Five Days, 40 Flight Hours, and More than 20,000 Miles

I recently had the opportunity to participate in the last of four ‘route proving’ trips for Airbus’ new A350 XWB.

Shortly before take-off at Airbus' facilities just outside of Toulouse-Blagnac Airport.

Shortly before take-off at Airbus’ facilities just outside of Toulouse-Blagnac Airport.

Leaving early on Saturday morning, we headed first to Doha, Qatar. Scenically, this was the best trip: we flew over Sardinia and Corsica, where we saw plumes of smoke coming from Mt. Etna:

I heard that there were some lava eruptions a few days later.

I heard that there were some lava eruptions a few days later.

Then we passed over the Nile River and the Egyptian desert:

The blue streak is the Nile.

The blue streak is the Nile.

Lots and lots of brown and plenty of interesting wadi formations.

Lots and lots of brown and plenty of interesting wadi formations.

After a few hours in Doha, we made an 11-hour flight – mostly over the Indian Ocean – to Perth, Australia.

Not much to see except the big engine and clouds over the ocean.

Not much to see except the big engine and clouds over the ocean.

There, we spent just 7-8 hours on the ground.

This is about all I saw of Australia.

This is about all I saw of Australia.

Then we made the 11-hour flight back to Doha. We arrived a little after 5 am and were treated to a sunrise on one side and a setting full moon on the other.

The bright spot is the moon.

The bright spot is the moon.

Catching four-five hours of sleep at a hotel, we headed back to the airport for a 5-1/2 flight to Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport where despite it being 10:30 pm (22h30), we were greeted by hundreds of people lining the runway and taxiway for photos.

Just a few of the people who showed up to get photos of the aircraft and its crews.

Just a few of the people who showed up to get photos of the aircraft and its crews.

Returning to the airport the following morning, there were again hundreds of people – from the media, airlines, airport and more – who took the opportunity to visit the aircraft. Besides the A350, the next most photographed subject was the group of six Aeroflot flight attendants:

The ladies were a hit of the show.

The ladies were a hit of the show.

Then we were off to Helsinki, Finland (after flying past Helsinki to accumulate more flight hours and continuing to Norway before turning around). Here, we got splashed and then received the red carpet treatment:

Almost time for the landing bump.

Almost time for the landing bump.

One of two water cannons to spritz us.

One of two water cannons to spritz us.

The red carpet, which - oddly -  no one really wanted to walk on.

The red carpet, which – oddly – no one really wanted to walk on.

The folks of Finnair and the Helsinki Airport were glad to have us drop by.

The folks of Finnair and the Helsinki Airport were glad to have us drop by.

Then it was back to Toulouse, albeit via the long way (i.e., going west to the UK before heading into France at Le Havre) where the flight test department turned out in force to welcome everyone back home.

It was a very comfortable series of flights: the aircraft is incredibly quiet, rides super smooth, and the lie-flat seats are great for sleeping.

My home for five days.

My home for five days.

But I really don’t need to get on another aircraft anytime soon.

To see more photos, just click on the Route Proving Pix link.

Advertisements
Posted in News and politics, Organizations, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Geneva: You’re Gonna Get Wet

As you know from the past couple of entries, we recently spent a few days in Annecy, in the Savoy (Savoie) region of FR. In addition to its beautiful lake and having (on clear days) wonderful views of the Alps, it’s only 30 klicks south of Geneva. So if you want a change of pace, you can take a short drive and be in Switzerland.

With the rain coming down yet again – not exactly an incentive for going to the beach – we decided to take the short schlep to Geneva. And we’re glad we did.

When we popped up from the underground parking garage and headed to the English Garden, we crossed a bridge where Lake Geneva once again becomes the Rhone River. Looking lakeside, you see Geneva’s most famous icon: the jet d’eau – water jet.

Shooting up to 140 meters/450 feet, it gets your attention.

Shooting up to 140 meters/450 feet, it gets your attention.

After a remarkably expensive lunch – in Geneva? go figure – on the grounds of the upcoming fair, we decided to stroll around the lake.

After paying for lunch, I'm not we had enough money for the Ferris Wheel.

After paying for lunch, I’m not we had enough money for the Ferris Wheel.

This is when D had the, um, ‘brilliant’ idea to go as close to the base of the water jet as he could.

But wait! There's more!

But wait! There’s more!

The wind kept blowing the spray right about where D was trying to get to, so he decided to come back to shore.

