Sunny or Rain We Hiked in the Snowdonia / Day 4 of 2019 UK Holiday

Snowdonia National Park is located at northeast Wales, which is around two hours drive from my previous location Shrewsbury. Cynthia has picked a small town called Beddgelert to stay because according to her, it is the most scenic town in Snowdonia. She is right. Beddgelert is beautiful. But even with voted UK’s best mobile network Vodafone – unless it is an advertising scam – there is no mobile data access in town. Google Map is not very good in the UK either. We ended up driving up the hill, onto a narrow unpaved road, and into a farm as we were searching for our Airbnb. Thankfully, the car comes with Satnav. I still prefer Android Auto though. But to use Android Auto – whereby most of the time, it does bring you to the right places based on the postal codes – we need mobile data access. In the UK and outside of the big cities, mobile data access can be pretty patchy or even non-existence. It could be the country or it could well be Vodafone.

To view the photo album and read the captions of our day 4 adventure, click here. For this trip, I use a Nikon Z6 with 35mm Z lens.

Since yesterday’s afternoon, there has been raining in the UK. More like drizzling on and off. I am pretty used to the UK weather. My wife found it rather fascinating as compared to the weather in Southeast Asia. Our plan was to hike. Since the rain was not that heavy, I bought Cynthia a nice and warm jacket (with a hood!) and onto Snowdonia we hike.

The first trail is called Gelert’s Grave. It was a very easy trail. A very enjoyable walk. The story behind the trail is rather sad though. Legend has it that a baby was missing. And when one dog came back with blood around its mouth, the owner concluded that the dog must have eaten the baby. So the owner killed the dog.

As he went searching for the body of the baby, he found the baby alive next to a dead fox. He then realized that it was the dog that killed the fox that was trying to eat the baby. The owner was very sad and a grave was built. The trail is a short hike from Beddgelert to the grave and back. While the story was sad, the scenery was beautiful. It was a good walk.

Next, we headed to the legendary trail of Dinas Emrys. It is a story about Merlin and the dragon. My wife is really into Merlin (thanks to Netflix) so the trail is more for her. On top of the hill was a small ruin whereby underneath, the dragon sleeps. So said the legend anyway.

The last trail we did was Craflwyn circuit. The cloud broke just a little bit. It was quite a hilly climb and we have encountered pairs of sheep. The scenery was also beautiful. It was green everywhere with pink and purple flowers dotted the hillside. Occasionally the sun shone through and we took the opportunity to take some pictures.

On a high note and despite the rain, we managed to reserve a table at Hebog – during our breakfast at … Hegbog. It is quite possibly the best restaurant in Beddgelert. The lamb rump was so tender and so juicy. Dinner was delicious. One of the best I have during our holiday in the UK.

30 Years Ago I First Stepped into Concord College / Day 3 of 2019 UK Holiday

Looking back, entering into Concord College thanks to a local scholarship from Hong Kong was one of the life-changing moments of my life. It was back in the year 1989, which is exactly 30 years ago. On the third day of our 2019 UK holiday, my wife and I have visited the school that I have spent two years studying for the A-level. The same school that prepared me to enter Oxford University. There are so many things that I have learned and experienced back in those two years beyond the textbooks – the good and the naughty – that has definitely shaped the way I am. In that sense, Concord College is part of who I am.

Click here to view the photo album with captions. The pictures are shot with Nikon Z6 and 35mm Z lens.

Because we have to be escorted during our visit, the Alumni Office has requested Josh to accompany us. I could have met Sara instead who was one year my senior but she was on leave. Maybe next time!

The road trip from Oxford to Shrewsbury was rather long. But we have started early. The drive was pleasant. In fact, more pleasant than I have anticipated. The final stretch from Shrewsbury into Acton Burnell, part of the road was much wider than I remembered. When I shared that with the staffs at the school reception, they were quite surprised. Because many visitors have commented that the road is windy and narrow. The road may have been widened over the last 30 years or it could well be my imagination. Either way, I had a fun drive into Concord College. We reached before 11am.

The old front gate has been relocated to the other end of the college. And it has become a much wider and grander entrance. Even though Sara has warned me in advance through email the night before, following the Google Map instruction, we still ended up at the old front gate. Fortunately, the town is kind of small. We found the new front gate in no time (thank you, Sara)!

Josh is such a wonderful guide. He is young and full of energy. He is so passionate about the school facilities and the changes the school has made throughout the years while mindful with the fact that I come from the dinosaur era. There are bits that I remember and bits that I don’t. And then there are other bits that I am not aware of.

The overall experience was magical. It is as though I have time-traveled from 1991 (when I graduated) into 2019. There are buildings that look more or less the same. Such as the main hall, the old front gate area, the old chapel, the old science lab, and the Old Wall (which is a thin stretch of rooms with one side forming the wall). There are buildings that have been augmented. Such as the all-girl accommodation called Red House (front part has been renovated and I could hardly recognize it), the outdoor haunted swimming pool that has now become indoor, the extended canteen and Bell House (I once kissed a girl across one of the windows!) that has been enhanced with new structures. There is one building that it doesn’t seem to exist anymore (I think it was called Park Side – my first accommodation in Concord College). And many new buildings were built after my graduation (oh that new Tuck Shop!) that are too long to list here. But one thing I can say is that the students today are very, very fortunate to be in Concord College. The facilities are top-notch. Over the top in a good way kind of top-notch.

