Sunday, April 26, 2009

Stonehenge and off to Vienna

It was my last couple days in the UK and I was staying with Jarlath. They gave me a great place to sleep and cooked some awesome food. They also enjoyed playing the train game and stomping me at it. It looks like they play trains often by their knowledge of the routes. A gracious host would have let the guest win at least on game.

The final day in London went well. As I was heading to the airport it started raining for the first time on the whole trip. The weather in Vienna is supposed to be sunny and warm. Booya weather goblins.

Here is a final shot of the backside of the London Eye.

From Weekend in Vienna

The last customer that we met with happened to be near Stonehenge so after the visit we drove some back roads to the rocks. On the way we drove by seemingly ancient old houses. One of them had a 4 foot thick thatched roof that looked amazing. I wish that I would have gotten a picture of it.

I must say that if you are ever in the area then Stonehenge is a visit you must make. There is something amazing about looking at 5500 year old stones that are a big mystery.
From Weekend in Vienna

I left Saturday morning for Vienna so I have the whole weekend to see the town before the customer visit on Monday. It is only about a two hour flight from Heathrow, we barely got off the ground before we were landing again.

I really want to go and see Fritzie's house. The crazy guy who locked up his daughter in the basement. I am sure that I can find someone to take me on a tour.
From Weekend in Vienna

The architecture in Vienna is really nice because in the old town part of downtown all of the buildings are about the same height. It adds a really nice symmetry and flow to the town. On the weekend it looks like they close most of the downtown area off to cars so it is pedestrian only. The streets were packed with people, I was getting a bit claustrophobic at points but I didn't freak out. I am a zen master.
From Weekend in Vienna

From Weekend in Vienna

Since the streets were so wide all of the cafes had ample room for sidewalk seating. This cafe that I ate at was inside a butterfly house, literally. Through screens you could see all the butterflies in a sort of rainforest environment. They had hammocks out front that people were not giving up.
From Weekend in Vienna

I found an oddly large number of statues of naked people fighting with animals. Why do they hate animals so much?
From Weekend in Vienna

St. Andrews church had an amazing roof.
From Weekend in Vienna

Here is the hotel that I am staying at. It is in a great location just a short walk to all the action.
From Weekend in Vienna

Here is the full photo album from the first day:

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Third day in London

The third day in London consisted of lots more walking which is the way to see the city. I left the hotel without any particular plan except I had to be to the Globe Theater at around noon to meet Jarlath and the Family to go to the open day.

Walking down random streets you will see a sign on the side of a building that says "Thomas Edison lived here". Huh, now that is history. Its nice that it is preserved fairly well.

I started by walking up north and ended up at St. Paul's Cathedral. There was a nice grassy area next to the cathedral so I chilled out and read a book for a while.

From Third Day In London

After that I headed over the Millennium bridge to the Tate Modern. I was standing there looking at a painting in a random room in the Tate and I was thinking "Wow, this is really good". I looked over at the info sheet and yup, Pablo Picasso. It wasn't even protected by glass or anything.
From Third Day In London

The Globe Theater was really nice. They were having a free open day and doing all sorts of demonstrations. My favorite one was the demonstration of female sword fighting.
From Third Day In London

From Third Day In London

Now it is a week of work. But each day will be a new adventure of traveling through the city.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Second day

Today it was off to the Camden Markets and then my first shot at the British Museum.

Bradley mentioned that I should go to the Camden Markets. I had no idea what they were about, I didn't read anything, I just went. Off to the tube...

The underground system here is amazing. It seems like a model of how mass transportation should work. Also, when they say "Underground" they really mean it. When I arrived at the Holborn station on the underground I got off and found the exit. After a short set of stairs I got on my first escalator. It went up and up and up and up. Then I got off of that and found another sign that said "Exit". Turned a corner and there was another monster escalator. I must have been 12 stories under ground.

Also, the tube system here is amazing easy to understand. I think the hardest part was figuring out where to buy tickets and how they worked. And it wasn't difficult at all. I never had to wait more than a couple minutes for one to show up.

Anyhow, back on the Camden Markets. Off the tube I was thrown onto a street scape that I could only describe as a post-apocalyptic goth-punk mecca. Tons of stores that were selling leather body suits, not the BDSM ones, the "I am punker than you" type leather body suits.

From Camden Market

With no map I just started walking around checking stuff out. People were sort of filing into this area with a few stalls of things for sale so in I went. I just kept walking and walking and walking and there was no end to the little stalls with things for sale. Anything that you wanted for an Alt lifestyle was found here. From Candles to wind chimes, from Rave gear to Antiques, from jewelry to Japanese items. Hundreds upon hundreds of stalls. I was just completely overwhelmed. I realized that when I got back on the Underground to come back that I didn't buy anything.

From Camden Market

Back in on the tube and it was off to the British Museum. I was pretty beat by this point so I only spent about an hour in the museum before heading back to the hotel room to chill out. I will give the full details after I spend more time there.
From Camden Market

After the conclusion of day 2 I am really impressed with London although I don't think that I would live here. The cost of living is through the roof.

