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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Before going to London for the Olympic Games, we stopped by Bournemoth in the south of England to visit V.

The Purbeck Breezer is a bus service that runs from Bournemouth to Swanage, a seaside town on the southern coast. The Breezer is operated with a fleet of double decker buses some of which have an open top. We first saw the Breezer (No. 50) when we arrived at Bournemouth’s main bus station by National Express after we landed at Heathrow airport.

We and V, the three of us caught the bus at Westbourne and sat on the top deck. The bus winded its way through the leafy suburbs of Bournemouth (the top deck hitting and snapping a few tree branches along the way) to Sandbanks. According to Wikipedia, Sandbanks has the highest concentration of expensive real properties in the UK outside London and the beaches there are the best in the UK.

Geographically, Sandbanks is a small peninsula of 0.4 sq miles that lies at the mouth of Poole Harbour on the English Channel coast at Poole in Dorset. Sandbanks is connected to Studland by a chain ferry, the Sandbanks Ferry, which runs across the mouth of the harbour. It avoids a 25 mile loop around Poole harbour to reach Studland.

The channel used by leisure boats and ferries to France is generally very busy.

It was fun to cross the channel sitting on top of an open-top double decker bus while sailboats cut across swiftly. A sandy beach and nature reserve awaited on the other side.

Studland heath behind the beaches and the cliffs.

This was the best part of the ride – the bus was going quite fast as there was little traffic, it was breezy, and being high up on the bus, we could see the open fields beyond the fence or hedge.

Including the wait for the Sandbanks Ferry, we reached Swanage after about 30 minutes. Swanage is a seaside resort with a sandy beach and a large number of hotels. In the past, it was a fishing village and then a quarrying port – marble from the area were used to build many churches in London in the 1700’s.

It was a summer day with some clouds which were welcomed as we did not want to be fried. We did not go into the water but noticed that it was low tide. This man was standing in shallow water although he was quite far from the beach.

The main part of town is just behind the beach.

Looking back across the beach towards the edge of the town. Swanage is the easternmost entry point to the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site which consists of cliffs and landforms documenting millions of years of geological history.  I would love to do some hiking in this site on the Southwest coast path.

We strolled along the beach and came across a traditional British seaside attraction – Punch and Judy  – a puppet show for kids.

It was lunch time when we arrived – so we went around looking for a Fish and Chip shop – and luckily found a table on the second floor of The Parade.

The Fish Plaice was located just around the corner but it was so crowded that we did not even bother to try.

After lunch we strolled through the small town center, and checked out some souvenir shops.

By chance, we came across a restored train station for steam trains which run between Swanage and Wareham. We will do a post on our antique train ride through the Isle of Purbeck – as this area is known in Dorset.

We highly recommend any one staying in Bournemouth to visit Swanage via the Purbeck Breezer (route details are here).

As I was saying in the previous post on visiting the MIT Press bookstore, we really crave visiting English language bookstores while living in continental Europe. This is the American Book Center we visited in Amsterdam.

So, back to when I was in Boston, the other academic bookstore I visited was the Harvard Coop in Harvard Square.

The store sells popular books, text books, Harvard Business Press books as well as a whole range of Harvard paraphenalia.

The lower floors stock popular titles. Text books are sold on the upper level across a passage way that bridges the next building.

As expected, they have on display the full selection of Harvard Business Press books as well as journals. I got the month’s Harvard Business Review from the source rather than a news stand.

Like the MIT bookstore, the staff selection of books are particularly interesting – here is a table full of books that have been made into a movie.

“The Doorstops” – i.e., books that have lots of words in them.

Upstairs, there are places to sit, read, fall asleep …

… or look outside at life on Harvard Sqaure.

Also displayed prominently is a selection of books about Harvard University and the application process (including 150+ successful essays that resulted in admission into undergrad, b-school or law school!) targeting the incoming students, next year’s hopefuls and their parents.

Towards the end of the day, I passed another academic bookstore – “Books+Music” of the Berklee School of Music. But I was too late to enter as they were closing. Too bad, as I am really curious of the kind of academic books they stock, in addition to sheet music and recordings.

By the way, the Berklee School of Music was attended by Psy who is responsible for this rather addictive video – Gangnam Style.

Apart from visiting bookstores, I had the chance to see P’s family and my transplanted colleagues S and L.  And that’s what I did in Boston (apart from work).

Earlier this month, I (Chris) went on a business trip to Boston and had a half-day which was free of meetings. Having been to Boston many times before and I probably saw most of the major sights. What should I do with that free time in this city?

