Saturday, 31 October 2009

Virtual reality

One of the highlights of a visit to the abbey of Cluny is the 3D film shown as part of the visit. But (I think as part of the Cluny 2010 celebrations) the Cluny abbey is introducing more things to show what the abbey looked like before the French revolution. One of the latest things introduced recently are screens which display “virtual reality”.
The screens are a sort of LCD screens, approx. 50 cm wide and 1 m tall, standing on a pole. The screens can be turned by the spectators. What one sees on the screen is what one would haven seen in the days the abbey was still there. The view changes when the screen is turned. in French these screens are called “bornes”, which meens something like milestones. The first one was installed in the remaining part of the transept. This one can be turned 360 degrees, and shows the views inside the church from the transept.
In the past the abbey was protected by walls, gates and towers. one of these towers is the Tour des Fromages, whis is located on Cluny’s main street. recently a second borne has been installed in the attic of this tower. It follows the same concept. the moment the screen is turned slightly, the view changes. The interesting feature is, that when one comes close enough to the screen to see the week market at the foot of the tower, the same market, and the people walking around it, are shown on the screen. Only the background of the market has changed to the abbey in pre-revolutionary days.
To me this is a stunning piece of modern virtual reality technique, and it certainly adds something to a visit of the abbey and of the tower (which requires a separate ticket). Apart from this Virtual Reality screen is the tower worth a visit in its own right. The access to the tower is inside the Office the Tourisme, and the wooden stairs are extremely steep. Once having climbed the stairs, one finds an attic with big holes in the walls (no windows) which allow stunning views of Cluny and surroundings. And one can take pictures of the lovely panoramas without being hindered by the glare of glass.

The website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Pidgin German

Ever tried to translate some English prose into a language one hardly masters? Based on one’s education (in my case 1 year + 2 years German in various schools) and experience (none) this is not necessarily a doddle. When I was young, having a C or D for German was still seen as a belated act of resistance, hence why bother working hard to boost your knowledge of the German language?
Anyway, recently I wanted to post something in German on the Internet. A friend of mine, an ex-teacher (in German) agreed to take out the blatant errors, on the condition that this was going to be a one-off. This was my first encounter with German since the sixties. Was it sheer arrogance that made me revive the idea to have our website in English, Dutch, French and …. German?
I will not bore my readers with a detailed run down on my struggle with declinations, three genders, conjugations, four grammatical cases, uppercase for nouns, etc. What I would like to make clear is that some obsolete dictionaries and an ancient grammar book are not really sufficient for a smooth, quick and adequate translation, no matter how one simplifies the original text. Luckily there is a vast array of tools available on the Internet, and cross referencing with Wikipedia in Dutch, English, French and German, using Google to search for a word one assumes exists, and using the German Wiktionary helps tremendously. Still, it is a heavy task to produce something that does not automatically results in a declaration of war, as soon as a German reads the final product.
After three days of hard and concentrated work we now have a German website. Someone might actually remark that there are free translation programs available, such as Babelfish. To show the “quality” of those programs, I will translate the previous sentence from English to German and back to English again, using Babelfish.
1. Someone might actually remark that there are free translation programs available, such as Babelfish.
2. Jemand konnte, dass es die vorhandenen Programme der freien Übersetzung gibt, wie Babelfish wirklich erwähnen.
3. Someone could that there are the existing programs of the free translation, how Babelfish really mention.

Of course this a fictitious, and not completely fair test; however it certainly shows that free translators do not produce much more than pidgin German. I am convinced, that my translation is full of errors. However, read out aloud, with the right Prussian accent, it certainly sounds like German!
Mit freundlichen Grüßen, Käse aus Holland.

The website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle

Saturday, 3 October 2009

The local Chinese

One of the returning questions from friends and relatives is “What do you really miss in France?”. Most are thinking along the lines of Dutch delicacies like raw herring, but one of the things I missed most is the ordinary Chinese-Indonesian restaurant, which you will be able to find even in a small Dutch village. Around here there are some Chinese restaurants, but most of them are originally Vietnamese, which nowadays have taken on board Chinese and Thai food. We have tried a few, in Mâcon and Chalon, but the quality of the food was, to say it kindly, not impressive. When we were renovating the house, we went regularly to Crèches-sur-Saône, because that was where the nearest building merchant was. Almost all shops close between 12 and 2 o’clock, and of course one day we forgot, and were there just past 12. However, we had seen a sign nearby, saying “La Route de Chine, buffet à volonté”, and we decided to have lunch there in stead of driving half an hour back and return around 2 o’clock. That turned out to be a very lucky gamble indeed. The buffet à volonté (eat as much as you like) offered a very good choice of proper Chinese food; the quality was good and the price was very reasonable (€ 11.00 without drinks). After that event we tried to plan our trips to the building merchant in such away, that we could have lunch in Crèches as well. But all good things come to an end, such as the renovation and hence our visits to Crèches. However, we had to go to Mâcon regularly, because Mâcon is the seat of many offices important to us: the prefecture, the health insurance, the tax office, etc. On one of our trips we noticed another sign, saying “Palais d’Asie, buffet à volonté”; thinking of our good experiences with “La Route de Chine” we decided to give this one a try as well. That was definitely the end of our visits to Crèches. The choice in Mâcon was not only bigger, but the quality of the food was even better, and the price (in those days) was € 10.00 for a lunch. Since then the prices have been raised first to € 11.00, and recently lowered to € 10.50 (prices in the evening and week-end tend to be slightly higher). To give an impression of the assortment: there are 6 warm starters, 2 kinds of suhi, 2 kinds of dim sum, 4 sauces and various types of salad available. There are 8 hot meat, fish or shell fish dishes, which can be eaten with Cantonese rice, white rice, fried noodles, vegetables and even French fries. The desserts are various fruit salads, 5 kinds of ice cream and cake. In a word, there is something for everybody. Nowadays we plan our visits strategically around lunch time. And as far as the original question is concerned; the Chinese has been scrapped off the list, and is replaced by something that is really not available in France : an ordinary Dutch snackbar!

The website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle