Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Paris and Parc Astérix

Monday, August 20th, 2018

Our main holiday for the summer was to be camping in the French Alps but we had to get there first! We decided to take the overnight ferry from Portsmouth to Le Havre (very convenient for us and highly recommended for avoiding the tedium of a day wasted sat on a ferry) and then stage our journey down through France.

First stop after leaving the ferry was Paris. I didn’t fancy driving into the city centre so we parked out at La Défense (it was a Sunday) and took the metro in which seemed to work well. The aim was largely for the children to see the sights and we achieved that even if, with the temperature in the high 30s, we spent much of the time seeking out the shade.

Our overnight accommodation was conveniently placed just 10 minutes from our next day’s entertainment: Parc Astérix. After going in search of food supplies in the morning, we were still late to the party and joined long queues waiting to park. We were slightly put out by having to pay an extra €12 for the parking but there wasn’t much choice at this point. It’s still a LOT cheaper than Disneyland. That wasn’t our main reason for choosing it though: given an Astérix book, Duncan is lost to the world for hours as he reads and re-reads it.

We started with a wooden rollercoaster which turned out to be a good move as the rattling ride was enough to tame Emma’s desire to hit some of the more adventurous attractions. As you’d expect, absolutely everything has an Astérix theme although, as you’d also expect, sometimes it was a bit tenuous. It was very hot again and we were glad that, even when we did have to queue half an hour for a ride, there was generally a fair amount of shade to be found.

There was also a reasonable amount to do beyond just the rides. The dolphin and sea lion show was both entertaining and educational and “Main basse sur la Joconde” was quite a theatrical spectacle that had the children in stitches. Having failed to buy food to take in, we ate both lunch and dinner in the park and, to be honest, the prices were not unreasonable. We didn’t quite stay until the park closed but it wasn’t far off. In total we spent over ten hours there and there was plenty that we didn’t see and do.

The next day we set off south again, stopping at the walled town of Semur-en-Auxois largely because it’s about half-way down the country. We took a walk around the town and Emma was visibly wilting in the heat. Our hotel had big thick walls which meant the room was cool on arrival but sadly, without air conditioning, it didn’t take long for the four of us to warm it up! The children were therefore happy to get in to the car the following morning to complete the journey down to the Alps.

 

Over to Osborne

Wednesday, August 1st, 2018

Christine had Wednesday off and, there being some debate as to whether Duncan had ever been, we decided to take the ferry over to the Isle of Wight. We took the train down to Southampton from Chandler’s Ford and managed to race across town in time to make the next Red Funnel ferry. The car ferry is a slower crossing but, as we were planning to walk up to Osborne House, its destination of West Cowes would take us closer.

In contrast to our last visit (over ten years ago when Christine was pregnant with Emma), a grey start turned in to a glorious day. Unlike last time, there was no guided tour of the house and, instead, we traipsed around after a massive long queue of people. For future reference, apparently Wednesday mornings are particularly bad for tour parties. At least there were no stuffed animals to be found!

Next stop was the beach. Christine and the children went for a paddle in the sea and then watched the Osborne themed Punch and Judy show. (The puppeteer also gave a very good history of Punch and Judy beforehand.) We then headed back up past the Swiss Chalet, made a quick visit to the walled garden and, most importantly, a visit to the café before we departed.

Although it meant paying for the chain ferry across to East Cowes, we decided to take the Red Jet back to Southampton (it seems that a family ticket it valid on either). At the end of the day, we now also have a year’s English Heritage membership so I can foresee another trip over to the island to take in the donkeys at Carisbrooke Castle!

Tudor House and Garden

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018

Back at home, it fell to me to keep the children amused (more on that later). On Monday, I had planned to combine a shopping trip to Southampton with a visit to the Tudor House and Garden (having never been there before) but, on looking at their website, I discovered that they were having a special day where they were rolling back the prices to 6p the next day so we delayed our trip slightly.

There’s actually loads more to the attraction than just the black and white Tudor frontage that you see from the road. Given the name there is obviously the garden (and what, on a sunny day, looked to be a very nice café overlooking it) but there is also the remains of King John’s Palace and Westgate Hall on the same site.

