December 31, 2012

A Photo Tour of Oxford

Oxford is possibly the most beautiful city I have ever had the pleasure of strolling around. It seems that every way you turn there is another absolutely stunning building or amazing park. Though it is pouring rain now, it was doing quite the opposite this morning, it was all sunny and wonderful.

I spent several hours just wondering around the city going up and down any little ally which caught my eye. These are some of the photographic results.

Kind of an amazing place! Cheers!

December 30, 2012

Off to Oxford

Now coming to you live from Oxford, an hour or two north west of the center of London. But before I tell you about that at all, I am going to blab on for a bit about what I did yesterday in London. After jumping out of bed pretty early, and a egg, bacon and sausage sandwich, a cup of PG Tips, and checking out, I hopped on the tube to South Kensington. I was on my way to the Natural History Museum. This is the platform at the Piccadilly Circus Tube station.

I got distracted however, and after seeing an outdoor skating rink near the museums, I went next door to the Science Museum. It was soooo cool! So many really really cool exhibits about everything imaginable! I watched a "4D" film about the Apollo program. There was an exhibit about space, and a really cool airplane exhibit, just to mention a few of my favorites. They had so many things from all ages from hundreds of years ago to the futures. And it is free!
I was going to go to The Natural History Museum after the Science Museum, but as it was almost time to get on the road to Oxford and the line had grown from about 15 to about 400 people, I decided to have lunch, then head on my way. So that is what I did.

Since I was on my way, after collecting my bags from the hostel, I went to find the Oxford Tube. Unlike what the name would suggest, it is not in fact related to the London Tube at all. It is actually a bus service. It takes about 2 hours.

It is one of the most well served long distance routes in the UK, with over 150 daily departures all through the day and night.

London is huge, and it takes almost half of that time to get out of it. It was neat to get out of the big city. Last time I was here, I never left the city.

Sunset from the bus. I found my hostel, and settled in. After hanging around for a while I went out to do a little bit of photography. I am going to do more.

After supper, the hostel bartender convinced me to buy a beer. It was the last Stella they had, a can, and the tab thing for opening it had broken off. So we opened it with a can opener.

A few people then invited me out to a pub. So we went to a pub, then a little while later to a club. I ended up going to bed pretty close to the time I ended up waking up. And now looking outside it looks nice and sunny! Sunny! It was clear last night which was surprising.

Anyhow, that is what I am up to. Today I think I am just going to explore Oxford, maybe go see a museum or two. It is so much more relaxed here than in London. There seems to be a lot more in the way of English people here than there are in London as well.

December 29, 2012

An Evening Wander in Pictures

These were some of my favorites from my wander about Westminster. I will let them do the talking because I am tired of typing.

I think the last one is my fav by far. Click on it to make it big and you will see that it is a 360 degree panorama centered on the front gates of Buckingham Palace. The statue on each side is really the same statue split in half.

There are some more which require fiddling, but I dont wanna fiddle now.

A Report From London

London! I made it. My flight from Iceland this morning was perfectly pleasant except for a brief period when the seatback tv mysteriously shut off for a while. Even though the flight left at 9:00am, it was still pitch black when we boarded, and in fact the sun did not rise until about half way through the flight as we were winging our way south east towards the not so sunny UK. There were no gaps in the clouds at all the whole way there.

There was a little bit of frost on the wings before take-off, but the anti icing was applied, and that got rid of it in a matter of minutes.

That is a picture of the plan just a few minutes before it got filled with people. I had a window seat this time which made me very happy. I love just staring outside for extended periods of time...

Especially when what you get to stare out at is a sunrise experienced at over 900km/h from 39,000 feet on your way to start an epic adventure. That is my kind of view, and I will take it over a little extra stretching room almost any day of the week.

Heathrow was Heathrow. We did not have to hold at all anywhere, and the landing and taxi were fairly prompt. What was kinda nuts was how far a walk it is  to get from the gates to customs then to the bags, then from there to the tube. It was hundreds of meters. Hundreds and hundreds. This view made up for it though.

