Nice, Cannes and VMworld Europe 2008

Bit late posting this as I’ve been back over a week now.

We flew to Nice on Friday 22nd from London City airport. It’s only a 10 minute taxi ride away and is a much more civilised way to travel when compared with schlepping over to Heathrow or Gatwick. The plane wasn’t full and the flight passed by quickly.

We stayed at the Hotel Splendid in Nice. The room was small but it was a decent hotel and only a few minutes walk from the sea-front.

On Friday evening we went for a meal at the Pot D’Etain restaurant near the hotel. Great food, lovely steaks but more expensive than we had expected for France.

That was to continue for the entire time we were away, as the Cote d’Azur is remarkably expensive. For example, a couple of ice-creams and soft drinks at the Negresco cost €23 (about £18).

On Saturday we walked around nice, up over the hill at the Castel and around the harbour. Great views over the beach and harbour from the top of the hill.

The town was very busy as it was the weekend of Bataille de Fleurs (Battle of the Flowers), part of the Nice Festival. The actual parade was all cordoned off so that only people paying for a grandstand seat would get a decent view. There was a funfair by the sea-front and the main beach road was lined with hundreds of coaches.

Beach and Old Town of Nice

On Sunday we wandered around the Old Town and did a little shopping, though most shops are closed on a Sunday.

All too soon it was time to head back to the airport and for Vic to fly back to London.

After seeing Vic off at the airport, I caught a free coach to Cannes where the VMworld Europe 2008 conference was being held.

The coach took me to the conference centre where I registered and then caught another coach on to the Eden Hotel where I was staying for the rest of the week.

The hotel was great, very modern and nicely designed with a large fish pool downstairs by the reception. The one problem I encountered was that the only internet access was by dial-up. I haven’t used a modem in ages, and my MacBook doesn’t have one built in, so I had to make do with accessing the net at the conference centre.

That worked out fine though as there was so much going on that I hardly spent any time awake in the hotel anyway.

On Sunday evening I went out for a drink with our VMware contact and some of his colleagues and customers.

With a slight hangover on the Monday, it was back to the conference centre for “Partner Day” for all the VMware partners. Kingston Communications are a Hosting Service Provider Partner. I won’t go into details in the conference itself as it’s probably not interesting to 99.9% of people.

Monday evening saw the VMware Partner party with free food and drink, and awards for the best performing partners.

Tuesday was the start of the full conference and was very busy. The entrance for the keynote presentations opened at about 8:45 and the hall was overflowing. A full day of sessions followed, and in the evening there was a party of VMware UK & Ireland customers, with more free food, drink and entertainment.

Entrance to the Palais des Festivals, Cannes

Wednesday saw another keynote, more sessions and then the main VMworld Europe party in the building next to the conference centre. The party was great, loads of entertainment, from laser tag to robot wars, fire-eaters, tap-dancers, comedians, more free food and drink and finally, Madhen, a great covers band who I’d seen at the Kingston Christmas party in December.

Cannes lighthouse

Thursday was another day of sessions, and then a bus back to the airport to fly back to City.

A tiring week, but I learned a lot at the conference and Vic and I both enjoyed seeing a bit of Nice.

New Camera = New Pictures

I’ve splashed out and bought a new camera.

While we were away travelling we considered buying a digital SLR camera as the point-and-shoot Canon Ixus 430 was a bit restrictive, but the cost and bulk meant that we decided against it. Lugging a dSLR around along with the other stuff we were carrying would have been the proverbial straw…

We didn’t want to go mad, and buy an expensive camera only to find that we didn’t use it as much as we thought, so I ventured onto Ebay to find a second-hand one. Using the excellent JBidWatcher, I managed to bag myself a Nikon D70s for under £200.


It’s a 6 mega-pixel camera, not a huge number by current standards, but the potential quality of the pictures is much more important that sheer pixel count. The Nikon cameras record the number of shutter activations that they perform, and using Dr.Chung’s PreviewExtractor I found that this one had taken about 1700 shots, which isn’t that many for a second-hand camera.

The camera smelt badly of cigarette smoke, but that has quickly faded in the non-smoking atmosphere of our home and work.

The camera body alone wouldn’t be much use, so I’ve also purchased a new Nikon 55-200mm VR zoom lens, and a new Nikon 18-55mm zoom lens. I also picked up a very cheap 8GB CompactFlash memory card from MyMemory. The memory is supposed to be high-speed, but it didn’t seem particularly fast when I was doing continuous test shots using the camera. I tend to take single shots anyway, and being able to take 1,400 RAW format shots on a single memory card is great.

I’ve not had many opportunities to take pictures yet, but I’ve posted a few below. Other pictures and larger versions of these can be found at the Lazyllama Flickr Photos page.

Sunset over Canary Wharf



We’re off to Nice for the weekend, and I’m then attending VMware Europe in Cannes next week, so I should get some chances to practise with the camera.

