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The Perth “Esplanade Busport” is in a terrible mess at the moment. Construction work for New Metro Rail has meant that the original entry/exit design is no longer valid. The big problem is that of the 5 bus platform roads, 4 of them run from east to west, but the only entrances to the bus station at the moment are from the west end.

This afternoon there was total chaos when a bus broke down in the entrance lane late in the peak hour. In the ensuing chaos it took my bus a good 15 minutes to get in and out of the bus station. As a result I managed to miss the last Yellow Cat home. Blah.

I can’t imagine what it would have been on the buses that have to come from WSBS and then onto the freeway (like the 185). These buses actually have to run right through the bus station twice. They enter from the west, loop through the bus station to reach their bay then loop through again to exit to the east.

A very long trip home for some people tonight.

Does anyone know how much fuel a fully laden urban bus consumes as compared to an empty one?

I want to be able to estimate how much additional fuel consumption each additional bus passenger causes.

All the figures I have been able to find give a per-passenger-km figure based on average occupancy, which is not the same thing at all.

The web host that hosts the Loton Park website appears to have been infected by a virus overnight – one of those that goes through every directory on the web server and replaces default.html with an offensive message.

I haven’t seen one of those for years, since about 1999 when the company I used to work for first had a web page, which we hosted ourselves. I remember the frustration of trying to fix it because at first I assumed it was just a cracked password but as soon as the affected pages were replaced they were overwritten again. I then found out it was a virus that had effectively infected the whole network – we had to take the network down and run a virus scan on every computer: extra tricky since the servers had no local virus scanner installed!

I am surprised that in this more security conscious age that a professional hosting company would be so affected.

I am doubly annoyed because I had a lot of updates to try to do this weekend, including testing a cool news-by-blogger option that I have rigged up.

Hopefully it will be fixed soon.

AA Jet
Well folks, this is the last lot of holiday snaps that I am going to bore you with. I warn you it is going to be a long trip through the delights (?) of San Francisco.

Old Milan Tram
To get from my hotel to the city centre required the use of street transport. In the case of Market Street, this is Muni route F. Route F was built in the late 1990s to re-introduce streetcars into San Francisco. It runs from The Castro, the length of Market Street to the Ferry Terminal, then along The Embarcadero to Fishermans Wharf. On it are lots of heritage cars, some local, some from other US cities, and some, like this one from overseas. Apparently there is even a Melbourne W-class, though I never saw it.

What else does one do when one gets to the City centre? The trick if you want to ride one of these is to get to the terminus early in the morning. Otherwise there can be long queues.

There is something just very American about this shot. Macy’s
, the cross-street sign without the word “street”, everything. This is downtown SF.
The Golden Gate Bridge
Yes, it really does look like this. And you can get there on a Muni no 28 bus.
This is the modern replacement for the old street cars. Muni Metro runs from the suburbs then underground below Market Street. They resurface at the Embarcadero, near where this shot was taken.
Port of San Francisco building as seen from the Sausalito Ferry.

Gardens on the waterfront at Sausalito.
Return trip was by bus. Not as attractive but cheaper.
. . .

Back in SF, I took this shot of Market Street. Not the best pic, but it gives a bit of a feel for the area. Taken from Civic Centre. The Ferry Terminal is about a mile (?) behind me and away in the distance can just be made out “Twin Peaks”.

This time at the other end of Market Street. The Castro, obviously. Actually, I think Market Street itself is the cross street at the bottom of the hill. Note the trolley bus wires overhead.

Alamo Square, and some attractive “Painted Ladies”

OK, I couldn’t resist another one. This shot is in the Russian Hill area, where I stopped in a rather decent cafe and had a coffee (what else?)

Afterwards I walked up the streets and stopped at the Cable Car Museum (not going to inflict those pictures on you). However, the shot below does give you some indication of just how steep the streets are, which is the reason the cable cars survived (1950s diesel buses couldn’t make it up these streets)


One mode of transport that can make it around the city is the trolley bus. A large fleet serves an extensive route of city and cross-suburban routes.


“The Palace of Fine Arts”. Greco-roman ruins in the suburbs of San Francisco. A WTF-worthy moment.

Fort Mason, just along from Fishermans Wharf is now the National Park headquarters and various other things, including an arts centre. The building below, the old US army chapel looks old, but is actually a 1940s “mission revival” building.


Everyone needs a picture of Fishermans Wharf…

…and a shot of the famous chocolate factory (which now contains cafes and shops). I stocked up on gifts here (didn’t think much of the chocolate myself)

and said goodbye to San Fransisco.

