After meeting Mathias in Paris, we went to spend the afternoon in Paris. We started with Musée des Egouts. We got to learn how most streets in Paris have an underground street for sewers and the machiens they use to clean all the crap that accumulates in the tunnels:
old Paris during Roman times
early plan of the underground sewer system
the big balls they use to clean the tunnels
After that museum, we walked to the Effeil tower:
new orthodox church built recently
Android Nougat in front of Nougat. Well done Mathias :)
A later day, we walked by the Xmas store displays:
And yet another day, we walked La Coulée Verte, a nice green path through Paris using the right of way of an old train line not in use anymore:
Then, we finished with Place des Voges and Victor Hugo's house:
There are also plenty of art stores there:
And that was it for this year, not too much, but then again we spent a bunch of our time in [Belgium this year|/perso/belgium
While in Bruxelles, we went to check out Autoworld, which turned out to be a really good. Two floors filled with cars, mostly European, some quite rare, some unique. I spent a couple of hours there while Jennifer was waiting for me, and it was time well spent.
double tire, interesting
This electric 'car' was the fastest one in the world in 1899*, at 105kph
pretty colors :)
fancy futuristic car :)
damn, a citroen-maserati, didn't even know those existed
The belgians, kings of comic books, even had comic strips portraying a race car driver.
Bruxelles Autoworld, if you're anywhere close, go see it.
While visiting the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History in Bruxelles, we entered the hangar where they kept all the planes. That section of the museum is effectively Brussels' Air Museum, with a nice collection. It seems like the museum doesn't get a lot of funds, the hangar wasn't heated (as in near freezing), many plane tires were flat, but it doesn't change the fact that the collection was quite good and well worth a visit.
Considering the airport wasn't nearby, I also came to wonder how they got all those planes there.
While coming back from the war museum and walking to the European Parliament, the local Google office was conveniently on the way, so we went to have a quick look. It was December 30th, so the office was understandably virtually empty, but we're happy we still got to have a quick look.
For our first day in Bruxelles, we went to check out Mini Europe because it looked fun. and it was. The only mistake is that we should have gone to see the Atomium first, before the line got stupidly long. I did get a few pictures Mini Europe from the Atomium, and those were nice:
After arriving in Bruxlles, we tried to make a reervation in the nice restaurants that were open, which was hard given that it was between Xmas and New Year's. Eventually some stupid tripadvisor owned side, fork.be, told us we had a reservation at Alexandre, when in fact we had none at all, and they did not expect us at all when we showed up.
Thankfully they very nicely agreed to take us anyway, although we were limited to the 5 course tasting menu instead of the full 9-10 course one. Life can be tough that way at times :)
After a partial day in Ghent, we took an evening train to Bruxelles, checked in at l'Epicentre, our B&B in an authentic historical narrow building that was challenging to get into with luggage, but the location was hard to beat and our host was super nice and helpful.
a mere 30mn from Ghent to Bruxelles
it was 'fun' to get our luggage up the stairs :)
On our way down, we walked by grand place, beautiful, and went by the famous manneken pis on the way too:
The next morning, we had breakfast at our B&B and headed out for a walk while everything was closed (nothing opened before 10:00, sadly, making the day kind of short). We ended up at Basilique Nationale du Sacré-Cœur à Koekelberg when they opened at 10:00 and went to the top for so so views due to the fog not having quite lifted yet:
every city seems to have a ferris wheel now :)
finally we made it to Basilique Nationale du Sacré-Cœur à Koekelberg thanks to uber, still foggy at 10:00
We then went to the atomium, which I figured was a bit of a washed out attraction during low season, so I didn't worry much about lines. I was wrong, there was a 2H+ line to get in. Even with line optimization, it took us a while to get up. The main line was to get to the top, which had reasonable views. Then you had a different entrance to see just a portion of the balls, the other ones were not in use anymore, which was a bit of a shame, but the remaining ones had some expos inside:
escalators or stairs between the balls
part of the expo recounted when Belgium still had an airline, Sabena (since then bankrupt)
nice plane food back then
Once done with mini Europe and Atomium, much later than I had planned, we took another uber to the Comic Book Museum. Belgium is probably the capital of the world on commic books, especially in variety, I grew up with them:
Hergé is famous for the great job he did with Tintin, but he was just one of many
the museum pointed out that the first comic strips actually came from the egyptians
I also loved the schtroumpfs (smurfs)
After the museum closed, everything was closed, so we went back to Grand Place to see the light show on the buildings. Click on the video for more:
We then walked around to see the little Xmas houses and get dinner:
During our short time in Bruxelles, we say many chocolate shops, as well as beer shops, and those were only a very small sample:
beautiful Galeries Royales St Hubert, filled with shops
The next morning, we went to the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History, which was nice enough to open at 09:00:
And nearby was the European Parliament, where we went to visit Parliamentarium:
We when used the little time left to see Mont des Arts, Place Royale, and Église Notre-Dame du Sablon before we had to head back to the train station for our fast train back to Paris (just 1h15) and have a reveillon dinner with my dad:
Belgium is obviously known for good chocolate, and they have lots of it. In both Bruges and Bruxelles, we went to see chocolate museums, which were both informative.
Let's start with Bruges' Choco Story. Sadly by the time we arrived there, it was 16:30, or 30mn from closing time. so we had to go through it quickly. Still, it gave a good overview of how cocoa beans were discovered, which birds ate them, and the complicated process to turn them into yummy chocolate :) (they also had a demo showing how to make a specific kind of chocolate):
pretty, that bird that eats the cocoa beans :)
the beans are colorful too
Choco frites, really? :)
all the reasons why chocolate is good for your health :)
yummy samples to try on the way out :)
A few days later, while in Bruxelles, we went to see the Chocolage Village Museum, which sure took its museum job seriously, and had even more displays:
fantastic model of the basilica
They also had a place where wthey were growing real cocoa plants:
chocolate is easy
a 'mere' 15 steps...
I quite enjoyed their poster and comics collection too:
you be a good boy and you get chocolate, simple :)
Since we were going to Holland, close to the Belgian border, I figured we should take a few days to visit Belgium. It was only 4 days, not enough, but then again, that's what we had. We started early on December 26th with a Thalys high speed train to Bruxelles and a connection to Bruges. We got there in only 2h20 or so.
first time I've seen X-Ray machines before boarding a train
Once in Bruges we went directly to our B&B (Saint Sauveur, Bruges), run by a super nice French lady who gave us loaner bikes so that we get around more quickly (mind you Bruges is very walkable, but bikes helped us get around a bit more quickly, especially when we went to the edge of town).
Most people do Bruges in 2-3 days, we did pretty much all of it in 26 hours :) (and that includes waiting for things that only opened at 10:00), delaying us quite a bit:
Saint Salvator Cathedral
Church of Our Lady
Then, we went to walk around:
We then did a boat tour, a good way to look around:
The main plaza was next, starting with Belfy Tower, which we climbed to the top after a 30mn wait in line:
music box for the bells
We then did the rest of the main plaza and the museum there:
Next, we went to the chocolate museum, where we had only 35mn before it closed (everything closes early):
We then went to visit the bruges story museum, which thankfully closed after 17:00, unlike everything else:
Main Plaza looks great at night too of course:
We then went out for dinner to conclude our day:
The next morning, we had to wait for museums to open. One of them opened at 09:30 instead of 10:00, how nice:
We then biked to the city gate:
And we finished our trip by visiting the French Fry Museum (which of course are not French, but Belgian):
I had seen Solarstone once before and he had done a great set at Dreamstate. Then, he did another 5h open to close set at Verso not a long time ago, but I totally missed that one due to poor planning. This time, I made sure to get my tickets early, and ended up going even after finding out my company Xmas party ended up being the same evening (darn), and I did not regret it: Solarstone threw a fantastic set, it was just good stuff up to the end:
And at the end Solarstone was super nice and came out to meet and greet. He loved my shirt and nicely took a picture with me:
I also have to give another big thumbs up to Verso. Not only do they get good DJs, but they have the least about of BS for getting in. Compare with places like Pure Lounge in Sunnyvale, where they first do a weapons search, which is annoying but potentially understandable, however when they do a drug search looking everywhere, even within the pockets of your wallet, this is totally pointless and a great way to turn off your customers.
