Yesterday we were at

Jane and Kirsty Pitch

Yesterday we were at the Beach Soccer stadium which
has been temporarily built in Brighton for the Kronenbourg Cup
with the help of 400 tonnes of sand.

The rules are different from the football we’re used to, in that there are three periods of 12 minutes, a blue card which sends players to the sin bin and there must always be a winner, via extra time or penalties.

We saw Italy v. Portugal and France v. England (and yes, Eric Cantona was there for the game).

Entertaining stuff, and I’d certainly go see it again.

Shark and Kirsty

I don’t know what this shark was doing there.

Wow science fiction is

Wow, science fiction is close to becoming to science reality according to this article in computing. By the middle of next year the Home Office Immigration and Nationality Directorate hope to have an Iris Recognition System installed at 10 UK sites which will be used by regular Non-UK passengers.

ve just booked us

I’ve just booked us some tickets for the Beach Soccer at Brighton Beach on Saturday. We get to see an exhibition match, Portugal v Italy and England v France. And yes, I know we don’t have a sandy beach down here in Brighton, that’s why they deliver trucks full of sand 🙂

Well that was fun

Well, that was fun. I’ve just got back from 10 days in California. Richard headed out a little over 2 weeks ago for the JavaOne conference (more on that later probably) and then I flew out to meet him to make a holiday of it. We spent the weekend in San Francisco, before hiring a car and heading off to Lake Tahoe for a couple of days, on to the Napa Valley (wine country) and finishing off driving around Marin County. (I even queued in a book store at midnight on Friday to get my (hideously overpriced) Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – still it made excellent plane reading 🙂

Now I’ve just got to process the 500 or so photos


Richard attended the JavaOne conference again, and so I headed out to meet him when it was over for a holiday. This time we spent the weekend in San Francisco, before heading to Lake Tahoe, the Wine Country and finally Marin County.

Friday – London to San Francisco

A day spent travelling and aclimatising.

Richard had already been out in California for 5 days at the JavaOne Conference so I flew from Heathrow to San Francisco to join him.

In an effort to stay awake we headed off for a wander around a favourite spot from our last trip, the Yerba Buena gardens, and I had my first chance to do some photography.

After an early dinner, we had a couple of cocktails in the bar at the top of the Grand Hyatt (where we were staying) before my tiredness caught up with me and I had to sleep.

Saturday – San Francisco

We met up with Paul for breakfast at Cafe de la Presse (a favourite breakfast eaterie from the last time we were there) before heading off to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). The building was lovely, and light and airy and there were some interesting exhibitions going on.

After have been cultured for a bit, we decided it was time for a spot of retail therapy and explored the shops around Market Street before taking a break at the hotel.

For dinner we headed off on a streetcar towards Pier 23 and ate at the Fog City Diner.

Sunday – San Francisco

The others were heading back to the UK today, so we met up with them for breakfast at Louis Diner before going our separate ways.

I’d read about the murals in Mission in the Photo Secrets guide to San Francisco and Northern California and so we headed off for a look at them, and decided to concentrate our efforts on Balmy Alley. This was a great idea as there are so many of them to see, and they’re so very impressive. There are other murals all over Mission but we only saw a handful of them.

We headed back to the Yerba Buena gardens and sat around there for a while before going in search of the Ansel Adams Centre for Photography which we’d seen mentioned in the book. Unfortunately this had closed since the book was written.
Our next stop was to find the the Carnelian Room in the Bank of America building – the highest publically accessible point in San Francisco which hosts a very pleasant cocktail bar.

Before we left the UK our friend Nathan (who’d lived in San Francisco for 4 years) had recommended some restaurants, and we decided to go to the Baker Street Bistro – his favourite restaurant. It was a great little find, and wasn’t somewhere we’d have ventured to without his recommendation.

Monday – San Francisco to Lake Tahoe

We headed back to the airport to collect our rental car from dollar and joined the biggest queue in the rental area. Typical. Still, no real problems and we collected the car and headed off.

