Archive for January, 2010

iChat around the World

We ended the month with a fun iChat session across Canada, the US and Europe!

Robin (Monterey), Josh (Vancouver) and us (Ferney Voltaire)

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We are back from our trip to Chamonix, where Uli attended a CERN LHC workshop. We left on Wednesday afternoon and drove past the Geneva airport in the direction of the Alps, passing from France where we live to Switzerland and back to France. This ease of crossing the borders is amazing and you always carry two money purses—one with euros and one with francs—to be prepared.

Fog lingered in the valley so when we arrived in Chamonix the mountains were hidden. The hotel was pleasant, the outside spa we used in the evening a bit too cold. Uli’s conference dinner was in La Caleche, a funky restaurant with sleds on the wall, cowbells, horses, a babycarriage standing near the toilet. Like all the local restaurants it smelt like cheese but our dinner was trout with a fabulous sauce. We sat with an Italien group and everywhere one could hear bits of other languages spoken, an international crowd.

The next days Uli was at the conference while I skied at nice low altitudes. The view was mixed, cloudy and heavy snow set in. The skiing was great but was dampened in the end by a fall standing(!) twisting my knee. I then had to stop and in the afternoon when the sky opened for one hour was able to see the mountains and snap pictures. I went to a tea room with a nice Russian lady for farewell. We came back on Friday.

On Saturday I had a visit to the hospital since my knee hurt but luckely nothing is broken and I just need patience for the healing! My French speaking is getting better since most people speak limited English. This is a bit of a challenge for our car hunting!

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This post comes from “Le Refuge de Florimont” in the Jura mountains; on our first venture into the surroundings. Gorgeous views of the Alps—if slightly muted by haze—with Mont Blanc being right there amongst the other peaks. Here we sampled typical French deserts: a trio of Creme Brulee and a tarte ancienne (whatever it is, it is good and rich). So much for losing weight! This restaurant is on the way from Gex to the Col de la Faucille, the entrance to the ski areas of the Jura (mainly cross-country).

Mont Blanc as seen from the "Refuge"

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Moving Day!

Wednesday evening Uli received a phone call at work: “We will be at your flat in 2 hours!” So we scrambled to get ready for them and within about an hour the appartment was full of boxes.


By now the boxes are mostly unpacked & in the “cave” downstrairs, a locker room in the basement in a small maze of narrow passageways, a training ground for claustrophobics. The light goes out after 2 minutes for complete darkness. Sylvia loves it!

Hot water & heat now work too, so we are mostly settled. Only big thing left is to get a car (we are still using a rental). Uli and Sylvia will begin French lessons on Monday, not together however; Sylvia learns with the CERN Women’s club whereas Uli takes one of the courses for CERN employees. We do get by with our rudimentary French for everyday living, but we are looking forward to become more proficient in the language (and being able to use the phone in French, a real challenge now, best avoided). We are frequenting the cafes in town, Sylvia particularly likes “La Truite”, where she has practiced her French with the owner. Uli prefers “Cafe du Soleil”, (the one with the penguin on the piano!), which he already discovered last summer.

Cafe du Soleil

Cafe du Soleil

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It was really nice that I could take the time to see my family in Cologne. The book launch was well visited, and it was a thrill to be there to celebrate Tati’s book. Also we raised a glass to my mom’s birthday. I had coffee time with my sister Ele with marzipan cake to catch up on life and admired my niece Ana’s dance skills.

On my trip back I finally saw the Alps that previously had been hidden behind fog and clouds. It was gorgeous to see the mountains in the evening sun and I got excited to visit the places along the lakes I passed by train later. I can hardly wait to come back to take photos.

Here is a new photo of our view:

View from our balcony

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Internet at home is working. Wohoo!! So far we posted from the hotel or other semi-public spaces, but this one is coming form the home of Yours Truly. So life feels a lot better. Who needs heat, who needs hot water?? I think our modern luxury is overrated. Heck, I even managed to wash my  hair in the sink! Anyway, I am excited & I am going out to get myself food, and maybe more of that mulled wine (it is Friday Saturday after all). Then I’ll catch up on some work.

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Sylvia is now off to Cologne to visit her parents over the weekend, and it is my turn again. Her father (“Tata”), Ulrich Schiller, has just published his 3rd book and will be holding a reading in Cologne in the Kopelew Center. The book (in German, obviously), incidentally, is published by Donat in Germany. Can’t wait to read it soon.

I am getting now more involved here work-wise. I attended a mini workshop on “Crystal collimation”, a technique aiming to make use of the extremely high electric fields near nuclei in a crystal to exert enormous deflections on particles passing through. It is fascinating how a short (mm-long) crystal can exert forces on the beam comparable to full-blown ,meter-long accelerator magnets. We also discussed other CERN projects I am interested in (and, actually, people are interested dragging me into) and, of course, the new proton synchrotron accelerator PS2 design which is what I came here for in the first place.

So I am getting very excited professionally. Just what I need as the continuing run-around trying to get utilities setup is getting to me. But at least we have a bank account now and a promise to get the gas hooked up again (gas=warmth, hot water, shower!!!).

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13-Jan: Moving time!

Today we moved into our apartment—it was snowing and we did not dare drive down into the garage, too much snow and slipper. As you can see our view is wide and far reaching, so I am looking forward to sitting on the balcony, painting the seasons and taking photos of different landscape moods. Less nice was that we found heat & hot water turned off this evening, so we escaped into the bar of our former hotel to warm up and write. Challenges of moving, but we did enjoy good cheese as our first meal at home!

The view from our balcony.

Home Sweet Home!

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Tirez le Roi!

Today was Uli’s first day of work so did he feel like a king? See picture! While he worked I attented a coffeetime with the women’s club at CERN and got to celebrate this custom of tirez le roi. I did not become queen but received a lot of good information about classes and activities, more on that later!

Uli avec le galette du roi

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Bureaucratic day. Not much fun, but unavoidable. We have to get used to strange opening hours, e.g. the bank we wanted to go to is closed on Monday, some offices are open only in the morning & most offices take lunch breaks from 12 to 2. Nice for them, but inconvenient for us. We end up tying ourself into a knot trying to do things in the right order. Nevertheless we end the day with CERN badges (I also got one!) and even a telephone contract which magically now no longer needs a bank account!

Uli (in the CERN restaurant) is thrilled about the bureaucratic tangles!

Addendum to Sunday’s post: People here seem to be really friendly. One woman, when she saw me taking pictures of the snowy scene got really excited & commented extensively about the light & trees & seemed to genuinely share this special moment with us.

Post addendum: The header of these pages is not a stock photo (as some suggested) but was taken by me on Sunday evening. It captures beautifully the feeling of the sunset that day.

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