Those are the first rays of sunlight striking the engine cowling. I was really sleepy for the rest of the flight and kept dozing intermittently in awkward positions. The walk to customs woke me up though, and the tube ride was a lot of fun. After a brief kerfuffle checking in to the hostel, I went to my room, and had the best shower of my life. Then I think I fell asleep on top of my bags...I just got back from walking around central London, fine dining at Tesco, and another brief nap like thing before posting all these posts.

Tomorrow I will have pictures of this large city called London.

Sittin In Another Airport

Nerts, the Keflavik airport makes you pay for internet. And at just seven in the morning there is not much going on. And the transit area for US passengers going to the UK is just a small area of the airport and doesn't have all that much in the way of interesting stuff to see. It does have a fair number of signs in Icelandic, which is a crazy looking language. The restroom with a baby change table is called Smabarnahlynning. I cannot believe that I am in Iceland! it is only quarter after 11 Pacific time, but it is after seven in the morning here!

It was neat coming in. You could see the lights of Reykjavik off in the distance, and there was a full moon lighting up the water. It was pretty neat. The flight was good. I have decided that I like Icelandair, and will certainly consider them next time I fly across the "pond".

I just paid for some postcards and a little Icelandic flag with a combination of Euros and US dollars, and received Icelandic Kronar as change! Now I have....five currencies in my wallet. Crazy!

Airports are strange places. All sorts of people going all sorts of places from all sorts of places all on all sorts of schedules. Sitting here now, it seems like it should be late at night for me, but then the staff think it is just a decent time in the morning, and for others it is really early. So strange. These are just random ramblings of a tired person getting back into the travelling mind.

In The Air Part Two

Another movie down. Wag the Dog was the title of this one. Another kinda wierd one.

We are now just about to start passing over Greenland at 37000 feet. We are just over 1600km from Keflavik and getting closer at over 900km/h.

The flight attendants just came around with another drinks service and I got my third tea of the flight. It is weird that when we land it will be 11 pm o'clock for Pacific time, but it will be seven o'clock am in Iceland.....

I am glad I dont have a seat out on the wing as it is negative 50 degrees celsius outside. I wonder what the windchill would be with 900km/h wind and -50 degrees. Pretty low I imagine!

In The Air Part One

Here and now, writing this I am well and truly on my way. I am travelling more than 850 km/h at more than 35000 feet above Nunavut. I just finished watching kind of a weird movie: Pleasentville. Now I am listening to the Buena Vista Social Club and writing this on my computer.

The flight thus far has been very uneventful, and pretty pleasant actually. I have an aisle seat again which I dont really like, but it is nice to be able to get up whenever I want without climbing over people. Icelandair flies 757-200s to Seattle, and that is what I am sitting in right now. I mention this because it just so happens that my favorite looking airliner has for a long time been the 757-200, and this is my first chance to ride in one. So far I have no complaints!

That is the plane I am in BTW. That was as it was getting pulled to the gate in Seattle.

The attendants are very friendly, but there is not really much in the way of free stuff. I got a little cup of tea, but beyond that you kinda have to shell out a fair bundle. There is a blanket and pillow on each seat which I really like. The seatback tvs are a bit basic, and don't have a very large selection, but there is enough that it works.

Just a few minutes ago I went to go to the washroom, and there was a little line, so the flight attendant told me to go use the one up in economy plus. There is a row of seats up there with a door in front of them, and since no-one was sitting in them, I was able to look out the window into the night. Lots of stars! Pretty cool, but really hard to take a picture of. It is neat that with the full moon it is not just pitch black out there.

I think the flight is about halfway through now. I am glad that I have a transfer in Iceland. It will be nice to have a break instead of three more consecutive hours of sitting. The longest flight I have ever taken non-stop was Paris to Miami. That is about nine hours if I recall correctly. This one is about seven and a quarter. The Paris Miami one was on a 747 operated by CorsairFly, and although the flight was almost entirely full, I somehow ended up with a window row all to myself. On my way to Australia, I have a flight upcoming which beats nine hours by about two hours, then another which beats that one by an hour or two. Lots of hours of sitting.

