London Calling

While down in Peterborough over New Year visiting Shakeel instead of the usual spend on gadgets and playing of games we took a trip down to London, booking the London Eye and taking advantage of a cold but sunny winters day. It was also a chance to get some photography done – we were tourists for the day!

Sir John Betjeman statue at St. PancrasFirst stop was St Pancras station which has been newly redeveloped. It really is quite magnificent. There’s something about glass roofs that I really like. There’s also a nice mix of old and new architecture and the restoration is pretty faultless. I guess we were lucky as when we were there the station was very quiet so we got to take our photo’s without too much hassle. Full set can be viewed on Flickr.

Capsules at the London EyeAfter some pictures around Westminster it was on to the London Eye. After lot’s of queueing we finally got on, although we did manage to ‘jump’ about half of the queue which was nice – it was too cold to feel embarrassed. The hazy winters sun started to clear as we ascended and we got quite a lot of good pictures. The view in the summer must look amazing on a clear day. What was strange was there was no real sense of motion – it moved so slowly that you didn’t feel it at all. The full set of photos can be seen here. One shot I really wanted to get was a panoramic – stitching together lots of photo’s to get a wrap around view of London. It didn’t quite work out due to the low sun and the ever changing perspective but the result isn’t too bad as long as you don’t look to close – it’s also pretty wide at 18702 x 1614 pixels!

After that it was a walk around Horse Guards parade, St James’s park and Buckingham Palace. All very nice but by this time I was getting extremely cold. I really should have wrapped up a bit better than I did. It was a great day though and really enjoyable. It took quite a while to get the photo’s sorted and uploaded. I initially took over 600 photo’s but ended up with 140 published on Flickr. I also used Lightroom for the first time and I’m now hooked. So much more control over the image than in iPhoto. Just a shame that iPhoto 09 is coming with really nice albums and iPhone syncing. If only iPhoto worked like Picasa and managed photo’s in there own locations without having to suck/copy them into iPhoto’s library. I hate duplication.

Panoramic London from the Eye

Couple of things I need to remember when taking a photo. I don’t spend enough time watching where I’m taking a photo from. Lot’s of photo’s were slightly off centre from what I wanted to or were from a bad angle just because I didn’t think the photo through. I also need to work on not shaking as much – even with image stabilisation switched on I had a couple of disappointing photo’s. My favourite photo from the day though is the one below of Shakeel in the London Eye capsule. Just captures him really well. His full set of photo’s from London are also up at Flickr – he took some really great shots, even some of the ones without me in the picture are good. Hopefully this is the start of a lot more photo’s this year as is something I really enjoy doing.

Shakeel at The London Eye


Madrid - Plaza de ColonArrived back home from Madrid yesterday – what a great place. Unfortunately there’s not a direct flight from Glasgow to Madrid meaning we had a transfer at Schiphol in Amsterdam. On flying in you realise how flat Amsterdam and surrounding area really is. If you haven’t been before this airport is massive – we taxied over two motorways before getting off the plane. The driving around the airport is also manic – so much hussle and we had a couple of near misses in our bus to the terminal. Inside was great though – very modern and lots of shops – pity we had so little time there.

From the air the outskirts of Madrid are a total contrast to what I’m used to or expected – the area was so dry. The airport is nothing to write home about either. Our hotel and company we were visiting are based in Tres Cantos, about 20 minutes north of the centre of Madrid. There is nothing much there to see so we made our way via train back to Madrid after checking in (taxi driver did try to fleece for more money but I’ll put that down to our lack of Spanish).

Getting out the train station it took a bit of time to get our bearings – Madrid is very big and very busy and it took a half hour to work our where we were. Only now do we realise that we were 5 minutes form the Bernabeu and in time for a stadium tour – something we missed by five minutes the following night. Never mind – next time.

We walked around for a few hours then ate at Hard Rock cafe. Hardly your traditional Spanish meal but we were pooped by that time having walked down Paseo de a Castellana – one of the busiest and widest streets in Madrid. Next night we were treated to a meal by our hosts at Restaurante Gaztelupe, one of the best Basque restaurants in Madrid. What a feast. I had the monk fish and it was to die for – the restaurant is highly recommended if you ever visit Madrid although it was pretty busy so you have to book in advance. We also had a few beers in a small cafe/bar in the same area. It’s odd as the beers come in smaller sized glasses and in most paces you are served with Tapa each round – small selections of food to share. We later went to the Irish Rover – yep – an Irish themed pub. I guess it wouldn’t be a capital city without there being an Irish themed pub but unlike seemingly everywhere else it was busy for a Wednesday night at 1AM.

The train and metro system in Madrid is excellent with most services frequent and on time. We found it pretty easy to get around. Not so good was our use of the Spanish language. Terrible. Robert at least made an effort but next time I visit I will prepare beforehand and at least learn some basics.

There is so much to see and do and the people in general are pretty friendly. Weather is also good with temps of 20-24C although it was dropping to Glasgow temp’s overnight. We didn’t get anywhere near visiting the old part of Madrid or any of the museums but I have put up some photo’s of the trip. Hopefully next time will get us into the Bernabeu and other parts we haven’t yet seen.

Madrid Bound

Be a bit quiet round here for the next few days as I’m off to Madrid. Now this isn’t a holiday and is definetly a business trip with long hours and no time for play when I’m there. Honest.

Anyway – it’s a good chance to test the new iPod out. Video podcasts here I come. Still loving the mac by the way. Still amazed by the ease of use of it all.

Recharge the batteries

So – this weekend will mostly be in Peterborough celebrating Shakeel’s 35th birthday. It’s a shame it’s a short trip but will be good to get away. Need a break. The little things are getting to me while the big important things are being ignored…this really has to stop. This is coupled with a sudden urge to travel.

Anyway…back in the real world Big Brother 7 has just started. Does Pete have tourette’s or is he just a complete tit. Lisa – shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Shahbaz – stop stroking people. I have delusions that not watching any of the first weekend will mean I don’t get hooked on it. Aye right.