Then we headed along, sightseeing the marinas:

Lots of boats; lots of ducks.

Lots of boats; lots of ducks.

and the Parisian-style houses on whatever ‘Lakeside Drive’ is called in Geneva:

There were some very pretty buildings with great views of the lake.

There were some very pretty buildings with great views of the lake.

Then D decided – having thought the wind had changed directions – to get even closer to the base of the water jet, so we went back. This time M went out and snapped the photos:

He made it out to the gate and then...

He made it out to the gate and then…

The wind changed.

The wind changed.

He got soaked.

With D dripping, we walked around for a bit more – I did a little cigar shopping and M and D hit a (Swiss) chocolate shop.

By then, an umbrella for D wouldn't been completely worthless.

By then, an umbrella for D wouldn’t been completely worthless.

Chocolate and cigars: to each their own.

Chocolate and cigars: to each their own.

Then, with D still pretty much drenched, we got in the car and headed back to Annecy, where we were greeted with yet another set of downtown bouchons.

You know the drill, to see more photos, click on the Geneva Photos link.

Posted in Entertainment, Food and drink, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lake Annecy – Warmer Than I Would’ve Thought

But we still didn’t get in.

At 21C/70F, the water temperature (according to two lifeguard stands) was better than I thought it would be for an Alpine lake. In fact, up to a month ago, it would’ve been warmer than our pool.

I don’t really have any stories to say about the lake, so pix will have to do:

With skies like this for four days, it wasn't any wonder we didn't get in the water

With skies like this for four days, it wasn’t any wonder we didn’t get in the water

Paddle boat heaven.

Paddle boat heaven.

And good for some real boats, too.

And good for some real boats, too.

The Alps roll right on down to the shore.

The Alps roll right on down to the shore.

As seen from the town's castle.

As seen from the town’s castle.

The calm before...

The calm before…

The storm.

The storm.

To see more photos, click on Lake Annecy.

Posted in Entertainment, Travel | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Annecy: Antsy, Anna Sea, or Aunt Nancy

As I said in yesterday’s story, D, M and I spent a recent weekend at the Alpine village/small city of Annecy, the Venice of the Alps. We wondered how it was pronounced: ‘ann-see’ or ‘anna-see’ and discovered that it was supposed to be pronounced ‘ann-see.’ However, when we got back here and I said it that way, people gave me a blank look; so I said ‘anna-see’ and they said, “That’s a beautiful place.” Go figure. Me, I still preferred to call it Aunt Nancy.

Anyhoo, back to our story. It has a population of 53,000 but, according to our Lonely Planet France guidebook, it attracts over 2 million tourists each year – swimming and boating in the summer and skiing in the winter. Therefore, it was a pleasant surprise that when I called our first choice for a hotel, the Hotel du Palais de l’Isle, they said they had a room for three available for our four-night stay.

But despite an overcast weekend, I think a majority of those 2 million showed up on the weekend we were there. At least the traffic tie-ups in town would give you that impression.

A few highlights (and one memorable lowlight):

  • “At least in Florence, we had a police escort.” In the very first Newmans of Leguevin story, I wrote how we received a police escort through the heart of pedestrian-only Florence. This time was even better. Or, if you’re D: worse. We were told by the hotel that all we had to do when we arrived at the entrance to the pedestrian-only zone where the hotel is located is just use the intercom and the bollards would be lowered. We did and they were. We got near the hotel and saw that we had to cross over a small bridge to get to the hotel’s front door. Despite misgivings by D and M, I went over the bridge to the hotel. M got out; D stayed with me. I drove – very, very slowly – around the corner, looking for a spot with even a hint of room so we could unload the bags. No such luck. Taking 10 minutes to go 400 meters – with D slouching ever more deeply in the back seat as we sort of passed/went through the throngs of people – I finally reached a spot where cars were permitted…just as another car, with husband and wife, going in the opposite direction started heading where I had just came from. I told him, “Bon courage, vous allez en avoir besoin (basically, ‘good luck – you’re gonna need it’). We eventually got back to the bollards and, this time, I didn’t cross the bridge. M and D unloaded the car and then I went to park it. M told me later that when the front desk clerk asked where our car was, she said, “My husband just went that-a-way, around the corner.” To which he replied, “But he can’t do that.” Oh yes I can. And I did.
The bridge I went over. Our hotel is the building on the right, but the entrance was on the other side.

