Am I a MacTard?

So how did a Mac come into play to someone who has obviously grown up and used Microsoft products his whole life?

I think the change started back in 2005 when I moved away from Vancouver, BC for work and ended up living in a small town of around 9,000 people. I moved away from my regular gaming buddies and although I tried to maintain the gaming by myself, it just wasn’t the same. I continued to game, and still do, but not to the extent that I used to and it just wasn’t a priority any more. 2 years later I ended up getting married and found there were more important things to spend my time on than playing games in front of a computer. I took up DSLR photography and started learning how to use Photoshop… of course Apple also has their awesome marketing campaigns and although I vowed not to get drawn to a system just because of marketing, I definitely was curious why more and more people were going to Macs.

From My History of Computing post:

In October 2008, I was at our local Futureshop looking around at the computers and gadgets like any normal geek and I started talking to one of the Apple associates in the store. He started with the normal speal about the Apple products but once he realized that I was someone who actually knew something about computers proceeded to get into the nitty gritty details of how Macs are built etc. I spent about an hour and a half with him playing around with the MacOS and came back a few days later and played around with the OS a bit more, did some research on transferability of programs from Windows and ended up buying a white MacBook.

So my Mac history so far is as follows:

  • October 2008: White 13″ MacBook, Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4Ghz, 2GB DDR2 RAM, 160GB hard drive; upgraded it myself to 4GB DDR2 RAM, 320GB hard drive (currently my wife’s computer).
  • May 2009: Silver 15″ MacBook Pro (used), 2GB DDR2 RAM, 160GB hard drive; upgraded it myself to 320GB hard drive. Sold it in August 2009.
  • August 2009: Unibody 15″ MacBook Pro, 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 2GB DDR3 RAM, 250 GB hard drive; upgraded it myself to 4GB DDR3 RAM, 500GB hard drive (currently my computer).

It’s been just over a year since I made the switch over to Mac and I have to say that I have absolutely no regrets. When people ask me to suggest a computer for them to buy, my standard response to them is something like “IF you’re not planning on doing any gaming, AND can afford the higher price of a Mac, then I would definitely suggest going with a Mac. The stability and ease of use has no comparison to a Windows system and everything just works out of the box; no need to spend countless, frustrating hours searching for drivers online. Also, since Apple started using the Intel chipsets on their computers, you can very easily install Windows on a partition just in case you just can’t do without a certain program that doesn’t run on MacOS.”

I don’t think I would call myself a MacTard because in my opinion, MacTards are those people that are Mac-this and Mac-that and don’t even consider anything else at all. In my opinion they are very close-minded and should just go find an island to live on. As for me, I’m not closed to the potential that Windows 7 will be an awesome OS but for my current needs of Internet, Office Suite use, Photoshop use, iTunes syncing, and keeping my calender in sync with my iPhone, I’m going to stick to my Mac… BUT, I am definitely not close-minded towards what the future holds and may make a switch later on if it’s really worth it.

My Computing History

I discovered this term “MacTard” earlier this week while I was sitting at home and catching up on some news, podcasts, and shows. I can’t quite recall which one of them I heard it or read it on but it intrigued me and I did a Google search on it with some interesting results. I’m going to take a step back and talk about my computing history in this post for a bit and talk about whether I’m a MacTard or not in the next one.

I got my first taste of computers as a birthday gift for my 3rd birthday. At the time we were living in Cairo, Egypt and my parents got me a sweet little unit that I don’t even remember the brand of. It consisted of a slick black keyboard with inputs from a cassette tape player and RCA outputs to the TV. When it was turned on, it would load to a command prompt and wait for user input. From there I would pick a game cassette (tape) and put it into the player, press play, and then type “Run” and enter on the command prompt and the game would load up.

