The last bits of preparation

Regent's Park

The weather is so incredible in London at the moment that I decided to bike to Regent’s Park after work, to catch the last sunshine. I think that Regent’s Park has become my favourite park. It is often peaceful, I love to watch people struggling in the boats on the boating lake and today I found the Boating Lake Cafe where they sell ice cream! Yes I had one.

I just felt I needed to stress down a bit and realise that all will be fine with my trip. Of course I will find the hotel in LA and of course I can still check in in my hotel in San Francisco, despite arriving very late by train. Right?

So I am going to relax about it now.

I am typing this on my G1 Android phone, testing if it is possible to post to my blog from it. I will have wifi in my hotels so this might be a way to send trip updates. The camera on this phone isn’t worth much but good enough to give some sort of visual impression.

I am also considering doing some podcasts with Ipadio which is something like Audioboo but available for Android too. If I am not too shy I will post it through my Twitter stream.

I will enjoy the last bits of sunshine now here in London and hope the weather is as lovely over where you are.

A Groovylicious Sunday: Bill Nighy on set of Statuesque

While I am in the middle of getting very exited about my upcoming trip the the USA, yesterday made September even more magical. I knew BIll Nighy was going to star in Statuesque, a new short film which tells the story of a love triangle between two living statues and an admirer who observes his object of affection every day among the Christmas shoppers – but is unaware that he too is being watched.

It is a silent short film written and directed by Neil Gaiman, who wrote Coraline and Stardust. Statuesque will be broadcasted on Sky around Christmas.

Neil Gaiman twittered and wrote on his website that he was going to start shooting this movie in London, and actually wouldn’t mind people to come down and watch the process.

I didn’t need much encouraging to push my pack-my-suitcase duties aside for a while and get on the London overground to Watford yesterday. When I arrived, Bill was already dressed up and ready for his scenes.

He looked pretty marvelous in his 60’s style Chicago gangster suit, his dark sunglasses makes him a perfect Blues Brother, but in the scenes he replaces his dark shades with some normal ones which turns him into a quintessential British gentleman with umbrella and all.

It was fabulous to watch him “at work”. And special, I have only seen him perform “live” on stage in a play where everything is rehearsed and goes smoothly. But here he had to improvise a bit, do the same scenes a couple of times, and think about continuity and things like that. Absolutely Intrigueing to see him at work.

His scenes took a couple of hours after which they moved on with other cast members. I am sure that he will be shooting more scenes, but don’t currently know when these will be shot and where.

September has started off in a major way having the chance to watch this, and I think I will continue to smile throughout the rest of the month.

I took some more photos, warning: very long legs … »

USA Holiday preparation

There are only seven days until my departure to the USA, so a good time today to do any last minute holiday shopping on Amazon.

I ordered the following neccesary items:

  • SanDisk 4GB SDHC Secure Digital Card. Something tells me that I am going to take a lot of photos, and with both an 8MP and a 10MP camera, the file size of the photos will be large. I don’t want to take the risk of running out of cards, so I ordered another 4GB. Just to be on the safe side.
  • Lowepro Apex 20AW Digital Camera Pouch – Arctic Blue. A small more protective pouch for my Panasonic DMC-TZ4 pocket camera. Somehow I managed to get this for £7.49 from Amazon including postage, but it doesn’t show up for that price anymore now. I guess I was lucky!
  • A cute luggage tag and a lock. Yes ok they have hearts on them. But I liked them, and they will make my suitcase even more recognizable when it arrives at LAX airport.
  • Noise Cancelling Foldable Headphones
    It is going to be a long flight from London to LA, estimated flying time is 11 hrs 5 min, distance: 8758 km / 5442 miles. Wow!

    I have done a long flight like this before, from Beijing to London so I kind of know what to expect, but it is a long time. Good thing that BA has entertainment on demand in their aircrafts. And just to be able to hear the movies properly or listening to the onboard radio, and to keep some of the airplane noise out of my ears – noise cancelling headphones seemed handy.

