Speed Train). The shoreline is running almost North-South along this part of France's Mediterranean coast, as I will be quite a ways west of Nice and the Riviera (Cote d'Azur).

I am not taking two vacation days, but rather, two “RTT” days. I have 11 of them to take this year, which I get on top of my five weeks of vacation, and oh yeah, my seniority, according to French law, grants me five additional days off. I needed the break, both for all the activity year-to-date (I have been on the road 50% of 2011), and what is coming (eight countries in the next 10 weeks). My hotel is nothing special, but it is on the beach, good for running. Perpignan is the in the old Catalan region of France and Spain, and many people still speak Catalan. Perpignan is also in the heart of the great wine region of Languedoc-Roussillon, and a perfect “base” for exploring the myriad of vineyards in this ancient (since at least the 9th century) wine-producing region. Explore, rest, return – that is the plan.

I just remembered, today marks my 31st year with Schlumberger, and it was one year ago today that I flew from Houston to Paris, beginning my life as a resident of France.

Enjoyed a fine paella for dinner tonight, a delicacy of Catalan...http://twitpic.com/4zqxzf

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Trois Cent Cinquant Cinq Jours Dans Sceaux (355 Days in Sceaux)

Well, it has been over one month since I last posted. I have been very busy, as my traveling has increased in 2011. Since I last posted, I made a trip back to the United States on business, and I also flew to Qatar and Abu Dhabi. It was my first time to visit these two locations.

Everything is green and lush here right now. They still do not have the hanging baskets of flowers in the market yet, and I suppose they must be waiting for summer. We have alternating days of brilliant sunshine and mild temperatures, offset by cloudy and cool days. The one thing we have not had is much rain. I am grateful for that, because the rain at this time of year, and even late May, is cold.

I have pretty much cleared out all the cheeses from my refrigerator. I think my total number of sampled cheeses rests at 30 types. I finally found a bleu cheese that I like, it is made from sheep's milk. It is called "bleu de brebis".

I have included some pictures from my travels, and as a picture is worth 1000 words, I will let them do the rest of the talking.

La Coulee Verte (The Green Flow) after one of my runs. My
apartment complex is near the center of the photo, cradled in trees...

Small restaurant near the market in Sceaux, eager for spring and summer to arrive...

This flowers are among the earliest to arrive in spring, here in Sceaux...

The roundabouts are always decked out in floral regale...

The wisteria (at my apartment complex, next to the Coulee Verte) declares the arrival of spring on this cloudless day....

Famous Red Square, the prettiest part of Moscow...

Doha, Qatar, in the morning about 06h30, very humid. All my running gear was soaked, and I started my run shortly after 05h00. Lots of people were out at that time, because by the time this picture was taken, it was already too hot to exert oneself by running...

Doha in the afternoon, after the wind kicks up in the desert...

Chateau Thoiry, site of a good sized zoo, both modern and drive through. I went with my neighbors Oliver and Laurie, and their twins Allison and Jasmine. Good time had by all...

In the lions' park, you pass through via a glass tunnel. it gives you a grounds' eye view of life among the lions. The lions, however, find the tunnel very comfortable for sleeping. This one is literally within arm's reach of me -- and above me -- snoozing away the afternoon.

Thanks for coming along,


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Trois Cent Vingt Jours Dans Sceaux (320 Days in Sceaux)

Sitting out on my balcony as I write today's blog; enjoying a perfectly beautiful day, clear skies, green leaves have almost fully returned to the trees in waiting, and the aroma of wisteria faintly saunters on the currents of a gentle breeze.

As you know, I am without a car here in France. Texas finally reciprocates with France on the driver's license, so being able to drive legally is no hassle. Nonetheless, I have elected to do without a car, as I can get along without one with respect to commuting, and a rental is available at the end of any "voyage par TGV". I take the bus to work, the 395, from the Mairie de Sceaux (city hall) to Bois Brule in Clamart. From the Bois Brule stop, I walk 5-7 minutes to the office. On Monday, I encountered snow between the Bois Brule stop and the office. Yes, white stuff on the sidewalk, white stuff in the air. Fortunately, it was not also cold and wet. One of the trees in bloom begins its spring completely covered in tiny white petals, no bigger than your fingernail. There was a gentle breeze and the fallen petals covered the sidewalk -- it did look like snow -- and as I walked under the tree, the breeze kicked up just enough to create a shower of white petals -- falling snow. It was the only snow I really enjoyed this year, I can assure you of that.

