Tag name:holiday

Early photographs

19th June 2022

While I'm not a keen photographer like Zygmunt, I do take photographs and use them on this website. Some of my earliest photographs come from the pre-digital era but I have scanned some them in and present them here. You might also find quite a few of the others indirectly via the Image Tag Cloud for my images and photos.

Dublin

25th August 2019


I recently attended the 77th Worldcon in Dublin. As I wanted to capture some notes on that, here they are!

Wednesday

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Little did I realise quite how long the long way round actually was!

I decided to use the train and ferry to get to and from Dublin (the alternative would have been to fly from/to Southampton). I'm still (even after the event) not sure which was the better option! The easy part of the trip was getting to Newport to get the connecting train to Holyhead. There's a direct service which I regularly used to get to Bath and Bristol, so Newport is just a couple more stops and my train was actually ahead of schedule. The second leg is Newport to Holyhead which takes a long way round to Chester. I was concerned that my train was eating into the connection time with the ferry. Turns out I didn't need to worry - the ferry (the catamaran service) had been cancelled due to bad weather preventing its departure from Dublin. I thus had to wait for the next standard ferry crossing in a few hours time.

Once on the Irish side (and technically on Thursday as it was after midnight once cleared through Customs) it's time to decide to actually get to the Hotel. Given the score (or so) of people needing Taxis and my phone's mapping saying it's less than three miles to the Hotel, a quick yomp to the Hotel seemed plausible and was undertaken. Dublin Port at night, dodging the construction sites and then across River Liffey and the back streets of the redevelopment South of the River, I arrived safely at the Hotel.

Thursday

Remembering the long queues for Registration at Loncon 3 (in 2014) and that none of the early Thursday sessions were I must go to it sessions, I opted instead to start with an initial exploration of Dublin with a side objective of getting a travelcard to cover the trains, trams and buses. That achieved I visited the EPIC, The Irish Emmigration Museum, which is a pretty good museum (though any musuem with clips of Dave Allen will rate pretty highly in my estimation!). I then joined a brief queue for registration and collected my badge.

I actually didn't any talks on the Thursday (though I did look round the dealer hall (without spotting anything that got past my How Much? filter, due in part to the weakness of the pound versus the euro)). I was feeling the effects of the late night arrival and headed back to the hotel.

Friday

Arnaldo Pomodoro 'Sfera con Sfera' bronze

What can I say? I'm a sucker for this kind of sculpture.

With the first talk I was interested in not until 11:30, the morning I used to walk over to Trinity College and visit the Book of Kells. Getting there early was a good idea (as with many popular museums) as there wasn't yet a queue to enter. A good exhibition explaining the context, its creation and similar volumes (including the Books of Armagh also held at Trinity College). You can't photograph the book itself (A restriction I absolutely agree with - there are enough people who can't figure out how to (or won't) disable flash photography that it would quickly destroy the pigments.

Facsmilie of the Book of Kells

Difficult to photograph (due to lighting) even the facsimile)

The Long Library

The Long Library at Trinity College

The Long Library is also on display and is quite impressive (although it does feel like the volumes here are mouldering gently away - though hopefully that's just a wrong impression. I'd be very happy to have a similar library myself! It took a while to work out how you would get access to the balcony shelves - there's actually a section of the shelving next to the (shaded) windows that's a connecting door with a staircase at either end of the library.

It was then over to the Worldcon for sessions on:

How we became LV426
Which was an interesting session on how the American Dust Bowl happened and how how it was recovered to some level of non-desert (even if there is no way back to its previous state)
Computering before computers
A nice review of mechanical and analogue computers (with a reference to human computers). Included some which I had/have and a few which I hadn't seen before
Guest Of Honour interview: Steve Jackson
The Steve Jackson of Gurps fame rather the fighting fantasy Steve Jackson (though it turns out that this Steve Jackson wrote three of the fighting fantasy books anyway). Nothing dramatically new from the interview but an interesting listen.
Girl Genius: a radio play
Annoying too popular a session so I didn't manage to get to this one - but I should have known that....