Finnair MD11 flown 13/9/06, AY0005, HEL-JFK

I didn’t see any of it.

Mae pobl yn siarad Cymraeg a Saesneg.

Mae tren gyda locomotive yn mynd o Rhymney i Gaerdydd ddyth Llun i ddydd Gwener. Oh I give up! This view of the Monday to Friday peak hour loco-hauled train from was taken from my hotel bedroom window. Cardiff Central station is a few hundred metres away to the right.


This is St Mary Street which becomes High Street in Cardiff. Typical UK grime is very visible in this pic.

My hotel was a couple of hundred metres to the right. On the night I arrived I went left by mistake and got very lost. Although not immediately obvious from this shot, there are very few street signs at intersections in central Cardiff. There are however signs to all sorts of tourist attractions – not very helpful when you just have an address.

Rather less grimy is the Norman Keep in the centre of Cardiff Castle. The castle is located at the end of High Street, just out of view in the previous picture. (It was when I reached the castle the previous evening that I knew I was lost).

From Cardiff Central station you can catch a
to many places, including Cardiff Bay, where you will find the new Welsh national assembly, various touristy shops at the marina, but more importantly you will find
– not to mention a
- in the Doctor Who exhibition at the convention centre. The current revival of Doctor Who is, of course, shot mostly in Cardiff and surrounds.

After seeing Cardiff Bay, I returned to Cardiff, picked up my bags and jumped on another After changing at Shrewsbury I finally ended up at the rather attractive town of Machynlleth.

I stayed at a pub called the Wynnstay Hotel (not visible in the above picture). It was a rather fun old pub with narrow hallways and random steps and nothing quite matching. Apparently the hotel restaurant is well regarded. I can’t say I was particularly impressed. I should probably just have had dinner at the local chinese takeway!

Machynlleth is a rather nice looking town and I would have liked to have time to explore more. I am told that there are lots of good walks around the area.

As it was, I just walked to the station the next morning (Sunday morning) for my next leg, which was to be another train onwards to Minfordd. The following picture is not a train. It is something you probably wouldn’t expect to find in a country town, but there you are:


This is a train, and is what you find if you wait a while on the upper level platform at Minfordd. It is, of course, the world famous Ffestiniog Railway.


The next picture shows the rather remarkable landscape at the northern end of the railway. This is Tanygrisiau, just a short distance from the terminus at Blaenau Ffestiniog. The lake is man-made and a backup for the hydroelectric system.

This is one view of the main street of Blaenau Ffestiniog. It is a nice warm (high 20s) Sunday afternoon. The joint Ffestiniog/Arriva Trains Wales station is out of picture in a cutting on the right and the red building in the centre a small SPAR supermarket, which was open. I bought a pre-made sandwich and some fruit and sat in the town square (behind me) for an hour or so and listened to local teenagers nattering away in Welsh.
I’d mucked up reading the timetable and had 3 hours to kill before the next onwards train from Blaenau to the coast at Llandudno. Rather to my surprise I found there was a bus service running. I took a mini-sized bus down back down the mountain (rather faster than the train), through Minfordd again and onto Porthmadog. Time for another supermarket food break (this time at a rather large Tesco) and then I grabbed another bus, this time a full-sized one, on to Caernarvon.Bus at Carnarvon, about to depart for Bangor.

More interesting at Caernarvon is the Castle, seen here at the end of a street with Welsh and European flags much in evidence (no Union Flags though!).


My bus into Carnarvon was running rather late, and so was I. I had no time to do anything much more than take a couple of photos at a trot, and then pelt back to the bus station. Next stop Bangor, across the road into the station, and then on a very long train stopping all stations to Manchester via Llandudno, Chester and Warrington.

So that was Wales. I will go back again and this time spend a couple of weeks. Do some walking, hire a bicycle, go up Mount Snowdon. All sorts of things to do :)

Some more pictures. These ones are from England and “frame” the trip to Wales, which will come later. Maybe.


To be honest, I have no idea what this means. I just think it is funny. So sue me.


Nothing special about this address. It is just a nice picture of the two of us, taken on top of a double decker bus.


While in London we did all the usual touristy things. This is the day we walked from the Tate Britain (in Pimlico) to Tate Modern (in Southbank). It is quite a long way. (Yes we should have taken the ferry, but we were saving money)

At the extreme other end of the transport sector to a double decker bus, a tube station. Notice how incredibly narrow the platforms are. It is obvious why station entrances are sometimes ‘closed’ during peak hours to control crowds to safe numbers


Bath is a quite delightful town. The scenery is beautiful and with pedestrianised streets remarkably little traffic. This is a general view across the gardens to the East. The River Avon flows through the shadows at the right of the picture.

Useless fact: did you know that “Avon” is a Celtic/British word? It means “river”, which is rendered in modern Welsh as ‘Afon’. It is one of the few bits of Celtic that is found across (English) Britain.

Of course, Bath is better known for its architecture. I was stuck with a suitcase so I didn’t get to go into the eponymous roman baths. I did get to see some of the famous buildings, including this magnificent Georgian work of art.

And off to Wales :)


The next shot is taken in Manchester. Not the most exciting picture, I will admit. I do want to draw your attention to one thing: the “50p Fallowfield to Piccadilly” sign on the bus. This bus stop was outside a laundromat and as we waited for our clothes an endless parade of buses passed by. They all had pretty much the same route destination but waiting passengers were very picky about which bus they got on. I suspect that this is British bus deregulation at work: there were different operators and each had their own fare rules. I have a feeling we ended up with a more expensive bus, as it cost us £1.30 each to get back to the city centre.
Classic “mill” country. Taken from the train somewhere near Huddersfield in West Yorkshire.


Train buff heaven. The National Railway Museum in York. I have more shots of the museum but I will spare you.

And back to London. This time on GNER. I would have to say that the service was not quite up to the standard that I expected. Despite travelling in First the seats were very much due for maintenance and the ride rough at times. I did visit the restaurant for a cooked meal – the meal was fine (salad followed by venison sausages) – but the car itself was a bit of a let down, as it was just a 1/2 carriage of regular First class seating with place settings at the table. I must be getting picky!

That’s it for this quite flip through England. Next time some shots of Wales (which I reckon are fare more interesting!)

The Public Transport Users Association turns 30 this year.

Daniel Bowen has posted a video retrospective. Worth taking a look at.

There is no video of yours truly and for a very good reason…I come across terrible on TV!

Just for the record, some pictures of Berlin and comments to go with them.

Charlottenschloss, Queen Charlotte’s palace. The Berlin answer to the Palace of Versailles, or so I have been told.

Having arrived at this location after circumnavigating the city I decided I wasn’t really in the mood to tramp through historic buildings, so I basically took this pic then wandered off :)

At the Brandenberg Gate. Once upon a time in no-man’s land between East and West. Today a pedestrianised area between the Reichstag and the cultural precint of Unter den Linden.

Outside the gate are some incredibly moving historical pictures of gate over the years, from the Napoleonic Wars, through to the Second World War, partition and finally re-uinification.

There is also a gift shop to the right of the camera selling similar items.


In the centre of the main shopping street of former West Berlin (a name something like Kurfurstendamm). The bomb-damaged old church in the distance (and the aesthetically damaged modern addition) is retained as a monument to peace.

To the left of the camera is the large KaDeWe department store and to the right of the Church in the distance is Zoologische Garten station. Once the commercial heart of West Berlin but now rather tacky.

To the right of the photographer is also a small supermarket that was selling the most amazing variety of fresh fruit (berries, plums, peaches, apples, bananas…) all incredibly cheaply.

Not the greatest photograph, but this picture of Fredrichstrasse in the East shows a remarkable comparision. This shot was taken only a few hundred metres north of the famous ‘Checkpoint Charlie’. Once upon a time this was deep into Russian territory. Now, the booming nature of this part of town can be seen, with lots of new expensive shops, as highlighed by the Paris-based Galeries Lafayette to the right. Note also the street-centre entrance to the underground railway in the middle of the picture.

This picture is quite different. It shows the neighbourhood centre of Mexicoplatz, in the southeastern suburbs of Berlin. I got off a train here (the station is located diagonally opposite to the white car to the right of the photographer) just because it was so pretty.

There are a range of shops including small supermarkets, newsagents, hairdressers etc in the ground floor of the buildings. There was also a small bakery where I bought a sandwich and a coffee. I asked for a ‘Milschkaffee’, which I what I was usually drinking in such places, and the shop assistant was confused and went off to ask the manager how to make one. She then came back and pushed the button labelled ‘Cafe au lait’ on the coffee machine.

This sculpture had me singing “Emannuel Kant was a real piss-ant” for hours…

It is located in the Unter Den Linden area and is part of a series hightlighting German ‘ideas’ through the ages. Other sculptures I saw included a running shoe and a giant asprin.

Transport

You knew it was going to happen evenually, didn’t you?