To wrap up this entry as it is getting really late here in Singapore (5am and I am jet-lagged), Josh has invited us for lunch in the college. My wife loves the food there. She said it tasted healthy. As for me, I am very amazed that the design of the food tray looks exactly the same as it was 30 years ago. I guess some good things don’t change.

Of course, the food was good. It still does.

My First Time Visiting Cotwolds & Bath / Day 2 of 2019 UK Holiday

There are many good reasons to let Cynthia organizes our holiday. While she would take into consideration the destinations I requested – more for down the memory lane if you get my drift – more often than not, she would pick somewhere that I have not visited before. Like Cotwolds and Bath.

Click here to view the photo album with captions. The pictures are shot with Nikon Z6 and 35mm Z lens.

Bath is rather near to Oxford. like less than two hours’ drive. I wonder why in the past, it has not crossed my mind that I should visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Bath is beautiful. And so are some of the towns in Cotwolds. Such as a medieval town called Burford as well as Chedworth Roman Villa. This day could well be the highlight of our UK holiday. We have tried the Bath buns for dinner. They are giant buns. I wish there was a wholegrain version (which may not be too traditional, I guess). We must have spent more than four hours in Bath. Since the sun sets late in the summer, we could afford to take our time and enjoy the dinner before heading back to Oxford.

24 Years Later I re-visited Oxford / Day 1 of 2019 UK Holiday

I studied O-level and A-level in the UK. After graduating from Oxford University in 1995 I have moved to Singapore and started working. It is hard to pinpoint why for more than two decades I have not made a return to the UK. Partly because I have lived there for six years. Whenever I have a chance to travel, my wife and I would pick somewhere new. Deep inside, I have this notion that memories – fond or not – are like whiskey. It takes time to age. Perspective changes as I encounter new experience in life. I don’t need to remember every bit of it. Only those that survive the test of time are worth the reminiscence.

Click here to view the photo album with captions. The pictures are shot with Nikon Z6 35mm Z lens and SB900 flash unit.

Wadham College was our first stop. I collected my Alumni Card at the Porter’s Lodge on a Sunday. There are parts of Wadham that stay the same. And there are new structures are built within the campus. My wife Cynthia asked what the differences between the colleges are. A short answer would be that in my time, group lectures are held at the department whereby one-to-one or small group tutorials are held at the college conducted by the resident fellows. Hence, some colleges are more famous than others when certain subjects are concerned.

In reality though, most prospective students including myself back then just picked the college we like the most during field visits to apply for.

Board Street and the town center, by and large, look very much the same as before. Backwell’s Bookstore is still there, still full of books. In the era whereby bookstores are closing down one after another here in Singapore (thanks to eBook format and perhaps Netflix), it is quite amazing to see people still prefer physical books in the UK. Selected books are being featured with a short review posted at the shelf below them. Some are printed and others are handwritten.

Boots got bigger but Virgin megastore has gone (I guess while physical books survive in the UK, CDs don’t). There is a huge mall called Westgate at the far end of Oxford and it is very un-Oxford-like. Nevertheless, it is a very nice mall with a shop that sells … Rolex. A rather posh mall shall I say?

The very friendly porter at Wadham College mentioned that in our next visit, we could stay in one of the rooms and relive the student life for a hundred pound a night. We could do that. Or we could stay in an Airbnb as we did that comes with a full family of peacocks (no kidding).

Tiong Bahru / Nikon Z6 / Nikkor Z 35mm f1.8 S / SB900 / DXO Products

Previously I have done some testing with my new Nikon Z6. Today, I have tried out pairing the new camera with my old SB900 flash unit. I am also trying out the DXO products as a substitute of Capture NX-2 with Color Efex Pro plug-in. Click here to see the photo album.

  • SB900 works with Nikon Z6 though it is not fully integrated with the camera. Settings need to be done on the flash unit (such as exposure and mode).
  • Flash lock works well. Picking the right flash exposure is very important or else, the picture may be over-exposed as a flash filler.
  • In as much as I wish to, when shooting portraits, I can’t get rid of the flash unit.
  • DXO PhotoLab 2 with Nik Collection 2 is a very good product. It does almost everything as my old Capture NX-2 with Color Efex Pro. I can’t apply Nikon picture control in DXO, which is annoying. I don’t seem to be able to add descriptions to my raw photos – which is also annoying. Lastly, a TIFF file is created so that the filter can be applied. It makes photo export slightly more tedious (as there is a need to pick a set of NEF and TIFF mixed photos) and I can’t re-edit a TIFF file (i.e. have to reapply the filters all over again should I need to). Having said that, I am pretty much at home with DXO products.
A picture of my wife taken in our condo.