Thursday, December 18, 2014

Work Holiday in London

In case you weren't aware, my wife Chrissy is a big deal.

In early October work sent her for a conference and some meetings in Munich, Vienna and London. The interesting thing about her trip though was that for most of it she would be travelling with my boss and my bosses boss. It works out this way as she works in a complementary position in another organization....Big Deal!

The London portion of her work trip wasn't as directly related to her work as it was to my bosses so Chrissy and I schemed up a scenario where I would meet her in London and 'tag along' on my own dime to some of the meetings to see what I could learn and then jump off from there for another holiday.  With no-one batting an eyelash to the proposed plan we set it all in motion.

As I have stated before, I love London. It is probably my favourite city in the world. Getting the opportunity to join in on Chrissy's itinerary was awesome as I got to learn so much more about the City. I ended up getting to visit the Alberta/UK International Trade Offices, the Stratford Boroughs London Olympics Legacy area, London and Partners, and what is billed as "One of the Worlds Most Sustainable Buildings", The Crystal by Siemens.

All of the 'official work locations' were great but the Crystal really stood out for me based on the sheer audacity of its intent, the gross commercialization of 'green' as a commodity and for the interesting experience of the back of house tour we received. It definitely is a cool building and I don't want to really express any negatives towards it in this forum as I respect it's intent - but buy me a beer and I will be happy to tell you of the absurdity of LEED and a building of this type.

Canary Wharf view among the solar panels of The Crystal

We used London as our beginning and end point of our eventual vacation and in between work and travel tried to enjoy some of it's many obvious charms including:

Hitting the Highlights along the Thames

Sphinxes and the Eye

Rapidly changing skyline

The Eye at night

Westminster Abbey

Rodin's The Burghers of Calais


A little less pub action from the last time we visited but a respectable showing.

By far our favourite was the Princess Louise. The interior was a beautifully tiled and mirrored maze like structure where at one time we couldn't actually find our way to the other side of the bar without going outside. That's reason enough for me to bend an elbow at the bar. Plus, the Princess is the namesake of Lake Louise Alberta so while on a semi-work trip it just seemed like a patriotic place to frequent.

Tower of London - Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

We were lucky enough to be visiting the City while the renowned and moving Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red art installation was being displayed at the Tower of London. 
The major art installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red at the Tower of London, marked one hundred years since the first full day of Britain's involvement in the First World War. Created by artists Paul Cummins and Tom Piper, 888,246 ceramic poppies progressively filled the Tower's famous moat between 17 July and 11 November 2014. Each poppy represented a British military fatality during the war.
Saying that the installation was displayed is a bit of an understatement. The installation completely overtook the area around the Tower and the masses of people in concentric circles around the installation were an overwhelming (albeit very respectful) mass of humanity. 

No matter what Chrissy says about my maniacal power-walking navigation to get there it was definitely worth it. And in recognition of her sore feet we even took the boat back towards Westminster.

Rehberger's Dazzle Ship London Exhibit

Family Visit in Sittingbourne

Since we had last visited Chrissy's cousins in England there had been a new addition to their family: Anthony (Antosh). With a quick train and bus ride (track repairs to direct train) we arrived in Sittingbourne to see the baby

Like any good acclimatized Brit we all piled into Chrissy's cousin Kalinka's car and headed to the pub. After our last visit I think they were looking to show us around a bit and take us somewhere special. They certainly succeeded. 

We ended up at the George Inn.
The George, as it is affectionately known, started life as a farm building in the 1500s and became a pub in 1718. 
 The whole place was just awesome. From the rustic but well maintained exterior,

to the most well kept and true to its name beer garden I have ever seen,

to its giant decorated hearth that dominated the was just perfect!

Plus I always just get a kick out of seeing a baby in a bar.

Thanks for being such fantastic hosts! Next time we visit we will have to stay for a few days. 

Other Highlights

Beautiful buildings around every corner

Putzing around Camden Market

New and exciting flavors of chips

The Sherlock Holmes exhibit at the Museum of London


  • We actually ended up staying in 3 different hotels while there. In Holborn for work, near Stansted airport before flying off for Croatia at 6am and just off of Vincent Square in Westminster for our last night before flying back to Edmonton. It was actually pretty cool being able to explore around each home location.
  • Chrissy really does not like the crowds in Piccadilly Square. Where I can stay there all day and people watch all it does it make her super tense.
  • For the first time ever Chrissy sat in the very first row of the top of the double decker bus. Going around corners it looked like we were going to ram into everything. We giggled like schoolgirls. 
  • For our last nights supper we went back to the same restaurant where we had our previous trips last supper. Do yourself a favor and check out Tas Restaurant located in The Cut. 

Next Stop Croatia.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Highlights of Autumn 2014

Our Garden Harvest


Too much icing

Crisp Fall Walks


Early Frost

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Ren & the Edmonton Comic and Entertainment Expo

It's no secret that I really like comic books. So it should be an easy extension to say that I really like Comic book conventions, but that is not always the case. In general, I like the spectacle of it all; browsing for merchandise, searching for cheapo trade paperbacks, and marveling at co-splay but I also can't take incessant line-ups, repetition, and the never-ending crush of crowds. It is a love/hate relationship.

So for this years Edmonton Comic and Entertainment Expo I thought it would be good to witness the festivities through new eyes. So, after a couple conversations with my sister Monica, I ended up accompanying my nephew Ren to this years Expo.

For those who are considering going to a comic convention or entertainment expo I must recommend public transportation. There is truly something special about seeing Spiderman or Sailor Moon on the train. Our LRT ride had a few good costumes but Ren didn't seem too impressed.

As we arrived at Northlands we followed the waves of people into a line-up for wristbands. At this point my pessimism was on full tilt....damn lineups. However, much to my surprise the line-up moved exceedingly fast and was my only one for the day. Bonus! 

TV and Movie celebrities seem to be a big draw for people at the conventions but with the rare exception I have no desire to meet any stars or get anything signed. Ren and I walked through all of the celebrities assembled pretty quickly which I think suited him fine as he didn't know who any of them were. I briefly paused to gawk at Alice Cooper who is of course a legend and Amy Acker who is thinner than my pinkie before finally stopping at Dwight Schultz to snap a picture from afar. I mean c'mon, the dude is Murdoch from the A-Team and Barclay from Star Trek Next Generation. 

With the celebrities behind us we went in search of my list of desired Trade Paperbacks and cool chachke's / junk the wife will hate.

Love the vivid color of the t-shirt wall


I had limited success in finding the actual comics I was looking for but 'settled' for some cool ones I didn't even know I wanted. Satisfied that I had seen enough of the vendors, Ren and I wandered around taking in my favorite part of the event: Cosplay

How amazing is that Wild Wild West steampunk wheelchair? I can't imagine it would be comfortable tucking your legs back under yourself for so long but kudos to him for doing so. Also, I was totally amazed by the Groot costume. The movie was only a couple of months prior and I am guessing this individual wasn't sitting on a Groot costume at home before the movie. Really remarkable to see just how good it looked in what I am guessing was so short of a time.

Finally, the straight up ridiculous Kay Pike of Canada Cosplay. She was gladly posing all day for pictures with all comers. Obviously, she is beautiful but her proportions are more unreal than alluring. For example, in the pose below I think she looks more like a full size action figure than an actual woman...ok, she definitely is a little alluring :)

Ren's Favorite

I think Ren was a little overwhelmed by all the people and the overall weirdness of seeing Batman and Darth Vader just wandering around talking to each other. It doesn't help that I when I get excited I walk super fast for hours on end and have no need for food or water. Much like the wife, he was good at pointing out when he was tired and needed a break. At this point I wasn't even sure if he was enjoying himself at all.

However, nearing the end of our day and shortly after a break we came across what I think was Ren's favorite display at the event: Two huge Lego Star Wars scenes. 

The Battle of Endor

The Battle of Hoth

Both scenes were brilliantly laid out and had so many tiny details. I think Ren could have stared at them for hours. My favorite design element was the gruesome scene of Wampa versus Storm Trooper.

Star Wars Lego for the save to appease Ren and salvage the day.

Overall, I think that the event was extremely well run and put together with a good mix of vendors, artist and pure goofiness. Perhaps in a couple more years when Ren has reached more of a geek stature (like his uncle) we will attend again.

BTW - I actually think Ren's favorite part of the day was the subsequent trip to McDonalds. Those Happy Meals are aptly named.