Saturday

Dublin Dock Panorama

Looking north from the (redeveloped old docks)

After breakfast I took a walk along the south side of the River Liffey where the old docks used to be. This area has been redeveloped (much as with the London Docks) but there was an interesting exhibit showing the diving bell used in the original construction of the docks and its subsequent maintenance. Sadly I didn't capture any photo's and should have done.

More sessions at the Worldcon for the rest of the morning:

How astronomy might break physics
Which can be summarised as We've no idea what Dark Matter is, but a awful lot of options have been eliminated, and we definitely have no idea about Dark Energy and can't even agree on what to call it!
Patreon: the evolution of supporting the arts
Quite reasonably this was more of a self-help group of Here are our experiences so far rather than exploring the changes this kind of support is or might bring.
Just a minute
A take on the classic radio game show. Nicely done off the cuff swipes at the American, English and Irish views of each other!

Grand Canal

An overflowing lock on the Grand Canal. I think the designer expected there to be sufficient traffic along the canal to prevent the overflow - but a section of the canal is undergoing repairs so there was no canal traffic at all

I decided on more sight seeing for the afternoon with a trip out to Drimnagh Castle, identified by Zyg as c12 moated Castle, not sure if it open, I went to school there partially because Drimnagh is on the tram network so a good excuse for that and I could visit the heart of Dublin (Temple Bar and Ha'penny Bridge). Part of the route goes along side the Grand Canal and in fact the Drimnagh tram stop is next to the canal. It is not, however, anywhere near the castle, so some more exploration with the phone's map was required to locate both the castle and the school. The castle is open, but only Monday to Fridays and although I did wander up to the moat (which I can confirm is filled with water), the presence of the school and a confusing Dogs on lead, no trespassing sign meant I wasn't comfortable taking any pictures. This area looks like it is in the early stages of gentrification - at least the presence of a gated compound holding some blocks of recently built flats would suggest.

I then headed back to the City Centre to explore the Ha'penny bridge (busy), Temple Bar (very busy - as you would expect for early evening) and Dublin Castle (which isn't a crenellated castle of course).

Sunday

Started with some more Worldcon sessions:

Writing Interactive fiction
A session more on the mechanics and tools for writing interactive fiction rather than the more creative aspects. Still it might encourage me to finish my webgames.....
The lack of technological progress in fantasy
Partially a lament and partially an acknowledgement that an awful lot of fantasy doesn't follow through with their worldbuilding. That said, it was also acknowledged that it can be hard for the characters and/or narrative to describe the changes in the history of the world without bringing the plot to a juddering halt with a load of unnecessary exposition.
What writers need to know: physics and space travel
Can be summarised as Space is big. Really Big...

Breaking news about Pteroasurs

When they said history they meant it!

The afternoon was more sightseeing - to the Museum of Decorative Arts and History and to the National Gallery. Mostly because I deliberately went looking for it there's a good couple of galleries on Ireland's second world war and more modern peacekeeping history (If you don't look for it you'll find plenty of references to 1916-22 but information about events outside of this period is much harder to find. The National Galley had a good selection of quite impressive renaissance pictures.

Monday

In order to get back home it was an early morning walk to get from the Hotel back to the Ferry port.


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Calgary

1st March 2017

Calgary City ViewAs I reported in my last post, I visited Lake Louise last week. As to get there I flew into Calgary, I decided that on the way back I would spend two nights in Calgary so that I had a day to explore this city rather than just use it as an airport.

As I discovered on my explorations, Calgary is a young City, in fact I think it's probably the youngest City I have visited. It was founded in 1875 (and so is actually younger than quite a few buildings in Romsey!) and, in appearance, can best be described as the closest match to a Sim City game that I've seen. There's plenty of construction and redevelopment going on (as you can see from the view from the hotel room to the right).

That said, there's easily enough to see for a day's visit - personally I visited the zoo and their science museum and took a walk out to the location of the original Fort Calgary (interestingly for a historic location of less than 150 years old, there are fewer remains than those of Southampton's city walls!).