I dont know if it has really hit me yet where I am and what I am doing....I see the little dot of the plane on the map, and I see all the other people around, but with the familiar music, the comfy seat and the background engine noise, it is almost as if I am merely sitting in a rather loud room.

I ramble on. It is weird that it is not even seven o'clock Pacific Time...It feels a lot later to me. That must be the fact that the sunset came rapidly and early as we flew up to meet it, and also because of the lower cabin pressure and humidity. Time changes and jet lag are weird. Ooo a little bit of turbulence! Me like. Makes me feel like I am actually flying and going somewhere.

Anyhow, I wont be able to post this until I get to Iceland, or maybe even London, but I will post it anyways. I might add to it later, or I might just start a whole new post!

December 28, 2012

On My Way!

I am now officially on my way. After a wonderful Christmas with family and friends, a very fun family darts and ping pong tournament, and a wet drive down-island, my parents and I spent last night in a hotel in Victoria. This morning we stopped by a cafe on the way to the airport. After waiting a while for the check in counter to open, I checked in, and found a place to wait in Victoria's excellent airport terminal.

My flight left right on time. An Alaska flight to Seattle on a DeHavilland Canada Q400. After punching through the clouds, the view was amazing even though I did not have a window seat. 

The Olympic Mountains were spectacular, though we did not get the chance to enjoy the view much as the flight was just 30 minutes. Now I am sitting in Seattle waiting for my next flight.

Next post will be from Europe!

December 19, 2012

Its Getting Real!

I have not really had a chance to write as much as I would have liked, exams and life have conspired to keep me busy. I have a bit of a break right now between packing up my apartment and meeting up with a friend, who is coincidentally, also heading of to Australia.

In the past few days it has really started hitting me that this huge adventure is really happening, and happening very soon. Several times in the past few days I have said goodbye to people I wont see for almost a year, and a few who I may never see again. Many of my friends here are on exchange from overseas. Saying goodbye to them is a bit easier, just because from the moment I met them I knew that they would be leaving soon. It is different with friends from here. Especially the few who are graduating this coming semester, then heading back to other provinces where they are from. Some I have become very good friends with and it is odd that I may never see them again.

Anyhow, enough of that sad-ish train of thought. Time to get down to talking about travelling! My departure is coming up so fast I cant really believe it. I have had a long exam period here this semester, and I still have one to go, then I am heading up home to have Christmas with my family. Then, just a few days later it is off to London.

When I did up my whiteboard calendar this morning, I realized just how much time I have in Europe. I think that I am going to do one, perhaps two overnight side trips from London. After having taken suggestions from some of my English friends I think I have decided on Oxford as one overnight trip. I might just stay in London instead of doing another one.

I think the thing I am most excited for in London other than New Years is going to the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. If you have checked out my other blog which I have not been will see that I am quite into astrophotography, but that is not the only reason. It just so happens that when they were setting up a standard for defining longitude, which in itself is arbitrary and needs a zero point to be selected, that observatory was the one which eventually became the standard one. On the courtyard outside is a big brass line marking the Prime Meridian, the border between east and west, the place upon which Greenwich Mean Time or Universal Time is based. Except it isnt. Though it is true that the prime meridian was originally established there, and for a very long time that brass line was the actual prime meridian, if you were to stand on it today with a GPS it would not read zero degrees. The actual prime meridian as is used for all surveying and cartography today is 102 meters to the east, just on the other side of the parking lot. There are a pair of paths which cross, and if you go 11 feet west from the center of the intersection, that is where the actual prime meridian is. Also there are the original chronometers built by John Harrison which are just amazing. I highly suggest the book Longitude by Dava Sobel.

Anyhow, my clothes have come out of the dryer, so it is time to spring into action once again. Just for fun this is a picture of the wimpy little snowfall from last night.

Even though it is a bit small, it is nice to get some snow in Victoria. It happens most years, some a little more than others. It was real windy and flurring all day yesterday, and this is what came out of it. I took that this morning out my window and it is actually still there, this afternoon which surprised me.

