Futuroscope

On Monday the 26th, I visited Futuroscope, which is a technology park situation on the edge of Poitiers, with my Tourism class. The day began with most of my class getting off the city bus confused and not sure where to go. We eventually found our way to the administrative entrance for a presentation organized by our professor from the park officials. They talked about how they run the park, and keep visitors coming.

Basically, the park used to be privately run, but it is now owned and operated by the local government. The architecture of the buildings is very cool and futuristic, although the actual attraction themselves have mixed reviews. I can’t complain too much because we got in free, but most parts of the park were just simulations where you sit and watch something. They were typically realistic with your chairs vibrating to match what you see on screen, as if you’re in the movie. One of the simulators even had a character that sneezes on the audience several times, resulting in blasts of water (I HOPE it was just water) being sprayed on your face.

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This is one of the best views within the park, with beautiful water being overlooked by a very unusual building. Our presentation was in that building at the very bottom. The Gyrotower can be seen in the background. I went up to the top of this tower (as one of the park’s few “rides”) where the entire park could be seen. According to the voiceovers, Futuroscope has some of the highest concentration of hotels in Europe with thousands of rooms available. Several technology related companies also make their home on site.

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Strange building with a huge ball on top. Also note the building to the right which also has an unusual shape like all the others.

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Modern art of some type

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The “Dancing with Robots” ride. I went on this and it was quite intense. You’re strapped to the end of a robotic arm which swings you all around. It’s about 2 minutes long, and you’re quite ready to get off at the end!

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That’s water running down the windows of this building (except above the door, thankfully!). Perhaps this is a possible solution that building owners in France could use in the event of a widespread window cleaner strike.

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These buildings must have been very expensive to create. Inside this one, I believe there was a nature film shown on large screens in front of you as well as below the clear glass floor, adding a bit extra sense of realism perhaps.

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An upside-down staircase, perhaps.

Overall, Futuroscope was very interesting. It’s unfair to compare it with Disneyland, simply because it does not try to have any thrill rides, but you can learn a lot, and play a lot with technology here. One attraction, which wasn’t running yet when I saw it, was a robot that can draw your portrait.

In other news, I decided that I did not like my Panasonic Lumix camera too much, so I returned it. It wasn’t bad, but it did lack some features and quality that I missed in my Canon. I bought the minor upgrade to my old camera, the Canon PowerShot S3 IS. It is almost the same as what I had. I plan to use it for the rest of my time in France, and then sell it on eBay before I leave to return to Canada where I can have my other camera repaired. I’m likely only going to live in France once, so I want a camera that I am very comfortable with.

Disneyland Paris

On Saturday, I went to Disneyland Paris. This was a last minute decision, because I was originally planning to go to Bordeaux until the trip was canceled. The thrill rides in the park were good, and the wait times were not bad for the most part thanks to the Fast Pass system used in the park.

It was raining a bit and cloudy most of the day, so I don’t have many good pictures. It was a very nice park though with lots to see. You would probably need two or three days to actually see and do everything.

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Indiana Jones roller coaster.

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Star Tours. This was a spaceship simulation with a huge movie screen and chairs that move.

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Pirates of the Caribbean. This was a fairly easy ride (not shown in picture), as there wasn’t even straps to hold you in. No one would jump out of their seat though, since there is only water around.

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Phantom Manor (Haunted Mansion in North America). This was actually a ride, and it’s not really in the house itself. When entering, an elevator takes you downstairs to a conveyor belt with seats on it to show you various things relating to the movie.

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Mickey, of course.

More pictures in my gallery. I wish I had more indoor shots, but they just didn’t turn out as the flash wouldn’t do much, and the lighting is of course bad in dimly lit rides.

Next time, I will talk about my visit to Futuroscope with interesting surroundings and architecture as well, although no real extreme rides.

Fontevraud Abbey

I went with my Tourism Management class today on an excursion to Fontevraud Abbey. This class is my “minor” (despite the fact it will occupy the majority of my class time now), and it’s very good because of all of the free field trips we’ll have to touristic sites nearby in France. This was the first major test for my new camera, and it wasn’t too bad. I noticed that many of my pictures seemed blurry with too much light, but I got some decent pictures.

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Entrance from the street

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Interior courtyard

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Hallways along the perimeter of the courtyard.

This Royal Abbey was constructed between 1110 and 1109, which is insanely old by Canadian standards. We’d get excited to find a rock that old in the “New World”. The Abbey began life as a “double monastery” in which both nuns and monks were present, with royal connections. The nuns were only allowed to talk freely once a year, while monks were supposed to pray often. They weren’t without perks. Nuns had their clothing replaced once a year, while monks were allowed to drink wine with every meal (instead of just once a day for the nuns).

