Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Trip Day 4, Masham and Theakston's Brewery Tour

It's a happy place...

Beer, beer and more beer.  Theakston's Brewery kegs.

On the 4th day of our journey we bode York a fond farewell, enjoyed a full English breakfast, walked the walls one more time and made our way to Masham.

Garden House B&B in Masham

Masham is a Beautiful small town not far from York (you can Google Map it) in the Yorkshire Dales region as they call it. We wish we'd have spent more days in that area but regrettably did not plan the time. An article in Beer Advocate magazine said "You know you love beer when: You plan vacations around trips to breweries". Guilty! We stayed the night at the Garden House B&B and highly recommend it for anyone looking to travel to Masham or visit Theakson's. You can travel by train from York to North Allerton and then call LadyBird taxi service to come pick you up.

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I had every intention on visiting the Theakston's Brewery while I was in England. Back when I was in London in 2005 we just happened to duck into a pub called the Green Man and French Horn while it was pouring. They had several beers that I had not tried on tap, one of them was called Old Peculier. Now this beer was one of the best beers I've ever had. Completely unique... rich, sweet and creamy but not too sweet... with something special about it. I had three of them, had a great time in the pub and walked straight into a lamp post afterwards.

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Above is a picture of me from 2005 at the Green Man and French Horn. Cheers! Ever since then I've wanted to visit the Theakston's brewery and we did! It was great! My only regret is we took the last tour of the day and did not get to spend as much time in their fine bar afterwards as we would have liked. Check out their bar below.

Inside the Theakston's Brewery Pub

The tour was fun because the guide was personable and entertaining. Being that Theakston's is a small, independent brewery you get a real sense of the craft and care that is put into their beer. I'm not just blowing sunshine up their ass, I've been to major "corporate" breweries before that "brew" billions of gallons of beer each year much like you might mix a pitcher of Cool-Aid. However, when you visit one of these independent breweries like Theakston's or Samuel Smith you see first hand the old fashioned gravity system used to make the beer from start to finish, from top to bottom.

Inside the Theakston's Brewery Tour

I saw the beer fermenting in legendary Yorkshire Squares made of slate. Mmmm... who knows, maybe there's Old Peculier in there?

Yorkshire Squares

After the tour we both sampled 2 half pints of beer and the even better surprise was the Old Peculier that was served on cask in their pub was the freshest, creamiest and best Old Peculier that I've ever had. I enjoyed the fine balance of the unique sweet taste with the taste of the alcohol that they pull off. It is a strong beer and tastes like it, but that's part of the charm. Their Theakson's Bitter is also an excellent beer and one of the best bitters we had on our trip.

Later that evening we dined at the King's Head Hotel that served Old Peculier on cask.

A special thanks to Simon Theakston who posted the following comment on my blog earlier:


I'm delighted that you enjoyed tasting our beers whilst visiting our brewery in Masham recently. I very much look forward to welcoming you once again in the very near future.

Kindest regards

Simon Theakston

Mr. Theakston, we'd be there tonight if we could! Thank you to everyone at Theakston's and Sue and George Furby at the Garden House for making our visit to Masham a very memorable one. Onward to day 5 in Durham!

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Pictures of town and Theakston's above taken with Canon Digital Rebel XTi w/ 17-85mm IS lens. Interior shots (with exception of the really rich bar shot) taken with Canon Powershot SD500. Photos Copyright © 2007 Mark Bussler are not to be reproduced without my permission.

Trip Day 3, York in Northern England

Yorkminster Cathedral, York

Photo above is Yorkminster Cathedral. Look how small the people are! Click all images on this post for larger image.

On the third day of our trip to England we woke up and walked the walls of York. York is a beautiful town in the North of England that retains much of its Roman/Norman character and is very well preserved. Tight streets lined with neat shops and restaurants weave through the unique city that comes surrounded with walls that are still mostly intact. The walls are very well preserved and were actually expanded in the 1890's for walking. You can see in the picture below the Norman wall built on top of the ancient Roman wall. Photos taken with Canon XTi Digital Rebel with 17-85mm IS lens. Click to bring up bigger image.

The Walls of York

This was our second time visiting York and we were happy to spend more time in the mighty Yorkminster. You could easily spend a week in there looking at the architecture and details. Some of the finest stained glass in all of Europe is fully intact in York. (next two shots photographed with 300mm IS lens)

Stained glass window in Yorkminster Cathedral.

View from inside and outside one of their massive stained glass windows.

Window of Yorkminster Cathedral

We paid the extra few pounds and walked to the top of the tower. Now I'm a fairly big guy compared to the people who built this thing hundreds of years ago, so climbing the hundreds of little steps in the circular staircase to the top wasn't my favorite part of the trip. But the view was spectacular.