The next step from that was an Intel chipset machine running DOS 5.0 which I eventually took from 5.0 to 6.0 to 6.2 and finally 6.22. Next came the Windows era which progressed from 3.1, 3.11, 95, 98, 2000, ME, and finally XP. When Vista first came out I gave it a try and although the graphics were impressive, it was just not what I was looking for and I switched back to XP. When the SP1 came out for Vista I gave it yet another try and was still as unimpressed with performance and compatibility issues as the first time so I decided that I was sticking with XP until something better came along.

I was pretty excited when I heard about Windows 7 coming out and am very pleased to see that with its release on October 22, 2009, there have been nothing but good reviews. I’m really glad Microsoft finally is done with the Vista failure and can move on to an operating system that is as developed technically and has a good looking GUI that fits with the year 2009.

But I’m talking about my computing history here and not good ‘ol Microsoft so back to it. In October 2008, I was at our local Futureshop looking around at the computers and gadgets like any normal geek and I started talking to one of the Apple associates in the store. He started with the normal speal about the Apple products but once he realized that I was someone who actually knew something about computers proceeded to get into the nitty gritty details of how Macs are built etc. I spent about an hour and a half with him playing around with the MacOS and came back a few days later and played around with the OS a bit more, did some research on transferability of programs from Windows and ended up buying a white MacBook. Since then I’ve progressed into a 15″ unibody MacBook Pro (late ’08 model) and am running Snow Leopard.

Personal Computer aka “PC” (rant)

So I don’t know why this bothers me so much but it does. It probably started with the Mac vs. PC ads that Apple put out during their marketing campaign a few years ago and seems to have stuck. It seems that people can’t think for themselves any more when they use the term “PC”.

Let’s break that acronym down for a second. P = Personal, C = Computer => PC = Personal Computer. So somebody PLEASE tell me how a Mac is not a personal computer? Do you own it? Yes. Does it have your personal information on it? Yes. Is it a computer? Yes. Then how is it not a PC??!!

The way people talk about a PC is probably meant to be anything that’s not a Mac and that spawns from the ads. I can’t believe that somebody as neurotic as Steve Jobs (CEO of Apple for those who don’t know) would allow something as simple as that misnomer to continue to be included in his marketing campaigns.

Just to be clear, a Personal Computer (PC) does not have anything to do with what operating system is on it. Unless you’re talking about a business where it’s a Workstation computer in which case the computer is not a “Personal” machine but a company owned and distributed computer. MacOS vs. Windows vs. Linux vs. whatever other operating system does not determine if it’s a PC or not!

Remembrance Day 2008, Lest We Forget

A day like today comes by once a year and it’s a good time for us to sit down and think of all those soldiers that have fought and died. Their courage and sacrifice allows for us to live our lives today with the freedom that we enjoy and sometimes take for granted.

On November 11, 1918 at 11am the guns fell silent on the Western front after around 4 years of continuous warfare. World War I was at an end with the signing of the Armistice and the German army was driven back. Originally referred to as Armistice Day, on the anniversary of the day we traditionally take a few moments to stop whatever we are doing at the strike of the hour of 11am and remember those soldiers who fought, died, and left loved ones behind.

In present day we have the war in Iraq and Afghanistan still threatening the stability of the world. Along with the ever present conflict in the Middle East with most Arab nations involved and the troubles in Africa that are not as prevalent in the news, we should also take the time to send our thoughts and prayers to the soldiers stationed there and their families at home wherever that may be, waiting for them to come home. Our thoughts should also go out to the civilians and their families that are actually living in those war torn countries.

So today, take the time to stop, reflect, and pray to whatever you believe in that some day we will have peace on this planet.

Scotland, UK – Part 2

Our second day in Scotland started off early yet again and after having a quick breakfast we headed to Edinburgh where our main target was to tour the Edinburgh castle, go on the Scotch tour, and squeeze in whatever else we could squeeze in. The route that Jon drove took us through some nice hay fields with a nice view of the Forth Rail Bridge. Apparently the story with this bridge is that it takes 7 years to paint it from one end to the other and by the time they’re done, it’s time to start over again and so it’s constantly in a “construction” zone. It was a little drizzly so I had my helpers holding the umbrella to prevent my precious camera from getting wet.

