3rd day in Paris

Mona Lisa

Today we went to the Louvre, but first we had to collect the tickets that we bought over the internet. We had to wait 20 minutes to get them, because there were only two staff members at the tourist information on a day where Paris is flooded with tourists. Well in the end we got there and had to queue again for the security check. Still it was rather quick to get in. Without Ticket you wait ages.. just as a recommendation… buy them before and … even better, get them sent to you by post. It really saves time.

Like probably ninety percent of the people we directly went to see the Mona Lisa and I was shocked how crowded it was. You basically have to fight your way through to see the painting properly. Look at a copy in a book and you will have more time

Crowd infront of the Mona Lisa

and quiet to enjoy it. The masses of people are really stressful and nothing for old or disabled people, as the crowd is really pushing forward.

Frau mit Skorpion

There are so many fantastic pieces of art, and most people rush through the rooms and do not take the time to really appreciate the exhibits. I really liked the angle like victory statue in the staircase to the Greek execution.

After the louvre we went shopping in the area around the Hôtel de Ville. It rained a lot and therefore it was the best alternative if you did not have the time to go to another museum.

We went to a small gallery “59rivoli” though that had new artists in there. It was their workplace and you could either just look at the pieces or even buy them directly from them. Most of the time there were two artists per floor and the whole house had five floors. It was all modern art, and some nice and interesting pieces. I especially liked an artist who did pictures with rust.

In the evening our legs were hurting, also because of our trip yesterday and we had diner in a small Turkish grill. The second full day really made us tired. So, if you do the trip… take it at a slower pace unless you are really fit…

2nd Day in Paris

Sacré-Cœur

First some statistics and if you stay longer than we do I don not recommend this… We walked 23,5km and were totally exhausted at the end of the day. Because of the bad weather forecast we tried to do the outdoor activities first and then the indoor sights like the Louvre.

Starting from our hotel we went for a French breakfast, which is, by the way, and unusual for Germans who love big breakfasts, not more than a coffee and a croissant. Up the hill we reached Sacré-Cœur which is already nice from the outside but really nice from the inside. All the impressive mosaics make this church worth the while. Many people, especially in Summer, have breakfast on the steps down to the city, where you have a nice view over the town.

Moulin Rouge

We then went down, through the quartier, to the moulin rouge. The area is a bit like the Reeperbahn in Hamburg and then again no. A lot of sex shops and bars, shows… The Reeperbahn is more intense and concentrated than the area along the moulin rouge.

We walked down to the opera and passed the “Galleries Lafayette”. Like many old big shops like Harrods and the KDW in Berlin Lafayette has a nice architecture. The belle epoch style in the middle of the building is worth having a look.

We passed by the opera which is a really nice and impressive building. I would have loved to have seen an opera there, but I’m not a fan of Wagner and therefore I skipped that. If you walk straight on, then you reach the Louvre, and that is what we did. We Walked through the Tuileries to the place de la concord. There you have a nice view to the Eiffel Tower.

Eiffel Tower

As midday was approaching we walked across the bridge and walked to the area next to the chaps de mars and bought a baguette, by the way, the best baguette we had in Paris, and some wine. We walked to the Eiffel Tower and ate and drank on a bench in the sun. Watching the people was interesting and better than any TV show. Yes, there are some street merchants that want to sell copies of the Eiffel Tower, but it is not as bad as if you came from the side of the seine. It was really nice. We had not bought tickets for the Tower in advance and therefore did not go up. The queue was really long and only moving very slowly. After the view from Sacré-Cœur we thought it cannot be that much better.

Continue reading 2nd Day in Paris

Trip to Paris

We went from our home town to Cologne to finally enter the Thalys to Paris. Before that we had something to eat at “Dean & David” which was ok but not the best food to my opinion. I had far better curries in the past. We also went to get a car too expensive coffee at Starbucks… which was a mistake. We really lost time though that. On the train platform we had the usual Cologne train station chaos. At one time I had the feeling three trains were on the same platform and I was kind of annoyed with the uncertainty whether the train would really leave from that platform. In the end it all worked and we were finally in the train.
The TGV or Thalys is kind of old fashioned but it was still comfortable and fast.
We reached Paris and walked to the hotel. If you reach Gard de Nord like we did, then Montmartre is a good choice to stay. Unfortunately, it was too late to go out for the evening.

Comments in SWIFT and markups

When you start programing in a new language then writing a comment into code is probably not what you want to learn in the fist few hours. Booooring one could say. Yes comments are not sexy when you have to write them but it is extremely NICE if you have them once the program is some months old and you want to modify something. I tell you… I programmed without comments in my first few Visual Basic programs and it took me longer to understand what I did then, than to probably code it in the first place.

So comments not sexy but extremely useful later on.

We learned how nice comments are, or maybe you have to learn it the hard way like I did, and now I quickly tell you the way to write them in SWIFT

With “//” you start a single line comment.

