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Heli-Goblin in Paris

I'm in Paris at the moment (again) but these are from the last-minute trip I took back in March 2015.

The pianos at St Pancras are nice, and it's lovely to hear people playing them.

Paris streets from the taxi

Looking out the taxi window

I've no idea what this building is, but it looks nice!

The meeting venue was in a street very near to l'Arc de Triomphe - this was taken from the taxi as we drove around it.

The hotel room was a bit pinker than I'm used to!

We walked from the meeting to the restaurant where the dinner was being held, and got a lovely view of the Eiffel tower at sunset.

Crossing the Seine

The restaurant had a fish tank with live lobsters in, and big ones too!

A less blurry view of l'Arc de Triomphe

Looking down the Champs-Élysées

Unfortunately, it seemed the best way to get a photo of l'Arc de Triomphe was to stop in the middle of the Champs-Élysées - and there's a lot of traffic on that road. Thankfully, there was also a small island to hide on while taking photos.

No idea what this is, but it is pretty!

At Gare du Nord, ready to head home! No Eurostar problems this trip - yay! Here's hoping it all goes well for me going home on Friday.

Kat goes to Cologne

This trip was to Cologne in November 2014, just in time for the Christmas markets.

 Kat had to help me research the markets at work before we left for the airport.

 And of course, had to climb my wire tree. What is it with small cuddlies and climbing trees?

We flew from Heathrow, so obligatory photo with the giant Harrods teddy.

Kat was impressed with the Christmas lights too.

Looking out the window at our plane.

We had a huge plane flying into Dusseldorf, complete with seat back tvs and everything. Shame it was only a short flight, so we couldn't watch any of the films.

The train station in Cologne is right next to the cathedral, which is really impressive. A bit less so, in the dark and the rain, but still!

The view out of the hotel window.

The next morning I went out for a run. (Kat sensibl stayed home in bed.) But I did see cool things, like Christmas decorations in the shop windows.

And the gateway to one of the many Christmas markets.

That evening we went out to see another Christmas market. It was a bit crowded.

But there was a stall selling chocolate tools...

...and decorated candy apples...


...and chocolate Santas.

The hotel had a section in the lobby for kids to play. Kat had to try out the climbing wall...

...and the motorbike.

I spotted this yarn bomb on the way to the meeting venue.

The lecture theatre where I was presenting had a massive globe. So Kat had to sit on top of the world!

Outside the venue - the inside had a selection of cool fossils too.

The Cologne Peace Crib

And the description of what it was all about.

Next to a massive city of cards at Dusseldorf airport

Kat wasn't sure about this giraffe pretending to be an elephant!

Little Chick goes to Leuvain

Oh dear, it's been a while since I updated!

Nevertheless, here's the story of Little Chick's adventures in Leuvain:

We started off in my office, where she had to have her picture taken with my office ducks.

Here she is, ready to get on the Eurostar.

The hotel room was grand, if a bit white and stark.

But we did have a balcony outside, so that made up for it.

Tucking into breakfast!

The meeting venue was in an old machine shed, with lots of big machines...

...and jet engines.

Not our building, but part of the University.

And of course, she had to try climbing the trees!

She came down again after I promised she could try the desserts at afternoon coffee. She liked the chocolate one best.

Ready for the train at Leuvain station.

And that's all the photos from that trip - it was only a short one.

Unfortunately, this was the trip where I got to Gare du Midi in Brussels to discover that the Eurostar queue was nearlytwice the length of the concorse, because of strike action by the border guards checking passports. I missed my scheduled train because of the queue, made it on the last one out that night (which was itself late). I thought I was grand once I'd got to Paddington, but no, Paddington was shut completely because (apparantly) someone had been pushed in front of the train.

Thankfully, because it was work related travel, the lovely people at work security arranged for a taxi to come and collect me from Paddington. It was nearly 2am by the time I got home, mind!

What a trip! But Little Chick had fun.