The bridge I went over. Our hotel is the building on the right, but the entrance was on the other side.

  • “What strange customs the locals have.” I park the car, return to the hotel, and we decide to go for a walk before it gets dark (it’s around 8:30 pm). We cross over the bridge and hear a drum band. The drums are being played by some colorfully costumed characters who grab a middle-aged lady out the crowd, make her carry an umbrella (it wasn’t raining – yet) and escort her to the tops of the steps outside of a church:
This was a comedy performance of some sort, but don't ask me which sort.

This was a comedy performance of some sort, but don’t ask me which sort.

It was part of a street festival the town hosts called Les Noctibules. Over the next couple of nights, we heard and saw other bands and performance artists. ‘Twas a good weekend to show up.

  • “Another trip, another wedding. Actually, two of them.” As I mentioned in the first Budapest story, we seem to always come across a bride and groom either shortly before or after their wedding. It happened twice this time. Whilst M and I took a walk around the lake, D chilled in the park. When we reached the end of our walk, near the Imperial Hotel, we saw this bridal party:
The groom and his groomsmen were in uniform, but I don't know which group they belong to.

The groom and his groomsmen were in uniform, but I don’t know which group they belong to.

When we got back to D, he said that he too had witnessed a wedding party. But his had a twist: they were in a boat that crossed under the ‘Pont des Amours,’ or ‘Lovers’ Bridge.’

Nice boat.

Nice boat.

Wedding party and sightseers on the Pont des Amours.

Wedding party and sightseers on the Pont des Amours.

  • “Rain’s good for the garden, the beer garden.” Over the course of four days, we really didn’t see much of the sun and on Sunday afternoon it flat out poured. So, of course, we went under the awning of the Le Munich Brasserie to take shelter. It was raining slightly when we sat down, but shortly afterward, the heavens opened up. The awning sections started to bow from the weight of the water and so waiters and waitresses and patrons all worked together to push on the awnings to dump the water out. Sometimes, passersby got even wetter. But we met a nice couple from Australia who were on a European tour and passed an enjoyable hour chatting with them, drinking beer, and waiting out the deluge.
The Munich, with green awning, in drier times.

The Munich, with green awning, in drier times.

Phil the Australian dumps water from the awning.

Phil the Australian dumps water from the awning.

Even the ducks were saying 'Enough already!'

Even the ducks were saying ‘Enough already!’

And now here are a few of our favorite shots:

D on one of the footbridges over the mighty Thiou River/Canal.

D on one of the footbridges over the mighty Thiou River/Canal.

Twins!

Twins!

Cute house.

Cute house.

The Palais de l'Isle - non-hotel version.

The Palais de l’Isle – non-hotel version.

I'm not cutting it.

I’m not cutting it.

Rear view of the Palais.

Rear view of the Palais.

M on the Pont des Amours, post-wedding boat passage.

M on the Pont des Amours, post-wedding boat passage.

Aww.

Aww.

To see even more – and better? – photos, click on the Annecy Photos link.

Posted in Entertainment, Food and drink, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Roman Theatre at Orange

After our weekend in Spain doing the Dali thing, we were looking for another place to visit with D before he headed back to ‘uni’ (I’m getting so British), when he said “Let’s go visit Annecy. I just saw a shot from a drone photo competition and it looks like a cool place – the Venice of the Alps.” I saw that it was only a six-hour drive from Chez Newman, so I said, “Sounds good – let’s go.”

Looking at the route on Google Maps, I saw that we would be going past places we’ve visited before – such as Nimes, Avignon and Uzes – and that we would be going past a place called Orange. Now, when D mentioned the Annecy, he said, “It looks so cool, it’s probably on the UNESCO World Heritage list.”

I checked – it isn’t.

But…Orange is. The reason: its 2000-year-old Roman theatre and nearby Triumphal Arch.

We had to stop. And so we did. This makes 62 sites on the list that we’ve seen. (Budapest was #61.)

The theatre – still in use – had hosted a show the night before. Apparently, it was Carmina Burana. D was mighty perturbed that we had missed it. At least we got to see a bit of the show’s scenery. Note: For a little bit longer – perhaps just hours – the France 3 TV web site is showing the performance and it is AMAZING. Hopefully, they’ll archive it.

The stone theatre wall helped project sounds from the stage.

The stone theatre wall helped project sounds from the stage.

Dismantling the scenery.

Dismantling the scenery.

Theatre wall and roof.

Theatre wall and roof.