View from the top of Yorkminster Cathedral overlooking York, England

A photograph inside Yorkminster. What is really amazing about this kind of cathedral is that it was built before machines, power tools and computers. I doubt that it could be built today with the same kind of attention to detail.

Inside Yorkminster Cathedral

We also took our second "free walking tour" of the city. Free tours are offered once or twice a day (Check the Tourist Information in York for details) and I highly recommend them. You learn about the walls, the stories, the history and cathedral. We also took a ghost walk in the evening!!! Although I saw no ghosts.

Yorkminster at sunset

York is full of great pubs and eating establishments. We enjoyed the Old White Swan and Ye Olde Starre Inn while we were in town. And of course the King's Arms by the river (The pub that floods!). They have a brick bar, sturdy beams and a lack of carpeting. There is a sign on the wall showing how high the water rose each time it was flooded. In 2000 it would have been completely over the bar!

Not only are the people there friendly but they serve all kinds of Samuel Smith beers on tap. Samuel Smith is one of my favorite beers. It is brewed not far away from York in a small town called Tadcaster. I visited their brewery back in 2005 and had a great time.

Samuel Smith Bitter and Samuel Smith Pure Brewed Lager

Excellent! In the picture above I'm holding a pint of Samuel Smith Bitter in one hand and Pure Brewed Lager in the other. I also sampled the Samuel Smith Alpine Lager but preferred the Pure Brewed. At a different pub I tried their wheat beer which I really enjoyed. Ironically it tasted a lot like Penn Brewery Weisen which is brewed in Pittsburgh and consistently wins national awards.

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Above is Emperor Constantine! Or at least a statue of him. No photos are to be reproduced without permission. All photos Copyright © 2007 Mark Bussler.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Trip Day 1&2 - Pittsburgh to York

The first two days of our U.K. trip with no sleep combined to make one day. One very, very long day. We woke up in the morning and headed off to the Pittsburgh airport where we boarded our Southwest airlines flight to Philadelphia!

Southwest Airlines Rules!

Generally I don’t say anything negative on my blog. I tend to follow the rule that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. So I won’t say a thing about the Philadelphia airport.

Kudos to Southwest for being a great airline. Even on the relatively short flight from Pittsburgh to Philly they make it enjoyable with friendly staff and pilots who tell jokes.

After a short layover in the town of fantastic cheesesteaks (although you can't get any of the good ones at the airport!) we boarded our British Airways flight to Heathrow in England.

British Airways Boeing 777 parked before boarding

BA has also proved to be a great airline with good customer service. Typically I can’t stand long flights. This time I was armed with my iPod, a few episodes of Star Trek, some g&t’s and the little airplane map thingy on the screen. I like this feature because it seems like the video game airplane can make it over the ocean safely. And it did!

Fly airplane, fly!!

Fly airplane, fly! If I will it hard enough, it goes where I want it to.

80 gig video ipod with Star Trek, engage!

The new iPod has enough Futurama, Star Trek and Brisco County Jr. installed on it to keep me entertained for hours. I found some software online from Cucusoft and ripped my DVDs to it (DVD to iPod converter).

After landing in Heathrow and standing in the immigration line until the end of time we caught a train to York. I didn’t sleep a wink on the plane of course (couldn’t take my eye off the screen with the animated airplane) so I tried to catch a few z’s on train.

Upon arriving at York, completely exhausted and begging to take a nap, my wife (who is tougher than I am) dragged me out and forced me to go have fun. I solved this problem of no sleep by going to my favorite pub in York, The King’s Arms, for a few well deserved Samuel Smith bitters. We caught a meal after that and enjoyed the rest of the day walking the walls and taking in York.

The King's Arms in York, the pub that floods!

The King's Arms in York is known as the "Pub that Floods". It has flooded many times in the past few decades and is made of solid rock for the most part. They have no carpets (wisely) and a beautiful bar. I'll post more pictures of it on day 3.

The Yorkminster Cathedral in York, England

Pictured above is Yorkminster Cathedral. York is a beautiful city with so much to see. Yorkminster Cathedral is simply amazing and these pictures hardly do it justice. It is very old and it is very big. We don’t have these kind of things in the States.

One of the old city entrances in York, called a bar

To end the day we picked another pub at random to grab a beer.

End day 1&2!

City of York, England, at night

Back from the U.K.!

Bollocks! We're back from our 2 week trip of England and Scotland. My wife and I had planned for nearly a year to return to the U.K. and see more of the country. We had been there in 2005 and really enjoyed the country, people, history, food and beer. Most people think we're crazy but we love cellar temperature cask pulled ales, fish and chips and cottage pie with mushy peas. Yum!

