Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sightseeing in Geneva

Someone wondered (about my last post) if I could do any sigthseeing at all ... the answer is YES!

From Viaje a Suiza

On Saturday I went to see the site of the United Nations and the Red Cross ... I only expected to see the buildings from the outside and nothing more, but I got a pleasant surprise when I found that the museum of the "red cross and red crescent moon" was open. Admission is cheap CHF 10 (10 Swiss francs, about 9 U.S. dollars).

From Viaje a Suiza

The museum is very nice, and very interactive, not one of those boring museums that display hundreds of things in a room with a small sign below each one.
This museum is a great room divided into sections, but keeping the feeling of and open space and full of light.
The exhibitions are really big and bright, with lots of graphics and data in many languages, sounds, videos and automatic exhibits (which are activated upon entering a section), and a great way to convey their message, for example a 6'x6'x3' room, representing a windowless cell where representatives of the ICRC found a large number of political prisoners, dozens of glass panels containing the original files of all prisoners of war, murals detailing yearly the different events world (natural or human) involving the participation of the ICRC (notably, the wall of 1982 did not contain any mention of the Malvinas conflict).

From Viaje a Suiza

Another interesting thing is this block of wood with an inscription inviting all to write their own definition of freedom. Well, most of the comments are in Spanish.

When I got in the museum I thought I would go thru it in a few minutes, but it's so interesting that several hours later I was surprised to hear a reminder that the museum would close in 15 minutes.

One interesting thing I discovered when looking for a hotel for the weekend was that several of the hotels here give you a free travel card valid for all mass public transport, taking into account that a travel card for 2 hours here is 2 CHF (U.S. $ 1.5 approx), this gift from the hotel / Swiss municipalities are a real bonus.

For example, the Hotel Grand-Pre, where I staid cost CHF 100 (that was the price line, if you contract directly with the hotel would have 50% more) and included the airport suttle and the transport card, whereas the transport from the airport can cost approximately CHF 20 or 25, and possibly would have spent about CHF 15 on buses, trams, etc. So the hotel came out a real bargain. Especially in Geneva where the hotels are more luxurious and ridiculously expensive.
For example, L'Anglaterra (which are often some colleagues when they come for business) costs more than U.S. $ 300 .... WOW !!!!!!! ... Clearly that is not the same kind of hotel ... the one I use is a little more humble :-P

I used the card a lot, not only to and from the nations of the area (where the UN, the ICRC, and most of the embassies are) but also when I got tired of walking, or I was cold, and even when I had no idea of where to go. I would then just get in to the first bus or tram to show up and just see where it took me. Whenever I see something interesting, I just got off there.

That's how I got to the Geneva channels, got off the bus and started walking along the shore until the lake and a little bit arround it. YES, it was cold, but the view really worth it.

From Viaje a Suiza

look at this photo of the lake, noticed the whitish spots on the water, is not a reflection of the lights, it's my camera's flash illuminating the stones in the bottom. I was about 6 feets high, and water meters deep would be another 3 or 4 feets... That's what I call clear waters !!!!

From Viaje a Suiza

As I commented on another blog, on Sunday we traveled from Geneva to Lausanne (the city where we had the meetings).

Rather than going the direct way, we decided to detour a bit and we first went to the headquarters of our company:

From Viaje a Suiza

From there we went to a ski resort nearby and then went to eat (You can see me here tasting some frog's legs), and finally to the hotel.

From Viaje a Suiza

since we had over 4 hours until we meet for dinner, I decided to go for a walk. I went down the hill / mountain to get to the lake, then walked along the lake until sunset and then I took a bus to the hotel (with a free travel card, courtesy of the hotel and the city of Lausanne).

From Viaje a Suiza

And with this beautiful image (my image, of course) I leave you until my next psot ...

hugs to everyone ....

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Business Travel

One of the most fascinating things of this profession that I have is the possibility of making business vacations, I mean, business trips..

It doesn't happen every week nor every month, but almost certainly at least once a year I get to go on a business trip.

Now, a "business trip" can be almost anything, from going to repair a server in a windowless room in the middle of the most desolate landscape, to participating in a workshop for a new product in the Microsoft's HQ in Redmond.

But the most common are the "Business Meeting", travel to a strange city to meet with colleagues from other offices around the world, meetings where the transition is 50% of information (technical or political) and the other 50% is "networking" : talk, share experiences and problems, establish relationships, and put a face to the voice on the phone or sending emails.

