Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Druidic Rave

Thursday, September 5th, 2019

The children weren’t back at school until Thursday and, as we still have time left on our English Heritage membership, we decided to head to Stonehenge for a visit. I admit that this was largely for my benefit. The children have both been there on school trips. I, on the other hand, just have childhood memories of looking at the stones through the 6ft fence from the road when we stopped at the car park for lunch on our way to holiday in Bournemouth!

Although the road has now been diverted, you can still stand at that same point without paying a penny. The fence has been reduced to 3 feet high but there’s a burly security guard to ensure that no-one takes advantage of this! As a paying guest, you get closer to the stones although you’ll have to come on the solstice or one of the small group tours to actually get amongst them.

The car park has now relocated to ~1 mile away and is adjacent to the shiny new exhibition centre. We decided to walk from there to the stones rather than take the shuttle bus. Unfortunately, more than three-quarters of the exhibition centre is given over to the shop, cafe and toilets, which means what remains feels rather cramped. As with the audio tour, the exhibition struggles with the fact that no-one really knows why Stonehenge is there and probably never will. As impressive as it is, I left thinking “but look what the Egyptians were doing at the same time”!

Oh, and what of the “Druidic Rave”? An anagram of my name!

Camping Capers

Wednesday, September 4th, 2019

On the Bank Holiday Monday we continued on to Gower where we were booked in to camp at Pitton Cross. Admittedly it was not our first choice but, at least in the camping field away from the electric hookups, it was a pleasant enough site. On arrival, we wasted no time in checking out the footpaths that led down to the nearest rocky cove, less than a mile away.

The next morning, we made the slightly longer trek to Mewslade Bay. It was pretty quiet when we arrived but filled up as the day went on. As is my want, I didn’t make it in over my knees but the water must have been fairly warm as the others spurned their wetsuits when bodyboarding. As high tide approached, the sand almost disappears completely and we were almost the last ones off the beach. The day was rounded off with a lovely meal with friends over in Oxwhich.

Wednesday was forecast to be wet and it didn’t disappoint. I did quite a lot of reading whilst Christine and the children dodged the showers with a walk to Rhossili. The sun re-emerged in the evening when we went over to Port Eynon, picking up fish and chips on our way back to the tent. We then copied our neighbours as they tried out their frisbee and then kite.

The sun was out again on Thursday although the blustery wind made us think twice about our planned trip over the causeway to Worm’s Head. It was fine though and the lush green grass on the island contrasted beautifully against the blue skies and water. As I set off for a run over Rhossili Down, Emma was heading down to the beach for more bodyboarding. Duncan was less keen. Perhaps not surprising when we later discovered that we’ve mistakenly given his younger cousin the wetsuit he wore earlier in the summer and were trying to shoehorn him into the smaller version. He also caught a glancing blow from a bodyboard flapping about in the wind which didn’t improve matters! Nothing that couldn’t be resolved with tea and cake though.

With the wind set to continue through the night, for the second time this summer we decided to pack up our tent that evening and head home. For myself and the children, it wasn’t an end to our camping though. We joined friends for our annual ‘Dad’s camping’ night on Saturday. This year we spurned the New Forest and stayed at Holden Farm on the South Downs. The site facilities were flawless although the grass was a little long where we were in the overflow field.

We made the short walk to the Flower Pots Inn in Cheriton, only to find it closed for the afternoon. As the heavens opened, they took pity on us and supplied beer as we (and others) sheltered in the marquee. When the sun came back, we returned to the campsite for the traditional BBQ. The Dads didn’t manage to stay up much longer than the kids as, having failed to book a firepit, the temperature plummetted as darkness fell. It was also only in the dark that you became acutely aware of how loud the traffic on the A272 was. It’s still a lovely location though and I’m sure we shall be back.

More photos from Gower over on Flickr.

Peak District Camping

Sunday, August 11th, 2019

We had our first trip away of the school holidays last week. We were due to camp in Edale in the Peak District and, with the news full of the reservoir full to bursting-point at nearby Whaley Bridge, we were somewhat concerned about the potential weather conditions. As we arrived at Upper Booth Farm there was, thankfully, no sign of the forecast downpours.

The campsite itself is fairly remote (the final instruction from the sat-nav was to turn right onto the Pennine Way!) but it was a pleasant walk over the fields to the pub in Edale for dinner where we were joined by Christine’s cousin. We started out again that way the next morning to pick up lunch supplies and then continued on up Grindsbrook and on to Kinder Downfall, returning via Jacob’s Ladder.

On Tuesday, we drove to the National Trust car park at Mam Tor and had a quick trip up to the top before walking down into Castleton. We visited the town’s main attraction (one of the many tea shops) and then, as we have English Heritage membership at the moment, Peveril Castle. Not much to see of the castle but, having ascended to the keep, there are good views to be had. We returned to the car via Cave Dale and headed for Blue John Cavern just as the heavens opened. The natural caverns are fairly impressive and the guide was both informative and entertaining.

Christine abandoned us to visit her aunt in hospital the next day. We drove round to Ashopton (most of which is now under Ladybower Reservoir) and walked up and along Derwent Edge. Christine had picked her day as this was the only occasion on which we had to don full waterproofs whilst out walking. Christine returned with her cousin (a different one) and two children and we checked out the other pub in Edale that evening.

The enlarged party went for a walk along Stanage Edge the next day. The rocks were crawling with climbers. We then decamped to Hathersage’s open air pool. The pool is heated but it was absolutely heaving which meant moving about sufficiently to actually stay warm was difficult. I was happy to warm up with a pot of tea afterwards whereas Emma went for the obligatory holiday ice cream.

With rain forecast for the Friday, we decided to pack up a dry tent and head home late Thursday evening.

More photos over on Flickr.

Florida Foray

Saturday, June 1st, 2019

My employer seems to have decided that face-to-face meetings taking place in months beginning with ‘M’ should take place in beach resorts starting with the same latter. In March it was Marbella and in May it was Miami Beach. For the latter, a couple of colleagues suggested we extend our trip and drive up to Kennedy Space Center. Having never been to Florida before, I was keen to join them.

There was due to have been a SpaceX launch two days before our visit and when it was pushed back by 24 hours it seemed too good an opportunity to miss so we set off that evening. Sadly, half way there we got the news that the launch had been scrubbed again. As a consequence, we then stopped at a steakhouse for dinner which turned out to be even sadder!

Staying up near the Space Center did still have the advantage that we could be there from the moment the gates opened until chucking out time. As someone who had visited many years ago commented, it has been a bit Disneyfied in that there was no-end of 3D cinemas and rides but there are also lots of one-of-a-kind original artifacts. After taking a tour around the Rocket Park and then spending some time in the Atlantis space shuttle exhibition the party split in two based on the tours we were booked on.

I joined Steve on the Explore Tour which includes stops at the massive Vehicle Assembly Building and Launch Pad 39 where the Apollo and Shuttle Program’s launched from. Although launching from elsewhere, sadly the SpaceX rocket had already been moved back inside so we didn’t even get to see it on the ground.

The following day, we had a few hours to kill after dropping a colleague at the airport for an earlier flight. We decided to make a side trip to the Everglades. We did spot a couple of alligators on the airboat tour but, to be honest, the boat ride itself was probably more fun, particularly as there were plenty of gators lazing about in the sun when got back to the nature reserve. There was even the opportunity to hold a three-year old (captive) alligator as part of the educational show.

Days in DC

Monday, May 27th, 2019

On arrival in Washington DC from New York for the second half of our holiday, we checked in to our hotel and headed a few blocks south to the White House. It ended up being a longer lap of the building than we had anticipated as the immediate area was cordoned off due to a security incident earlier in the day.

The next day was a Saturday and we took the Metro to Roosevelt Island, somewhere that is probably not high on the list of attractions for most visitors but is the home to one of DC’s parkruns. It was nice to be out doing something other than seeing yet more sights. After showering back at the hotel, we walked along the Mall where the Cherry Blossom Parade was just coming to an end and went to the Botanic Garden. My eyes were streaming by the end of the day which I put down to the tree pollen and spent the rest of the holiday on antihistamines.

The next day was spent at the National Air and Space Museum. The downside of the Smithsonian Museum’s being free is that it was absolutely jam-packed with people. We’d booked in to see a 3D film which was a relief from the crush even if two out of the four of us ended up watching the film in 2D (with the same colour glass in each eye!). We walked back to the hotel via the tidal basin where the cherry blossom was, unfortunately, past its best.

Christine was working the next day so we were left to our own devices. We started at the far end of the Mall this time with a trip to the Library of Congress where the baseball exhibition was somewhat wasted on us. We then moved onto the Postal Museum which was a surprise hit (even if just because they were giving away free stamps to start your own collection). Next stop was the Natural History Museum which was as packed as the Air and Space Museum had been; the butterfly exhibit that Emma had quite fancied also turned out to be a paid extra. We rounded off the day with a quick whizz round the Museum of American History and eventually found the superheroes exhibit.

