Archive for the ‘Business Travel’ Category

#Europe2017 Day 15: Palace of Versailles (France)

Thursday, June 1st, 2017

Wow. Amazing. Over the top. Extravagent doesn’t even begin to explain this place. Castle, palace… none of that seems appropriate. How about other-worldly? I don’t even know. Seriously, it was overwhelming to think about the life and lifestyle of this place, not to mention how it was built, financed, run, etc.

The palace had servants quarters for the 10,000 servants it took to run the place.

Ten thousand.

That is a small city, just in servants!

Do yourself a favor and read up on this place. Wikipedia is a fine place to go for info, but there are documentaries on youtube (might not be appropriate for kids, you know, with all that french romance and stuff).

We left the hotel around 11am, and ubered to the Palace. Well, actually, we ubered to some place in the middle of the city of Versailles. The uber driver was like “this is where you said you wanted to go…” So we got out and thought, maybe we could walk to the Palace? Google Maps wasn’t coming up on Ellie’s phone (bless Ellie’s phone!!), so we were like “well, let’s get another uber to take us there.”

We call up another uber and this really cool kickboxer guy comes and is like “where you want to go?” And we’re like “the Palace…” and he says “you mean the Chateau?” “Uh, yeah, the chateau… whatever it’s called.” Mind you, we haven’t even started driving yet… he goes about 15 feet to the intersection and points one block away, and says “You want to go there??” Uh…. yeah, that’s it! We were one block away, but didn’t know it :p So he drives us around a few blocks, we have a fun conversation, he gives everyone candy (except me because I’m already too fat), and tells us it’s his style to to give candy, and have the sun roof open, and whatever else… this guy is really high energy and very cool, and he drops us off like three minutes later. Shortest uber ride ever (for us) :p

This is a statue of Louis the 14th (or Louis XIV), who was 27 when he went through the swamps and said “this is the place” LOL. I think that’s right, correct me if I’m wrong. There are tons of pictures and busts and stuff of people, probably a lot of him. This is outside the main courtyard, off of the street. Funny trivia: there is a hornet’s nest on his head… you can’t see it in the picture, but if you look up you’ll see lots of hornets buzzing around his head/cap :p
vers_louis_xiv

We walk towards the grand, amazing palace, with hundreds of other tourists (there must have been fifty tour buses parked there already). The line to get in was really long, so we got in and I sent William to see if we had to get tickets somewhere… he didn’t see it but by that time I had the girls stay in line and hobbled over the cobblestone (this was the most uneven cobblestone yet) and found a sign that said tickets. We go in, get in line, and when we get close enough the ticket lady was rejecting most everyone… I put up my card and said “do you take card?” No, not today… Even though the sign said they took all major cards)… cash only. “Do you know where an ATM machine is? NO! These people were not customer oriented… might this be the Paris attitude we’ve heard about from everyone?

We go out to the city to a bunch of old buildings, hoping we can find an ATM. There was a tourist office and I asked them and they very cheerfully told me it was right around the corner. Great! Two hundred Euros in cash and we are now on our way! We go back and there is NO LINE! It was crazy… one minute we are waiting forever, the next minute there is no line. We get tickets, go in the Palace, and begin our tour.

After you pass through the massive, huge, gargantuan outer courtyard, and the line for people who bought tickets, you go in an entrance and then out to the inner courtyard, which is HUGE, but not as big as the outer courtyard. This is a picture from the inner courtyard, looking at the gates to the outer courtyard. Notice all the gold? There is plenty (tons) of gold all around this place, from the outside (top of the palace) to the inside, the gates, and most of the fountains outside.

vers_gate

Here’s more ornateness and gold from the outside, in the inner courtyard. The cost and detail is mindboggling (supposedly it took around $2B to build this place).vers_outsidefront

Here’s the chapel, inside the palace. This shot is from the second story, you can see the organ is also on the second story. We hit it at just the right time to hear someone playing it (it had an eerie sound to it):vers_chapel

Here’s a tiny bit of the garden… I’m guessing the garden spans more or less a hundred acres (it might be a lot bigger). Those cone trees are way taller than me.vers_garden

This room is about 390 feet long… and now houses a bunch of busts and pictures of famous wars where France was victorious. One was the Battle of York Town (or however you spell it) and had George Washington in it.vers_war_room

Here’s another bust room… this was all of the famous “lettered people,” or scholars. I recognized one name here :p Seriously, the amount of art, busts, paintings, etc. is crazy.
vers_bust_room

After maybe two hours we made our way through the palace tour (with audio guides, which was nice). We just had to visit the gardens… but we were hungry! Instead of eating at the restaurants at the palace we decided to go into town… and found a super yummy french buffet! It was small but very, very good (and not a chinese buffet :p). It had things like cheeses, baguettes, chicken, ribs (delic!!), salads, and then some desserts…something that looked like angel food cake but was really like a tasteless meringue (with some goat cheese stuff to put on it – we all opted to NOT do that – as well as some berry jam stuff), flan (it was excellent!), some apple pie like thing, and more. And, unlimited real ice cream… I think Ellie had more ice cream than real food… it was that good.

