British Museum

Tuesday, October 10th, 2006

Overcast skies quickly cleared on Sunday, making for another great day in London. I first returned to the London Eye for a nice ride and some great views of the city. The Eye itself is quite an impressive engineering feat with security to match: metal detectors, x-ray machines, and a sweep of each capsule before it’s loaded.

British MusuemOn Brian’s recommendation, the one museum on my must-see list was the British Museum, home to artifacts from around the world. Also, after the rest of London’s high prices, it was nice to get something for free! The museum didn’t disappoint, with interesting religious pieces from Asia, Greek statues, and Egpytian mummies. The Great Court and Reading Room also boasted some jaw-dropping architecture.

Behind the museum, I relaxed with a tiramisu ice cream cone in Russell Square. The grand Russell Hotel overlooks the park with its layer cake facade. Yet another Tube ride took me to Oxford Street for some shopping, though nothing really grabbed my eye. There was no shortage of nice, tempting suits, but I knew I’d have few occasions to wear them. Riding back to the hotel, I mused how the diagram of Underground stops reads like a catalog of Rolling Stone’s lyrics.

While in line for the Eye earlier in the day, I had scoured my guidebook for a dinner recommendation and found a good Indian place. Dinner at Kennington Tandoori offered me a chance to check out a quieter residential section of south London and enjoy some great Indian food before packing up to go back home.

View the British Musuem photos

London South Bank

Tuesday, October 10th, 2006

London South Bank After a long workweek in Farnborough, England, I got to spend a weekend sightseeing in London. This album has photos of the Houses of Parliament, London Eye, and walking along the south bank of the Thames River. You can read more about the trip and see more photos in the England category of my blog.

View the London South Bank photos

South Bank

Tuesday, October 10th, 2006

Saturday was a gorgeously sunny fall day, perfect for seeing the sights and taking lots of photos (about 300 for the day). Stolling through Green Park took me to Buckingham Palace, where the crowds were already building.

Another stroll through St. James’s Park led me to catch the changing of the horse guard. Down the street, I descended into the World War II vintage Cabinet War Rooms, where Churchill and company rode out the Battle of Britian. It was a fascinating look into the times, and a well assembled museum chronicled Churchill’s equally fascinating life.

Crossing the Westminster Bridge opened up views of Parliment, Big Ben, and the London Eye. After a burger at the smoke-infused Jubilee Tavern pub, I decided to postpone a ride on the Eye in favor of a shorter queue the next morning. There were plenty of good vistas and people watching along the South Bank. I had left my jeans at home in favor of more European slacks, but felt more out of place in a largely denim-clad crowd.

At the Oxo tower, there was a good view from the wind-blown deck of the restaurant. Below, in the galleries, I enjoyed the photography of Colin Prior, and was pleasantly suprised he was there to autograph the calendar I bought. Further along the bank was Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, where my misplaced dramatic timing cut out the chance of catching either a play or a tour.

Continuing on, I saw the Golden Hinde, Sir Francis Drake’s ship, and the second to circumnavigate the globe. An impressive feat for such a small ship. Southwark Cathedral provided a nice respite from walking while admiring its gothic arches and numerous layers of history underneath its foundations. After a few glances down the river towards the Tower Bridge, I hopped back on the tube to Harrods, London’s biggest and best-known department store. With five huge floors, it has pretty much everything, including a sprawling gourmet grocery.

London North of the Thames

Tuesday, October 10th, 2006

London North of the Thames After a long workweek in Farnborough, England, I got to spend a weekend sightseeing in London. This album has photos from Piccadilly Circus, Buckingham Palace, St. James’s Park, and the Cabinet War Rooms. You can read more about the trip and see more photos in the England category of my blog.