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Forth Rail Bridge

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My very talented and encouraging helper

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And the peanut gallery

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Old cobble­stoned streets

We made it into the city and made our way up to the castle at the top of the hill. We spent a bit of time climbing around on the various levels on the inside of the walls in the courtyard to see the various views that were presented from various points on the wall. It came as no surprise to me that the castle was never successfully sacked based on the view you get from the top and the fact that it’s near the top of the hill. As we made our way through to the main hall, there was someone dressed as a knight explaining how knights did battle back in the day. First he demonstrated how the pike could be used to stab an enemy in the gut and rip them open by jabbing it towards Jackie’s stomach since she was in the front and making her squeak and jump from the surprise. Next he dropped the pike and proceeded to draw his broadsword, showing us that if the sharp end didn’t work out for some reason, you could swing the pommel to smash someone’s head in… lovely!

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Panoramic view of Edinburgh

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Old cannons aimed at attacking ships

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Pikeman actor giving us a description of the weapons wielded in the old days

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Stabbing at Jackie’s tummy… never seen her jump so high!

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Demonstrating how to head­bash with the hilt of the sword. Seems it would have been very effective

 

After the head-bashing demo, we thought we’d go check out the head-covering next and so we made our way to the Scottish crown jewel display room. There were “no photo” signs everywhere and so I grudgingly put the lens cap on my lens and walked through the jewel room. As expected, there were some supremely gaudy and crazy jewels in there, very similar to the British crown jewels, so I didn’t spend too much time in there. When I exited the room, Jon and I stood just outside the exit doorway waiting for the girls and so I took off my lens cover and thought I’d take a photo of the room from outside. Well no sooner had I put the camera to my eye and pointed it that way than a red-headed, butch, beefeating Scottsman almost ran me down and yelled at me “What the hell are you doing? Get the hell out of here!!!”. I have to admit that I very nearly crapped my pants but more with the surprise of him literally jumping out of nowhere than anything else although he was a pretty big guy. We quickly proceeded to exit the crown jewel area.

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Entrance to the crown jewels

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Crest on the wall in the courtyard after I got chased out of the crown jewels area

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More pretty cobble stones

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Little chapel inside the walls of the castle

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By this point we had seen as much of the castle as we’d wanted to and started to make our way down the streets of the Royal Mile. Along the way we went on a wonderful scotch tour, had a tasty stop at the fudge shop before it closed, and finally made it to the Christmas store Jackie was going on about so we could buy some ornaments and such for us as well as gifts for friends and family. As we were finishing up, it was getting dark and had started to rain pretty heavily so we ran down the street and took refuge in a bookstore for a few minutes while we gathered our thoughts and figured out a place to eat. Since Jon is a big fan of it, we decided to go to the Hard Rock Cafe (yes, very Scottish I know!) and stuffed ourselves with some tasty Western style food.

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View of Edinburgh

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Jackie & Jon enjoying the view from the back side of the castle

As we were finishing up dinner the rain had stopped so we made our way back to a spot below the castle that would give us a night-time view of it with all the lights on. We spent a bit of time taking some photos one of which you can see below which was a random flash going off from Karen’s camera while I was jumping in front of my long-exposed camera being a goof :). We headed back to Jon & Karen’s flat and the girls quickly passed out while Jon & I stayed up until around 3am chatting.

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Night view of Edinburgh castle

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Floating Berge head appears when Karen’s flash triggers at the exact right time

And here we were, the morning of day 22 of our trip, having visited 5 cities in that time and having had a blast in all of them. We quickly packed the few things we’d left out and headed to the airport for our flight to London among teary goodbyes and promises to visit soon. Our flight to London Stansted airport went well and we had to rush to catch the express train to Liverpool Street, then the Tube to St. Pancras to pick up our bags that we’d left, and finally the tube back to Heathrow to catch our flight home. Our flight left on time and although it was a long one to Saskatoon, we arrived there safe and sound, and exhausted, around 10pm after a fantastic vacation!