Living in Lausanne, we are a bit deprived when it comes to browsing in a  bookstore which sells English language books. Payot and FNAC in Lausanne both stock popular English fictions and business non-fictions but they only carry a very small selection. The idea of checking out the bookstores of Harvard and MIT came to me when I passed the bookstore of Suffolk University Law School on Tremont Street near my hotel. The bookstore has a small selection of law text books. In the window, they displayed a collection of Boston tourist guides!

My hotel was located near Boston Common, so it was a short ride on the red line, from Park Street, to Kendall for MIT (only two stops) and another two stops to Harvard.

MIT’s publishing house, MIT Press began publishing in the 1930’s and publishes 200 books and 30 journals annually.  Their bookstore is on 292 Main St, Cambridge.

The press’s logo, visible in red in the window, is based on the lower-case letters “mitp”.

The bookstore is rather cramped. It sells its own books as well as those by other publishers organized by topics. As expected, the topics are academic in nature and reflect MIT authors’ expertises ranging from architecture and design, computer sciences, digital media, cognitive sciences, linguistics, and economics.

Lots of books on machine learning, artificial intelligence and robotics.

Recent issues of MIT’s journals are on display including Daedalus, Review of Economics and Statistics, Leonardo, and Artificial Life. I think Leonardo really reflects MIT’s broad interests (quoted from their website):

Leonardo is today’s leading international journal on the application of contemporary science and technology to the arts and music and, increasingly, the application and influence of the arts on science and technology. With an emphasis on peer reviewed writings by artists, the journal seeks to ensure that the artist’s voice is integral to the development of new technologies, materials, and methods. 

One of the benefits of visiting such bookstores is the staff’s selection of books on a specific topic. They are all lay out on tables for browsing – a smorgasbord of scholarly writings. From this table, I bought Good Thinking by Denise Cummins.

Across the street from the MIT Press Bookstore is the MIT Coop.

This store is managed by Barnes & Noble (judging by the decoration and point-of-sale materials) which also manages Harvard Coop.

The Coop sells popular titles (including books by MIT authors but not published by MIT press, see dedicated section in picture), text books, games, magazines as well as any merchandises with “MIT” plastered on it.

While I was in London during the Olympics, I went to the Waterstones on Gower Street across from University College London where I studied.  I really enjoyed that visit and bought a whole bunch of books, which might explain my enthusiasm here. My next post will cover Harvard’s bookstore.

The BMW Musuem is located across the street from and connected via a footbridge to BMW World. Go to our earlier post to see a bird’s eye view of the whole complex which includes the main manufacturing plant behind the HQ.

The silver bowl-shaped building was built in 1973 by the architect who built the tall HQ building next to it. It was closed for renovation from 2004 and reopened with the BMW World in 2008.

View of the hourglass of BMW Welt from the museum side.

The museum shows off BMW’s technical development throughout the company’s history.

Although several pre-BMW brand era cars were displayed at the entrance to the museum, the exhibition is theme-based rather than chronologically structured, allowing the exhibits to highlight the developments in various areas such as design, engines and motor sport.

According to the museum’s web site, the inner structure of the round building is created with the concept of a continuation of the road in an enclosed space. The museum building appears closed and small from the outside while it looks very open and spacious inside.

After having spent too much time in the BMW Welt and that we had to go back to the hotel for the Champions League Final pre-game events, we did not enter the museum proper.

A very impressive feature of the interior is the projection walls – where line drawings of various models, engine designs, etc. are projected and the outlines of cars, like traffic, move slowly passing from panel to panel around the building.

The design of the indirect lighting successfully created a hi-tech and yet serene atmosphere for the lobby area. Most of the time these two concepts don’t come together naturally. It worked well here.

The company started making cars around 1928 – originally a maker of aircraft engine (used in Wold War I) and then motorcycle. Every BMW fanboy must come here for a pilgrimage tour.

View of the HQ from the hourglass.

As much as we wanted to look at the museum more closely, we had to rush back to the hotel for the pickup to the stadium for the Champions League Final.  Next time when we return to Munich, we will come back and revisit the BMW museum properly.

The headquarters of BMW (Bayerische Motoren-Werke) is located in Munich, capital of Bavaria, a prominent state in southern Germany.

On the day of the Champions League Final, we went to see the BMW Welt (BMW World) and the BMW Museum. BMW Welt was designed by Wolf Prix of the Viennese firm – Coop Himmelb(l)au. This is how a New York Times article described the building:

“An hourglass-shaped events hall grounds the building at one end, its torqued glass-and-steel form evoking a tornado drilling into the earth, sucking up energy from the passing cars. From here, the roof unfolds like a gigantic carpet draped over the main hall. Its curvaceous form billows up at some points and then sags at others, echoing the contours of the nearby park. A vertical band of glass cut into the main facade is set on an axis with the corporate tower across the street, locking the composition into its surroundings.”

