A Few Days En Suisse

After the grand weekend in Paris I took a detour of just a few days in Lausanne, Switzerland before returning to the States. The trip on the TGV was wonderful as always. There is just something so civilized about traveling by train: plenty of space, Wifi, more than decent meals, and the gorgeous French countryside streaming by at more than 300 kph (200 mph)! Oh how I miss this option when I am in the US.

Upon my arrival I was met at the station by my IMD classmate and host, Mathieu. We wasted very little time before heading up the mountain for something canonically Swiss: fondue! As I have blogged before, Le Chalet Suisse offers not only an authentic "chalet" experience and delicious fondue but incomparable views of Lac Leman as well.

We arrived around sunset and were treated to gorgeous views, a crescent moon over the lake, and a magical twilight in the land of fairy tales before dinner. The magic only intensified as several other IMD classmates joined us for fondue. It has been nearly seven years since I met them all and nearly six since we finished the program but meeting them again makes it seem like it was only yesterday!

As I have blogged before, I have eliminated grains and starches from my diet, which has had a positive effect on my body composition. One doesn't exactly go into a fondue dinner for his health but I at least intended to stick to my nutritional guns. My willpower wore down quickly, though, and it rapidly devolved into a cheat meal. This began with the bread I dipped into the fondue pot, continued with the potato I took along with Mathieu's raclette, and then really hit a new high when I helped Allessandra finish her rösti. It's too bad no one had any spätzle as I would have devoured it since I was already breaking my rules! It was a very Swiss and very perfect way to start my brief trip.

Monday morning I had breakfast with another classmate - one who is trying to launch a startup, incidentally. We had a nice breakfast in Ouchy right along the lake. Unfortunately most of the menu items had grains in them and I was trying to return to my strict diet so guess what I had for breakfast: more cheese - because a huge fondue dinner the night before wasn't enough! Well, there are worse places in the world in which to find yourself eating a metric ton of cheese!

I spent the day at IMD, which was a refreshing homecoming. In the morning I met with many of the MBA staff. I must have looked famished (Not!) because they took pity on me and invited me to lunch at the famous IMD restaurant. It was just as good as I remembered and offered plenty of excellent vegetables and fish so that I could dilute my cheese consumption a little.

After working from the IMD cafe all afternoon, I went back up the mountain and did some trail running. The previous several days of perfect weather were finally at an end and the mountain slopes were shrouded in a misty fog. This made for another fairy tale experience picking my way first through the Parc de l'Hermitage and then the Bois de Sauvabelin - truly magical!

My hosts and I joined another IMD classmate for dinner at a local Italian restaurant. It turns out that on Monday nights they only have pizza available so it became another [delicious] cheat meal for me! Much as my breakfast classmate was launching a new venture, so was this other classmate at dinner. I'm beginning to notice a trend! I suppose alumni of the IMD MBA class of 2008 are nearing their seven year itch at their corporate jobs and starting to explore more entrepreneurial opportunities. It was quite rewarding to learn that my classmate had actually followed my online entrepreneurship lectures and found them very beneficial - glad to help!

Tuesday I began the day with a run along the lake. The fog over the lake and the Chateau d'Ouchy recalled visions of the mists of Avalon. In order to make it back to my apartment, shower, and then return to Ouchy for meetings at IMD in time I took the metro up and back. On the way up I received lots of stares as someone who was clearly out of place. Dressed in Under Armour and wearing Vibrams Fivefingers shoes, I was looking very un-Swiss!

However, on my way back down to IMD I received even more stares - this time because of my Google Glass, which is even less common in Europe than it is the US. Being so blatantly stared at was a really interesting sociological experience. Even as extroverted as I am, even as much as I enjoy the spotlight, I felt uncomfortable by the unapologetic gawking on the metro. I can only imagine how uncomfortable women feel when they are gawked at in public or, worse, catcalled and harassed.

Clearly this wasn't as much of an epiphanous experience as, for example, Dustin Hoffman's character experienced in Tootsie, but it still opened my eyes somewhat to how people in the minority feel when they are clearly out of place within the majority. As a white American male I am more often in the majority in the US so I will try to be more sensitive to those who are not.

Tuesday I got a little work done at IMD but spent most of my time catching up with former professors. I even went to dinner with one (Fondue again - the diet was on full pause by this point!), who was on the verge of taking on a new challenge as dean of another business school. He has been a professor, a mentor, and a friend to me so it is thrilling to see him leave a very comfortable situation at IMD for a new adventure.

Wednesday I followed the path I still know all too well from my time in Lausanne: down to the train station, the train to Geneva Airport, and then the flight back to the US. Wednesday happened to be seven years to the day that I received my call from IMD's fabulous alumni director notifying me of my admission - how poetic!

It was a very short trip but it was wonderful to see so many friends and familiar places. It was a productive trip as well - in more ways than one! Shortly after my departure, my hosts gave birth to their first child (Congratulations!!!!). No need to thank me; I just seem to have that effect when I am a houseguest.

Now I'm back in the US and working hard to complete Smart OES's funding round - big news to report about on that front soon!


