Steven's Third European Saga
Written on 12/9/2007
For comments, critiques, etc, e-mail stevenhalim at gmail.com
Tuesday, 4th September 2007
23.15 Flight: Air France AF257V, Singapore
SIN to Paris CDG (Boeing 777-300ER)
Air France Boeing 777-300ER
Boeing 777-300ER (Extended Range) is a new
aircraft model with its first flight on 2004. So, it is quite comforting to
know that I am going to fly inside this young (at maximum) 3-years old airplane.
The flight is ok. I watch Spiderman 3 again (since they do not show
yet) on board and reminded once again that despite my
apparent ‘success’ at the moment (for yet another International travel for
presenting research work), I must not forget the needs of those that are around
me, especially those that are close to me (the main actor Peter Parker
neglected the needs of his girlfriend Mary Jane Waston and boasting his
successes as Spiderman). After I watch the movie, I sleep for few hours
despite of some nasty turbulences shaking the aircraft throughout the flight.
Lessons learnt about airplane stuffs: Next
time I will book the air ticket directly from the airline. I think I now have
the experience to do all the bookings myself.
I will also use
my frequent flyer to regain some miles so that one day I can travel for free.
Finally, even though sitting near the toilet is a very good idea for a long
haul flight, I think next time I should not sit at the seat next to the toilet at the
tail end. It seems that it is one of the shakiest seats in the plane! I should
have chosen the seat next to toilet but in the center of the airplane, its
center of gravity... I bet the turbulence effect is a little bit less
Wednesday, 5th September 2007
06.20 Estimated arrival time at Paris CDG
I actually arrive at terminal 2F. This is another photo of Paris CDG airport
taken on the last day.
I choose Paris as my hub this time as
previously I have used London Heathrow airport to travel to Vienna in
my first European saga and Amsterdam
Schiphol to travel to Geneva in my
second European saga.
As soon as I landed at
Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, I realized that the
temperature is quite low >.< (perhaps < 10 degrees Celcius?). So I immediately go to
toilet to change my short sleeve to long sleeve++. Paris CDG terminal 2 is actually
not that confusing even though it surely can have more English signs. There
is a train station in the middle between 2C/D and 2F. When I arrive, I am in
2F, (2E roof collapsed
in 2004)… That means I am actually only
few steps away to the train station. But I need some time to
arrive at the correct train platform due to the lack of English signs that I
So, basically I started in Terminal 2F (red sign: HERE), wandering around a bit
to familiarize myself
with the new airport, and then finally managed to
reach the train station. :)
Paris one day visit pass. According to
my experience, this kind of pass (you can use it to access all trains,
trams, and buses in that city for one day) should help new visitor a lot since
at the beginning, one does not
know how the transportation system works in that particular city. This ‘free-pass-to-all’ for
one day costs me 17€. In my opinion it should worth the money since the train
from CDG airport to Paris city center is already 8€ and I will be exploring
Paris throughout the day (at the end it turns out to be worth it, so, this
is a good buy, except for... continue reading...).
At the beginning, I want to store my luggage
in the airport, but the cost is 20€ and I thought it is too expensive, so I
decide to search for locker in other train station like what I have
Lessons learnt about Paris CDG: Paris CDG is
actually not that bad as told by some other people that have been there
before. However, I agree that it should have more English signs... I will
tell you one possible reason why there are NOT so many English signs in
France soon. :)
07.00 Start of Paris Saga
As planned, I take the RER B Metro Line “Paris
Direct” train, the only choice actually. On my way to city center, the train
passes through… Stade the France… which is not in my list of planned
trip before, but then I told myself “if you still have time, pass through
1998 World Cup stadium!”
Paris outline. I think this is roughly similar with London outline?
with other major cities, the big airport is usually located far outside city
I stop at Saint Michel-Notre Dame station (2
stops AFTER Gare du Nord) to test my luck, but it turns out that there is no
public locker there (and the train station officer *name hidden* impolitely
since I am using English >.<), so I have to retreat back 2 stations to Gare
du Nord (North Station) like what I have researched before. Luckily the
locker service is really there. They are quite professional and they guard
the locker site quite well. It is 7€ for 1 day… but I have no choice since I
cannot travel to tourist sites carrying big 20kg luggage. That important
luggage becomes a liability in tourist mode.
The public locker in Gare du Nord, seems professional :)
Lessons learnt about public locker: Do the
research first about the locations of public lockers, and NEVER try your
luck by visiting some other unknown places hoping that those stations have
public lockers! Carrying a big luggage in tourist sites is a big NO.