Titchy in Amsterdam (and London)

Titchy in Heathrow Terminal 5.

September saw a double whammy of trips, with four days in Amsterdam, getting home for one night, then off to London for another couple of days.

Titchy Bear thought it was brilliant though!

We flew from Terminal 5 at Heathrow, and Titchy had to say hello to her more expensive cousins.

She had a ride on one of the toy cars

And made some more bear friends.

Dinner was soup with dumplings before the flight.

The hotel was very nice - I got upgraded to a suite, with a hug bath tub. You could even watch telly from the bath - and I did!

The rest of the suite.Unfortunately I only was in it for two nights before having to move to another, smaller room (which was nice too, to be fair!)

The hotel is a fashion hotel, which means the decor is a bit strange in places. These are the doors to the loos in the lobby.

The meeting venue was in a theatre, next to a lake, with this fountain in it.

The view from the suite's balcony.

In the hotel lobby. There were quite a few manequins around the place.

Just around the corner from the meeting venue (de Meervaart theatre), was a plaza with statues of gambolling lambs.

Titchy wanted to ride one.

Watching one of the presentations.

At the evening reception, there was a lady with an organ that played music according to hole punch cards.

The lamps in the hotel dining room were manequins too. With lampshades for heads. It's fashion, obviously.

The conference had its own cartoonist, who was doing themed cartoons all about data.

And this is Miss Gerry, who's job it was to organise us all and make sure we got into the sessions and stuff. She also ran the entertainments at the conference dinner.

Titchy liked the little cakes we had one coffee break.

The conference dinner was held in a restaurant on the beach at the North Sea. Some of the delegates even went swimming, despite it being really cold!. The dinner itself was a ok, but it took us an hour to drive to the venue on the bus, and there wasn't really enough space for everyone to have a seat. There was plenty of food, but bits of it kept running out at odd moments, and the queues for the buffet tables were huge. So, not the best conference do I've been to!

We had a bit of time to kill at the airport, so Titchy posed with some tulips - Amsterdam being famous for tulips after all.

We didn't buy any cheese, though I was tempted.

And Titchy was very disappointed that she couldn't have these clogs to use as a bed.

She did like meeting Miffy though.

And seeing the decorated elephants. (You could get a kit to decorate your own elephant, but we really don't have the space for an elephant.)

The London conference was held at the Wellcome collection, so of course we had to have a tour around the galleries there.


Next to a model boat - Titchy said it made her feel like a giant!

Looking at a model of all the bits inside our bodies. Titchy was quite glad she's full of stuffing, rather than all those strange, gooey looking things.

In the gift shop you could buy giant microbes for things like the common cold, and other, nastier diseases.

Here is a hard copy printout of the entire human genome. 140 books...

...filled with very small text!

There were severak giant jelly babies in the building. I don't know why - probably because Art.

And this creature guarded the door to the lecture theatre, in a fierce, yet slightly goofy way.

And that was Amsterdam and London!

Foxy goes to Nancy

Looking out the window of the Eurostar at St Pancras

So, I got invited to give a talk at a conference (as I seem to be doing a lot recently) in Nancy, France. The downside was that this particular conference happened to be on the weekend of the August bank holiday, which was a bit of a pain. But I do get time off in lieu, so it wasn't so bad.

And, the venue being Nancy, myself and Foxy took the Eurostar (it being by far the most civilised way of getting to France). We even got driven to St Pancras in a taxi, as it turned out that there was major engineering works happening on the line between Didcot and Paddington, which wouldn't finish early enough to get me to St Pancras in time for my Eurostar.

As it turned out, being driven was very nice, as I had a stinking cold, and spent most of the trip in the car asleep. (That theme continued for most of this trip, unfortunately...) Foxy had a lovely time though!

The front of Gare de l'Est, where we got the train from Paris to Nancy.

Looking out the window of a cafe in Gare de l'Est.

The view from the hotel room in Nancy.

