Sunday, July 22, 2007

1st week of work; 2nd week in Geneva

(This picture is the sunflower field I pass on my way to work every morning at the France/Switzerland border; always makes me smile. I’ll miss it when I move next week).

With one week of work finished, bit-by-bit, I am feeling more familiar with my new surroundings. I’ve already been assigned cases, and am learning the ropes. I am excited for what this year will bring, both personally and professionally. My co-workers are from many different countries and cultures; I enjoy the fusion of colleagues from all over the globe. WIPO handles cases involving domain name disputes (out-of-court disputes over website addresses). The cases I am presently handling are only recently filed; I am eager to track them to completion. An answered prayer, I am also pleased to report that my apartment hunt is over. I will be living in a furnished studio in the Petit-Sacconex area of Geneva. A bonus, I am within 15 minutes walk to work; 10 minutes walk from the Lake. I’ve also found a church I think will be my home for this next year, an English speaking one called Crossroads in Ferney-Voltaire, France. A number of people I’ve met there work for P&G out here, which is interesting as P&G has their headquarters in my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. Yesterday I decided to go exploring and ride the mountains on the other side of the Lake, Le Saleve, to the Col de la Croisette. This hill was very difficult as it ranged between 8% to 12.5% (steep even to walk up) the entire way. At the top, as with the Jura on the other side of the Lake (the mountains on one side are the Jura, the other side are the La Saleve), the view of Geneva was spectacular. Easily the most difficult hill I’ve ridden yet. Tired at the top, I decided to attempt to break my cycling speed record down the backside but to no avail. Back up to the top was tiring, but the only way I knew home; made it home just in time to see the last hour of the individual time trial of the Tour. My friends Nick and Kerri are expecting their first baby this week, please keep them in your prayers.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

J'aime Le Tour

Saturday, with the help of some new friends, I made my way out of Geneva to the Col de la Colombiere to watch stage 7 of the Tour de France. After scurrying about the airport to find my rental car (unlike in the States, here they simply give you the keys and tell you it’s in the parking lot) and rushing home to get my gear, I ended up driving around Geneva, lost, fearing that I would miss the Tour (for a foreign first timer Geneva makes D.C. seem easy to navigate). Eventually I found my way to the proper exit where I met Will and Doreen. Parking at the bottom, we climbed the Col amid the crowds to the summit. What a climb! The last 2 km are brutal (12%), and even the Tour riders suffered there (alas, they are human). Meeting up with Scott and Barry at the 1 km banner, we had some time to kill. Since the vendors at the top were out of drinks hours before the Tour passed by, as the group domestique, I rode back down towards the valley to try to find us some cold beverages. After descending what felt like the entire mountain (o.k., it was maybe halfway), no vendors were to be found, so I decided to head back up so as not to miss the Tour. As luck would have it, I saw two German guys with a ton of gear in the back of their car. After chatting for a bit, they were kind enough to spare 10 beers for our group. So, with a sack full of beer on my back, I proceeded to climb back to the top. Just around that turn up there I kept telling myself; how do these guys ride this stuff day in and day out; where is the top? After what seemed like half the day (probably less than an hour), I reached the group at the 1km banner. Cheers! The publicity caravan was fun, highlighted by the Homer Simpson float. Then after hours in the hot sun, the helicopters arrived, signaling the lead riders. Mostly a blur, I did manage to find Michael Rasmussen (the current leader, and a former world champ mountain biker - notice Tour winner Alberto Contador of Disco right next to Rasmussen - who was later kicked off his team for missing doping controls in this year's Tour de Farce). Word on the street is that we did make it on TV too. What a fun day. Hope to catch many a Tour in the future.

