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Europe '07

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Date: September 15th - October 8th, 2007

The 2007 International Electric Propulsion Conference (IEPC) was held in Florence, Italy. I didn't think I'll get to attend, since the last IEPC turned out to be a big fiasco. And that one was just across the country, in New Jersey! But, some things must have changed, and everybody chairing a session or presenting a paper got to go - about 10 of us total. I was planning on traveling to Europe around this time anyway (to run in the Kosice Marathon), and so the timing worked out perfectly.

I had the travel agent from my company book me the ticket, and she optimized the itinerary based on the price, and not the total travel time. I left Los Angeles at midnight on Friday, and I arrived in Atlanta at 8am, local time. My next flight did not depart until 6pm, so I took the train downtown. I had no idea where to go, but some bum decided to become my tour guide right after I left the metro station. I had few dollar coins in my pocket, and I was more than happy to part with them in exchange for his funny stories. I ended up spending most of the morning in the aquarium. After that, I visited the CNN building, and took a tour of the studios.


A giant whale shark swimming above me in a walk-through tank and another large fish tank.


I arrived in Florence the next day at 11am local time, after a short layover in Milan. I ran into my former advisor, Dr. Wang, at the airport. We split the cab to the hotel, the Baglioni. Pretty much everybody else from my group was already there. I went on a short walk to the Piazza del Duomo and grabbed a snack from a nearby hole-in-the-wall, Doner Kebab. I then lingered in my zombie-like state until Shannon showed up at 4pm.


Piazza del Duomo

The next day we blew off part of the conference, and walked over to the Boboli Gardens located south of the river Arno. The gardens were pretty dumpy, with a lot of decrepit buildings, but it was nice to get away from all the tourist hustle. The views of Florence were also worth the visit.

Piazza Strozzi, located on the way to the Ponte Santa Trinita and the Boboli Gardens.



More pictures from the Piazza


We then walked through some narrow alleys towards the Arno. That's the famous Ponte Vecchio in the background.


Some neat art. Shannon pointed out the face in the horse tie-in.

An art exhibit in the gardens


We walked past this big statue to the remains of an old fort

View of the city from the gardens


Those crazy European traffic signs!


That night the conference organized a banquet at the Stibbert Museum where we got to tour the armory

View of Florence from the roof bar at the Baglioni


The social program for Wednesday afternoon was a trip to Pisa to tour Alta's facilities. Alta is a company working on various electric propulsion applications, and their laboratory setup includes the largest vacuum chamber in the western Europe. From there, we headed to the leaning tower. We were running few minutes late for the scheduled entry, and our conference guide Virginia, an engineering student from the University of Pisa, demonstrated a great ability of stopping traffic by jumping in front of on-coming cars!


The leaning tower of Pisa

Just some artsy photo of a musician by the cathedral



After the sun went down, Alex, Virginia and I took a short walk by the river

The final item in the program was a cocktail reception in the courtyard of one of Pisa's universities. The serving included pasta, deserts and wine. Or maybe, too much wine. About an hour into the cocktail, the Japanese students started chugging wine, glass after glass. There was a bit of wrestling between them, but things didn't get interesting until the bus ride back to Florence. Alex and I were sitting in the last row, right behind the Japanese students. About 15 minutes into the 90 minute ride, there was a loud burp followed by a splatter of vomit bouncing off the bus window. The student right in front of us just threw up! Just as I was thinking that the terrible smell will make me puke as well, another student threw up. And then, the first guy threw up again. It was quite a puke fest!

I would say this guy had a bit too much to drink...

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