I also took the opportunity to do some book buying, though you could argue that was just an excuse to get out of the cold - I would argue that my picture to the right actually makes it look warmer than it actually was! (minus 10 or colder!)

The major museum is the Glenbow Museum - this is actually one of the best museums that I've ever visited, three floors with a eclectic mix of history (from both the settler and native viewpoints, plus a good perspective of more recent history too), arts and geology. As if to make up for the age of the city, the geology exhibition includes the world's oldest rock.

oldest rock

Lake Louise

28th February 2017

Lake Louise

Last week I visited Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada to join Alasdair to celebrate his wedding to Erin. Getting there was actually pretty straight forward: a flight from Heathrow direct to Calgary, an overnight stay at one of the airport hotels and then a coach from the airport to the Chateau Lake Louise 1.

Frozen waterfall

After settling in (and bumping into Alasdair on the way) I did a piece of exploration. It is somewhat surreal to take a walk across the lake to the far end (as opposed to walking around the lake. The image to the left is a frozen waterfall at the far end of the lake.

Having a room overlooking the Lake makes for a spectacular view, the image above is from my hotel bedroom soon after sunrise on the Wednesday morning. After getting some breakfast, I togged myself up to some more exploring - the outside temperature at about 9am was minus fifteen or so, so pretty damn cold! As Lake Louise hadn't had much new snow for a few days, the ski and, in particular, the snow shoe routes were pretty compacted and so I was able to explore one of the routes up into the surrounding hills. The afternoon was the actual wedding (followed by its reception). Alasdair made a striking and handsome appearance in his clan's kilt (matched, of course, by the rest of his family!) while Erin made, of course, a stunning bride!

Thursday was another clear day, so I took the opportunity to explore in the other direction, following a snow show route across to the village of Lake Louise, about 4 kilometres away (Canada following the metric system much more than the UK does).

Footnotes

  1. Actually a large hotel complex built on the edge of the lake, but one that has been built reasonably sympathetically with its surroundings.

Iceland

30th September 2015

Earlier this month I took a holiday to Iceland. Here's my attempt at summarising it!

I flew out on a Saturday afternoon, arriving in Keflavik (the international airport in the late afternoon. Once at my hotel in Reykjavik. I set out to explore the local area around the hotel (ignoring the local city airport that's actually adjacent to the hotel 🙂 Nearby is Perlan, a glass dome built on top of six hot water tanks that store hot water (heated from geothermal plants 20 miles or so further inland) for the city. I managed to take a panorama of Reykjavik from there (the artefacts in the foreground are caused by the fact that the panorama is taken from the edge of the roof around the dome rather than from a single point.

20150913_183332_stitch

SeljalandsfossSkógafossThe next day I started the coach tour ("Volcanoes and Glaciers") I had booked on. (I'll note in passing that, to my surprise, food prices in Iceland are comparable to those in the UK (i.e., not, as I had expected, Norwegian levels of price). That's mainly to the dive in the value of the Icelandic Krona since the financial crisis of 2008). The coach tour basically covers the highlights of the south coast. Let's start the scenery with Waterfalls! To the left is Seljalandsfoss, while to the right is Skógafoss - Can you guess that "foss" is Icelandic for waterfall?

At þorvaldseyi Farm, the family have constructed a visitor's centre where they show a film documenting the effects both locally and globally of the 2010 eruption of the Eyjarfjallajökull volcano - well worth a stop. Next was lunch at the Skógar Museum, a lovely collection of buildings, relics and artefacts. Finally a trip to the beach at Reynnishverfi where I took the following panorama:

Beach at Reynishverfi

Overnight was a gorgeous clear night, and despite the street lights next to the hotel, we did get a excellent display of Aurora Borealis and by moving away from the lights, I also got my ever really clear view of the Milky Way in the northern hemisphere (even on the Isle of Mull, I never really got a good view) and with three meteors too!

Jökulsárlón Glacier LagoonSkaftafellsjökullThe next day we continued Eastwards to the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon - a lake formed from the melting edge of a Glacier with a Iceberg carving from that edge. Sadly my picture here does not do this justice. There a boat tour out into the lagoon which was very good (My focus was on enjoying the ride rather than pictures - my excuse for a lot of these)

The rest of the day was spent visiting more glaciers and included a walk out to the edge of two of them.

