Since starting 10 on the 10th, April was the first month we’ve hit where the 10th fell on a weekday. I had to cheat a little for this one – I only managed nine photos, so I’ve stolen one from Kristy to make up the numbers. Being on a weekday also means that this is the first one where the photos aren’t via the SLR. In case you’ve ever thought that mobile phone cameras are really awesome these days, here is proof that they still have a long way to go before SLRs have anything to worry about.
(To be fair, I think the camera in the Nexus 4 is particularly poor, and if money were no object I’d probably replace it with an HTC One. The photo from Kristy’s phone also proves that the iPhone 5′s camera is significantly better. I have high hopes for the next generation of Motorola phones!)
The 10th of March happened to be the Saturday of Dad’s first party; as such, the entire day was consumed by preparations, the party itself, and then cleaning up. Consequently, you can probably guess what the theme of the photos is going to be…
I’ve always been intrigued by the “a photo a day” challenges that people do, and have always thought that I’d quite enjoy it! But, to be honest, days are often very samey, and I suspect that although I started the challenge with good intentions, I’d get about eight days in and think, “meh, my life is boring”.
However! Kristy told me about a slightly different form of “a photo a day” challenge, which is instead, “10 on the 10th”. The premise is simple; on the 10th day of the month, take 10 photos that represent how you lived that day. I like it! So, as a late New Year’s resolution, I’ve decided that for this year, I will partake in 10 on the 10th!
Sadly, January the 10th was missed simply because it was only at the tail of January that I decided to partake; however, here’s my 10 on the 10th for February!
Ahh, Amsterdam, the land where practically everything is legal, all the girls sound like Ingrid (our friend, who is Dutch), and you’re statistically more likely to get run over by something than anywhere else in the world. Well, I’m sure that such a statistic doesn’t actually exist, however while we were there we saw a lot of close calls. Take, for example, this lady who was crossing at a little intersection that Jason affectionately called “Carnage Corner”; note how blissfully unaware she is of the tram speeding towards her, from her left.
It may not look too serious, but remember that this tram was absolutely cruising along, and old Betsy here on the bicycle – child in tow, as you’ll notice – didn’t give even a cursory glance to her left. Suffice to say she got a wee bit of a fright when the tram tooted at her!
Overall though, I really love how the city promotes bicycles so much, and it’s even better that so many people use the old treadly as their primary means of transport. A little worrying though, when people aren’t giving it their full attention – driving whilst talking on your mobile is bad enough, but riding amongst traffic and trams whilst texting is taking it to a whole new level!
Even more interesting are the things that people will transport by bike – it would seem as though anything is fair game. We saw people carrying guitars, surfboards, skiis, and of course children – but probably the most interesting of all would have to be crutches. Go figure!
We decided to partake in this bike riding ritual, grabbing ourselves a Mac Bike each, and riding it through the city, out into the countryside, past windmills and flowers, and around all the cycling tracks we could find in Vondelpark. It really is the best way of seeing the city!
Given that Amsterdam is built around canals, the other best way to see the city is by a canal tour, which we promptly did on our first day. We were very lucky to get a boat that was practically empty, which meant we could hop from seat to seat to get the best vantage point for photos.
Amsterdam doesn’t seem to understand the concept of the “public bathroom”. Sure, at the airport, you have countless bathrooms at your disposal, however once you hit the city, don’t bank on relieving yourself without also relieving your pocket of a few coins! I guess they really take the phrase, “to spend a penny”, rather literally – but with inflation, a penny no longer gets you very far; the typical fee was 50 Euro cent. The Magna Plaza shopping centre, just off De Dam, held the title for “cheapest bathroom in Amsterdam” for a while (excluding the hotel, of course); their entry fee of only 40 Euro cent was somewhat of a welcome relief.
However, they were outdone in the closing moments of our trip by the unfortunately named department store, V&D – only 25 Euro cent! They also had a sneaky tactic of putting the bathrooms at the very back of the very top floor, so as you were making a hurried dash to the lavs, you couldn’t help but think, “busting… busting… ohh, that shirt would look nice with these jeans!”.
Last time we were in Amsterdam, we didn’t find anywhere that served us bad coffee. Our sample size was significantly larger this time, and once again we weren’t really disappointed anywhere. The only thing that comes close to a bad coffee experience was the little cafe that we chose for our Sunday morning shot; the espresso itself was rather tasty, but the latte had rather too much milk.
But still, no real complaints; the extended time that we sat there finishing off our warm coffee flavoured milk somehow gave rise to me one-upping Susan’s favourite saying of “Yeah no”, into: “Yeah no, maybe”. I’m fairly certain that it won’t catch on though, especially in the face of “Yah ni”, which is the Dutch equivalent of “Yeah no”, and altogether has a much nicer ring to it.
Amsterdam is such a wonderful city escape; the sort of place you could go to time after time and always find something new, even if you just do the same things over and over. I just love that it’s so different from London; I’d happily go back there anytime.
A few weeks ago, Aubain and Ingrid asked us to go on a “short country walk” with them today, provided the weather was ok. Things were not looking promising with heavy rain all day yesterday, but today turned out to be beautiful, so off to Otford we headed.
Sure, it was muddy – extremely so, in some cases, and our trousers and hiking boots came back looking very well loved. But it was also extremely beautiful out there; the autumn colours are in full bloom, and there was a rainbow of leaves on the ground everywhere we looked.
Probably the highlight for both Kristy and I was walking through a field of corn. It was just awesome! The way it moves in the breeze is transfixing; it seemed to be whispering to me, “if you build it, he will come”. Stupid corn, that doesn’t even make sense.
We ate lunch at The Fox and Hound’s, a pub which was conveniently situated right around the half-way point. I had the lamb shanks, and thought of Mom.
We were so lucky to have such a beautiful day, and it really was a fantastic way to spend it, burning some calories and breathing some very fresh air. I’ll be signing up for another one soon! Check out some more photos in the photo album.
We took two-days off last Thursday and Friday (the astute among you will note that that means I had a one day work week), and headed to Bath. Though it’s very accessible by rail, we didn’t know precisely what time we wanted to come/go (you have to book specific times on the train), and the ticket booking was going to cost in the realm of £80 – £100 for the two of us; so instead, we hired a Nissan Micra and drove ourselves there.
Our first order of business (not including parking, finding our apartment, or eating, that is) was to join a free walking tour. It was great – our tour guide was a very enthusiastic lady who had an interesting voice and a lovely jacket. We learned all about the city’s vibrant history, and saw almost the entire place on foot.
This here is Kristy, standing in front of Royal Crescent. The guy who designed this had quite the fascination in Masonic symbols, so he made this street to symbolise the crescent moon.
This one – called “The Circus” – is the symbol of the sun. It’s actually a complete circle; this is just one quarter of it. According to our guide, Nick Cage owns one of the places in the middle. Wikipedia seemingly doesn’t agree. Anyway, the tour ended up lasting for about two and a half hours – and it was all for free! It was a perfect introduction to the city.
Next on the agenda (not that we had an agenda; it’s just what we did next) was the Twilight Package at Thermae Bath Spa. Thermae is the only natural thermal spa that operates in Bath (or in fact, in all of Britain). Their twilight package entitles you to three hours of lazing in the hot baths and saunas, as well as dinner and a drink in their restaurant. As you can probably guess, it was a very stressful experience, especially sitting in the spa on the roof watching the sun set. (Well, to be truthful, it was raining, so we were more just watching the light grow dimmer, but it was still great!) We left the baths feeling very relaxed indeed, and after sharing some wine and snacks at a local restaurant, we turned in for the night.
First thing Friday morning, we headed straight to the old Roman Baths to have a peek. They include an audio tour with the admission fee, and I was pleased to see that it was earphone-enabled, so I plugged in my buds and took plenty of photos. Good lord, is that audio tour boring! After about three stops I switched to the kids version, which not only contained the exact same information, but was far more entertaining due to all the comical voices.
The baths themselves on the other hand, are anything but boring! The Romans were just so darned clever – the engineering that went in to the place was magnificent! Actually it was pretty disgusting learning about how people lived back in the day; apparently, people never drank water, let alone took baths in it – once or twice a year was “more than enough”. Eeeewwww!
It’s no wonder they thought Bath was a mystical place of healing – it was really just that it cleaned all the disgusting toxins out of their skin! (And given that the ladies rubbed arsenic on their skin to make it look white, and that their lipstick was full of mercury, they would have been quite full of toxins!)
One clever doctor came up with the idea of getting people to drink the water as well as bathing in it (though not the same water, I presume) – and to this day you can go upstairs and have yourself a taste. And taste it we did – it’s warm, and it has a distinctly metallic flavour. I think I’ll stick to San Pellegrino for now.
We had covered most things that we wanted to do in Bath by this stage, so we stopped briefly for a fantastic brunch and coffee at a little café called Same Same but Different, and then headed back to the car for the uneventful drive back to London. Kristy fell asleep. I soldiered on. I’m such a trooper!
Kristy and I both had Tuesday off to spend with the Aussie gang as well. We decided that Windsor Castle sounded like a good option, so on to the train we hopped. We started a bit later than we had originally intended – but that meant we enjoyed huge savings with our Group Saver ticket (2 pay, 4 travel), plus combined castle entry – the whole day out ringing in at just over £15 a pop!
Windsor was cold! I was wearing a thermal shirt, a t-shirt, and a jumper, and was freezing in the wind! I found it difficult to believe that it had reached the full 13 degrees celsius that my iPhone was advertising.
An audio guide is included as a freebie with your admission fee, but it’s one of those stupid ones you have to hold to your ear, instead of one you can plug your earphones in. I much prefer the earphone ones because (a) I always take earphones along just in case, so I don’t have to use the shop ones, and (b) that means my hands are free to take photos.
Audio guide or no, we managed to arrive only a few moments before the last free walking tour was departing, so we hung around in the gift shop and waited for the guide – Art. We thought we had scored a tour all to ourselves, but at the last minute, a group of loud, incompetent (“How do I get the guide to play, Margie?”), and somewhat overweight ladies joined in as well. No prizes for guessing their country of origin.
Anyway – Art knew a thing or two about the castle, and it was great to get the information from someone first-hand. We learned a whole bunch of facts which I almost instantly forgot; but two things that I remember:
One of the Kings decided the tower walls weren’t high enough, so had them extended by an extra 10 metres. This caused the foundation to become unstable with the extra weight, so engineers had to re-seat the castle in the late 1990′s.
A man in a pink tutu and full beard managed to bypass security and gate-crash Prince William’s 21st birthday.
Yes, fairly random. Truthfully I remember a whole lot of what he told us, but they’re the ones I thought were most interesting .
After fairly thoroughly sussing the outside of the castle, we headed in to St George’s Chapel. It had lots of interesting stuff in there – for example, we got to walk over the grave of King Henry VIII. The chapel also contains a display of a crown, shield, and flag for each member of the rather lamely named Order of the Garter. Though these were extremely interesting and very detailed, I still think that if you were founding an order of knights, you’d name it after something really cool, like, “The Defenders of the Dragon”, or “The Conglomeration of the Panther”; naming a group after a garter sounds like you’re just setting yourself up for a loss – it’s no wonder England sucks at sport.
Our final stop on our tour was inside the castle itself. Unfortunately by this point we were running short on time, so we had to rush through the rooms quite quickly. (Oh, by the way, you’re not allowed to take any photos inside any of the buildings.).
There were a number of stand-out rooms for me; namely, the very blue room for the Order of the Garter; St George’s Hall, which contains the shield of all the previous members of the Order of the Garter; and the Waterloo chamber, containing a portrait of each of the main players that helped in bringing down Napoleon at The Battle of Waterloo; and all of whom were seemingly named “Lawrence”. (I later learned that they were all painted by a guy named “Lawrence”.)
Windsor castle made for a spectacular day out, and I’m glad that we finally made the trip out there to see it. Well worth a visit!
I took Monday off work to spend some time with Jason, Louise, and Criag. After ticking most of Craig’s tourist boxes over the weekend, the gang didn’t want to do anything too touristy; so we headed in to Harrods for some shopping, ate a Chicken Katsu Curry from Wasabi for lunch, and then headed for a walk through Hyde Park.
It was beautiful to see all the Autumn colours on the trees, and to walk through all the leaves fallen on the ground! We walked from the bottom of the park up to speakers corner at the top, near Marble Arch. There was no-one speaking though; apparently it’s more of a “weekends in Summer” thing (it was very cold with the wind whipping along).
We jumped on a 22 bus to get home, which was almost door-to-door. Best of all, our timing was absolutely perfect – it started raining the moment we sat down on the bus!
Jason and Louise are back in London, and their friend Craig has come along with them! We spent the weekend walking around some of London’s finer attractions. On Saturday, we hit Borough Markets, Tower Bridge, Shad Thames, The London Eye, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and Buckingham Palace.
Yesterday it was more walking; this time we covered Oxford Street, Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus, Covent Garden, and Trafalgar Square. There was a huge Diwali celebration going on in Trafalgar Square, which actually looked quite interesting; but we didn’t stay long because it was rather cold!
We finished off the weekend with some drinks at one of my favourite London pubs – The Porterhouse. We all especially enjoyed a beer called Trappistes Rochefort, which – at 11.2% – was one of the strongest beers I’ve ever had; and yet, we all thought it tasted like Coke! You could really get yourself into some trouble with a few of those bad boys!
On Sunday I took some photos for Al’s band – The Violation Complex. As you probably guessed from the name, these guys are the next big thing in the Christian Folk and Country category.
The guys wanted some photos for CD inlays, press packs, promo material etc. so I gave it a whirl. I think it went ok – we took about 300 photos in two hours! Al said, so long as they get 4 or 5 good ones out of it, they’ll be happy. I think I met that quota.
I’ll be interested to see what they do with the photos; I told them they should talk to Konrad if they want something special. We’ll see!