We have been trying to sell our house for the past 4 months and something. I am not surprised that the house is still not sold because the market is not very good now but I have to say that I am really disappointed by the real estate agents and agencies. While they are all very nice and respectful during that initial meetings, once the contract is signed they are mainly trying to make you reduce the house price. That is because in this country, even though you negotiate based on a certain percentage from the selling price, in the contract they put a fixed amount, which means they do not take any hit, no matter how low you go with the price. Which also means that after just one month of being on the market with them, at a price they suggested as realistic, they call you and ask you to reduce the price. Sometimes, quite dramatically, as in between 20-30K! They also try to send the viewers alone and they almost never give you a follow up on what viewers said. We were first with Haart, now we are with W H Brown and they are the same ūüôĀ I am currently trying to get the agent to call me back to discuss if we should take the house off the market for now and he just ignores me…As I said, agents are an utter disappointment to me. I am not sure how to find somebody I could trust.

This summer London has been taken over by Olympic and Paralympic fever! Even though I was not very excited initially (mainly due to various sponsor-related issues as well as an¬†appalling¬†ticket selling website/process), I quickly got into the fever once the Olympics started! It was nice to see London decorated, the various events on TV, as well as some canoe stuff and the closing ceremony live. When I thought it was all over, the Paralympics started and I am enjoying them immensely! While it was initially quite difficult to understand the various categories, now it all makes a bit more sense. We even managed to get tickets for 2 events, before they were all sold out! It is so amazing to see how people managed to cope with all sorts of disabilities. It was also eyes opening to understand how much variety is involved in the ‘disabled’ attribute. However, the most exciting thing was to see how the people in UK got so excited about the Paralympics! There is such a sense of celebration and pride in the venues. It’s a pity that most countries do not even show the Paralympics. I believe they provide such valuable lessons to adults and kids (with or without any disabilities), probably even more than the Olympics.

Photo albums:


Olympic  canoe sprint competition at Eton Dorney

The Olympic closing ceremony

Paralympic equestrian event at Greenwich Park

Paralympic athletic event on the Olympic Stadium

Kunst Haus

Yesterday we went to see the Hundertwasser museum in the Kunst Haus, in Vienna.

I was very impressed to see his paintings and graphic works! The world mainly knows and remembers him for the quirky buildings ¬†but these works are very original and meaningful. ¬†I have seen quite some modern art museums around the world and I can hardly remember seeing any Hundertwasser painting, which is a pity and I do not understand why! I have seen all sorts of weird paintings as empty canvases with a line in the middle (as in DC) though… Maybe I am wrong, but I just feel that his paintings are somehow neglected…

Inside the Grand Hall, Musikverein, Vienna

This time in Vienna, I thought about something different to do. So, I was looking for a way to see a concert at Musikverein, the place where the New Year’s Day concert is broadcasted from. ¬†As the lottery system of that concert means that I would probably not manage to see it any time soon, I thought that going to a concert now might be a good way to see and experience the sound of the Great Hall. So, I looked if anything was playing during our stay and I found a Mozart concert, with the Vienna Mozart Orchestra. I got the (not so cheap) tickets and looked forward to it. I cannot say how¬†disappointed¬†I was! The building is amazing, the hall is very impressive but the concert is a tourist trap! It is full of people taking pictures and talking during the concert! I had an idiot¬†behind¬†me that kept flashing with the camera all the time while his wife was humming to the music! Plus, while the orchestra played quite well, not the same could be said about the soprano, whose singing was an insult to poor Mozart. ¬†I could not wait for the intermission to come so we could leave. It’s very sad that a concert hall like that (acoustic was excellent) can allow such gimmick events to take place in there! I can only imagine how it would be to see the Royal Opera House full of idiots talking and getting up and taking pictures during the performance.

Musikverein building, Vienna

Ceiling in the entrance hall of Musikverein, Vienna

Ceiling in the entrance hall of Musikverein, Vienna

Inside the Grand Hall, Musikverein, Vienna

Inside the Grand Hall, Musikverein, Vienna

Today we went to Norfolk. We haven’t been there in a while and I was looking forward to see the see, the beach at Old Hunstanton and have a nice lunch at the Ancient Mariner. Unfortunately, this was not what we got! I like fish pie so I ordered their “homemade fish pie with mashed potatoes and fresh vegetables” but this is what I got:

It was the worst fish pie I’ve ever had: full of mayo! I did try to get the mayo away (the photo shows that cleaner version) but then I realized that all the vegetables are sitting in the mayo so I got so put off by the whole dish that I could not eat anything at all!

