Sunday, July 21, 2013

Hiking at St. Moritz

It has been quite awhile since our (a gang of phd students) last hiking trip together. Initially planned for Creux du Van which requires very high physical fitness, we have decided to change our trip to something moderate, St. Moritz Emerald trail, Grisons-Lombardy stage 1, due to the rainy weather recently.

St. Moritz lake
Woke up 5 in the morning, (perhaps the earliest of the year) we departed from Zurich HB heading towards Chur and then St. Moritz, and it took us 3.5 hours! Since we were moving in a large group (of 9 people), it was quite an challenging task to get the seats where we can sit together. We managed to do it for the Zurich-Chur trip, and almost did it as well for the Chur-St. Moritz leg, only to find out that the seats were reserved. As the train was quite short, we had to separate into 4-5 groups and were sitting with our backs facing the front, for 2 hours! I spent most of the time sleeping though, as it was quite uncomfortable and I was sleepy anyway.

Soon after our arrival, I was certain that this hiking trip is going to be a great one - what picturesque scene of mountains, lake, and gentle sun. We started our hike by walking around the St. Moritz lake before going slightly uphill to the mountain lake, Lej da Staz.
Lej da Staz
Its color was almost black, in a contrast with the St. Moritz lake which was blueish. We spent some time for technical breaks and followed the route suggested by the website towards St. Moritz Bad. The landscape was a great remedy for us who have been living in the cities for a long time, and the forest was full with lots of interesting flora and small animals. We kept on going for like one hour and reached an Olympic ski jump site. It looked like an abandoned place with the grasses growing wild, but should be awesome when it is covered with all the snows during the winter time. After a few minutes walk, we arrived at Lej Marsch and conquered an area near the lake to begin our picnic. The floor was very soft and the soil was somehow wet. We can even trigger an earthquake by just stomping on the floor.

Olympic ski jump
After our lunch break, we moved on to the next lake, Lej Nair, which was pretty small. Along the route we started to see more "civilizations" and beginning to return to the normal world. Since we still had some time to spare, we jumped into a local restaurant to enjoy some ice creams and beers while enjoying the sun and mountains. It was really a nice place to enjoy your life after retirement and we even joked that everyone of us can buy one unit each of the apartment there. Then we can become neighbors and do hiking together. Ha, I am not sure if I could afford a house at a place like this in Switzerland!

small waterfall with stones around
Recharged with energy, we continued our journey to the lake Silvaplana and walked past Crap da Sass castle. There was also a small waterfall with lots of vertically aligned stone arranged by somebody. As the rain started to pour, we have decided to get back to the St. Moritz station instead of walking for another hour to Sils under the rain. Everybody was tired like hell and even fell asleep on the way to the train station. We used different route back, passing Lanquart before reaching Zurich.

Since we have spent "lots of energy" for the hike, we have decided to award ourselves with a dinner at Ah Fatt's place. As usual, we finished a tableful of foods within an hour and finally reached home after spending 18 hours outside.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Geneva day trip

This trip was kind of decided 2 months ago, but I just realized about it one day before. And it turned out to be a great one. Instead of visiting the place, it was actually to meet my ex-colleagues from Univ. of Tokyo who are now working at CERN on the ATLAS experiment.

Life is really unpredictable I must say, as I would have ended up working at CERN for my PhD under the same group as my master's lab. Due to my eagerness to try out something different and also my tendency of moving around (like from Osaka to Kyoto and to Tokyo in Japan), I have gambled my future to do my PhD at a place unknown to me at the time, Zurich in Switzerland. And of course I am glad that I have made this choice as it has changed me tremendously in terms of my perspective about physics and society and also extended my network over the world.

Geneva Lake
After meeting them, I am glad that they are doing well in their researches and going to graduate soon. Even though I will be later than them as I am not in a hurry or so. And I am not regretting as well to be not involved in the Higgs boson searching group, which I was assigned to during my master. I am not working on something BIG either at the moment. But I am enjoying it, so do my friends enjoying their analysis works.

We had a great time having lunch together talking about our labmates when we were at Tokyo. It is pretty amazing that everybody is still working towards what they planned to do a few years back, and nothing is stopping them right now. This is truly scientist mentality or Japanese tamashi?. :) After the lunch, out of the sudden, we walked towards the Geneva lake and entered the public swimming area. And guess what? We rented swimming trunks and jumped into the lake! This is perhaps the 2nd random stuff I have done after the 5-minute-decide-to-go-Vienna trip. It was freaking hot these days and I was completely relaxed after the swim.

Lake Parade
On the way back, I was lucky? to bump into annual Lake Parade of Geneva and had some fun time screaming together with the crowds while watching those fancy parade tracks. Next time it would be them coming to Zurich visit me, as they are leaving to Japan soon for their thesis writing. They will most probably be at CERN again next summer but God knows where I will be next year.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Summer break 2013

What comes after a hectic schedule? Yes, you are right, it's holiday! Two months earlier than last year, I have planned my holiday with my gf. Because I will have another hectic schedule from the end of August to the mid September, presenting my projects on muon compression. Since we have organised everything two months in advanced, basically all the tickets were cheap if not the cheapest.
Garden and Park of Versailles Palace

Our first station was Paris, which has taken us about 4 hours by TGV from Zurich main station. We have spent a few days in the winter over here last year and decided this time to visit some of the places that we have missed and also to experience the summertime Paris.

