26 March 2012

Coffee in a Cafe

JUST A QUICK point:  while it is almost impossible to overrate how great it is to sip coffee outside at a Parisan cafe on a nice spring afternoon, it is equally difficult to describe how bad the coffee at these cafes can be. 

11 March 2012


HARD TO BELIEVE this is our fifth Paris-Nice race.  Yes, we went again this year -- to both the Saturday afternoon stage which we watched from near the top of the Col de Vence (about 15 km from our house) and this afternoon uphill individual time trial up the Col d'Eze (a 9.5km climb that starts in the heart of Nice near the port).  Cycling races are fun to go to because --except for the biggies like the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia, etc) the riders and teams are completely accessible.  In what other sport can you literally stand five-feet from an  elite athlete and watch him warm up?  In what other sport can you literally lean against the team bus/car or literally put your hands on their equipment (in our case, having the kids check out how Tom Boonen's handlebars feel)?  It doesn't hurt that the teams give away goodies, either.  We've made out with cool stuff water bottles and other trinkets from Rabobank, BMC, Garmin, Saxo-Bank, Radioshack-Nissan-Trek, and the list goes on.  Next week: Milan-San Remo (again!)

Our spot near the top of the Col de Vence.  You can barely see the Med in the background.

A 12 minute lead for Thomas De Gendt!!

The peleton arrives with Team Sky doing the pacing.

Can you see Kerri, Julia, and Henry eating their lunch as the peleton goes by?
Cheering on Tejay Van Garderen near the start of the final stage.

Frank Shleck getting read for his TT

Wiggins won the stage and Paris-Nice!!  In yellow all week.

Little Magazine Write-Up

THE LATEST ISSUE of Code Sport Cote d'Azur (which, admittedly, I had never heard of until this month) has five-page spread about the rising popularity (and success) of the professional ice hockey team here in Nice.  As a little bonus, there is a nice glossy photo of Henry's team in the section of the story that focuses on the growth of the youth teams in the area.

The main story in the magazine (featuring a photo of Finnish forward Joonas Sari)

Henry is somewhere in the photo on the left page (blue helmet and jersey in the middle-left portion of the picture).
As for the pro team -- they have just clinched the regular season title (3 points up with one to play) and they will begin the playoffs in two weeks.  Nice currently has the lowest team budget in their league and if they win the championship they will have a very hard time making it to the top French league (Ligue Magnus) unless they get a significant influx of funds (hello Russian oligarchs in the area??)

04 March 2012

USA 1 : Italy 0

Patrick and Sam checking out the field before the match.
LAST WEDNESDAY PATRICK and I got to do something really fun.  My friend Dave (family blog here) called me last Monday and suggested we take our oldest sons to the USA-Italy soccer match that was taking place just a couple hours from here in Genoa, Italy.  Because I was scheduled to take an 8:00am flight to Geneva on Thursday and I knew we wouldn't get home from the match until about 2:00am, I said I probably wouldn't be able to go.  Dave -- appropriately -- suggested I was being a pansy and said I should go anyway.   I changed my mind  (it's stunning, actually, to see how easy it is to get me to do sports-related things).  That was a great decision.

Patrick and I after the match (notice my home-made
American flag shirt.  Classy).
We had a blast!  We drove together -- munching on unhealthy (and some not so unhealth) food, talking sports, listening to music, and generally teasing Patrick and his son Sam the whole way to Genoa.  Once the match started we sat back and enjoyed a little bit of history.  We watched as the United States defeated Italy for the first time...ever.  A nice second-half goal by Clint Dempsey was the winner. The stadium in Genoa is called Stadio Luigi Ferraris and it was first opened in 1911.  And while the seats were a bit small and there was absolutely no leg room, every seat was great (including ours) and the atmosphere was terrific.

What a great night in Genoa.

Italy (left) and the US (right) during the national anthems.