From this footbridge, one can enter the hourglass by a spiral ramp which descends onto a showroom of new cars – but this is not the main space which is on the other side. The footbridge continues into and traverses the main hall which is gigantic with spaces dedicated to motorcycles, interiors, engines, and the cars.

BMW Welt is located next to the old Olympic stadium (Olympiapark) which was opened for football fans to see the football game live on the big screen (the Final was played at the Allianz Arena). As a result, huge crowds were visiting the BMW welt and museum on the day we were there.

As this is the flagship showroom of the brand,  every effort has been exerted to promote its image of superior technology and luxury.

The latest models are on display.

Also shown are many M variants.

BMW Welt is also the delivery center of the brand where it provides an individualized program to those customers who come to collect their new car.

Visitors can see the handover process from the other side across the exhibition hall with envy. Like being on a stage, the new owner feels like he/she is receiving a prize. That’s what the dramatic architecture provides.

This is the main shop which carries every type of merchandise that carries a BMW logo, from kids cars, models, motor oil, paints, bags, books, and clothings (including the golfing and sailing collection). In addition to this shop, there are a couple of books and souvenir stands scattered around the building.

This place has several restaurants and cafes and has become one of the top tourist attractions in Munich reportedly receiving 850,000 visitors per year.

A bird’s eye view of the BMW plant, HQ, Welt and Museum (the picture borrowed from

Before we came to live in the French-speaking part of Switzerland (Suisse Romande), I (Chris) already knew a little bit of French. This, I have to thank my mother who volunteered me to French classes at Alliance Française. That institution, whose mission is to spread the Gallic language and culture around the globe, were really focused on teaching conversational French.  It applied a total immersion approach that forbade the teacher and students to use another language during class.

My teacher was a Frenchman from Corsica (Corse) who taught French in French to a class who did not know any French. I was a teenager and found that approach fun. At that age, learning a new language was probably easier.

Institut des Sciences Clavologiques  =  The Institute of the Science of Nails. In Lyon.

Then while in secondary school in England, it was mandatory to study a second language (the choices were French or German). So I continued with French classes in preparation for a public examination (GCE Ordinary level). My teacher was a young English woman who taught us French in English. The focus was mostly on grammar, composition, reading comprehension and vocabulary, with very little conversation.

After the examination, I never had the need to use the language except the few times when I visited France. But now, it is real.

Soon after settling in Lausanne, I enrolled myself in a group class which met in the evening once a week.  But I was too busy and missed many classes. Although I work in a francophone environment, many of my colleagues prefer to use English, and a lot of Lausannoises speak English. The hardest part for me is listening comprehension.

So here I am, re-starting my classes, this time with a private tutor whom I will meet once a week on Saturday morning.

Saw this notice at the Museum of Beaux Art in Lyon, it says:

“In the exhibition hall of the museum, every one can look, telephone, discuss, observe, eat, share, discover, laugh, run, be marveled, smoke, hate, breathe, shout, rest, dream, reflect, touch, ask oneself, be delighted, photograph with flash, imagine, be outraged, drink, stroll, take one’s time, be moved, …etc.”

I (Chris) started blogging when we moved from the United States to Switzerland. It has been an easy and fun way to share our experiences and keep in touch with our many friends. The result is Chris and Sue’s Excellent (?) Adventures which is viewed not only by friends and family but increasingly also by strangers who “liked”, commented on and even started following the blog. This is my first ever blog entry which was posted on November 15, 2009 at 2am !

I am surprised how this project has been continuing for almost three years. New post goes up on average twice a week but it does take time and effort to fix the selected photos and write about them. And now I am re-starting my French classes, with home work and all, less time will be available.

So, this is the idea. Rather than stopping or reducing the output, what if I blog about the language and my attempt to learn it? I can even write about my observations of its usage in my surroundings. While this must have been done many times before, it is an experiment that is worth trying. These posts will certainly help me retain what was taught in class (at least if memory fades, I can look it up online). Wikipedia has this map showing the Francophone countries.

While it is not difficult to find a topic for sharing online, it can be a struggle to continuously find interesting things to post under the chosen topic and to make it enjoyable to read so that people will return for more. So here are several ideas on what I might post. With most languages (except perhaps computer languages), there are always some exceptions to the grammar and usage rules. The irregularities and exceptions are the bane of any language student as each has to be learned individually. I might write something about these oddities which are commonly used.

Another topic of interest is the so-called “false friends” or faux amis – pairs of words or phrases in two languages or dialects that look or sound similar, but differ in meaning. Maybe I would also explore the root of certain words which has a common origin with English.

All the photos here were taken somewhere in Lyon in 2010.

Expect to see these posts once in a while, and I will try to keep them entertaining. Á bientôt.