Monday, 31 May 2010

40th: Day Five - Big Sur

Today was all about miles. We picked the car up at 9am (it turned out to be a Chrysler - the Mustang "alternative". Even so, it's a cool car that has one an impressive electronic convertible roof. And to be told that the car is brand new with 16 miles on the clock did not help my slight nerves as I was mentally preparing to sit on the wrong side of the car and drive on the wrong side of the road.

We ventured out of San Francisco on "the 101" down to Monterrey and then on to route 1 along the coast. The journey along Big Sur is classed by many as one of the best drives in the world. We were not disappointed. At each turn, we had another amazing vista. This went on for a hundred miles with virtually no side roads or villages or towns. We stopped a few times to take photos, including a long beach packed with seals and sea lions.

We had intended to stop at a local motel, but the weather is hot and sunny and it's Memorial weekend, so the best places on the coast were full or silly prices. So we ended up in Nowheresville around 300 miles from San Francisco.

Tomorrow we enter Los Angeles.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

40th: Day Four - Haight Ashbury

It's not until you try to get across San Francisco by that you realise that it's pretty big! It took us well over an hour to get from Fishermans Wharf to the Pacific ocean at Golden Gate park.

The park is simply huge. It's 3 miles long and stretches from the ocean up to the hippy hangout at Haight Ashbury. Take a look at this image to see just how it was carefully designed. We took hours to walk right through it taking in the sites and people watching. We saw a humming bird drinking nectar and it's a shame that I didn't get a chance to take a photograph.

We then walked to Haight Ashbury and had a good look round a huge record store called Amoeba Music and then up Haight itself.

Haight is a great street with an amazing collection of independent stores selling everything you can imagine. It's a little like Camden, but far more laid back.

We then walked to the Castro and as we arrived, we saw 2 completely naked men walking up the street as if it were the most natural thing in the world. The image is blurred, but you get the idea. You saw everything! I am no prude, but come on!

We then went to see the shops Downtown before getting the F line tram back to the hotel.

And tomorrow we leave San Francisco to drive down the Big Sur...

Saturday, 29 May 2010

40th: Day Three - Sausalito and beyond

Another early start, but this time I'd enjoyed an 8 hour sleep, so all was well. Starting with a breakfast that consisted on coffee and mini doughnuts, we then rented bikes today from the wonderfully named Blazing Saddles, which has hundreds and hundreds of bikes and accessories.

We started at 8am by cycling along the bay and to the shore at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. The morning was blue skies and a sun that I knew would get hotter as the day progressed. There were around a dozen mad mad surfers using the waves that broke under the bridge and over the rocks. It looked very dangerous to me.

We then crossed the bridge and it is only at this point that you realise that it is very very high. When I saw the men painting up even higher, my legs went a bit. I'm sure that on a windy day, the crossing by bike is none too pleasant. It was a little shocking to see the Samaritan call boxes actually on the bridge.

We got to
Sausalito at Ice Cream time (you decide when that may be) and you can just smell the money. It's a beautiful place puts our coastal "posh" towns to shame - Whitstable is a rubbish tip in comparison. We had the choice at that point to get a ferry back to San Francisco, but decided to cycle on. A tough hilly journey right round the cove to Tiberon which is just as wealthy and has a mix of new houses and expensive looking apartment blocks and old (for America) wooden houses. Despite it being a small town with a tiny theatre/cinema, it does boast an international film festival. Lunch was purchased at the local Deli.

Despite the journey only being around 18 miles, due to the many hills, it took about 4 hours to get from the bike warehouse to Tiberon, plus the time we spent in Sausalito and stopping en route to take many pictures.

We got the ferry back via Eagle Island and then relaxed for a couple of hours before heading off to the baseball.

We watched the San Francisco Giants at the huge AT&T stadium. I really enjoyed it... Pete did not. There was a really great atmosphere despite the stadium being nowhere near full. Our sports could learn a few things from the way events like this are managed. For the record, the Giants won.

