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Monday, May 31, 2010

Travemunde, here we come

Probably one of the only major fears I had about this trip was not being able to get to the right German places on time. The last thing I wanted to have happen was for this part of the trip to get messed up, as these are G&G's special friends and places to go. I'm very happy to report though that after a very early morning, a very fast flight, and a round about drive we have successfully made it to Travemunde! Thank goodness. (good sigh). Here are the fun details...

An early morning flight from Gatwick meant an even earlier morning departure, so naturally the fear of not hearing the alarm go off meant that none of us got any sleep last night. I put earplugs in and still didn't sleep well. So when 3am finally rolled around, it didn't take long for us to get ready.

Our cab was on time and it was off to Victoria station to catch the train...or so I thought. The plan was to catch the 4:30a train to the airport, but our wonderful cabby offered to take us all the way for less money than the train tickets. Score! An hour later we were at Gatwick, checked in, and munching on some breakfast (no beans this time).

Our flight was called on time, and after a quick tarmac walk to board, we were off. No flight problems at all, and we landed on time to Hamburg with our bags waiting for us. Then the fun began.

(:30 commentary - my goal of having enough German vocab learned at this point to at least let myself feel functional was not at all reached. That being said, I am just in awe of my grandparents. They can step right in and be conversing the minute they walk off the plane. I'm so thankful to be here.)

First time in the Hamburg airport, so naturally I'm not sure where the trains are exactly, but within about five minutes we had them found and we were down to the tracks and going (no attendant meant taking a chance our passes weren't stamped, but thankfully we didn't get stopped and thrown off). Hamburg's main train station was not at all marked for main regional trains, so after getting the passes stamped, and only miss-climbing one set of stairs, we found our train to Lubeck in first class.

Pictures will be added later, but I really think G&G liked being able to ride the train and see the countryside pass by. It's very different than driving a car. And i would say a little nervousness about the unknown of doing this type of new travel soon wore off. That is, until we got to Lubeck and had to switch to go to Travemunde.

For some reason, we were told the trains were not running there and our only option was a bus. I like busses. They tend to like me. :-) But in this case, it was very confusing...everyone we asked said to do something different. Finally, the 30 bus was located and we hopped on for a 35 minute ride to our next stop, which we hoped was the same as where we were supposed to go. Thankfully it was and we made the slow walk up the hill toward the Pommern Center, after confirming exactly where Erika lives. She was so happy to see G&G it almost can't be described.

The next few hours were a bit of a whirlwind. Erika took us out to eat at 3:30...i had the largest schnitzel I think I've ever had and it was so good. Plus, it was my first time to see the Baltic. Travemunde is right on the water, and i got some nice pictures. After that we went back to the center for dessert, and that's when my tiredness started to catch up with me. I haven't had to fight that kind if tiredness in a long time, but Grandpa was fighting the same. Eventually we had to head out for dinner again, which for me and Grandpa meant soup, and also two Jaeger shots (it is Germany after all). Now after all that, I'm really tired. Really. Tired. Oh my goodness so tired.

Sleep shall happen soon. Cant wait.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sunday touring

"Mind the Gap." Those announcements never get old.

Hard to believe its already almost 5... The day sure sped by. We just got back to the room to wind down a bit now before the evening is upon us. We will sleep early tonight so we can catch the morning flight from Gatwick to Hamburg on Easyjet. Hope its as easy as they claim.

Let's see...where should I start.

We got up this morning and were able to try the free 'english breakfast', which actually was quite good. Eggs, toast, sausage, ham, and baked beans. Very yum (of course, I avoided the beans). G&G sure liked them though.

Then we hit the road to Sloane Square to try to see the flower show. Except that it ended yesterday. Whoops. So we walked sound the square and then headed down toward London Bridge (which was not falling down). We took some pictures of the The Monument and the tower then walked on the river walk toward the Tower of London. We decided to not go in to see the Crown Jewels, but rather walk around the castle which was very fun. The Tower Gardens were in bloom, and there were also medieval demonstrations to watch. I got a quick bite (G&G were still full on beans) and we hit the train for Green Park and Buckingham Palace. The weather was so great today...sun and a nice breeze that made walking and picture taking very easy. Ducks and swans a plenty. We even took a 15 minute lawn chair siesta until the keeper guy came around and wanted money from us. Oops. We ran away...

...to TRAFALGAR SQUARE! (just for Shannon). We found Grandma a UK map, and then I thought it might be fun to swing by Academy of St. Martin in the Fields (where we sang on WLC choir tour). Great memories of course (mostly of our performance and when my recording gear burned out and caught fire during warmup on the Steinway). They've completely redone the shop area into a wide open spot for walking and rehearsing. Very nice. We decided to get some food in the shop, so G&G had some soup and I had apple crumble. Mmm.

