Thursday, 1 March 2012

London Velodrome opens for the 2012 Olympic Games

The London Prepares LOGOC track cycling tryout event for the coming London 2012 Olympic games was held in February as part of the series of events to test facilities at the new venues including the velodrome, aquatic centre and olympic stadium. A sellout crowd had a great opportunity to see the athletes who will be competing later this year and The Great Britain Cycling Team GB had a strong showing, topping the final medal table. The team included Sir Chris Hoy on great form winning two Gold Medals,

Victoria Pendleton and Jessica Varnish

To see my full set of stock photos of the London Velodrome click HERE

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Review of the Kanuni Kervensaray Hotel, Cesme Turkey

After a booking at a nearby hotel had to be changed due to some local difficulties I was offered a move to the Kanuni Kervensaray Hotel, Cesme Turkey during the last week in April 2011. The hotel is unique in the area, not newly built but the shell of an original Ottoman caravanserai building completely reconstructed. It looks inward to a courtyard with pool and the brochure shows the suites and better rooms decorated in a style of sumptuous Ottoman excess, (cue fantasy of belly dancers and concubines feeding you pomegranate). Like my fantasy though my stay here was unfulfilling. The concept is full of eastern promise but a successful hotel is more then a building and my stay had a series of setbacks which though not serious individually add up to more than the sum of the parts.

An important factor for anyone thinking of travelling to this region is that the season doesn't start to get going until Mayday. This became apparent on walking through the impressive entrance archway with its beautifully painted ceiling. The swimming pool was empty and a couple of handymen were tinkering with the underwater lighting system. No hope of a swim then. The traditional architectural style dictates that the window looks inwards onto the inner courtyard with its access balcony but this means that the window is small to deter passers by from looking in and the overall effect is rather claustrophobic.. The redevelopment of the old structure presented the puzzle of how to fit in the ensuite bathrooms into the bedrooms with their arched ceilings. The solution is a large box construction which combines bathroom with wardrobe and mini bar. My room failed to fulfil the expectations generated by the brochure, a sultan might perhaps have allotted it to one of the lesser Eunuchs. It was typical of the larger standard rooms but did not seem to be as generously proportioned as those featured in the brochure's “creative” photography. To sum up the style: Travel Lodge meets the Alhambra.

Unfortunately after a winter of closure my room had developed a rather stale smell which seems to come from a growth of mould under the sink The porous nature of the natural stone mosaic tiling, (which does look very nice), is unfortunately a ideal habitat for the dreaded damp shower mould spores and needs more than the cursory daily clean by the room maids. A start of the season deep clean of each bathroom might prevent this problem. Another issue I found was that the boiler was not turned up enough to provide hot water on my arrival. The storage tank is a large one and it took a day to get up to full temperature.

One curious feature, again due to poor organization during the seasonal start up is that for the first two nights of my stay the bed was made up without an upper sheet. I must admit that I thought it strange that my cover was rather thick (which I assumed was some Ottoman eccentricity of decor) but I realized when I saw other rooms being made up with quilts, (missing from my room), that I had actually been using just a white coverlet. Another failure of the hotel to come out of hibernation was in forgetting to clean and change any of the rooms until after my return at 1800hrs to find the bed unmade. This prompted a frenzy of room cleaning which would have been comical to see if not for my severely tried patience. The staff however continued to walk past a box of rubbish including soiled bathroom tissue which had been sitting on one of the tables outside a room for at least a day and a half..

As the Mayday weekend approached I watched the hotel falling into shape. The pool was filled, and comfortable chairs put out in the courtyard and on Saturday night I returned to find the courtyard bustling with a group of about fifty young ladies and a long table being set out for dinner. The hen party, I think, were a college reunion and the party was in full swing at ten and only half way through their meal when I returned from my dinner in town. All were reminiscing at full volume with a few Efes beers inside them and with a live guitarist for accompaniment the noise echoed around the courtyard putting paid to any idea of having a quiet read of my book before retiring. At 2320 the girls went off for the next part of their evening leaving only the clattering of crockery from the staff clearing away to break the peace then silence until their return at 0230.

History repeated itself on my last night when I returned to again find my room still being cleaned and made up at just after 1700 with an assurance from the manageress that this is “normal”. If so this is a particularly unfortunate policy as the hotel has no comfortable inside lounge, and guests returning to the hotel in the afternoon expecting to have a comfortable relax on the sofas outside the rooms have the prospect of having staff working cleaning and ferrying linen through their lounge area.

In fairness I must say that all the junior staff were most pleasant, polite and helpful and that any problems are due to the managers failure to understand what running a high class hotel is about which is attention to detail. Perhaps things are different in high season. I am not optimistic as I get a feeling that there is a sense complacency in the management. The promotion of the hotel may lead clients to believe that they will be visiting the equivalent of a Spanish Poussada or a French Relais de Silence. Not so I fear. If the Sultan who built the caravanserai came back I think he would be wielding his scimitar!

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Kolocep, Croatia

Kolocep is one of those places where you can't stay long before starting to feel rather proprietorial. It's a small  island just a short boat trip from the bustling city of Dubrovnik, and as soon as you step off the ferry you can sense the peaceful atmosphere of a place with no roads and whose motorised traffic is limited to the hotel's electric buggies and the occasional puttering of the little cultivators that double up as family transport.