Friday, 28 May 2010

40th: Day Two - San Francisco

What a crazy day it's been - done so much and seen every type of weather imaginable. Neither of us could sleep despite being exhausted and were awake at 5am local time. So I went along with the mad plan of getting a cable car at 6am and seeing the sun rise over the bay. We had breakfast at a 50's style diner (complete with full size cow that mooed when orders were ready) and all in all, it was a great way to start the day.

A few things I noted about San Francisco today:

- Everyone holds a Starbucks cup as they walk about (perhaps it's the law).
- There is a Westfield shopping centre with curved escalators that are a little weird to travel on.
- The streets are more steep than I ever imagined.
- There are more iPad adverts than people.

We went to the Apple store and I played with an iPad. I was a little skeptical, but was extremely impressed at the usability.

At lunchtime we ventured to The Castro (home of late gay activist Harvey Milk) using a public transport system that is just a little confusing. Anyway, if you thought that Old Compton Street was gay, well The Castro is super gay with rainbow flags everywhere. Had a cool gay beer in a gay cafe, situated in a gay street, which had a gay decor, with a gay waiter and gay images on the walls.

We climbed the streets to get to the Coit tower to get some impressive views of the city.

Last night we went to the campest show ever called Beach Blanket Babylon. This was Pete's choice and a "San Francisco institution". It was a review show and had I not been physically and mentally exhausted, I think I would have appreciated it more. A fun night all the same.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

40th: Day One - San Francisco

It seems like days ago that we left the Jurys Inn hotel in Heathrow where we stayed on Tuesday night, but we've made it to the USA!

The itinery for our holiday (to celebrate my 40th birthday) is as follows:

- 4 days in San Francisco
- Pick up convertable Mustang and take 2 days driving down Big Sur to Los Angeles
- 2/3 days in Los Angeles and a trip to Universal Studios
- Drive to Needles for 1 night
- Drive to Williams for 2 nights incluing a trip to the Grand Canyon
- Off to Las Vegas via Hoover Dam for 5 nights in Trump International luxury

The flight on the Virgin Atlantic Mustang Sally was fine and I actually watched 3 films during the 10.5 hours!  The cabin crew were a flying cliche - all were male, camp and very gay.

Apart from the crazy security demands when entering the USA, the place seems a little alien but welcoming all the same.  San Francisco looks amazing and I am looking forward to exploring the city.  I appreciate the groans from those who have visited, but we are staying down at Fishermans Wharf - the tourist mecca.

Who knows whether sleep will come after being awake for 24 hours...

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Here endith Lost (no spoilers)

Lost has ended after 6 years and I am still trying to get my head around the ending. It was no surprise that it will take another viewing! A few questions were answered, but don't expect everything to make sense at the end.

For the first time I can recall, the finale was shown at exactly the same time as the US airing. Though I was not going to start viewing at 5am as I had to leave the house for work at about 6am (a rarity in itself), so we recorded it on the Sky box and watched last night. There were a couple of technical problems at first, but they were soon sorted.

I heard the news recently that Flashforward has been cancelled, so we cant just transfer to that weird TV programme.

Today is the day we finish packing and head off to the first hotel of the holiday. We are staying near Heathrow and fly out tomorrow morning. I do have to work today, but also have to clean the house in readiness for the house-sitter, despite secretly hoping that they would clean for us!

Monday, 24 May 2010

Advance warning: the next 5 on the fifth

As we will be on holiday on the 5th June, here is plenty of notice about the next "5 on the fifth".  It may well turn out a little disjointed, but I will try my best to update my blog as we navigate around the USA. 

Anyway... as usual, everyone is welcome to take part. You can either take 5 random pictures of anything that happens to you on the 5th of June (or the days leading up to it) or perhaps go for my suggested theme. This month, the theme is.. Looking Up.