After a quick listen to evensong choir song warmups we headed back (they're doing Brahms Requiem next week). Now shall commence relax time and probably packing up.

A good day had by all. I'm very happy that London has turned out very well. Now, on to leg #2.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The end of Saturday

Finally back after a very long day. G&G had a very wonderful time as we next visited Stonehenge and Bath. The weather cooperated sort of as the rain came on and off and tended to just be a bit of an irritation.

What we didn't expect was traffic...it took almost 1.5 hrs to get to Stonehenge and lunch. After getting stopped and at a standstill in the road, as most of the bus slept, Grandma's announcement to the tour leader was, "well, this must be the slow boat to China.". Love it. She soon fell asleep though, and fun pictures will follow. :-)

Stonehenge was very rainy, and had lots of people, but was nice to walk around and see. It was at the end of this walk and back to the bus where i talked with another older couple from our bus who went on about how wonderful it was to visit here. When i asked why, the guy (i believe his name was Mikhail) told me he never was able to travel with his family in his job for thirty years. I asked him what he did, and he said he was in music and i said I was too and that I was a vocalist. That's when he told me he was a Principal violinist for the Moscow Philharmonic for years and now lives in CA. (!) Had a very nice chat with him and his wife. We also had a very fun time getting to know another person from the states, Beth, who just moved to London temporarily for her work. And, another couple from San Diego was also glad to talk for a long time about the Padres and Chargers. Too much fun.

Bath was equally as nice, but I was disappointed that we only had an hour there due to us being late. The ruins were very great to see, and unfortunately there were a ton of people to wade through. Then we hit the trail for our 1.5 hr ride back to London and some quick dinner. The day is done.

The Bath is still steaming!

Not sure on tomorrow yet. Maybe the tower of London will call our names.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Windsor castle 11:45a

Of course, it had to start to rain JUST as we were entering the outer gate of Windsor. Not torrential, but still enough to be annoying. Who forgot his umbrella at home? That would be me.

Our first stop was the Queen's Dollhouse area. I think Grandma really liked the house and the dolls around there. Most date back to the late 1800's/early 1900's.

(:10 random diatribe of the day: what are the chances for me to be trampled by a Japanese tour group while on a castle tour? Apparently pretty good. I hate being stepped on.)

The state apartments were very nice, but an 11:30 meet up time meant a quick exit as the changing of the guard was commencing. Overall not bad...even getting Grandma in her rain poncho was fast.

Now we are off to Stonehenge and lunch. Rain, rain, go away.

As a side note: since the iPad was just released in the UK yesterday, every time I get it out to write I've been a pretty popular guy. Word is that queues were very long here to get them. Everyone wants to see it and I'm happy to oblige - gives me a chance to practice one on one training too in a few cases. No problems as yet...it functions well on the O2 and Vodaphone 3G networks and wifi is fast. A few apps have crashed on occasion but not too bad.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday morning tour time 10a

And...we're off! Made it to our pickup point this morning early, and now we are on the move for tour time. It's still a surprise for G&G so far, but we are heading to Stonehenge, Windsor Castle and the Queens Dollhouses, plus to Bath to see the Roman Baths. It's not raining yet either, so that's promising.

Sleeping last night was ok. Being on the basement level I thought we would get cold, but instead it was quite warm. Was nice to sleep in a proper bed though. Grandma said she thought she heard noises overnight...i told her it might have been the boogie man.

I'm glad that our place is near the train stop...makes it much easier to get out and about.

Still pinching myself that I'm back in London. Even more fun that G&G are here too. Best comment heard so far: "well I just can't believe how old everything is..."

This guy was crazy good.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, May 28, 2010

Made it

We made it. Got through customs pretty fast (considering it was a long line) and then got to the Underground. Filled the oyster cards and as I was in line to get a ticket for me, a girl ran by and gave me her day pass since she didn't need it any more. Score one for me!

Got to the hotel and room which is very close to the train. Will do a review on it later.

Time for a nap.

First time on the Tube!

North Sea Fish and Chips...yum.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

PHL-LHR. We finally take off

After a delay which seemed to take forever, we finally made it airborne out of Philly. Our primary issue was mostly the weather as rain and lightning halted ramp operations. That caused a major flight backup to the tune of 50 planes waiting to take off right as we were boarding.

Then after finally getting on the plane, the captain told us that we were number 25 in line...another 30 minutes at least before we leave. not fun. Finally our turn came and off we went. Finally. Only 2.5 hours late. With no ability to use electronic devices.

Our food was fair - chicken and rice. Had a chance to watch Sherlock Holmes. Sleeping was another matter. The cabin for the most part is quiet but the light from the restrooms is just bright enough to annoy. So...how to remedy? No eye cover means a sweatshirt turned backwards makes a hood a good face cover. Finally some rest. That is, until i'm shaken awake for a restroom break. Me in the lucky aisle seat.

