Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

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.

Half Term Action

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

Although we had no particular plans, I had the whole of the February half term off work. We went over to Wales for the first few days. I had a lovely long run in the Forest of Dean on Sunday whilst the others went around the sculpture trail. Christine drew the short straw as she got to run back to Monmouth just as the Arctic conditions arrived.

The next day we had to shovel the snow off the driveway before heading over to Llangorse Activity Centre. Christine wanted to cement the skills she’d learnt on her rope handling course whilst her Dad was around. Sue and I went for a short walk up a snowy hill!

Unfortunately, the weather deteriorated again as we headed back to Southampton. Not surprisingly, therefore, we weren’t the only ones to have the idea of going to the Winchester Science Centre and it was Thursday before I could actually book a ticket. By this time we had blue skies but it made a nice change to actually be able to sit outside and eat our lunch. The children enjoyed the special ‘Secret World of Gases’ show even if only for the loud bangs. I was less sure about the ‘We Are Aliens!‘ film in the planetarium but you could always just lie back and close your eyes… The same was true of our rather belated trip to see Paddington 2 the following day!

Christine took up the reigns again at the weekend with a trip to Mottisfont. I only made it as far as the car park, running back home instead.

Cornish Christmas

Thursday, December 28th, 2017

Christmas this year was spent down in Cornwall with Christine’s brother and family. We travelled down on the 24th, stopping off at my Uncle’s in Devon en-route. An early start (or maybe just luck) meant we had a painless journey and the sun really was out in force for the hour we spent on the front at Teignmouth. We weren’t so lucky with the weather on Christmas Eve as we headed over to St Agnes for a walk along the coast but the old mine workings provided some shelter from the squalls and the wind certainly blew away any cobwebs.

Christmas Day saw a return to the beach, this time at Maenporth, with the children keen to try the body boards they’d been given for Christmas. Christine also took a dip in the water but I generously offered to be the one who stayed dry and tried to warm everyone up when they finally came out of the water! Thankfully we were ready to pull out of the car park just as the rain returned…

On Boxing Day we returned home (another clean run) for a few quiet days before the New Year.

Balaton Biking

Saturday, August 26th, 2017

For the final instalment of our holiday we headed north again to the shores of Lake Balaton. At 77km long it is the largest lake in central Europe and the closest thing Hungary has to a sea. We were staying in Keszthely at the western end of the lake. Having checked in to our accommodation, we went for a leisurely walk along the waterfront. Between the outdoor fitness equipment and the playground full of wet-play equipment, we whiled away a good few hours before heading in to the centre of town in search of food.

The next day we made use of the facilities provided by our ‘wellness hotel’. This included free bike hire and we spent the morning cycling along the long-distance path that heads around the lake. This was obviously a popular past-time as there was a steady stream of cyclists, including many carrying their camping gear. When we stopped for lunch I was approached by a man to ask why we were there! It was a reasonable question: he was English and was the only English person we’d met since leaving Budapest. Keszthely was full of tourists though – just mainly German-speaking including, we suspect, many of them Austrians from just over the border.

Back at the hotel we checked out one of the three pools at the hotel. Whilst this may sound very grand, the combined volume of the three pools was probably half that of the learner pool at our local leisure centre! They were perfect for cooling off in though as the temperatures were once again on the rise. Having worked our way through table tennis, table football, pool and darts we walked in to town again and wandered the grounds of the magnificent Festetics Palace. I managed to persuade the family not to have pizza or pasta for dinner again: instead we went to a Mexican restaurant!

The next day was our last in Hungary and we started to wend our way back towards Budapest, taking the scenic route along the north side of the lake. We stopped at the Tihany peninsula which was a real tourist honey pot. We had intended to go for a walk but spent most of our time there in the Lavender House Visitor Centre. We’d really only intended to go in to use the toilets but the entry fee was such that we stayed to watch the film and then wandered around the exhibits. We did make it up to the Abbey briefly before continuing on our way to the airport.

And so concluded our holiday, only slightly marred by a long drive home when we discovered, rather too late, that the M3 was closed for overnight works. We’d thoroughly enjoyed our time in Hungary despite the heat and would certainly consider a return visit although there are so many other countries still to explore…

Orfu Orienteering

Friday, August 25th, 2017

The next leg of our Hungarian adventure took us to Orf?, a small tourist village, half an hour north of the city of Pécs (where we stopped briefly to stock up at Tescos!). Orf? sits beside a string of lakes on the edge of the Mecsek hills (the highest mountain in Hungary is only just over 1000m). We checked in to our shady apartment and then walked down to the village hall where registration for the Hungaria Cup was taking place. There was a bit of queue for the ‘foreign clubs’ and we didn’t help! We had underpaid and, to make the sums harder, I’d paid in Hungarian Forints but the transfer had arrived in Euros, and I wanted to pay the balance in Forints!

