Posts Tagged ‘France’

My Favourite Place

Saturday was one of those days. A means to an end.

We filled our bags and I Skyped my friends, and then we headed off into the night. We did have a slight problem making it too.IMG_0130 (800x600)

In wasn’t until the next morning in the obscure mountain air that we got our first proper look of our new home.

IMG_0142 [LD]

I liked it.

It took the majority of the morning to find our way through the snow to the rental shack, try on our skis and make our way to the slopes but we started skiing ASAP. It looked easy, but I have to hand it to nature. Something as little and harmless as snow rendering me a complete idiot (but let’s not forget how terrific I was on the ice!). I managed my way down the first slope to the télécabins (an enclosed chairlift) and we ascended up the slope to the sadistically named Happy Place. After at least an hour I had managed the basics:

  • Using the carpet (like a chairlift but on the snow)
  • Screaming and steering uncontrollably down the tiniest of slopes
  • Falling over
  • Envying the 6yr olds who had already surpassed me all the above.

I was ready to try the green slope…


(can you feel the suspense!?)


In short, I failed at the green slope. I had managed the uncontrollable steering, but unfortunately we had forgotten how to teach me to stop properly. Turns out that crashing into embankments doesn’t count as a legitimate strategy. After the 3rd serious crash and their associated tantrums, I decided it was to dangerous to continue and had to walk the last 2 km in ski boots through knee-high snow. Cold and tired we reposed in our lodge, and reminisced about how I really sucked at ice-related sports.

IMG_0143 Stitch [LD]

Tomorrow couldn’t possibly be worse, right?


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The Magic Airbus

I would like to take a moment to dedicate this story to my dear grand-father who recently told me he actually likes my stories. To that, I have to say “Thanks, but it’s your fault.” It turns out that Talent (and stunningly potent good-looking Irish genes) are genetic. But this dedication is your’s, mainly because thanks to you I became interested enough in something that millions of people use a month. Interested enough to convince my family to take me to the Airbus Assembly Factory Tour in Toulouse,which is we have today’s story. I would also like to note the extreme absence of photos – apparently, someone tipped them off about a potential espionage attempt. Unfortunately, no-one knew about my autistic-like ability to remember imagery of Assembly factories to their precise details and recreate them in 3-Dimensionally. I was joking, of course. Actually I’ve never bothered to find out…(ramblings continue in this fashion until the next paragraph)

Ok, so it was a rainy day, but good as any for a tour. The drive took us past Blagnac Airport to the very edges of lesser Toulouse. We ditched the car and sprinted for the doors of the conveniently named Airbus Tours entry, shaped like the fuselage of an Airbus A380.

IMG_0979After confusing the desk-girl for a flight attendant — and asking for a 4th miniature bottle of wine that will hopefully finally lull me in to a state of apathy that will drown out the hollow screams of the teething infant with an ear-infection three rows back. [Only joking – As if anything designed for use on an aeroplane is actually designed to lull anyone into a state of anything (i.e. sleep)] — we moved through the gift shop and bunched together with an overly excited group of university students also waiting for the tour to begin.


The first room, wasn’t too interesting. It was a (functioning) replica of the control room used for the first moon landing A380 test flight. By functioning, I mean recorded to sync with the video of the test pilots, by which I mean that when the recording of the test pilots showed the plane bank left the Tom-tom style GPS replica showed a left bank. VeryHighTech

Afterwards there was another mad dash through the rain to the tour bus, built specifically to insure that the adorable little old lady in our care had to take plenty of time getting up the stairs. We being gentlemen, waited until everyone else was on the bus. Waited in the gift shop.
The bus took us through a few security points and then immediately to the closest wharehouse. In front of a row of elevators we received a lecture about where all the parts of the Airbus come from. All of which I have burnt into my memory:

  • Spain   Fore fuselage, rear-fuselage,
  • UK      – Wings
  • France  – Centre fuselage, 
  • Germany – Paintwork, 
  • Mystery Engines (purchased from a third-party – usually RR or IKEA – but installed by Airbus

After an eternity of Pidgin-English the guide finished and the elevator banks opened, flooding us the glorious sound of silence (and just the right amount of elevator jazz). We ascended 4 floors to a much better vantage point (this one actually had a window) and gazed our eyes upon what you might imagine Santa’s workshop to look like. Tiny people in colourful outfits happily going about their work building toys in preparation for Christmas. That is if you’re like me and wrote to Santa every year begging and pleading for the largest available commercial aircraft. No? Well it takes all kinds to make the world, doesn’t it.