09.30 Below Eiffel Tower (La Tour Eiffel)
So, after storing my luggage safely in Gare du
Nord, I take the RER train again straight to the most important landmark of
Paris, the Eiffel Tower (or La Tour Eiffel
in French). This first destination is the ‘furthest’ from Paris CDG airport.
Yes, that is my plan. I visit those interesting places from the furthest first
and at the same time retreating back closer to the airport as I visit other
Some interesting places in Paris
I alight at station Champs de Mars – Tour
Eiffel and when I go outside that underground station, I can immediately see
that HUGE tower, and… wow... I am below
Eiffel Tower… Thanks God I am
allowed to see that gigantic man-made structure... Btw the tower looks brownish during day time, not as
glamorous compared to the brightly light tower at night, which is very
beautiful as seen in the movie Ratatouille (the setting of that movie is in Paris).
My initial plan is to visit Eiffel and Louvre only, but at the end I visit
much more places. :)
Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe/Champs Elysees, Louvre Museum, Notre Dame
Cathedral, Stade de France.
Below La Tour Eiffel
Eiffel is like what I saw in the movies, but
this time for real. I took some photos with Jefry’s tripod plus 10 seconds
timer with Victor's camera. So now I can be inside the photo and the photos are stable. I also
found the location where the ending part of the movie “Rush Hour 3” was
taken. I do not go up because there are long queues and I do not have time
to wait. So I continue moving to the next place…
Some scenes in the movie Rush Hour 3 are taken inside this restaurant
(actually up above).
If only there are not so many people and I have more time, I will have gone
10.00 Passing through Arc de Triomphe
The famous Arc de Triomphe. Can you guess where I am standing?
Yes… in the
MIDDLE of the road >.<… just to take this quick photo
And then quickly take the photo of the other side of the road (Champs
After Eiffel, I walk to the nearest
interesting site, the
Arc de Triomphe, which is another icon of Paris. It
seems ‘close’ in the map, but actually it is not. I take some wrong turns
(still new in Paris and the road names are mostly in French which is
difficult to decipher) before finally I can see that monument. Arc de Triomphe is in the center of a big circle connecting various important roads
in Paris city center. From there you can see Champs Elysees (like Orchard
road of Singapore) leading to Louvre museum and the other direction you can
see La Grande Arche (another interesting rectangular building in Paris). I take
some more pictures there. However, even though this is a beautiful monument,
there is not much to appreciate as I cannot relate French heroes with
myself. I am sure that monument is much more meaningful for French people
I think this is some kind of French World War
Louvre Museum (Musee du Louvre)
Map of Louvre Museum.
take Metro train to Palais-Royal-Musée du Louvre station. I
decide not to walk as even though it looks short in the map, it is actually
far... Now here comes the trouble. The Paris 1 day ticket which is supposed
to work throughout this day... stuck... It does not allow me to pass the
ticket gates, luckily the ticket officer press
her special pass button and opened the door for me.
As planned, I have my lunch first before
exploring this big museum. *I watch the movie Ratatouille few days after I
return to Singapore and I regret that I did not try some French cuisine while I
there*. Guess what I have for lunch? Standard Burger >.< ...
Louvre museum is very crowded, especially
inside Monalisa room
I already know from the museum's website in
Internet that entering Louvre costs about
9€, and it is true. This museum is very big as Pras said. There are too
many people, and I do not like that as I have some kind of ‘mass-phobia’
(dizzy if walking through a very large number of crowd).
Familiar images: birth of Jesus (top left),
crucifixion of Jesus (top right), last supper (bottom)
The bad thing in Louvre for non French
speaking tourist like me is that almost (all) stuffs displayed in the
museum has NO English translation *perhaps I should have rent some English
audio guide but unfortunately I do not...*! Since I do not understand the description, I cannot
appreciate the pictures/objects too much. However, there are some familiar
pictures like those that portray Christianity, like the picture
of Pentecost, last supper, crucifixion, the birth of Jesus and the visit of Magi,
etc, even without
Initially I want to "quickly browse" Louvre... However,
halfway (or maybe less), my legs are already complaining and jet lag has started to attack, I am sleepy...
So, after browsing through 'half' of Louvre (browsing: walking from a room to another room
without stopping to appreciate the beauty of a certain picture), I decide to quit Louvre...
Perhaps one day I will return to appreciate its collection in a much slower pace.
Note: There are some (okay a lot of) nudities
(labeled as art). So to guard my mind and soul, I keep telling myself that
these are art. God created female body. Do not think beyond that.
14.45 Quick visit to Notre Dame de
Just an interesting sight: this is the dust bin in Paris. Right: The pigeons
and my shadow.