Our office here has a cantine (cantina, cafeteria), as our building is also part of the engineering and manufacturing facilities here. Rather than send a few hundred people out in their cars to the always busy roads and streets of greater Paris, we have a cantine. It is very efficient, as we can be in and out in 30-40 minutes total, but it does not always seem like a break -- lunch, yes, the food is quite good, but a break? Not always. I have a couple of American coleagues here, and we leave campus once a week to get a real lunch-break. There is a place only a 10 minute walk from here which is a pizzaria and creperie. Pizza and crepes. Not a combo I would imagine, but hey, ca marche (French expression for "it works", literal meaning "it walks")! Oddly, both the pizzas and the crepes are quite good here, though I only partake of the crepes maybe once a month (I do not want them to "hang around" while I run). We have gotten to know the waitress (there is only she and the cook for about 20 tables), and she knows our order for pizza and drinks without asking, though every now and then I change things up just to keep the experience fresh for all parties...cheap entertainment, I know. It makes for a pleasant break and head-clearing exercise, which is its primary purpose.

Speaking of the office, here are the countries represented on the HQ's floor:
French Morocco
United Kingdom

You can visit around the world in one stroll down from my office...

I went to Moscow this week, my second trip to Russia, but first to Moscow. I was attending a workshop being conducted by our Russia area management. It dealt with geophysics, and it was interesting to talk to them about their business, and listen to them present and describe their ongoing activities. The workshop was done in Russian, but they had arranged an interpreter for me, who translated each presentation in real-time. Fortunately, the slides themselves were in English, with the more complex slides being done mostly in Greek (and other symbols of higher math). It was a good opportunity to get to know the team there, but while it was sunny in Ile-de-France, Moscow was overcast with piles of snow still on the ground, and not one tree had yet budded. I was very happy to get back to Paris and sunshine. I landed at about 6PM (18h00), and traffic was so bad that it took me almost as long to get from the airport to Sceaux as it did to fly from Moscow to Paris! The driver and I chatted a lot, and I had to do it all in French as he spoke very little English -- I even showed him a shortcut back to my apartment, giving him directions as we went along.

Just a side story of my flight to Moscow, if you will...the flight from Paris was packed, mostly with Russians returning from holidays, including a family of five who were seated in my area. The teenage girl and her pre-teen brother drew the short straw and sat next to me. The nationality of these kids could not be picked out of a line-up of American kids. It was kinda cute considering most of our impressions of Russia and its people, coupled with its 20th century political history. Anyway, some of the guys at the office want to form a band just for messing around, and asked me to be a part -- we are just going to do 12-bar blues kinda stuff, with a few extras thrown in for good measures. One of the extras was "Like a Rolling Stone", Bob Dylan's classic, and the song Rolling Stone Magazine calls "the greatest song in the history of rock and roll". The leader of the group was lamenting the words "too many and too complicated to get right", and I said, "no problem, know them all for all verses" (he is not off my generation, about 15 years behind). I was chartered to put the song together. I have a video of Jimi Hendrix playing "Stone" at Monterey in 1968, and decided I would study it for ideas on how to lead out on guitar, and ascertain the structure of his chords, etc. I was watching the video over and over again on my Android smartphone, and the whenever I sat it down on my tray table, the Russian teenager (from Smolensk, I later discovered) would watch it, too. I noticed her interest, and offered to let her listen. Being polite, she refused, but I smiled and insisted, and she broke into a big smile and set the Boze headphones on her head. She was smiling and bobbing to the music in zero-flat. She had seen a picture of Jimi before, but not heard his music until now. She asked if I played guitar, and I said yes, and she asked if I was on television, I laughed and said, no, I just play for fun. She asked what I played, so rather than explain in a language with which we both were struggling (English), I let her listen and watch Stevie Ray Vaughan and Albert King perform "The Sky is Crying". She liked it all. It was a nice break from the monotony that is flying, and a fun exchange, both generationally and culturally.

I fly back to the USA this week for business, and will get to meet my grand-daughter for the first time. I am looking forward to that.

Until next time,


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Trois Cent Treize Jours Dans Sceaux (313 days in Sceaux)

Another beautiful week, though today, Sunday, is rainy.

Well, this past week and this one coming up I am dealing with taxes -- for two countries. the USA is the only country that taxes its people no matter where they earn their income. As a result of being on French payroll, no withholding for USA income has been taken out, so now I will be writing a huge check to Uncle Sam very soon. A smaller check will go to the French government. UGH!

My French lessons continue, and my teacher swears she will have me fluent in another six months. I confess that she is more optimistic than I, but I am willing to give it the effort required! My interactions with the owners of the stores in the marche' de Sceaux is getting better, as I understand a little more of what they are saying, and can answer some of their questions. I am beginning to hear the price numbers better, too. Anytime I am in a shop with a line, I discretely listen to the conversations around me to try even get the gist of what they are saying, or at least pick out a few words. I also am using French subtitles on my TV, both for French and English programming. I look up new words all the time (as I come across them) using Star Translate on my Android phone, and it also does phrases, and translates in either direction. There are now sticky notes all over the apartment as I try to constantly expose myself to the language.

I made my LSD yesterday, covering the 10 mile (16 km) distance in 96 minutes, a 9:52 pace. The 8th mile (13 km) clocked in the fastest at 9:10. A guy on the sidewalk say me running his direction, and began to mock my running (in good fun) by bobbing and weaving toward me (this was about 6:30 in the morning, and in that 8th mile), and I guess he expected me to adjust my path for his bobbing about. I did not, and you should have seen his face when he realized I was undeterred by his presence! I brushed him aside without changing my path, and he said something, the tone of which was "I was only kidding!" I raised both arms in acknowledgement as I continued, and he laughed, know I was not angry, either.

I felt strong as I finished the run, and I originally intended to have a celebration breakfast (I had not done this run in 2 months) at Le Gare de Saint Michel, a brasserie near the St. Michel RER and Metro stations, just downstream on the left bank from Pont Neuf, my turnaround point. This is also the area for the University of Paris, and the brasserie was packed with what looked like the all-night college crowd. I was pretty sweaty, and the spacing was tight, so I spared everyone and headed back to Sceaux. I usually do an interval run through Sceaux, from the Robinson RER on the rue Houdan into the Marche' de Sceaux, looping back only Rue d'Ecoles to the Coulee Verte, normally a 1.6 mile run (2.6 km). At about the 1.2 mile (2 km) point, I was mentally tired of running. The body felt fine, I was not winded, my legs did not feel fatigued, but mentally I had enough. Weird the way our bodies and minds work with and sometimes against each other...

As you may have seen on my Facebook, I attended a classical guitar recital/competition in Antony, the "ville" immediately south of Sceaux. You can read about it here. We were invited to vote for our favorite performer of the night; of course there were more astute judges for the actual grading of the performances. I walked back from Antony, about 3 miles (5 km), getting home at 11:30 PM (23h30), just in time to catch the pre-game ESPN show for the NCAA national semi-finals. Kentucky received the kiss of death when Digger Phelps picked us to win. He has never like our program. Since Kentucky was the second game, I turned the TV on and napped through the first game. I watched all the Kentucky game against UCONN, but the boys when down 56-55. That was about 5AM (05h00) this morning.

Thanks for coming along!


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Trois Cent Six Jours Dans Sceaux (306 Days in Sceaux)

Oh my! What a beautiful week we had! The clouds came back for the weekend, but it was a cloudless week, nonetheless! It is amazing what a good dose of sunshine can do for one's outlook (not the program, Outlook, that requires much more help).

I took a "test flight" with my colleague at work who owns a plane. He had just gotten the plane back from its annual maintenance, and wanted to see how well it performed, especially since it was a cloudless day. Besides, he said, it is better to crash in daylight...(a little British flying humor; very little!). It was a great time, and having flown with him before, I noticed the added pep and responsiveness of the plane, too.

I finally got the heating fixed in the apartment, just in time for spring. When the heating technician came 3 weeks ago, he discovered I needed about 50% m0re capacity from my units. We doubled the size of one of the units in the main room, and took the removed unit and moved it to the kitchen, and then threw the kitchen unit out. Now you can feel the chill being knocked off immediately. I hope for one more descent to freezing to test it, but I will be ready for next year!

The team that came to do the replacements came on time, were very friendly, encountered an unexpected issue (and with my drill resolved it), and finished on time, even sweeping the floors before they left. Overall, a very good service experience without any hassle whatsoever.