Scotland, UK – Part 1

So day 20 of this trip rolls around and starts with our last morning in Paris. We get up super early to catch the Eurostar train back to London which takes us right to St. Pancras station. Since we’re on our way to Scotland for all of 48 hours, we didn’t want to bring all of our bags with us and so we stashed the big bags at a baggage storage facility in the station and then took a train to Gatwick airport where we were due to catch our Easyjet flight. There was a little bit of frustration with people in general who have no sense of “common sense” while waiting to board the flight but, blood pressure up – deep breath – blood pressure comes down, and we were off to Edinburgh. After a short and comfortable flight, we landed and met up with our friends Jon & Karen who we flew up to visit. We drove to their flat (apartment), dropped off our bags, and made our way to the Falkirk Wheel.

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The Falkirk Wheel is a rotating boat lift in Scotland. It connects the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal. Named after the nearby town of Falkirk in central Scotland, the lift opened in 2002. The two canals it serves were previously connected by a series of 11 locks, but by the 1930s these had fallen into disuse. The locks were filled in and the land built upon.

The plan to regenerate central Scotland’s canals and reconnect Glasgow with Edinburgh was led by British Waterways with support and funding from seven local authorities, the Scottish Enterprise Network, the European Regional Development Fund, and the Millennium Commission. Planners decided early on to create a dramatic 21st-century landmark structure to reconnect the canals, instead of simply recreating the historic lock flight. Designs were submitted for a boat lift to link the canals; the Falkirk Wheel design won. As with many Millennium Commission projects the site includes a visitors’ centre containing a shop, café, and exhibition centre.

The difference in height at the wheel is 24 metres (79 ft), roughly equivalent to the height of an eight-storey building. The Union Canal is still 11 m higher than the aqueduct which meets the wheel, and boats must pass through a pair of locks to descend from this canal onto the aqueduct at the top of the wheel.

Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falkirk_Wheel

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Suffice it to say that, as an engineer, I was pretty blown away by this feat of engineering and I think that’s why Jon & Karen had suggested we come visit it. We took the ride which had us getting into one of the boats at the bottom of the Wheel, rotating through the half cycle bringing us to the top, traveling partway down the canal just to see what it was like, and then making our way back in reverse to what he had just gone through.

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The girls enjoying some candy Jon had bought

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Jackie laughing at something Karen was saying

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Catching Jon mid­laugh

I didn’t feel that my photos gave the Falkirk Wheel justice so I searched on the wonderful internet and found a couple very talented photographers on Flickr and so am sharing their photos here:

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alkirkwheel4-credit-martin_pettitt_cc2-flickr.

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We weren’t sure how we were doing on time after the Falkirk Wheel but Jon sped down the streets and got us to Stirling Castle. Alas we were too late and they were closed for the day but I managed to get a nice, hand-held, low light shot of the little valley that the castle overlooked.

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After all this lovely adventuring around we were pretty famished and so headed to dinner. I forget the name of the restaurant but the food was really good. In the past I had said that the only time I would give hagis a try would be in a true Scottish restaurant and so to keep with my word, I had the hagis appetizer. In all fairness I don’t understand what the big fuss is about because I found it to be quite delicious and more than a bit filling so I’ll chalk that one up to a successful cultural food attempt. After stuffing ourselves in fine food and great company, we headed back to the flat where the girls headed to bed and Jon and I stayed up for a few hours chatting, catching up on life, and enjoying each other’s company.

Paris, France, Part 3

We got up nice and early the next day since we were headed to Versailles and it was an hour and a bit train ride away. We get to the city all excited about visiting the palace and as we find our bearings and are making our way towards the entrance, we first see a long line-up and then after talking to a few very confused people, we were finally able to determine that there is a strike. Unfortunately this meant that the castle museum itself was closed which was one of the main reasons we’d made the trip out there. The gardens, however, were open and free, but we were disappointed so rather than walking the gardens, we took a few photos of our displeasure.