Here’s me and Sam, well-fed and ready for a siesta (wrong country though :/)vers_food

Here’s William and Ellie with the street in the background: vers_food_willellie

Well-fed, we head back to the gardens. My ankle was bothering me and I was thinking about staying behind to not walk, but I opted to go. I’m glad I did. “Gardens” doesn’t really cover it. The hedges must have been 30+ feet high, fountains and ponds everywere, and even a canal system where they brought Italian gondolas (and gondola drivers :p) in so the royal family could gondola in their backyard canals. My heavens.

Here’s a picture at the beginning of the garden tour, of a small garden off to the side (not the big one in the back). Crazy, huh?
vers_gard1

Here’s a super shot William got of the same garden, but different angle: vers_gard1b

This is down the back steps (which are majestic), to the first fountain (I think those are golden frogs, but might be koi or some other creature)… and in the back you can see way the heck down the canals to float on. vers_gard2

Here is a view from the garden, looking at the palace. We haven’t even reached the Italian canals yet! Massive!vers_gard2

This must be the border, right? No, it’s “Little Venice,” where all the canal and gondola and all that jazz lived and operated out of. Did I mention the servant’s quarters housed the 10,000 servants??vers_gard_venice

Walking back up the garden, to the palace (we didn’t walk down the canal!), you see this majestic view of the back of the palace…. crazy:vers_gard_back

Here’s a sneak peek of the dance the Trio is doing in every country… just a snapshot, but what a background, right??vers_dance

Here’s where the first uber driver dropped us off… definitely not the palace :p
vers_not_vers

So here we are, exhausted, close to our original uber dropoff, having gone through the tourist shops, and ready to go home. We call an Uber, get home in about 45 minutes, and me and William relax and chill while the girls go get some food (and pizza, which was successful tonight!). It’s 11:16pm here… and we’re all ready for bed. We tried to do laundry in the hotel but apparently you need to by a special token, and the front desk closes at 8, so we will do that tomorrow. It’s time for clean clothes :)

What’s going on at home? Well, my wife told me that she fed the snake… this cracked all of us up here… here’s what she chatted:

paris_kaisie_snake

We’re all going through new experiences!!

Tomorrow, Friday, should be laundry, then we go to the Eiffel Tower and do inner-city Paris stuff.

Avec amour de paris!

#Europe2017 Day 11: Sunday, and an Ideal Vacation

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

Today we got up really, really early (about 9 something). When I say “we” I mean Samantha knocked on our door to walk us up. She was already dressed and ready for church, and I could barely open my eyes :)

While William and I got ready she went down to talk to the front office to see how we could get to church. Turns out everyone at the Temple (missionaries, visitors, etc.) already carpooled there (they left earlier than I leave for church at home (like most people in Utah/Idaho, I live a block away from the church), so our only choice was to get a taxi.

We got to church about 20 minutes late and settled into our seats almost at the back. The speakers were great… the first was a sister who just returned from her mission to Mesa, Arizona, and she mentioned that things there were just so different than what we were used to. Seriously! Different! I really had no idea how different the lives and lifestyles, etc. are!

For Sunday School we stayed in the same seats, and had a great lesson… it was a very interactive group, with lots of comments (and the teacher did a splendid job facilitating the discussion). As usual, it was really neat to have a similar discussion about the same topic that was being taught around the world. For Priesthood, we stood to introduce ourselves and I slipped in “and if anyone is headed back to the Temple, we’d love to get a ride… otherwise we’ll just grab a taxi.”

Immediately a brother named David came up and said he had three of four seats, and he’d be happy to take us home, as he only lived a mile or so from the Temple. GREAT! After the meetings another brother offered to drive us home, too, so we split up and Sam and Ellie went with David and his wife and William and I went with the other couple (serving a mission at the temple, from Wales)… after chatting with some people in the foyer. It was just really a pleasant experience, that was about to get WAY, WAY better.

When we got home Sam said “David invited us to dinner, and then he’d drive us to the train station. But we have to let him know if we want to eat dinner with his family.”

Um… let me think about thi…. ABSOLUTELY.

You see, this is my version of an ideal vacation: meeting people who lived there, and hanging out with them, chatting with them, getting to know them. We had no idea just how great our day was going to be. The girls called David and a few minutes later he rolled in to pick us up, then we got to the gate of his 18 acre estate.

Yep.

David and his family lives in what was a really old hunting lodge which he has renovated and restored to be his home. He is blessed to have some of his adult children and their kids there, so it’s a big family thing… he gave us a tour of his yard and buildings, then a tour of the house, while his wife was preparing dinner for four more people than she had planned for.

What do you eat in England on a beautiful Sunday afternoon? Yorkshore pudding, of course! And peas, of course, and boiled (little) potatoes, with an orange drink and water… for dessert they brought out a platter of popcicles, cups of yogurt, and a bowl of fruit. Mix and match however you like.

We ate outside on the front lawn, at a table that was on a deck (just for the table)… watching the kids jump on the tramp and swim in the pool. We had delightful, fun conversations with the entire family and another guest, and when the drizzle of rain turned into an “almost monsoon” we ran inside the house.

This was seriously one of the highlights of the trip for me, especially in England. Meeting this family, learning about them, being welcomed into their home… it was a real treat that we hope to be able to reciprocate in April when they fly out to visit their son, who lives about 15 minutes away from us!

Here’s a picture of The Trio at dinner, facing the main house:
london_davids_house

After dinner we rushed back out to the car in the almost-monsoon and David took us a couple miles down to the train station. He even got out of the car and half way walked us into the train station, and got us on our way. We got four tickets to Victoria Station, which was NOT the closest station to our hotel, and then headed up to the platform:

london_to_london

After about fifteen minutes we got on the most crowded train of this trip. We didn’t have to stand, but William grabbed the closest seat and sat by himself (and two big luggage bags) while Ellie, Sam and I sat at a table with a sleeping British girl and had a delightful chat while we trained all the way to London.

LONDON!!

We got off at Victoria station and had about a half mile walk to get to our hotel. london_victoria_station

Walking around London with luggage is no big deal because plenty of people do it!

We got to our hotel and checked in… it’s not an expensive hotel ($80 per night divided by four, so hostel prices), so walking up the very small stairs three flights because there is no elevator, using the super small bathroom with a shower that seems like it will overflow into the room (the bathroom is about a foot off the ground, which is hard to get down with a recovering ankle :p)… this room is about as big as two or three master closets… just big enough to have two full size beds in it, and that’s it!

BUT, $80/night in London? Check. No need to uber? Check check! In Amsterdam we spent A LOT of money on uber because our hotel was not in the center of the city… here we are saving a gundle because we can walk almost the entire time.

We were pretty hungry by this time, and anxious to walk around, so we set out to explore and figure out where to eat. We went this way and that (I have no idea where we went, or why we went that way, but I think we were trying to get towards Buckingham Palace) and happened upon an African restaurant that looked good. Sam and Ellie were in Kenya a year ago, so anything African seems okay to them. We go in, have a seat, and then remember that we have to go to the counter to order and pay (as opposed to having a waitress come get our order).

Turns out, this restaurant is African-Portuguese… and it was really good! Here’s a pic of their homepage:london_landos_homepage

The girls took pics of me and William… we have been working on our poses… what do you think?london_rest_posing1london_rest_posing2london_rest_posing3

After dinner we walked, and walked, and walked. Here’s a typical picture of London… red bus, big beautiful buildings, etc.

london_day_1_bus

I think we walked about four hours that night. We went to Buckingham Palace (by now it was dark), and down The Mall, past many government buildings, and then finally decided to try to figure out how to get home. Home was cutting through St. Mark’s Park, and then through various dark alleys and through streets, around round abouts, and finally, we found our hotel. Whew! We were exhausted, and my ankle was ready for ice! (that would have to wait.

We went to bed that night well-fed, refreshed, and happy. Tomorrow would be more adventures in London!

Here’s my facebook post from Sunday:london_sunday_fb_post

Blackout Dates Suck

Monday, February 21st, 2011

I just booked a roundtrip flight through Southwest from SLC to BWI and was expecting to be able to use my recent “award,” aka free ticket.

This is an overly-whiny post, and I debated on even not writing it, but I decided to write it to remind me to NOT COUNT ON awards to save some money.

What I thought would have been NO COST turned out to be $600.  Ugh.

The first frustration was when I was trying to book – on the checkout page there is no place to apply any awards, even if you are logged in.  Extremely frustrating, as I would expect one of the payment options to be “use award.”

The second frustration was when I called the SWA 800 number to get someone to help me.  Usually I wait for all of 60 seconds, but this time I had to wait “20 – 40 minutes.” I got cut off twice during the automated “dial this for that or that for this” message… extremely frustrating, and not what I typically expect from southwest.

Finally I opted to just have them call me, which took about 40 minutes.  The person on the other end walked me through the process of using an award (you have to find flights a completely different way… not the normal way, so I basically had to start over).

She offered to do it for me, and I took her up on the offer… until she had to break the news to me that I wanted to fly in and out on blackout dates… which meant I really can’t use my tickets for this trip. I need to be in Baltimore/Boston on the dates below… if I used my tickets I’d be gone almost 2 full weeks (I could fly out on the 9th and fly home on the 22nd), which means time away from family (not going to do that), and hotel expenses.

Free just became a $600 spend.  Thanks a lot southwest.  I really hate blackout dates.  And now I feel my award is useless.

Sure, I’ll use it, but I was hoping to save the money from this trip.  Ugh.

Lesson?  Don’t count on using your awards/mileage when you want it.

The Miracle Van – Goodbye

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Almost five years ago I got laid off.  My wife was pregnant with our fourth child and we had to change from our car (Toyota Avalon, which is like harnessing heaven on four wheels!) to a minivan.

It was hard to give up the Avalon but the story of how we got our van is a very cool story, and why we call it The Miracle Van.  Even with it’s bumps and bruises, we really appreciated the van because we got it in a time of desperation, and it represented the goodness of humanity (many people where involved in helping us get it, since there was no money to pay for it at the time).

Two weeks ago I had just started a two week trip with about a dozen speaking engagements.  I was in California at the time when I got the dreaded call from my FIL:

“First, everyone is okay….”

When he said that I thought ... “okay, I think that’s not the statement I want to hear when I first answer the phone… is he going to tell me something bad happened?”

My wife was in an accident that could have been very, very bad, but fortunately she, and our two youngest kids, where okay.

An accident is not good for anyone… but events leading up to this accident where, as we recognized, tender mercies.

For example:

  • I had lost my car keys a couple of years earlier, so we only had one set (has a chip in it and we never got around to getting a spare). Days earlier, my wife found the lost key in a coat she hadn’t worn for a long time.
  • Her dad was in town on a really strange errand, right when it happened, and was able to be at the accident and help until she got home and was okay.

In memoriam, here’s a picture of the van, post-accident… note the numbers (explanations below):

  1. There used to be something here.  Now there is nothing but a void.
  2. This tire used to face a completely different direction.
  3. This is about where my wife’s legs were at the time of the accident.  Fortunately nothing happened to her body, except from bruises and bumps.  Sooooo close to something more dangerous :s
  4. This is one of two mirrors, and the only mirror that was intact.  Our other mirror had a few bouts with the side of the garage door, and was proudly bandaged up in shiny duct tape.  Never got around to fixing that.
  5. This is where our 18 month old baby was.  Thank goodness the impact was just a few feet in front of him, instead of where he was.

Shopping for a new vehicle isn’t fun, in general, but we’ve had some great experiences, which I hope to blog about on the JibberJobber blog.

San Diego and Walking (MapMyWalk)

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

I am in San Diego and went on a walk this morning.  To map out my walk so I could record the distance I did a quick search and found the amazing, awesome, just-what-I-was-looking-for map found here, on About.com’s walking page.

It is powered by MapMyWalk but I’m too busy/lazy right now to figure out how to put it on my own site…. for now I’ll use About’s page when I’m on the road (which is going to be a lot this next 6 months).

Here are some miscellaneous thoughts about my trip this time, my second time to San Diego:

  • San Diego is a beautiful place, I think.  Sunny and all that.  Except when it’s all cloudy and gloomy, which is exactly how it has been since I’ve gotten here.  That’s okay, it’s been quite sunny in Utah.
  • I love seeing surfers walking around town, barefoot and carrying their surfboards around, or driving around with surfboards on their cars.  Saw this in Malibu a lot … a fun part of the culture.
  • It’s okay for me to call people DUDE around here…. yeah :)
  • Had excellent Mexican food, which is what I expected coming this close to MX (even though the hotel receptionist said I had to go to MX to get the real stuff, this was pretty awesome :)).
  • Walking through downtown S.D., like any big town (granted, this isn’t big, but it is downtown) is interesting. I forgot how stinky big cities can be… lots of homeless people here (great weather – many homeless in Utah leave during the winter), and I heard things like “GETTING OFF PAROLE IS YOUR NUMBER ONE PRIORITY!!” (was a phone call) and “YOU *&%% @##%$, YOU ARE ON TOO MANY DRUGS,” (that was a guy shouting to a girl on the street.  The guy was good looking, well-dressed, British accent… and very frustrated with the drugged-out girl.  All this stuff makes me feel like i don’t get out enough!
  • Parking is fun here – went to a grocery store with Susan Joyce (Job-Hunt.org) and we parked in the stores only parking lot – a somewhat open, UNDERGROUND parking lot.
  • The trees and plants are amazing.  Super cool trees, and birds of paradise plants… simply awesome.

Now, back to work.  My next trip is to D.C. in a few weeks.