Monthly Archives: mai 2008

Extended Weekend: Loire Valley

Posted by on mai 14, 2008
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To visit the Loire Valley, you’re better off to stay in one of the big cities, Tours and Blois.

The road from Paris to Tours is quite good. The downside there are many route changes and the itinerary has some toll portions. It will probably take you about 2 hours to get there. Blois is on this route, about 1h30 from Paris.

We have chosen to stay in Tours and get there by TGV. The trip takes little over an hour from Paris Montparnasse and 59 minutes from Massy. Unfortunately there are only a few trains that go in the Tours main station. Most of them stop in a small station on the outskirts of the city, and from there you have to take a regional train. Besides, the trains are a little old. It’s not particularly pleasant to hear the outer shell strongly vibrate at 300km/h.

To get to Blois, and even to Tours if you would like to save some money, you can take some classic trains from Paris Austerlitz. The trip takes about 2h to Blois and 30 more minutes to Tours.

To get around the valley the best is to have a car. If you don’t, you have to get around with local trains (TER) or with local buses. The trains are fast and quite expensive, while the buses are slow, cheap and few and far apart. Be careful, in the weekends the transport sucks (there are fewer trains and no buses).



The Loire Valley has accommodations for all the budgets, from campings and the cheapest hostels to 5***** palaces and even reconverted castles. Tours is in the center of the region so it will probably be your first choice, but Blois has its own charm and nothing compares with the experience you will have if you decide to spend some days in one of the villages in the region.


The castles

I grouped the castles by their region. You should be able to visit all the castles in a group during a single day, without running to much.

Chenonceau and Amboise

Chenonceau and Amboise are placed more or less on the route between Tours and Blois. The first castle I visited, Chenonceau remained my favourite. It was built in the 16th century and it is called „Le chateau des Dames” (The Ladies’ Castle) because it was owned by the wife (Catherine de Medicis) and the mistress (Diane de Poitiers) of the French king Henri II. The castle spreads over the Cher River, so the view is guaranteed from the ball room, which is over 60m long. The domain and the gardens are pretty impressive, although not comparable with the ones at Versailles.

Amboise is different. It was built from an old fortress and the successive kings added new buildings or destroyed old ones, so the current castle is formed from 2 very different wings. This castle gave me a very pleasant surprise, as it was the only one which had a brochure in Romanian. Unfortunately, neither the castle nor the domain were impressive.

Entry fees were 10 euros in full, 7,50 euros for students at each castle.



Blois, Chambord et Cheverny

The Blois castle is the most intriguing of them all. It’s made from 3 different wings, of which the most beautiful is unfinished. It has an impressive side on the road and an interesting collection of weapons.

Chambord is arguably the most famous castle of them all. It’s a huge royal palace surrounded by an endless park. The village of Chambord is practically a touristic attraction in itself, being pretty much unchanged from the 17th century. This castle houses the famous double helix staircase, by which 2 people could see each other but never meet.

Tickets for students are 5 euros at Blois and 7,5 at Chambord.



Chinon et Langeais

Chinon is more of a fortress than a castle. It’s made of three distinct parts separated by ditches. It’s currently undergoing a huge restauration which will see the main tower rebuilt from scratch. This decision is unfortunate, in my opinion, as it takes most of the charm of the castle. Chinon also has a museum dedicated to Jeanne d’Arc.

Langeais is a small castle not to far from Chinon. It’s the castles where Charles II and Anne de Bretagne married, making Bretagne a part of France. The most interesting thing here is the drawbridge, which is lowered each morning.



Luynes et Tours

Luynes is a private residence and can only be visited with a guide. Its charm is given by the small histories told by the guide and the many family pictures. It’s placed in a suburb of Tours and you can get there by bus.

The Tours castle is the city’s art museum. I personally found it totally uninteresting.




Well, there isn’t really an alternative to the many castles in the Loire Valley. Perhaps the English countryside? If you know an area with such a high concentration of castles, please let me know.



Wordcamp Paris

Posted by on mai 03, 2008
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I’m currently at Wordcamp Paris, in a wonderful little club called La Cantine. I’ll try to kkep you posted with what’s happening here, just in case at some point in the future there will be something like this in Bucharest.

