In preparation for my trip to France, I purchased some podcasts called Earworms. They are available for several languages and have various phrases set to music, the idea being that they will stick with you, much like a song that you can’t get out of your head. I found it rather amusing that, although I learned many useful French phrases, like, “I would like a bottle of red wine,” and “I would like to buy a pair of shoes,” I did not learn how to inquire as to the location of the nearest restroom. I supposed the Earworms people figured that the international I-have-to-pee dance would be sufficient in most cases.
My adventures began before I’d even left my house as I attempted to activate my loaner global phone. Much to my dismay, the phone would not even turn on! My flight was to leave in just a few hours, and I still had packing to do, so my husband was nice enough to dash out to the closest Verizon store to remedy the situation. The verdict: the droid they had sent me was a bum phone, so I was given a Blackberry instead. I was less than thrilled, but a working Blackberry is better than no phone at all, and beggars can’t be choosers.
Like all good flights, mine were uneventful, and I arrived at my hotel in Lyon without incident. I unpacked my clothes and requested an iron from housekeeping but was informed that there were 3 irons in all of Lyon and that I was number 5,734 on the waiting list of more than 6,000 people who had descended upon Lyon for ECTRIMS and needed to iron their clothes. Thank goodness for Downy Wrinkle Releaser.
In the time before the conference began, I had a bit of time to explore Lyon. I’ve had experience with service in non-American restaurants before, and I found it to be on the slow side. I feel the need to apologize for anything I may have previously said about Brits and Australians because they have absolutely nothing on the French when it comes to slow service. In one bar, I’m pretty sure that they began the vodka distilling process from scratch when my colleague ordered a martini. Apparently, this bar was also out of olives and had extra ice because, when the vodka martini with an olive, up, arrived, it had a twist and ice. Of course, the language barrier was likely a factor in that case.
The first night in Lyon, I dropped my camera. Thankfully, I dropped it on carpet, so it didn’t shatter, but the drop was certainly not beneficial. Now, it periodically gives pictures a very pink cast. Whacking the camera against the side of my hand seems to solve the problem, at least temporarily. I hope the camera makes it through this trip, because I would hate to be in a hurry to buy a camera, particularly in a foreign country!
I’d long questioned the wisdom of holding ECTRIMS in Lyon, which is not an especially large city. Hotels in Lyon have been booked solid for the conference since spring, and I have heard that people are staying as far away as Geneva to attend. Once the meeting started, I also began to question the capability of the conference center to house such a meeting. I’m not sure whether it was due to lack of space or simply poor planning, but the poster sessions had the worst setup I have ever seen. They were set up in hallways, making it rather difficult to get from one end of the conference center to the other since you had to contend with people milling about in front of posters. The cryptic, zig-zagging poster number layout system added to this problem as confused meeting goers stood befuddled by why poster 564 was next to poster 588 but poster 572 was way down on the other end of the hall. Finally, the hallways that housed the poster sessions had floor-to-ceiling windows, which, in some ways was a nice touch, but mainly just made the space extremely hot!
On the second day of the meeting, I almost caused an international incident by attempting to take a sandwich off the lunch table. I was informed (rather firmly) that the table did not open until 12:15. By my watch, it was 12:13. That was a close one!
Today, the last day of the meeting, I woke up with a very sore throat and suspect that I am getting a cold. Le boo! I don’t want to be sick for Paris! I shall attempt to ward this off with more wine and cheese.