The best part of these business trips is the possibility of visiting new places. The worst thing is the inability to visit these new places :-)

I mean you get to the city (probably by plane), you register at the hotel almost immediately, and (if you arrive early) can probably walk a little while.

At night, you probably have an official welcome dinner with other participants of the meetings (usually in the same hotel). Even if nothing is organized, by this moment you have run into several other colleagues and they will be organizing to go dinner together, but many will be tired by the journey, and you are in a strange city at night, so people will want to stay relatively close to the Hotel.

The next day, the meetings start early, which, unless you're really a morning kind of person (which I am not), you can forget about seeing something in the morning (unless you have to walk to the hotel meeting room, which is really uncommon as meetings are usually made in the same hotel).

The meeting rooms around the world are surprisingly similar, boring and sterile rooms, with a series of tables symmetrically distributed. The existence, size and number of windows is inversely proportional to the beauty of the landscape outside, where the landscape is really wonderful meeting room are in the middle of the building, without windows or with a few very small windows; on the other hand when landscape does not call the attention of anyone, the windows are really abundant ... clearly that no one looks at them ...

Lunch is usually at the same place where the meetings take place (more than once are in the same room).

At night, you have a dinner scheduled, and in my experience is the best part of the day and the funniest. Not just for the free food and drink, but also because they are usually in really nice places (a marina, a settlement in the desert, an old castle, or an amusement park, for example).

You see, even in the most wonderful place in the world, is really difficult to do much "sightseeing" on this "working" days, you might go for a little stroll and such, but the only thing that you get to know well is the airport (due to the time you spend waiting for bags, check-in, security points, or just waiting for your flight).

Real tourism can only be done before or after those "working" days, arriving a couple of days before or staying a couple of extra days at end of the meetings.

Each time I get told about and upcoming business trip I check the dates, to see how much can I extend the trip to enjoy a little of life.

In general, the extra days means I have to pay some nights hotel (which is why I rarely stay this extra nights at the hotel that the company pays for the working days), but sometimes you can get someone in a good mood and get the company to cover the hotel for extra nights, it is rare but has happened a few times.

What it's always "included" is the flight. No matter for how many days is the trip, the fare is paid by the company, and it's really rare that they will give you trouble in getting an extra couple of days (if you ask before they issue the ticket). And were is in business class or "grabbed from Wing" class (as I'm send most of the time), an airline ticket is something that should not be wasted :-)

That is what I did this time, I left the US on Friday (arrived here on Saturday) and I am leaving the Monday after the meetings, so I added 3 or 4 days for vacation.

The second thing I do when I learn about a trip is to check what is there to do, mainly to see if there is any place to dive. This trip to Switzerland was no exception, but while it was possible to do some diving, the temperature of the lake (after all, we are in winter here) and the available operators did not convince me, so I decided to so just sightseeing.

OK, I wrote too much for a day, I leave you all a hug.

Monday, January 26, 2009

I'm in Lausanne, Switzerland

Today I write from the shores of Lake Geneva in the city of Lausanne.
It's really hard to describe places as beautiful as this.

When you walk through the streets of cities like this, where each step is either uphill or downhill, but never horizontal, one can't help to think that despite the difficulties they managed to make progress, not only economic progress but also social progress, while at the same time our beloved Argentina, like most of Latin America, is seriously stuck in both aspects of their development (and I say stuck for not saying regressing).

Yes, someone will jump to say that this country is what it is thanks to money they store, but to get to that, to the point where people (good or bad) rely on this place to deposit their funds, to arrive to that point this country should have done a great job, since (despite what some people thinks) trust is not a right, nor is it something that comes from the grace of the Holy Spirit, trust is earned and you must deserve it.

Uppsss I'm rambling a lot today!
That happens when you stroll for hours by a beautiful lake, clean and full of wildlife :-)

I leave you with a hug.

Walking in Genéve

Next week I have a series of work related meetings in Lausanne, Switzerland, so (as I almost always try to do) I came a couple of days before.

I've arrived to Geneva today at 7 am, I did the checking-in at hotel, rest a bit (the flight and 6 hours time difference were killing me), and went around the city.

Tomorrow morning I'll meet some of my colleagues around the world and we will go for some site seeing, then at night we will arrive to the city of Lausanne were we will held the sessions.

On Friday we will come back to (I'm hopping they will take us to know the MSC HQs), and the next weekend I got it free.

I am not sure what will I do over that weekend, probably go to the mountains, or travel to some other European countries (I learned today that France is 5 km from here, and Italy 30).

I will be telling you more one of this days, but now I'm tired and I'm going to sleep.

Best regards to all.