I went into the marche' de Sceaux on Saturday, around noon. I had already picked up a few items at Monoprix on the other side of town, using my backpack to carry them. I went to my favorite bread shop, and got my bread for the week and a sandwich. I finished the rest of my stops in the marche' and decided it was too nice a day to eat the sandwich on the go or back at the apartment. So, when I got to the end of the marche', I kept walking to the entrance to the Parc de Sceaux, found myself a bench, and enjoyed the sun, the view, and the sandwich. Tres jolie!

Now for the cheese report. Below is the list of cheeses I have tried.

Les Fromages de France
  • Babybel (encased in red wax)
  • Vache qui Rit (smiling cow, cream of gruyere)
  • Kiri (soft white cheese)
  • St. Agur (blue cheese, but soft and mild)
  • Reblochon
  • Brie
  • Compte
  • Emmental (French version of Swiss cheese)
  • Chevre frais
  • Chevre vieille: too strong and smelly
  • Camembert
  • Merzer: too strong and smelly
  • Gouda
  • Gruyere
  • Chausee aux Moines: boring
  • Cousteron: boring
  • Morbier
  • Bougon: boring
  • Crottin de Chevre
  • Crottin de Chavignol: though this is the original Crottin, other versions taste the same
  • Brouere
  • Mimolette
  • Edam
  • Cantal
  • Saint Nectaire
  • Fromage pur chevre: boring
I will continue to sample and report every few months.

ESPN America carries the NCAA March Madness via a license with CBS, so I am enjoying the season of hoops: GO BIG BLUE!

Speaking of "enjoying", my French teacher told me, after bid her adieu with "Enjoy your weekend", said they had no such phrase in French (they say to "pass through a good weekend"), and they do not have the verb "to enjoy", so we made one up. For you francophiles, the new word is:

infinitive: enjoyer, passe' compose': enjoye'

tu enjoies
on/il/elle enjoie
nous enjoyons
vous enjoyez
ils/elles enjoient

Enjoyez le voyage!


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Deux cent quatre vingt dix neuf jours dans Sceaux (299 days in Sceaux, and I think I might post tomorrow just to have an easy title)

Just got back from a week in Cambridge, England, visiting our research center there (sometimes it is hard to even pretend to be smart enough to grasp what they are talking about: "...the phase of birefringent shear waves changes at rates higher than normal spectral sampling might suggest..." OK, then to buy time while my mind is trying to visualize what I have been told, I throw in a question that leaves them dumbfounded most of the time: "And how are we going to make use of that information in reservoir characterization?". While they wrestle with that, I am thinking, with my mind bending to its elastic limit and hopefully before exceeding yield strength, "Is not the time rate of change of the phase expressed as frequency, or is it the derivative of frequency itself..."

Great visit, fun to be a part of such things, and on my page you will note the "American Cemetery runs". These are runs from my hotel to the cemetery for the Americans who flew from England in WWII. It is in a beautiful and tranquil area, at the "spur" of my running loop. You should be able to click on the image, zoom it up, and see the cemetery (N 52.2162 E 0.0541). I also visited the Eagle Pub, where in the back room, American WWII fliers burned their names into the ceiling with cigarette lighters. The ceiling has been preserved by varnish, rather than paint, ever since.

The trip to England and on to Cambridge was totally by train: I took the RER B line from Robinson (I walk to that station) to Gare du Nord (30 minutes); took the Eurostar from Gare du Nord to Saint Pancras in London (2.5 hours); crossed the street to Kings Cross station in London and caught the regional to Cambridge (1 hour).

I need to catch up on the cheese report, by making notes the next time I go to market. I have tried some new ones, with varying success, but I cannot remember their names. This will be a good project going forward into the next blog

I explored the twice-weekly open market in Sceaux on Saturday (yesterday). The market is available Wednesdays and Saturdays, but I have never really explored it. There are many items, mostly foods -- vegetables, cheeses, and meats -- and dry goods as well, such as shoes, clothing, kitchenware, and other odds and ends -- even blankets made the old way (could be a good souvenir, which is the French word for "remember" or "memory"). It was nice, and perhaps another aspect of life in Sceaux for me to explore.

It is almost time to break out the bicycle again, adding another dimension to my workouts, and perhaps as a commuting vehicle. The challenge I face is the 300 feet (100 meters) climb between my apartment and my office. I will have to build up to that one. Everyone who cycles to my workplace faces such an uphill challenge, and they say it just takes time...

The NCAA tournament is on, and even though CBS has the contract, ESPN America is carrying the games via CBS. I got to watch Kentucky defeat WVU live; it was all good...

I am signing off for now, thanks for coming along,


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Deux cent quatre vingt douze jours dans Sceaux (292 days in Sceaux)

Yesterday was a good day in Sceaux. As I stated in my last blog entry, this has been especially dreary winter. There have not been very many days of sunshine, even less than usual for this part of the world. As a result, the general mood of the people has been somewhat down, as has been verified to me by some of my French friends. It is amazing what a little bit of sunshine can do for one's spirit. Yesterday morning, when I went into the marche' de Sceaux, the pedestrian areas were full of people, most of them not walking. What is so unusual about this, you ask? People were not trying to hide from the weather, or move quickly in and out of the stores and shops to quickly return home. People were visiting one another, enjoying the partly cloudy skies above them. I will not say that spring has arrived, as there are no flower baskets hanging in the marketplace -- I take that as a sign that spring has truly arrived -- and thour our flirtation with sunshine yesterday was brief, we settled into an afternoon rain, the buds on the trees tell us that spring is near. And that fact lightens my steps.

My running has picked up again, after significant layoffs due to colds, nursing a heel injury, and business travel. I have learned to listen to my body somewhat, and manage my expectations. I knew that I would not pick up where I left off, and a concentration on form would be far more important than time or distance. I am in the process of building my way back to a 10 mile weekend run, but as of today, I sent some might be as much as two weeks away from achieving that goal. I share my running stories with you for two reasons: it is an activity in which I spend a great deal of time, since it can be done without the need of translation; and as an encouragement to my friends who follow along on my blog who are also runners, and we take encouragement from each other's stories of struggle and success.

My business travels have taken me to Scotland and Norway, both places more cloudy than Paris, and they see even less blue sky than this area of northern France in addition to being colder. These are obviously summertime places to visit, and I'm quite certain I would not want to live there. The people I met were absolutely wonderful, very open, receptive, and looking forward to warmer weather as well. My business trips really do not allow the opportunity to do any sightseeing, especially trips involving more than one location. But traveling to these places and talking to the people, gives me incentive for weekend journeys, as these places are within a two hour flight of Paris.

Next week I am traveling to Cambridge, England. We have a research center there, and some colleagues and I from headquarters are visiting to discuss longer-term trends in research and development, as well as kick around some new ideas. When one has an idea that seems a little crazy, out of touch, certainly out-of-the-box, but plausible enough that it just might work, it is good to take a trip to visit the boys and girls in research to make sure that you are not in violation of the laws of physics. And that will be a part of what we will be doing. This is the fun stuff.

I have saved the best for last. On March 5, 2011, my granddaughter Anna Belle was born. The proud parents are my daughter Michelle and her husband Taylor Bacot. Anna Belle's proud older brother is Brady Bacot, age 2 1/2 years. Michelle and Anna Belle are both healthy and doing well. I look forward to meeting her as soon as I can get a break in my business travels. http://bacotfamily.blogspot.com

And with that bit of news, I will sign off for this week.

a bientot,


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Deux cent soixante dix sept jours dans Sceaux (277 Days in Sceaux)

It has been a very long time since I last blogged here, or anywhere, for that matter. A lot has happened, but it mostly involves going hither and yonder, plus, there is that work gig I have going on...

Today is a rainy day, the skies are gray, although the buds on the trees in the shrubbery indicate that spring is not far away.

Even the French people here have complained about the dreariness of the winter, this winter in particular. There have been very few days we could see the blue of the sky. The humidity has been a high, such that even temperatures
above freezing feel very cold to the body. I've grown accustomed to the mass doses of sunshine you get throughout the year on the Third Coast, along the Texas coast.

In the first weekend of December, I took a trip to Morocco. I took Friday through Monday off at work, a four-day weekend, to explore this exotic land. Even though, I knew my exploration was only beginning, I did not expect to be captivated by this country in North Africa. I was going here, to Morocco that is, to visit a land where my dad had served in the Navy in the period from 1950 to 1953, during the Korean War. The base to which he was assigned was Port Lyautey. Port Lyautey lies north of the capital of Morocco, Rabat. Port Lyautey was a French base that was also shared with the Americans during World War II.

My dad always spoke fondly of his experience at Port Lyautey, and his 35mm slides showed not only pictures of his travels throughout the Mediterranean, but also of life near Port Lyautey. One of the pictures I remember most is that of the beach near his base. It turns out that this is Medhiya Beach. It is a beautiful beach, no rocks, no debris, very flat, almost no camber (ideal for runners), and it has long stretches of solitude. I captured the most beautiful sunset photo I've ever taken there at Medhiya Beach, the same beach that gave my dad and his Navy buddies hours of recreation away from life in the military.

