Thursday, September 27, 2007

Wine Tasting

A wine store up the road just changed ownership and had a wine tasting last night. I decided to check it out as I need to learn more about French wine as that seems to be the majority of what you find in the stores here. There were only 3 - myself and another couple - so we got very personalized attention and we ended the evening with champagne. Even better was they said we could take a bottle home with us when we left! Of course we all liked the same 2 bottles one of which was 30 pounds, since the other 2 were a couple I told them to take the Pomerol and I would take the other one. After about 2 minutes of me convincing them to take the bottle they thanked me and said it was his birthday today so they had a very nice bottle to celebrate with. I thoroughly enjoyed my leftover wine tonight even though it wasn't my favorite.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Tourist at Home

My sister's visit resulted in me doing a number of tourist things in England. Yesterday we went on a tour of Stonehenge and Bath. I've never been a big fan of organized tours, and this wasn't really an exception. We didn't have nearly enough time at either Stonehenge or Bath, but without going on the tour we wouldn't have been able to do both. As I expected Stonehenge was awe-inspiring, to look at these massive stones and think about the work that went into constructing this thousands of years ago. The tour organizer commented when we arrived that some people feel that 10 minutes is more than enough time to see some big rocks in a field while others feel that 45 minutes isn't nearly enough time. We were definitely in the latter group.

After a quick visit at Stonehenge we headed cross country to Bath. We toured the Roman Baths, the Bath Abbey and just wandered around town for a couple of hours. Would definitely be up for a return visit to both places at some later date. On the return we encountered traffic in London as a result of a broken traffic light and were an hour late returning. Overall the day was deemed a success.

Today we headed into Waterloo to tour the South Bank. After a ride on the London Eye (check out my picture of the eye below) we took a boat tour down the river to the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. We had the same guide on the way to and from the Tower and he told the same stories and jokes on both rides. I wonder how many times he tells the same joke in any given day. I shouldn't complain too much as I did learn a few random facts while on the boat ride:

  • St Paul's Cathedral is 365 ft tall one foot for every day of the year.
  • The London Eye is 450 ft tall.
  • The OXO tour was one companies creative way to get around advertising restrictions along the Thames. They wrote out their company name in a mosaic in the windows.
  • The replica of the Globe Theatre is the only building in London allowed to have a thatched roof after the London fire.

Tomorrow it is back to reality and work.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Day of Firsts

My sister arrived at Gatwick airport this morning, her first trip to come see me. After meeting her at the airport we took the train to Victoria station to drop her bags and wander around Westminster. First on the list was a stop at Buckingham Palace, when we arrived I realized that for one more week the state rooms were open for their annual summer viewing. This was an opportunity not to be missed so we queued for about 45 minutes to get tickets to see the inside of the palace. No photographs were allowed inside but I was able to take this shot from the rear gardens on the way out.

The photos in this posting are the first ones taken with my new camera. The actual first shot is below:

After Buckingham Palace we walked down to Parliament and Westminster Abbey. By this time we were getting hungry and decided to head back, as lunch was a complete disaster. We had about an hour after buying the tickets to view the state rooms before our timed entrance, this should have been plenty of time to grab a quick bite in a pub. Off to "The Bag 0 Nails" right around the corner. When the food arrived 30 minutes after we placed the order they had brought me a hamburger instead of the BBQ chicken I ordered. The waitress said they don't have BBQ chicken on the menu and so I had to point it out to her. She obviously was unaware of the specials. I said we had to be out of there in 20 minutes and could they bring me something else, I figured a sandwich or salad could quickly be made. Imagine my surprise when I was told the kitchen was busy all the food was made to order and there was no way they could get anything out in less than 20 minutes, they would get the manager and give me a refund.

When the manager came over I expressed my displeasure and surprise that they were not willing or able to provide me with food after screwing up my order, to which the waitress rudely sniped Burger King is around the corner. After leaving our table the manager was called to another table that had ordered before us and were still waiting for their food to arrive. Looks like this pub has shoddy service all over the place.

As a result of the lack of lunch we had an early dinner, it was a nice evening so we decided to eat on the patio. We were talking, drinking our beers and minding our own business when out of nowhere a bee flies into my hand a stings me. Given my track record with bugs you might be surprised to hear that this was my first bee sting. Of course I start worrying right away that I'm going to have a severe allergic reaction based on my experiences with spider bites, mosquito bites and poison ivy. Luckily I had some benadryl in my purse so I took that. While I am still in pain 4 hours later there does not seem to be any other reactions.

More firsts tomorrow when we head to Stonehenge and Bath.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Saga Comes to an End

I no longer have piles of dirty laundry all around my flat - no it was not really that bad. The new washer/dryer was installed yesterday. The property management company also let me know why they so quickly allowed access to the flat. Turns out that the contractors only work in certain areas on certain days and Monday they were in Richmond, if they didn't do the installation on Monday it might not have happened for another week.

The new unit is much quieter and has a larger capacity which is great, it's a shame I didn't break it sooner :)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Dirty Laundry Update

It's amazing the speed with which things happen. I called the property manager on Monday for an update on when the washer was going to be replaced, I was then asked if somebody had been sent out to look at it. I was a little surprised that there were no notes that indicated they had sent somebody out and the recommendation was that it needed to be replaced. They said they would look into and get back to me. Two days later I've still heard nothing so I call back for another update, later that afternoon I am finally told they got approval to replace the unit and I would be contacted once it was in to arrange for installation.

Fast forward to Friday. I get out of my meeting 3 1/2 hour meeting and have 4 missed calls and 1 voice mail. The voice mail is from the contractor saying they've called the property managers and will pick up the keys to my flat and install the unit on Monday. I was a little peeved by this as I really don't like when people show up at my place and I'm not here, at this point it is too late to call the contractors back as it's 5:30 and they are gone for the weekend. So I decided to let it slide. Today I get a letter in the mail from the property manager which said:

"Despite several attempts to contact you our contractor has not had a response to deliver the new washing machine. I have instructed them to enter the property with the management keys. "

So let me get this straight, I call and leave numerous messages for updates over the span of 10 days and hear nothing back, they try to call me over the course of 2 hours don't leave me any voice mail so it is just decided that they can come to my house without my consent. Of course it is the weekend now so there is absolutely nothing that I can do about this.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Washer/Dryer Problems

I spent an exciting weekend doing or laundry - or at least I tried to do laundry. Everything seemed to be going along smoothly until the spin cycle hit. It sounded as if there was something in the washer trying to get out. I didn't think I had left anything alive in my pants pockets so I figured this meant the machine had died. Of course this didn't constitute an emergency so I had to wait until Monday to call the property management and report this problem.

In typical fashion they couldn't send somebody out on Monday when I was working from home and I had to go to the office on Tuesday so I worked from home again today. The repair man showed up opened the washer door, looked in and said this isn't worth repairing it will be better to replace it. I had thought the same thing when I heard the lovely noises it was making. He then went on to say that when he got the work order he knew it needed to be replaced but he had to come and check it out himself. So now I'm playing the waiting game, the management company has been notified that the unit needs to be replaced and I just have to sit and wait for a response back. If they then decide to replace the unit I have to find more time when I can stay home to let the installers in - I doubt they'll do it on a Saturday.