The next day, we walked to the assembly area for the orienteering and then promptly had to retrace half our steps to the start which was high on the hill above the apartment. Thankfully they had decided to let the open courses start whenever they liked so Emma and Duncan went to the start with Christine and set off together. They were on the taped course, a great idea which allowed them to either follow the tape the whole way (as they did on Day 1) or make the course significantly shorter by following the obvious shortcuts on the map (as they did on subsequent days). I struggled on the steep climbs in the heat but, at least travelling slowly, I didn’t waste much time on navigational areas. Afterwards, we cooled off in the aqua park by the lake which was free to competitors.

Day 2 had the same assembly area but we drove this time as, with starts after twelve, we didn’t want to walk there in the midday sun. Thankfully my course was 2km shorter but I still didn’t manage to break 10 min/k. Emma failed to punch one of the controls despite having been with Duncan but the organisers were sympathetic and reinstated her. After the day had cooled a little, we climbed up the lookout for views over the surrounding hills.

The assembly area moved for Day 3 and the courses got shorter again for a blast around an area filled with massive sink holes. The terrain obviously suited Christine as she won her course bringing her up into third place overall. We didn’t discover this until after the prizegiving though (which took place every night at the event campsite followed by a disco until midnight which we could hear across the valley from our apartment). We headed into Pécs to take in the Turkish architecture and an ice cream. With temperatures still in the high 30s we didn’t last long though.

The assembly moved again for the last two days to the neighbouring village of Abaliget. Christine was off early and took the children with her. She improved her position again, finishing second. The children made it back before her though and even had an interview with the commentator. I had a late start and, after some early blunders, was caught four minutes by the leader of my course. I was pleased to be able to hang on to him for the middle section. We made a return trip to the aqua park afterwards.

The final day of the orienteering was a chasing start, or at least it was for Christine. My cumulative time was more than 40 mins behind the leader which meant just starting off at minute intervals. We were back with the sink holes again and I had a pretty clean run, finishing second on the day which brought me up to seventh overall. Christine was also second which meant she retained her third place overall and secured a place on the podium. Thankfully she didn’t win the 12 (screw fit) light bulbs the men got but we did have a bottle of wine and 3 litres of apple juice to drink before leaving the country! We took the cave tour afterwards which was an interesting experience given it was all in Hungarian. If nothing else, it was nice and cool.

After one last night in the apartment, it was time to say goodbye to Orf? and head north for the final chapter of our holiday…

For those who are particularly interested, these are my routes from the five days (although my GPS failed to get a lock at the start of Day 1).

Boiling Budapest

Sunday, August 20th, 2017

The Hungaria Cup came up when we were searching for possible Summer holiday orienteering and, neither of us having ever been to the country before, we decided to give it a try.Part of our decision process also included checking the average seasonal temperature: a very reasonable mid-20s °C. However, when we landed in Budapest there was a heatwave in force and the temperature was a hot but dry 39°C! The top-floor apartment we were staying in downtown Pest did have a standalone air-con unit but it simply couldn’t compete and the temperature inside didn’t drop below 30°C whilst we were there which made for some uncomfortable nights.

On our first full day, we crossed the chain bridge to Buda and walked up the hill (the shady path on the hillside looking preferable to the long queue for the funicular). To escape the heat, we descended into the Labyrinth under Buda Castle, containing a bizarre mixture of waxwork figures dressed in mouldy opera outfits and Dracula themed displays. The latter certainly had Emma spooked!

We returned via the picturesque Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion. Stopping in a playground on the way down, Emma was unfortunately stung by a wasp but thankfully didn’t react too badly.

The next day, we headed past the Parliament Building to Margaret Island, which was taking a break between being the venue for the FINA World Champs and the World Masters, and joined what seemed like most of the local population at Palatinus Strand. There was no need to sample the thermal waters with the outdoor pools being quite warm enough. Sadly Duncan wasn’t quite tall enough for the water slides but Emma certainly enjoyed dragging me down them!

City Park was the venue for our last full day in Budapest. We had booked in for the circus mid-afternoon and, not being entirely sure what to do with ourselves in the interim, we ended up in the zoo. Given the temperature, part of the attraction of the circus was that the performance took place on ice. It was a superb show and the acrobatics would have been breathtaking even without the addition of ice skates!

Whilst we were in the big top the weather broke and we emerged into a torrential downpour. The rain continued the next day but it was time to pick up the hire car and move on to the next part of the holiday anyway…