I hope that you will be inspired take part and tell your friends about it. Don't forget to add a comment on my blog on the 5th with your name, location and link where the pictures can be found. Remember to mention my blog on your own blog so that your visitors get to see the other contributions.

You can join the 5 on the fifth Facebook page here.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Bring me sunshine

With only a couple of days before Pete and I fly off to the USA, we are spending the weekend in Kent at my Mum and Dad's house. The sun is shining and the sky is blue and at times like this, Kent is a very beautiful place. We have been to the local pub and also visited my friend and his family who have just moved back to the Uk from The Netherlands - there go our fun trips to Assen!

We went for a long walk yesterday and I took this picture looking across the fields from the Coldrum Stones just below the North Downs. I like the layers of colours in this image. Coldrum is a 4000 year old long barrow and is simply stunning and makes you wonder just why ancient man needed to drag huge stones across counties to build these burial sites.

So tonight we are back in Hertfordshire to sort our house-sitter out and I need to pack my case as the next 2 days are going to be pretty hectic at work.

And on Monday, we are probably up at dawn to watch the Lost finale!

Thursday, 20 May 2010


I blogged about the football club I support a while ago and how Crystal Palace has been in administration for a number of months. Despite the Administrator stating a massive interest from parties looking to buy the club, none have come to fruition other than a group of wealthy fans willing to purchase the club as “reluctant buyers”.

The acquisition has moved along and an offer has been made to the creditors, but the future looks bleak. Simon Jordan, the previous owner, and largest creditor by far is unhappy and could delay the club’s sale, forcing players to be sold and even forcing the club into liquidation… i.e. death. Many people believe that the downfall of the club is due to Mr Jordan and the naive mistakes he made. He certainly wasted a huge amount of money and has failed to advance the club other than build a top rated youth academy.

The next few weeks will see if southeast London will lose its professional football club after 103 years. It’s a sad very time. With this in mind, I have been thinking about the death of club I have followed since I was a small child – could I actually support another team?

I enjoy watching football and the rumours and politics behind it, but I know that I could not follow another team. Even if I found a club with similar roots, history, outlook and “feel”, I am sure that it could never feel like a part of me.

My life with Crystal Palace is complex and irrational, built on personal (and family) history with hopes, dreams, disappointments and even the odd achievement. All of this makes it worthwhile and you can’t fabricate history or loyalty.

The football business is flawed and needs to be transformed. I hope that it doesn’t take several large clubs going bust before clubs and the Government get involved to transform the sector. German clubs are not in huge amounts of debt and yet are still successful.

So it could mean that my only football outlet would be the England team* and that’s too depressing to contemplate. There has never been a club versus country conflict for me. England consists of overpaid, spoiled, immature “lads” who play bland football with the result in mind and never the performance. This fails to represent the football I want to see; I want my own team of overpaid, spoiled, immature “lads”, thank you very much.

So the future of the Eagles looks bad, but you could never say that being a Palace fan has ever been dull. The picture at the bottom of this entry is 5 linked photos I took one warm night at a play-off semi final.

* Staring longingly at pictures of Fernando Torres probably doesn’t count as a football outlet.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Exploring London

With one day to take from my holiday allowance before the end of the company year, I decided to take my camera to London and explore some places I had never been to and combine that with some family history research.

It was a beautiful Spring sunny morning and I got the first of many trains at 10.03am towards London...