Here are all the the pictures:

Saturday, April 18, 2009

London - More than half way around the world

The First Day:

My trip to London is starting off great. The flights from New Zealand involved a 3 hour flight to Sydney, then an 8 hour flight to Singapore, then finally the long haul of 13 hours to London. Luckily I magically got upgrade to Business class on the flight from Singapore to London. Business class is much nicer than premium economy since the seats fold almost flat and I got to live out one of my life's dreams which was to ride on the top floor of a 747.

In the airport in Sydney there was one of the new Airbus A380 planes. From the side it doesn't look all that big, then when you see it from behind it looks like a monster. Supposedly my flight that I have back from London is an A380 on the days other than my flight.

I left New Zealand at 1:30PM and got into London 26 hours later at 6:30 AM. It sounds like hell but it wasn't really all that bad, maybe because I was in Business for the worst of it.

Check-in to the hotel room wasn't until noon so I had a half day to check out the sites. My first stop was Trafalgar Square.

From First day in London

Just on the walk from my hotel to the square the history was amazing. The buildings are mostly ominous big stone constructions which are ornately designed. The detail on them is amazing.

All of the sites that you have seen in movies or pictures are larger than life. When you see Westminster Abbey in the distance or Big Ben come looming out from around a corner it is an unmistakable experience.

From First day in London

I heard that the weather here was bad, they weren't wrong. Rainy and cold with a hint of depression in the air. People are just hoping for the sun to come out. But as Kevin always says "Hope is not a strategy". Now here is an optimist:

From First day in London

Buckingham Palace was pretty cool:

From First day in London

There was no shortage of pubs:

From First day in London

I think that the highlight of the day was Westminster Abbey. As most of you know, I am not the biggest fan of churches but I really wanted to go see Charles Darwin's grave. The abbey's construction is really a wonder of the world. The whole thing seems to be constructed as a monetary pissing match between rulers. All of the monuments to the leaders needed to be more grandiose than the previous one which caused an almost nuclear war type escalation waged with money.

I did get to stand on Charles Darwin's grave which was awesome. My brain couldn't comprehend the awesomeness of that.

From First day in London

Big Ben at noon:

From First day in London

Now my goal is to get my body clock back on the local schedule. I slept from 10:00 until about 3:00 so I am almost there.

Today I am off to a couple markets and then to start my expedition to the British National Museum.

Here is a slideshow of the rest of the pictures from the day:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

X-Terra Triathlon

This weekend I'm heading down to the X-Terra Triathlon in Rotorua. I'm doing the swim (1000m) and the run (11k trail run). I don't have a mountain bike so a friend is going to do that bit. I'm easily in shape for both legs. I'm just a little bit nervous about riding my motorbike down to Rotorua as I haven't done a distance ride in sometime. I should be fine.

So for now I've banned myself from (kinda) high heels for the week as my arches have been killing me.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Bianchi Volpe 1 Yr Challenge Month 9

My Bianchi Volpe is still holding up quite well on month 9 of my one year bicycle challenge. Last month I had an accident and landed on the hood of a car and luckily did not get hurt. Landing on the hood of a car is a lot softer than landing on concrete. The Volpe took some damage to the head gear and that had to be replaced for $90 but had it been in a car the damage would have been a lot more expensive.

Adventure Cycles is now my favorite bike shop. The owner is fantastically patient with his motley crew of local budding young bike mechanics and a significant contributor to other community activities. I like supporting the next generation of bike mechanics, even if I had to teach them a few things about replacing head pieces, which isn't something that you do very often. (Un)Fortunately I'll have to ride across town to get to his new bike shop location.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Northland NZ Tour - 6 Highlights

I went up north with a friend who was determined to go to the tip of New Zealand. So we did just that this last 'extended' weekend. Here are the six highlights and all of the pictures:

1. Paihia (Bay of Islands)- nice little town with ferry access to Russel and is where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed aka birthplace of New Zealand. Would recommend the Pickled Parrot hostel. I could easily spend a few weeks in this area exploring.

2. KeriKeri - is a cute little cafe town and check out historic stone store.

3. Mahinepua - absolutely stunning views and lots of little coves and beaches to explore.

4. Coopers Beach - great place to bring parents and family.

5. Ahipara - Nice 'easy going' town. Good small surf break at high tide and access to 90 mile beach. Avoid at low tide as all the 4-wheelers take over the beach. Would not recommend the YHI in this town. Overpriced not too nice.

6. Cape Reinga - Must see the tip of NZ. Great views, good for a walkabout. Be warned it's a 'tapu' site so you aren't supposed to eat or drink at the park. Wasn't sure why there was a drinking fountain?

7. Rawraw Beach - The softest most beautiful white sand I've ever walked on. Period. I've spent a lot of time beach bumming and this sand was so soft because of all of the silica that naturally occurs in the area. Favorite NZ beach... for the moment.

View Larger Map

Well the last of my mad cartographic skills are now gone as illustrated with this rough sketch of our trip, from my ozone proof lips to your fingertips.