I will try to put up another post or two before Christmas.

December 04, 2012

A Short Autobiography

It is always nice to know a little bit about the person behind the blog so here goes.

I was born in the lovely city of Vancouver on Canada's west coast in the early 1990's. Shortly thereafter - nearly two years to be precise - my sister was born and our family made the move to Vancouver Island. I grew up in a rural area outside of Courtenay. Bordered by a river on two sides and covered in tall trees, our little chunk of the island was a great place to grow up.

Through the years I have had many hobbies and such, most of them involving things that go vroom. From a very early age I was intrigued by cars and trains and diggers and planes. That fascination shows a little bit in what I got up to over the years. Before I could drive a car by myself I already had a boating license, a glider pilot license, and a private pilot license. I always found the fact that I had to get a ride to the airport to take people up flying was kinda funny.

But enough about that. This is a blog about travelling, and so that is what I will talk about. My family has always placed great importance on getting out there to see the world, if only to appreciate your home even more. My first big trip was when I was just four months old. Needless to say I have no recollection of it, but I am told that it was a trip back east to the provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

Over the years, we took many small trips around BC, and some into Alberta. As a result, the map of Canada that I draw my trips on has lines covering most of the highways in southern BC. Our Next big trip covered 6 Canadian provinces, 5 American states, and many many thousands of kilometers. I turned 8 on that trip, having just ridden the train all the way from Vancouver to Toronto over the course of two weeks. We then embarked on a 9 week return journey in the car, taking whatever road tickled our fancy that day.

It was a few years before the next big trip, this one was to Mexico. We had return tickets out of Mexico City almost a month between them and not many firm plans. We stayed away from the tourist spots, and our motto was that we were so far off the beaten track that we were actually on a beaten path. This trip showed me a different kind of world. It was my first introduction to the hardships faced in other parts of the world.

Two years later, we returned to Mexico again, and visited some of our favourite spots again, and found some new ones we liked as well. This time I was a little older, and I was better able to take in what was going on in the places we stayed which included hotels where you had to stick a chair under the doorknob at night, and tiny family homes in weaving villages.

My third trip to Mexico was when I was in grade 11. I went on this trip alone. I spent one month living with a family in the state of Xochicalco in the state of Tlaxcala. Once again significantly older, the differences in the world around me popped into focus like never before.

The most recent big trip I took was also alone. I spent nearly 6 months over the winter of 2010-2011 in Europe with just me, myself, and I. That is a bit misleading, because I did have several extended stays with several different lovely families to whom I wish to extend my warmest thanks. Much of my time - four and a half months to be precise - was spent in Italy. My trip began in London, and moved briefly through France before arriving in Italy, and afterwards took me to Spain and back to France before a short trip to sunny Florida.

That is it for big trips in my past, although there have been many smaller ones closer to home. Just for curiosities sake, and because I love lines on maps I will post a map which includes most of my major forays into the world at large, as well as a few not so major ones.

I do like drawing lines on maps...

Anyhow, the point of this blog is to be my upcoming exchange to Australia. It is much more than just an exchange to Australia however, if it is even allowed to say "just an exchange to Australia"! The first "phase" of my trip for lack of a better word is about a month long stay in Europe. I am leaving just after christmas to London. After what I hope is a smashing new years in London, it is off to Switzerland, a road trip to Prauge and perhaps beyond, then into Italy for some visiting with friends.

The second "phase" is my pre exchange travels in australia before my school starts. I begin in Sydney in late January, just in time for Australia Day. After a week there, and another week a little south of there, I am off to Byron Bay for some relaxation with cousins. It is only then that I begin school. I am going to James Cook University in Cairns. At the end of the school semester, there will be some travel shennanigans I presume, and I will end up back home in the middle of July.

It is getting really close now, and I am getting super excited! I have just finished all my classes here at UVic, and now there are just a few exams to get through. Then a lovely christmas with my family, and that is it! Off on an adventure!

Thanks for reading! Cheers!