Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

London 2016 diary: Day 2

Thursday, 1 June, 2017

Tuesday, 27 September, 2016. Evening

I had a good, solid sleep for much of the night, and woke up around 06:00, although it was still dark outside so I thought it was still the middle of the night. But after trying to sleep for a bit I checked the time and it was 06:20, so I’d had a pretty good sleep.

I got up and had a shower and dressed, then waited until 07:00 when M. got home so we could talk a little bit on Facetime. And then after that I went down to the restaurant for breakfast.

I started with a plate of sausage, grilled tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms, tiny roasted potatoes, baked beans, and scrambled eggs. As I finished that, Dietmar arrived and joined me. While he got a plate of hot food, I went back and grabbed some muesli, sprinkling on sunflower seeds and adding some chopped fruit to have with one of the jars of yoghurt. Over breakfast Dietmar said he was planning to drive up to Glasgow on Thursday evening straight after the meeting closed, for some vacation time in Scotland.

On returning to my room, I discovered that I’d left my key card in the light switch slot inside the room, so I had to go down to reception and get a new one. Then I did some stretching exercises in my room, before leaving about 08:20 to walk over to the British Standards Institute building for the ISO meeting. The weather was chilly, but I was only walking a couple of hundred metres and my jacket was enough for that.

At the office, a lady at ground floor reception gave me a visitor swipe card and told me to go up to BSI reception on the first floor. Doing so, another lady there took the card and gave me another visitor card, and told me to go back down to the ground floor, where the meeting room was! The security here at BSI is a bit convoluted.

After settling into the meeting room and greeting other committee members for the first time since the New York meeting, we got stuck into business. Margaret is not here this time, but Ken Parulski is, who I haven’t seen since the meeting in Sapporo last year. I also got to meet the British representative, Hani, who I’ve heard about but haven’t met before. Also new here is Nicolas Touchard of DxO in France, Norman Koren from Imatest in Boulder, Colorado, and Robin Jenkin from a sensor manufacturer in San Jose, although he’s originally from Cornwall.

The Pilot
The Pilot pub, Chiswick

Read more: pub lunch, afternoon technical meetings, then an early dinner in another pub I found

London 2016 diary: Day 1

Thursday, 1 June, 2017

This was a business trip I made back in September 2016 – just getting to writing it up and adding photos now!

Monday, 26 September, 2016. 20:45

I have arrived in London after a 24 hour flight from Sydney, leaving at 16:00 on Sunday, and arriving here at 07:00 on Monday.

The flight was fairly eventless, helped by having a half empty plane on each leg, from Sydney to Dubai, and also Dubai to London. The exit row aisle seat next to me was empty on both flights, so I moved over to leave an empty middle seat between me and the guy in the window seat. He was named Steve and returning home to Plymouth after six weeks touring Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji.

I didn’t really sleep at all, but since I arrived in the morning, I wanted to stay awake all day until bed time. I checked into the Clayton Hotel Chiswick just before 09:00, after a three train journey from Heathrow to Gunnersbury, changing at Acton Town and then at Turnham Green. Work booked last night for me as well so I could check in early, and the rate includes breakfast, so the woman at reception told me I could go grab breakfast in the hotel restaurant right away!

Clayton Hotel Chiswick view
View from my hotel room window, Clayton Hotel Chiswick

Read more: sightseeing on my free day, the Old Royal Naval College, University of Greenwich, Greenwich Observatory, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Southwark Cathedral, and a pub meal dinner

Europe 2016 diary: day 14 and 15

Monday, 22 May, 2017

Friday, 11 November, 2016

We woke up a bit after 07:00 and got organised for leaving Nice. M. had a shower before we headed out for breakfast, but I decided to delay mine until after we’d eaten. We went out again to Boulangerie Blanc, where I tried the pain au chocolat after M. had said it was incredibly good yesterday, perhaps the best one she’d ever had. She had one too, and a cappuccino, while I also added a plain croissant but no drink today. The croissant was good, but the pain au chocolat was amazing. Warm, buttery, flaky, and filled with delicious melted dark chocolate. Oh my goodness, yes, it was the best one I’ve ever had anywhere.

Blanc cakes
Cakes and pastry selection at Boulangerie Blanc

Before leaving Blanc, we bought some baguette sandwiches to take to the airport to eat for lunch there, since our flight left at 14:30. We figured this was much preferable to having to buy lunch at the airport. M. picked the only vegetarian option, which was chevre with salad and walnuts. I chose a smoked salmon sandwich. The lady wrapped them for us in waxed paper and gave us an optional plastic bag for an extra five euro cents.