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What do you mean they’re on strike??!

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She really was not happy!

But, life goes on and although we were disappointed we couldn’t tour the palace we walked around Versailles the city for a bit, had some mid-morning coffee and food (croque madame again, I was hooked!!) and then headed back to Paris. The next stop for that day was the Jardin de Luxembourg which is a beautiful garden in the middle of Paris. Along the way to the garden we stopped by and bought some more pastries and just hung out and walked around the garden enjoying the greenery, perfectly manicured vegetation, and the curious wildlife.

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I’ll enjoy a croissant instead

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This guy kept trying to get at the croissant crumbs

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Beautiful fall day in the Luxembourg gardens in Paris

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Meticulously manicured trees

While we were there I called our family friends who live in Paris, the Tavitians, and we arranged to meet up the following evening for dinner… of course this was after I was scolded for not calling them earlier in typical Armenian state of affairs. We ended up our “lazy” day with a nice walk down Rue des Rennes after which we headed back to the hostel for some TV and an early night.

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Fall colours

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Fall colours

The next day was to be our last full day in Paris and so we had an easy start, had a hearty breakfast, and headed to la Musée de l’Orangerie or the Orange museum. It used to be a place to house the orange trees of the adjacent gardens but has grown into a museum to show grand paintings. For me, the most amazing rooms were 2 very large elliptical rooms that had Monet’s water lilies painted on each “side”. So each room had 2 longer paintings and 2 shorter ones for each “side” of the ellipse. It was truly amazing and you can see the scale of them in the photo below.

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This painting was just mind­blowing… the whole museum actually!

We headed back to the hostel to pack our bags, shower, and get ready for our dinner with the Tavitians. We successfully followed the directions I had been given on how to get to their place and were greeted with hugs and kisses by Ani. Jean was not home from work yet so we hung out with Ani for a while, had some drinks, an then headed to Le Chalet when Jean came home. The restaurant was a fantastic place, designed to resemble a ski chalet, with great food & wine, and of course, fantastic company!

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Dinner with Jean & Ani

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Jackie & Ani

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Me & Jean

After dinner they drove us around and gave us a great night tour of Paris, stopping on a bridge for us to get a photo of Notre Dame de Paris behind us. They then dropped us off at our hostel after we said our goodbyes and more hugs & kisses.

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Selfie with Notre Dame de Paris at night

Paris, France, Part 2

As with every trip that we have taken together, we did quite a bit of research prior to leaving Canada. Jackie had discovered that certain museums were free on certain days of the month and so from the few choices that we had, we decided to go to the Rodin museum for free. I was feeling a little bit under the weather at the beginning of the day but after we took the time to have our cappuccinos in the gardens at the museum, I perked up and started feeling a lot better. Jackie wanted to take the “bench shot” so I set up the camera on the opposing bench and took the shot below for our non-chalant-we’re-in-Paris-in-the-garden look.

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Park bench

The Rodin museum was fantastic! We walked around the gardens for a bit and then went into the actual villa where there were hundreds of sculptures on display. This was probably the first sculpture museum I had been to and I was very impressed. Of course we were able to see what they told me was the original sculpture of The Thinker so that was great to see; I’m really looking forward to when we are able to visit Italy and Greece which apparently have an abundance of sculptures.

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Selfie in the gardens on the grounds of the Rodin museum

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The Thinker… brilliant!

We continued our day by taking a leisurely stroll towards the Hôtel National des Invalides. This complex, which was originally used as a veterans’ hospital and retirement home, is made up of a series of museums. Among those are the military museum of the army of France and Napoleon’s tomb. Our tour guide from our first day in Paris told us a little story and I haven’t been able to confirm whether it was true or not. Nonetheless he said that Napoleon had purposefully commanded that his tomb be placed in the Dôme des Invalides which was the church at the complex. The ground was to be dug out and his casket be placed in the excavated area underneath the dome. The hole in the ground, after it was finished with the finest marble of course, would be left open for people to come and see the emperor and the casket was to be low enough so that whoever you were, whether visiting dignitaries or some Canadian tourist visiting the tomb, you would have to bend at the waist and look down to see the tomb. In doing so, you were bowing to the emperor. Brilliant!!