In March, we’re going on holiday to Bali, Lombok and Singapore for a few weeks which should give plenty of scope for pictures! My fourth time in Bali and I’m really looking forward to it.

Afrika! Afrika!

A couple of weeks ago we were lucky enough to get a pair of freebie tickets for Afrika! Afrika! at The O2, just across the Thames from where we live.

After the usual trek right round the main dome, we got to the entrance to the Afrika! Afrika! site which is made up of a series of tents to the West of the O2.

Afrika!Afrika! logo

Our complimentary tickets were, predictably, of slightly restricted view behind a pillar but that didn’t affect us too badly as the circus-like nature of the show meant that there was usually plenty going on.

I’m not a big fan of circuses, but I really enjoyed this show. It was similar in some ways to the Cirque du Soleil, but much less pretentious.

Some of the acts:-

  • Amazing contortionist man who could pass his body through an unstrung tennis racket
  • Two girls who juggled large tables and vases using their feet
  • Phenomenal pole-climbing team who threw themselves up and down poles
  • Trapeze-type man who could raise himself up using a couple of hanging straps and his own body strength.
  • Astounding basketball-playing unicycle team, one of whom could skip inside three ropes while sitting on his unicycle.
  • Stomach-churning contortionist girl who could perform unbelievable feats of bendiness
  • Stunning tumbling and acrobat groups who could stand 4 high on each others shoulders.

So, all in all, a great show, loads of energy and a good evening out.

(Cameras were banned so the only photo I got was this blurry one of the logo projected onto the inside of the tent. The official website has a video clip of the show so you can get an idea of what goes on)

Dire doings in Dagenham

Grimsby Town were playing at Dagenham and Redbridge on Saturday, and as we’d missed the other London-based games against Barnet and Brentford, we made a conscious effort to go to this one.

The Jubilee Line was out of action which didn’t help make the journey any simpler, but we got the DLR to Bow Church and the District Line from Bow Road to Dagenham East. For some reason which we’ve not yet worked out, the journey from Zone 2 to Zone 5 only cost us £1.

As the weather was looking a bit grim, we paid £18 each for seats in the covered part of the ground rather than £15 for the uncovered terraces. As it drizzled quite a bit during the game, I’m glad we did.

The stadium is pretty small, with a single seated stand and the rest being a combination of covered and uncovered terracing. It came across as a pretty friendly club though and there was no sign of any trouble.

The Mariners fans on the terrace at Dagenham & Redbridge

It was the first time the two teams have met, as this is The Daggers first season in the Football League. They’re down in 22nd place, which is pretty much where Town were a month or so ago, before their streak of 4 League wins in a row.

The game started well with the Mariners showing some classy touches and doing the whole pass-and-move thing that they’ve been practising recently. Then it all went a bit “hoofy”. Wallop the ball up front, bounce it off a few heads, boot it back the other way, more of the same… for pretty much the rest of the first half.

Very dull to watch neither side really had any chances worth mentioning. Half time and a chance to investigate the culinary delights round the back of the Barking Stand.

The usual football ground fare, burgers, hot drinks and hot-dogs. The burgers were actually pretty tasty with proper onions unlike the nasty dried onion bits that they served on the hot-dogs at Blundell Park.

The second half kicked off much like the first, with Town having a few good chances and applying loads of pressure…. then it all went a bit “hoofy” again, despite Alan Buckley doing some sterling vocal work on the side-line to try and get the Town players to control the ball and pass it.

Things brightened in the last 5 minutes with quite a few chances at both ends and some pretty good saves from both keepers. Town were saved by the woodwork on one occasion but frankly neither side deserved a win.

So a goal-less draw in the end, which is better than losing, but Town were lucky that they weren’t playing a better side.


On Sunday we went down to Chartwell, former home of Sir Winston Churchill and his wife, Clementine.

It’s a National Trust property, and we’re both members of the National Trust so it only cost us the travel. The house was closed (even though the sign at the gate said it was open), but we’d only gone down there for a walk in the grounds anyway.


There are formal gardens around the house which we walked round when we visited last year, so this time we headed down to the lake, past the statue of the Churchill’s by Oscar Nemon and up the hill along the edge of the wood.

The ground was badly churned up for quite a lot of way which made the walk a bit slippery, but we got some good views of the house and lake.

I’ve uploaded some of the photos I took onto my Flickr album of Chartwell.

We had some food at the restaurant, which like most National Trust properties was pretty good, with some nice home-made cakes.

There are a few other National Trust properties near to Chartwell, so we might venture down that way again.

Pottering in Greenwich

On Sunday we had a wander along the river at Greenwich. Although we’ve lived in Docklands for a year now, we’ve not been down there for a walk since we moved. It was chilly but not too cold to enjoy a walk. I took the camera along so there are a few photos from the walk on my Flickr site.

