Back from Edinburgh

My destination directly after my little London trip was to the capital city of Scotland, Edinburgh.  I fell in love with the place last year when cPanel were hosting a one day conference.  I extended the stay for 4 days, but it wasn’t enough to explore the city.  This time I had 9 days, and let me tell you, I saw (and drank) a lot.

The next few posts will recount my Scottish adventures, but let me just say that during my time in Edinburgh I was a tad annoyed at Disney/Marvel’s presence in shooting Avengers: Infinity War in the city which meant that tours (or anything) involving the Royal Mile was interrupted throughout that time.  And on my way home that also meant Waverley train station.

I suspect in order to qualify for the British film tax credit (read: free taxpayer money) which requires productions to pass a British cultural test (how the other Marvel films passed I just don’t know), I like to think the Avengers were fighting giant space haggises. Given how terrible Marvel has shoehorned British locations to get their tax credits, I reckon for the next Marvel film it’ll probably be shot in Blackpool where Captain America wears a knotted handkerchief, Thor judges a knobbly knee competition, and the Hulk becomes a ballroom dancing champion…

Flashbacks to my time in VFX came flooding back to me.. Hope Marvel’s Avengers enjoyed a nice cup of coffee while saving the universe from mutant space haggises.
Marvel was in town for over THREE weeks…
.. which meant that the section they closed involved a LOT of steps or significant detours up and down hills to get around them..

I’ll be talking more about various movies in the coming posts – particularly Skyfall, Harry Potter (I went to Hogwarts – but not the version I worked on), Downton Abbey and Angel’s Share (a Ken Loach film).

A Day in London

Every year I try to spend at least one day in London as a tourist to see what’s what with our nation’s capital.

So for this Easter weekend, I stayed at the Premier Inn York Way that’s just opposite King’s Cross station.  It’s conveniently located to everything – there’s a Tesco Metro just around the corner if you’re looking for snacks and drinks, but the Premier Inn itself has its own steak restaurant and Costa Coffee if you’re feeling peckish.  I decided to buy a Meal Deal for the two nights I was staying – this entitles you to a 2-course dinner and breakfast.  Breakfast is an all-you-can-eat buffet-style service and offers free Costa Coffee alongside the usual fare.  The restaurant offers a great choice of meals – I enjoyed the 8oz Sirloin for the first night and a very generous portion of fish and chips for the second.

Sock choice is important if you’re visiting London.

I booked a Big Bus tour for the Saturday and picked up the green route bus from directly outside of King’s Cross station which took me to Waterloo where I changed to the red route.

This was an opportunity to test out my new camera kit before I take it on my P&O cruise coming up later this year.  I have got to say that I absolutely bloody love my Sony RX100 M5 compact camera.  I’ve had the M3 and M4 (albeit briefly) and found them to be worthy cameras – but the M5 knocks my socks off with just how easy it is to use.  The autofocus and shutter speed on this thing is so fast and accurate (even in full auto mode) that practically all photos have come out super sharp.  When you’re on a bus, you’re a limited amount of time to frame and take a picture – and when you’re moving, it’s even more difficult!  But the Sony RX100 M5 is just a beautiful, beautiful piece of kit.

King’s Cross Station – where my adventures started

The camcorder, the Sony FDR-AX53, is also a wonderful bit of kit.  I haven’t had a chance to get to edit together the footage, but it’s super sharp and the sound (especially using the external hot-shoe microphone with dead cat) is spot on.

The London Eye, taken while the bus was travelling at a fair pace along the Embankment

The bus tour itself was hugely informative.  The blue route has earphone-based audio commentary (as it’s intended for multi-lingual tours), but the red route has a live English guide.  Both routes weren’t packed, and I even got to sit up front at one point which allowed me to take some great photos (albeit slightly reflective).

I was giving serious contemplation to taking a Duck Tours trip, but decided to leave this until another time

London itself was doing very well.  Despite that absolutely horrible atrocity that happened at Westminister recently, people were out in full force.

Westminister Bridge
Richard the Lionheart at Westminister. This shot really surprised me, since the bus was moving at speed and I just literally pointed it generally in the statue’s direction & hit the shutter button. It came out much better than I could have ever hoped.

I also used my “backup” phone, a OnePlus 3T, that I bought that I’m intending to use with the Samsung Galaxy S8+.  I wanted to have a spare phone in case I smash, lose or – heaven forbid – have the S8+ stolen.

The 3T is a lovely Android phone.  It’s much, much cheaper than most other flagship phones – but it has a decent spec that doesn’t compromise on anything.  My only complaint with it is that updating the thing is a pain in the rear end, and the battery life isn’t super great.  But it charges exceptionally fast using the proprietary Dash charger.  That said, the camera is pretty decent, and it’s now running the latest version of Android.