On the Wednesday we travelled back west to the Vestmann Islands, and in particular the main island of Heimaey. The island was very badly affected by an eruption in 1973 of the Eldfell Volcano. Surtsey is one of the other islands, access to which is, quite rightly, restricted to scientists studying the progress of the island's colonisation by wildlife of all sorts.

20150916_155125_stitchIt's very strange to walk up a hill (Eldfell is only 200 metres high) that's not only younger than you are, but is actually still warm from the heat retained under the surface (it wasn't hot - but was definitely warm). There's an excellent exhibition of a house dug out from the ash fall from Eldfell.

The final day of the tour included the sights of the golden circle - the "standard" tourist trail for Iceland - not that the sights are a bad thing, but there's a lot to fit in!

GullfossThe gullfoss waterfall is a mighty set of falls set in a ravine - the whole area is spectacular and well worth the visit! As a side note, the guide books correctly warn you to take care - the Icelanders assume you have common sense!

 

 

While the eponymous Geysir (from which the english word Geyser is derived) is no longer very active (natural geological changes together with human abuse has basically converted it in a (very) hot pool, the nearby Strokkur Geyser is pretty reliable spouting about once every five to ten minutes. It is very impressive, even if human intervention was involved.


(Attachment details available here.)

The edge of the american tectonic plateThe final visit was to þingvellir National Park which is a rift valley between the American and European tectonic plates and by a lucky choice by the Icelandic forebears, the original site of the alþing, the national parliament of Iceland arguably the oldest democratic body (it can trace its roots to AD 930). The photo shows the edge of the American tectonic plate from inside the rift valley.

I did mange a short tour of Reykjavik in the evening, but should have booked an extra day to allow me to do a proper exploration of this city (the centre is, unsurprisingly relatively small, but having just a hour or so was not enough time!)

Before the flight home the next day, my trip including a visit to the Blue Lagoon, an upmarket spa built around the waste water from a nearby geothermal plant - An impressive example of reuse and exploitation of natural resources (both natural and tourist 🙂

All in all an excellent visit and one I'd be happy to repeat!

Whitehaven

8th August 2015

Aerial picture of Whitehaven

I recently visited Whitehaven to meet up with Sue & Matthew as they sail their boat up to Scotland. As is usual for their travels, this wasn't the original plan (which was to meet up in Liverpool). I travelled by train, with my original plan being scuppered from the start as the train from Romsey to Southampton was delayed by just enough to allow me to miss the Southampton to Birmingham International train. Fortunately this only caused a hour or so's delay to my journey (which got distinctly less busy the further North I went).

I stayed for three nights to allow us two days of sightseeing. Tuesday was spent travelling on the Ravenglass and Eskdale narrow gauge railway and exploring around Dalegarth, which included mistaking a river edge for the path we were aiming for - my excuse is that we weren't the first to make that mistake as evidenced by the boot tracks!

Wednesday we explored around Whitehaven including the Rum Story, which was surprising large and a good museum (lots of information boards and explanations of the exhibits, my personal preferred information source since it allows me to go at my own pace and speed). We also visited Haig pit, an old coal mine (the last one to be closed locally). This was also very interesting, though has only the surface building open.

My return trip was uneventful, which shows it is possible to travel the length of England without trouble (even if the odds are lower than 100%!)

Holiday '97

4th January 1999

Note: Footnotes and images added in June 2022

Perth

Rising Moon over Perth

The trip started in Perth (Australia) after a long flight from Heathrow. This actually helped me to avoid too much Jet Lag as I was able to stay awake until dinner time before going to bed on the first day. To past the time before then I did some exploring of the city and, much to my disgust, located the IBM building (it's way too close to the Western Australian parliment buildings). The next two days were spent in more properly exploring Perth. This city I rate as the best city I've visited, with a very pleasant environment, friendly people and while having skyscrapers manages to make them scenic. During the evenings I headed out to King's Park (which overlooks the city) to watch the moonrise and the appearance of the Southern Cross and Alpha and Beta Centauri.