We got to Nancy around 5pm, and I got into the hotel and had to have a lie down again. I did get up to meet the other speakers at the conference for a very nice dinner in a very nice bistro near the hotel.

Yes, there were snails on the menu, and yes, I ate them. They were very tasty and mainly tasted of garlic butter.

Some of the gates to the main square

The front of the town hall (in daylight)

The conference dinner was in Nancy's town hall, and was buffet style, with lots of little, bite size things served in miniature dishes and balls and test tubes. Some were nicer than others, I have to admit!

Foxy liked the beef stew.

After the conference dinner, we all went out in the rain to watch the sound and light show, which is projected onto the front of the Town Hall. It was really amazing!

My pictures don't do it justice at all.

Everyone got given a bag at the conference. Foxy was looking to see if there was anything interesting in it.

As a speaker (even though I'd lost my voice) I got given a speaker's present, a couple bottles of wine and some liquer, all local to the region.

(I managed to get through my talk alright, though I was very croaky. I found it funny though, that there were complaints from people in the audience on twitter about the lack of cat pictures in my slides. I fear I have developed a reputation.)

Here's the outside of the meeting venue - built in the 1980s, with the architectural concept of being an "ideas factory". So there was a lot of concrete and steel inside. It was ok, not the most pretty of buildings. But the conference room had daylight, which is always a bonus.

We had to take the tram from the hotel to the conference venue. This scuplture was right next to the tram stop.

After the conference finished, I had a bit of time before having to get my train, and I was feeling better, so myself and Foxy went sightseeing. Here's an arch that was right next to the hotel.

And some statues and fountains in the main square.

Another street near the square. (It was raining a lot)

These windows are painted on the side of the building.

An Irish bar. (No, we didn't go in)

At a nearby sweet and pastry shop, Foxy was eyeing up the sugar pigs.

While I was eyeing up the chocolates...

...but decided to buy macaroons instead.

Foxy wanted to try them before we'd even got home!

The trip home on the train and the Eurostar was grand, though the Eurostar itself was a bit crowded.

Back at St Pancras!

Nancy is a nice place, I think I'd like to go back and see more of it when I'm not either ill, or getting drenched with the rain. The hotel provided me with hot chocolate, that came in a teapot! That's a win!

Ugly bear goes to Athens

Ugly bear is so-called, not because he's actually ugly, but because when he belonged to Miss A, one of Miss B's school friends, that's what she named him (I think she was trying to call him "Cuddly" but toddlers have a hard time with consonants sometimes.) We got Ugly when Miss A gave him to the teddy tombola at the school fete, won him back, and then gave him to Miss B.

Here we are in Heathrow (again)

Ugly was very impressed with the giant Harrod's teddy, and wants to be just like him when he grows up

We looked for some books for the flight.

And watched the bags get loaded onto the plane.

Waitin to board the plane.

Ugly was a bit nervous about flying, but was very good about reading the safety information and paying attention to the safety briefing. He made careful note of our closest emergency exits!

He was very tired when we got to our hotel, but soon settled in!

Our hotel was a bit of a walk away from the meeting venue, and we walked past a pet shop on the way. They had a load of animals in cages out on the street, like these baby bunnies (so fluffy!)

And birds.


And even chickens!

The meeting venue had a lovely courtyard outside, where we had our breaks. The weather was glorious!

The building was the original building for the National University of Athens. We got a tour of the museum. The photo above is a view of Athens back in 1862. It looks a lot different now!

There was an exhibition of optical illusions

And some optician's equipment, to check people's eyesight.

I'm not sure what this doll was doing, but Ugly was happy to meet her.

Sitting on an xray machine.

And looking at an old book of anatomy. (I had to explain that no, his insides didn't look like that)

Some old school dentists' equipment

Admiring the view of the Acropolis from the museum roof.

The Acropolis

View over the city

And another view!

We went for a walk around Plaka, wandering around the narrow streets.

Ugly loved the colour of these flowers.