- Arrived Finsbury park
- Underground to Highbury & Islington
- Stopped for a Latte
- Got the bus to Dalston Junction
- Took brand new Overground train (with about 4 people on) on the "new" line to Rotherhithe where Pete and I used to live. Of course, most of the line is from the 1800's but some of it has only just come back to life.
- Had a look around Decathlon while is rained heavily
- Took Jubilee line underground train from Canada Water to Stratford
- Saw the Olympic site from afar (cranes everywhere so you cant see much)
- Had some lunch
- Took Jubilee line underground train back to Canada Water
- Got back on the Overground to New Cross Gate
- Got a train to Norwood Junction and then walked to the house where the Burton's lived. Sadly, some of the houses no longer exist.
- Took a bus to Thornton Heath to see where my Great-Grandad lived. It's a very rough area now.
- Rode a slow bus to Penge and got off at the wrong stop.
- Got lost in Sydenham looking for Crystal Palace Park, but it was a nice walk in the sunshine.
- Found Crystal Palace Park and walked around it for an hour. Lovely place in the overcrowded streets of south-east London. Saw the concrete dinosaurs for the first time!
- Got a train from the impressive Crystal Palace station to Balham.
- Northern Line Underground train to Leicester Square.
- Had a look around Covent Garden.
- Walked to The British Library, but it was closing so will go back another day.
- Had a look around St Pancras station and the shops.
- Decaf Latte break.
- Train home from Kings Cross. Got home at 7.45pm.

Some images from the day...

Sunday, 16 May 2010

And you are?

It's been a dull week for me and I wont even bore you with my trip to the dentist.  Have a busy(ish) week ahead, but am using one last days holiday from work on Monday and intend to go to London and just explore with my camera.  I have a couple of places that I want to visit that I have never been to - I'll blog about it I'm sure.

Last night Pete and I and 3 others went for a meal at the top notch restaurant that we went to for my pre-birthday night out.  It's so expensive, but so good.  We ordered some wine and the waitress said "we don't have that one anymore - it was shit wine!".  To the point I suppose.

On facebook I posted a picture that I saw on the net and asked for feedback on what either our new Prime Minister or Her Maj' was saying.  This is my contribution...

Friday, 14 May 2010

Online backup

A while ago I saw a feature of The Gadget Show (one of only a few great shows on Channel 5) all about backing up personal computer data.  Your data can be lost due to virus infections, accidental deletion, hardware/software failures, power failures, etc.

I personally have a huge file of photographs, documents and music that would be awful to lose, especially the photographs.  A while back our computer died and it might have been possible to get someone to trawl the dead hard drive for the data, but I had a separate external hard drive as a backup so the files were readily available.

However, what would have happened if there was fire or theft?  I would be stuffed!  Therefore, I researched online backup facilities and decided to use the one recommended on The Gadget Show - it's called CarboniteFor $50 a year, all my data is backed up - I think it's a small price to pay to protect memories and to avoid potential hassle if you lose data.

If you don't backup your files, you are mad.  If you don't use an online system as well, you may be taking risks - so consider it by doing some research yourself... please!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Some off the wall Venice pictures

1. The elevators in the hotel - i.e. "Schindler's Lift"
2. Mirror mirror
3. Locks all over the bridge - not sure why
4. Pete 'n' graffiti
5. Dinner on my birthday

Monday, 10 May 2010

May Movie Update

Here are the films that Pete and I have received from and watched on TV and DVD over the past month or so, in reverse order, with my ratings out of ten from my movie list on IMDB.

The Girlfriend Experience 3
How could Steven Soderbergh would put his name to this rubbish.

Alfie 7
Classic Caine.

Paranormal Activity 7
Excellent horror film. Pete lasted 15 minutes watching this before making excuses to leave the room!

Away We Go 5

Vertigo 7
Amazed I had never seen this Hitchcock thriller.

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 6
Violent and too long.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas 2
I really like Terry Gilliam, I really hated this film.

2012 4
Cliches, awful acting, stupid story, idiotic sub-plots, great effects (all 4 points for that alone).

New Moon 6
Not the greatest story - but most points are for the guys whose shirts keep coming off.

The Truman Show 7
How come Jim Carrey can act normally and pretty well and other times he's a complete prat?

The Proposition 7

Sunshine Cleaning 7


Some Voices 6

Religulous 8
Already commented on this one at this blog entry.

The Fall 7
A visually stunning film with a story within a story. Bit too long.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Bye bye Miss American pie...

