WOC Diary: Thursday

Thursday I explored the ancient streets of Dijon, admiring the architecture and imagining what life was like there in the 1600 and 1700’s. I visited several museums, and at the Musée de la vie Bourguignonne I got stuck behind a local group of senior citizens on an outing. The guide’s stories about life in old Burgundy were interesting, so I decided to tag along. The seniors were really cute – they whispered excitedly among themselves in French about the objects on display, and I could clearly hear the voice of my own parents saying, “That’s an antique? We used to have one of those when I was a child!”.

When we reached the museum’s reconstructed shops of old Dijon, the
seniors became very animated. The ladies were especially fascinated by
the beauty salon, and two old men got caught trying to steal some sweets at the candy store. The guide rolled her eyes and told them that the candies were as old as
everything else in the museum and that they probably should not eat

Later in the afternoon I made my way back to the hotel to get ready for
the opening ceremonies of the conference. Then it occurred to me that I
had no idea how to get there. I rustled through
print-outs of email that I had received from the organizers, but
found no instructions. The fellow at the front desk didn’t know which
bus I should take, but he was emphatic that it was much too far to
walk. It all struck me as odd, but I managed to find a cab. The driver was sweet but
it took a couple of tries to find the right entrance at the convention
building. I remember feeling some pity for other delegates who were not
able to speak any French and were also trying to find their way to the
conference. I eventually did find out which bus to take and where to catch it, and on the last day of the conference I even found out about the free shuttle bus from the centre of town. Oh well.

As soon as I registered and got my conference package and pass, I
bypassed the cocktail party and headed straight for the show. The
moment I walked through the doors into the display area I stopped in
amazement and dropped my jaw. The place was huge — 25,000 square meters
huge. It was gorgeous. It was fantastic beyond any flower show I have
ever been to, and that includes both Canada Blooms and the flower show
in Seattle. Orchids were everywhere, set in gorgeous and elaborate
landscapes. Waterfalls. Tropical jungles, African savannah, homey
British front yards. I imagined that every botanical garden and
greenhouse within 1000 km had been stripped and transported here to the

I immediately pulled out my camera and tripod and got to work. I staked territory near flowers wherever the crowds were penetrable, and
methodically worked my way around the displays. Famous institutions I
have only ever read about came to life right before my eyes:
Lecoufle & Vacherot, Eric Young Foundation, Kew Gardens… And the
orchids. Thousands of the kind of blooms I only dream about, in
unbelievable profusion. I got lost in my camera and the flowers.

I tore myself away much too soon in order to rejoin the conference for the opening
ceremonies. There, it was my good fortune to meet one of the orchid world’s
most interesting people, Alex Hirtz. I’ll tell you about Hirtz’s fascinating theory on the rapid evolution of orchids in my next
blog entry.