We’d decided to head to Lake Tahoe as we’d heard good things about it, and this proved to be a good decision. The drive was good, and we arrived at the North Shore with enough time to drive from Tahoe City to Incline Village to check out the best place for us to stay for a few nights. We ended up deciding on the Lake of the Sky motel in Tahoe City, a basic but pleasant enough place which had an outdoor swimming pool which we made use of immediately.

We headed to Lakehouse Pizza and ordered a huge, but tasty pizza and sampled a couple of pints of the local microbrews before needing to pass out.

Tuesday – Lake Tahoe and Reno

We read in the Rough Guide that Sand Harbor, on the Nevada stretch of Lake Tahoe was a beautiful spot so we headed there and discovered that it was true. Lots of beautiful clear lakeside, a beach area, and a boardwalk to follow.

After a lovely walk, and rest we headed off towards Reno, passing the Ponderosa Ranch – home of Bonanza.

Arriving in Reno our first visit was to the Planetarium at the university where we watched a couple of films, one about the International Space Station and the other about Clark and Lewis and then took a look at the exhibits (which had been overrated a bit in the Rough Guide but nonetheless looking at a large polished section of meteorite, and being able to touch a small meteorite was quite an experience.

Next we headed into Reno itself. Neither of us have been to Vegas, and so the whole Casino thing was quite strange to us. We wandered through quite a few of them, starting at Circus Circus before taking a look at Harrah‘s, Silver Legacy and Eldorado. We thought that as we were in a casino town we should take advantage of the cheap eats, and so headed off to Atlantis out of town to eat at the casino voted by the locals as having the best vuffet. I must admit, the quality of the food was good, and they mongolian grill was pretty tasty and impressive – you choose a bowl full of veggies and it gets freshly cooked for you with either chicken or beef.

I think we ended up being about $4 down after playing on the slots, so we felt we’d done ok.

We headed back to Tahoe City and headed to a local bar to get a couple of beers and watch (and try and understand) a baseball game on the tv.

Wednesday – Around Lake Tahoe

The first stop of the day was at Emerald Bay and we took the steep walk down to Vikingsholm, a Scandinavian “Castle” built as a summer house in 1929, and decided against doing the tour and instead took a walk to the waterfall.

After heading back to the car we drove slowly around the lake, stopping at viewpoints and just enjoying the drive before heading back past Sand Harbor and into Tahoe City.

Our dinner choice was mexican at Hacienda del Lago, where the food was tasty and plentiful, the view was good, but the service was rushed.

Thursday – Lake Tahoe to Calistoga

A day of travelling. We left Tahoe City and headed to Squaw Valley in search of the olympic flame. We were really impressed with what we saw as it looks to be a compact place with plenty of eateries and lifts to chose from. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll return for some snowboarding. We were “in between seasons”, which is the story of our recent travels, and so the lifts had closed after the winter season, but hadn’t opened for the summer season yet.

So, we headed off on our way towards Napa Valley and stopped off at Nevada City – an old Gold rush town. We took a wander around, and looked at some of the historic buildings including a long walk around the impressive Firehouse No 1 museum.
We headed off on the road again, and after consulting the Rough Guide again, we decided to head towards Calistoga as it a) sounded nice, and b) seemed to mention quite a few eateries and motels.

We arrived at Calistoga and had a hunt around for accommodation, but were struggling because we wanted to stay there until Sunday morning, and Saturday nights were booked up most places. In the end we figured we’d only stay 2 nights and chose the lovely Garnett Creek Inn.

After a rest, and a well needed shower we headed off to the Calistoga Inn Restaurant for a lovely meal outside on the patio.

Friday – Around the Napa Valley

We started off the day by taking a walk around Calistoga and getting some useful information from the Chamber of Commerce.
We headed off in the car and drove around both the Napa and Sonama valleys before arriving back in Calistoga for a late lunch at Calistoga Natural, an organic shop and cafe.

Feeling refreshed we headed off to the Sterling Vineyards for the wine tour and tastings as this was one of the recommended wineries in the Lonely Planet. It’s an excellent tourist option as it combines a gondola ride, with education on the wine making process and of course some wine tasting. To be honest we weren’t that impressed with the wines we were offered, but we learnt lots.

Having got back to the Garnett Creek Inn, we headed next door to Hurds Candles and Wines as they offered wine tastings from their OnThEdge winery. These were far more to our taste and we came away with a couple of bottles of Zinfandel.

After our wine related day, what better way to relax than by having a bottle of Californian sparkling wine on the decking of the Garnett Creek. Having got the taste for wine we ate at Brannan’s Grill and indulged in a flight of wine each (a flight of wine is 3 part glasses offering a selection of wines based on a theme – mine was Sauvignon blanc and Richard’s was Rhone).

This was the day that the new Harry Potter book was to be released and the Calistoga bookshops weren’t going to be left out of the fun. Copperfields had an event starting at 11.30pm, and Calistoga Books was opening at 11.45pm. By 11.15pm there were people in fancy dress waiting outside Copperfields for the event to start and so we decided that we really should hang around and that I should treat myself to the book. At midnight, the party was in full swing with prizes being handed out for best fancy dress etc, but nobody seemed intent on taking my money, so I headed off over the road to the other shop which was far more subdued but was doing a roaring trade to all sorts of people, from teachers, to children, to skater boys, to tourists from England 🙂

Saturday – Calistoga to Highway 101 via Marin County

Before leaving Calistoga completely we headed off to the Old Faithful Geysir where we watched the geysir spurt a couple of times.

We’d decided that Marin County looked like a fun place to spend our day, and would be an ideal spot to spend the night before heading back to San Francisco the following day. Unfortunately all didn’t go to plan and we couldn’t find a place to stay. So, we decided to do our Marin County, or more particularly Point Reyes Pensinsular exploring during the day before having dinner and then looking for a motel off the highway.

We headed on to the peninsular and stopped off at Drakes Beach which was beautiful and very windy. We took a nice long walk along the beach, enjoying the feel of the wind on our faces. We stopped off at another couple of beaches on the peninsular, but they weren’t as impressive.

We stopped at Inverness to collect some beers from a grocery store, and spotted a pizza place opposite which we decided to investigate for our dinner. It turned out to be tasty food and certainly set us up well for what was to turn out to be a nightmare trying to find somewhere to stay.

We headed along Highway 101, expecting to find somewhere to stay with relative ease. Of course, we hadn’t remember that the Nascar racing was happening in Sonoma, and never thought that we’d find everywhere booked up. Unfortunately that turned out to be the case and we clocked up quite some miles and time before finally finding a room in the Dollar Inn just outside Petaluma. The room was basic and the only reason that it hadn’t already been let out was that it had no tv.
Our evening consisted of drinking those beers that we’d fortuitously collected at Inverness, and then packing our luggage for the flight back.

Sunday – Back to San Francisco

We left the Dollar Inn and headed off towards Muir Woods. Unfortunately for us the parking areas were all totally packed, and so there was no space for us. Instead we headed off to Muir Beach, another lovely little spot.

We didn’t have enough time to explore properly, so we headed back to the car and drove on towards San Francisco taking a stop at the Golden Gate bridge viewing area to admire the view. It’s a shame that my home town doesn’t make as much of a fuss about it’s bridge.

We went over the bridge, and drove through San Francisco following Highway 1 until we arrived at the airport. San Francisco airport, or at least departures, seemed to have improved since our last visit, and we actually found somewhere to eat, and some shops to spend our time in before boarding our plane and heading home.

spent some of yesterday

I spent some of yesterday at the In-store Design and Marketing show at Earls Court, which was, er, very quiet. The product I’ve been working on for the last 18 months was being demonstrated as part of Augustin Martin‘s product porfolio and so I went along to have a look around the rest of the show as well as to get an idea of the reception. I had chats with a few interesting companies, and they all said the same thing – the turnout was dissapointing. In fact, a lot of them were happy to chat to me (a techy and not a retail marketer) just to pass some time. Still, it was a day out of the office and a chance to collect some more promotional pens 🙂