Dirk did try to get some of the mash and fish. This is how his plate looked after:

He could not eat any vegetables at all, obviously.

Very big¬†disappointment. We were there once before but we seem to have been lucky with whatever we picked the other time. When we told the waitress that we could not eat that food as it was swimming in mayo she said she will tell the “chef”! Seriously, calling whoever cooked that a “chef” is a bit too much! I don’t think anybody gave a damn anyway as nobody came back. We just left the place and promise to never get back there.

We’ve just come back from a long weekend in Kent. While the weather was not the best we still had a very good time going around. First day, when we drove down, we made a quick decision to spend the day at Leeds Castle instead of Sissinghurst (as initially intended), as the weather was amazing. And no regrets at all. The Leeds Castle as well as the whole area around it are very interesting and beautiful. Here are some photos from there. The highlight of that visit were the flower trees (sorry, no idea what trees they are) on the bridge near the castle entrance. Amazing explosion of flowers! The castle itself is also very interesting as it combines very old areas (it was built in 15th century) with modernized areas able to¬†accommodate¬†a 20th century living.

        

The next day we went to Canterbury. It was much colder than the previous day so I had to buy some warmer clothes. Also, we did not see much sun that day. We spent most our time in the Cathedral.

Next day, on Easter day, we went to Sissinghurst¬†garden, ¬†a very famous National Trust property created by Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson. Even though the weather was again not that good, we really enjoyed that place. It’s really beautiful and the spring flowers made up for the lack of sun!¬†Here¬†are photos from there.

    

Our visit to Sissinghurst was followed by a trip to see Rye, as I’d read that it’s a very pretty old village. I wasn’t sure initially, but when we got to Mermaid St., where all the cobbled stone streets started and we went up to the church it was indeed a really lovely place. Here¬†are more photos. We did not spend much time there this time but we’ll definitely be back!

Overall, it was a very relaxing weekend while we again saw beautiful and interesting places. Never a dull moment in this country ūüôā

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I’ve just got a camera I cannot have enough of: the Fujifilm X10! I really wanted a small camera that can take low light pictures so that I don’t have to carry a big camera when going into London for shows. I have to say that I fell in love with this camera immediately even though I am not a big fan of vintage look. But it’s so sleek while also well built, so simple while also quite serious looking. The pictures are amazing and it had so many features you can’t have enough of playing with it. The only downside is the battery lifetime but that’s a small price to pay for such a jewel: I’ve got 2 spares ūüôā¬†Here are some of my first photos with the camera, with more to be found in my recent Picasa albums.

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Update (18 Oct. 2013): the thing about battery was not true! It does last quite long but not if you keep the camera on all the time ūüôā I still love the camera after almost 2 years of usage!

This year we decided to mainly explore the area around us, so we spent some time in Norfolk, which has a pretty long and interesting coast and nice villages with very specific house style, similar to this one:
.

We also figured out that Norfolk has lots of beautiful and imposing country houses besides Sandringham for which it is more famous as that is the place where the royals spend their Christmas. Over multiple trips up there we visited Sandringham, Blickling Hall, Houghton Hall, Oxburgh Hall and Holkham Hall. During our longer stay in Norfolk we also visited Burghley House, in Lincolnshire. Besides impressive houses, Norfolk also has beautiful and varied beaches and the famous Norfolk lavender.

“The important waves of technological change are those that fundamentally alter the place of technology in our lives. What matters is not technology itself, but its relationship to us.”

From “The Coming Age of Calm Technology”, by Mark Weiser and John Seely Brown, 1996

After reading in Bill Bryson’s book, “At Home”, about the history of radio and how Marconi set up the first public broadcast station in the Writtle village, near Chelmsford, I wanted to go and see what is there. Nothing much related to that famous piece of history can be found there, as it seems that the shack from where the transmission was made was moved to Sandford Mill, but Writtle is a very cute village with well kept, imposing even, houses.

Half timbered house

Village green with duck pond

We also had a very nice lunch in the Rose&Crown pub:

Rose & Crown pub