10:50 I finnaly arrived at La Cantine. It’s pretty well hidden in a small passageway. The organizers had everything ready, from the stickers and badges to the coffee. 🙂

11:10 People are still coming in.. I don’t think we’ll get under way just yet…

11:45 Here we go. It seems this meeting has been in the making for about 2 years. The idea of a barcamp is apparently that everybody talks about what they want, as long as they don’t interrupt the others. 🙂

12:00 Everybody is expressing their expectations from this meeting. It appears that soon the presentations will be chosen and grouped, then there will be a break. The conferences will begin at 14:00 hours.

12:10 The presentations are over, how there is a little organizing going on…

12:25 It’s almost time for a pause 😀 So, unless something changes, I’ll be coverig the following:

  • 14h – Plug-in 101
  • 15h – Open ID
  • 16h – if i’ll still be around, WP & Video or WP & mobile (hard to choose :P)

14:07 The presentation about plug-ins is jut about to start…

14:15 There are 2 main categories of participants: the developers which want to have a technical discussion and the users that want to learn the plug-ins basics. We will begin by telling the latter what a plug-in is, than hopefully finish on a more technical note.

14:30 Until now, there were just discussions about different plug-ins. We’re finally getting to the more techincal stuff. One of the guys here pointed out the difference between the ratings and the performance – a very well rated plug-in could work perfectly for small sites but crash on professional sites.

14:45 Different tips and tricks on how to test the plug-ins…

15:00 This session is now over. Vivement OpenID.

15:15 Wow… the French representative of the OpenID consortium is here. Impressive.

15:17 OpenID = Identity provider (like Yahoo or any WordPress site) + an OpenId Compatible Site. The identity isfragmented.

15:25 Plug-ins used for commenting with openID: wp-openID and wp-yadis. To be my own openID provider: php myID.

15:35 The big identity providers tend to push for openID in order to get personal informations on their user. Or at least so say some of the participants…

15:45 Different openID demos..

That’s about it with Wordcamp for me… See you at the next meeting 🙂

Extended Weekend: London

Posted by on mai 01, 2008
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There are three ways to get from Paris to London:

  • the plane – there are three companies operating flights between the two cities: Air France, British Airways and Easyjet. The price difference between „normal” and „low-cost” airlines is minimal. This is the method we chose as it is simple and cheaper than the train if you book at the last minute. The flight takes an hour, but you must be at the airport at least an hour before the takeoff. If you have more time, it might be cheaper to go by train to Tours and take a Ryanair flight from there.
  • the train – the Eurostar, that is. The trip takes about 2 and a half hours, you get to see more than from the plane, but it’s incredibly expensive if you don’t book a long time ahead.
  • the ferry – there are several companies with ferry services from Dover to Calais, with prices starting at 13 euros per passenger. You could argue that this is the cheapest way to go to London, but it’s also the longest, as you have to come with commuting times from the ferry terminal to the railway stations.

As an interesting observation, it must be said that a flight from Bucharest to London (which takes almost 4 hours) is just 25% more expensive than a flight from Paris to London (1h).

London is a huge city, with thousands of hotels and hostels. Nevertheless, if you don’t book in time you might have trouble finding cheap hotels. We stayed at Charlie’s Bed and Breakfast, an interesting little hotel in northern London recommended by our predecessors at Supelec. It was a very comfortable room with old-fashioned bed covers and high colorful windows. It was all very clean and you could find lots of tourist information near the reception. The only problem was the bathroom, because the window wasn’t closing.


Public museums are free in London, and they’re a lot of them. Near the world famous Harrods shop you have an Art Museum, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum.

Due to the lack of time we only visited the Science Museum – 6 floors of scientific models, games and exhibitions. You could learn anything from the debris found on the bottom of Tamisa to how the Moon lander looked like. Pretty impressive.

The British Museum was another point of interest we couldn’t miss. I personally wanted to compare it to the Louvre, but I found there is no comparison possible. The Louvre tends to put art from the same period together, while the British gathers art by the geographic area it was created in. I wandered about the whole day in the museum but still missed some rooms and overlooked others. If you have the time, go in at least 2 days at the British Museum.



There is a lot to see in London. You can start with a walk along the Thames river, then get on the London Eye to have a aerial view of the British capital and to decide what you want to see. Due to the lack of time, we limited ourselves to Big Ben, the Buckingham Palace (with the guard change, of course) and some commercial avenues.


Most Western European capitals can be easily reached from Paris: Berlin, Madrid, Luxembourg, Bruxelles, Amsterdam… you only have the problem of choice.