Dyrham Park is a great place to visit

..as seen on TV

..as seen on TV

Dyrham Park (pronounced “Durham Park”) is presently on the TV screen as one of the locations for the ITV production of Sanditon, a fairly speculative visualisation of an unfinished Jane Austen story. Apparently the "original” story ran out about half way through the first episode. There are 7 more episodes after that and so I think they should have probably added “from an idea by…” to the author credits.

Nevertheless, to my untrained eyes the plot and characters look pretty similar to “proper” versions of Jane Austen texts and we are happily trying to work out which characters are good and which bad and which chap the heroine will end up with. It seems to be boiling down to the “worthy” one or the “smouldering” one at the moment. My bet is on the bloke with the smoke coming out of his ears. Bad news for worthy folk everywhere.

Anyhoo, we didn’t really go to Dyrham Park purely on the strength of a TV tie in, we just fancied a day out in a nice place. In this respect it delivered really well. The location is lovely, the house fascinating, the views awesome, the food in the cafe tasty and we had a thoroughly nice time.

Fun with a fish eye….

Fun with a fish eye….

If you’re in the area you should go and take a look. Whether or not you’ve seen in on the TV.

Icelandic Parking Tips

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As part of the public service remit of this blog, I bring you my handy “How to buy parking tickets in Iceland” and “How to contest a parking fine in Iceland when you have failed to buy your ticket correctly”.

If you park up in Iceland you have to buy a ticket. Don’t work on the fact that nobody else has a ticket in their car window, it’s all done with car registration plates. Pay for your parking at one of the handy machines above. The most important button on this keyboard, at least at the start, is the one next to the Icelandic flag at the bottom right. You can use this to select the English language version of the machine.

Once you’ve got the language sorted, enter your car registration number, the number of hours you want and then your contactless credit card and it all works out.

Except that sometimes it doesn’t.

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This is the funky little Kia Picanto that we hired from Lagoon Car Rental (they are awesome by the way). When I entered the registration I included the 21 in the middle of the plate.

This is a stupid thing to do. The registration is happily accepted by the machine, but it is not valid. The proper registration is just “JPL42”.

So of course we got a parking ticket. Wah. Fortunately there’s a website that you can use to lodge an appeal. Double fortunately I’d asked the parking machine for a printed receipt which we could use to give our appeal a bit of extra heft.

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So the moral of this story is to not put the year digits into your registration when paying for parking. And to get the receipt to use if you are as daft as me….



American Museum in Bath

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Sunday sees us at the American Museum in Bath. A favourite of mine. Inside a lovely English country house are a whole set of rooms imported whole from America. It’s fascinating to see the transition from the simplicity of the early rooms to the intricate decadence of the more recent ones. The story of the origins of America is very well told and we had the added bonus of a couple of really good exhibitions. If you’ve not been, go. If you have been, you won’t need me to tell you to go again.

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Whitby Steam

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Today finds us on the road to Whitby. A wonderful place, if a bit colder than we anticipated first thing in the morning. We'd come for the steam rally and a fish pie. We got all that, plus fantastic weather and a ride in the clifftop lift (well worth 60 pence of anyone's money).

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If you've not been to Whitby you are so missing out. And if you've been to Whitby and not had the fish pie at the Magpie Cafe then you're missing out too.

Breakfast at the Zoo

Breakfast view

Breakfast view

Sunday dawned, and with it the realization that we needed to go and get some food for breakfast. Unlike virtually everyone else on the trip, we'd gone for an Airbnb flat for our accommodation. Not for us the overpriced continental breakfasts they serve up in hotels, no need for us to stand in the queue for cereals wondering where on earth you get the spoons from. No sir. We were going to live like locals, eating what they eat, shopping where they shop. Except that all the locals had bought their food yesterday when the shops were open, and all the food shops were now shut. Sunday opening is not a thing in Germany.

We messaged our Airbnb hosts for help on where to get a bite to eat. The reply came back. 'Go to the zoo'. It was a lovely day, so we did. Leipzig Zoo has apparently been judged "The second-best zoo in Europe". Having been there, I'd now quite like to got to the best one, although I'm not sure how it can better Leipzig. The zoo is vast, and a stone's throw from the city centre. It is peppered with great places to eat, our hosts had suggested three, and we selected the one that lets you eat your breakfast and watch the giraffes go past.

After some discussion at the till about the sensibleness of selecting an "all you an eat" buffet ten minutes before it closes (we didn't in the end) we settled down with our croissant and coffee and did indeed watch the giraffes go past. Today was flagged as the hottest day of the trip and it didn't disappoint. We actually went into the tropical rainforest area to cool off a bit.  If you go to Leipzig, go to the zoo. If you're not going to Leipzig, go to Leipzig and then go to the zoo. You'll thank me. Oh, and eat lunch at the Hacienda. Have the chilli. Then you can thank me again.

We staggered back from the zoo to the flat through the city, noting all the closed food shops as we went past them. We finally found a tiny place that was open which sold about a hundred different kinds of beer. It also sold milk and chocolate biscuits. So, we bought some milk, some biscuits and, of course, some beer, staggered back to the flat and settled down for the night.

Pro-tip that we realised later: shops close on Sunday in Germany. But filling stations do not. Pretty much every petrol station has a mini-supermarket attached and sometimes even a tiny café. We could have nipped to the nearest BP station – our hosts had even noted its location on the map – and stocked up there.

