Monday, December 10, 2007
A Greener Way to Italy
So last week I was in Genoa for the SAMT 2007 conference, a very good review of the work going on across Europe's universities to develop the technologies to allow people and computers to make sense of content in any format. Fascinating highlights included a great deal of work now coming up in the semantics of 3-d shapes, and a whole new language to allow interactive markup of music, MX. I actually missed the industry day, which was a mistake because the academic stuff, while great, is still way ahead of anything we have the infrastructure to support or provide services on to our audiences. Still I did get one thing right- I traveled there and back by train!
Brighton-London, London-Paris, Paris-Ventimiglia, Ventimiglia-Genova on the way out, and Genova-Milan, Milan-Paris, Paris-London, and London-Brighton home on Saturday. Lots of learnings from this: The new StPancras is much better than the old Waterloo for departures (light and airy and well designed) but rather worse for arrivals, having an overlong and annoyingly tortuous exit. Not all TGVs are equal- the one from Paris to the Riviera is a modern double decker that's fantastically swift and very well maintained, but the Milan to Paris one is a bit of a clunker with stinky chemical loos. Almost all the TGV lines have slow bits, especially at the far end from Paris. In fact, they turn into stopper services in Italy. It can be expensive compared to flying, because you eat more on the way, get through more magazines, batteries etc. (I'd need a bigger music player, or better low bit rate codec, if I did that trip again). It really feels like traveling- when you fly it's like being teleported between airports, and the space in between doesn't exist. On the train, and especially with multiple stops, the journey is one of constant transition and change. Landscape, language and culture are all churning over as you go, and it really is landscape too! I do love the look of the land and sea on a god flight- I've had some extraordinary flights over the Alps, the mountains of New Zealand, and over the far northern Atlantic, but traveling through a real place is rather different.
Tips- Take spare batteries. More spares. Give yourself about forty five minutes to an hour for every changeover. Any less can get a bit sketchy and un-nerving. Avoid sandwiches on trains. Do try the hot chocolate on TGVs. Don't bother hiring a PSP on a TGV, the games selection is rubbish. Don't expect to be able to charge your laptop- power coverage is very variable (2 of 18 coaches on any Eurostar have it, none of the TGVs I was on did, but half the Italian local trains did). Enjoy yourself, take in the scenery and lie back. It's a trip!