    BA has taken The Boat That Rocked from their schedule again though, which is hugely disappoiinting. But they do show a Bill film: Notes on a Scandal, and they show other favourites like The Proposal. And there are actually some films on the list that I haven’t seen: The Knowing and The Hangover for example. I think time will fly. Literally.

  • The Boat That Rocked [DVD] [2009]. Yes what can I say, if BA doesn’t want to show it, I have to buy the DVD. For the extra material alone. Please, please let there be more material showing Bill Nighy dancing on Rolling Stones music.

I will now make a map of the locations of my hotels, and the things I would like to see. And write a long list of things I want to do, and plot them on the map too.

I bought two guides: Los Angeles (DK Eyewitness Top 10 Travel Guide) for LA, and San Francisco and Northern California (DK Eyewitness Travel Guide).

So I am already having a lot of fun finding out what to do and see in both places.

Of course I am also keeping a close eye on the wild fires in the California, and especially Los Angeles but it looks like things are getting under control. Which is good for the people who live there, but also for me as a visitor.

If there is anything I absolutely should not forget to bring with me, let me know!

“I’ve bought a ticket to the States. I’m off in three weeks.”

US trip

(Coffee on me for the person recognizing the title quote without googling!)

I am not exactly off in three weeks, I am off in 10 days! And I am not prepared at all yet, so I better start working on that.

I have stripped off quite some bits from the draft plan and have decided to leave the East coast for another time.

I did try to put Chicago in, but I had trouble finding a reasonable priced place to stay so I dropped it in the end. Next time, baby.

The final plan is simple:

  1. I fly from London to Los Angeles.
  2. I spent a couple of days in LA.
  3. I take the Amtrak Coast Starlight train to San Francisco. This takes 11 h 17 minutes and is supposed to be one of the most beautiful train rides in the US. (You can continue to Seattle if you stay on the train, but I get off in San Francisco).
  4. I stay in San Francisco for 6-7 days and fly back to London.

That is roughly the plan. I have booked flights and hotels using Expedia, Tripadvisor and Hotelscombined. Now I just need to figure out what to see and do.

A couple of things I know I am going to do:

In San Francisco

  1. Rent a bike and bike the bridge.. It is not sure I will rent the bike there, am still investigating the possibilities, but am definitely going to bike the bridge.
  2. Take a ride on a San Francisco cable car
  3. Do a whale watch tour.

More ideas will popup I am sure, also for LA, but this is as far as I got.

I have to run now, I am off to a preview of Away We Go. (by Sam “American Beauty” Mendes).

43

Age is something that doesn’t matter, unless you are a cheese.
Billie Burke

I’m not interested in age. People who tell me their age are silly. You’re as old as you feel.
Elizabeth Arden

None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.
Henry David Thoreau

Live your life and forget your age.
Norman Vincent Peale

And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.
Abraham Lincoln

Love+Rock cards: Tea for two

I felt like drawing a bit again, so this is the latest creative mind dump, and yes I did hand draw those cups myself.

I will soon be on the tube to Heathrow where I will pick up my mum who will visit me for the weekend.

The weather doesn’t really seem to know what it wants this weekend, but I hope we can bicycle in between the showers. I say becycle because I have bought a companion for Lawrence so I intend to take my mum on some bicycle trips. We are both experienced cyclists, not so much in London, but I feel confident enough that I can guard her safely to nice and quiet bicycle tracks. Regent’s Park, Hyde Park, and not to forget the ice cream shop are all planned.

In the end it was cheaper to buy another second hand bike on Gumtree as bike rental prices in London are so high, it will scare a lot of people off.

Lots more is planned for this weekend, but I am not going to give away too much, as I want to surprise her (and she reads this blog).

So a nice weekend to all of you, and I will return with more scriblings after the weekend and write about:
Is cycling in London scary?
My upcoming trip to the US

You can send the above card electronically by the way.