When I travel to new places, I like to explore it on foot. Much as the Australians go "walkabout", I enjoy hiking through a new environment. My hiking might take me through the heart of the city, or along back roads and trails, perhaps even along the river, and railroad tracks. Certainly, such was the case in my visit to Morocco. I went through the heart of town to the coast, the very rugged coast of Rabat. I visited a 14th century Moroccan Castle, and a hike along the railroad track on a footpath. Morocco enchanted me, and I've decided to make it my project. My project of exploration while I'm here. It is a two-hour flight in Paris to Morocco, all the signage in Morocco is in both Arabic and French. It's easy for Americans to get around, and are well accepted in Morocco. Did you know that the United States and Morocco share the longest standing international treaty in American history? The Sultan of Morocco was our ally against the Barbary Coast pirates in the late 1700s. I was treated very well there, at every turn, and felt very safe, though that is not always the criteria for me. I look forward to exploring this wonderful country, and visiting places like Marrakesh, the Atlas Mountains, Tangiers, and of course, Casablanca.

After my return my trip to Morocco, my running picked up in earnest. I did not know it at the time, but I was about to set a personal record for the most miles from in a single month. By December 31, 2010 and I ran almost 84 miles a month. Including two 9 1/2 mile runs from Parc de Sceaux to the very heart of Paris. These runs represent the longest distance I've ever run at one time.

I returned home to Houston on December 18 and got to enjoy two weeks with the family. Christmas was great fun, as Brady had a little boy's dream Christmas of trains. I confess that it felt a little strange being reinserted into the family surroundings and Houston itself. It is great to see family, it was great to see friends, but there was a little bit of me that felt like an outsider, mainly because life had adjusted for everyone, adjusted to be in without me, and I could feel that. Oddly enough, upon my return to France, it did not seem as foreign as it had in the past, either. I guess I have adjusted to it a little, though I'm still so obviously an alien among very different people. Human dynamics...

My return to France was a short-lived, as I left for Liberia four days after my arrival in France. GoodNews International was conducting its third mission trip to Liberia.

I was to land ahead of the team, and conduct training for the Liberian Christians. My friend Casey Smith and I had conducted an evangelism clinic following the 2010 mission, and now I was covering some advanced topics for the Liberian leadership team. The goal of the advanced training is to give them deeper insight into the workings of the Lord in the evangelism process. As was the case in 2010, so it was in 2011, the training was well received with graciousn
ess, enthusiasm, and great effort by all. Upon the arrival of the American team, we went with our Liberian brothers and sisters into different parts of the country to share the gospel. There were over 40 Liberians involved with us six Americans, and we were blessed to see the Lord move mightily as 1670 people they professions of faith in Christ.

When I returned to France after this trip, it was like a whirlwind at work. There were meetings and deadlines, and deadlines and meetings. Before I knew it, I was off to Oslo, Norway for a week of meetings concerning technology developments. It was cold. I have not been this cold since my days in Wyoming, some 27 years earlier. I do not think Norway will be on my list of countries to explore.

I was only able to settle back into France for a couple of weeks before business took me to India. There, we conducted a series of presentations on new technology to the oil and gas professionals of India. We visited and held conferences in Mumbai and in Delhi. Even though we were gone for a full seven days, the trip seemed much faster than that. Next week, my travels continue, to Scotland and then back to Norway, and then to Japan later in the month.

Last night, I did something I have been wanting to do since I got here: enjoy the music scene of Paris. I went with a friend from work, whose wife was out of town, to a nice dinner and concert music club Le Petit Journal, in the Montparnasse area of Paris. There is no smoking in such places now, so it made for a great evening of blues. Gateon and His Blues Boys (which included a woman on upright bass) played the full gambit of blues, including The Sky is Crying, at my request. They followed that up with Stevie Ray Vaughan's Pride and Joy; my night was made.

My French language skills are slowly improving, and it is something I have promised myself to be more diligent in its study, and its practice. I'm going to be here for another 16 to 28 months, so need to take advantage of this time to learn a language that will be useful in many areas of the world, many interesting places in the world, while I have the opportunity. Thank you again for coming along with me on this journey.

a bientot,