Jammin' with James

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European Trip Journal - Day 7 & 8

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European Trip Journal - Day 7 & 8
Greetings from Cannes, France. As I write this it is Monday evening at 10:57 PM local time in Cannes. The last I wrote we were preparing to leave Venice for our trip to Cannes. Well, I must say we had the most difficult travel day of our trip yesterday.

The main reason we made this trip was due to a business appointment I needed to make. ACAD-Plus (the company for which I work) is one of the top software resellers for a Dutch company called Cyco Software (pronounced See'Ko, NOT Psyco). Our new title with Cyco is going to be Solutions Partner. The Cannes visit is the international partner conference. Meetings were held all day today and half of the day tomorrow. Glenn asked me if l would represent ACAD-Plus at the meeting and I reluctantly accepted. If you know me, you know I tell the truth. A meeting with the three main resellers in the US was scheduled with the President and CEO of the company for 6PM Sunday evening. This meeting was scheduled AFTER I commenced my travel and made all my train reservations. My train from Nice into Cannes was scheduled to arrive at 5:37PM. More on Cannes and the event later.

We arrived at the station in Venice on time after a walk across the Grand Canal Bridge from the hotel (not more than a 10 minute walk with bags). I walked up to the information desk inquiring about the schedule for the trains that day. Our schedule went from Venice to Milan to Nice to Cannes with changing trains at all stops. The layover in Milan was a measly 16 minutes. The next train out would not leave Milan unit! 4 hours later. By the way, this meeting is extremely important to our relationship with Cyco and my attendance (or ACAD­ Plus representation) was absolutely critical. You are beginning to see a story developing, right? My stress level was already high because of the travel situation and the meeting. I wanted everything to go just right and had planned the day to the minute.

The train from Venice was on time to the second. No problems, I thought. We arrived on time in Milan after traveling through much snow and bad weather. When we arrived, I knew our time was short. We made it off the train and looked up to see that the train to Nice was 40 minutes late and they had not assigned a platform as of yet. Tight but okay. I have a 55 minute layover in Nice so we are still within my window of error. Stressed but okay. Thirty minutes later we were given the platform information and boarded a VERY COLD train bound for Nice. It was obvious they had to bring another train for some reason; probably weather related. We were told the heat would be forthcoming. Keep in mind the weather outside was below freezing and inside the train car it was not much warmer. We were in a closed compartment with 4 other people...all female. The train departed 44 minutes late. Okay, 11 minutes to spare. Still fine, I think. We travel to Genova and NO HEAT. We are all wearing our coats, gloves, and hats. I fear frostbite coming on. The train seems unusually slow and stops several times in the middle of nowhere it seems. We arrive in Geneva as the Italian conductor comes through and says something rushed in Italian. After asking him to repeat himself in English, he said we have to move ourselves into another car on the same train because they cannot get the heat working. We did. Much better, it was there we met our heroine for the day. I did not get her name.

Onward to Genova (another 8 minute delay). Hmmmm, 3 minutes to spare. Now I'm worried and fear I will be fired before I get back home. We arrive on the border (Italy and France) of Ventimiglia. The train stops again...another announcement from the conductor... translation... the train we are on is not "certified" to travel into France. We have to change over to a French train into Nice. Okay, I'm done. This is the last straw. There is no way we will make it on the train. I will be at least an hour late. The heroine I mentioned states she would like to help me. In the meantime, it is now about 1 hour and 40 minutes of delay from our original schedule (remember I had a 55 minute leeway built in).

We finally get going and the train is now stopping at EVERY stop (not like the original schedule). More delays. The lady I mentioned is from Ft. Worth, Texas (believe that) who works for Texas Instruments in Nice (for the last 7 years). I used her cell phone to call the hotel so I can get a message to our meeting members. None were in their rooms. I spoke with one of their wives and gave them the message that I would be arriving in Nice at about 5:30 PM and would take a 70 Euro (and 40-45 minute) taxi to the hotel in Cannes. I had the cell phone of one of them but it would not go through. We got my travel companion's husband on the phone (he was at home in Nice waiting on his wife to arrive). The lady told him the circumstance and he took charge and started calling the hotel, paging Mr. "Auggeman"­ really Hagerman.; because the French cannot say an "H". Needless to say, Mr. Auggerman did not answer his page. We finally got the message to the group.

Meanwhile we discovered the "new" train was actually going to Cannes and was scheduled to arrive at 6:20PM. Cool, I may be saved yet. The train was actually 12 minutes later than that. We ran off the plane, got on a taxi (after causing an almost knock down drag out fight between two taxi drivers) and rushed to the hotel (less than 1 mile away) in the pouring rain. As I walk into the hotel, my party is standing 30 feet away waiting for me. Yes, they got the message that I would be a few minutes later than planned. I very quickly checked in and let Darlene handle the bags via the porter and find the room on her own. We had our meeting and all is well that ends well.

I know this is a bit long, but it is something I don't want to forget and I wanted to get it documented while it was fresh on my mind. Today it is all funny, yesterday it was not. Additionally, when we got on the train in Venice, three older Italian ladies were traveling to Nice together. None of them spoke English but none of them could read their train tickets. It was obvious they were on the wrong car (not train). It was like the blind leading the blind. We watched, and listened to, those three ladies argue (loudly at times) in Italian for 3 hours. Again, I laugh out loud at the weirdness and story of a lifetime when I think about it just a day later. Enough of that!

