Scuba Diving - Vobster Quay

Janine and Tony from Southern Scuba offered me the opportunity to come along to Vobster Quay last weekend. Vobster is a fresh water inland limestone quarry in Somerset, about a three hour drive from home. A perfect chance to get into the water and start diving after the Christmas.

vobster

This was my first time I had been to Vobster and I was very impressed with their setup, a good flat area for kitting up and getting ready, with most spots under cover. They had a good sized shop, hot food/drinks and an attended fill station. The kitting up area is right next to the car park too, so no need to walk a long way or carry equipment very far. One of the coolest features is their wristband 'tab' system, which allows you to buy what you need, gas, food, drink, accessories and then simply pay when you're finished.

Vobster was the first chance I have had to try my new regulators and BCD out which I bought just before Christmas, they have been sitting patiently in the cupboard at home. The Regulators I had serviced by Kent Diving a few weeks back and was keen to make sure they worked as they should. Both BCD and regulators were fantastic, very happy with them and despite being second hand look and appear brand new. It really makes a huge difference using equipment that is mine to use and tweak to my preference.

Me with my new regulators and BCD

Me with my new regulators and BCD

Janine & Patrick at the car

Janine & Patrick at the car

We did two dives over the Sunday and saw some interesting underwater attractions, a very large boat, tunnel, toilet(!), commercial jet plane and a car. The dives wern't too deep, most of the time we were about 12 meters down. I managed to get quite cold in a leaky dry suit, but enjoyed all of the dives and can't wait to come back and do some more exploring.

This year is going to be a busy year for diving, aiming to get my PADI Sidemount, Rescue and Nitrox certifications in order to be ready for a liveaboard trip to Egypt in September. Once I have those certifications completed I should be in a good place to either move to Master Scuba Diver or progress into Divemaster.

The (Sleepy!) Pearl of The Adriatic - Dubrovnik

Last year was always going to be difficult to top, Monaco was absolutely fantastic and we had a wonderful time; we relaxed, enjoyed good food and embraced the rich and famous lifestyle – we even flew in a helicopter! This year I was determined to try and continue our February city break tradition and after nowhere near enough research or preparation I decided that we should give Dubrovnik, Croatia a visit.

Dubrovnik Old City

Dubrovnik Old City

Dubrovnik is not a place I had a particular desire to visit, although pictures of the old town, along the coastline certainly made it quite appealing and were definitely the biggest selling point. The town has recently become synonymous with the Game of Thrones franchise, many scenes from ‘King’s Landing’ are filmed here, which is pretty interesting. The other big reason for picking here is that Croatia is a country I have not yet visited and I have a personal quest to visit four new countries/territories this year (see my list); so there was that too...

The flight out to Dubrovnik was exceptionally and painfully early in the morning; of the many, many flights I have logged in flightdiary it is the earliest I have ever taken. Not really sure why it needed to be so early, but we didn’t have too much of a choice, there is only one flight every other day and nobody only British Airways fly direct from London during winter. Despite this, it gave us a good headstart on the day. Once we arrived it was a short taxi drive to the old city, getting there was far simpler than the internet would have you believe. Thirty euros to a transfer website and there was a chap waiting for us at the terminal, easy. The old city is completely pedestrianized so the closest a taxi will get you is a spot called Pile Gate where it’s time to grab the bags and walk!

Dubrovnik Harbour

Dubrovnik Harbour

St Lawrence Fortress

St Lawrence Fortress

The Airbnb was fantastic! A very strange bedroom downstairs and kitchen upstairs type affair but it was comfortable, cozy and all we needed. The street outside was absolutely to die for, old brick, with buildings squeezed in together with narrow, steep steps to the main street. I had some reservations that the streets might be fabricated for tourism or that many of the pictures online are of one tiny spot and the rest was nothing like it, I promise you, there is not an ugly street in the city!

Dubrovnik Old City Street

Dubrovnik Old City Street

On the first day we walked about the City Walls, these are the dominant feature of Dubrovnik and surround the city in order to defend against attack. The structures are a result of work that took place between the 7th and 17th century, the majority of their present definition is from work that took place around the 14th century where after the city-state of Dubrovnik flourished through maritime trade. The history of the walls is thoroughly impressive and it’s an absolute marvel that they are still standing in such great condition. They are along with the city itself one of Croatia’s seven UNESCO World Heritage Locations. If you plan on visiting the walls, be prepared for a reasonable amount of physical activity, it’s a good distance around the city and there are plenty of incline changes and steps involved, do take water, especially if it’s summer time!

Being winter there wasn’t a particularly large number of restaurants and bars open which was unfortunate, the city was quiet but there was a great place open called Posat. Not a cheap place but we were very well looked after; to eat we shared a fresh fish cooked to order and a soup made from the head and cheeks! We drank Croatian wine which was surprisingly good and even had space for deserts. Certainly recommended if you do choose to visit, I would expect that during summer booking would be essential.

Laurence & Victoria with Lokrum Island in the background

Laurence & Victoria with Lokrum Island in the background

The second day we took things much easier, we had a coffee on the square and took a slow walk around the city. We found that we could walk around the walls alongside the sea to get a great view of the surrounding islands and sheer vertical walls of the city. There are numerous small hidden doorways out to the cliffs, our favourite was one which led to a place called Buza Bar. This is probably the best view from any bar I’ve been to, with unhindered views across towards Lokrum Island and the Adriatic. We didn’t stay for the sunset, but apparently it’s quite spectacular. As with Posat, I imagine this place is an absolute zoo in the summer months, and certainly is one of the coolest bars in the city. If you ever go to Dubrovnik, it’s essential you don’t miss this. Towards the end of the day we had a nap (because we were completely exhausted form the day before!) and ended up watching the England vs Wales Six Nations game in the Irish Pub. Glad we did as the game was absolutely fantastic and England won.