Cycling in London is cool because – part I

From the official Ding Day home page:

Wednesday, 9th September will see Londoners create music on the streets with their bicycle bells as the second annual Ding Day takes place. Designed to add a little fun to a cyclists day, the concept is simple and open to everyone. All that is needed is a bike and a bell. The idea – to make cycling London streets a joyful and happy experience.

The concept is simple:
On Wednesday 9th September whenever you see another cyclist you give a little ‘ding ding’ on your bell, and they will return your greeting with another ‘ding ding’. From sun up to sun down, no matter where you are in the saddle on Ding Day, remember to ding your bell.

The idea behind Ding Day:
To create a fun experience for cyclists and locals in and around London, with the hope of creating more of a sense of community amongst fellow cyclists, including commuters, parents, children, basically any cyclist young or old. It’s free and open to everyone.

It is a celebration of cycling as one of the most environmentally friendly, healthy and quickest way of getting around our great city.

More on the Ding Day home page / Ding day twitter / Ding Day Facebook.

I am in!

Meet Gideon the Giraffe

Gideon is cute!

On my biking trip through Regent’s Park on Saturday, I suddenly found myself in front of a giraffe. Or rather two of them! I knew that London Zoo is located in Regent’s Park, but I had no idea you could see the giraffes this closely from the road.

I would also like to add that I don’t recommend you to visit the zoo, despite it’s beautiful location in the park and next to the Regent’s Canal, to see Gideon in this tiny confined space broke my heart. How bored he must be. Gideon does live quite close to me, so I intend to visit him regularly.

And while we are at Animal news, here are two more stories that will make you smile:

Painting with light in London

Yesterday the evening weather in London was so nice that I took my camera and positioned myself on Piccadilly Circus for a while. I took loads of photos but only found a couple of them worthy enough to go on display.

I tried ghost people before in New York, but you can do that in London too, look at these Ghost legs in front of the bus!

There are car stripes and the real London Painting with Light one. (I did try the same experiment in New York, on Times Square.)

And there is the brave bicycle lady (without helmet mind you!) who claims Piccadilly circus for herself for a moment right in the middle of the cars, buses and cabs madness, wonderful.

And there is bus number 19 in motion and I love, love, love this photograph. You can just about recognize the shape of a cab coming around the corner.

I probably don’t follow any of the how-to-take-a-photograph rules, but sometimes you just need to take your camera and play. You can be surprised with the results.

A day in the Oxfam book shop

Boos, lots of books

After another day of working in the Oxfam shop yesterday I must say that I am really starting to like it. I most like to work behind the till which I did all day yesterday. I like the interaction with the people buying books or music. Some are very talkative, some are very grumpy but most of them are friendly people. And I also figured out that I like this work much more than my paid day job work …

The shop is located on Marylebone Highstreet (a 5 minute walk from Baker Street station and not too far from Oxford Street either) and attracts both the very posh and the very down to earth (and everything in between), and both the very young (children) and the somwhat older.

Here are a couple of notes I made in some quiet moments (of which there were very few):

  • I have sold everything from children’s books to old school Wagner LP’s.
  • There are the regulars who are waiting for the shop to open to be the first to check if anything interesting has arrived. And there are people who just wander in without really wanting to buy anything but then come to the till with a huge stack of books. “I really didn’t want to buy anything today” they then say, “but there are so many good books in this shop”. It’s nice hearing that.
  • Two lovely DJ’s sitting down on the floor going through the boxes with vinyl record for ages and buying a stack of them. Vinyl is stil hip I tell you. Not only for dj’s, also classical music LP’s are still sold. And I have even sold some prerecorded casette tapes!
  • VHS videos are still sold. Yep. I admit that the DVDs (and they have Bill DVDs too – I saw Hot Fuzz coming in yesterday …) are more popular but there is a good offer on VHS tapes: 3 for £1. There, how cheap is that?
  • And I sold The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan LP to a very friendly American. I had a talk with him about the fact that LP covers are so much cooler than cd covers. We talked how a carefully selected stack of albums carried under your arm could define just how cool you were.