I don't have any real first impressions of The Italian and French Riviera. It was already getting dark when we arrived. I can tell you this is an extremely beautiful place. Unfortunately the weather is a bit bad. We have not seen sun in many days. We are staying in the Carlton Hotel on the Mediterranean Sea....and I mean RIGHT ON THE SEA! Wow. This hotel is the most elite, expensive, and gawd awful ritzy place I've ever been. This is the hotel of focus for the Cannes Film Festival each year in May. You can't even poop for less than 20 Euros. That is not far from the truth.

By the way, the going exchange rate between USD and Euro is about $1.25. in other words 1 Euro is $1.25 USD. That should give you a clue as to the real expense. There was a brief registration and drink reception at 8PM and I finally arrived in the room at about 9:30 PM. I was a bit tired as you can imagine. Darlene and I have not eaten since breakfast in Venice. We had a few light snacks on the train but that's it. We decided we needed to eat. It is raining so we will just order from the room service menu. After the shock wore off, we ordered a hamburger with French fries. Yes "A" hamburger. The cost......are you sitting down?....33 Euro! This was the most expensive hamburger I've ever taken part in eating. We split it and it was quite good.

Today was meetings all day but there were two things of note. Ms. Darlene decided to fix herself up and finally get to use her curling iron because we believe we have solved our problem with not being able to use the converter/transformer we brought. The hotel supplied one. I came back after the sessions were over tonight and walked into a very odd smell in the room. My lovely wife is sitting there in the chair with a strange look. She then says to me. "You're lucky your wife has any hair!" After explaining and a brief analysis by moi I discovered she plugged directly into the 250V outlet without reducing the voltage back to 11OV. When the iron touched her hair, it literally burned it. Frankly, she is lucky to not have been shocked or bald....or both. Tomorrow we will laugh about that!

Tonight was the Grand Partner Appreciation Dinner. It was originally scheduled to be held in the grand pavilion (the same one they use for the film festival), but due to weather that was impossible. I have to share this because I think you will enjoy this. You all know about my "food fetish". Well, I have not been looking forward to sitting down to a meal of things I can't pronounce, much less identify. As it turns out, Darlene was NOT invited to the dinner so she was not there for my rescue. I was on my own. Here goes:

1st Course
Crostini de fleurs epicees, limonade d ceillets rouges et glacons a Ia rose ....or "Spicy
blossom cdrostini, red carnation lemonade and rose ice cubes"

2nd Course
Risotto de miel de treff=le, sauce safranee...."Clover honey risotto, saffron flavoured sauce"

3rd Course
Carre d agneau ala fleur de soucie, melee de legumes et fleurs de pensees...."Rack of Lamb
with marigold blossom, assorted vegetables and pansy blossom"

4th Course
Sorbet citron mentonnais, florentin au miel de rhododendron..."Menton lemon sorbet,
rhododendron honey biscuit"

Fin_aLEntry
Cafe et Mignardises..."Coffee (actually expresso) and Petits Fours"

The selected wines were the Domaine Fabre and the Yin De Provence.

My interpretations... 1st Course
Three little thin bread cracker things with some stuff on top. One may have had salmon, the other had sautéed onions, and the third some kind of cheese mixture with three raw bacon wrapped scallops on a skewer. The "lemonade" was a ginger tasting concoction with a rose colored ice cube in the middle with a rose petal sitting on top of the ice cube in a martini glass...nonalcoholic. I had at least one bite of everything except the scallops.

2nd Course
Risotto turns out to be rice. My best description was it was like a really bad rice pudding with a saffron flavoring. The rice was sitting in a bright yellow sauce (saffron) with weeds sitting on top. I ate most of the practically tasteless rice.

3rd Course
Are you ready for this? Rack of Lamb. My favorite right behind a good old fashioned Texas Filet Mignon. The marigold and pansy blossoms were really marigold and pansy blossoms sitting on the plate. Yes Glenn, I ate Little Bo Sheep!!! It actually was not bad and reminded me of a slightly fatty pork loin. Of course there were some veggie things on the plate with it that I completely ignored. Here's to all of us meat and tatters men!

4th Course
Ahhhh, dessert. The presentation of this dish was fantastic. On the bottom was a raspberry
sauce, topped with a pie plate looking thin cookie crust, topped with three large scoops of Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream....ooops, I'm daydreaming...three large scoops of sorbet that will put a pucker on your face....in fact, I still have it on several hours later. There were strategically located whipped cream dots with a small wafer of dark chocolate on top. Leaning on the side of the concoction was a triangular chocolate/honey/nutty cookie thingy. I didn't eat much of this because it was so tart  you couldn't eat it. It was delicious however.

Final Course
The cappuccino you could plant something in. The petite fours were exactly that....petite....and four of them on a plate for the entire side of the table.

I don't want to hear another word out of you judgmental people complaining about my eating habits. I are now of Europen Cuisine Expertise. Even if I’m from West Texas!

I hope I did not bore you with this entry. I just had to share the experience. Tomorrow we have a half day session and we will then try to see a little of Cannes, Nice, and Monte Carlo before we leave on Wednesday morning for Milan to complete our tour. Our flight back home leaves on Friday morning. I will try to post again tomorrow evening. Caio...

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