Traveling finally caught up with me. Sunday morning I woke up feeling like hell - cold was on in full force. Which really sucked, as I had a 10 1/2 hour flight ahead of me, down to Johannesburg. But there was lots of fun had before I got sick...
Friday night after having dinner with Simon (my boss) and Peter (our Director of Development), I headed over to the Victoria casino. Dinner was a blast - I always have a good time out with either/both of them - and I was hoping my good spirits would convert into a good night playing poker. Sadly, no such luck. After waiting an hour to get a seat, I ended up a 3-3 pot limit table. I quickly found out that my minimum buy-in was severely short-stacked. There were guys with thousands of pounds on the table. It forced me to play conservatively, and I ended up leaving after about 5 hours dead even. Ah well, could have been worse.
Saturday morning I was woken up early by Simon. It was his last day in London, and I had agreed to head out in the morning with him, before he had to head to the airport to grab his flight. We wandered through Hyde Park for a couple of hours, then he headed off. I decided to head to the National Gallery, and my timing was good as the heavens totally opened up, as I was about 5 minutes from the front door. I toured the Galleries for a couple of hours, checking out a number of my favorite artists. It was a good day. After the Gallery, it was off to Craven Cottage for a football game.
When I had originally found out about the trip, I decided that I wanted to check out a Premiership football game. After looking at the schedules, the only game on tap in London (and there are like five teams right in London) that weekend was Fulham vs. Reading. Good enough for me. I headed over to Craven Cottage (that's the name of the stadium) and picked up a ticket at the gate. Both Fulham and Reading are mid-table teams, but Fulham has struggled a bit this year. I ended up with a seat in the area of the stadium that's reserved for "Away" fans. In the British football stadiums, every team guarantees away supporters seats. They reserve a section of the stadium (to cut down on fights and such), and boy does it make the game fun. The Reading team had about 3,500 to 4,000 fans in attendance, and they were loud! The Reading fans easily drowned out the noise of the 15,000 Fulham home fans.
Reading ended up winning 1-0 on a penalty, but the game itself was secondary to the experience. After that, North American sports are dull. There's something to be said for thousands of people singing their team's song in unison; the sheer noise level is unreal. I was a good time.
After the game I headed back to the hotel and dropped off my stuff. I then headed down to Soho and grabbed some dinner. During dinner I decided I needed another crack at that poker game...
I've played a fair bit of poker, and so far I've never been in a game where I felt I was completely outclassed. Well, until tonight. I bought into the same 3-3 game, but wow, this was a whole other league. One guy at the table bought in for 6,000 pounds - making my 250 inconsequential. It was easily the oddest night of my short poker career. I was severely out-matched - 7 of the other 8 players at the table were way better than me; I was playing badly - not to make excuses, but I was playing scared; and I ended up with my second biggest payday ever. :-) Go figure - the fact that I was playing for British Pounds made it way better than it really was, but hey, who's to complain?
Sunday, as I mentioned, I woke up sick as a dog. In my normal fashion, I was determined to make the most of my last day in London. I got up early, packed and checked out of the hotel. I wandered down to Oxford Street, the primary shopping district, and toured around for a bit. The place was very cool - all decked out for Christmas - shop windows all decorated, and the streets were amazingly well decorated. Too bad it poured all day. There won't be many pictures to share, as it just wasn't worth it. Mid-morning I headed to the British Museum. Amazing place, worth going back to see. Following instructions for a change, I picked two galleries - the Egyptian and the Roman/Greek, and focused on them. Amazing stuff really. Wish I had more time. Actually, I had plenty of time, but my energy quickly faded away. In surrender to the cold, I made my way to the airport.
After an hour of delays, we left around 10 pm. 11 hours later (and almost zero sleep), I arrived in Johannesburg feeling worse than when I left. Hard to imagine. The last few days have been just a blur of work/sleep/eat. The meetings seemed to go well, and tomorrow I'm off to Kruger! There will likely be no updates until I get home.
November 24, 2006
The past few days were spent in Leeds, at our International User Group meetings. I'm actually writing this on a train on my way back to London. It's awesome to have Internet access on the train. I've been able to get a whole lot of work done - and this update.
There's not a lot to report from the past few days. It's been all customer meetings, dinners with customers, that sort of thing. The one highlight was the hotel we stayed at. It was the Marriott Hollins Hall, tucked out in the Yorkshire countryside. It was originally one of the dormitories for Leeds University. The place was a huge labyrinth of rooms and hallways, very old, and with a ton of character. The countryside in that area is amazing - rolling hills dotted with forests and many small towns. I think it would be an amazing place to go back and visit in the summer time, to do some hiking. Another time perhaps.
The meetings themselves went very well, and now were on our way back to London. I've got basically a day and a half free to hang out in London - should be fun...
November 21, 2006
I arrived safe and sound (and an hour early!) into Heathrow at 11:00 this morning. The flight wasn't bad - I seem to be getting used to these 9 hour flights. Even being up in executive (there's no "first class" on Air Canada planes), I still can't sleep. So obviously it's not the amount of space that's the issue. So as a result, I got a lot of work done on the plane. Small consolation.
After the sun came up, we descended through the clouds, coming in from the northwest over the pole. I love flying over the English countryside. It unfolds as this amazing patchwork quilt, spread out over the entire country side. You see these irregularly shaped patches of primarily agricultural land, interspersed with patches of forest. From the air, the English country roads snake through the landscape, giving shape to patch work. Small towns and villages are sprinkled liberally throughout.
Even coming in from a distance London is ever-present on the horizon. As we came in over central London, all kinds of landmarks are visible from the air - the new Wembley Stadium; the London Eye; the Thames; the Tower Bridge; Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament; Hyde Park; and even Craven Cottage, the home of the Fulham football team. I'm hoping to see a game at Craven Cottage on Sunday.
My day was pretty uneventful. After getting in, I went for a walk out to Notting Hill, and found a local pub to have lunch in. After that, I wandered back to the hotel via Hyde Park (in the rain), and crashed out. Simon (ny boss), Peter, Mark and I ended up going out for dinner. Now I'm off to bed. The traing to Leeds awaits in the morning.
November 19, 2006
After a couple of weeks of sitting around "recovering", I ran a 10 km race this morning - the Fall Classic up at UBC. The weather was awful, and the race course was pretty uninspiring, but it was good to get out again. The body felt pretty good actually, which was nice.
Tomorrow I'm off to London, then up to Leeds for a couple of days, then on to South Africa. I have a couple of days of meetings in Pretoria with Telkom, then I'm headed out to Kruger for a few days again. I'll get to put my new lens to good use. Updates as I'm able...