BIGGSY TRAVELS

unique travel experiences

Month: August 2017

Seeking out locations on banknotes

Do you have a wad of foreign currency that you keep in a drawer just on the off-chance you:

  1. ever go back there?
  2. have a friend who’s going there?
  3. or are going to remember to take it to the airport on your next trip to donate it into one of those plastic-domed charity bins?

Well I have a handful left over from 12 different countries now and some of the Indian ones have probably been replaced since my 2015 visit anyway?

However it was when I looked at the Chinese 20 Yuan note and the Vietnamese 20,000 Dong note I remembered I’d actually been to these locations and stood in the exact same place, holding up the note in front of me to see the exact same scene.

 

The China 20 yuan banknote view

The China 20 yuan banknote view

The Chinese 20 Yuan note captures the view of Guilin’s Li River looking out towards the limestone casts with a fisherman in the foreground plying his trade with his cormorant. We couldn’t wait for a passing fisherman but we got close enough to replicating the scene.

The Vietnamese 20,000 Dong note has a sketch of the Japansese Covered Bridge in Hội An and is where many people go to have custom made suits made up a lá the guys on ‘Top Gear’ when Jeremy Clarkson decided to get a nice purple number made up in Yaly Couture, the same place I had my grey suit made … although the trousers no longer fit so well 7 years on! This time it looks like I didn’t take a photo with the no the held out in front of me but I do remember being amused at the time that I’d visited the actual location depicted on the banknote.

The Vietnam 20000 Dong banknote and Japanese Covered Bridge

The Vietnam 20000 Dong banknote and Japanese Covered Bridge

The Japanese Covered Bridge in Hoi An

The Japanese Covered Bridge in Hội An

Looking in my change at lunchtime I saw a £5 note and the picture of ex Prime Minister Winston Churchill with the Houses of Parliament in the background. This view is from a raised up angle 40-50m west of the ‘London Eye’ big wheel so it’s difficult to replicate exactly, but not impossible. You get the general idea 🙂

The British £5 note and London's Houses of Parliament

The British £5 note and London’s Houses of Parliament

Thinking of the UK Pound I then wondered about the many denominations of the Euro banknotes. But did you know that all the buildings and bridges appearing on them are actually fictitious? The illustrations show generic examples of architectural styles such as baroque and renaissance rather than real bridges from a particular member state, as that could have caused some envy if not every country was included. More information at https://www.dezeen.com/2013/06/05/the-bridges-of-europe-robin-stam-copied-from-euro-banknotes/ and Rotterdam’s great idea of actually building them!

So have you tried taking the same type of photos on y0our travels? Holding the note up in the air as you capture where you are?

Guilin's Li river in deepest China

Guilin’s Li river in deepest China

Cycling with a Tour de France winner

It’s not every day you get the chance to cycle with a former Tour de France winner but on the day of Tuesday May 9th in London at the Adobe Digital Marketing Conference I got just that chance!

Me and Cadel Evans pre-ride

Me and Cadel Evans pre-ride

The opportunity came about thanks to Adobe Cycling arranging a handful of bike rides from the ExCel centre in East London as part of the conference’s networking event. I found out about it quite late on via Twitter, signed up as quick as I could but initially ended up on the reserve list. A reserve list to cycle with the 2011 Tour de France winner – Cadel Evans.

Shortly after my initial application some good news came through, I was riding, but not on the supplied BMC bikes but on whatever I could get to London for 7:30 am. That being my Brompton fold-up bike as it’s not easy to get anything full-size on the trains into London at that time of day!