Laurence on the cliffs

Laurence on the cliffs

By Sunday we were very tired indeed! We had a bit of a lay in, which was a bit weird, all we could hear was people walking up and down the steps outside. We got up, pulled ourselves together and decided to go on a big walk. We headed out of the old city and towards Lapad and the main marina area of Dubrovnik. It wasn’t the sunniest of days but the walk was pretty good and we found a cool street with cafes and bars that was much less tourist-focused. As with the old city a lot of places were closed for winter, but we made do and still had a good time enjoying the scenery. Exhausted and hungry we got the bus back to the town, which was really quite easy. Without much hanging around we hit the Irish pub for a beer and a burger – now regulars, along with almost everyone else who was there, who all of course happened to be on the same BA flight.

Gruz Harbour, Dubrovnik

Gruz Harbour, Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik is certainly one of the stranger places we’ve been to, although I can’t quite put my finger on why that’s the case. It has some great history, fantastic food and a weird European vibe that we’ve not experienced before. That said, it was a great trip and we had a fantastic time enjoying the city and despite it being winter time, actually enjoyed the peace, quiet and new surroundings. Would we go back? Probably, although we wouldn’t rush back, where Monaco we certainly would rush back!

Cisco Live EMEA 2017 - What to Expect

Today I am lucky enough to be going travelling to Berlin, Germany with one of my colleagues; we'll be attending Cisco's annual conference Cisco Live EMEA. As many of you will likely know Cisco Live is the go to event for network engineering folks the world over, with classes, seminars and presentations from all manner of people across all kinds of topics.

Having not been to Cisco Live before I have tried to plan to focus my visit on subjects which are most important in our organisation at present. I can't however help but notice that there is a significant focus towards Cisco ACI, Automation, Application API Programmability, 'Zero-touch', etc. Almost all of these sessions are completely full, which demonstrates a very clear interest in the industry towards this area, something I look forward to hearing and seeing more of during the trip.

During the conference I have scheduled to attend the below sessions and plan on writing about them after and possibly even tweeting live!

  • Be my guest! - Design and Deploy Wireless Guest Access that Works [BRKEWN-2014]
  • WiFi Considerations for the Open Workspace [PSOEWN-2000]
  • Simplify Application and Infrastructure Deployments Using F5 BIG-IP and Cisco Nexus [BRKPLT-2300]
  • Nexus 9000/7000/6000/5000 Operations and Maintenance Best Practices [BRKDCT-2458]
  • Securely Designing Your Wireless LAN for Threat Mitigation, Policy and BYOD [BRKEWN-2005]
  • Ethernet Evolving - Ethernet at New Speeds, Deterministic Networking, and Power over Everything! [BRKCRS-3900]
  • Cisco Catalyst 3850 and 3650 Series Switching Architecture [BRKARC-3438]
  • Intermediate - Enterprise IPv6 Deployment [BRKRST-2301]

Particularly looking forward to the Nexus Maintenance Best Practices and WiFi sessions; both of these solutions are being adopted and depended upon more and more in our Enterprise.

Bodmin Moor and The Cheesewring

We decided that today was a great day for a walk, it wasn’t raining and it wasn’t too cold, just a normal mild December day. The destination was Bodmin moor, just a short drive from where we are staying with family in Cornwall. I had been told there was a large ‘Cheesewring’ rock formation on the top of a hill and with such a peculiar description I needed little more in the way of invitation to go and see it for myself!

We parked at a small car park in the village of Minions (yes, like from the film), I believe the car park belongs to the Minions Heritage Project and is located here. The walk from the car to the Cheesewring is around a mile, in a north-north-west direction across marshy moorland, it’s pretty easy to find. Scattered across the route were sheep, cows and even wild horses, the marshland was covered in very strange crater-like holes, some of which were really quite picturesque and almost creepy!

The walk didn’t take too long although the walk up the granite-ridden hill towards the actual Cheesewring formation was a bit more demanding it was certainly an easy walk for most able people. The rock formation itself is completely natural, known as a Tor and is formed through weathering of the granite rock, which is quite unbelievable given the scale and height of the thing. It really is quite impressive and even more so for something that’s completely natural.

My hope was to climb on top of the rocks and stand for a picture, but on closer assessment it really isn’t something that could be scaled without assistance. They really are quite high and towards the middle there is a larger protruding rock that hinders any attempt to climb up! There is a smaller rock formation slightly higher on the same hill that is much less complex and can be climbed to provide a fantastic view of the moor, in the distance you can just about make out Plymouth Sound and the Tamar Valley.

The Cheesewring is not the only worthy sight close to Minions, there is a group of Megalithic stones known as The Hurlers which are completely accessible and similar to the famous Stonehenge although on a smaller scale, they are quite impressive and although I cannot find a reliable source on age they’re certainly incredibly old. In addition to this there are a plethora of Cornish mines scattered across the moor and beyond in varying states of ruin.

If you’re after a short walk in east Cornwall then this is perfect, it has a great balance of things to see and do whilst also providing stunning views across Cornwall and Devon. Oh, and of course there’s no better way to top it off with a nice cold pint at a pub, we stopped off at the ‘Who’d Have Thought It Inn’ a St Austell Brewery pub with great service and even better beer.