Monday, March 26, 2007

Paris Day 3

Our third day in Paris did not start off well. Some of us woke up late. However, the bus also arrived late [due to traffic]. Then, some of us did not bring passports along and were denied entry on our high security visit, which was a shame as the visit was excellent.

First, we visited SNECMA, a company involved in defence technologies. It produces telecommunications equipment for the military [through Sagem] and is the sole rocket engine producer for both civilian and military rockets. We were brought around by a very experienced engineer from the company, with an impeccable command of English.

Of course, we started off with a light breakfast of cookies and drinks. As we were running a little late, he gave us a quick overview of the company operations and rocket engine technology. Then, we were given a tour of the museum where we saw some very interesting prototypes, including the original rocket engine built by captured German engineers during WW2.

After that, we were brought to their testing facility where we were shown the testing room. We were quite lucky as there was an engine in the test facility that day. So, we got to see how the engine was hooked up and prepared for a test. As he was an engineer, he was very quick in answering all of our technical questions, of which there were many.

Although we had to pay for our own lunch, it was fairly cheap. I picked up another three course meal for neary EUR 6. Those of use without passports were allowed to join the rest of the group for lunch. I didn't want to ask how they had spent their morning as I saw Chrissie crying when she was told that she wouldn't be allowed in.

Then, we scooted off to our next visit, EADS (European Aeronautic Defence and Space) at Les Mureaux. Surprisingly, security here wasn't as tight and everyone was allowed in. There weren't any electrified fences here, unlike at SNECMA. Unfortunately, we were given the tour by a marketing type, who couldn't answer our technical queries. However, we were lucky enough to see the assembly process of the Ariane 5. There were three rockets and separate stages of assembly, in the line, during our visit.

At the end of the visit, it was already late and we met up with some of our hosts, who brought us to Saint Michel for a nice meal. This was my first exposure to cheese fondue. Oh my goodness, it was extremely sinful but good! We went to a restaurant at Rue de la Huchette, where they had this weird tradition of smashing plates on the road to show how cheap they are. The dinner was so filling and cheap that we had trouble mopping it all up.

*** photo: cheese fondue!! yummy!!! ***

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