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Napoleon’s final resting place

After we were done with the emperor we decided to head to the Eiffel tower. Along the way, I was taking photos here and there and for some reason I really like the one below of Jackie over-posing on an old Parisian apartment building. We ran into Rebecca, who was staying at the same hostel as us, and after chatting for a bit, Jackie and I headed to Rue St Cler where Rebecca had suggested we try a few of the patisseries. Of course we had to try some more of those lovely croissant aux amandes and after relaxing a bit at a Starbucks, we headed back to the hostel and called it a night.

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Our plan for the next day was to get up early and make our way north west of downtown to the flea market. We’d read that deals were to be had in abundance so we spent a few hours buying gifts for family and souvenirs for us. Today we had decided that we were going to go up the Eiffel tower, at least to the first level and then see if Jackie’s fear of heights would limit us from going any further. Lo and behold, she wasn’t feeling too hot at that height so we just hung out there for a bit taking photos of the Parisian cityscape as well as buying a few more souvenirs for friends and family.

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I was giving the stink-eye to the way the guy taking the photo was framing the shot!

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“Hmmm, the map says it’s here somewhere”

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“I don’t get it, map says it’s HERE!”

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We found it!!!

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Reflections on the Eiffel Tower

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Selfie with Paris in the background

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Views of Paris from the Eiffel Tower

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Views of Paris from the Eiffel Tower

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Views of Paris from the Eiffel Tower

From the Eiffel Tower we decided to walk to the Arc de Triomphe. We checked our map, got our heading, and went meandering through the beautiful streets of Paris until we got to Place Charles de Gaulle. Historically this road junction was called Place de l’Étoile which translates to Square of the Star. The reason for this is because there are 12 Parisian avenues that meet at the square upon which the Arc was built. Some interesting bit of trivia is that due to the ridiculously busy nature and accident proneness of the square, there are no insurance companies in Paris that will cover your car within that square.

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Arc de Triomphe

So, since we did not want to get run over, we took the underground passage to the base of the Arc and took the windy stairs to the top. After walking all day those stairs were not fun but the view from the top was pretty fantastic. In the distance we could see the Eiffel tower and then the rest of Paris was spread out at our feet with the 12 avenues leading away from us.

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Kissing a beautiful girl in Paris? Yes please!

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Eiffel tower view from the Arc de Triomphe

Once we were done admiring the view and taking our pictures, we meandered back down the stairs and went for a walk down Champs Elysées. At this point Jackie pointed out to me that she wanted to have a coffee on Champs Elysées which was all fine and dandy except everywhere we looked the coffees were ridiculously priced. After going up and down the street and stopping to look at the menu of what felt like very single coffee shop, she finally settled on the coffee from a Haagen Daas of all places! Anyway, she got her coffee on the fanciest street in Paris and we headed back to our hostel via the Metro for a much deserved dinner and sleep.

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Champs Elysées from Arc de Triomphe

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Le Metro is also the best way to get around Paris

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Paris, France, Part 1

The flight from Dubai to London was pretty uneventful other than the fact that we were excited that we were headed to Paris. We landed in Heathrow and after collecting our bags proceeded to the Tube to take the half hour ride down the Picaddilly line (dark blue) straight to King’s Cross and St. Pancras train station. This is where we would be taking the Eurostar train direct from London to Paris and since we had arrived early enough, we were able to get on the earlier train so off we went… to Paris! On the way down Jackie brought out our guide book and made sure we knew where we’d be going once we reached the most romantic city in the world. When we got to Paris we figured out how to get to our hostel and after a ride on the Metro and a few blocks of walking, we arrived and settled in. Since it was already mid-afternoon we decided to stick around the hostel vicinity to grab some dinner and some wine and then relaxed in front of the communal TV at the hostel. There was a bit of an independent film festival showing at the hostel so we watched a bit of that before heading to bed for an early start the next day.

