Tuesday, July 31, 2012

To Sweden via Finland, Geisha chocolate

After one night in Tokyo I went to Sweden. Me and my friend flew with Finnair, so we got "Geisha" chocolate. The Finnish chocolate maker Fazer has a series of chocolate called Geisha, which apparently Finnair gives out on their flights from Japan. This series of chocolate is quite good, and it is popular in Sweden too.


After one day in Sapporo, I flew to Tokyo with a Japanese friend to stay the night in Tokyo and then get up ridiculously early in the morning and fly to Sweden.

We went to Harajuku to shop for funny t-shirts. I found a guy selling the "salmon eating salmon sushi" t-shirts that I wanted more of, which was nice. I also bought some "Starwars Coffe" (Starbucks parody), "Aji desu" (meaning "this is an aji (a fish)"; a parody of Adidas ("ajidasu" in Japanese), and a t-shirt that says: "I am not Japanese" in Japanese.

A magic bar where the magician was sadly not there on the Sunday we were in Tokyo.
I wanted to go to a magic bar that was close to our hotel, but it turned out that the magician was on vacation so we went back to the hotel instead.

The hotel room had complimentary slippers that were great to use in the airplane the next day!


I flew Sapporo-Tokyo-Paris-Montpellier on July 10. Then I flew Montpellier-Paris-Tokyo-France on July 13 (reaching Sapporo on July 14). I then got to spend one day in Sapporo before flying to Tokyo to spend the night and then get up really early to fly Tokyo-Helsinki-Stockholm.

You might think that going from France to Sweden would be smarter, but our university does not allow combining trips. If you have even one day of non-work somewhere during a trip, they refuse to pay conference fees etc. for you business days too. So I had to fly back to Japan to start my vacation and then go to Europe again.

Shopping and more sightseeing in Montpellier

Church again, this time the inside.
After the conference finished, I went shopping and sightseeing again.

These mannequins were colorful and happy.

I bought a t-shirt that said "good" for a man with one woman, "better" for a man with two women, and "best" for a man playing computer games.

A quite are not so close to the old city center.

A river with a fountain in it.

This wall, and the people sitting on the stairs, are just painted.

France is so hot in the summer that people wear very thin clothing.

Melons cost like a tenth of what they cost in Japan. 

More evidence of clothes being adjusted to the summer heat.

More work

The guy in the hat was also named Jonas, and he presented in the same conference session as me.
Another day, another day of work.

Sightseeing in Montpellier

The wall on this house is painted to look like a fancier house.
The conference ended at around 18:00, so I had the evening free of work and walked around looking at some of the sights in Montpellier.

Montpellier was hot, so many people wore little clothing.

I asked the tourist information if they had any place in Montpellier where people did magic. They told me about a magic shop that was also a magic school. The owner was very nice, but he did not have time to talk to me much because he had many classes where he taught kids how to do magic.

There were even shops selling Japanese things, like geta and yukata.

Plenty of churches, as everywhere in Europe.

More Christian symbols than in Sweden (or Japan, of course, since no one is Christian here).

The was a triumphal arch.

Lots of nice buildings.


Church with live music on the stairs.

More nice buildings.

The opera house.

A carousel close to my hotel.

There were lots of street performers on the big square. This guy did a kinds of juggling. Most performers did break dancing.

More juggling with fire.

The opera house again.

Recommended restaurants, and vacation time

A closed restaurant.
We have a student from Montpellier in our lab in Sapporo, so I asked him to recommend some restaurants.

He recommended a crepe restaurant which was located very close to my hotel. I went there on the first day to have a late meal, but it was closed for summer vacation and would not open until I was long gone from Montpellier.

Another closed restaurant.
Our student also recommended a restaurant that has excellent cheese fondue, and which has underwear from customers stuck to the walls, and which serves ice cream shaped as either tits or penises, depending on the sex of the customer. He also recommended this restaurant to a Canadian professor who was a special invited guest to the conference. Since the Canadian professor did not have much details on where this restaurant was actually located, I suggested we could go together since I had a map. We got there without problems, but it turned out to be ... closed for summer vacation. Until August 20.

A salty crepe, with cheese, egg, and bacon.
We gave up on the recommended restaurants and went to a crepe place that was almost full all the time, with local French people. That would probably mean that it was a good place, we thought. And it was. We had some very nice crepes, both salty ones and sweet ones.

A sweet crepe, with pears and whipped cream.


The conference venue was nice.
I was in Montpellier to present some of my research, so I had to spend most hours of daylight actually working. Here are some pictures taken during work.

This guy used to be in my lab in Sapporo (before I entered the lab, though).

Lunch was served outside, in a park. I got a severe suntan, haha.


French lunch cheese

My name is listed on the door here.

My interesting hotel room in Montpellier

I reached Montpellier in the evening, and it was around 30 degrees Celsius. I found my hotel fairly quickly, and my room was clean and spacious. About twice the size of my apartment in Sapporo. It had air conditioning and wireless Internet that worked without problems. It was also very cheap.

There was a "Sex Shop" on one of the streets outside my window.
The location was great. Very close to the station (though I did not go to the station even once), close to three different tram stations (useful when going to conference venue), and 1 minute walking distance from the old city center, where all the interesting things in Montpellier are found. So there were lots of good restaurants nearby, and many beautiful things to see.
My ridiculously cramped toilet. Shouldn't they have put it in facing the camera instead?
Perhaps there is something important on the other side of the wall that makes the toilet unusable, I though. It turns out to be nothing but empty space, seemingly made just to make the toilet cramped... French architecture.

The drawbacks included being close to the station (noisy trains breaking noisily early in the morning when passing close by), being close to the city center (people partying until three A.M. every night on the street outside my window), having a window that could not be closed (not a problem except for the noise, but combined with point 1) and 2) on the list of bad things, not great), and a toilet that was so close to a wall even a Japanese (who are generally tiny) girl could not have gotten her legs between the toilet and the wall...

The window to the very lively city center could not be closed. Another somewhat questionable design decision.

I managed to explain to the staff in the local pharmacy that I wanted ear plugs, which solved my noise problem.