    This American could not resist the temptation of owning The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan on vinyl again. And he didn’t even have a record player at home he said!

  • It is quite amazing to think about the fact that every single book in this whole shop (and there are many many books!) has been donated by someone. It is heart warming when people come into the shop with bags of books they want to donate. And they can use everything, so please come in and bring the books (or music) you no longer need.
  • Kids love to sit down on their knees on the floor in front of kids section reading a fairy tale or looking for Harry Potter.
  • It is lovely to see all those people wander around in the shop, browsing for books. The shop does have quite a selection, and there is something for everybody. From easy to read chicklits to novels, literature, and books about science, gardening, films, London history, trains, planes or automobiles. There is a pretty good Travel section too, and when I saw this San Francisco guide come in (in mint condition and for only £2,50) I of course had to buy it.
  • Have I spotted any celebs in the shop? Yes I sold a book to the singer of former UK band The Fine young Cannibals. Never a dull day in the book shop!

I will be back working in the shop next Sunday so come in and say hi if you happen to be in the neighbourhood.

Travel plans – version 1 – I need your help!

US trip

It has been a while since I have been on a far (ok further) away trip, so this year I have decided to cross some items of my “would love to see” list.

(Here is a bigger version of the map on Google)

But I need your help dear readers.

But first, the plan. Here are the places I want to visit:

1. Boston
I want to go to Boston to do a Whale watching boat trip. I have long been wanting to see whales from up close and Boston seems to be a perfect place for it.

I also want to do this Lighthouse tour, this area is about an hour north of Boston.

But apart from that, is Boston worth a visit?

2. Niagara Falls
I want to do the Maid of the Mist tour and just see these impressive falls. (Am planning to stay here for one day and then move on)

3. Chicago

I don’t know anything about Chicago, but it is just one of these places that sound so familiar.
Question to you reader: is it worth visiting? And what to see there?

4. San Francisco
I know what I want to see here: the Golden Gate bridge. And it is on the coast, so I am sure there is a beach too. And light houses.
And there is some more whale watching to do here as well. Wait a minute, do I actually need to go to Boston at all?

Has any of you ever been in San Francisco? What area is good to stay? And what to see and do there? How much time would you spend here?

5. Los Angeles
This is a bit the same thing as Chicago. I have heard the name so many times before. I know they have the “HOLLYWOOD” letters on the hill there. But is Los Angeles worth a visit? What to see and do there? How much time would you spend here?

Any tips and hints and comments are highly appreciated!

(I am planning on spending about 2 weeks in the US)

I can hear you think – where is New York on the map! I know, I know, but Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman did not have time to see me before November, so New York is scheduled then. Honestly, I am not even sure I will survive watching both Craig and Jackman on one stage.

A room with a view

Taken while sitting on my bed yesterday. The moon looks huge, doesn’t it?

Other short notes:

  • We loved G-Force. I mean what is not to like, it’s talking guinea pigs! And mice! And a mole! And it is Bill in 3D. Apart from the slightly over the top Transformers like scene it was very enjoyable. The guinea pigs look great and I am sure children will love it.
  • And we really liked The Proposal too. Ryan Reynolds is perfect for rom-coms, and there is a really cute dog in it too! One of the best rom-coms this year, together with Last Chance Harvey.
  • And we found the best ice cream shop in London. Look no more, here it is : Gelato Mio. They have 3 shops, one in Notting Hill, one near Trafalgar Square and one in Holland Park. They are worth a visit, really.
  • Are any of my regular readers on Facebook? Please connect!

Serendipity

Maybe I am just way behind, but I had no idea I could listen to most of my music online for free on Last.fm. It means I no longer need my iPod at work.

And better – most of my iPod songs are free for you to listen to too: here is my personal radio station. And feel free to comment on my bad taste in music.

Nick Drake’s – Northern Sky just passed my ears and I got an immediate urge to see Serendipity again tonight. What a great song. And that scene from Serendipity makes me cry every time.

In other news – I am updating my CV. There, I am not sure this is a wise thing to write on one’s blog but now I said it and you can kick me if I not soon write that my CV has been updated. It is time.

And my quote of the day (as it is exactly what happened today):
“Best friends are people who switch on the light if you are stumbling around in the dark.”

I think that quote is postcard worthy.

Hastings and what you find in a typical British sea town

Seagull

I went for a photography meetup on Sunday and the trip went to Hasting. Hasting is a about 2 hours from London by train and while it is an ok place with cliffs, fishing boats and of course the sea, I still prefer Eastbourne (Beachy Head) and Brighton.

The weather was perfect (my face is still red) but somehow I wasn’t 100% motivated to take photos so they are not all great. But I am very happy with the above young seagull photo. I love the colours.

I think in the end the theme for me became taking photos of typical things on a British beach.

So we have seagulls, women in bikini (and I will leave it up to you if that is a good thing or not …), men putting up windscreens, deck chairs, swan water bikes and families with fish and chips (and the man wearing a t-shirt saying – “If found – return to the pub” ).

Surprisingly enough Hastings also has two Funiculars.

See all photos here.

Weirdest photo of the day must be this bear:

The saddest bear in the world

It looks incredibly sad and depressed. Understandable if you have a hole in your belly and are attached to a red tractor.

Leonard the squirrel

Meet Leonard, the squirrel, my new neighbour. I know that most people don’t like the grey squirrels because they are making life for the red squirrels very difficult. But I must admit that I still find them cute. I spotted Leonard when I left my flat this morning, he was sitting on the wall eating his breakfast. He stopped shortly to pose for me.

It must have looked a bit weird, me in my business suit (external client meeting today) taking pictures of a squirrel. When I put my camera back in my bag I realised that that was what the house keeper was thinking, as he was looking at me with one hand on his side. He did not look happy. He probably hates Leonard.

I think he hates me too now. He is the grumpiest bugger I have met in my life. I waved to him though when I saw him looking at me. He didn’t bother to wave back, but nodded a tiny little nod. That was probably his Britishness kicking in. I hope he doesn’t take it out on Leonard.

Let’s go this way

Piccadilly Circus

Today it was time for some neighborhood exploring and I took a walk passed through:

  • Maida Vale which has beautiful lanes with big green trees. And if it has to be a Starbucks to get your cup of tea then the one in Maida Vale/Kilburn has to be one of my favourite ones in London. It is a 2 minute walk from here and they sell this great book: Inspired by Music is The Prince’s Trust new book featuring personal accounts from celebs of how one piece of music became their inspiration.

    Not only does this book contain contributions from your favourite celebrities (Bill Nighy (worth to buy the book for alone), Tony Blair, Ozzy Osbourne, Michael Sheen, Richard E. Grant, Al Pacino, Kevin Spacey – just to name a couple), it also contains fantastic portraits by award winning photographer Cambridge Jones.

    You might want to get your copy for the coffee table. (The above pic is the book being advertised on Piccadilly Circus spot the man with the funky specs! And yes it was nice weather today.)

  • St. John’s Wood. This is a very posh area (and a celebrity hotspot) but very nice too. It feels like a small village with a cosy (but very expensive) High Street and some beautiful parks too and it is just around the corner of Regents Park.

    I had no idea it was the area of Lord’s Cricket ground until I suddenly stood right beside it. I think there was a game going on as they were selling tickets for it at the tube station.

  • And then there was Marylebone which has the same village feel but is not far from Oxford Street. Again, the high street was realy nice and I tried to find this, ehrm, Oxfam shop and succeeded. (And no he wasn’t there anymore)

    This a rather large Oxfam shop specialised in books, film and music. And seeing as they were looking for volunteers to help in the shop in weekends I am going to be on a try out there next Sunday. I have long been wondering if I could use my weekends for something a little bit more useful than hanging about in the cinema, so this seems worth a try. Let’s see how it works out.

What way are you going?