Archive for June, 2012

Danni’s Birthday Tea at the Ritz

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

As happens every year around the 27th of June, Danni’s birthday once again made an appearance and we were fortunate enough to have her mom here to celebrate with us.  In fact, she organized a lovely afternoon of tea & scones at The Ritz.

I’ve had lunch at the Ritz in the past (compliments of Danni actually) so I wasn’t a virgin to the scene, but I always feel slightly awkward in the midst of such opulence.  Fortunately, the staff are more than accustomed to the unrefined  looking to experience a bit of the high culture and nobody ever makes you feel out of place.  Even if the place looks like this…

Having recently had tea at the Langham Hotel, it was inevitable that comparisons were drawn.  While it’s hard to beat the settings of the Ritz, the larger selection of tea and cakes at the Langham win out for me.  I also preferred the scones at the Langham, and I’m something of a scone connoisseur (by that I mean I stuff as many as I can into my face whenever the opportunity presents itself).  The price difference is negligible, so I suppose it depends on what it is you’re looking for. As an experience, the Ritz wins hands down.

We tried to take as many photos inside while still remaining conspicuous, but that’s not always easy to do with a really large camera.  After a few post-tea poses in their reception area, we decided to stroll through the parks in and around Buckingham Palace.  Some of us very much needed to burn off a few scone-induced calories.

Like all touristy destinations, I don’t often go to Buckingham Palace unless we’re acting as tour guides for visiting friends or family.  It’s a lovely area and the surrounding parks are always well kept, perfect for a few photos.  As this June as been impossibly wet, you may have guessed that the sky in the above photo is not 100% authentic.  Well, it’s authentic sky, just taken from my recent trip to the Caribbean and transplanted into a few of the photos in this set to make things a bit cheerier.

After an hour or so of strolling the parks, we headed home to rest up for our dinner at a neighbourhood Thai restaurant that evening.  Hopefully Danni and her mom enjoyed the day as much as  I did.

There are some more photos of the day tucked away in the gallery.


Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

It’s been a busy couple of months for us with all of the traveling and Danni’s mother coming to visit, but Amsterdam was a work fueled trip that I couldn’t miss.  My original plan was to travel to Amsterdam last year for the 2011 Dutch PHP Convention, but due to the UK border agency holding my passport too long (for a bit of paperwork I ultimately didn’t need), I wasn’t able to attend.  The nice folks who ran the convention simply shifted my tickets to the 2012 event and since Danni had her shiny new UK passport it didn’t make sense for her not to join me.

A sliver of our view from the hotel window.
Since I was spending my days at the conference, I didn’t really get a chance to get out and take some proper photos until our last day.  Still, I managed a few snapshots in the evenings here and there but our travel book is going to be a bit thin this time I think. (whenever we go on holiday we get our photos printed in a photo book from a company called Albelli who do a good job at a decent price, and the software is dead easy to use)

I had to run back to catch this photo as the lights came on.

Amsterdam was a lot like a Venice you could actually live in.  Where Venice was cramped and overrun with people, Amsterdam had all of the charms of the canals (less the gondoliers) with what actually felt like residential areas.  I’m not saying one place was better than the other, but I certainly know where I’d choose to live given the option.

And my little cheese eater

Danni had the time to do quite a bit more sightseeing than I did and enjoyed most of the museums on offer, in addition to sampling a LOT of free cheese. She even joked about having to come up with a disguise so she could hit all of the spots she’d done already, but I don’t think it came to that.  We did end up bringing back a fair bit of cheese with us, so I think it all balanced out.

Danni and our tasting expert.

We managed to do the Heineken Experience tour one evening which was actually a lot of fun.  I wasn’t sure what to expect from the tour, but it was interesting, slightly informative (especially if you’re unaware of how beer is actually made) and most importantly you get quite a few samples included in the cost of the tour.  Tours that include booze of some sort are always better than tours that don’t.  Fact.

Our last day out, visiting windmills.

On our last day we had a bit of time once the conference was finished so we headed to a nearby village/museum called Zaanse Schans.  It was a collection of old style Dutch homes along with half a dozen windmills, each designed for a different purpose.  It was a really nice day out, partly due to the great weather we were having, but also because the windmills were exactly what you want to see on your first visit to Holland.  We had lunch in the little village before jumping on the train back to Amsterdam in time to catch our evening flight back home.

Danni and the tiny remains of a once great cotton candy stick.

I’d love to go back one day and really explore the city and a bit more of the countryside.  There are a lot of other places we both want to visit, so it may be a while till we’re back again.  As always, there are more images in the gallery.

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

It was hard not to get caught up in this years celebration of the Queen’s 60th year on the throne.  TV ads and transport posters all took on an overtly British flair, buntings and the British flag where everywhere you look and lets not forget about that extra bank holiday.

Unfortunately, the weather also decided to be very British about the whole affair and brought with it lots dark clouds as well as the inevitable rain.  This scuppered our plans to sit out and watch the Jubilee flotilla on the Saturday and just relax at home and watch it on TV.  Much more civilized and we didn’t have to worry about the rain diluting our Pimm’s & Lemonade.

We ventured out of the house on the last of the 4 day celebration to wander down to Buckingham Palace where the Queen would be traversing the length of The Mall following a service at St. Paul’s Cathedral.  There where lots of people around and the weather was co-operating for once so we spent a bit of time amongst the revelers before deciding that sticking around would only result in being overrun and made our way out of the area.

We wandered up to an abnormally empty Piccadilly Circus and took a few photos along the well decorated Regent Street.  It was nice to be able to walk around these usually crowded streets knowing that most people in the area where packed in hoping to catch a glimpse of her Royal Highness.

And since we were in the area, we headed to our favourite restaurant in China Town for some Dim Sum.

We had a lot of fun even apart from the crowds, and if nothing else the event helped me finally learn how to spell jubilee, so a resounding success says I.  There are more images in the gallery, but it was a predominantly a family portrait day.  You’ve been forewarned.