The Airbus Shuttle
On my most recent business trip, I was treated to a flight on the Airbus shuttle between the Finkenwerder and Toulouse plants. This journey is essentially flying between the two cradles of European Aviation, so is something I was rather excited about! Had the plant in Bristol still got its runway, there would be a Bermuda triangle-esque feel to the whole thing. Alas, the runway in Bristol is disused and condemned to be turned into housing… what a waste.
At Finkenwerder, one is treated to an odd combination of the ordinary airport experience and the extra-ordinary. Arriving at the terminal is normal enough: security check, car park, check-in, and so on; but the view across the airfield, uncluttered by a large terminal building or advertising, is something of an aviation enthusiast’s dream. Spread out in front of you is a veritable menagerie of aircraft in various states of un-dress, with liveries from around the world, as well as an example of the simply magnificent Beluga taxiing to the runway.
In spite of the unexpected treat of an in-flight meal, the flight itself was routine. Though, I must admit, I had a certain level of anticipation throughout. This was to be my first visit to the main Airbus site. An almost holy pilgrimage!
Stepping out into the cool afternoon air of Toulouse made a change from the dampness of Hamburg, and the weather forecast suggested a warm couple of days – a fact I was somewhat looking forward to.
Two days in Toulouse
The next two days were as good as a business workshop could be and, on the whole, they were a productive couple of days. From time to time, I would take a mental step back to appreciate where I was and what I was doing: facilitating Airbus in developing and procuring the next generation of avionics test equipment… in Toulouse… How did that happen?!
The evening of the first day included dinner in Toulouse proper. Having never been, and only knowing it as an industrial hub, I was pleasantly surprised at how beautiful the city was. Pretty terracotta roofs, bustling restaurant terraces, the sound of the French language wafting through the air; everything that makes the south of France such an attractive place was on show. We went to a lovely restaurant in central Toulouse. There, the meat was cooked over an open fire in the centre of the dining area by a large man while he drank what I like to imagine was top quality local red wine. It was quite the experience, and one which made me wish I’d managed to sort out a weekend stay in the city after the workshop.
One of the things I liked most about this particular business trip was the complete immersion in the French way of working: intense discussion, regular coffee breaks and, much to my delight, an hour break for lunch at minimum, including an espresso coffee afterwards which was taken on the terrace reserved for post-meal-coffee-drinking.
Sat out in the sun on the second day on the coffee-drinking-terrace, I found myself in complete disbelief that I had made it there. It’s exactly the kind of lifestyle I set out to have while I was applying for jobs on continental Europe.
The flight back
I began writing this post on the plane back to Hamburg, reflecting on winds of fate and good fortune that had carried me into this job, this country, this city. As I wrote, I found myself feeling enormously grateful that I’d been given the opportunity to find out what makes me satisfied at work. It isn’t necessarily the day-to-day that will keep me interested, it’s the travel and the new experiences that make me tick. I’m fortunate to be working on a project which promises regular travel to new places – something I found hard to get back in the UK.
Though I still have much I would like to improve about my life here in Hamburg, I touched down at Finkenwerder with a sense that I had made the right choice in coming to live in Germany. I see so much more to gain by settling here than by looking for the next thing elsewhere.
Now, enough blog writing, I must get on with my German homework… if I’m going to settle here, I’d better sort out my language skills!