Sunday (Dec 14) – Welcoming guests and Notre Dame

Today we were due to receive visitors who were going to stay with us for the next few days. My PhD supervisor (and fellow ICIS’2008 attendee) and her husband were due to arrive around 10:30. So Sandy and I spent a lazy morning inside reading and waiting for them to arrive. Of course, we hadn’t provided all the necessary instructions and had them waiting on the sidewalk for a bit before getting inside.

Inside Notre Dame de Paris

After the visitors were settled our plan was to head to Notre Dame de Paris using the second day of our ticket on the tour bus. This was a good thing given that it was still raining. I should make a point that “rain” in Paris is not like the sub-tropical rain one gets in Rockhampton. We’ve never seen much more than a very light drizzle but combine it with walking a few kilometres, a low single digit temperature and the occasional gust of wind and it is not all that comfortable.

Even on a wet, windy, cold December day the crowds at the cathedral were quite large. We only spent some time inside the cathedral and did not both climbing the stairs – yet another line. Instead spent some time wandering around inside. Even with a lot of people it was an experience.

Notre-Dame de Paris an altar?

All the standard cathedral stuff was there. Chapels, statues, windows, altars etc. But the history of a building started in the 1100s and which has hosted a range of events adds something. Of course there were also tourists ignoring various rules (e.g. flash photography) and the odd homeless person enjoying the warmth.

Notre-Dame de Paris

After one complete lap around the cathedral and sometime sitting in the pews it was time to head outside again. We spent some time browsing the “high class” shops selling the cheap, standard souviners that you see all around Paris. One of these days we will complete our list of purchases to palm off on the folk at home.

After that it was back on the tour bus for a drive around town until it returned to the Champs Elysees and a walk back home to the apartment. The early return was required because, alas, it was time to pick up the real reason we came to Paris, ICIS’2008.

Sunday night was the opening reception. We collected Shirley and John from the apartment and made our way to the Palais de Congres for the opening reception. A lot of people in a room with the heating turned up and one free drink did not make for an environment in which a long time was to be spent.

joan of arc at the Notre-Dame de Paris

After a minimal amount of time 6 of us retired to a local Indian restaurant for quite a good dinner. Then it was back to bed, early, as two of the 6 had presentations to give in the morning.

Saturday (13th Dec) – Must be the Musee D'Orsay

After our big night out at Lasserre Saturday morning saw us walking down to the Musee D’Orsay.

The Grand Palais

So once again we traipsed down the Champs Elysees, which is starting to feel like an old friend and perhaps just a bit boring. Perhaps it is time for us to broaden our coverage of Paris beyond just this little bit. But not today. Part of the walk takes us passed the Grand Palais

As with the Louvre there was a line to get through security, a good 10/15 minute wait and then only three or four folk in front of me for tickets. Both Sandy and I have commented that visiting these places during peak times must involved some horrendous numbers of people and long, long waiting times. Even in Winter, most of these places are fairly busy.

sacre couer from musee de orsay

The Musee D’Orsay is an old, big, train station converted nicely into a musuem. It includes a lot of paintings and sculptures and by the end, having only seen a subset of the total, both Sandy and I were cultured out. Though I must admit that some of this was due to jet lag, a lot of walking and some aches and pains. One nice place to sit and relax was a small break in the paintings which gave a view outside towards the Sacre Coeur.

A Monet?

So, obviously there had to be some photos taken of paintings. One which I think was a Monet, but I could be wrong. And of course the one below is a little more obvious in its origins. Of course Sandy thinks that the most memorable painting, much to her chagrin, was the L’Origine du monde. In Sandy’s defense it is quite a striking painting and it was essentially the last one we saw before we left.

vincent van gogh

On leaving the Musee D’Orsay we discovered that it had started to rain. Given the low single digit temperatures and that we were a good 5Km walk from home, this was not a welcome development. As it happened one of the bus companies that do a fixed route around Paris had a stop at the Musee d’Orsay and we got on that to get out of the rain and be taken home.

The excitement machines we are led us to have a late and large lunch. The premise being that we’d eat lots now, go back to the apartment and have an early night. The onion soup I had for an entree was very nice. The rest of the meal wasn’t up to that level. Sandy in particular lucked out with a cold rack of lamb for her main course.

