Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Un Voyage Extraordinaire

The green meadows of the French countryside dotted with grazing cattle and golden rolls of hay looked like a delightfully serene painting. The deep blue waters of the Gulf of Morbihan stirred gently in playful contemplation as a solitary jellyfish drifted past a stretch of oyster farms. Close by, a charming old mansion stood tall on its own private little island. It was an island so tiny that you could walk around it in less than an hour. And, rather peculiarly, it would cease to be an island, when the tide fell, for a meandering road would surface restoring its connectivity to the mainland. Somewhere inside the mansion a lecture on medical imaging was in progress. And there I was seated in the lecture hall scribbling notes after being jolted out of my jet lag by one too many shots of French espresso!
It was all part of a two-week summer school program on medical imaging under the IEEE EMBS. We were housed on the the little island called Île  de Berder, fed lavish servings of fresh seafood, and instructed by some of the smartest minds in medical imaging. Sounds like stuff that dreams are made of, doesn't it?


Île de Berder is located in La Bretagne, better know as Brittany, a region in northwestern France known for its heavily Celtic culture. The school program included arrangements for some exciting activities such as sailing and kayaking in the Gulf of Morbihan, tours to several nearby towns including Vannes and Auray, and a simulation of Brittany's traditional dance festival, Fest Noz (Breton for night festival). Here are some photos of my Breton adventure. 
Île de Berder at high tide. A ferry takes you to the island.
At low tide, however, the island is accessible from the mainland by foot!
We went sailing in the Golfe du Morbihan (Gulf of Morbihan). I was on a black/red boat. The other half of our group was on this black/blue boat I photographed while we were out there in the waters.  
At the start of the voyage, the captain lays out his map and explains to the crew (that would be us) the travel plan.
C'est moi, in charge of the rudder

One of the many hay rolls we spotted around the mainland.
Oyster farming
Auray, a small town in Brittany
Timber houses near the center of the town
The old city wall of Vannes
Menhirs/Megaliths at Carnac (Remember Obelix?)


Once I got done with summer school, I spent a couple of days in Paris. I toured around the city touching all its celebrated monuments, spent hours exploring the fabulous collections at the Louvre, and had the fantastic experience of watching the Eurocup 2008 final (where Spain made history defeating Germany) in a sports bar packed with an ebullient French crowd. 
All in all, it was a most extraordinary trip! Here are some shots I took in the French capital. The full collection of photos are here
La Tour Eiffel
Arc de Triomphe
Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris
Rear view of the Notre Dame with the famous flying buttresses
Pont Neuf over the Seine
La Basilique du Sacré Coeur 
Moulin Rouge
The magnificent Apollo gallery at the Louvre
In chronological order from left to right: Hammurabi's code, Venus de Milo, Mona Lisa, and a full-size modern statue of a suicidal man
Mesopotamian bulls

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