Changeable heads. New emperor? Just pop the top.

Changeable heads. New emperor? Just pop the top.

'That's coming out of your paycheck.'

‘That’s coming out of your paycheck.’

After spending a couple of hours in the 34C/94F temps, it was time for drinks, a quick stop in the gift shop and back in the car to continue to the Alps.

As always, for even more photos, click on the link.

Posted in Entertainment, Music, Organizations, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cadaques: Taking the Not-So-Straight and Narrow

In the prior entry, I wrote about our trip to the Dali Museum in Figueres. Wanting to spend the night in someplace a bit more scenic, we booked a room at a hotel in Cadaques, a mere 45 minutes away, albeit via an incredibly twisty road through the foothills of the Pyrenees. Dali apparently grew up near here, but we wanted to visit because it was on the Med and had a reputation for being pretty.

The hotel – Hotel Horta d’en Rahola – was great: one of the biggest rooms and definitely one of the biggest bathrooms we’ve seen in a European hotel. Nice breakfast and an easy walk to the beach and restaurants. We can see why the reviewers at Trip Advisor like it so much.

We strolled around the beachfront a bit – the air temperature was OK but people were only looking at the water, not going in. Later, we had a wonderful dinner at Es Balconet, where the waitress de-boned/filleted each of our (vicious) fishes, and on the way back, we stopped at one of the numerous gelato places for great finish to the day.

And when we left the next day, D – who really wasn’t happy about going to SP in the first place – said, “Thanks Dad. This was a good idea, coming to this place.”

At the square coming into town: a two-fisted Statue of Liberty. Beat that Liberty Island!

At the square coming into town: a two-fisted Statue of Liberty. Beat that Liberty Island!

'Tis a pebbly shore/beach.

‘Tis a pebbly shore/beach.

The church of Santa Maria.

The church of Santa Maria.

Saying 'Hello Dali' to the man himself.

Saying ‘Hello Dali’ to the man himself.

Clouds over the Pyrenees at sunset.

Clouds over the Pyrenees at sunset.

View of the harbor from the curch.

View of the harbor from the church.

Tile roofs and stucco walls - it's just like southern FR.

Tile roofs and stucco walls – it’s just like southern FR.

The mountain end here in Cerberes.

On the drive back, we saw where the mountains end: here in Cerbere.

By now, you know the drill, to see more photos, click on the link.

Posted in Entertainment, Food and drink, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hello Dali!

C’mon, you know I couldn’t resist that title for a story about a visit to the Salvador Dali Museum.

Our younger son, D, was in town for a month and we were looking for things to do, short day trips. The lovely missus suggested a visit to Collioure, a pretty town in France on the coast of the Med and very close to the Spanish border. We had been there before and I was looking for something different, so I suggested going into Spain to see the Dali Museum. D was not enthused – he had a bad experience in Barcelona and ever since then he’s not been a fan of SP – but he agreed to go.

The museum is located in the large town/small city of Figueras, which our Lonely Planet – Spain guidebook said isn’t worth going to except for the museum, which they rave about. From what we saw of the town, I would have to agree.

But…the museum is truly worth the trip (note: it’s only about 30 minutes into SP from the FR/SP border).

All I can say is the man was productive and creative.

When you get there, you know you've reached the right place.

When you get there, you know you’ve reached the right place.

Pop a euro in the coin slt and the interior of the car - with three dummies in it - gets a wash.

Pop a euro in the coin slot and the interior of the car – with two dummies in it – gets a wash.

Leg lamp? Nah, it's a gator lamp next to an artificial leg.

Leg lamp? Nah, it’s a gator lamp next to an artificial leg.

Honestly, you have to go there to get what this is actually about.

Honestly, you have to go there to get what this is actually about.

Windows in the courtyard have large Oscar-like statues and bathroom sinks lining the walls.

Windows in the courtyard have large Oscar-like statues and bathroom sinks line the upper walls.

The famous melting clocks.

The famous melting clocks.

Anatomy lesson.

Anatomy lesson.

I’m not convinced that he was nuts – rather I’m thinking he was great at self-promotion through his, um, eccentric acts.

Still, it was a surprise to see his plain tomb in a crypt at the museum:

A plain marker for an anything-but-plain figure.

A plain marker for an anything-but-plain figure.

For more photos, including ‘Lincoln on the Beach,’ click on the link: Salvador Dali Museum photos.

Posted in Entertainment, Travel | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment