London Series: My Photography Gear

Since ChubbyPanda and LotusRapper commented about the topic I have a passion for yesterday, I decided to snug (sp?) in another blog entry … this time about the photography gear that I used for the trip to Europe.

I know, I know … most people in their right frame of mind would balk on carrying so much equipment. But then, I find it really relaxing taking pictures … taking my own sweet time and alone.

I have a simple dSLR — the Canon Rebel XT which I got for quite a bit of staff discount from the days when I was working for Best Buy/Futureshop. The Rebel XT is also known as the 350D or the Kiss in other parts of the world. Anyway, I learnt that Rasa Malaysia had just bought the same camera. You absolutely must check out her shots.

The camera does almost everything I wanted from it. Frankly, to me the body of the camera is not the most important part of the photography gear. What is the most important is the lens.

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I brought along three lens for the trip. My favorite is the 17-40mm F4L — it is my so-called walkabout lens and the primary lens I used for my food shots. The better lens is the 70-200mm F2.8L, the long white one. This lens is a classic and simply the best, in my opinion, of all the Canon line-up — it is super fast with great bokeh. The problem is that this lens really make people notice you. It’s also a heavy lens at 3lbs … just the lens alone. The other lens, the 28-135mm IS USM is versatile but I used this lens the least.

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London Series: British Airways Inflight Meals

I went on a two-week trip in Europe a few weeks ago. During that time, I had amassed over 30 blog entries on the travel and the food I tried. This means that I’ll be blogging the next one month and Suanne will have a long hiatus from blogging … i.e. no recipes or cooking class for the next little while.

I had a scheduled 4-day training in London. I thought that I take advantage of the free flight there to visit a bit more of the parts of Europe that I had never visited before. Over the 16 days, I was in London and the cities in the “Low Countries” — Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam. It was a great trip.

I bought some new photographic toys for the trip. Besides doing the normal touristy stuff and trying out the food, I planned to have a great time taking lots of pictures. So, I went and get myself a new long lens, the Canon 70-200mm 2.8L. The lens is a classic among the extensive Canon lens lineup. I also got myself a new Manfrotto tripod and a new software that allows me to make HDR (High Dynamic Range) pictures.

The picture below is taken at the YVR Airport of the Spirit of Haida Gwaii. It is extremely difficult to produce a shot like this in a dark indoor but with the HDR technique, one could bring out the details all round.

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Enough of photography. I traveled for the first time on British Airways from YVR to LHR. Overall, it was much better than Air Canada. Trust me, if you travel in this sector choose BA over Air Canada anytime. It is an economy flight. During the 9 hours flight, they serve drinks, a main meal and a snack box.

The main meal is pretty normal, consisting of bread, salad, dessert, chocolates and coffee. British Airways does not publish their menu on the inflight magazine like other airlines. So, I had no idea what was really served except that there is a choice of chicken or beef.

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The bread as usual is nothing to shout about. Airline bread for some reason is just soft, dense and not crusty.

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The tomato and cheese salad is OK. I like the cheese though. It’s a tasteless type but am not sure what this type of cheese is called. What is this called anyway?

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London Trip Report Day 9 “Harrods”

Today is my last day in London. My flight is in the late afternoon. I thought I should just take advantage of some time in the morning to get to some places I did not manage to visit. I went to Harrods in Knightsbridge.

Harrods is an upmarket department store with over 1 million square feet of retail space. In particular, their food hall has been famous for their variety and quality.

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There were a lot of tourists waiting to get in. I see many people taking pictures at the entrances. As in many places I’ve been to, photography is not allowed in the store.

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I went straight to the food hall since I got to get back to the hotel and then to the airport. The food was very impressive. The food displays were well laid out. There are actually a few side-by-side food halls in all, including a small Krispy Kreme instore. (more…)

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London Trip Report Day 8 “Pork Roast in Greenwich”

I asked Paul (a Londoner) what would be the one traditional English food that I should try while in London. He told me that would be the Sunday Roast. I expected the answer to be Fish and Chips and have never heard of the Sunday Roast before. So, I told myself I should try that before I return to Vancouver. I found one in Greenwich — on a Saturday.

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Day 8 is a Saturday. This is my last full day to do sightseeing before I leave for home the next day. There were so many places I wanted to visit, most of all the museums but I thought that it would take too much time. So, I decided on doing the river cruise to Greenwich, attend the Euro event in the Canary Wharf and visit the British Museum.

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I started the day by making my way to the Tower of London to catch the City Cruise.

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The City Cruise from the Tower of London to Greenwich costs only about 4 GBP. In all it took 30 minutes. It’s a double decked boat.

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The cruise was not packed even though it was a Saturday. Everyone obviously took seats on the upper deck. It gives a better view.

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Just as when the boat departed, the bridge on the Tower Bridge was raised for a small sailing boat to pass through. Good photo op!

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London Trip Report “The Tube”

“Mind the gap, please” … “Mind the gap, please”.

These words rings in my head everytime I took the tube in London. I have heard of this phrase being used before but not until I really see what the “gap” is like on the London Underground. I mean, it should not be too tough making sure that the train floor aligns to the platform but no, most station does not align at all.

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This gap above was not too bad. I have seen worse. There is a station where there is a six inch gap between the train and the platform. Anyone know why it is like that in the London Underground?