Notre Dame is not a planned visit. I just happened
to see it on the map and quite happy to see that it is within "few hundreds
meters" (around 15 minutes walk) from Louvre. Since I still have time by
abandoning the plan to thoroughly explore Louvre, I decide to go to this
famous cathedral. I take some pictures there. There are a lot of pigeons
surrounding this place, I seldom see that in
Notre Dame de Paris: outside (left) and inside
There are some beggars asking for money around
this Cathedral, I decline them all.
I know that we must help the less fortunate, but I still cannot accept the
begging practice... They should at least try some meaningful work?
15.40 Visiting Stade de France
In 1998, this stadium is the venue for FIFA world cup
final when France beat Brazil 3-0 to become
world champion. This year (2007), this stadium will host the final of Rugby
World Cup tournament.
As with Notre Dame,
Stade de France is also not a planned visit. In the
morning I saw that it is just beside the train track from Paris CDG airport
to Paris city center. So, I have decided in the morning that if I still have
time, I will stop there. However, there is nothing much to see as the
stadium is locked during daytime. So I just take some photos from outside.
Since I do not want to carry my heavy luggage first,
I go to this stadium first before going back to Gare du Nord to pick up my
luggage (Stade de France is 1 stop AFTER Gare du Nord). My luggage is intact, nothing is missing. Thanks God.
So, it seems that the public locker service is quite good :). So, time to go
back to Paris CDG. That concludes my Paris saga... Bye-bye Paris, now is time to go to my
main destination, Brussels.
And you know what, I almost do not speak English throughout
the day >.<. The main reason is because English language is not so well
received in Paris (French and British people are in war other hundred years
ago) even though France and United Kingdom is very very near... Since I do
not know French, I must minimize using English in this city to avoid
unnecessary sarcasm *note: not all French are rude, but I happened to
encounter some who are rude if I start with English with them*.
16.30 Back to Paris CDG Airport
Around this time, I am very thirsty and my lip
is very dry... I should have
brought my lip balms (I have two at home - from my previous two visits to
Europe) with me. I have been to Europe two times and I always
encounter that situation. Why do I forgot? Since I thought I will only be in
Europe for 4 days this time, I decide not to buy another lip balm (which is
not useful in Singapore) and drink more water instead.
I go back to TGV station: "Aéroport Charles de
Gaulle 2-TGV" using the same train service like this morning. Finding my way
back to CDG is easier than the first time I used the train system as I am
now much more familiar and now my job is to 'reverse the direction'. I give some spare time in case emergency
but it turns out that I have 1 hour++ extra time, so I eat
Pizza dinner first. It is quite “expensive” if converted to SGD. I have my
dinner first because I assume that I will not get any food in TGV train to Brussels
(which is true, see below).
Until this point of time, I still have not
bought any souvenir for my girlfriend, friends, parents, or relatives. I
still do not
manage to find something that is worth buying. Hopefully I can find some...
(at the end it turns out that I do not find anything except Belgian
So, what is my overall impression about
Paris... I think there are too many people in Paris like
London. I do not like that! I have mass-phobia... There are many black
people in Paris now, perhaps they are immigrants... There are
also a lot of police groups armed with
guns around public places. I wonder why? Is the crime rate quite high here?
I also observe that not many French people bring hand phone publicly and sms-ing people like what I frequently see in Singapore.
I also realize that the spoken French
language can be quite different from the written version.
About the transportation system, since this is my 3rd time to Europe,
I feel that the Paris system is similar with London underground
tube system. However, the ticketing system is quite different from Swiss (check at gate
versus check inside train). Speaking about the ticket gate... The 1 day ticket is faulty
AGAIN!! So, on my final ticket gate in Paris CDG... I actually... jump over
the gate when nobody around he he :p. It is okay since I already pay
18.45 TGV train AF7187H to Brussels, Belgium
(Brussels Midi Station, ZYR)
I have pizza dinner in Paris CDG... again I
wonder why I do not try French cuisine? Maybe because I do not dare to try
new stuffs... I can actually hope that there will be food in TGV train or in
the youth hostel, but that is too risky, so I better eat something first.
There is another TGV train going to Brussels at around 17.49 (I already
there, I arrive at 17.45), but I do not want to make rush decision, I cannot
speak French to argue that I want to go to Brussels faster... so better
stick with schedule, wait 45 minutes and consolidate the diary for today :),
that is why you can see this long and reasonably complete diary.