We had a really nice french cuisine at a restaurant nearby our hotel on the first day. During the 2nd day, we spent almost half the day at the Versailles palace which is extremely huge, both the palace itself and the garden. Then headed back to Paris downtown to search for Japanese rahmen.

Night view of Louvre Museum
Then we went to the Louvre Museum to wait for the sun to set, and took some night pictures of the "pyramid". We came back to this museum the next day early in the morning, spent a couple of hours visiting before going for another round of rahmen. Those 2 Japanese rahmen were perhaps the best we have had before in Europe, and there were inexpensive (7-10 Euro). After filling up the stomach we went to the Arc de Triumph and shopped around the famous street, The Avenue des Champs-Élysées. Before departing to London the next day, we spent some time at the Montmartre and the fun part was trying hard to avoid those "bracelet tying experts".

Greenwich Meridian
Arriving at London in the evening, we were informed by the hotel reception that there is a large shopping mall called Westfield nearby. Without second thought, we rushed there for our dinner and were amazed by what it has in this complex. We had Nando's since 10 months ago (also at London) and spent some time surfing Internet in the mall (since there was no wifi in the hotel). We spent our second day around Leicester square and had dim sum as our lunch. Found Thai durians at only 8 pounds and also visited M&M for some goodies. Then finally visited Harrods that we have missed last time and were astonished by the grandness of this department store. We decided at night to go to Greenwich the next day and it was a completely satisfied day trip.

Penang! restaurant
First we went to Canary Wharf which is like Wall Street in the States in terms of function, and feels like Odaiba in Tokyo in terms of the view. Moving to the south we have visited a farm with lots of animals to play with. From there we walked through the Greenwich Foot Tunnel (under the Thames river) to Greenwich where we have visited some museums and the Royal observatory and most importantly Greenwich Meridian which defines the zero of the Longitude.

On the way back we went to a Chinese restaurant and had a simple dinner with sour spicy soup, wan tan soup, roasted duck and fried vegetable. We realised that there is a filming going on nearby our hotel and stopped there watching for a while. Hopefully we will find out which film it is next year since it looks like a big budget filming. On the final day, we have decided to try out Penang! restaurant at Westfield and have ordered Curry Laksa and steamed Siakap fish and Teh tarik. The foods turned out quite good and the prices were reasonable. Then we went to Victoria and had our dinner in a Spanish restaurant which is included in our Wicked theater tickets. Great dinner and excellent performance of the Wicked!

Manneken Pis (Warning! It is really small)

Grand Place
The next day morning we had a very trip to Brussels (90 mins transfer time) before going to Amsterdam. After spending some time lining up at the tourist information counter, we managed to get a map of Brussels city and also the estimated time from the station to the main attractions. After depositing our luggages, we rushed towards the famous Manneken Pis (a small kid peeing) and Gross Markt. The place was filled with lots of tourists and artistic buildings, and also a couple of expensive waffle cake shops (about 4.5 euro with strawberries and cream). We managed to come back to the station on time and grabbed a box of Godiva chocolate.

Typical photo of Amsterdam canals

"I amsterdam"
Arriving at our hotel after spending an hour figuring out the transport system in Amsterdam (which in the end pretty much the same as in Zurich, but with gates). Decided to have buffer dinner they offer and it was fantastic. With about 25 euros, we had something that cost more than 300 chf in Zurich, and we still can't believe it. The next day we have visited some famous places like the dam square (and had a box of freaking huge french fries), the flower market (colorful and wonderful!), and went to Heineken experience (main factory until 1980s) to learn about beer brewing and of course had a few glasses of Heineken! 
Windmill at Zaanse Schans

Wonderful flower market
The next day we went to Zaanse Schans, a village where the windmills are still working. On our way there, we have met an artist who is working there and he has been learning Chinese himself and from the tourists. It was fun chatting with him and we have bought 1 of his drawings (he better becomes the next Picasso! LOL). Since it is a village and not so crowded with the tourists, we could really enjoy the scene there and felt really relaxed. We had even the chance to rent bicycles and cycled around the village. Visited as well the cheese factory and Clog (wooden shoe) factory, we were amazed at how many types of wooden shoes they can make. I had the impression that it is going to be very painful to wear those shoes but it turns out it is not the case and they are water-proof and very warm to wear. 

Returning to the Amsterdam station, we had a canal city cruise and it was extremely worth the $$. And then we had our once/twice a year KFC! Oh, hot and spicy! On the last day finally I found the "must eat" raw Herring fish (Mackerel with onions and pickled cucumber). My first immediate response after eating was ..... Penang asam laksa!