New computer

The biggest news for me lately is that I bought a new computer through an auction at work. Since the computer I was using was going onto 6 years old, it was time for an upgrade. My new machine is a business class machine with Pentium 4 3Ghz processor, 1 GB RAM (upgraded by me from 512), 320 GB SATA hard drive (added by me to the 40 GB it came with). Other less technical conveniences including a quieter operation, smaller overall size, and 8 USB ports. Even the 17 inch CRT monitor it came with was an upgrade for me, and it’s nice to enjoy being able to more things at once with less waiting time.

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I already have everything of mine set up on this machine. I am thinking of trying out Sabayon Linux, which Doug at work highly recommends to me. My distrust and dislike of Microsoft products has been growing in recent times. I think their monopoly will eventually end as differences between operating systems become less important as everything moves to open standards over the web. Microsoft is a company that just isn’t cool and they always try to force things on the market the first time around instead of giving people what they really want when they want it. I could rant all day about Microsoft, but I will spare you some of that for now.

A couple weeks ago now, the Saint John High School web site (which I continue to work on) passed its milestone of 1,000,000 million visitors since 1994. In an ironic twist, a St. Malachy’s (rival high school) graduate received a school history book as recognition for being the lucky visitor. We’re still working on an article for the front page of the site to acknowledge this. Things get a bit slow in the summer.

Shortly after the milestone, I rolled out an update to the site layout that I had been working on for a few weeks which updates the look, and improves many things.

Old section page (since the front page didn’t change as much):

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New section page:

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More colourful pictures and icons were the order of the day.

I intend to get back to blogging a bit more, as I think of things to blog about. I’ve had many ideas over the past month, but I’m also kinda lazy at times.

One last look at Poitiers

As promised, I will take one last look at Poitiers. I have gathered up some previously unblogged photos that are somehow important and representative of my time abroad.

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The city’s largest and most beautiful park was pretty much across the street from where I lived. I could easily just drop what I’m doing and leave any hour of the day to go relax in the park.

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A large fountain adds energy to the city’s main park, although this fountain was broken for part of the time. It was working near the end again when the park was well in season.

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Narrow streets and crowded sidewalks are common. It’s also not unusual to have a street where pedestrians and cars share the same area, requiring that you are careful when a car is coming. In this photo, you see a large city bus coming through just below the Notre-Dame church, which is one of Poitier’s most recognizable and promoted buildings.

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Although this looks like the remains of some really fancy castle, I think it’s perhaps just a fancy wall created for the park above. I’m sure this shot would look very much the same in 100 years as it did 100 years ago. Much of Poitiers has this timeless appearance.

And now my last Poitiers blog photo…

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This photo brings me back the most vivid memories of my first impression of Poitiers. The weather wasn’t too good yet, and the Christmas decorations were still up everywhere. All of central Poitiers pretty much looks like this, and it seemed so different and hard to navigate at first. This was also the time when the whole 5 months was still ahead of me, yet to come, and everything new to experience.

I have enjoyed keeping you informed and sharing my favourite images. I will likely keep blogging about everything how it is back in North America.

That’s all for Europe, 2007.

The adventure ends in Paris, France

At the end of my 5 month excursion to Europe, I was pretty much the only international student who had yet to see Paris. I left Poitiers on May 29th en route to Paris where I would stay until flying back to Canada on June 1st. This left me with 2 and a half days to see everything in Paris.

One of my first stops was Sacré Coeur, a church perched at the highest point in Paris.

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From this view, it reminds me of the Royal Palace from Disney’s Aladdin. All of Paris could be seen from this high point, but the view does not interest me a whole lot because everything looks very small and hazey skies prevent getting decent pictures of anything that is far away.

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The Louvre, with one of the small glass pyramids to the middle-left. I saw this on my walking tour with New Europe Tours, which is a company which offers free walking tours in various European cities. All they ask for is a tip in the end. It was a very good way to see many things and hear interesting facts.

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The famous Notre-Dame Cathedral. They were fairly easy-going with regards to tourists who were allowed to enter, roam the church, take pictures, and leave again at will even while a service was in progress.