There is no major issue inside the TGV. We all
got some finger food on board. I got free crispy potato chip + drink. The
potato chips make me thirsty (salty) but yeah, I like it. Btw, this 'flight' is actually a train. This is the first multi-modal (using different
types of vehicle) trip organized by one airline and called 'flights'. This TGV train is quite fast. The cars (sometimes the road are parallel with the train), but
the cars disappear easily. That means this
TGV is real fast (320 km/h) and non stop
from Paris CDG to Brussels.
We pass through greeneries from Paris CDG to
Brussels, quite different from the busyness in Paris. I am very sleepy at
the moment, but I must not get sick since the workshop will start tomorrow. So far, the things that I have planned went on
smoothly... but soon, it will not.
19.59 Lost in Brussels
My task is actually simple. From Brussels Midi
(south) station (Rue de France 1060), I want to go straight to Generation
Europe Youth Hostel (4 Rue de l'Elephant, 1080 Brussels) since I am already
too tired. I take tram 81 as suggested by the hostel management via email, but first I choose the wrong
end, after realizing that, I alight and board the same tram from the
opposite direction. However, this time I stop at
the wrong bus stop. Moreover, the road names are not 100% similar and the roads lack
directional sign... I should have checked this website (http://www.stib.be)
about public transport sytem in Brussels beforehand. Luckily I met one good
person, even though he cannot speak English, that is willing to escort me to
Rue de l’Elephant. Thanks God for him.
Train station to youth hostel should be ‘close’, but actually not that close…
I keep pointing to that guy, this one, this one, RUE DE L'ELEPHANTTTT!!
Learning new map or transportation system
requires few trials... And for Brussels. I failed. My map navigation system
fails this time. I am lost in this new city! I am tired and sleepy…
The memory of last year when I was lost in Interlaken when trying to find the youth hostel pops out
again. It seems that youth hostels are in general quite
hard to find…
21.45 Arrive at Generation Europe Youth
Thanks God, I am very very happy when I see this
sign... just like last year in Interlaken, Swiss :).
Youth hostels are cheap 'hostel' in Europe,
quite safe, but... that's it, hard to find for the first time.
I arrive at around 21.45, about 45 minutes late from
estimation. Luckily the receptionist is there. I pay 45.6 € upon
arrival, go to my room, put on the bed sheets *more story about this later
:p*, shower, and then quickly go
to sleep, I must recover from this jet lag problem. I sleep very well, considering that I have < 4
hours sleep over the past two days plus I have walked through Paris city
center for half day, it is normal...
I meet another SLS 2007 participants who happens
to stay in the same youth hostel, Paul Godley.
Thursday, 6th September 2007
SLS 2007 workshop
day 1. In the morning, I ask God
this: "What do You have in store for me in this workshop Lord? Make me
glorify You in this workshop".
The workshop building: Universite Libre de
Bruxelles, Campus Solbosch, Building C, Level 3, Room 122
As usual, I start the workshop by paying some
registration fee (180€) and obtained the proceedings (wow, my paper is
now in LNCS book). When I look at other papers, I notice that one of them
cites my previous paper :) -happy, probably my first ever citation-.
Some photos inside the workshop room.
I meet some old friends (seniors) that I have
met in previous conferences and make
new important friends, those whose papers I have read before. Throughout the
workshop, I discuss our work and related research works with them. In overall this is a fruitful workshop :)
At night, we have some kind of social dinner,
nice food =).
I hear English, French, German, Italian ++ languages mixed up in this room.
Friday, 7th September 2007
Few moments before my presentation.
Today is SLS 2007 workshop day 2. I present my Viz ideas and
Ro-TS for QAP results today.
This is one of my BIG day in 2007 (15 July is the other big day hehe). Thanks God
that the presentation goes on smoothly
and I get important feedbacks from important people.
Approximately 0.75 year of work (Dec 06-Sep 07) is paid off after this
presentation. Hopefully my work has some useful values for other SLS
Left: Interesting sign in Brussels Park (Parc), Right: Brussels Royal Palace
At night, I travel around Brussels central park/royal palace
Saturday, 8th September 2007
Today is the last day of SLS Workshop (day 3).
The workshop session is just half day today. In overall, this is a fruitful
workshop and I have many things to catch up after I return.
Some photos around Paris CDG airport terminal 2
I go back home
(to Singapore) right after the workshop is over... I wish I have more time
for this third European saga but unfortunately I do not have that luxury... At night, I stroll around Paris CDG airport as
I have nothing else to do that night...
Saturday, 9th September 2007
After a long flight, I arrive at Singapore
Changi airport at around 18.00, safe and sound :)
Thanks God for yet another (short) European
Just one question...
Do you have some special plan for me in Europe Lord?
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