(Note / Update: After riding up Col de la Faucille Sunday afternoon (for the first time sans rain), I realize the first pictures I posted of the lake and mountains in the background are a far cry from the vista on a clear day. (I will have to take my camera on a clear day to do the view of Mont Blanc across the lake its due justice. I will also have to find some new routes as I saw a motorcyclist laid out and being attended to by paramedics on the side of the road after he got tangled up with a car.)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

First ride in France: Col de la Faucille

After getting my bike together this morning, I set out for my first bike ride in France. Never mind that it was about 50F degrees, raining, and the new stem I bought back home to fix my positioning on my bike didn't fit (not to mention that I was not 100% sure where exactly I was heading). So I set out for "those mountains" in the distance - the Col de la Faucille. (Since facile means "easy" in French I was curious what lay in store. Turns out it was a cat 2 climb of medium difficulty featured in the 2004 Tour de France). As I approached the Col, the rain persisted, and I began to see my breath. I approached the village of Gex, made my may through endless roundabouts, and began the climb. (Thankfully there is a ski area at the top, and the roads are fairly well marked). About a quarter of the way up (about 1 or 2 km beyond the bottom picture), just as I breathed a huge gasp of "catch my breath / boy this should be fun" air, a French guy pulled up on my left; he was crazy, there were tons of cars (semis too) zooming up this road with no shoulders, and he casually rode right in the middle of our lane (this route made Chicago traffic look calm). We chatted for a few minutes and then he proceeded to sprint off. Humbling to say the least. To my credit, I had only ridden twice in the past two weeks, and ran last night, but he was faster than me at any rate. The first picture is about halfway up the climb looking down to Geneva (notice the fountain in the middle of the picture at the right edge of le lac - click to zoom). About two thirds of my way up, the same French guy passed me on the way down. We waved cordially. Feeling thoroughly slow at this point, I kept climbing. After I stopped to take the picture above, I felt a little rested, and decided to stomp the pedals a bit, big mistake, now I was wishing I hadn't run last night, and that I had more clothes. I was fading, thinking to myself: how on Earth am I going to make it here as a cyclist? After making it to the top, I gave a moments thought to riding down the back side and then back up. After about 2km down the back side, I realized just how cold it was (about 40F at the top) and decided to just head home. Heading back down was semi-treacherous as the roads were still wet from the rain the entire ride up. Plus every driver on the road (of which there were way too many) seemed to think they were in the Monaco Grand Prix. (As I was going down at 40mph, a driver coming up hill passed another driver less than 50' in front of me.) I contemplated stopping to warm up on the way down since I was shivering and could barely control my bike, but I could feel the air getting slightly warmer as I approached the base, so kept going (now I know why the riders in the Tour stuff newspapers down their jerseys). I think this ride is just what I needed as I am actually tired at 10 p.m. for the first time since I arrived, and hungry enough to eat a full meal. Hope to ride the Col du Columbiere (behind the mountains across the lake in the top picture) on Saturday before the Tour rolls through. Au revoir.

Sunday, July 8, 2007


After scurrying to shift weight in baggage (regretfully leaving a spring jacket behind), I left Cincinnati Saturday 7.7.07 for Paris en route to Geneva. An answered prayer, travel was painless. My bags were checked straight to Geneva, thus my anticipated frantic bag claim and recheck in Paris did not occur. (Though I did not get nearly the sleep I was hoping for on the way over). There was a little blond French kid grabbing for his mother; who reminded me of Samuel, and everyone else back home I miss already. We taxied around the runway for about 20 minutes in Paris before taking off; I personally think the pilot just wanted to take laps around the airport. Bags waiting for me when I finished customs, I picked up a minivan cab right away which was nice as I could fit everything, even my bike case to the Hotel which was only about 10 minutes away. Off in the (raining) distance were towering mountains; 15km away according to the cab driver. Smile on my face, off to a good start. The hotel/studio is small but manageable; which is good as I will be living in similar quarters this next year. Once I sat down and turned on the t.v., I was greeted by Formula One racing on channel 1, and live Tour De France coverage on channel 2 (and more rain out my window). Not too shabby, but they were in French. I begin this week to tackle administrative matters, ideally finishing in time to view stage 7 of the Tour next Saturday. Overall, travel was good, the city/region feels calming – with outlying farmland, the lake, much vegetation, and the mountains anchoring it all together. It feels like a good fit, and I am optimistic to explore further. With that then, the highly-anticipated second half of the Beckham swap (see definition below) is now complete.

Beckham swap: (bek 'em swop) Summer 2007; sensitive international diplomatic process by which the net balance of members of the Beckham family living in the eastern and western hemispheres was preserved through David’s moving the fam to the United States, and Brian’s near simultaneous moving to Switzerland.