There has obviously been lots of Lottery money spent on the buildings and exhibits but somehow it missed the mark with me when telling the story of the site. It probably wasn’t helped by the fact that the children were given one of these trails where all they had to do was spot some (toy) mice in each room. Such trails seem to have become the fashion over the last few years (we’d had to look for squirrels at Compton Castle) but they mean you get to the exit without actually having noticed anything other than some stuffed animals.

As a consequence, we spent much less time there than I had expected but for 18p I really can’t complain! If you are thinking of going, I’d get the joint ticket with the SeaCity Museum (and don’t forget you can get 10% off with a National Trust or English Heritage card).

Down in Devon

Sunday, July 29th, 2018

More often than not we simply drive through Devon on our way down to Cornwall so, for our first holiday of the summer, we thought we’d head there for a week of camping. We were staying at Leadstone Camping, midway between Dawlish and Dawlish Warren. It’s a pleasant enough site, certainly in comparison to the massive caravan parks that surround it and, for most of the week, we had excellent weather for camping. It was a shame we hadn’t packed the bikes as there was a good cycle route along the estuary to Exeter.

On our first full day, we were picked up by my Uncle (whose proximity was our main reason for choosing the location) and we drove to Brixham to take him up on a long-standing offer of a day out on his boat. Everyone enjoyed themselves as we sailed across the bay and back, although both Emma and Duncan were sick over the side. They decided that next time they’d skip lunch on the boat! They certainly made up for the lost calories with a very nice meal out at The Anchor Inn in the evening.

The next day we met up with friends from back at home at Compton Castle where, as my Uncle had warned us, there really wasn’t a huge amount to do. Keeping with the National Trust theme, we moved on to Parke for a nice walk. As is obligatory when in Devon, we enjoyed a very nice cream tea at Home Farm Cafe.

For our third day, we stayed local, walking down into Dawlish to see the black swans for which is famed and for a game of crazy golf. Dawlish is everything you’d expect from a British seaside town which I’m not sure is a good thing! After sheltering from the midday sun, we then walked in the other direction to Dawlish Warren. Once you get past the shops, bars, and arcades, it’s a pleasant enough spot with a good stretch of sandy beach backing on to the spit that is the nature reserve. We all had a dip in the sea and failed, yet again, to stop the tide overrunning our sandcastle!

We’d been joined by Christine’s parents at this point and, on our last full day, we all walked along the coast path to Teignmouth. We only had to shelter once from a passing shower. The children would recommend the waffles in Finley Brown’s cafe (although to be fair, I got to eat a fair amount of their massive portions). That whole section of seafront being dominated by the railway line, it seemed only fitting that we take the train back to Dawlish. Christine wouldn’t tell me how much it cost but I suspect we were paying more per person than the number of minutes we spent on the train!

All-in-all, it was a great start to the holidays although next time I think we’d stay closer to Dartmoor or further west where there are more options for things to do.

 

Snowy Snowdon

Thursday, April 19th, 2018

As we were half-way up the country, we headed on to North Wales for the rest of the Easter week. We were staying in YHA Llanberis. The forecast for the week wasn’t great and we stayed low for the first day, re-visiting the National Slate Museum and taking a walk around the quarries, dressed head-to-toe in waterproofs.

The forecast for the next day also wasn’t great but it dawned bright so we persuaded the children to walk from the hostel up Moel Eilio. Christine’s parents arrived that day and chased us up the mountain. Unfortunately, they caught us on the final ascent, just as the clouds came over and any views were completely obscured. At least the rain wasn’t too persistent.

Thursday had the best outlook for the week and we weren’t alone in targetting that day for an ascent of Snowdon. We took the bus up to Pen-y-Pass and walked the Miners Track as we did last time. The previous night’s rain had fallen as snow on the tops and we were treated to blue skies and some fantastic mountain scenery (more photos on Flickr). We were warned that a ranger was turning people back. We eventually met him about 50m short of the ridge where he was advising the use of crampons and ice axes for the final crossing of an icy slope. We pressed on (it really wasn’t that bad) but decided that we would return via the Llanberis path as it would be less fun on the return. Still no cafe open but at least there were views to be had from the top this time.

Friday was our final full day and we headed to Caernarfon where Gerry and Christine took the children climbing in the massive Beacon Climbing Centre. Sue headed into town and I made use of the not particularly exciting but flat National Cycle Route 8 for my long training run to Bangor and back. As a pleasant end to the week, we met up with my cousin and family in Colwyn Bay who Christine hasn’t seen since our wedding!

West Midlands JK

Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

As is often the case, our Easter involved orienteering at the JK but, for the first time, both the children were entered. We headed up on Friday to the Sprint event at MOD Stafford. As with all days, the children had timed starts and we had open starts which were very convenient. Duncan flew round his course but Emma disappeared. I guess we’d failed to explain to her that she needed to make sure that she was on the right side of a feature: something that you don’t experience on your average orange course. She’d wandered off for 20 minutes before returning to the other side of the wall!

We were staying in Lichfield which seems like a pleasant enough town: the cathedral is certainly impressive and there was a good selection of places to eat out even taking into account the children’s (ok, Emma’s) preferences. I had a particularly bad run at the medium event: I just shouldn’t be allowed out with contours. The rest of the family did better with Emma first on W12B, Duncan second on M10B and Christine fifth. We decamped to the nearby Cannock Chase Go Ape afterwards where the children enjoyed racing around with their second cousins.

It was always a bad sign when cars were being towed into the car park field on Sunday. The course was no less muddy but at least it had some longer legs and I scraped a top ten. The children repeated their positions from Saturday and Christine moved up to fourth. These were also their overall positions. We stayed around for the prize giving but it turned out there were no prizes for B-courses: so much for encouraging juniors! At least it meant we could take a more direct line to escape the now largely empty car park field unaided.

The relays were back at Beaudesert only now with the addition of an overnight dusting of snow. Thankfully the car park field had been abandoned but the assembly area was a complete mud bath. Despite running alone, I must have still visited every other gaffle on my course (and wandered into an out-of-bounds marsh by mistake!) Emma was running but not Duncan. She went out in the mini-mass start which meant that Christine was back in time to shadow her round. Just as well given that the course took in tracks that had only been created by the previous day’s event!

Snow and Sea

Monday, March 5th, 2018

The end of last week the UK was in the grip of Storm Emma and the Beast from the East. Needless to say, things were a little more sedate in our sheltered corner of the country but come Thursday some of the promised snow did eventually arrive and the children got two days off school as a consequence. The snow wasn’t the right consistency for building with but many hours were whiled away sledging (also somewhat of a tame affair given the lack of open hillsides in our immediate vicinity). I wasn’t much fun as my back had given way on Wednesday and was barely up to bending down to pick up a snowball let alone pulling sledges.

The snow didn’t last for long and things started to thaw out on Saturday with some rain to help things on their way. We fancied something a bit different come Sunday and headed over to Milford on Sea. There was still a lot of snow in evidence as we drove through the forest but it was hard to find down on the coast. We had a bracing walk along the spit to Hurst Castle, dodging the waves (some, more successfully than others!). There were even blue skies as we headed back for afternoon tea.

Just to stretch the already long weekend, the children had an Inset day today. We settled for a bike ride to the Chilworth Arms for lunch. Needless to say, my back is now sufficiently recovered for a return to work tomorrow although there’s going to be a bit of a hole in my marathon training plan.

Index Developer Conference

Sunday, February 25th, 2018

IBM launched a new conference in San Francisco under the name Index and I was lucky enough to attend. This wasn’t your usual IBM conference focused on brands and products. Although the tracks were aligned with IBM’s strategic areas (Cloud, Blockchain and AI talks were much in evidence, for example) it really was a developer conference with keynotes and speakers from well-renowned figures across the industry.

You can watch my session covering deploying Jenkins on Kubernetes with Helm and deploying to Kubernetes from Jenkins with Helm below. You can find the deck on SlideShare and the demo material on GitHub. For those who know what I work on, it will be no surprise that this is based on our discoveries when developing Microservice Builder. I highly recommend you also check out some of the other sessions on the conference playlist and watch out for Index 2019!

The timing of the conference meant I had Friday to be a tourist with some colleagues. We headed over to SF MoMA and then made the most of the sunshine with a stroll along the waterfront to see the sea lions and then to have to have lunch overlooking the bay.