The guide invited us to take a step back and look up which revealedd to us previously invisible TV screens (invisible? only possibility: Santa Magic). Which showed a short documentary on how the different parts of the Airbus are  brought together from over Europe. Sounds simple? Think about it, and things start to fall apart:

  • Why not fly them, it’s only a short distance?
    • Well that’s a terrific Idea. In fact, Airbus designed an aeroplane (a hideous thing called the Beluga … eww) specifically for transport parts of their commercial Fleet. It is probably the largest Aeroplane in the world, and the majority of the older Airbus models, as well as a few A380 parts are transported by it.
  • So why aren’t all the A380 parts sent via plane?
  • Well the problem is that the A380 fuselage is roughly the same diameter as the Beluga. So then, why doesn’t Airbus simply build a bigger Cargo transport? Two reasons: Firstly, because for the moment, it’s just too difficult to design an aeroplane any bigger, still capable of flight. Secondly, because of the size of the fuselage needed to accommodate an A380, it would be near impossible to navigate through cities via land (I’ll explain later). The only reasonable way to transport these fuselage parts would be via the air…which would need an even larger fuselage diameter. See where I’m going?
  • Doesn’t Europe have a lot of canals and rivers. Why aren’t the A380 parts just shipped to Toulouse?
  • Well actually, most of it is shipped via the ocean. Unfortunately Toulouse is situated right between the Atlantic ocean and Mediterranean Sea, so everything (except what is delivered by beluga has had to be unloaded at a port, then loaded on a road convoy at some point. As for the Canals, they were constructed mostly too small, with bridges that are too low to accommodate the A380’s massive bust.
  • Ok, so why does Airbus have such a difficult time transporting via Land?
  • Well really, it’s the same problem as with the canals. The cities were built in the middle ages, and somehow Airbus has to navigate through streets barely wide enough for 2-lane traffic. It’s quite an amazing feat; sometimes the convoy can come within centimetres of accommodation. It is usually done at night, but no-one complains – The convoys are said to be almost silent.
  • Surely Airbus could think of a more simple, cost-effective way of transportation.
    • Probably, but at the moment transport makes up only 0.5% of the total production cost
  • Wow Ned, I can’t believe you could remember all that. How do I get to grow up to be smart (and ridiculously good-looking) like you?
  • Trying to find an answer to that question has led to many theories being created, and caused humanity countless religious conflicts trying to prove that their theory is the only correct one. I can’t give an answer to the question, but the truth is that No-one, can know, regardless of rumoured or self-declared divine knowledge.

After that brief saga, we went out to a viewing platform which enabled us to see the other parts of the assembly ground. There was a weather testing station with 6 unpainted (naturally green) A380s waiting to fly to Germany for their paint jobs, some other unimportant Airbus offices, and a large metal building with no roof. When we asked about it, she told us that was where the jet engines were tested. The building was actually just a sound proof wall for protecting the area from excess noise pollution. However, at the time and place, it was particularly cool.

Sadly that was all from Airbus. Hopefully when I post about my holidays, it will be more interesting.


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School’s out

So I haven’t written in a while, mostly because not much has happened but also a little bit because I am notoriously lazy. But I might take this opportunity to fill in you all a little on my life here.

The Transport:
Have to say this is definitely one of the ‘NO’s here.

I say that because, although it is well managed and reasonably priced, it still baffles me. I get lost, wait for buses that never come, (accidentally) steal travel, catch the wrong buses and always end up being late for class. That goes without saying that is always partly my fault, and the fact that a city with only a quarter of the population of Brisbane has 4 fully functioning metro lines gets me pretty pissed.

The City:
The beautiful city of Toulouse is given a name by the people who live here: La ville rose. Literally it means, The Pink (rosy) City. It may not have been clear from my previous photos, but when they say pink city, they mean it.
When the romans originally arrived here hundreds of years ago, the only building supplies they had were wood, Riverstone and this marvellous pink clay.

The School:
Honestly, my school has everything you could want in a well funded education system:

  • 10 hours of class a day (except Wednesday when i can sleep)
  • Hot lunch
  • Capable teachers
  • copious amounts of homework
  • enough frog dissections to satisfy even the most sadistic of small boys
  • Freedom of expression in your choice of clothing
  • an actual sports education programme
  • Internal heating…oh god that’s good
  • Public transport (seriously I cant get enough of it)
  • about a million other things but i think 10 dot points is enough

The family:
If you’re related to me directly, I suggest you scroll down to the next entry, or at least get a box of Kleenex.
I really love my family. And it’s hard to say that about people you only met (not even) 2 months ago. To agree to care for someone like me, pay for my food (which is French and therefore delicious) and generally put up with me, I think is quite an achievement and I praise them for it.

The Country:
France still continues to amaze me. It’s beautiful, the people are friendly, and the cheese is not as bad as you might think (I’m legally required to tell you that by law). But in all seriousness, I really am enjoying it. I mean the blend of city and country life that is everywhere is a new experience for me, and the cultural diversity still surprises me.

The language:
And finally, we come to la langue de les francais:


It’s pretty funny.

I’m on vacation for the next week, hopefully I’ll be able to post again.

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