There's lots of graffiti in Athens. Much of it is very artistic.

We stopped in a restaurant for a drink - pressed strawberry juice! Yummy!

Athens has a lot of cats around the place.

Here's Monastiraki square, with lots of tourist shops.

There was loads of stuff for sale - antiques and gifts and all sorts.

The meeting then moved to the Acropolis museum. We had our breaks in a nice large room, that had some artifacts just stored there, some still in their packing case.

We were given a proper tour of the Acropolis museum, Here's Ugly with some ancient Greek toys.

And a few more ancient toys.

This lady is one of the Caryatids from the Parthenon. She has lots of hair because it helped support her head.

The Caryatids needed strong necks because they were balancing the roof on their heads!

Looking out at the Parthenon from the Acropolis museum,

Underneath the museum is the ruins of houses and other buildings from ancient times.

The conference dinner was on top of Lykavittos Hill. The views were amazing!

You could see for miles!

And miles!

Some more of the artefacts in the conference room.

These statues were of young women, and they were given as offerings to Athena, the goddes of Athens.

Here's a model of the area around the Acropolis museum.

Peeking out from my handbag during the conference talks.

The view from my hotel balcony.

One of the nights I was really tired, so myself and Ugly had a hotel picnic.

He really wanted to eat that cake!

This trip was unusual in that I got a bit of time to do some sightseeing. Here's Monastiraki square.

And the Agora (I think)

The Parthenon from below.

Some ruins at the base of the Acropolis.

And some more!

There were lots of performers busking at the base of the Acopolis.

Ugly was very happy to meet this puppet.

The tower of the winds. (It wasn't very windy!)

We had a very nice lunch in Monastiraki, sitting outside. It was hot out though!

And that was lunch, a cross between mousaka and lasagne. It was really yummy!

And that's all my photos of Athens, as the only thing that happened after that was me catching a flight home. Ugly said he had a lovely time!

Fibre optic fans

I went through a bit pf a phase recently, where I was totally obsessed with shiny, light up things. This resulted in the dance routine videoed above (so chosen because of the level of darkness showing off the fans properly).

I've been promising myself to write up the instructions about how I made the fans - so here it is!

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The ingredients are pretty simple. The electronics and fibre optic fibres for the fans came from a fibre optic fountain table lamp, bought down the local pound shop for a pound. I wound up using four of them for each fan. I also used blu-tack, lollipop sticks, elastic bands, some flexible plastic mesh (cardboard would probably work) and gaffa tape.

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The bundle of fibres popped out of the base pretty easliy, and turning the base over, you can see the screws that hold the base together. There's also a button on the bottom of the base that allows you to turn the lamp on and off, and cycle through the colour options.

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Inside the base you've got the circuit board with the LED on two plastic sticks. It was easy enough to pull the circuit board off and cut the plastic supports off with some pliers.

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The wires were long enough to put the circuit board on the side of the battery case. Then I used blu-tack to stick the two units together.

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The bundles of fibres go on top of the LED, held in place by by a frame made from the plastic mesh.

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Everything gets held in place by gaffa tape.

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When held up, the fibres took on a round fountain shape, instead of a more fan-like shape. So I used two lollipop sticks and two elastic bands to sandwich the fibres into a fan shape, then covered the sticks and battery packs with yet more gaffa tape (being careful not to cover over the buttons that turn the lights on and off.)

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I then made another one of these units, and put them together to make one fan, connecting them through yet more gaffa tape.

For the costume in the dance routine above, I had two layers of dress. The bottom layer had electro-luminenscent wire stitched onto it, with a chiffon layer over the top. The battery packs were gaffa-ed together on a ribbon that went over my neck and shoulder, and hung by my hip.

And there you go! 

Baa goes to Dublin

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It's time for another Animal Adventure, featuring our heroine, Baa the goat! We went off to Dublin this trip, back in March.

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We flew from Heathrow, so here is the obligatory photo with the giant Harrods teddy.