The London Underground is the oldest underground system in the world. It is also the longest in route length. It is amazing to learn that the first line was built way back in 1863 (not 1963!!). Below is the map of the London Underground. There are currently 275 stations in the entire network. It took a while for me to get used to it but once I get myself familiar, it was not too difficult.

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Despite its name, about 55% of the network is above ground. Popular local names include the Underground and, more familiarly, the Tube, in reference to the cylindrical shape of the system’s deep-bore tunnels. That is why you see that the top of the train were rounded.

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London Trip Report Day 2 “Fish and Chips”

Towards the end of Day 2, I was really dead tired after all the walking. The jet lag is beginning to hit me. It’s feeling like I’ve been up the whole night. As tired as I was, I wanted so much to make my way to Covent Garden for Fish and Chips — not just any Fish and Chips but the original one.

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The Rock and Sole Plaice was established in 1871 and is possibly London’s Oldest fish and chips shop. This shop does a steady stream of business at its takeaway and restaurant. Although it did not take me long to locate this place, it was not exactly easy to find. It’s on a rather quiet street away from the Covent Gardens Market.

Despite the reputation, I must say service was awful! The blokes were busy watching football and I had to ask for service. Sheez!

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I took the seats outside the restaurant — low tables and bench for seats, kind of neat. Especially when my feet is so tired from all the walking, I felt so much like putting my feet up on the chair like a true-blue chinaman.

The menu was simple enough but I couldn’t make out one type of fish from another. So, I guess that I won’t go wrong is I ordered the most expensive one on the menu — must have been the Halibut, I can’t remember. Well, it just so happen that they don’t have the Large one and offered me the regular one. I declined because I wanted something LARGE because I was very hungry. I ordered something else, can’t remember what now.

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On every table is the condiments … tartar sauce, ketchup. and malt vinegar. I tried every one of them. I like the tartar sauce particularly.

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The large plate was indeed large. I was so glad it was that big. And the fries were thick.

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The meat was flaky between the crispy batter. I really enjoyed it and worth going out of the way for this. So, can you tell what fish I ordered? Was it cod?

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Enough about food. (more…)

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London Trip Report Day 2 “South Bank”

OK, this blog entry is not about food. It’s about more of my Sunday walking tour of the south bank of the Thames. I started the morning hoping to visit the Westminster Abbey and the Parliament. It appears that I chose a wrong day to that because Westminster Abbey is closed to tourist because of worship services.

So, the best I could do was to walk around the compound.

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I found a small entrance at the back of the Westminster Abbey and got into the courtyard. It was really quite because not many people ventured to that back entrance.

The corridor was amazing and mesmerizing reading the plaques on the walls and on the floor. Many of them are hundreds of years old. I had a good time reading some of them. The floor of the corridor seems like grave slabs. I am not sure really if people are really buried right under it but the writings appears do say so.

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The Parliament building’s public area was under renovation. So, I did not get the chance to see how the insides were.

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London Trip Report Day 2 “Breakfast”

It was a long trip to London — exhausting, tiring but exciting at the same time. You see, I was in the historic city of London for a four-day company training and at the same time I had some work too which urgently require my attention. I did not have any time at all while in London updating the blog. However, Suanne did a marvelous job continuing to blog with a borrowed camera. I am going to catch up on the London Trip report over the next few days.

One thing that really hit me hard in London was the sticker shock. I mean, although people did warned me how expensive London is, it really did not hit me until I actually had to pull the credit card out of the wallet.

A buffet breakfast in the hotel I stayed in was 17 GBP! At the exchange rate of CAD$2.13, that breakfast costs a whopping CAD$35. It’s Sunday today and I could not rightfully expense breakfast to the company. So, I decided to just go to the city centre and try to get something cheaper.

I travelled via the tube to the city centre (somehow, Londoners don’t call it downtown) and found a Tesco Express outlet. It’s very much like a 7-Eleven except that you see a lot of grab-and-go meals. I grabbed the Cheese and Tomato Pasta Snack for 98p.

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The snack included a folded fork on the lid.

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I know, it’s not much of a “breakfast” but it does fill the stomach for the morning.

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London Trip Report Day 1

I left Vancouver for London on an Air Canada flight in late afternoon on Friday. Time wise, the flight was not too bad — it took about 9 hours in all and I did had a chance to sleep quite well.

Grant told me I should have booked on British Airways. Grant was right, the Air Canada plane was a really old plane. The inflight movie was on a CRT TV. The seats although comfortable, has seen many. many years of service.

Right after the flight took off, dinner were served. I was not given a choice at all unless you had special dietary requirements. The meal was chicken with potatoes and some vegetables. The chicken breast was pretty good.

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The meal also came with salad and Balsamic Vinegar for dressing. There were also a small tub of vanilla ice-cream. The meals were passable but I remember many years back, airline meals were a bigger deal.

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I choose red wine. It knocked me out right after — I wanted to sleep throughout the flight and it did the trick.

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About 1 1/2/ hour before landing, I was woken up by the announcement about breakfast. Breakfast was served in a simple box. The box contained a muffin, peach, orange juice, yogurt and dried raisins. I also had coffee.

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I have never been to London before. Right after I checked into the hotel, I quickly made my way to the City on my own. I actually had a great time and seriously wished Suanne were here. I know she would have loved it here too.

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I have tons of pictures I took this afternoon. Check out the link below if you care to read about them …

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