Somewhat disappointed we returned to the apartment, stopping off to buy some red, bread and other necessities and then spent the rest of the evening reading before retiring early. Tomorrow visitors are due to arrive.

A night at Lassere

Friday night we were booked in to eat at Lasserre. A two-star Michelin restaurant of the haute cuisine style.

blurry night time eiffel

Given we were still dealing with jet lag we headed out a bit early for a walk to the restaurant and needed to waste a bit of time. So we had a chance to see the Eiffel Tower at night and to really enjoy the lovely weather.

Even then we still arrived a bit early and had to wait in a small alcove. We weren’t all that worried as it was warm. Of course, a place this up market did have a dress code – the men had to have a jacket. I was obviously not the first crass person to arrive as they did have a collection of jackets to borrow.

On the way to dinner

Our reservation was for 7pm, which is quite early for Paris and we were the first folk to enter the dining room. The decor was very nice, but somewhat ruined by having a crew of (it seemed) 20+ wait staff all staring at these strange individuals entering their domain.

Dinner commenced with the sommelier asking if we wanted an aperitif. At this stage it’s worthwhile to describe that I don’t have a taste for wine. Though Paris is probably a good place to develop it and Lasserre is meant to have one of the best cellars in Paris. This probably explains why the sommelier looked so annoyed at our choice of Riesling – one of the cheaper available options. While not showing appropriate appreciation for his trade and the cellar we were happy with the choice and I actually enjoyed drinking it.

Sadly I forgot to bring the phone so there are no photos of dinner. We chose the degustation menu. The following description is developed from memory and going by some details from the website. May not be 100% correct, but you’ll get the gist.

  1. Three canapes – these seemed to be served to everyone.
  2. A soup with beans, pumpkin and foie gras.
    I’m not a soup person, but I enjoyed this.
  3. A scallop and oyster dish. The oysters were served with leeks.
    From the menu, the description was “Scallops and nuts, green apple, leeks with oysters”

    Again, I’m not traditionally a seafood person. But this was very nice. Perhaps it has to do with the quality of seafood that is inflicted upon folk in Rockhampton. That may also be an explanation for the wine. A few of the reds we’ve had since this night have been purchased cheap from the local shop and I’ve found them to be more drinkable than some of the stuff at home.

  4. Next was a foie gras dish with a variety of fruits and sauces – very nice.
  5. The duck dish was next. Had a fillet of duck with a small “pie” – duck leg meat and various other bits and pieces wrapped in pastry and then all served with a sauce.
  6. Next was a cheese dish. A big slab of what Sandy thinks was a French version of parmesan – if there is such a thing – served with a variety of pastes.
  7. And so now commenced the desserts. First was a raspberry and vanilla cream concoction served in a small glass – bit like a shot glass. From the menu this appears to have been “Raspberries, litchi and rose petals flowers candied, granity with green chartreuse”
  8. Next, was three different types of chocolate. Which we believe from the menu was “Chocolate grand cru variation with mikan tangerine”.
    At this stage we were struggling with food.
  9. At this stage our recollections of the night start to diverge and we can’t agree on what was last. I believe we had yet another small dessert. But can’t remember what.
  10. It was certainly an experience. Something I would recommend everyone do. I don’t think either of us will be rushing back to eat at this type of restaurant again. To put it prosaically, I’m not sure the cost benefit ratio is sufficient. In the end the meal cost us pretty close to $1000. A once in a life time experience.

    champs elysees

    Should point out that while we were the first in, we were not the first to leave and by the time we were leaving the place was pretty full. Given that we were also very full by this time we walked back to the apartment. This was essentially straight up the Champs Elysees at night – about 9:30 or so. The Champs Elysees at night in December is one of the things to see. Sadly the photos are taken with the iPhone, so not the best quality but you get the idea.

    There were a lot of folk out. More so than we had seen in the day. Friday night shopping and going out was obviously in full swing.

    arch de triomphe at night

The Dreyfus Model – From Novice to Expert

This presentation by Dave Thomas talks about the Dreyfuss Model of Skill Aquisition and how it applies to software development. However, the ideas and insights seem to apply to a number of other contexts, in particularly learning and teaching at Universities. I certainly found a lot of points that resonated.

The content in this presentation is expanded upon in this book which is also available here.