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And hanging around with a teddy pretending to be a bunny.

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I couldn't find her for a few minutes - and then discovered her hanging around with the sheep in Hamleys.

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She wanted to play in the soft play area, but it was shut. So instead she climbed on the netting, ignoring the sign. Naughty Baa!

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We had to walk a fair distance to get to our gate. Baa was impressed that we went over a bridge across the road, without leaving the airport.

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There's our plane!

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Looking out the plane window. It was raining.

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The meeting was held at Croke Park in Dublin, in the corporate boxes. It was a good view down onto the pitch.

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Baa kept climbing on things - here she is on top of my hot chocolate cup!

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And nibbling on the flowers in the hotel room.

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No Baa! Not on top of the tv! You'll hurt yourself!

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She thought the coffee machine was a shower, just her size. Luckily I didn't use it, otherwise she might have wound up smelling of coffee all day.

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At least climbing on the pillows means that she has a soft place to land if she falls.

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Here's the view of the Croke Park stands, right next to houses. I'll bet it gets really noisy on match days.

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Baa was very interested in the biodiversity meeting. She thought she'd fit right in.

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Climbing on the seats to listen to the presentations at the plenary meeting.

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We had some excellent music as the entertainment for the conference dinner.

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And examples of Irish dancing, done on tables! (They were very strong tables, which is good, because they didn't half get clattered on!)

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Baa was a bit annoyed that they were allowed dance on the table when she wasn't.
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So I let her on the table to admire the table decoration. She tried to eat it.

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But I managed to distract her with the deserts. She really liked the chocolate teacup! (So did I - it was yummy)

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The main room where everyone in the meeting met up for presentations had a great view of the streets of Dublin.

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And Croke Park had a great pile of cookies at morning and afternoon coffee breaks. It got a bit warm though, so they all stuck together.

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On the plane on our way home.

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Checking out the in-flight menu!

It was a bit strange, being in Ireland for a conference. But it did mean that I could catch up with an old school friend, and have dinner with my Dad, as well as do the normal conference things. Win all round!

Donkey goes to the USA - part 2: Boulder

I got into Boulder really late, and had a bit of a surprise when I opened my bag:

Donkey had found a friend in San Francisco, a raccoon called Mischief, and had brought her along too.

Donkey also decided that the daisy I knitted on the flight was yummy.

Oh no! There's another stowaway!

The Dalek chased Mischief and Donkey around the hotel room.

They managed to hide for a few minutes

And eventually got the Dalek to surrender when they threatened it with a blast from the hair dryer.

After all that running around, Donkey was really hungry. Luckily, my pancakes with berries went down a treat!

It was a beautiful day at NCAR, bright and sunny.

With amazing views too!

There's a science centre in the main building with lots of cool stuff to look at, like this lightning tube...

...and this quartz crystal....

... and dinosaur footprints...

... and fossils.

They even have an old Cray supercomputer (Sorcha shown for scale).

It was a beautiful day, as you can see!

The next morning, the weather was a lot different! This was the view from my hotel room.

Facing that weather, the only sensible thing to do was to have a big breakfast!

I met up with some lovely friends of mine, who looked after me for the weekend, and we went to a supermarket to pick up a few things for a party that evening. It being a month away from Easter, there was a huge display of Easter toys and sweets.

Donkey really wanted to try out these carrot cupcakes.

But she wasn't sure what this decoration was supposed to be. (As for me, I was happy to see a Cake Wreck in the wild!)

And of course, a massive display of St Patrick's day stuff.

Just to show how cold it was - the fountain outside the hotel dining room had frozen.

Of course, we had to do some shopping (not pictured). Donkey was very pleased to see a copy of the Doctor Who roleplaying game on sale in Barnes and Noble. (I was pleased, because there's a family connection to the publishers, Cubicle Seven, and it's good to see them getting in big shops)

We rounded off our trip with lunch at the Dunshanbe Teahouse...