I’m just a tad annoyed at the light pole with the poster because it mucks up this otherwise good picture of a double decker bus. Buses are the main mode of road-based public transport in the western parts of Berlin. Both single and double decker buses are used. Services are frequent and just about all stops feature timetables and route maps for the area. A single fare system for all modes is in use: the system is zonal with (from memory) 1+2, 2+3 or 1+2+3 tickets available. Most intelligently, the buses supplement rail systems rather than competing with them. Oh yes, once validated there is no need to revalidate tickets.

In the east there is still a tram network. This picture was taken about one block from the Alexanderplatz station, one of the main stations in the east. You can see how remarkably narrow the trams are. Also noticeable is the delightful nature of the East Berlin post-war architecture.

This picture of a pretty S-bahn station was taken in the south eastern suburbs. It is hard to tell from this picture, but barely a decade ago the S-bahn system was run-down, using pre-war wooden rolling stock and running almost a ghost service. After partition, the S-Bahn was run by the (eastern) DR and was practically boycotted by residents of the west. Today it is quick, convenient and (mostly) modern.

That’s it for the moment. Next time: The UK.

Welcome to Effingham Junction

Yes, I am back and in one piece and just about over the jetlag.

I am obviously not a real blogger as I failed to post anything at all while away. Partly my excuse is that many of the places that I stayed didn’t have internet access and for the rest, well I had better things to do! Also, to anyone who didn’t get a message or postcard I apologise. On day 1 I managed to lock my mobile phone and on day 2 lose my diary. This meant that I lost lots of addresses and phone numbers too.

I am still planning a proper write up of the holiday, but this will take a while. In the meantime, here are some highlights.

Travel
For long distance air travel, business class is simply in a different league altogether. Lie flat beds make it possible to get a decent night’s sleep and access to facilities like lounges (with showers), dedicated checkin and even sometimes dedicated security screening makes even airports bearable.

Places
Berlin is a fascinating city and rather different from what I expected (not that I really know what that was). From a city/social planners point of view it was interesting to see how swift changes in power structures impact on the built environment. Both the east and west were becoming run down (in different ways) as a new city centre was coming into being in the centre. Perhaps the most emotional part for me was actually walking past the legendary “Checkpoint Charlie”. Somehow even the hordes of tourist buses couldn’t dampen the fact that this was a very historical site and was, until very recently, the end of the world as we knew it. On a more pleasant note, it was a nice surprise to find that my very rusty high school German was adequate for getting around, once I had picked up a few basic phrases (like ‘take away’ and ‘eat in please’).

Wales was a real eye-opener too. I got off on a wrong foot with Cardiff (getting lost) but with that out of the way I could feel a little of the ‘buzz’ that is apparently in this young city. The countryside was the best, though. From solid stone towns like Machynlleth, through delightful sea views around Aberdovey through to the stark post-mining landscapes around Blaenau Ffestiniog where I sat in the sun in the town square on a Sunday afternoon munching a sandwich and listening to the local teenagers natter in their local dialect.

San Francisco was perhaps the biggest let down. Again I started off on the wrong foot, staying in a hotel in a particularly down-market part of town where you had to make your way past the beggars and homeless people to reach the tram and where the ride into the city centre took you past boarded up warehouses, cheap liquor stores and sleazy adult cinemas. Still I got to ride on the cable cars, take a ferry across the bay to Sausalito and of course take endless photos of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Food
Number 1 rule for the hotel-based traveller is to stay in places with breakfast. More and more are offering what I call a ‘German-style continental breakfast’ with bread rolls, cheese, cold meat and hard boiled eggs. This is a good start to the day. If you are forced to go out and find breakfast at 9 in the morning you will find that (a) cities don’t look half cruddy at that time of the morning and (b) it is hard to find anything beyond coffee and a muffin – not exactly nutritious and filling.

It would have been great to stay in places with kitchens too, particularly in Berlin where I was simply overwhelmed by the variety and quality and cheapness of fresh food. Raspberries at 1 euro a punnet! Peaches at 1.50 a kilo. Steak at 9 euros a kilo! I also ate the niced nectarines in Cardiff where I gave in and bought 8 for 1 pound, which I carried around for a couple of days eating half and getting the rest squashed.

In comparison, it was hard to find decent food in SF. Not only was everything expensive but if it was possible to have anything less digestible I don’t know what it was. A basic sandwich would have white bread, cheese, cold meat, soggy lettuce and mayonnaise. I eventually started buying things from Safeway but even here there ‘chef’s salad’ was lettuce, carrot, cheese, ham, turkey and a mayonnaise-style dressing. About the only cheap thing was coffee and on one day I actually managed to overdose!

So it’s back to work now, and tomorrow I’ll go back to the gym and find out exactly how much weight I have put back on!

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