The following photos were taken on the OnePlus 3T as were passing Knightsbridge and other posher parts of the London.  As with all photos on this blog, click to enlarge – but please be aware that for optimisation purposes (to make things load faster), all photos have been lossy compressed on upload to the blog.  They should all look pretty decent, though,  I’m looking to make them all available in original formats at some point soon.

Heading back to Westminister and the Sony RX100 M5:

Not the Nine O’Clock News.
A recently wedded couple taking a horse drawn carriage just by the Queen’s stables.
This made me chuckle a lot more than it should have.
National Gallery, St. Martins-in-the-Field, Trafalgar Square & the Canadian High Commission in a single photo
Directly opposite Downing Street

It was a good day, and I look forward to spending more time in London next year – perhaps more than a day.  When I was booking back in January I completely neglected to notice it was Easter weekend.  That said, everything was open and it wasn’t as busy as I thought it would be.

Smoke me a haggis, I’ll be back for breakfast..

(To paraphrase Ace Rimmer from the popular television series, Red Dwarf)

If the overall theme of last year was gadgets, the theme for this year is wellbeing & travelling.  I’ve just booked all the bits and bobs for a 9 day trip to Edinburgh – one of my favourite places on this tiny island that I call home.

I’m starting in London – staying two nights at a local Premier Inn and having a full day to explore the capital.  I like doing something like this every so often – trying either annually or at least every two years to get out and about around the capital to see what’s what.  London is huge, and despite living on the outer edges of the place for approximately half my life, there are still many things to see and do.  For example, I’ve never been to the Tower of London.  I’ve not been up the Shard.  So those two are on my list.

After my full day in London, it’s first class all the way on a train up to Edinburgh. I’ll be staying at The Hub by Premier Inn again – after such a great experience last time, I’d be a fool not to – and especially when the overall cost works out at £38 a day  – including breakfast.

I’ve got a rough itinerary worked out for the nine days – including hiking up to Arthur’s Seat that overlooks the whole city.  A trip to see the Royal Yacht Britannia in Leith.  A day trip to see Loch Ness and the surrounding area.  Another trip to some whisky distilleries.  A day trip to Glasgow.  A day at Edinburgh Zoo – I’m a member, so makes sense for me to go visit when I can get in at a discounted rate.  And another trip to Edinburgh Castle.  Amongst other things.

Stay tuned – I’ll be sure to blog about it as and when.

My name is.. Slartibartfast

Over the past 16 years I’ve travelled extensively – from cross-country USA to Bora Bora and New Zealand, and a lot more in-between!  I have seen much of the world – but there is much, much more to see.  My last big adventure was in 2015 when I visited a friend in Seattle and we drove up to Vancouver, then down to the Oregon coast.

Back in 2012 I was introduced to the world of cruising.  We ventured on the Azamara Journey from Italy through to Portugal, and it was a wonderful experience (except the time I drank a little too much red wine during rough seas around Nice, but I’ve learnt my lesson and won’t be doing that again).

As I’m still single (all offers gratefully received – hehe), holidaying is a rather odd affair. Dining alone consists of a table for one while I’m checking the smartphone for new Twitter or some other social networks’ updates.  So the past few years proceeding the divorce hasn’t seen much in the way of a good holiday abroad  (the USA-Canada trip being the one exception).

So I’ve been looking at cruises over the past few months.  Based on my previous experience, dining is definitely not a solitary affair for a singleton like me.  Even as a couple you are sat at a table with other diners (often a mix of couples, families and singles) and you get to meet other people.  Where else could you meet one of Jim Henson’s neighbours (when he was growing up), an ex-New York circuit judge, an ex-representative for a major US telecoms company who personally looked after Apple’s account in its earlier days? A cruise, that’s where.

I decided that as I’ve always wanted to visit Norway (hence the HHGTTG reference) and Iceland, I’d take a two-week cruise from Southampton to Norway, then to Iceland, then Dublin, and finally back to Southampton.  There’s no flying, and getting to Southampton is mere triviality from where I am.  I’ve already put down the deposit, and to say I’m excited about it is an understatement.  And even more so, I’m going to buy myself a decent tux (how I miss thee – the last time I wore one was at the world premiere of Peter Jackson’s King Kong back in 2005).  And as the trip is a way off, I’m going to get myself in shape too.  It’s given me a goal to work towards.  This cruise is adults only, and a medium size ship – so hopefully it’ll be fairly quiet!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to buy my Viking helmet..