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The road leading up to the Arc de Triomphe. This is somewhat of an optical illusion because the monument itself is huge, and very far away with a long stretch of luxury shops hidden from view.

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One of the luxury giants on the road towards Arc de Triomphe.

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A Parisian neighbourhood, not far from Notre-Dame.
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Me, with the Eiffel Tower behind me.

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A view of the Eiffel Tower at night from Montparnasse Tower, a huge skyscraper in the middle of Paris. Many Parisians dislike the appearance of this building, and the city passed laws after it was built to prohibit any more skyscrapers from being built in Central Paris again. The view from the top of Montparnasse is said to be the best of Paris because it is the only one in which you cannot see Montparnasse Tower.

I saw everything I wanted to see. On my last day, I woke up at the fresh hour of 5:30 AM, hitting the streets towards the airport at 6 AM. I took a metro to a stop from where I caught a bus directly to my airport terminal. From there, my Air Canada check in desk was just inside, with security next to that. I didn’t have to wander around at all.

The trip back to Canada was uneventful thankfully, except for a small broken bottle of maple syrup on the way back to Saint John. Landing home again felt different than any of the other cities where I landed for some reason, even Poitiers which is smaller than Saint John.

My next post will be the last in my Europe 2007 series, as I take one last look at Poitiers. Have a good weekend!

Grassau, Germany

After Salzburg, I travelled to Grassau, Germany to visit my family for a weekend. Many of them speak English too and act as my translators when talking with those who speak only German.

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This is the centre of town. Seemingly every building is nicely done up here, and the atmosphere is much different from the big cities I was used to visiting.

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My grandmother grew up in this town, and left for Canada when she was 33. The farm house where she was born is shown in the distance in the photograph above. Four of the houses on this road have stayed in the family for years and years, and are passed on. I remember the area a bit from when I was 5, but not much.

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This photo of me with my Great Aunt Leni, cousin Simone (far right) and her friend Christine (far left) was taken shortly after I arrived. As you can see, they keep their yard very well decorated. Mom doesn’t like the colour of the shirt I am wearing for some reason.

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Near the house is a river leading towards the mountains, which are visible from everywhere. The day after I arrived, I went to the top of the mountain with Simone and Christine (using a ski lift of course), and then we set out on an adventure to walk down the mountain.

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A view from near the top.

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Cows can be found in fields along the mountain-side. I believe that the mountain is owned and operated by the town, and locals are allowed to use it for various purposes.

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In the afternoon, we went for a drive in the car around a nearby lake. It was a good thing we went mountain walking in the morning because the weather was bad in the afternoon, as you can see here. It actually started hailing while we were out, but got nice again before we got home. It was on this trip where I bought a bag full of candy and chocolate that Brian, Ben and Leanne thought was a little excessive once I returned to Poitiers. Haha.

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On Sunday, we also went walking a bit through the “canyon” in nearby Austria. Nestled in the forest beside this river, you can find a small church and a restaurant which operates entirely without electricity. On the other side of the river, you can find the “smuggle-way”, which is a path leading into Germany that was once used for smuggling. There’s no need to smuggle goods between Germany and Austria now because they, like many European nations, have eliminated their border controls.

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A spectacular view of the mountains towering over the beautiful water.

Fortunately, the weather was very nice, and I got very good photos of the area. My family was very happy I came, and it was sad to be leaving again. You can find all my Germany pictures in my Gallery at the top.

Salzburg, Austria

After Dublin, I went to Salzburg, Austria separately from the others. I arrived at the airport, having no clue how to get from there to my hostel. Thankfully, it was very easy to just take the first bus that came to the city centre to the train station, from where I had printed directions to take me to the hostel.

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I actually had less than 24 hours in this city, as my family was coming from nearby Germany to pick me up. For whatever reason, Ryanair does not fly to small towns with populations of 4000, so this is as close as I could get.

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Pronouncing this sign is seemingly a piece of cake, until you get to that strange B-shaped symbol thingy. Apparently, it stands for a double s. Luckily for me, it was a very nice in Salzburg, and the scenery and architecture is very beautiful.

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Vast gardens can be found in the city centre.

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Inside the garden, you can find this tunnel which I liked, and walked through a few times when going between my hostel and the sights to see.