After a couple of days, whilst you don't  resent the tripper boats and their little groups being guided around,  you get a nice feeling when the last one sails away and you can sit overlooking the harbour on "your" island sipping a beer as you wait for the sun to go down over neighbouring Lopud.

No-one could accuse Kolocepof having been spoilt. The island has only one hotel, the Villas Kolocep which overlooks the bay and is on the best (and only )beach. Accommodation is in a group of separate buildings set up in the slopes and set in pleasant gardens.

There is one posh restaurant on the island, a pizzeria and two harbourside bars, one with food,one without. one mini-market, one gift shop, a post office and one lady selling crochet  bootees.

Rather than being a bad thing this lack of choice ensures that there are no distractions from the serious business of relaxing and there is no agonizing over where to eat.

 If you get tired of just doing nothing there are watersports, sailing or kayaking, the clear sea is great for snorkelling and you can explore the many walking tracks as I did coming across tiny chapels, ruins and the dramatic cliffs on the other side of the island.

If getting an all-over tan is your ambition the rocky naturist area is hidden well away from the main beach.

To see all of my stock photos of Kolocep, Lopud and the Elafiti Islands

Friday, 26 February 2010

Robert Lenkiewicz

When you take a photo you may be capturing something which would otherwise be lost forever. It never occurred to me that when I took some photos around the back streets of Plymouth Barbican thirty odd years ago that I mght be creating a historical document. The subject was the Robert Lenkiewicz mural which was something of a local landmark. In particular I was struck by a small section of the bottom of the huge painting which covers an entire gable end of a building. It is a self portrait of the artist as a youg man before he grew his trademark beard. He is holding paint brushes and a begging bowl lying in the gutter next to an unconscious drunk who was modelled by a vagrant known as the Bishop and was familiar figure in Plymouth. The juxtaposition of the two figures made an interesting composition so I took a close up shot. Many years later I made a scan of the slide and it is a great self portrait of Robert Lenkiewicz  looking out of the picture imploringly at the viewer.Unfortunately the passage of time has not been kind to the mural. It is now covered in battens from an attempt to protect it but the paint is faded and flaking. Perhaps my photo will one day be the only detailed record of this section of a lost masterpiece.

To see my stock photos of Plymouth Barbican CLICK HERE

The mural photo is not available at my agency and depending on use he original art work may be subject to Copyright of the Lenkeiwicz estate. Please contact me to discuss an proposals to reproduce it. I assert my copyright on the actual photo and my composition of  the image as my own new artwork.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Sveti Stefan and Montenegro

The famous Sveti Stefan Hotel was created by converting a historic fortified fishing village during communist rule in the former Yugoslavia under Marshall Tito. The accommodation is in the style of individual cottages set around little gardens linked by a rabbit warren of narrow cobbled alleys and steps. The privacy of the location on a rocky isthmus connected by a narrow causeway has made the hotel a magnet for movie stars and celebrities and it was on the shortlist of destinations for Charles’ and Diana’s honeymoon. Then came the Balkan civil wars and although Montenegro was not directly involved, the embargo on tourism forced the hotel into a sort of limbo, ticking over without western visitors. It was during this period that the Hotel hosted the notorious chess matches between American Bobby Fischer and Russian Boris Spassky. Fischer was convicted of sanction busting in the American courts and went into exile as a result.

Now that sanctions are over and tourism has restarted, Sveti Stefan has returned to some of its former glory. Because of its unique geographic location it is an instantly recognisable symbol of Montenegro, their Eiffel Tower or Tower Bridge, and it is pictured on the cover of the country’s only guide book. The hotel is very much the “Flagship” for hospitality in Montenegro and the government use it to impress important visitors. The dining terrace perched on top of a cliff is often used for State banquets and during my two week stay the Montenegrin President hosted a reception for foreign investors and a dinner for the Russian Prime Minister. The normal business of the hotel isn’t disturbed by these occasions and the dignitaries pass through the common lounges to their dining area. Guests watching football on TV were surprised to have the two Heads of State join them for the last half hour of a match.

Of Montenegro itself, the country is still a best kept secret with beautiful coast, gorges, national parks, and a Unesco World Heritage Site around the Bay of Kotor with its many fine, (if slightly decaying), examples of Venetian architecture. To see my stock photos of Sveti Stefan and Montenegro click HERE

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Bradley Wiggins

Having already won World Championships and Olympic Gold medals for pursuiting on the track there was no question about the power of his "Engine", but most track riders who transfer to the road don't aspire to being more than a prologue time trial specialist. It seemed thus for Bradley Wiggins, whose previous Tour de France rides gave no hint of this years performance. With his job done at Beijing, Bradley has transformed himself into a contender for overall victory by shedding the pounds necessary to get the power to weight ratio which allows him to climb the mountains with the other main contenders for the yellow jersey and today at Verbier leave some of them struggling in his wake including Lance Armstrong who now has only a slender lead on Bradley's third place time.
To see my stock photos of Bradley Wiggins, click HERE

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Alex Hua Tian

Alex Hua Tian was the first three day eventer to represent China in the Olympic Games, competing in 2008 Beijing. He took part in a recent competition at Powderham Castle on his dappled Gray FBW Chico. He is the youngest ever Olympic rider, ranked at 21st in the World in mid 2008.

To see my stock photos of Alex Hua Tian click HERE