Example:
————————————–
/ This is a single line comment in SWIFT
—————————————
With “/*” you start a multi line comment and you end it with “*/”
Example:
—————————————-
/* This is a comment that you write over
more than one line */
—————————————-
If you really love comments and you want to document your code properly, then you should use the markup language that is provided to show well structured comments in the quick help section. It also shows comments when you ⌥ + “click” on a function.

It would take far too long to repeat everything that can be written about the mark up language so I enter the link here to apples reference document for markups.

link to the Apple markup reference

Programing in SWIFT

When I got my first PC I taught myself to code a bit in Basic. I only played with some small programs and ended in programming a poor adventure game (one like in the early times where you had to type what the character was supposed to do).
Then ages ago in 1996 I had to code in “Turbo Pascal” at school. It was a engineering focussed school, so it was all about sorting algorithms and in the end also a small control program to adjust a satellite dish to the angle and direction in a test. Somehow I lost interest in coding then.

I did not code anymore and only two years ago I started to code in “Visual Basic for Excel” as it helps me a lot in my tasks at work.

Coding now came back to my attention and I thought to myself whether I should learn to code again. Not Visual Basic, but a real programming language.

It was the time of Apple announcing SWIFT in 2014 and I was struggling to decide to learn C++ or SWIFT.

After a lot of pro and con arguments for each programing language I decided to go for SWIFT. I simply feel as if it is the language to learn at the moment. It will get very popular for all mobile platforms and maybe even one day relevant for the gaming or business software industry.
I have not ambition to get a professional coder or software engineer, but I love to be able to code and understand the concepts and what happens in all these small programs that you can by in app stores and maybe even one day program one by myself.
I’ll be posting my progress and some articles about the language…

My intention for me is also to have my own coding reference where I can look up things that I already did once before, but maybe forgot about.

Small update on the house

We finally moved into our new house at the end of July 2017. It took us roughly four months to do the interior of the house. We did some fundamental changes to the house. Removed walls, replaced all the windows, did new floors and painted all walls.

We also got ourselves a nice new kitchen and a new bathroom.
Now I must say that we have a beautiful home with a lot of space. Space is something we have plenty of now both in and outside of the house. And that is why we now have a new hobby… Gardening.

The last steps for phase one of redoing the house is that now the house gets repainted and our house extension as well as the garage gets a new wooden surface.
Once the exterior is also finished I’ll post some images from inside and outside the house.

We bought a house!

Why buying a house?

We love Cologne! We live in a nice part of Cologne next to a park, close to the Zoo, not far to the city centre and to a public swimming pool. The Kindergarten is just opposite of our house and I can go to work by train as the main station is not too far away. It sounds like the perfect place to live, but the flat has not enough space for the four of us. It started when we had to give up the office room to turn it into a children’s room. We are happy to have two kids and we managed to integrate the office into the living room by using intelligently designed furniture. Now as both kids get older the want to have more space and maybe some garden arises. So we decided that we wanted to by a house.

Buying a house

Buying a house in Germany and especially in the greater areas of big cities is a rather tiresome task. We searched nearly 2 years until we found a house that was almost the one we wanted.

How to find a house in Germany?

Yes I said almost, because one of the first opinions that we had to through over board was the though of finding our dream house. My wife and I split the search area in two, as it was too hard to search both areas alone. Later I’ll explain why.

My wife was responsible to search in the area of Bad Honnef near Bonn and myself for the southern part of Cologne. At that time I was still convinced that I want to stay in Cologne with our family so I took that part of the searching Job.

So what we did and that worked really well for us was, that we searched in the German web-based housing platforms like www.immobilienscout24.de or www.immowelt.de.

Most of the houses that are for sale have several ways of contacting the agent or the seller. You can use all of them, but what I recommend is to call. Email and web-based contacts are simply to slow. If you found a really nice house, then you are probably not the only one interested. So to be fast, look into the platform once a day and contact then agent by phone. Be ready to directly make an appointment to look at the house. Sometimes there is only one date where all interested people can visit and you will have to make time to use that spot. At the moment (2016) it is a seller market. Take it or leave it. Even bad houses somehow find a person who will buy it.
In the end we found a house in Bad Honnef that was most convenient for us as the prices for the house size that we wanted was simply too expensive for us in Cologne or that houses were in such bad shape or the place was not convenient enough.

How to buy a house in Germany?

After finding the house we wanted to buy we had some small negotiations with the seller and he fortunately agreed to give us the house a bit cheaper than he originally asked for. Before that we also went though the house with an expert to see whether there was anything wrong with the construction of the house.
The house was marketed by an agent and so we had to pay around 3.5 % of the house price as a fee for the agent. What we also had to pay were the taxes for buying a house, which are 6.5 % in this part of the country.
In Germany the buyer decides the solicitor who does the contract and so we chose one in Bad Honnef. After reviewing the contract from both parties we met with the sellers at the solicitors place and signed the contract.
There are some formalities like some background checks on the house that we had to pay for. Finally also the solicitor wanted 1.5% of the selling price. Basically we had to calculate 13% on top of the buying price to cover all the costs.