Paris and Buffett 6.0 - Day 2

We woke up [very late] Saturday morning and seized the day. Katie met her friend for some touring about and I decided to go for a run. Once again the weather was absolutely perfect and I figured I could see more of Paris running than walking.

Instead of following a predetermined route, I decided just to take my phone with me and run everywhere nearby that Google Maps showed green space. This took me up to Les Invalides, over through the Jardin des Tuileries, along the Champs-Élysées, and back via a pedestrian area along the Seine.

I could have kept going for hours! Parks, parks, everywhere is something I really love about old European cities. They really appreciate green space, not only for its beauty but also for the social purpose it serves. I think citizens feel more invested in their community when they spend time out enjoying it with myriad neighbors, which is exactly what was happening on this gorgeous day! So many people were out walking, picnicking, napping, or just sitting and chatting as I ran by - it was inspiring!

Of course, there is a downside as well. Although I love parks, parks everywhere in European cities, I loathe smoke, smoke everywhere. It's hard to walk anywhere without stumbling unwittingly into a cloud of smoke, and that happens even more frequently when running. That's OK, though; it's usually easy enough to hold my breath until the air is clear again.

With my run behind me I showered up and made my way over to the theater to tailgate for Buffett's second concert. The floor section for the Saturday night show would be standing instead of seated, so there was actually an advantage to arriving early and staking out a good place in line.

The tailgate was a lot of fun and I met many other international Parrotheads - from Canada, Italy, Holland, and - of course - the US. We chatted, played Jimmy Buffett music, and - of course - imbibed. My beverage of choice this time around was a very nice Sauternes. Considering that I had eaten exclusively chocolate all day, I was living a very literal "dolce vita" until I also opened up some cheese as well.

Eventually Katie and her friend came to join me in line. They hopped right into the tailgating and, before we knew it (Time usually flies at a Buffett tailgate!), we were being let into the venue. We were pretty close to the stage, maybe 20 feet away, which made for a great concert. Jimmy mixed up the set list a little bit from the previous night so that it kept even those of us who attended both concerts guessing.

After the concert the girls struck out to get some Champagne and watch the Eiffel Tower lights while I stuck around to to see Jimmy leave the venue. He was very personable and gracious, signing many autographs on his way out. Afterward I walked back to our apartment, which took nearly an hour, but it was a great walk. In a pedestrian-friendly city, just walking along the streets is a fun experience regardless of the time of day.

Sunday morning we woke up in time to have a parting breakfast with Mom before I hopped on the train to Switzerland. Eggs, snails, salmon, sardines . . . the waiter actually brought over an additional table just for my order! What can I say, I didn't know when I would next have true French cuisine so I was trying to stock up!

It was just a brief trip to Paris but, as always, it was a grand time. Paris is not an inexpensive place by any stretch of the imagination, but you certainly get what you pay for. Au revoir, Paris, until next time!


Paris and Buffett v6.0 - Day 1

Last weekend Katie and I took a quick trip to Paris to keep up the annual tradition of seeing Jimmy Buffett there. This time our experience was enhanced by some family and friends! My mom was there already as part of a longer trip and two of our good friends managed to time their business trips such that we overlapped - the more, the merrier!

We arrived Friday late morning and immediately met up with a Parisian colleague of mine for lunch. Francois and I met a couple of years ago through the Cleantech Open and CleanWeb circles, both of which he was leading in France. It just goes to show you how global the network is of entrepreneurs trying to use innovative capitalism to create a better life for all! In addition to catching up with Francois on a personal level (Somehow that is just easier over a fine French meal than it is over Skype!), I was also pleased to learn that he recently launched his latest venture, techUforward.

Our late lunch didn't leave much time before Buffett's first concert so we hustled over to Sacré-Cœur, where we met my mom and my favorite wingman. It was a glorious autumn day in Paris - clear skies and warm weather - so where better to "tailgate" than perched along the Sacré-Cœur hill? There were many other people out there as well, just soaking in what could be the last great weather of the year.

We opened some cheese and wine and played some Buffett on our phones to get ready for the show. Incidentally, we actually brought the wine (two left bank Bordeaux) from our cellar in the US. Bringing French wine to France is kind of like bringing sand to the beach, but we figured this way we could spend less time procuring fantastic wine and more time enjoying it! We weren't 100% sure that we were allowed to pop open wine in public in Paris and we even had a bit of a scare as a stern-looking woman made her way toward us. It turns out, however, that she wasn't looking to tell us off about our wine - rather, she was hoping to borrow our wine opener (which we had also brought from the US just to leave nothing to chance)!

As we continued to enjoy our Buffett pre-party, another Parrothead who was walking by recognized us and joined in the fun. I had met him last year and it was fun to see a familiar face. I believe this was the sixth year I came to Paris for the show and many other attendees were repeat comers as well - it's a fun little community of Parrotheads Parisiens!

Buffett's show was very nice. This first night it was all seated, including down on the floor where we were. Of course we were standing most of the night but it was nice to have a seat on which to leave our stuff while we were dancing about. As always, it was basically one big sing-along. Afterward we met up with some others for a few drinks but called it a [relatively] early night. After all, we would need our strength for his second concert on Saturday!