As it happened a bike with my name on it had been set up, albeit was a bit too big for me, but nethertheless, I was now riding and wouldn’t look out of place trying to keep up on a folding bike. Although Cadel did jibe that I was the only one wearing trainers (I didn’t think I’d need my SPDs) and that I was sporting a very retro, circa mid 1990s Banesto top … before swapping to a better looking L’Alpe d’Huez one. Having cycled up Alpe d’Huez with my girlfriend last September it was fresh in my mind, so I asked him whether he’d ever cycled up it! Doh! Being a seasoned Tour de France rider the answer from Cadel was an unsurprising “Err – yes I have.” lol

Preparing to leave the ExCel Centre

Preparing to leave the ExCel Centre. Photo Ben Rabner

Once everybody had arrived, had tried out their bikes and supped a cup of wake-up coffee we were all set to go and headed off into the East London commuter traffic. After a few detours due to the group getting split up at various traffic lights we took a route down some graffitted canalpaths, close to the notoriously dangerous Bow roundabout. Here we decided wisely to hop off our bikes and use the pedestrian crossing.

Soon after we arrived safely at the Olympic Park. It was just before this, sandwiched between the pavement and the stationary traffic that a young lad on his road bike pulled up alongside us. Wanting to “share the wealth” I acknowledged that it looked like he was a cycling fan, and that he should see if he could recognise the guy in front of us. He instantly said “Cadel Evans?” and so I gestured for him to roll over and say a quick “hello”, which he did, so I hope that made his day that morning too.

Even Tour de France winners have to wait at red lights

Even Tour de France winners have to wait at red lights

Riding behind Cadel Evans along a towpath in East London

Riding behind Cadel Evans along a towpath in East London

Our group was on the small side so we each had the opportunity to ride alongside Cadel and chat away with him. As I was behind Cadel Evans on the narrow camel path section it was at me that he directed “rider up” (cyclist coming towards us) and “pole” (which errr meant there was a pole in the ground!). I probably took more than my fair share of his time but also chatted to who I thought was just another conference attendeee when in fact it was the CEO of BMC bikes who was riding the latest piece of BMC road bike porn.

Following the BMC and Adobe colleagues

Following the BMC and Adobe colleagues

At the Olympic Park we headed to the velodrome to have a quick look round. I’d been fortunate enough to witness Bradley Wiggins’ 1hr time-trial record there as well as having a “taster” session on the track itself just one year before so it was good to be back. For a lot of the riders in the group it was their first time! Shame we couldn’t go for a quick spin 😉

Leaving the Lee Valley velopark arfter quickly checking out the track

Leaving the Lee Valley velopark arfter quickly checking out the track

I didn’t need to worry about keeping up during the ride as although most ot the other attendees looked like seasoned enthusiasts the idea was to have a gentle ride, and anyway racing through the streets of London isn’t really an option at that time in the morning.

So all in all it was a great (but very early) fun morning bike ride that only came about through a work conference and a chance tweet from @AdobeCycling pointed out to me by a colleague. If someone had said back in 2011 while watching the “Tour” on the tele that I’d be out riding with that year’s winner 6 years later I’d have thought they were a bit barmy! Cadel was perfectly friendly and happy to answer a lot of my inane questions. “Take the opportunity of a lifetime during the lifetime of the opportunity” and all that 🙂

Taking a corner in the Olympic Park. Cadel leading!

Taking a corner in the Olympic Park. Cadel leading!

Me and Cadel mid ride

Me and Cadel mid ride

Thanks to Ben Rabner and @Adobe Cycling for organising it all!

Lavender fields and sunflowers in Hitchin

You don’t have to go to Provence in France to see beautiful lavender fields. There are many dotted around the UK and one just happens to be 35 miles north of London outside the small market town of Hitchin (‘The Travel Bunny’ has a full list of English Lavender fields on her blog). The very end of July/start of August is the perfect time to visit but be quick as the season is a short one and you don’t want to miss out! Hitchin Lavender’s flowering season is between mid-June to the end of August.

Hitchin sunflowers, lavender and wigwam in the background

Hitchin sunflowers, lavender and wigwam in the background

The lavender fields in Hitchin are set on a rolling, south facing hill with lovely views across the Hertfordshire countryside as you look down from the top. They have sunflowers on the eastern side of the complex too which right now happen to be in full bloom and are a lovely, complimentary addition to the dozens of rows of various types of lavender.