02 March 2012

Robbed!! (For Real This Time)

LAST SUMMER I put up a post provocatively titled Robbed in Paris where I describe (with photo evidence how Kerri and I paid 8.20 Euros for two cups of coffee.  Well today's post title is not meant to be provocative:  I was actually robbed last night.

Actually, mugged would better describe what happened.

I'm in Geneva to meet with my doctorate adviser and last night I went out to grab a bite to eat near the hotel where I always stay (plug, plug, if you ever need a hotel here).   I was wearing fairly nondescript clothing: jeans, grey sweater, long black coat and black back slung over my right shoulder.  As I was walking down a busy street near the train station, a young guy -- couldn't have been more than about 18 yrs old -- came up to me and asked for the time.  I looked at my watch and told him it was 20 minutes past eight.  He then took my right hand and shook it while saying 'thank you' and asked if I was English.  'Anglais, Oui?  Anglais, Oui?'  I was a bit annoyed by this but didn't think anything was too out of the ordinary, choosing instead to think this guy was just a bit weird.  We walked a few more steps then he did something odd:  he lifted up his leg to give me a sort of knee-high-five and said 'high-five, high five'.  This triggered something in me and I instinctively reached my left hand around to the back pocket on the right side of my jeans and quickly realized that I felt...nothing. My wallet was gone.  The guy -- who was still trying to hold my right hand -- noticed this, shoved me toward a lamp post that was near us and started running up the street.  I yelled at him to stop and took-off after him.

[Note: at this point the story gets better if you can imagine really cool action music in the background].

The kid ran up the Route des Alpes toward the Gare Cornivan and turned left onto Rue Pradier -- a somewhat quiet street that dead-ends at the Rue de Mont Blanc -- a busy pedestrian street with lots of cafes and restaurants.  I chased him around the corner, screaming the entire time for him to stop and give me back my wallet.  Once on Rue Pradier he looked back at me several times and I could see that he was fumbling through my wallet as he ran.  Just before he got to the next cross street he threw my wallet onto the ground before turning left toward the Place Pradier.   I stopped momentarily to retrieve my wallet, then continued the chase.

As I got to the small, dark square I looked right and saw the guy running toward Rue Mont Blanc and ran after him.  By this time he was a good 50 meters ahead of me (you know, 'cause I had to stop to get my wallet, not because I'm a dreadfully slow runner) and I knew I would lose him if he made it to the busy pedestrian streets.  After a sharp right, then another quick left I reached the Rue Mont Blanc, just in front of the Starbucks I frequent every time I'm here.  I stood in the middle of the street and looked in every direction.  For the second time in the last minute...nothing.

I was breathing heavily and a guy sitting outside of the Starbucks asked me what happened.  I told him a guy had stolen my wallet and he said he did see a young kid run past and he pointed toward where he went, but we both knew it was too late at that point.  I muttered a few R-rated words then flipped through my wallet, grateful to find that the only thing missing was cash.  Unfortunately, I had just been to the bank a few hours earlier so he got the entire 100 Swiss francs I had retrieved.

It could have been worse.  I didn't feel the guy take my wallet and my decision to check my back pocket was based purely on instinct -- not because I felt something.  He got it clean!!  But I sure am glad that the instinct kicked in, because, while loosing 100 francs really sucks, it sure beats loosing 100 francs plus everything else -- credit cards, insurance cards, work cards, etc. If it had taken just 30 more seconds to realize what had happened the guy would have been gone for good. In the end, chasing him enabled me to get the wallet back and I guess I have to feel pretty good about that.

I went back to the bank and got out another 100 francs, then went to grab that bite to eat.  It didn't taste as good as it normally does.  After dinner I went back to the street where this all took place and I walked around for about an hour looking for the guy.  I know, I know -- pretty stupid to think he'd come back.  But it made me feel better to know I was out looking for the bastard.  And there is a 100 percent chance I'll go back to that area again tonight and continue my search.

Because it will make me feel better.

Geneva Map

Wallet taken at the 'Start'.  Lost the guy at the 'Finish'