View the London North of the Thames photos

The Train to London

Monday, October 9th, 2006

After a long work week, it was a relief to catch a cab to the train station and head to London. As soon as I arrived, I got to hear the classic “mind the gap” warning about the drop from the train car to the platform. There was much more activity than Farnborough; plenty of people bustling about and women in skirts and boots. Another hop on the Underground to Green Park brought me to the hotel, which was a nice property in a great location in Mayfair.

Having eaten on the train, Friday night was free for wandering. A short walk took me to the neon night of Piccadilly Circus and a lively crowd. Continuing onto Leicester Square brought views of the full moon breaking through scattered crowds, just waiting for a werewolf. Trafalgar Square and Lord Nelson on his column were also nicely lit, and down the avenue in the distance was the Parliment tower housing Big Ben (he’s actually a bell).

On the way back to the hotel, I browsed a bit at the Virgin Megastore before settling down for some old school blogging on paper, which I now transfer into an Internet terminal at Gatwick airport waiting for the flight home.

Odds and Ends in Farnborough

Friday, October 6th, 2006

Working 12-hour days in the lab hasn’t left much exciting to write about the last few days in Farnborough, but here are some odds and ends.

Walking back late one night, the only other soul on the road was a fox darting across the road into the hedges. I saw another one the next night on a TV news show; a man had adopted an injured fox that had become an exceptionally docile pet. It sat on his lap and purred like a cat, looking quite content.

Food has swung back and forth between typical and Atypical English Food. At the office park cafe, we had shepard’s pie and the requisite fish and chips. One rushed evening we settled for the hotel restuarant with chicken and a side of totilla chips (!). Last night, with more time to tromp around, we finally located a Thai restaurant with some spicy dishes. Restaurants here seem fairly deserted during the week, perhaps due to the fact that “take-away” places outnumber them by a good margin.

Tonight I catch the train to London for the weekend, where there will definitely be less work, hopefully less rain, and undoubtedly a bit more excitement.

Atypical English Food

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2006

One guidebook summed up the culinary landscape by saying that you could find good food in England, so long as you didn’t limit yourself to English food. So far, ethnic restaurants have outnumbered the expected pubs, and even the more pedestrian offerings have had a bit of flavor to them.

For instance, the local mini-mart presented some typical sandwich offerings and the more flavorful curried chicken and apples on a baguette. The same rang true of the office park cafe: I found myself with a steak and mushroom sandwich topped with an unexpected layer of fried egg. (The office park is quite smartly designed; half a dozen small buildings surround a central one with a quick cafe and more lesuirely restaurant.)

Unfortunately, the office and hotel are a bit out of town, so the nearby dinner selections are a little slim. Though we did pass a Nepalese place on our way to the reasonably authentic Manhattan Italian restaurant with a menu of traditional courses. Tonight’s late dinner of pizza at the lab wasn’t as authentic, but did pack a little more spice (and corn!) than deliveries at home.

The Journey to England

Monday, October 2nd, 2006

The red eye flight to London was a definite juxtaposition in scenery. I left a clear skies and a colorful sunset in Philadelphia for overcast skies and the picturesque green fields of the English countryside. In keeping with the theme of getting there being half the fun, my coworker Dean and I made our way through the long, spartan halls of Gatwick airport to the train station. Two trains, newer than those I remember from Italy’s rails, got us into the small station at Farnborough.

Tired of being cooped up, we decided the distance to the hotel looked walk able, only to find a dearth of sidewalks. Still, we avoided being hit by traffic “on the wrong side of the street” and lived to ponder the market for rolling suitcases with off-road wheels. A shower and a shave at the hotel was a welcome energy booster, followed by a quick mini-mart lunch and a walk further down the street to the office.

The lab was a computer salesman’s dream: a dozen dual-monitor workstations and as many big-screen displays in a stylishly decorated space. The rest of the office ranged from spartan to under construction: budget constraints are obviously an international phenomenon. The work progressed slowly: moving a database with a bunch of embedded applications was far from straight-forward. Doing it in another country made the struggle a bit more palatable, though.