Indian Pacific Train

Railway at Cook

I then took the Indian Pacific train from Perth (leaving lunchtime on the Friday) to Syndey (arriving lunchtime on the Monday). This was an impressive way to get a feeling (and I have to say only a feeling) for the true size of Australia. It's still a little hard to realise that when the train stops at a place called Cook to refuel (Cook's *only* reason for existence is as a refuelling and passing place for the trains!) there's no other habitation for tens of miles and no other town for hundreds. I saw a glimpse of Adelaide and did manage to see some Kangaroos from the train later in the journey (and I had to have the Kangaroo meat in one of the meals on the train, I travelled first class for this trip of course!)

Syndey Opera House

Syndey Harbour

Syndey proved to be a bigger and busier city than Perth, and much windier too! The Opera House is amazingly photogenic and Syndey's harbour is superb. I wish I'd had more time to explore Syndey and time to explore the surrounding country (a common complaint for almost all of my holiday :-).

Kauri Tree

Switchboard at the Wagener Musuem

Then onto Auckland to join the coach tour of New Zealand. In retrospect, this was the right choice since there's alot to see in NZ and I wouldn't have seen as much on my own. However next time I now know where to concentrate on, so that I don't feel like I haven't had enough time to explore a given area. The first day the coach headed north and I heard probably more than I want to know about NZ's Kauri Tree (an oak-like conifer tree which grows (slowly) to very large sizes and makes excellent wood (which is why there ain't much of it left). The second day we headed to the top of New Zealand and saw the meeting of the Tasman Sea and the pacific (seeing waves arriving at right angles to each other as they pass over some shallows is a bit weird. In the afternoon we visited the Wagener's Museum, a place which if you are ever in the area I strongly recommended visiting. The Wageners were a wealthy family that, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, collected 'junk', e.g. old telephone exchanges, typewriters, penny arcade machines, chamberpots......

Auckland Skytower

A Warning Sign in Rotorua

]The next day back to Auckland, where I can easily believe the estimate that one in four of the million+ inhabitants own a boat(yacht) of some sort. Its oneupmanship is shown by having a sky tower six metres taller than Syndey's.... It is also built on over sixty extinct volcano cones..... On the next day we headed south to Rotorua, which is the centre of Maori people and the main geothermal area. Walking through a town where the drains are steaming from geothermal heat and in places the steam comes up through the paving stones is interesting, as is walking on a nature trail where warning signs advise you to stay on the trail as the solid ground you can see near a boiling pool is only a few centimetres thick and liable to break and drop into literally boiling water.

Steam from Mount Ruapehu

Wellington

Then onto Lake Taupo (formed when a large (i.e. several miles wide) dome of rock exploded). From here I took a scenic flight to see two of NZ's three active volcanoes, and I did catch steam from Mt. Ruapehu on film. We travelled onto Wellington for a night (unfortunately Wednesday and the observatory on the hills above the hotel only opens on Tuesdays and Saturdays).

A seagull chasing the inter-islander ferry

The South Island starts with the inter-lander ferry between the north and the south islands. The seagulls optiministically assumed the ferry was a large fishing boat and/or had sussed that the tourists are easy marks, and flew very close to the ferry (I managed to get a good picture of one). Once on the South Island, we continued onto Nelson, a small town on the coast. Here we stayed at one hotel on the tour that had real character. I had an excellent walk from the hotel to the 'centre of New Zealand', an unimpressive monument on top of a hill. The next day was onto Greymouth, which has to be said is a pretty boring place, although my view may have been coloured by the cold I had gained and the steady change in the weather from sunny to rain. (It should be noted that this change is normal due to the way the air flows up from antartica across the southern ocean, warming up and gathering moisture and then hitting the South Island).

Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef Glacier Mouth

The following day, however, was, for me the highlight of the holiday. The destination for the evening stop was the Franz Josef Glacier and for the braver and more 'robust' members of the tour, we could arrange to get a guide and actually an hour or two on the glacier itself. The Franz Josef Glacier is very impressive (despite some drizzle), as it flows at up to four meters per day (and in recent years has been growing1). It's even more impressive as our guide took the seven of us right up to the front of the glacier and then led us up the front of the glacier and onto the body of the glacier. The feeling of achievement was amazing and as I say, this was the unexpected highlight of the holiday.

