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Friday, June 30, 2006

Toulouse, France

This was a busy travelling week. On one of the days I had breakfast alone in Frankfurt, lunch with a customer in Lisbon and dinner with a friend in London.

I also spent a day in Toulouse for a meeting at Airbus, the aircraft manufacturer that has recently run into trouble following the announcement of delays in the new "super jumbo" (A-380) delivery. I saw the A-380 take off and land a couple of times at Toulouse and it's a veritable monster. I find it difficult to understand who would want to travel together with more than 500 people. Surely the waiting time for boarding or collecting baggage will be insufferable.

Anyway, despite my very short stay-over in "Airbusville" (as Newsweek called Toulouse this week), I had a few hours' spare time to take a stroll around the city. Toulouse is apparently the 4th largest city in France and is famous for the pinkish hue of its buildings. I came across the St. Etienne cathedral and ventured inside, thinking it would be just another cathedral. The entrance did not look too impressive, but the inside turned out to be quite interesting. Unlike other cathedrals, this one is a collection of several buildings built in different periods, so it is not as symmetric and well-proportioned as others. Standing in the middle of this huge edifice gives a nice perspective into the different building styles.

Another impressive landmark in Toulouse is the main square, the "Capitole". The building, which serves as the city hall, is magnificient, as are the proportions of the square itself. The game between Italy and Australia just ended and a few Italian fans filled the square, brandishing huge tri-colour flags and being generally very loud about their team's triumph. I refrained from reminding them that they only barely won in the last few seconds of the game, and that only thanks to an penalty kick for a foul that never happened. Something told me they were not in the mood for a dose of truth...

The weather was rather hot, but as the day was waning, it cooled off and the streets filled up with people. Suprisingly (this being France) most people were smiling and seemed rather friendly. Which reminded me of an incident a few weeks ago in Paris. I was having dinner with three distinguished businessmen from a company we work with, together with my boss (an Israeli-American). As the wine flowed and the conversation veered off business, my boss mentioned that he once took a holiday in France. And then he said: "actually, when I was driving around France, the people were very nice and friendly, unlike in Paris!" There was an awkward silence before he realized what he had said in the company of three Parisians... Just as with the Italian fans mentioned above, this was another example of a situation where one should remain silent rather than blurt out the truth.

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