Here's hoping the tube is running on time...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Here we go! SAN-PHL

This post is being written from 35000 feet as I make my way from San Diego to Philly. The flight so far has been smooth with no real problems. I even got my luggage on without needing to check anything (sorry Jon). Yay for some vacation and family time. My brain needs a break.

Was a tad hectic getting on...why do the gate personnel see fit to constantly announce how many minutes they have left to get us boarded? Telling me in a hurried voice you have 6 minutes left to get 36 of us boarded is not going to make us sit faster and get bags stowed. And after all of that hurrying, we ended up sitting on the plane for almost 20 minutes anyway. At least they serve Coke on these flights...

There is a lady across the aisle who is using a Palm to play Bejeweled right now...people still use Palm (or should I say HP) devices???

Props to Airbus on the newer A321 planes...much more roomy than the old 319's and 320's but the overhead bin rattle on takeoff and landing needs some serious attention. Luggage nearly flew out when a bin opened up.

My seat mate (christina) is on hher way back to NH having just visited and surprised her bf in San Diego who is in the Navy on the Halsey. I enjoy having nice seat mates who understand how to fly.

When i land it will be off to the next gate in the hopes that Grandma and Grandpa made it. I hope that their flight is all on time and they make it to the right gate. Philly is kinda big...

Yay for iPad apps to pass the time.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Day before departure

It's been a good day overall, with lots to catch up with before I head out tomorrow. The team did an outstanding job with GMCS 333's speaker installation, and I'm proud of the way the room has been upgraded since its original setup. I think that faculty will be very happy with the audio in the space.

Tonight will be mad packing, and final things before I head out tomorrow from here at 11am to Philadelphia first, then onward to London with the grandparents.

I also will be blogging (I hope) as I go, and doing some testing with a new tool that I have to work with. I'm curious to see how well it works on the foreign networks and data systems.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

SDSU Commencement


I'm happy to report that we are nearly wrapping up our technical and broadcast responsibilities for SDSU's 2010 Commencement exercises. It's been a long weekend, filled with occasional glitches and hiccups, but for the most part things have been very successful. Our broadcasts to Cox Cable and Time Warner have been well produced by the staff, and David and Bill should be commended for their attention to detail and follow through on our final product being seen by San Diego County residents. The general staff also deserves a round of thanks for their work on Friday and in preparation of equipment before the recognition ceremonies started.

Being here this weekend also allowed me to work on a number of projects in the hopper for summer building, and gave me some focus time for scheduling. Monday-Wed of this week is finishing up a speaker installation in GMCS (before I jet out on Thursday).

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Long week ahead

Here we are at the start of the long week of the semester, also known as Commencement Week. The festivities kick off tomorrow morning with some testing, a final test on Thursday before the broadcasts and ceremonies start Friday morning.

I made it back in one piece from La Crosse this weekend, visiting home for my brother's graduation from College. He's already got a good job for the summer, and I'm so proud of him for his work and for graduating with honors! I was happy to make it, and my flights were all on time with no major issues to report. I had to rent another car from MSP, but it ended up only costing me $29. Quite a steal! Plus it was nice to spend time with mom and dad, and also see Aleah and Laura. So cute!

Bring on the week ahead - tomorrow night is my last class of the semester and final presentation. Almost done!

(and...it looks like I may be heading back to Qatar in January...stay tuned)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Wrapping up...sort of

Good morning, all -

I am happy to report that I am nearly done with the semester - one paper and one presentation to go next Monday. Can't wait.

In the meantime I'll be on the road back to WI for my brother's graduation in the morning - shall be a short trip since I've still got homework to finish up, but will be nice to be back with the fam for a short time.

Let's hope this Orbitz itinerary holds up...last one was interesting.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

the week ahead

Good evening, all -

Figured I needed to do an update, as this week promises to be a long one. Tomorrow night is my first presentation evening for my 608 class, where a 10 minute academic presentation awaits me. Tuesday night is my final class for 579, and I also have a 20 minute presentation to do for that one. Lucky me. Wednesday night I hopefully will go and practice a little, since Thursday is the Joint Ascension service that I have to play for. And then Friday morning very early I'm on the road again to my brother's graduation, which should get me back here on Saturday in time to finish up my final paper for 608 which is due next Monday. It also will let me prep for the 2nd presentation for the 608 class next week Monday night. Then, that class will also be over, as will my first year of doctoral classes. (sigh) Yikes.

Almost there.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

did you get entered?

For a trip on the new Airbus A380 - for free!

Hope everyone was able to enter!

Trip of a Lifetime

US youngsters too fat to fight?

Some of our generals think so...

Blamed on post-school lunch laws? That might be a bit of a stretch...no pun intended.