Christine rejoined us for our final day when we spent about seven hours at the zoo! The main aim was to see the giant pandas and they duly obliged (if only because they had been kicked out whilst their cages were being cleaned). Emma also finally got the large soft pretzel that she had been the object of her desire for most of the holiday!

We were flying back from New York although out of JFK so the following morning we took the Amtrak back up north. Christine had ended up on a different flight back (a long story) and so had an extra five hours to kill at the airport. We were having breakfast on our flight around the time she was having dinner on hers! I’d had several hours asleep at home when I was woken by the phone asking us to collect her from Winchester station.

All-in-all a fun ten days away even if it did sometimes feel like we were working our way through a long list of tourist attractions. Indeed, Duncan was heard to remark at one point: “I just want to do something rather than see something”. I suspect we’ll probably revert to our normal formula in future of a few days in the city at one end or other of a more outdoorsy holiday.

New York, New York

Sunday, May 26th, 2019

I’ve been getting horribly behind on writing blog posts so I’m going to make a concerted effort to catch up. On the plus side, it means that you’re likely to get just the edited highlights! The first couple of posts cover our Easter trip to the US. Christine has been on sabbatical this semester and we decided to combine her visit to some American colleagues with a holiday in New York and Washington DC.

Christine was already out in the US so I had the pleasure of escorting the children on their first transatlantic flight alone. As anticipated though, they were no bother, with the opportunity to spend quite so many hours sitting in front of a screen going down a treat. We could have done without the 75-minute delay on takeoff and Emma was less than impressed by airline food but otherwise, the journey was uneventful. We were flying into Newark which at least meant the journey to our hotel in Jersey City was fairly short and Christine was there waiting for us on arrival.

The next morning we went in search of breakfast and must have made a good choice given the length of the queue around the corner from the bagel shop. From there, it was a short journey on the PATH train (note to visitors that one ticket can be reused by up to four people) under the river to 33rd Street where we walked around mid-town Manhattan taking in Broadway, the Empire State Building, Grand Central Station, the Chrysler Building, St Patricks Cathedral, the Rockefeller Building and finally Times Square. Particular highlights were the Macy’s Flower Show and the Lego Store.

We were staying in a suite with a kitchen (something that was made affordable by staying outside of Manhattan) so at least when everyone woke early the following morning we didn’t have to wait for breakfast. Just to vary our transport options, we took the ferry today. This time we went up to 39th Street and spent the day at the Intrepid Museum of Air, Sea and Space (the NJ Transit discount made the price more reasonable). The museum has it all: it’s based on an aircraft carrier, has a submarine moored alongside, and has a space shuttle parked on the flight deck! We walked back along the High Line which, I have to say, wasn’t looking at its best at this time of year. It was a good excuse to have a nose at the Hudson Yards development though including the Vessel and the recently opened Shed.

I felt sufficiently with-it the following morning to go for a run along the waterfront. To even up the science/arts balance we then headed to the Museum of Modern Art. The building was undergoing redevelopment but there was still plenty to see. We then hit Central Park where Christine ticked ‘going for a run’ off her to-do list.

We couldn’t visit New York without going up a skyscraper and it might as well be the tallest: the One World Trade Center. Even having found a decent discount, it was still ridiculously expensive but on a clear day, there were excellent views to be had from the Observatory on the 100th floor. Perhaps as a consequence of the price, the queues were minimal. We wandered around the 9/11 memorial afterwards but declined to visit the museum which just seemed a little too ghoulish. Instead, we went for a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge.

For our last full day, there was one obvious attraction still left to go: the Statue of Liberty. The last time I visited NYC as a tourist (over twenty years ago) I had just done the Staten Island ferry. Tickets for the climb to the crown sell out months in advance but getting a ticket to the island that included the museum and ascending as far as Liberty’s feet was easy enough. Unfortunately, the museum is about to relocate from the pedestal to a new building which meant the audio tour described lots of artifacts that had already been moved!

Next stop was the immigration museum on Ellis Island which has enough content in its own right to easily fill a day (including an exhibit by the Clan Currie Society!). The children were definitely beginning to flag a bit by the end though and didn’t appreciate the detour on the way back to the hotel to take in Wall Street.

The following morning, we packed our bags and took one last trip on the PATH train into Manhattan to Penn Station where we were to catch the Amtrak train to DC. It would probably have been cheaper to fly but, not-withstanding environmental concerns, we thought the train would be more fun. If we’d been more on the ball, we would have got one final advantage from our Jersey City accommodation and joined the train later at Newark Penn Station. All that remained though was to sit back in the enormous comfy seats and watch Philadelphia and Baltimore go past as we sped our way south.

To be continued…

Exmoor Half-Term Hols

Sunday, March 24th, 2019

A (very) belated blog post to record our half-term trip to Exmoor. The destination was selected as someone not too far away but where we haven’t spent much time before. As we drove there on Friday evening, what we’d failed to appreciate was how slow the roads would be to get there. The roads got narrower and narrower until, after passing Porlock Weir, we eventually reached a toll gate. I had started reversing back up the single-track road before Christine checked the details which indicated that we should pass through the arch, then through a tunnel under the coast path, which would take us to our randomly selected cottage (the left half of the building in the picture).

Reading through bumph left in the cottage it transpired that the cottage was part of the Ashley Combe estate, once owned by Lord William King, and where he honeymooned with his bride Ada Byron (to become Ada Lovelace) mathematician and colleague of Charles Babbage. The tunnels were part of an elaborate scheme to keep the tradesmen out of sight!

We woke to beautiful views north across the Bristol Channel to South Wales and east across the bay to Hurlstone Point. Our first day was fairly relaxed. We explored the private path down to the pebble beach and then drove back to Minehead to stock up on food. Christine and I took it in turns to explore, running from the cottage.

On Sunday, we drove to Bossington at the other end of the bay. From there, we walked up the headland to Selworth Beacon, returning via the National Trust tearooms at Selworth and an obligatory cream tea.

For the next two days, I was making the most of my remote working and saving a bit of vacation for later in the year. On Monday, the others went to Dunster Castle where they met up with their cousins and on Tuesday they explored on foot from the cottage.

Come Wednesday, I was back in holiday mode and we headed along the coast to Lynmouth. I then drove whilst the others took the cliff railway up to Lynton. From there we spent a few hours exploring the Valley of the Rocks. We returned to the cottage over Exmoor which looked particularly bleak at this time of year.

For our last full day we went south to Tarr Steps, a 17-span ‘clapper’ bridge. Our walk ended up being a little longer than anticipated as all the other crossing points on the river were under water until we reached Withypool (where the tea shop was not due to open for another week but the village shop ran to ice creams!).

Friday was departure day and we decided to stop off at Stourhead on our way home. The house was closed for its winter cleaning so we joined the masses on a lap of the lake as the sun broke through the morning mist.

It was a fun week but, other than perhaps to walk the Coast Path, I don’t think we’ll be rushing back.

Oracle Code One: Continuous Delivery to Kubernetes with Jenkins and Helm

Wednesday, October 31st, 2018

Last week I was out in San Francisco at Oracle Code One (previously known as JavaOne). I had to wait until Thursday morning to give my session on “Continuous Delivery to Kubernetes with Jenkins and Helm”. This was the same title I presented in almost exactly the same spot back in February at IBM’s Index Conference but there were some significant differences in the content.

Continuous Delivery to Kubernetes with Jenkins and Helm from David Currie

The first half was much the same. As you can see from the material on SlideShare and GitHub, it covers deploying Jenkins on Kubernetes via Helm and then setting up a pipeline with the Kubernetes plugin to build and deploy an application, again, using Helm. This time, I’d built a custom Jenkins image with the default set of plugins used by the Helm chart pre-installed which improved start-up times in the demo.

I had previously mounted in the Docker socket to perform the build but removed that and used kaniko instead. This highlighted one annoyance with the current approach used by the Kubernetes plugin: it uses exec on long-running containers to execute a shell script with the commands defined in the pipeline. The default kaniko image is a scratch image containing just the executor binary – nothing there to keep it alive, nor a shell to execute the script. In his example, Carlos uses the kaniko:debug image which adds a busybox shell but that requires other hoops to be jumped through because the shell is not in the normal location. Instead, I built a kaniko image based on alpine.

The biggest difference from earlier in the year was, perhaps not unsurprisingly, the inclusion of Jenkins X. I hadn’t really left myself enough time to do it justice. Given the normal terrible conference wifi and the GitHub outage earlier in the week, I had recorded a demo showing initial project creation, promotion, and update. I’ve added a voiceover so you can watch it for yourself below (although you probably want to go full-screen unless you have very good eyesight!).