Wednesday, October 17, 2007

What is it with Me and Airplanes

After having a plane catch fire (see "Houston...We Have A Problem"), other members of the AUGI national team are hesitant to fly on the same plane with me. (Hey, at least the plane was on the ground at the time.) This week's experience just adds fuel to the fire, figuratively speaking.

On Wednesday, I flew from Baltimore to Jacksonville, Florida for the second of this week's CAD Camps. Since Matt Murphy and Travis Jones are Delta Platinum Medallion members whereas I am just a lowly Gold level member, they had priority over me and ended up with first class seats, whereas I had to get by seated one row behind them in the first row/exit row in coach.

As the flight attendant closed the cabin door and went to arm the emergency slide, I noticed that the "Ready" light did not light up. She obviously noticed it too. Not a good thing. After several more attempts to "arm" the door, the pilot came on the intercom to inform us that we'd have to wait for a maintenance technician to come to plane to check it out.

Luckily, the repair involved little more than replacing a light bulb. As long as he was there, the technician also made a minor repair to the rubber gasket around the cabin door. We managed to get to Jacksonville just a few minutes late. But the incident once again raises the question, do these things happen to all frequent fliers or just me?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A Quick Trip to the Louvre

My meetings with Autodesk concluded just before 6pm this evening, which afforded Genny and me a chance to visit the Louvre for a few hours, since it is open until 10pm on Wednesday evenings.

We limited our visit to the Denon wing, and even then had to be very selective. We clearly hit the high points tonight, and without the benefit of the audio guide. Finding the Venus de Milo was not difficult. And there are ample signs guiding one to the Mona Lisa.

There are literally hundreds of other Italian Renaissance, French Neoclassicist, and French Romanticist paintings in the Grand Gallery and other galleries on the second floor of this wing, such as Liberty Leading the People, and I plan to go back later this week to spend more time in this area of the museum.
We did have a bit of trouble at first finding Winged Victory. The guide book we were using somehow got us turned in the wrong direction.
After a few hours, we were exhausted. We found a nice little cafe and had a late bite to eat. Now it's back to the hotel. We have to check out of The Grand Hotel Paris in the morning and move to less expensive digs. Then we're off to Versailles for most of the day on Thursday.

Monday, October 1, 2007

First Night in Paris

It's our first night in Paris. We successfully purchased a pair of one-week Paris Metro cards that enable us to ride any metro or bus in Paris for the week. We immediately used our newfound mobility to ride over to the Ecole Millitaire stop where we caught the number 69 bus, which took us past many of the city's most famous sites, including Napolean's Tomb, the Louvre, and Notre Dame.

We then took a metro back to the Eiffel Tower where we spent some time at its base.

Tonight was just a sight seeing jaunt and a chance to learn our way around a bit. We eventually made it back to our hotel and then went out to a nearby restaurant for a late dinner. Now, after calling our daughters back in Bellingham, we're off to bed. My meetings start tomorrow morning.

Yes...This Really Is Paris

It's amazing how much better one feels after a 4-hour nap. Genny needed a few things at the store, so we wandered down the street to a large department store. After making her purchase, we went up to the store's roof-top plaza, which affords some wonderful views of the city. It was tourist heaven, with lots of people asking others to take their photo with the Eifel Tower in the backround. Who could resist?

We're now going out to wander the city at sunset.

Touchdown in Paris

After a long but uneventful flight, we landed early this morning in Paris. It took forever to get our luggage because the conveyor belt at the airport broke down. But amazingly, Delta did indeed open up the luggage compartment on our plane as it was leaving the gate at JFK and put our bags aboard (see my earlier posting).

Autodesk had a car and driver waiting for us when our luggage finally did arrive. Morning rush-hour traffic made it a long drive from the airport into central Paris. We got quite a tour of the Paris suburbs. We didn't get to the hotel until nearly 10am. Our room wasn't ready yet, so we went to the hotel restaurant along with my former co-workers at Cyon Research, Joel Orr, Brad Holtz, and Rachael Taggart, who had also just arrived. By the time we finished breakfast, our room was ready.

We paid a bit more to upgrade our room to the executive level. That got us a much larger room, free Internet, a full breakfast, and drinks in the evening. This will work well since Genny won't be having breakfast with the Autodesk folks in the morning, and our room is now large enough to entertain people in the evening.

We're going to grab a few hours of sleep and then go out for a walk to get situated. More later.

A Day of Firsts

As I write this, I’m sitting on a plane somewhere out over the Atlantic Ocean at 39,000 enroute to Paris. This trip marks a number of firsts. This is my first trip to Paris and indeed my first trip to France. I find that somewhat amazing since I’ve been to other parts of Europe, including England, Finland, Italy, Germany, Russia, and The Netherlands, some multiple times. But travel happens that way, I guess. I’ve been to most of the 50 states in the U.S. multiple times but have still never stepped foot into North Dakota or Alaska.

This is also the first trip to Europe with my wife Genevieve, and indeed the first time she has traveled with me on a “business” trip in more than a decade. The reason for this trip is an Autodesk Mechanical Systems Division (MSD) press event taking place on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Intercontinental Hotel in Paris. I find it somewhat amusing that Dassault Systèmes is holding its press event next week in Boston while Autodesk—arguably its biggest competitor—is holding its similar press event in Dassault’s own backyard. But again, this entire trip is somewhat ironic.

This is also the first time we have left our two daughters somewhat home alone. They’ll be staying with friends during the week, but it does seem a bit strange to leave them at home while we leave the country.

We left Bellingham this morning at 6am, which of course meant that our day started just after 4. We had a decent connection in Salt Lake City, and actually got to relax a bit in the Delta Crown Room. But our flight to JFK was late getting in and then sat on the ground for what seemed like forever before we finally got to get off the plane. By the time we got to the gate for our Paris-bound flight, we were among the last passengers to board.

We could see our Salt Lake/JFK plane at the adjacent gate. We could also see my suitcase in the hands of a baggage handler when our Paris flight was pushed back from the gate. Now I will clearly state that our plane did come to a stop and there was some additional activity after initially pushing back, so there is a possibility that my bag was actually loaded onto the our plane at the last minute.

But there is no doubt that it was my bag being carried over by the baggage handler as our plane was pushed back, so stay tuned for a potential saga. That at least would not be a first.