Arriving in Leipzig

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The girl at the information desk looked at her colleague, then at us, and finally shrugged her shoulders, holding her palms outwards in the international gesture signifying "Sure. Why not?". We'd just asked her in halting English if it was possible for us to catch the 22:24 train out of Leipzig airport to the city centre. Except that we didn't know where the train was or where to buy tickets. And it was 22:14. Well, if she sort-of thought we could do it, we could sort-of do it. So off we went.

It turns out that ten minutes is just enough time to buy tickets, find the wrong platform, and then stand on it watching the 22:24 train leave from the right platform. The only positive was that the next train arriving at the wrong platform was running late. And going to Leipzig. Worrying that we'd used up all our good luck for the entire trip, we hurried aboard and begin to ponder the next hoop we had to jump through; getting the keys for the apartment.

Because of our late arrival; our hosts would be leaving the apartment keys in a locker in Leipzig station. We'd been sent the locker number and code, along with a picture of the locker itself. I was sure I'd played this video game before and, since Leipzig station is one of the biggest in Europe, I was now playing it on level 10.

After a number of false starts and discovering that I didn't know the German word for "locker", and everyone we met didn’t know the English word for "locker", we finally got the key and made it to the taxi rank, clutching the piece of paper with the address and map that I'd prepared earlier.

The taxi driver took one look at the map, nodded, ushered us into her vehicle and then sped off in what I considered to be completely the wrong direction. Which shows how much I know about Leipzig. We arrived at the door to the flat in record time, stood for a while in the doorway while I played with the key in the lock, and finally we were inside what would be our home for the next five days.

We'd come to Leipzig to watch a car being made. It turns out that there are also lots of other good reasons to visit the city, including parks, restaurants and an amazing zoo, but for now the BMW factory tour on Monday was the thing we were most looking forward to. Or at least, I was looking forward to. The flat was comfy, everything was in place for a nice few days.

Seattle Museum of Pop Culture. And Microsoft Imagine Cup Alumni.

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It's hard to avoid the Seattle Museum of Pop Culture. For one thing the monorail actually drives through the middle of the building on the way to the Space Needle. For another it has the most amazing architecture. We've never got round to taking a proper look in the place. Until today.

To be honest I wasn't expecting that much, perhaps a few guitars in glass cases. But there was much more than that, including a really good Star Trek exhibition and stuff that kept us occupied for just about half of the day. They even had a David Bowie film where he actually mentioned Hull. 

This is a Star Trek console. Really. 

This is a Star Trek console. Really. 

After our does of culture we headed back to Capitol Hill to meet up with a bunch of ex-Hull students who are now Microsoft folk. Quite a few of them got their big break as part of Imagine Cup teams. All doing very well, lots of great chat and lovely to see them all. They look so grown up. Probably because they are. And we got a bunch of recommendations for places to visit during our final days here. 

Seattle Space Needle. Again.

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Another day. More amazing weather. Apparently temperatures records are on the verge of being broken (They are back home in England too, but in an entirely less pleasant way). 

Anyhoo, whenever I'm in Seattle I go up the Space Needed. Always have. Always will. They're in the middle of a great big refurbishment exercise at the moment, replacing the sides of the viewing platform with enormous slabs of glass. This meant that we didn't get to walk all the way round the outside as we normally like to, but even so the view was rather nice, and you can actually see the mountain, which is nice. 

Heading for Capitol Hill

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Last night we went into the MVP party for a while. Great fun. They are usually very loud affairs, but not this time. They had loads of headphones that you could use to hear any one of a number of different disco soundtracks (including classical music). And you could even change the colour of the cool lights on their sides. Awesome. It's been a great summit. Lots of lovely technical content. Lots of chances to say what we thought of it, and a great place to catch up with folks. 

Today we're heading for an apartment in Capitol Hill, a rather nice part of Seattle for a few days. 

Tram 28

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We're in Lisbon for a few days. Lovely place. I came year a few years ago to do some Microsoft Technical conferences and loved the place, even though most of my views of the city was through the windows of the taxi on the way to and from the airport. 

We've got a little apartment and the place is lovely. Today we took Tram 28 for a tour around the place. This is a forth minute tram ride from the centre of the city around most of the tourist areas. It was lovely. Then we wandered back across the city to the apartment where I spent a happy time working on the pdfs for chapter 8 of Begin to Code Python. 

Then it was out for tea. We seem to be near a street with a whole bunch of really nice cafes, restaurants and shops. But, from what we've seen so far, this is actually typical of downtown Lisbon.  

Must see Hull: Hepworth's Arcade and Trinity Market

If you're from Hull and you haven't been to Trinity Market in a while, then go.

If you're not from Hull, but you find yourself in our excellent city for one of our awesome City of Culture events, then go to Trinity Market.

It's down the end of Whitefriar Gate. You can get to it from Hepworth's Arcade or from the street. It's got all kinds of interesting stores and shops in there. Along with the staples like meat, fruit and sweeties (and, er, staples), it's also got a whole bunch of boutiques and an amazing vinyl store selling records that I actually own. There are quite a few places you can get a bit to eat too.

And in Hepworth's Arcade you've got Fanthorpes, a proper HiFi shop, and also a really good, traditional joke shop.

 

If you're a student wanting to show mum and dad some local colour then you could take them along.

If you are just in the market for something interesting you should definitely go take a look.