Archive for July, 2006

What a night it was, and thanks to Marc for making it even better by staying true to form.

To set the scene: Mark, Sally and I went out for dinner, to a Lebanese place just off Shepherd’s Market. On the menu were fried sheep testicles. “We’ll have some of those,” I said, “in order to make this a night to remember…”


Testicles were served with much glee by the waiter, and we all had the mandatory taste and snapped the mandatory photos. Innuendos were proffered.




Knowing Marc’s legendary appetite, we decided to offer him the leftovers when arrived. Proving that ignorance is indeed bliss, Marc happily scarfed enough balls to start a juggling act while complementing the lovely chicken. He seemed blissfully unaware of the fact that Mark, Sally and I were pissing ourselves laughing.

So Marc, thanks for making it a truly memorable evening. I hope it was as good for you as it was for us…

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Joan & Joey

Joan & Joey

After a whistle-stop tour of most of northern Europe, Joan and Joey managed to make it down to our neck of the woods for a quick visit (which is impressive, as it isn’t really easy to get down to our neck of the woods). We had a great meal outside on the barbeque, then went to see one Canterbury’s main tourist attraction — Canterbury Cathedral.

A flying visit, but a much-appreciated one…

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It’s long overdue, mainly because I’ve been editing all of the photographs to put into a book for Francois and Gratiane (a belated wedding present which is now caught up somewhere in the inefficient French postal system). But we got some great shots of the wedding, so I thought I’d put them up here.

Place Stanislas

Place Stanislas

In Nancy, a little way north of the cathedral is Place Stanislas (originally the Place Royale), which along with the adjoining squares was mainly built by Emmanuel Héré between 1752 and 1760. Around the square are five imposing palaces, with balconies and balustrades. In the center of the square is a statue of King Stanislas. Along its north side are single-story galleried buildings, which continue along Rue Héré. The most characteristic feature of the square is the magnificent gilded wrought-iron railings (by Jean Lamour) at the ends of the streets entering the square and round the Fountains of Neptune and Amphitrite (both by Barthélemy Guibal). The largest of the palaces round the square is the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall), with magnificent banisters by Lamour on the staircase.

Matthew at the wedding

Matthew at the wedding, in front of the Grand Hôtel de la Reine at Place Stanislas

Aude at the wedding

Aude at the wedding, in front of the Grand Hôtel de la Reine at Place Stanislas

Francois and Gratiane

Francois and Gratiane as they emerged from the town hall after their wedding

The happy bride and groom!

A very happy bride and groom!


A very French way to leave the ceremony


The chateau where the reception was held…

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Just before I left the UK, I had a final interview for a new job. The interview was on Friday afternoon, and the headhunter had promised that I’d hear something on Monday.

Headhunters rank just under lawyers in the pathelogical liar stakes, and sure enough, no phone call came on Monday. I spent the rest of the week glued to my Blackberry, waiting for some news.

In fact, it wasn’t all the headhunter’s fault. The Partner who was supposed to make the final hiring decision had been out of the office for a few days. In any case, the telephone call finally came through with the news that I was hoping for — that they’d decided to make me an offer. To celebrate, we had a fantastic meal at one of the oldest restaurants in Zurich, and after dinner I treated myself to one of Havana’s finest:

Celebrating a new job

More news on the new job later…

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After an early start in Basel, we set off the next morning for Zurich, Switzerland. I spent nearly a year working in Zurich early in my career and have a special affection for the city. I particularly like the fact that it’s a small, walkable city with beautiful architecture and a magnificant landscape with hills, a river, and the lake.

Aude hadn’t visited Zurich before, so it was her first chance to see it with me as her guide.

We started our walking tour by heading up Bahnhofstrasse, the main shopping street in Zurich and the equivalent of Bond Street in London. It’s definitely a place for windowshopping, though, as everything is incredibly expensive.

At the top of Bahnhofstrasse, we visited the model of Swiss efficiency — the Zurich Bahnhof

Zurich Train Station

Zurich’s Bahnhof

More scary trams

More scary trams…

Aude in Zurich

Aude on one of the bridges crossing the Limmat river

We walked both sides of the river (essentially walking the town from end-to-end) over a couple of hours, then strolled down to the lake where we continued our ornithological tour of Europe.


A Swiss swan. Like ordinary an swan, but more punctual.


Zurich was just as I remembered it — a wealth of wonderful things to buy (but nothing affordable); an immaculate city that somehow lost it’s joie de vivre in the process. Still, it was great to be back.

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From Alsace, we made our way just over the border to Basel, Switzerland. Foolishly, I didn’t manage to get my camera out, but we did learn a couple of things about Switzerland:

1. You need to buy a vignette (tax stamp) in order to use the Swiss motorways. At the border, they barely look at your passport, but they’re very efficient at taking your money and slapping a vignette on your windscreen.

2. The expensive vignette does not mean that you get better roads. In fact, 90% of the Swiss motorway network seems to be under construction.

3. Helen Keller could have done a better job of signposting Basel. For a country noted for it’s efficiency, the road system in Basel looks like it was designed by chaos theory.

4. Trams are bloody scary. They have the right of way, and they’re a lot bigger than you are. They’re much scarier as a driver than as a pedestrian.

5. “Geschlossen” is the German word for “closed.” Which is what every bloody shop in the country does at precisely 7pm.

Nevertheless, we had a wonderful evening with several of Aude’s old colleagues. We sat outside and enjoyed a barbeque in their new home.

I was envious of two things — the sheer floorspace that is available when you don’t live on an island (unlike our tiny houses in the UK) and the quality of the Swiss workmanship. I can honestly say that I’ve never seen such high-quality construction anywhere in the world.

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