Business Trip to the UK

June 5 - 10, 2000

Four hours on a 737 and eight more on a 777 brought us to London Heathrow airport. Two hours on a bus brought us to Bournemouth at about 2PM Tuesday, which was 6 AM the next morning by our bodies' clocks. It was essential to stay awake until the evening, to have some chance of being awake during meetings the next day. So we walked around Bournemouth, trying our best to disregard the rain as it waxed and waned.

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Here we are at the entrance to the main tourist pier on the beach in Bournemouth, near the southeast corner of England. My colleagues Tony Schwarz and Sona Parikh. The pier itself was only open to people taking cruises.

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A typical street view in Bournemouth. Here is one of many traditional English pubs, which seem to compete on the basis of having the most bizarre name. Here's the Goat & Tricycle. My favorite, which wasn't as photogenic, was the Slug & Lettuce in London.

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This pile of a building faces the beach in Bournemouth. It's currently a hotel, and somewhat run-down looking (though it's hard to tell from this picture).

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Here's the pier from down the beachside cliff. Note the white cliff in the background, in the general direction of Dover.

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Eventually the sprinkle of rain turned into a brief downpour. We took refuge in the lobby of an office building. It took only a few minutes for the rain to subside.

By then it was late enough, so we returned to the hotel (which I neglected to photograph) and showered. We walked back into town and chose a random Italian restaurant for dinner. Then we walked back and crashed.

Early the next morning (though none of us were able to sleep late enough for it to seem very early) we met in the hotel restaurant for breakfast, and then were picked up by the head of the little company we were investigating. We spent the morning in a conference room in the building where they rent a few offices, then he and a couple of his engineers took us out for lunch at a pub in the next town over. It was a locally famous pub, dating back to 17-eighty-something. Pretty decent food, considering. I had a pint of the excellent local bitters, which turned out to be a mistake since it was pretty hard to stay awake that afternoon. We saw various demos and asked a bunch of questions. When all that needed to be said and done had been, the boss drove us to the train station, where we caught a train for London, where we could catch a train for St. Albans, near our next day's destination.

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We decided to stop for dinner in London, since we had no idea whether dinner would be easy to get in St. Albans. We walked out of the train station, and saw these two restaurants almost right away. The "Fishcotheque" name caught my eye and I snapped this picture. We walked on for a while before deciding to go back and eat at the Tandoori place we'd spotted first.

Then we taxi'd over to another train station (King's Cross station) where we could catch the train for St. Albans, rode the train for about an hour, and then taxi'd over to the hotel (The Queen's Moat House, which, again, I neglected to photograph). It was late, so we crashed again.

In the morning, we ate at the hotel again and then taxi'd over to the other vendor's offices. We were done there by noon. The sales/marketing guy we'd been mostly dealing with took us to lunch at yet another pub. The Fox, not a very clever name or, for that matter, a very good pub. They got my order wrong (chicken instead of lamb chops). Service at English restaurants is slow, and (as we eventually figured out) they won't bring the check until you ask for it. At English pubs, you have to order at the bar, though they do bring the food out (eventually).

Then he dropped us at the train station, where we headed for London again. After checking in at the Hilton Islington we went touristing. Sona and I went walking in the most touristy area, while Tony made a pilgrimage to Harrod's (department store slash palace of retail) to buy gifts for his wife and daughter.

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Here's a somewhat typical view of the area. Note the double-decker bus and the callboxes (tardises?). If I ever found out what that building was, I've forgotten already.

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They have a bunch of statues in this area, mostly of generals and kings. Here's one.

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Here's the famous mumble-mumble Square. The place is lousy with pigeons, thanks presumably to the pigeon-food vendor off-screen to the left.

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Sona stopped to buy a refrigerator magnet. That's a museum in the background.

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Seen from the square, we think this is Big Ben (though we read in the tour book that Big Ben is actually the name of the big bell inside the tower, not the clock tower itself, which is part of the Houses of Parliament).

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A couple of government buildings off the square. Very Londonesque scene.

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This fence isolates the block of Downing Street that includes #10. The building here is some government offices, across the street from #10. The funny angle is the only one I could find that wasn't cluttered with tourists and/or guards.

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This enormous Ferris wheel, the British Airways London Eye, was constructed for the millenium celebration. Note how the construction resembles a bicycle wheel more than a typical Ferris wheel. Each of those cars is large enough for at least a dozen people. This wheel doesn't spin like an amusement-park Ferris wheel, it crawls around slowly, more like a top-floor rotating restaurant. I took a bunch of pictures of it from many angles, most of which I will spare you.

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Time marches on.

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A small part of the Houses of Parliament. I never found a good angle to capture the whole majestic pile.

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Westminster Abbey, or maybe the associated church.

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More of the Abbey. We met up with Tony again here, and he schlepped his purchases around for the rest of the day.

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The foreground wall is part of the Abbey, I believe, and the tower is a prominent part of the Houses of Parliament.

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There's that wheel again. The dark building on the left is just being built now, to house people associated with Parliament.

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It was a beautiful sunny day, and the sun gave the clock tower an amazing golden glow. This picture doesn't begin to capture it.

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Here's the full view of the wheel. It sits on the shore of the Thames. The building behind it is not part of the wheel, it is held up by those two white cylinders.

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Here's a (telephoto) closeup of the hub of the wheel.

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And here's a view of the wheel's base, where they fill up the cars. The cruise ships are just passing by.

We then walked down the sidewalk on the south bank of the Thames, hoping to find a restaurant.

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We found lots of ornate streetlamp poles, like this one.

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We found some Architecture with a capital Ar.

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We found a number of ships that had been permanently docked and converted into clubs/bars/restaurants, but none of them looked too appealing for dinner. Getting tired of walking, we checked a sketchy subway map and decided to walk to the nearest bridge (the next bridge would have been the (new) London Bridge) to the other side of the Thames and look in that vicinity for dinner.

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From the bridge, I shot this fast-moving tour boat.

However, the plan didn't work. We found no suitable restaurant on the other side of the river, either. So we hiked back to the Waterloo subway station and took the tube back to the hotel. We found lots of restaurants in the few blocks between the station and the hotel. We ate at the "Art and Zen", an artsy restaurant/gallery.

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Here's my after-dinner attempt at the art of the still life. The champagne bottle was actually an oil lamp serving as centerpiece. The shaded ring in my Bailey's Irish Creme is just a shadow from the rim of the snifter.

We got back onto our tired feet and returned to the hotel, where we'd arranged for a taxi at 5:30 AM for our hour-long ride to Heathrow. After a brief snooze, the taxi and another couple of long flights brought us uneventfully back to San Diego by about noon. Which felt like no familiar time of day at all.

Copyright 2000 Paul Williamson.