Read more: Travelling to the airport and the flight home

Europe 2016 diary: day 13

Monday, 22 May, 2017

Thursday, 10 November, 2016

We woke up in a leisurely fashion as the sun came up around 07:00. This morning we did not have a breakfast included in our hotel stay, so after showering we set out to a boulangerie we’d seen yesterday called Boulangerie Blanc. It had good looking pastries and cakes and bread, and a few tables around the back. M. got a pain au chocolat, while I liked the look of the almond croissants on display so chose one of those. M. got a cappuccino, while I had a hot chocolate. It was all good, the pastries especially so. M. said it might have been the best pain au chocolat she’s ever had, and my almond croissant was nutty and rich and delicious.

Monkey enjoying an almond croissant
Breakfast at Boulangerie Blanc

After this relatively simple breakfast, we returned to our hotel briefly to freshen up and collect my camera gear for some walking around Nice. We crossed over to the beach to have a look at that first, with the morning sun making the scene very picturesque. There were a couple of people in the water, with one old man lying on the pebbles at the surf line and letting the waves wash over him. A group of other men were nearby, peeling off clothes to reveal swimming gear.

Read more: Climbing the hill to the Castle of Nice, the old cemetery, flea market, a relaxing afternoon in a cafe, sunset along the beach, and dinner in the best restaurant in Nice!

Europe 2016 diary: day 12

Sunday, 7 May, 2017

Wednesday, 9 November, 2016. 14:22

We woke up around 07:00, after I had a better sleep, which was nice. We cleaned up and went for breakfast in the hotel restaurant again. I had muesli topped with fresh fruit and some dried figs, with yoghurt. I didn’t feel like anything else, so had two of the small bowls of this. M. ate some slices of bread with Nutella before getting some cereal with milk. She also asked for a cappuccino made upstairs at the bar, rather than getting one from the push button coffee machine in the buffet, since the one she’d had from there yesterday wasn’t very good, and the bar made them better. She also made me a pot of tea from the selection, seeing that they had a peppermint and liquorice blend. It tasted pepperminty but the liquorice was very subtle.

After eating, we went to pack all our things and check out of the room. I handed back the ticket for our car, and the receptionist gave me the car key, a parking garage exit ticket, and a note on which was written the parking spot. She said the car was in the garage under the same block as the hotel and how to find the lift to get down there from the street outside. We wheeled our bags out, but had to climb two steps to the lift before descending down four levels to the bottom of the car park, where we found the car. We packed it carefully, then set up our route to Nice on Google Maps so we could navigate our way safely out of Monaco and to the rental car drop off spot in Nice.

The Rich Spot and the Sea
Goodbye to Monaco

We pulled out of the garage, turned onto Avenue Princesse Charlotte, and promptly ended up taking a wrong fork somewhere that saw us descending a hill on a sinuous road that diverged from the Google route, which headed up the hill. There was nowhere to turn around or even stop to check the map, but by taking brief glances at red lights to help M. we managed to determine that we could get onto a parallel road that eventually merged with the route we wanted to take. I followed some signs to Cap d’Ail, which I recognised as a small cape on the coast between Monaco and Nice, and that turned out to be the correct road to get us back on track. We rejoined the blue line route and managed to stay on it the rest of the way.

Read more: Arriving in Nice, walking through the Marché aux Fleurs, and Vieux Nice, and the central shopping areas, and along the beach, followed by a huge dinner

Europe 2016 diary: day 11

Sunday, 30 April, 2017

Tuesday, 8 November, 2016. 18:43

We got up a little lazily, and didn’t head down to breakfast until about 08:00 after having showers and dressing for a day in Monaco. The breakfast buffet served in the hotel restaurant was similar to others, but with a bigger selection of chopped and fresh fruits, and also pancakes. I had some muesli with fruit salad and yoghurt, and then tried the pancakes with maple syrup. They were luke warm and really not very good; thin and dense, almost more like small crepes. M. had some slices of bread with Nutella after some cereal. I also had a banana, since they were amongst the available fruits. The hot food selection includes sausages, eggs, bacon, mushrooms, and potatos, but I didn’t have any of those.

Saint-Charles Market
Farmer’s market near Église Saint-Charles

After eating, we set out for a day of walking around Monaco. First we headed over to Avenue Saint-Charles and the Église Saint-Charles, where there was a farmers’ market in the morning. This turned out to be quite a small affair, with just seven or eight fruit and vegetable sellers and a couple of flower stalls. They had some interesting things though, like really long skinny zucchini with the flowers attached. We walked through the stalls and then entered the side entrance of Église Saint-Charles to have a look at its interior, before exiting from the front to see the facade before continuing our walk.

Read more: Walking around the port of Monaco, exploring the old city of Monaco-Ville, the royal palace, the cathedral of Monaco, then having a wonderful dinner

Europe 2016 diary: day 10

Saturday, 15 April, 2017

Monday, 7 November, 2016. 20:56

We woke up a little later today, getting up only after 07:00. After showering, we went down to breakfast and filled up for the day. They had some chocolate biscuits half dipped in chocolate, and I had to try one, and it was good. I noticed while having breakfast that the hotel dog was in the kitchen next to the breakfast room; I guess that’s just a thing that happens in Italy. I wondered aloud if they had bananas, and M. said yes, there were some in the fruit basket. I got one and returned to the table. M. said I could save it for later… just as I cracked the stem to start peeling it. I realised saving it was probably a good idea, but it was too late now! So I had to eat it right away.

We packed our bags and checked out. We decided to walk over to the Arione shop to get some photos of this historical place, and by the time we got back to the car it would be after 09:00, when ticketed parking started. So M. fed the meter to get a ticket, with the help of the hotel guy. He’d also helped us take our luggage out to the car, and had generally been very friendly and helpful.

Unfortunately when we arrived at the Arione shop, it was shuttered, and a check of the hours revealed that it didn’t open on Mondays until 12:30! So I took some photos of the posters outside, and we walked back to the car. This led us past two chocolate and pastry shops there were open, right next door to each other. Both also sold cuneesi al rhum, but what caught my eye was bottles of amaro bitters of various brands in one of them. It sold small bottles, and I decided to get one to take home. After purchasing this, we went to the car and drove off, heading towards France.

Tunnel queue
Cars and trucks queuing to pass through the Col de Tende tunnel

We drove up into the Ligurian Alps, passing the last Italian town of Limone on the way to the border. Just before the Col de Tende pass at the top of the valley, we ran into a queue of cars, stopped at a red light. Next to the light was a display showing the number 14. After a few seconds, I divined that the 14 was indicating how many minutes until the light would go green and we could proceed through the tunnel immediately ahead. Seeing others ahead of us turn their cars off and get out for a stretch, I did likewise, taking the opportunity to take some photos of the scenic valley with the forest around us. One guy ahead of us let his dog out for a walk too.

Read more: A day exploring the village of Tende, driving through Mercantour National Park, ending up in Monaco, the Monte Carlo Casino, then dinner and drinks

Europe 2016 diary: day 9

Tuesday, 4 April, 2017

Sunday, 6 November, 2016

We got up just before 07:00 and had showers before descending to the breakfast room. We had cereal and cornetti, and I tried making a toasted cheese roll in the sandwich press, but it wasn’t very hot and the cheese didn’t melt at all.

Before leaving La Spezia, we walked back to the bakery where we’d had lunch yesterday, to buy some things to take with us for lunch during today’s drive. We asked what the brown focaccia-like bread was that yesterday the lady seemed to be saying was filled with cherries. After some to and fro with language, we determined she meant cereals, that it had different grains in it. M. got a slice of that, while I chose a slice of one that looked like it had cheese with lumps of feta on it, and the woman said “Gorgonzola” as she cut a piece for me.

Taking these back to the hotel, we repacked our bags to fit all our new things and our freshly cleaned laundry in, then checked out and headed off in the car. Navigating out of La Spezia was not too difficult, and we picked up the autostrada north of the city, where we’d got off it the other day when we’d arrived. We took the route towards Genova, west along the coast. The road was good, passing over many viaducts and through lots of tunnels as it cut through the rugged coastal landscape of hills and steep valleys. We saw the Mediterranean Sea a few times but never got really close to it.

After an hour or so of driving, we passed Genova, skirting around the edge of it. This was a tricky bit of navigation, as there were several exits and forks and they all had place names we didn’t know. M. used Google Maps to assist and we managed to pick the correct forks, which followed signs pointing to Ventimiglia. (I checked where Ventimiglia is later, and this was certainly the right direction, as it’s the last large Italian town on the coast before the French border.) However we didn’t follow the coastal road all the way, but instead turned inland at Savona, heading towards Turin.

At a rest and fuel stop along this road, we stopped for a break in the drive. M. got a cappuccino in the roadside bar. While she drank it, I spotted packs of Fonzies, the Italian equivalent of Twisties, in the same distinctive red and yellow packet. I had to get a pack to try them, so she paid for one when she paid for the coffee. I ate them outside, while M. had two pocket coffees for some extra coffee hit. While eating the Fonzies, I noticed an area near the car park which was specially set up for dogs, with a tap and water dishes, and even a special wooden pole for them to relieve themselves on. There was quite a graphic cartoon picture showing a dog using the pole, on a sign nearby.

Returning to the autostrada, we continued northwest until a turn off to the A33 route west to Cuneo. As it turned out, Cuneo was the end of the line for the autostrada, as it simply ended with a toll plaza and then turned into a regular road. This time the toll was €25, which I paid with an Amex card as the only booth with human assistance was closed. The toll machine worked fine thankfully.

Piazza Galimberti
Piazza Galimberti, the heart of Cuneo

Read more: wandering the streets of Cuneo’s old town, discovering the local chocolate specialty, relaxing in a cafe, exploring the cathedral, taking in the views, and finding the best place for dinner of the trip

Europe 2016 diary: day 8

Sunday, 2 April, 2017

Saturday, 5 November, 2016. 21:01

We rose just before 07:00 this morning, to the sound of heavy rain outside. It had moved in during the night and looked set in for the day, as the forecast had predicted. We showered and went down to the breakfast room to see what was on offer. There was no hot meal option, unless you counted various cornetti in a warmer so that they were warm as though freshly baked, or the sandwich toaster press with which you could assemble your own toasted sandwiches if you had such a desire. But certainly no eggs or bacon or sausages. There was however a bran flake cereal with fruit pieces in it, which both M. and I had. The yoghurt I added to mine was very runny, and I almost spilled the first tub all over the place as I tipped it over the cereal, expecting to have to use a spoon to coax it out of the tub, whereas it actually came pouring out rapidly. M. told me the cornetti she had were nicely warm, so I grabbed a chocolate one. These Italian cornetti are sort of like croissants, but straight rather than curved, and quite a bit smaller. At this hotel, like the last one, there was also a large tart with apricot jam on it. The Italians sure love their apricot jam, it being the typical filling for cornetti con marmellata as well.


The rain in La Spezia, from our hotel window

After breakfast, we packed a paper bag with dirty laundry and went for a walk in search of a laundry that would do a bag wash for us. Google indicated two dry cleaners nearby, the nearest just a block away, named Casa della Penna, and a second one three blocks in the opposite direction from the hotel, named Lavanderia Everest. With umbrellas raised against the heavy rain, we tried the nearest one first, but couldn’t see a laundry anywhere near Google’s indicated location. I went into an open pharmacy and asked a lady in there, “Sto cercando una lavanderia, il nome è Casa della Penna.” This seemed to confuse the woman for a second, before she began saying in Italian that there was no laundry nearby, and that Casa della Penna was a “negozio”, a shop. I didn’t fully understand her Italian but got enough of a gist, and asked where was Casa della Penna? She pointed at a shop just across the street and down a couple of doors. We looked and sure enough, it had “Casa della Penna” above the door. But far from being a dry cleaner, it was a fancy pen shop, selling Mont Blanc pens and other similar items of luxury! No wonder the lady had looked confused when I asked about a laundry by that name! I’d thought “Casa della Penna”, or “House of the Feather”, was an odd name for a laundry, but now it made sense as a fancy pen shop, as “penna” is also the Italian word for pen.

Read more: The heavy rain spoils our plans for the day, but we make the most of it, eating good food, drinking hot chocolate, and checking out a couple of interesting local museums

Europe 2016 diary: day 7

Tuesday, 28 March, 2017

Friday, 4 November, 2016

We woke early yet again, around 05:00, and dozed a bit before getting up so M. could shower before breakfast. We went to the breakfast buffet in the Albergo Firenze, which was similar to most of the others so far. This time thought there was bran cereal, which we both mixed with some muesli. M. had two cornetti, one with jam and one a sort of wholemeal one. I tried a bit of some paper thin looking bacon with scrambled egg, on a slice of fresh bread, and then a small slice of a tart which was covered with apricot jam and various nuts. We took our time, then returned briefly to our room before heading out to explore Como a bit.

Monkey in Como
Como waterfront on Lake Como

We walked to the waterfront of the lake, which provided beautiful scenic views across to the mountains around the harbour, with boats moored nearby. The colours of the trees added to the prettiness of the scene. Nearby was a small market, just set up for the morning. Most of the stalls were selling cheese, or various preserved meats and sausages. But there was one selling chocolates, and we got tempted into trying some samples, which were so good that we bought a few pieces of chocolate for later snacks. The stall holders, a man and a woman wearing similarly patterned clothing, were very friendly, though they spoke very little English. They seemed pleased to meet some travellers from Australia. (After returning home, I saw their email address on their stall sign in one of the photos I took of them, and sent them a copy of the photo, and they replied with thanks.)

Read more: buying snacks for the day, the Duomo of Como, driving the back roads of northern Italy, lunch at a random cafe, the Austostrada, arriving in La Spezia, and an amazing dinner