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Colourful European architecture hugs the mountain side. Street car wires are visible overhead.

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The Birthplace of Mozart.

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Inside the birthplace of Mozart, you can find various artifacts on the walls.

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The fortress sits on top of the hill. This was actually my second time here in my life. I was here with my family when I was 5, although I don’t remember anything from it.

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This part of the fortress is very carefully decorated.

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Visible from the fortress is where the executioner’s house used to be. No other houses are nearby, as it always perceived to be bad luck to live near the executioner.

At around 5 PM, my cousin Simone and her friend came to pick me up. They both speak English to me, and Simone especially would act as my translator to family members once in Germany. Picking me up is the first time she spoke English since having visited us in Canada.

That’s all for now for Salzburg. In my next post, visiting the family in Grassau, Germany.

Ireland

A couple days after Versailles, I went with Brian, Eric, Charles and Jennifer to Ireland. We first saw Galway. The water here was so bad that they told people not to even use it for brushing teeth. Yikes!

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This was a nice town. It was here where I learned that Ireland has two languages: English and “Irish”, which is modern-day Gaelic. Everyone uses English, but many road signs are in both languages.

After a night in Galway, we returned to Dublin the next day.

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A pedestrian bridge stretches over the river in Dublin. Bright colourful buildings dot the street beside the river.

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The Temple Bar is visible in the centre. The city core is quite compact and it was easy to walk to everything.

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I toured the Guinness brewery as well as the Jameson Whiskey factory. In this big tank here, you can see the barley or something. I’m not sure what it is anymore.

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Me standing next to the bay on the way to a castle outside town.

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One of the castles outside Dublin. We toured all through it, although I wish they had more of the castle actually open for a tour.

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The view from the window of the hostel where we stayed for 3 nights. The Noisy Express rolled by every few minutes just outside the window, which made sleeping a bit difficult at first, but it was hilarious to see trains so close.

That’s all I have time to say about Ireland. All my other photos are now in my Gallery. In my next post, Salzburg, Austria and Grassau, Germany!

Home again / Versailles

I arrived home on Friday, with no major issues. The trip home was much easier with no wasted time in lengthy layovers. Customs were a bit rude in Montreal though, and a small bottle of maple syrup broke in my bag on the way to Saint John. I am glad it was that rather than the larger bottle of maple syrup, or even worse, the bottle of Barcardi (for my father) that were in the same bag. One must really wonder why I put ALL of my breakable bottles in that bag rather than my other one which has a protective case.

Now I will talk about my trip to Versailles a couple weeks ago on a day trip.

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The beautiful grounds outside. Many buildings make up Versailles. I didn’t get a good shot of all of them from a distance, not that one is really possible right now because the largest one has all kinds of construction happening in front of it.

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A bed once fit for royalty. This bed is very square, and short.

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Another room with a fancy bed, also used by royalty at one time, and a chair set set up. It was really neat to be just walking by this stuff when it would been the site of important decision making at one point in history.

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The gardens behind the palace stretch for quite a long way.

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One of the buildings belonging to Marie-Antoinette’s farm house and lake area. I’m told that she wanted to feel like a normal peasant, so she had this fully operational farm built to enjoy and participate in somewhat, even though she was royalty.

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The Hall of Mirrors, where the famous Treaty of Versailles was signed.

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Fancy furniture decorates this room. Things were much simpler, but more elegant back then.

That concludes some highlights from Versailles. Since it was a while ago now, I don’t remember everything. Check my Gallery for more photos. Coming up in my next post, Ireland!

Goodbye Poitiers

On Tuesday the 29th, I checked out of my flat with Mr. Gervis and then he drove me to the train station. From there, I went to Paris where I am staying for a few days before returning to Canada on Friday.

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Me and Mr. Gervis standing outside my flat entrance.

2 of my other 4 housemates have already checked out. It’s hard to believe that I’ve lived in Poitiers for 4.5 months, and now I have left. I wish I had more time to take one last walk through town or actually say goodbye to more people. Such is life.

I am way behind on my blogging. I haven’t had time yet to go through my photos from Versailles, Dublin, Salzburg, and Germany. I likely won’t be able to do much of this before I return to Canada, so wish me safe travels!