Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Second Paris Trip, Sept 17-24

This is a really overdue post. So much has been happening in the past few weeks, and I have really been slack at posting. This one is particularly overdue-- I had visited Paris a month ago. We had this conference on our group's direct area of research in Paris and the whole lab (excluding the techincian) went. Anton was an invited speaker, and Karen gave a talk, and the rest of us presented posters-- except Hiro, since he has arrived since six months or so. Tatsuya presented his a poster about the work from his previous lab.

The conference was from the 17th of Sept through the 21st and we stayed on until the 24th. It was good fun. Since there was a big group from our lab, we tended to stick together, and didn't get to meet and make friends with as many other people at the conference as I would have liked to. Nevertheless I did manage to meet some other people.

The conference was organized by two leading scientists in the field from Paris, from Institut Pasteur and Institut Curie, respectively. Most of the who's who in the field were there, including the "founder". It was very stimulating. It was reassuring to see my results fitting well in the current line of thinking.

We arrived on Sunday afternoon, and checked into our hotel in Rue Mouffetard, a very lively street close to the Pantheon. Anton, as an invited speaker, had been put up into another hotel. I was sharing a room with Dieter. After freshening up, we strolled towards the Pantheon-- the registration and welcome party was being held at the City Hall of the Ve arrondissement, opposite the Pantheon. We were among the first people to arrive.
The party was fun, also because we were a group, and so didn't feel lost, but then again, we never talked outside our group. Later, we went for a drink near St. Michel and actually ended up in a Mexican bar.
The conference started from Monday. The pre-lunch sessions were held in the Ecole Normale Superieure which is close to the Institut Curie. Rather crappy lunch at this college was followed by a long poster session at the Institut Curie and further talks there. There were three poster sessions, I was scheduled for Thursday.
We had dinner at an African place in the evening sans Anton (he reluctantly went for dinner organized by one of the organizers), and then went for a stroll to the Louvre complex, but after a while we split up and I went to Le Marais to meet a guy I had been talk to on the internet.

For Tuesday evening the organizers had arranged a Barge trip along the Seine. It was beautiful to see the lighted Eiffel Tower from the Seine. It was good fun. In the beginning I was hanging out with people from the lab, later on went to the top and talked to other people, especially Sebastien. By the time the trip ended, most of my colleagues were quite drunk, particularly Ruben. People still wanted to go for a drink and we planned to buy drinks for a supermarket near our hotel and sit on the square/roundabout there. But just as we were about to enter the supermarket, Neil, one of the big names in the field ran to us and suggested we join them at the (expensive) bar close by. Ruben was completely drunk since the barge, and he kept us amused with his antics. Afterwards we went to yet another bar along the street until it closed at 2 am.

Wednesday afternoon was free. Karen went shopping with a couple of girls Martin and Dieter had made friends with; and Dieter, Martin, Hiro, Tatsuya and I strolled around; went to the Arc di Triomphe, and walked back to the Louvre where we met Karen and Anton. The others went to the Louvre. I had been invited to dinner by Renaud and Christophe, my Couchsurfing hosts from my last visit.

Thursday was the last day of the conference, and it ended with a gala dinner at the Evolution Gallery of the Natural History Museum-- a grand setting. I hung out with Sebastien, for a large part of the evening, and then went to a bar near the hotel afterwards. I also met Damian, a colleague of Sebastien. Damian is Swiss-German and did his PhD on plant epigenetics. His current work is similar to mine, so we decided to meet the next day at Institut Pasteur to talk about our respective data. We left at 2 am.

We changed hotels on Friday, and Anton too moved into the second hotel close to the Jardin du Luxembourg. The weather wasn't great. Since I had some time in hand, I strolled to the Institut Pasteur and had lunch with Damian and Sebastien. The food at the Pasteur is great. After lunch and coffee (I required it!) Damian and I discussed work for around 3-4 hours and then at 6pm, we dragged Sebastien for a drink that turned into dinner. It was great fun chatting with them.
[Damian's work had not going great. After returning to Vienna, I sent him some of my data, he sent me some of their lab's... they didn't seem to match. And earlier this week, he told me that he was quitting the lab, and joining a company in Switzerland. That's a shame... it would have been so nice to continue this interaction.]

On Saturday Karen went shopping, Hiro's and Tatsuya's families were here since Friday, and so Anton, Dieter, Martin and I went to the Eiffel Tower. I had missed it during my last visit, but this time we climbed it. It's really a fantastic structure. I went quite crazy with my camera... and in this post I will inflict upon you some of the several shots I took. From there we walked to Arc di Triomphe because Anton wanted to see it. Then we split up as Anton wanted to go to Versailles and Dieter and Martin wanted to go shopping for presents for their respective girlfriends. I called up a guy I had talk to on the internet, and we strolled around Le Marais, went to a very interesting exhibition of arty stuff, browsed in a gay bookshop and had a drink at Open Cafe.
Later I strolled around in a huge supermarket near the Hotel de Ville.
We were supposed to go for an oyster dinner that evening. Although Ruben is supposedly allergic to sea food, he knew a seafood place and we went there. We had a huge tumbler full of oysters. They were ok, but I'm not crazy about oysters.

On Sunday morning, Martin and I went to Pere Lachaise. I had gone there during my last trip, but did buy a map and hence couldn't find Wilde's and a few other graves.
Later Martin joined the others at Pantheon, while I met up with this guy from yesterday and strolled around in the Jardin du Luxembourg and around the Pantheon.

The flight was in the afternoon, and rather eventless.

I really love Paris. It would be great to go back again, but I wouldn't go there for mere holidaying in the near future, considering that there are so many other places to go to. If Damian had stayed on in the Avner lab, there might have been scope for exchanging information, and reason for exchanging visits. Anton and Phil are in touch about our projects, but I don't see a reason for visiting Paris. Which is a pity.
But lets see...


Shikha said...

This should be interesting :). I'm in Germany now - a short visit, and hoping to make a trip to Paris sometime. Will read it carefully and mark parts that may find place in my itinerary.

A.S. said...

Cool! Germany is a very interesting country as well and I hope you do get an opportunity to travel around (I'd recommend Berlin, Munich and around, Cologne, and probably Heidelberg and some small town). Paris is grand, and along with Rome, are probably my favourite cities in Europe. Check out my (rather defunct) travelogue... link on the top-right of the main page of my blog. It describes my first visit to Paris as a tourist, and is much more extensive than this particular post as this one was more of a conference trip.

Have fun!