Even though it was a very exiting and stressful time we are now happy to have signed the contract.

Now we will start renovating the house the way we like it starting April 2017. I’ll keep you posted 🙂

Monte Baldo

monte_baldo1We felt like going into the mountains a bit. As we thought it was too much for the kids and we were not well equipped enough we decided to go for a cable car ride to the top of Monte Baldo. With only 40 minute car ride it was not too far away from Costermano and we were early enough to get into the first car park.

The prices were rather expensive. The tickets are 20 € for adults and 8 € monte_baldo2for our older daughter (5 years). So all in all not a cheap trip, but…well we’re on holidays… We got the tickets quite fast, but then the rather small queue to the cable car turned out to be a slow one. After several turns of “I spy with my little eye” and already annoyed kids we finally got onto the cable car. Even though I do not know why there needs to be middle station, there is one. There are some houses but no one really leaves the way uphill. The second part of the cable car ride was really nice as we could look over a huge part of the Lago di Garda. The small one of our two girls did not like it as she thought it was much too high. The car turns 360 degrees on it’s way up the hill, so even she did not have to bear the deep view all the way of the ride.

monte_baldo3On the mountaintop you have nice view into the Dolomite Alps and over the Lake. We only walked a short round to the chairlift, which comes up from the other side of the mountain.

If you like mountain biking or love to hike, than this a trip worth taking. After the mandatory ice cream for the older daughter, the younger daughter was sleeping in the monte_baldo4backpack for carrying children, we headed back down the mountain with the cable car.
Reaching the bottom we saw that the queue was really long by now and I really petty the ones who were still standing in line. It must have taken then hours to get up the mountain.

Mental note…”it is not so bad that your kids are early birds”.

Venice

Venice1Venice is about two hours away from Costermano, so it is a nice opportunity to go there at least for a day. Obviously it can be just a first impression, but never the less we tried a trip with the kids. It is a dream for a lot of people to once have visited Venice in their lifetime. A dream city it is, if you can block out the tourists who are everywhere. If you want to save some money you should park your car in the Via dei petroli. The parking costs 4.50 € per day which is a good price. You pay 26 € for a day at the Piazza le roma. Form the main road you take a bus for 1.50 € the bus to the piazza le roma. From there you can start exploring Venice.

We decided to walk via the Mercarto di Rialto, the Ponte di Rialto to the Piazza di San Marco.Venice3

If you need to refill your water supplies there is a good COOP Supermarket on the square around the Church San Giacomo dell’ Orio. Supermarkets are hard to find in the town which consists only of tourists or tourist related businesses. It must be hard for the real Venetians. If you like fruits or sea food, the Mercato di Rialto is your place to go. Our kids loved to see some of the Sea food as originals (without being cooked). On the market the dustmen and the respective ship were an interesting thing, too. In the end our kids called Venice “the wrong way round city” as everything is different here. An other highlight was an ambulance that speeded though the Canale Grande.
Venice2The Rialto Bridge is a bottleneck in the tourist flow through the city. It was so crouded that nearly nothing was moving anymore. An annoyed Venitian shouted “keep walking, keep walking” and the sluggish mass of tourists started to move and nagged about being advised to move.

The place in front of the Basilica of San Marco is incredible. One can really imagine how rich and powerful the city must have been. If you have the time spend a week there. It is worth it.

On our way back we used the water bus. We took the rout number one as it took us all the way along the Canale Grande and we got to see the city another time from the waterside. If you are in a hurry, then take number two, which is faster as it has fewer stops. The trip with route number one took us at least half an hour.

Venice is truly magical and we will come again when the kids are bigger and appreciate the cultural facets of Venice.

Sirmione

Sirmione_castle
Castle of Sirmione

An other “not at the pool day” for us and we decided to only have a short trip… so we went to Sirmione the tourist magnet on the southern side of the “Lago die Garda”.
In the part of Sirmione, which dates back to the middle ages, is located to the south of the island. We entered just like everyone over the drawbridge. Directly to the right there is the castle, which can be visited but is probably boring for children. We went through the narrow alleys and looked at the village. Unfortunately not only the visitors but also the cars need to go through these alleys which makes it stressful sometimes to walk with kids.

Sirmione_wineWe had a very good ice cream and you have at least tree ice cream spots around you when you walk the first few hundred meters. A lot of tourists try to make a challenge out of getting the biggest ice cream. Two guys we saw had ice cream cones that were over 30 cm high. I’d think that was more than half a litre ice cream. One of the two was at least seventy and I had the strong feeling that he just fulfilled his childhood dream of the biggest ice cream ever.

Also this time being early was a good decision. The small village was flooded with tourists and at the entrance to the town a traffic chaos started as there were not enough parking spaces close to the town.

SirmioneTake my advice and try to be there until ten o’clock. Then you should be save in getting a reasonable parking spot and also the temperatures are still o.k.! Then use the afternoon for swimming.