A uniqueness to this Abbey was that the leader of order, the abbess, was always a woman. Many abbesses came from the French Bourbon royal family.

The Abbey did not have much heating, except in one writing room, so they probably were cold a lot in the winter. It was very cold today.

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This is me standing inside one of the nicer rooms. Instead of paying attention to the actual purpose of this room, I was too busy having my picture taken.

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This room was where all the nuns slept. You’d think that this Abbey, now a culture centre and tourist attraction, could do more to make this type of room more interesting or authentic, to the extent where explanation of its original use wouldn’t be necessary to bring meaning to such a wide open space.

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The letters stand for the translation of “French Republic”, which comes from the time between 1804 and 1963 when the Abbey became a jail.

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This is inside the church, near the tombs where King Henry II of England is buried, along with members of his family. This fact is apparently not well known, as it was a million-pound question on the U.K. version of Millionaire, as our tour operator told us.

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Me sitting on a well.

That’s all I have to say about the Abbey. I have the rest of my pictures posted in my Gallery as usual.

I was originally planning to go to Bordeaux this weekend with ALOHA at the school, but that trip has been cancelled. Instead, I will be going to Disneyland Paris on Saturday, and possibly other places. I still have 2 days left on my train travel pass from my last trip that needed to be used on or before Sunday.

On Monday, I will be visiting Futuroscope, a popular amusement park in Poitiers, with my Tourism class. The morning will be somewhat educational, but the park operators have generously allowed our class free access to the park for the rest of the day. Not bad.

Until next time!

New camera

After much research, I finally settled on buying the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LS2 as a temporary replacement for my Canon camera that broke last week. It was the cheapest camera in the store at 99 Euro.

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This camera, like my Canon, runs on SD memory cards, and 2 standard AA batteries (which I have plenty of). There were many nice cameras, but they used a different memory card than the 2 GB one I already have, and they used proprietary batteries. Those are bad because I’m stuck if it dies, and I don’t have another one. I have over a dozen AA rechargable batteries, so I’ll never run out for this.

At the relatively low price, this camera is “entry-level” and does not have all the advanced features or speed that my Canon had. It is slower to zoom, as the lens take a lot longer to go up 3X than my Canon did to zoom to an entire 12X. However, it should do as it does have some nice stabilizer features, and also a lens that retracts to protect itself without the need for a lens cap.

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Its macro mode is quite accessible, and gave an impressive result when I quickly tested it.

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This is outside in our courtyard. Colours are good. Our wall has seen better days.

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Our dirty old stairs never looked so brilliant with the flash being used indoors.

Today was very cold, hence why I have yet to go outside to take any new photos. When waiting for the bus, it actually started to snow a bit. Hopefully it’ll warm up again soon.

Connection with J. K. Rowling

Today, I have the pleasure of being connected with J. K. Rowling in some small way. A guest lecturer, Patrick Coghlan, from London Metropolitan University is in for the day to teach my Tourism class about various things. One of his former students is Harry Potter creator, J. K. Rowling! He commented on her being a billionaire now, and that he can’t imagine what anyone would do with so much money.

That’s all for now. I’m writing quickly on my lunch hour as I have to return to school now for the second half of Tourism class, and then French class tonight. It’s a long day.

Photography outage

Not much new with me, except that I’ve been very busy and am slowly catching up on things. My minor class in Tourism started today, and I have it all day tomorrow. It turns out that this is a very good course to take, because I’m told by French students that it is easier, and you also get to go out and see tourism sites around Poitiers. Perfect!

A few days ago, I went for a random walk with my wonderful Canon Powershot S2 IS camera. I went down by the river through a pathway from the street, and quickly found myself in the middle of the woods pretty much with houses built into the sides of hills, and farms visible in the distance.

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Long descent towards the water.

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Private wooded lot behind a partially broken wall.

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Not sure where this path leads to. You can see the wall knocked over for some reason. I didn’t do it.

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The river, with some left behind in the water. The walking here was a bit muddy, and my jeans needed a wash by the end of it.

Suddenly, my camera was making weird noises, and then stopped working as it threw error messages at me. That was the end of it. I’m not having much luck with electronics here. I’m working on replacing it now, but that will likely be a hassle from France. I’ll likely have to buy a new one here and worry about fixing the Canon under warranty when I get home.

Have a great week!

Lost in search of groceries, new iPod

On the day before my big trip around the South of France, I decided to take a walk to the Leclerc’s grocery store since it was a nice day, and I was in need of laundry detergent. Uh huh. So all began innocently as I left my house, down the street, through the park, down the hill, across the river, and then to the right up the hill through to Leclerc’s. Or at least that’s how it was SUPPOSED to go.

Even though I’ve walked the stretch once before, I made a wrong turn by going LEFT up the hill. Oops! I became hopelessly lost (or about as lost as you can get in a small town like Poitiers). I continued through and saw a new neighbourhood that I had not already seen.

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Freakishly narrow house. Just exactly what proper use could you make of such an unusual living space?

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Looks like some rich person’s house.

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If you drink way too much wine, you have little hope of getting home up these crazy stairs if you live on top!

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Very nice yard, as long as you’re not someone who has to go door-to-door and walking up this long drive way.

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I did eventually make it to the store. I wasn’t too far away, and at least got a chance to see more of Poitiers without the hassle of making a plan to do so.

Once I got into the store, I found what I needed, and took a tour of the breakfast aisle.

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Imagine being the poor sap sent to get some or “Boules de Mais” or “Blé Souffé” from the grocery store. You would be left confused not knowing which one to get.

I mentioned last time how my Sony Network Walkman music player decided to stop working. Not being able to survive for more than 24 hours without music, I set out to replace the player the next day. I went to FNAC, and spent about an hour looking at the products now available. I finally settled on an Apple iPod Nano 4 GB Blue. So far, I am quite impressed with it, as well as Apple’s iTunes software. My advice to anyone is to avoid Sony products since I’ve found they break quickly, and are not user friendly.

The iPod set me back about 200 Euro, or about C$300 (compared to C$229 current retail price in Canada), mainly because France is the most expensive place to buy iPods and many electronics.

I have no more classes this week, although I have a group meeting on Friday.

That’s all for now. Don’t hesitate to leave a comment!

Travelling South France

For this past week, I have been travelling through the South of France with Charles, my American housemate. The pictures posted here are only a very small sample of what I took.

My journey began in Lourdes, a site strong in Roman Catholicism. I toured around the big church, as well as a castle (shown below). Overall, this was quite a beautiful old-looking city with plenty of nature visible.

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Outside the town’s famed grotto, I met a Catholic priest from India who wanted me to take his picture. He spoke about his intention to see all the holy sights in Lourdes, and also invited us to come see India.

When night fell, Lourdes pretty much shut down, so I spent a few hours at the train station waiting for my night train to come. There, we met a woman from the Philippines who didn’t speak French, and was having trouble adjusting to the French rail system. She missed her stop a few days before for Lourdes, and paid 50 Euro for a taxi. Ouch!

We arrived in Nice the next day. My favourite part was definitely the beach area and soft blue coloured water.

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A huge wind storm came up mid-afternoon, and it was a bit of a challenge to walk against the wind. I was fine for as long as I didn’t see any objects other than a tree leaf fly towards me. I stayed at Hotel Dante which was pretty nice for the price, including a small fridge, sink, and stove.

After Nice was Monaco Monte-Carlo for a morning. I wasn’t rich or well-dressed enough to enter the famous casinos, but I did get to see much of the small city in just a few hours.

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I am standing outside the Prince’s Palace here.

Finding a post office was a bit of a challenge here when I wanted to send a post card. I can’t complain though since Saint John has a large building in the Uptown labelled “Post Office”, even though it has been in use for years only by Revenue Canada and Customs (which itself is down the street from the “Customs Building” which does not contain any Customs offices).

After Monaco, I was in Cannes only for a short while in the afternoon. There didn’t seem to be a whole lot there, although it was another beautiful seaside city.

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The last stop on the trip was Lyon for 2 nights. This is one of the larger cities in France, including its own metro system that I used extensively. There was lots of wonderful architecture here, and plenty to see.

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This is me sitting on a very old Roman Theatre.

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A relatively new church that is only about 100 years old.

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Zooming in part of the city.

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Me standing outside City Hall. There is plenty of construction going on everywhere.

So that’s the trip. There was a lot of train rides, and I realized that the train controllers actually do check for tickets quite often, sometimes even twice on one ride. Train is the way to go between cities in a relaxing and fairly safe atmosphere.

Today, I was unhappy to note the failure of my Sony music player. The volume control now gets stuck in the “increase” position, forcing the sound to full blast and preventing any other buttons from working. I tried to take the unit apart to see if I could fix it, but the problem is inside a tiny switch that has probably worn out inside. Tomorrow, I hope to buy a new music player. Not sure what I’m going to go for yet.

That’s all for now!