A trio of Hitchin sunflowers

A trio of Hitchin sunflowers

A sunflower poking up above all the others

A sunflower poking up above all the others

With the Hitchin Lavender fields you simply park up and pay your entrance into the field which is £5 per adult, with children between the ages of 5-14 being £1. Anyone under 5 gets in for free. Adults get given an A4 sized paper bag and a pair of scissors to pick the lavender, wildflowers and the sunflowers (sunflowers are 50p a stem). Any extra bags you’d like for children or if you fancy a whole load of lavender is another £4. Simply pay in the farm shop, in the museum, or up on the main field itself.

Down among the lavender

Down among the lavender

But it’s not just for people wanting to pick lavender. Entrance permits you to “Instagram” and photograph away until your heart’s content, although portrait shooters and commercial photographers are charged a £50 fee. In fact when I was there it was a 50:50 split between photographers and lavender pickers.

A cute little family photoshoot

A cute little family photoshoot

I visited on a Tuesday evening as I wanted to take my shots in the setting sun but it’s also open late on Friday’s until 21:00 too. I wasn’t alone in my thinking when I visited but the lavender field covers a large area so there’s plenty of room for everybody.

When I arrived there was an Indian film crew, two “brides” doing magazine covershoots and at least 3 families with small children with their accompanying professional photographers. It was as much fun watching them as it was taking photos myself. It seems that Hitchin Lavender is becoming a nice addition to the tourist trail for visitors to London who want to see and appreciate a bit of the green English countryside.

Hitchin lavender visitors to the UK

Hitchin lavender visitors to the UK

Before I even got to the main field we stumbled across a group having a yoga lesson as well! I can’t think of a better place to have one, and this particular location has both a large wigwam and outhouse building for various outdoorsy arts and crafts activities too.

Hitchin lavender yoga at the base of the hill

Hitchin lavender yoga at the base of the hill

Lots of people were either taking arty shots looking down along the rows of lavender, taking close-ups of the bees, snapping photos of other people or simply enjoying wandering up and down with the lavender brushing against their shins. I took the majority of my shots amongst the sunflowers, many of which seemed to be facing the “wrong way”, lagging slightly behind the sun as it swept slowly across the field, but the odd one was bathing directly in the evening sunshine, making for some beautifully saturated yellow colours.

A clever sunflower facing into the setting sun

A clever sunflower facing into the setting sun

Hitchin sunflowers and a sunburst

Hitchin sunflowers and a sunburst

As the evening drew to a close the sun began to set behind a hazy bank of clouds so I wasn’t able to take any sunburst photos but here’s the one I took the year before that happened to win their annual photo competition … and it was simply taken on an iPhone 6 so nothing fancy.

My competition winning Hitchin lavender photo

My competition winning Hitchin lavender photo

I didn’t buy anything from the café/shop this time round but did take a look to see that there’s an array of food to choose from, comfy chairs to sit on (both inside and out) plants to buy and a whole assortment of different lavender products to purchase, ranging from candles, to bath salts and body oils. A new addition is a little museum that explains some of the facts and figures, and history of lavender farming in the region.

The Hitchin lavender cafe and shop

The Hitchin lavender cafe and shop

As the evening drew to a close I nothed that I’d taken over 50 photos so I put away my camera, filled up my paper bag with lavender and then walked back down a 150m aisle of lavender, arms out wide touching the tops of the lavender as the sides brushed against my legs. The bees seemed to be far too full on nectar to be remotely interested in what I was doing. You return the scissors back near the entrance and then that’s the lavender fields visited for another year, although with a few weeks to go I might well go back before the Summer’s over.

Who wants to visit? 🙂

A bee enjoying the sunflowers

A bee enjoying the sunflowers

Hitchin lavender from the top of the hill

Hitchin lavender from the top of the hill

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