Saturday, December 31, 2011

Half a chicken later

After reading good things about the restaurant Chez Ma Cousine, I thought I'd better hit it up for dinner, and I'm glad I did. I ordered the standard 1/2 chicken with potato and salad, and was delivered a platter of chicken and potato and a sizeable bowl of salad in about 2mins - awesome! The spicy sauce provided lived up to its name too. Wicked feed, and with a local beer it was great value too.

To walk off my meal I wandered through the shopping district on the south side of the river on the way back to the hostel and scoped out some chocolate shops and watches. I don't think I'm going to find a snowboard in this town in my price range (come to think of it I haven't seen a snowboard store yet, many ski shops though), haven't even seen a skate shop. Maybe I'm looking in the wrong places (highly likely).

Art and Saint Pierre Cathedral‎

Bacon Flavoured Chocolate?

Many Options

Today I awoke to a wet day, so I've been walking around town with brief forays into shelter to dry off. First stop is the Red Cross headquarters (ICRC) which I somehow missed yesterday, followed by the Saint Pierre Cathedral in old town. The ICRC was closed with a whole bunch of construction occurring in the front area. Saint Pierre Cathedral is quite spectacular, the current building dating back to the 16th century, which has burnt down and been rebuilt several times owing to its mix of styles. On the way back into town I spied out the Flower Clock, a tribute to Geneva's watchmaking history and a site which has been in place since 1955 - fun(?) fact it apparently has the longest seconds hand in the world. Followed this visit by lunch at a Indian restaurant near the hostel, which was so so.

ICRC (CICR - Red Cross) HQ

Streets in Old Town

St Pierre Cathedral

St Pierre Cathedral - Inside

Flower Clock

Plan for this evening is to consume some local beer.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Geneva time!

My first real day in Geneva (after a moderately bad nights sleep - still adjusting to the snoreathon hostel stylez!) involved a visit to the United Nations site, the nearby Musée Ariana (porcelain, glass and pottery - was insightful, yet hard to get into), and the Musée d'Histoire des Sciences (which had a large amount of historic scientific instrumentation produced by some science greats such as Alessandro Volta (voltaic pile), and many instruments used for maritime navigation and timekeeping). There are also some cool interactive science exhibits outside the museum which demonstrate atmospheric pressure, measurement, and the transmission/concentration of sound. Lunch followed, then a run around town to get my bearings (without getting lost in the process), and the visit to Starbucks (in which I am currently indulging). If you are running in Geneva note, the riverside track along the southern bank along the river near the Pont Butin bridge is super narrow and probably impassable with recent rain (thankfully I made it without going for a swim).

The United Nations Building

I wasn't quite sure what language was spoken here, but it appears that it is predominantly French, or a Swiss variation. I haven't spoken any French since grade 2, so very rusty, but hoping to pick up a few things here.

I'm staying at the HI Hostel in Geneva, which is spartan but adequate. It lacks any sort of character, as you are thrown into access control land, with your card required to open your room door, locker, and the bathroom, in addition to gaining access to upstairs. Theft might be a problem at this place, and having to pull out a card everytime you want to do something somewhat reinforces the vibe. You get a decent continental breakfast included though, which is great given how expensive it can be eating out in Geneva. Only bummer is that there is no guest kitchen at the hostel, so options for self cooking are limited. That said there are heaps of places to eat around town, and a wide variety of tastes are catered for. Theres a huge number of kebab shops and a McDonalds too, if all else fails.

A McDonalds cheeseburger in Geneva costs approx $2.80 AUD, a kebab around $12, cafe meal anywhere from $14 upwards, the starbucks latte in front of me $7. Today I 'dined' at the Migros cafe, which is situated as part of the Migros supermarket in the 'Les Cygnes' shopping mall near Conarvin train station. You can make your own selection from the buffet and pay by weight (around 29CHF/100g). There's a selection of hot meals, salads, and deserts.

Plan is to view town by night and grab a feed and a beer. Tomorrow I'm going to get all cultural in the old part of town, and visit some more museums.

Musée d'Histoire des Sciences

One of the outdoor exhibits - this one demonstrates atmospheric pressure and the effect of imbalances

View of Geneva CBD from the North (Jet d'Eau fountain in the distance)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Airports and onto Geneva

The journey continues... silly me booked my outward flight to Geneva from London City Airport (LCY) (not knowing where the airport is located or how I would get there from Leicester). One coach, two underground trains, and a light rail trip later and I arrived at the terminal.

LCY is a pretty cool airport (if you could consider airports to be regarded as such), with one of the most well equipped waiting areas I've been in. You can also purchase some of the 'worlds finest wines' by the glass here, at around 300-400 GBP per glass. I passed on this occasion but may indulge when fortunes have been made. Heaps of charging outlets and fast free wi-fi provides an internet fix, supplemented by a number of caffeine dispensing outlets.

London City Airport - Departures Lounge

I wrote most of this post from Heathrow airport though, as the thing about LCY is that the planes which can access this airport are small, and the flight I was booked on happened to be overbooked, and everyone has ski gear (with additional weight), so the plane was too heavy to take off with all on board (without running the risk of colliding with the O2 centre, or other downtown structures).

My former steed

Swiss were taking volunteers to take a different flight. Since I was in no rush I transferred to one leaving from Heathrow which arrived several hours later (but with 250 EUR to compensate, and a couple of airport snacks was not a bad compromise, Swiss thanks for taking up my bar tab :) ). The taxi driver also made it across town in less than an hour, which was a pretty amazing feat during peakhour.

There is no comp wifi access in Heathrow though... bummer, so this post reaches you from Geneva! After 2 swiss cheese sandwiches (the swiss cheese does taste better in Switzerland), and landing in heavy fog, I've ventured to the hostel under the cover of darkness and am setting a direction for the morning (I should really do some planning before I get into a new city). Will update you when I have some interesting stuff, rather than airports and cheese sandwiches. I've just learnt that CERN is closed until Jan 5th :(

Monday, December 19, 2011

I'm in London still

So i've seen most of the sights of London by now (kinda - if you can count Hammersmith fire station pub, Sloane Square, Chelsea, South Kensington, Westminster, the river Thames, Battersea Power Station and numerous bars near Clapham Junction). Managed to avoid the usual tourist spots apart from running past the Big Ben and through some Christmas markets which have been assembled around Embankment, and narrowly missed taking out sudden pausers and direction changers encountered in my path (seems kind of worse this time of year when situational awareness takes a second priority to a cup of mulled wine or some quality cheese). I've been to London a few times now so would prefer a reception at the palace with the higher ups rather than viewing the place from the street (but my chances of achieving that are as slim as the cigarettes smoked by those 'stylish' cats in Chelsea).

Sloane Square by Night

London is a cool place in the winter, not only in temperature but also in vibe. Its also amazingly flat, so if your looking for a place to do some mountain running, there are probably better places to go. This does however favor cycling, and there are a number of points through the city where you can pick up a 'rental bicycle' to head where you please (the first time I've seen this kind of thing, great idea for inner city dwellers who do not have a car, and encourages more people to get into cycling!). Exploring on foot provides a good perspective and allows you to get a feel for the city and its people.

Albert Bridge, West London

Following last nights pub crawl, which involved two pubs (oops - we stayed too long in the first one, its really hard to get 12 or so people to all finish a drink around the same time too) and a club unknown to me, I returned to my friends house to cook up a 3am feed (somehow I had forgotten to eat dinner - must have been the Guinness) and retire to bed. Today I dusted off the cobwebs with another foray along the river and back (without getting lost in Battersea park this time), and met with a colleague for a pub lunch prior to boarding the national express bus back to Leicester, caffeinated beverage in hand.

London its been fun, see you soon.

Battersea Power Station

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Battersea and Borough Market Adventures

I arrived into Battersea last night a bit later than expected after confronting Thursday night London traffic (and I thought Sydney traffic was BAD.. hmm) and met up with Anthony who has been living here the last 6 months. We decended on a local bar for some thai food and Guinness. After probably the spiciest Pad Kee Mao I've had in a long time, we moved on to another cool bar called The Secret Garden for an ale (it was ok, I mainly ordered it because it was called DOOM ale, and my Doom levels were low at the time). Finished the night with some nachos (yeah we were hungry) and more beer, and a fairly civil turn in at 1am.

Today I wanted to run early but London had other plans, and the idea of running in rain/sleet along the river in the wind did not seem that appealing, so I postponed until the afternoon and hit Borough Markets instead for a feed.

The evening became a traditional Christmas drinks (houseparty) where I met some cool people, then learnt how far it is from Clapham Common to Battersea. All in all a good day in London, hopefully more running tomorrow!

Borough Markets, Central London

Borough Markets, Central London

Monday, December 12, 2011

The first leg - Leicester

So after 22 hours of plane awesomeness I am now in Leicester in the UK. Its been an easy transition given the amount of wet weather hammering Sydney lately, just a little cooler. 10 hours of sleep and a 2:30am phone call later and I began my first day comprising determining breakfast, and visiting the relatives (and heaps of tea, man I love the UK).

Its been good but uneventful for the most part so far. Plan is to be suburban for the next few days and sort out some home materiel acquisitions, then skip down to London for a bit.

Here's a shot from Dubai airport at 4am - that place is huge...!