Moral of the story: Verso: great, Pure Lounge: Bad. Hopefully Pure Lounge gets the hint and losens up. I told them, tell them too, and in the meantime, keep going back to Verso only instead :)
And here is a 30mn summary of the 5H set:
After a crappy half day at kirkwood as all the forecast powder turned to hard ice, I gave it another shot with 2 coworkers, Ted and Marcus. The forecast looked pretty good, it was supposed to dump big time during the night with a snowline falling down to 3000ft, making a day trip with early rise, not sounds so good.
So we left the previous day, stayed at a condo in KW with other coworkers, and got up the next morning to see that the snowfall at base level was actually very disappointing. The top got more, but it was heavy wet powder, not fluffy stuff, but still it was fresh snow, more than a foot of it, so we took it :)
only a bit overnight
nice plate :)
things looked good
you can tell from here, it's pretty heavily packed
chamoix still involved sliding down a rock on your butt
the drain was not bad, but still a bit low on snow
the ridge from cornice was open, you could ride it down
except I ended up on top of this, and had to jump it down, maybe 7ft. That was a bit scary since the snow underneath was not much of a cushion
Anyway, it wans't the best day ever, but a good day overall. However, it's only going to go downhill from there until the next big dump.
After having gone to Kirkwood where the conditions were terrible, we left early since skiing ice was no fun at all. Arturo made the great suggestion of going to visit Black Chasm Cavern on the road back, just off SR88.
So let's be honest, it's far from being the best cavern I've visited in the US, however, it has a vast arrays of rare helictite crystals, which I had never seen anywhere else. Water pressure causes water droplets to be pushed out of the rock, evaporate, and leaves behind very unusual organic looking growths:
Good call Arturo, thank you (and thanks to Johannes for getting us there)
Johannes, Arturo and I wento to Kirkwood with the hope of enjoying a nice 18 inches of fresh pow. It did fall, but sadly virtually all of it iced up top to bottom :(
We left at 05:15, arrived by 08:40 as no lifts were running on the front side, so we actually had to walk to chair 7, the only one running at that time. By 10:00 or so, the Reut finally opened, and if you left the groomers at any time, you were in trouble.
By 11:10, Chair 6 opened finally, and the very top was ok-ish for a few turns, and then again ice.
Darn, this should have been so much fun, but it wasn't. We actually left by 12:10 and went to see a cave on the side of 88 on the way back.
long line for the reut since everything else was closed
it was deceiving, it looked good, but really wasn't
fresh tracks, and all, but it was so hard, no tracks left behind
For Jennifer's 42th's BD, we had a very nice dinner at Benu, the other michelin 3 star restaurant in San Francisco. It was Asian inspired cooking, a mix of Japanese, Chinese, and Korean, with quite interesting ingredients for some dishes.
While expensive, it's noticeably cheaper than its rival Saison while being just as good and offering more dishes to try without coming out totally stuffed or in a sugar comma after 3 or 4 desserts :)
I had never been to Pure Lounge in Sunnyvale before, a short-ish drive from home, and Aly and Fila (really only Aly, Fila doesn't seem to travel to the US), was a good excuse to go. Pure Lounge sadly has a pretty ridiculous search at the entrance, and seemed to say that you could not even take small point and shoot cameras inside? What on earth is that?
That being said, once inside, it was a good evening, good set from Aly: