Sunday, August 31, 2008

My New Travel Companion

I get very lonely when I travel sometimes so I bought a friend today that can keep me company on the road and pose in my photos. The problem is I now need to come up with a name for my travel companion so I am launching a competition to come up with a name. The winner gets the satisfaction of knowing they are more creative than I am.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Where Am I?

I'm in Ireland this week but you wouldn't think that based on the following pictures.

Not exactly sure why Google thought I was in Germany could be the ISP at the hotel is routing from Belfast to Germany - that makes perfect sense to me.

Spent the day in Dublin on Monday and took one of those hop-on hop-off buses around town, as we were rounding a corner the American flag caught my eye it was only a few seconds later that I saw the BC flag. I told my co-worker that we had to get off so I could get a picture. It's not often you encounter a flag from your alma mater in a foreign country.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Greenwich Mean Time

Yesterday I went to Greenwich for the day with my photography group. For those of you that don't know Greenwich is known for being the home of the prime meridian. Tourists actually queue for long periods of time to have the picture taken standing on the line, personally I didn't. Instead I just wandered around the park at the Royal Observatory. It was very peaceful and relaxing even though I didn't take too many photographs.

The day started out with a boat ride to the Thames Barrier. These were built about 20 years ago not to prevent the Thames from flooding but to slow it down given people more time to evacuate. I managed to get some decent shots of Canary Wharf and the Millenium Dome from the river.

The most exciting part of the day for me though was the walk home - I walked under the Thames! A tunnel was built from Greenwich (Cutty Sark) to Island Gardens which is open to pedestrian trafrfic. Now I've driven under the ocean many times but this was the first time I had walked under a river. I'm not sure why they decided a pedestrian tunnel under the river was better than a bridge over - but it does make for a cool experience.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sweet Weekend

Being overrun with blackberries from my allotment (that's a garden plot) I decided to make some jam this weekend. Didn't feel like just doing pure blackberry so I did a blackberry/apple jam. I have to say I am quite proud of myself as it seems to have turned out relatively well. I haven't officially tried the finished cooled product but the tastes I had while cooking were quite good. I plan on having a PB&J sandwich for dinner - yum.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Difficult Question

I bet you wouldn't think it would be difficult to answer the question "Where are you from?" but for me it is. During my travels I am frequently asked this question. If I answer America I get the surprised response that you travelled from America for only a couple of days, or that must have been a long flight. If I answer that I'm from London there is surprise that I'm not speaking with a British accent.

There is a definite difference between where are you from and where do you live. For many people the answers to these questions are the same, but to expats like myself the answers are very different. In speaking with other expats they have encountered similar dilemmas when posed with the question.

It has gotten to the point that my answer usually is something along the lines of "I'm from the US, but I live in London."

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Week In Review

I am back in the UK after 2 weeks in Barcelona. The Spanish classes went well and I hope to be able to continue them we'll see how that works out.

Highlights from the last week in Barcelona include:

Finally having a proper Paella. I got a recommendation from one of my teachers for a restaurant off the tourist path that specialized in Paella. I spent last Sunday drinking Sangria and eating Paella - fabulous.

Visiting Plaza Espana and the Magic Fountain. Over the weekends during the evening they do a music and light show at the fountain. The place is packed with tourists but I still managed to get some good photos. All along the sidewalk on the way to the fountain there are people selling all kinds of stuff. This is not legal and every so often you see them pick up their blankets and run off. The vendors really have it down to science many of them have strings attached to the blankets with their wares with one end of the string in their hands. If the police come it is a quick pull of the string and everything is packed up and they're off.

Seeing a Flamenco. Loved the music and the dance.

On a sad note my G6, my point and shoot camera, died while I was in Barcelona. Not sure what exactly happened but the lens is dislodged which means that the photos are all out of focus. To repair it will cost between £150-175 I think that means a new camera is in order.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot

Remind me never again to complain about the cold weather in London. The weather in Barcelona this week has been more than hot, by the time I walk to my flat from the metro stop (only about 5 minutes) I am dripping with sweat.

Since Thursday I have been going out and about enjoying all that Barcelona and the surrounding area has to offer. Thursday evening I went out to Park Guell (pronounced whey) which was desinged by Gaudi.

It was intended to be a garden community but nobody ever bought any houses there so now it is just a large park. Going with the school I was able to learn a bit about the history of the park that many people wouldn't normally know. As this was supposed to be a private community a lot of the constuctions were designed to trap water, there were supposed to be a number of underground tunnels that all emptied out into the central area so residents could escape from their houses if needed. During the trip I was quite proud of myself as I could understand a lot of what the guide was saying when he spoke in Spanish - now I know that he was speaking slower than he normally would but it's a start.

Friday was a night tour of Barcelona with stops at La Sagrada Familia and some other structure that I keep forgetting the name of. Here I spent more time taking pictures than listening to the guide. What I do know about the structure that after 100 years it is still not completed as you can tell by all the cranes around the building, estimates are that it will take another 30-40 years to complete. It is an absolutely amazing structure with all sorts of symbolism 3 different doors one representing the birth of christ, one his death and one his resurrection. In total there will be 12 towers 1 for each apostle.

Look closely at the towers you can see the names of the apostles written. Guess which photo represents his birth and which his death.

After getting in late on Friday I had an early start to go to Montserrat, probably one of the more beautiful, tranquil places I've been in a while. I could have spent days walking around, enjoying the scenery and taking photos. As it was we were only there for a couple of hours as there was a second stop at the beach. I know I've said it before but I'll say it again - I hate organized bus tours as you are on somebody else's timetable. I didn't feel like I had much of an option here if I wanted to see Montserrat the only way to do it was with the school.

Walked around the cathedral a little bit primarily to see the black madonna then it was a tram ride up to the top to get a birds eye view of the place. From here there are a lot of hikes you can do however with the limited time I wasn't able to do too many. I only walked down from the top. There were a couple of side paths off the main path down which I think the guide led the group down however I got separated from the group.

I had walked down a path to get a shot from the top and happened to stumble across some butterflies and birds eating at some flowers. I got rather engrossed in taking photos of them (surprise, surprise) and missed the meeting time by a few minutes. I quickly caught up with a few other people that were taking their time walking down so I wasn't too far behind and probably could have caught up with the whole group but instead enjoyed a peaceful walk down the mountain at my own pace with many stops to take photographs. And now for the photos that delayed my return to the group: