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Lingering Garden

February 14th, 2017

Woo, came back to Suzhou again! For the sixth time. But luckily I’ve still got a few tourists attractions left to visit. So this afternoon, very jet-lagged, I went for a wander around 留园 “Lingering Garden”. Which I saw proclaimed by a random billboard as one of the “top four gardens in China”. Woo!

The centerpiece is the lake with rocks and pavilions which looks a lot like the other gardens I’ve been to, but this is definitely one of the better examples. And it was very peaceful to wander around in the spring sunshine. Also lots of artists there painting the traditional scenes.

Last spring when I was here the cherry blossom trees were beautiful. This time it seems I’m a few weeks too early. 🙁

Alcatraz

February 10th, 2017

On my last day in San Francisco my flight was in the evening so a colleague and I took the opportunity to visit the second most famous tourist attraction, Alcatraz.

Lots of websites say you need to pre-book up to three months in advance, but evidently this doesn’t apply in January as we just turned up at the dock and bought tickets for the first ferry of the day. The trip across the bay was very scenic, with great views of the city and the island and the bridge in the distance.

We didn’t have an awful lot of time on the island so couldn’t do the guided tour, but the audio tour was pretty good. And we got to see all the cells and facilities and escape shafts and so on some half-decent narration.

Quite a few people told us, we “absolutely must see the sea lions!”, which are in an the harbour area where the ferry docks. What a waste of time. It was some captive sea lions lazing on a wooden pontoon in an enclosed pool. Maybe I was missing something.

Twin Peaks

February 5th, 2017

I had a really hectic week in SF working 12 hour days for our product’s launch (even on Sunday!). So after it was over I felt justified slacking off for the afternoon to go exploring. If you were curious why I spent the last few years travelling to Asia all the time, here’s the thing we (finally) launched! (video) (sales blurb)

I walked from my hotel in a slightly seedy downtown area called “the Tenderloin” to the city’s highest point called Twin Peaks. San Francisco has an alarming number of homeless people – you can see some of them hanging out in the first photo below – which I didn’t really expect.

Walking up the hill

Above a certain point the view really opened out and you could see all the way across the city to the Golden Gate bridge. The Twin Peaks area is easy to locate from anywhere owing to the massive radio antenna on the top.

Panorama from Twin Peaks

I made it to the viewing area at the top just before sunset and made this panorama. On the other side you can see right out over the Pacific. I hung around until it got dark and cold then I summoned an Uber to ride back down. That being the thing to do in SF.

San Francisco

January 30th, 2017

I’m in Trumpland at the moment as some kind of tech support for the launch of our new product. On Saturday we had a free day to do some sightseeing.

I always imagined California was warm and sunny all year round but this is sadly untrue. At the weekend it was cold and wet and grey. Obviously the number one attraction is the bridge, so a group of us walked there from the downtown area. The neighbourhood around our hotel was decidedly dodgy, but the hilly residential area near the bridge had some very nice houses. Although there were no shops or other amenities to be found.

Pink house

Everyone else’s photos of the Golden Gate bridge have blue sky or the iconic fog, so I suppose my grey clouds must be somewhat unique. It was still very impressive to look at.

Golden Gate Bridge

Just underneath the bridge is an old fort called Fort Point that you can climb up on top of to get some really good views. This used to form a triangle of fortifications with Alcatraz and another fort across the bay.

Fort Point

Seafront Sunset

December 31st, 2016

Coming back from visiting my gran on Wednesday I saw this epic sunset on Hastings seafront.

Notice that the pier is now rebuilt! So proud to be a shareholder. 😀 Hope they can put some more stuff on it though.

Mince Pie Results

December 25th, 2016

Yes I know it’s Christmas already but it’s not too late to share the results of our office mince pie survey.

In all 24 pies were sampled: a record! The best is Riverford organic pies but the Waitrose “all butter” and M&S “star” pies are decent too. Stock up now!

Some Pigs and a Sunset

December 18th, 2016

Last Sunday I was feeling a little bit ill so didn’t feel like going for a full blown adventure. Instead I went for a walk along the Thames from Westminster to Greenwich. At the start it was packed with tourists and a bit annoying, but it soon thinned out and was quite pleasant.

Surrey Docks farm

About halfway I stumbled across Surrey Docks farm which is a fun little free city farm with some very cute piggies. I suddenly remembered I’d been there before, back in 2010 according to this blog.

Royal Naval college

The evening light in Greenwich was really good, and then we had this fantastic sunset. I took the boat back to the city centre which turned out to be a great idea as I took a lot of photos like this one.

Epic sunset

I keep recommending the “Thames Clipper” service to colleagues who visit London: it’s fast, cheap (you can use an Oyster card), and frequent – so much better than the tourist boats. They should give me some commission…

Huel

December 10th, 2016

I went for a longish walk through the Chilterns last weekend, which was the first time I’d been there in quite a while. It was incredibly cold but was worth it because the sky was so clear and blue.

Power lines in a field near Princes Risborough

I walked from the train station in Princes Risborough to the station in Henley. Two good endpoints but the route I chose between them wasn’t particularly good. I followed the Ridgeway national trail for that long straight section, but unfortunately it was a bit boring as it was just a sunken track at the base of the hills with little scenery. I wasn’t totally sure if I’d done this section before, but at least now I can say I have…

Woods on Swyncombe Down

It would have been a rather ordinary adventure except for one very important innovation: I’m currently trialling Huel as a food source for my expeditions. Huel is a nutritionally complete meal replacement drink that comes in powdered form. You just add water, shake in this beaker, down as quickly as possible, and then continue exploring.

Food of the future

The taste isn’t great, but that’s not the point. It means I don’t have to faff with making or buying sandwiches and I can easily carry several meals worth of Huel powder. I haven’t suffered any ill effects yet so all very promising!

Sunset near Maidensgrove

I figured I’d be practising my nighttime navigation skills again but it got darker even earlier than I expected. So I had about an hour and half stumbling around with my head torch on. Did make me feel like a real explorer though!

Autumn Leaves

November 27th, 2016

Last Sunday was a beautifully sunny day so I decided to do my favourite local walking trail, the Beeches Way. In reverse this time.

I did this in December last year and it was a decidedly grey and damp. But not today, the autumn colours were out in force!

Yellow tree in Black Park

Yellow tree in Black Park

The walk itself was fairly uneventful, I know the route now so didn’t need to faff with a map. Arguably it works better east to west, finding somewhere to buy lunch is a bit more logistically challenging.

Oak tree at Fulmer

Oak tree at Fulmer

As I was hurrying to catch a rail replacement bus in Cookham I caught a glimpse of the Super Moon. I thought to myself “tomorrow I’ll definitely go out and take a picture of that”. But the next two days were completely overcast and I’ll have to wait 19 years for it to return.

Andover to Petersfield

November 20th, 2016

While I was off work for a while in October I went for a multi-day adventure to the South Downs, and stayed over in Winchester. I lived in Winchester for a year about 10 years ago, while I was working for IBM. It’s a great place to live, but I didn’t do too much exploring of the surroundings while I was there. So this time I walked from Andover, via IBM’s campus at Hursley, to Winchester. And the next day from Winchester to Andover.

The photo below from the top of St Catherine’s hill to the south of Winchester. You can just about see my old house in the distance.

Just outside Winchester

Just outside Winchester

I followed the South Downs way for good deal of the second day. It was quite busy with other walkers, which is quite unusual for my adventures. The scenery was pleasant and the weather really cleared up in the afternoon.

South Downs Way

South Downs Way

Because I spent a long time faffing about in Winchester before I set off, when the sun started to set I was still miles away from Andover. Still, I managed to watch this nice sunset from the top of a hill whose name I forgot.

Sunset on South Downs

Sunset on South Downs

I did the last three or four miles in complete darkness, which was quite exciting and I only got slightly lost. Although by the time I arrived in Andover around 8:30 I’d rather had enough of it.