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Catching up on all the sites we are about to see in one of the most romantic cities in the world

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Excited? Maybe a little

The next day we started bright and early and decided to join in on the free walking tour that the hostel offered. This was a 3-hour tour and the purpose was to help us get our bearings in the city and make note of the sites we wanted to come back to. We stopped for lunch at a café where I took Jackie’s photo in one of the cliché poses after which we continued the walking tour. We got caught in a downpour midway through but the rain eased up and went away as quickly as it had started. The evening we went up to visit Sacré Coeur with a couple of people we had met at the hostel and on the tour and had dinner up there with a beautiful view of the lights of Paris.

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Typical Paris corner café

The next morning was the start of our first full day of visiting a bunch of the places we had on our must-see list. We had read in our guidebook and various websites that to see the Louvre it was best to get there first thing in the morning as they open because it would avoid the crazy tour buses. We had also read that it was a good idea to rush through the Louvre to the Mona Lisa to get that over with because it was obviously the most touristy painting viewing in the world.

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Bright and early at Le Musée du Louvre

So, following those suggestions, we did exactly that. We were there bright and early and rushed through to the Mona Lisa. I remembered seeing it when my parents had brought us to Paris in 1998 and being unimpressed and so once again, I was slightly disappointed but glad I saw it. Our walking tour guide from the day before had suggested that when we got to that room to go see the Mona Lisa but then to turn around and look at the full wall mural of Jesus turning water to wine. Now let me tell you, that was a massive mural and was spectacular. We spent another 3 hours or so walking around engrossed in the beautiful artwork in the museum and then left to hang out in the gardens just outside to rest our feet.

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Reflections on the Louvre

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Presenting… many wonderful works of art

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Happy to be here Jackie?

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Yup, I think she is!!

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Now that’s a good looking couple!

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Yup, we get it, you’re excited

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Soooo excited

Next we took a relaxing stroll through the Jardin des Tuilleries crossing the Seine to Musée d’Orsay. The museum building itself, which was originally a train station, had some fantastic architectural features. Once we got inside, however, it was filled with sculptures and paintings that were awe inspiring. I think that it was in this museum that I realized there was so much to the art of sculpting and I was very interested in seeing more. It’s a good thing that Musée Rodin was on our list of places to visit but that’s in part 2 of the Paris adventures! We took a few hours to go through the museum and I was able to get a nice candid shot of Jackie enjoying the paintings as well as a great photo of Sacré Coeur from inside one of the clock towers in the museum.

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Musée D’Orsay, such amazing architecture

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Clock sitting high above the floor

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Vincent Van Gogh masterpiece

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Jackie enjoying the works of art by masters past

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Sacre Coeur seen on the hilltop through one of the clock­towers from Musée D’Orsay

As we were finishing up at Musée d’Orsay we ran into a friend we’d made from the hostel, Rebecca, and she joined us on a walk down the Seine to the Notre Dame de Paris cathedral. Of course I had been there before in 1998 when I came with my parents but this cathedral still blew my mind. One of my favorite cartoons growing up was the Hunchback of Notre Dame but unfortunately he was nowhere to be seen when we visited. They did have a choir singing when we went inside and the sound in there was just fantastic.

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Notre Dame de Paris. I couldn’t really spot the hunchback; can you?

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I wish this photo could actually portray what it felt like standing in there

One thing I haven’t talked about yet is the food. The food in general was fantastic but 2 foods stand out distinctly for me. The first is the croissant aux amandes which translates to croissant with almonds. These delectable treats are made from the previous day’s croissants which are quite crusty and starting to get stale. They take them, cut them open, add syrup and almond paste to them, bake them again, and put slivered almonds and powdered sugar on top. Because of this, each patisserie has its own unique version of them and we had 2-3 of these a day during our trip… yummy! The second was the croque madame which doesn’t really have a translation but it’s the French take on a grilled cheese sandwich with ham & mozzarella inside and a fried egg on top. I ate these at every opportunity since they were soooo tasty!!

So after our quick tour through Notre Dame de Paris we had dinner and surprise surprise I had a croque madame. Since this was a long and very eventful day we headed back to the hostel, showered, watched some TV, and had an early night.

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Dubai, UAE, Part 2

Our brief stint in Beirut was fun but very tiring and sleep-lacking and so on the first day back to Dubai, we slept in until around 11:30 to try and recuperate a bit. We promised ourselves that next time we went to visit Lebanon that we would take our time and stay a bit longer to get all the sites in and not be exhausted by the end of it.

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Yummy food, great company, beautiful restaurant

I called my good friend Jessy and we went out to lunch with her at this really wicked restaurant called Anise at the Intercontinental hotel in Garhoud. The restaurant had a buffet lunch with various types of food from all over the world and we fulfilled all our cravings and stuffed our faces. After our meal we decided to walk off some of the food in the mini-mall in the hotel so we spent a few hours doing that then headed to Jessy’s place. I hadn’t seen her parents in a few years so it was nice to say hi to them and chat for a bit.

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Ramadan­time tent setup… these are very common during the Eid

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Wandering the hallways of the hotel

After our little visit with her parents, we headed over to the One and Only One Royal Mirage hotel to meet up with Jessy’s boyfriend, Abdo. Since it was Ramadan at the time, they had these massive tents set up where you would sit around, have some food, smoke some sheesha, and in general just have a good time. We spent a few hours there and then Jessy & Abdo had to leave so we spent a few minutes wandering around the hotel and taking some photos before heading back home.

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Pretty cool display at the Atlantis Hotel

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Pretty cool display at the Atlantis Hotel

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Nice model of the hotel and water park

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Murano glass structure, 30ft (10m) tall, tallest one in the world

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Outside view of the Atlantis Hotel – Dubai

 

 

The next day we spent the day with my parents. The Atlantis hotel had just opened up at the tip of the Jumeirah Palm Island and so we decided to go check it out. As with everything in Dubai, no expense had been spared on the hotel. You had marble all over the floors and in the main reception area there was the world’s tallest Murano glass sculpture. The pictures do little justice to this sculpture which was simply stunning to look at in real life with all its twists, turns, and variety of colours. We also went through the aquarium that was located in the hotel and it was pretty impressive as well with the 1 meter thick glass and the large variety of fish. Funny thing about this hotel is that it was built on the section of the Palm Island that was originally intended to be a water break. Now there is absolutely nothing protecting the hotel from a storm out at sea that comes to shore.

Our last day in Dubai was spent doing some creative packing. Since the first part of our trip out this way was for my cousin’s wedding in Lebanon and also spending some time in Dubai with my parents and friends, we had packed accordingly bringing formal and semi-formal clothes and more geared towards warm weather. Now we were heading off to Paris and Scotland soon after, we did not have any need for our formal clothes and also most of our warm weather clothes since in Europe it was already autumn. So we put a bunch of clothes and souvenirs aside and my dad later packed them into boxes and had them shipped back to us in Saskatoon.

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Burj al ­Arab (The Arab Tower)

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Jumeirah Beach Hotle, it looks like a sail when viewed from the water

With the packing out of the way, I decided to take Jackie to the Jumeira Beach Hotel and also show her another Dubai landmark, the Burj Al-Arab. We took a nice stroll along the beach around sunset and took a few nice photos but mostly tried to relax a bit due to the hectic speed of our trip so far. That night for dinner we went out to Medinat Jumeirah which is part of a hotel complex that they built a few years ago. The shops are all in the old Arab market-style, or souq, and you walk around in what can become confusing aisles looking at all the nice touristy wares. It felt like a scene from Aladdin without all the beggars and poor people around. After dinner we headed to the airport, said our goodbyes to my parents, and were off to Paris!

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Medinat Jumeirah; this almost belongs in Arabian Nights or Aladdin