...where I tried some chrysanthemum tea. It arrived in a wine glass, looking like a little ball of grass.

But it soon bloomed into a flower, and it was very, very nice tea.

And that was it, all bar flying home again. I did have a panic in Chicago, when it looked like I wouldn't make my connection. Thankfully I made it, even if my suitcase didn't (it arrived home the next day).

It was definitely an eventful trip, and I was very glad to get home. But I do have to say a big thank you to all the wonderful people who looked after me and entertained me and rescued me from airports! You're brilliant! 
Back in February, I was off on another work trip, this time to a conference in San Francisco, coming back via Boulder, Colorado for a seminar. Donkey was the lucky toy who got to come with me this time.

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She was very pleased to meet the horse at Heathrow.

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And she likes looking at the planes before we got on the plane.

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On the plane she was very (very!) impressed with the selection of in-flight movies.

We were planning on arriving into Newark and then flying up to Buffalo for the weekend to spend time with family, but unfortunately Buffalo was fog-bound. So they cancelled my flight. After I'd waited for eight hours. And then I got told that the earliest they could get me to Buffalo was Monday morning (when I needed to be at my conference in San Francisco).

Thankfully I have cousins who live in New Jersey, and they rescued me. Unfortunately, my luggage stayed lost in the depths of Newark airport. I finally got it back on the Tues night.

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It was a lovely bright sunny morning on the Saturday, and the world seemed a nicer place after some sleep. (I was very grumpy after having my flight cancelled and my suitcase lost, and getting to my cousin's house very late!) There was loads of snow on the ground too, which donkey was very impressed by as she'd not seen snow before.

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We spent most of the day at a swim meet, because my first-cousin-once-removed A was racing. She did very well.

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Donkey was very impressed with the trophies, especially the gold baseball glove. (I had to explain that that trophy was for baseball, not swimming)

On Sunday I flew to San Francisco, and then had to do some shopping because my suitcase went to Buffalo and I needed clothes to wear.

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We had dinner in an old fashioned diner which was connected to my hotel.

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Southern fried chicken - yum! Donkey liked the coleslaw.

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In the hotel, Donkey climbed right to the top of the pillows.

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The opening night of the conference had a reception in the Starlight Rooms. Donkey was very impressed with the view.

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She wasn't so keen on the crowds of people though - it turns out she's a bit shy.

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My hotel was about 30 minutes walk away from the conference hotel, which meant I saw some really cool graffiti art.

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This one was my favourite - a peacock!

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We walked past a mosque...

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... and the Hotel California. I hope the guests there manage to check out and leave alright.

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Tiger graffiti. (Or maybe a mural - it was too detailed and big to have been done on the sly)

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Donkey was very impressed by this piledriver.
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And these feather butterflies were hanging in the ground floor window of an office block.

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A water fountain - very impressive!

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If I remember right, this is Market Street.

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And here are some Chinese dolls in a shop window.

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The conference had lots of food. Donkey especially appreciated the apples.

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And thought the conference venue was very grand.

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Though not as grand as the conference dinner venue, with its mural...

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... and art deco architecture...

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...and shiny door. (For me and my poor feet, the conference dinner was distinctly lacking in chairs, especially as we'd been standing up for the previous 2 hours at the poster session...)

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After the conference finished, I went with a friend to find some dinner. We wound up in a traditional American bar first.

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And then had a very nice dinner in a very nice restaurant (which looked a bit Parisian to me)

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Donkey approved of the menu.

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The hotel was a rare American one which did breakfast included. It was grand, even if breakfast was limited to bagels, yoghurt, juice and coffee.

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My room didn't have much of a view, unfortunately.

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We had a bit of time before flying out to have a wander around San Francisco. In a bookshop I saw this wall of Monopolies.

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There was a market in the UN plaza.

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And I think this is City Hall.

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We rounded off the trip to San Francisco with noodles and tempura at the airport, before flying out to Denver for the final leg of the trip.