Last night Pete and I accompanied my Mum and Dad to the Royal Albert hall to see singer/songwriter Don McLean. The tickets were a present for my Dad's 70th birthday. As expected, the venue was full of people of a certain age.

I grew up with Don's music as my Dad played the American Pie album (on scratchy vinyl) over and over, so I knew a lot more than Pete did.

The warm up act was the excellent Lesley Roley who played a witty song about an ex-boyfriend who had written loads of non-complementary songs about her after they broke up. So she had written a song called Mr Sad and had a great line in it:

"Size is important when you're not very big".

She said he ex was none too happy when he heard the song.

Not much to say about the election result other than other European countries survive well with coalititons, so we need to get on and sort something out! I do believe we need a change in the voting system as too many votes are wasted, especially at safe seats, but that can wait.

Anyway, enjoy the dull rainy May day!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Five on the fifth #11

Welcome to 5 on the fifth, a monthly posting that benefits from audience participation. You take 5 photographs on the 5th of the month (or the days leading up to the 5th) - post a comment here with your name, location and link to the site containing your photos and I will update the blog entry with your information. Remember to mention my blog on your own blog, so that your visitors get to see the other contributions. You can take 5 random pictures or follow my suggested theme - this month it is: A journey.

You can join the 5 on the fifth Facebook page here.

My own pictures are below the links of those who kindly contributed:

It's My time, Oz via Dublin
Mark, Washington, USA
New Leaf, Arizona, USA
Al, Philippines
Les Maudites, France
Coffeedoff, Suffolk
David, Brighton
Daniel, Sweden
Mr Urs, Switzerland
Johan, Namibia 
Pete, Our house, UK
Dennis, UK
Howard, USA
I am witness, USA
Torchy, UK
Erik, USA



Sunday, 2 May 2010

Busy busy

It's been a busy weekend so far and there is another bank holiday Monday to come.

On Saturday, Pete and I went to Grand Designs Live at the Excel centre in London as we had free tickets. I had been to the venue before, but the sheer size of the building still astounded me. The show itself was not as good as I had expended - although there were hundreds of stalls and events, it was mainly high end stuff - i.e. expensive everything from furniture to kitchens and swimming pools to power tools. My favourite section was the food area - lots of gadgets and food to try.

On the way back, we called in at Ikea and bought some new furniture for the spare bedroom which we are currently doing up with some cool colours and a new carpet. Ikea was full of North London chavs and as usual, not enough tills were open.

Today I got up early (partly as Pete woke me up constructing the Ikea furniture) and spent a while clearing the garage and building "things" like shelves from an old bed. Recycling in action! I then spent hours painting, which I hate doing.

We then took loads of old wood, cupboard doors and furniture to Pete's mums house and had a massive bonfire. Great for a cold(ish) day like today - Caveman instincts to the fore.

And finally, Crystal Palace played their final game of the season today and managed a draw with Sheffield Wednesday sending the Northern team down and rescuing the Eagles. It's been a crazy seasons with stupid refereeing decisions, cup runs, great results, awful results and a bankrupt club. I am praying for a saviour and it has to come very soon. I'll blog about this again I am sure.

One other thing, when we were in Venice, we found a great gallery called BAC Art and we bought a print of a watercolour - the only obviously gay picture in the house. It's this image on the right... hope you like it too.

Saturday, 1 May 2010


It's almost time for the next "5 on the fifth".  As usual, everyone is welcome to take part. You can either take 5 random pictures of anything that happens to you on the 5th of May (or the days leading up to it) or perhaps go for my suggested theme. This month, the theme is A Journey.

I hope that you will be inspired take part. If you are looking for a place to store your images, you can create photo folders on Hotmail or Google (Picassa) for free. Don't forget to add a comment on my blog on the 5th with your name, location and link where the pictures can be found. Remember to mention my blog on your own blog so that your visitors get to see the other contributions.