Fish and chips with mushy peas in York, England

We practically circled England and even made our way into Scotland for a few days. Since my film production is pretty much confined to editing at the moment, and that's usually not the most exciting thing to blog about, I'll be using my blog to let friends, family and readers know the day by day account of our fantastic trip.

Mark Bussler in St. Ives, England

Above is a shot of me at St. Ives on the very Southwest tip of England.

Here's the overview of our trip. Starting in Pittsburgh we bounced from Philadelphia to Heathrow Airport outside of London and went straight to York (one of our favorite cities on Earth!). We then visited Masham, Durham, Stirling, Doune, Keswick in the Lake District, Penzance, St. Ives, Canterbury, Heathrow to Philadelphia and finally back to Pittsburgh.

Photography in the Lake District

We both love photography and planned to photodocument our entire trip every step of the way. Above is a photo of my wife using our Canon Digital Rebel XTi on top of Castle Crag overlooking Derwentwater Lake in the Lake District. We're both interested in history, architecture and fine brewing so we saw many cathedrals, castles and visited a few breweries on our trip. And a "few" pubs.

Mark Bussler at the Theakston's Brewery in Masham

There is a nice picture of me sitting at the bar at the Theakston's Brewery in Masham. As everyone knows I love beer and my favorite beer on earth comes from the North of England in the Yorkshire region. There's just something magical in the water up there. I was fortunate to visit the Samuel Smith's Brewery for my 30th birthday in Tadcaster a few years ago. Visiting Theakston's this trip was a real treat. Old Peculier is one of the best beers ever made... although I think I'm holding a sample half pint of Theakston's XB in that photo. Their Theakston's Bitter is excellent and was one of the best bitters that we enjoyed during our trip.

Mark Bussler at Doune Castle where they filmed Monty Python and The Holy Grail

Here's a great shot of me sitting in Doune Castle in Scotland. That was one of my favorite days because not only was Doune Castle beautiful, well preserved and a lot of fun to tour without any bastardized commercialism or forced tours... but they also filmed Monty Python and the Holy Grail there! They even let visitors borrow coconuts to clack around the castle (which I did and I have video).

You may notice the location where I'm sitting from the scene where Michael Palin's character walks into the room full of ladies in Castle Anthrax. I had our video iPod with us to make sure we were at all the correct spots.

I'll start with day 1&2 on my next blog post. I'll combine those days because we stayed up for 2 days straight when traveling over there. We photographed the entire trip with both cameras, our Canon XTi and Canon PowerShot SD500. I'll be posting small and some enlarged versions of our photographs from the big camera. None of the photographs on this blog are permitted to be used anywhere or reproduced without my permission. However I hope that you enjoy them and let us know what you think!Cheers!

Theakston's Old Peculier from the Theakston's Brewery in Masham

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Westinghouse Film Update May 8, 2007

Work has been proceeding at a very steady pace for the past few months on the upcoming film about George Westinghouse. I am the writer, producer and director of the film so I get to see it every single day. All day, every day. I have air brakes and friction draft gears and alternating current generators coming out of my ears. Any day now I'll be drilling for natural gas in my back yard... but my wife refuses to let me put a derrick there. I don't think our dog would be too thrilled either.

Stella, a German Shepherd Chow Chow Mix

I do not have a release date as of yet for the DVD or HDTV broadcast but hope to in the next few months. The feature length documentary film will be internationally distributed by Inecom Entertainment Company. Those who are familiar with Mr. Westinghouse will be glad to know that I have been working with the George Westinghouse Museum and Ed Reis on the project.

All of the High Definition production and post-production work is being done in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. An enormous collection of still photos, 16mm film, old Westinghouse archival footage and never-before seen footage has been collected. It looks great. I'm biased, but trust me it looks great.

The script is written, footage is shot and I'm editing the film which is why I have no exciting production photos to show at the moment. I'm happy with the script because it gives viewers of all interest levels an entertaining ride through his life, his achievments, his legacy, his personality and his competition with Thomas Edison and the Battle of the Currents. And much more... (like Elektro the moto-man and Sparko!)

Stay tuned for more Westinghouse film related information and production news.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Dumbest Bird Ever

This dumb-ass bird has been repeatedly checking itself out and then flying into our living room window for a week now. I thought it was funny and wanted to share it with everyone. That and I wanted to mock him. Maybe he can clean the window when he's done or at least buy us some double pane windows.

Dumbest Bird in the Universe and Pennsylvania

Shot with Canon Rebel XTi w/ 300mm IS Zoom Lens.