Queenstown

The next day onwards to Queenstown. The climate difference between the west coast and the inland side on the other side of the southern alps is dramatic. If you ever need a demonstration of 'rain shadows', this was the place for it. We had two nights at Queenstown. Normally this is the place for those action activities (e.g. bungee jumping, jetboat rides in the lake and rivers etc). I, however, didn't want to do much as it was the first anniversary of the death of my sister.

Two photos of Waterfalls at Milford Sound

The next day on the coach we travelled to Milford Sound. This is an area of outstanding scenery, best seen just after a lot of rain. The 'a lot of rain' was no problem. However the 'just after' was a problem. Some of the coach party was disappointed, but given it rains here 350 days of the day I saw no reason to be upset and we did see the spectacular waterfalls (just no way to photograph them...2)

Penguin in shelter

Penguin

Thence onwards to Dunedin. There was the chance to visit the Otago Peninsula which has albatross and a sanctuary for yellow-eyed penguins. My mother tells me that from an early age I was fascinated by penguins at zoos, so she was unsurprised to learn that this was an opportunity I wasn't going to miss. Despite the gloom I got a couple of excellent pictures3 and throughly enjoyed the visit.

Boiling Mud

More Boiling Mud

From Dunedin, the next stage was Mt. Cook. Here I took another scenic flight and watched Mt. Cook change colour as the sun sets out of view. In the late evening I did some more Star-gazing. Here, despite the fact that Mt. Cook village is smaller (I estimate smaller than Stanford-in-tthe-Vale) and the nearest other settlement is 50 or so miles away, your night vision is still easily ruined by headlights from cars on the roads! Christchurch was the next stop. Christchurch is a very pretty city, which was only marred by the sighting of an IBM Building. (The damn things kept leaping out at me when I least expected them!). I was also surprised by the eruption of a nasty looking red rash on my chest, arms and legs. Fortunately it turned out that this was (most likely) an allegeric reaction to some cold sweets I had. Oh well, it added to the excitement of the trip! Then back to Wellington, this time on a Saturday, so in the evening I spent a pleasant time up at the observatory above the city. The tail end of the tour was the route back to Auckland. This travelled through Napier (a good town if you enjoy 'Art Deco' Architecture, but unfortunately it makes little impression on me (either good or bad)). We also visited a different part of the Lake Taupo Thermal area and a Kiwifruit Orchard.

Exploratorium

Cable Car

The final part of my holiday was San Francisco. The overnight flight across the date-line was relaxing, mainly because of the anti-histamines I been prescribed in NZ (and, as in the UK, the pharmicist recommended just buying the drugs as it was cheaper that way than paying the prescription charge....). These made me drowsy and having a three seat row to myself made it particularly easy to sleep on this trans-pacific flight. I was feeling nervous about the states, as it is not known for being a friendly place, but in fact San Francisco is quite a safe city (at least in daylight :-). I explored most of the local musuems in SF and travelled several times on the cable cars, whilst attempting not to spend too much in the bookstores etc. I'm not too sure what to say about SF, other than to say I enjoyed my visit there4.

In retrospect, it turns out this was a 'look and see' type of holiday, which is unsurprising given my nature. I highly enjoyed the whole trip and intend to visit NZ again in five or so years time5.

Footnotes

  1. Update from 2022 - the glacier stopped advancing in 1999 and has since retreated as the following image from wikimedia shows
  2. Turns out my notes from 1997 lied - though the photographs I did get were from the boat cruise and not from the coach...
  3. Though with camera shake due to the lack of flash (rightly prohibited to protect the penguins
  4. The place that still sticks in the memory from San Francisco is the Exploratorium. They had an exhibit showing how a geyser works
  5. Which didn't happen. I did plan to go back in 2020 and even got the trip booked. And then Covid-19 intervened...