Trinity College of Music

After walking eastwards along by the river, we visited the National Maritime Museum which I don’t think I’ve ever been to before. We attended a talk about the Princess Alice disaster of 1878. More than 600 people were killed when a coal-freighter cut a passenger steamer in half just by Beckton Gas Works. We had heard about the accident when we visited the Museum in Docklands last year so it was interesting to learn more.

More housing troubles

We recently found out that our landlord has sold the flat we’re living in. This happened in the last place, up in West Ham, too, so it’s becoming a bit of a regular event.

We’re not sure what effect this is going to have at the moment, though I suspect the new owner will want to hike up the rent. I wonder if they’ll be as keen on fixing the numerous problems with the flat, given that they bought the place without seeing it?

Dollar Bay Court & the Lord Amory


We had a pleasant afternoon out in Maldon on the Essex coast today. It was pretty nippy as we walked by the River Blackwater, but we warmed up after a while. Maldon was nice, lots of boats moored on the river and quite an old-style town centre.

Apparently, the first Tesco supermarket opened in Maldon, but that’s now an Iceland store.

Nigel in Maldon

A few days after we got back from Miami, I bought myself a Sony Playstation 3. Reading the forums on the internet, it looks like I bought it just in time as the 60GB version which plays Playstation 2 games is now pretty scarce, having been pretty much replaced by the 40GB version. I’ve only got three games for the new machine, but it plays my old PS2 games too.

I’ve connected the PS3 up to the wireless network at home and, after installing TVersity on my Windows PC, can watch any video files and listen to any of my MP3s stored on the PC through the surround sound system and LCD TV in the living room. Oh, and it plays DVDs and Blu-Ray discs too. Which is nice.

It’s the KCOM Xmas party this week, so I’m off up to Hull on Thursday for the “Black and Red Ball”. Red and black are the new company colours hence the theme of the party. I’ve not been to Hull in years so it’ll be a change of scene, and with any luck the party will be worth the trip.

Miami’s Nice…

… but expensive.

We went over to Miami for a few days for my birthday, flew out on the Wednesday and back on the following Monday night/Tuesday morning.

When we landed in Miami we were horrified to see that it was pouring with rain and quite windy. Tropical Storm “Noel” was just passing the east coast of Florida after devastating several parts of the Caribbean and the Bahamas, and we were assured that the weather would improve when the storm had gone.

Taxis from the airport are charged at a flat rate, which is a great idea, so we were soon winging our way to South Beach clutching our bit of paper with the hotel address on it; the taxi driver hadn’t heard of the place we had booked, but we knew that it only been open a short time.

We found the hotel, The Anglers Boutique Resort pretty easily, as it’s on Washington Ave, two blocks from the beach.

View of the pool from our window

The hotel was really nice; recently modernised, so recently in fact that they had to take the masking tape off the room number when we were shown to the room.

The room was spacious, with a very comfortable bed, large sofa and armchairs, and two small balconies looking over the hotel’s courtyard pool.

There was also a large plasma TV with cable, DVD player and an iPod dock which could all be controlled from a single controller.

On Wednesday evening we had food from the recently-opened hotel restaurant, which was excellent.

Thursday morning brought more cloud and rain, so we decided to get some of the shopping out of the way and caught a cab to the Aventura Mall which is between South Beach and Fort Lauderdale.

We spent the rest of the day in the mall, buying lots of stuff, mostly clothing which was so much cheaper than in the UK. I did browse round the Apple Store, but couldn’t convince myself I needed a new iPod or an iPhone so left there empty-handed. We ate at The Cheesecake Factory, one of our favourite US food chains where the food was plentiful, excellent value and very good.

Friday and Saturday saw us venturing to the beach and catching some sun, as the weather had perked up. We could only stand a couple of hours or so in the sun, so then wandered around Ocean Drive, Collins Avenue, and Washington Avenue, trying various places to eat for breakfast and lunch.

Our favourites were probably The News Cafe, The Big Pink and the 11th Street Diner.

South Beach

We ate at a couple of more “upscale” restaurants, “The Tuscan Steak” and “Smith and Wollensky’s”, both of which were pretty good for quality of food but were quite expensive even by UK standards. We particularly enjoyed watching the rich folks at the bar in the latter venue.

All in all, we enjoyed the holiday, but spent quite a bit more money than we’d originally intended. South Beach is probably the priciest part of Miami, if not the whole of Florida, and it’s plays host to some of the ultra-wealthy residents and visitors who moor their yachts nearby.

Pam and Arthur’s Golden Wedding Anniversary

A couple of weekends ago we went up to Cleethorpes again, to celebrate my parents 50th Wedding Anniversary.
It was the biggest family gathering I’ve been to in a long time, possibly ever.

There was a party held at Cleethorpes Cricket Club and it was great to see so many of my parents friends and family coming together to celebrate their Golden Wedding Anniversary.

Pam and Arthur Hardy on their 50th Wedding Anniversary

I’ve got two sets of photos online, one set of the party itself, and another of photos taken during the rest of the weekend.

Lazy Llama (Nigel Hardy)