Tuesday, December 4, 2012

My (3rd) visit to Bath 27 November 2012

I've been to Bath twice before- once with just my mom, and the second time was with my mom and my little brother.  The differences this time are: 1. I was by myself, and 2. I was not connected to any kind of tour like the last 2 times, so I had all the time I wanted.  Until things closed, at least.

So I got on my train to Bath, and it started to rain.  Of course.  However, by the time I reached my destination, about 1.5 hours, it was only cloudy.  After talking to the guy in the glass store at the end of my trip, I discovered I was actually very lucky as it had rained for the last week, and had just stopped on Tuesday (the day I was there).   Looking back, I could believe that because the river I saw while walking to the Fashion museum looked swollen and fast and cold.

It took me about 20-25 minutes to walk from the train station to the Fashion Museum...I had not counted on the amount of hills in Bath...   and wearing Wallabees was not the smartest idea I've had...again...  I was excited about the Fashion Museum because I love historical fashion!  And on the other 2 trips to Bath, I'd never been able to make it up to this museum, it's kind of out of the way.  I was pleasantly surprised with what I saw there!   A lot smaller than I was imagining, but packed full of cool things- at least to me, the average traveler is usually not as enthralled with historical clothes as I am!  It started with an exhibit on Sports fashion, which was semi-interesting....the historical clothes more so than the hideous current ski/tennis/etc... "fashion".  Then it went into the oldest clothes all the way to the present.

The Silver tissue Dress on the right
One of the coolest exhibits there is one that's not normally on display; I'm not sure how long it will be there, or how long it has been there.  It's a glove exhibit.  I know, I know, you're thinking...gloves?  wow...exciting...  but it really was!  Especially since the newest of those gloves is about 300 years old.  the oldest was from the early 1600s.  I think that's pretty damn cool!  Another really cool exhibit that's right at the beginning was one of dresses.  It has a special dress in the case- called the Silver Tissue Dress- from the 1600s, one of the most complete dresses from that era anywhere!  Again...pretty cool!

It ended with the most awful, hideous, and ugly fashion from the 20th-21st centuries that I have ever seen.

From there I walked back down to the Roman Baths, which is the main reason people go and have historically gone) to...Bath...     The Roman Baths have been there for about 2000 years, give or take.   It's a pretty cool experience to see a place where people socialized for so long!   While a lot of it is in ruins, or disappeared, broken, etc... there's a lot that is intact, including the main bath, and a few of the others- to an extent.

The top picture is of the main part of the Baths, the second is of a smaller hot bath, and the 3rd is the head of Minerva, who the Baths were dedicated to I believe.  Even though it was the 3rd time around, it was still pretty cool!

After that I went to Bath Abbey which I had never been in, because I think it was closed both times.  Either that or we didn't have enough time to go through it.  It's a gorgeous abbey!  Not in a way like the cathedrals around England and Europe, but it's very big and has some cool stained glass and other little interesting tidbits, including a really big organ- I forget how many pipes it has.

I concluded my visit to Bath by walking around the Christmas Market that is set up there until January something.   I bought a delicious meat pie and some Christmas presents!  I walked back to the train station, and got on my train and went back to London!  A pretty good way to spend a day I think!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Wingardium leviosa! Harry Potter Studio Tour- 28 November 2012

Well, the Harry Potter studio tour is pretty damn amazing!  (Pardon my French)   It's expensive to get it- £28.   But it is so worth it!  Its about a 15-20min train ride out of London to Watford Junction- easy, about 6-8 pounds.  Then you board a special purple Harry Potter double Decker bus that will take you to the studio- £2 round trip.  

You pull up to the studios, which look like normal ones you might see on the news or in a magazine or something, although these used to be aircraft hangars, so that's what they look like I guess...   You walk in and see the gift shop and so you start salivating at everything you can see as you walk past it to get in line to go into the studios.    

The tour is almost all self-guided except for the beginning 20-ish minutes or so.  You first go into a big room with about 50-60 or so other people and listen to one of the employees and watch a short film on the walls- the producers, etc... are talking about making Harry Potter.  You then go into a big auditorium and sit down and watch Harry, Ron, and Hermione talk about the sets, the experience, etc...  and then the screen goes up and you see a huge door that leads into the Great Hall! Yes, the Great Hall from the movie- the real one that they used....no magical ceiling though :(    That's the last bit of guided tour- an employee talking about the different props/clothing/etc... that are in the Great Hall-including details you don't see in the movie, like the seal inside the big fireplace that you don't see because there's always a fire going!  

After that you walk around the corner and it's like a Harry Potter dream!  So many props, parts of sets, buildings, wands, clothing, and on and on and on!  You even get to fly on a broomstick and in the Weasley's car!  In between Studio J and studio K, you can buy some butterbeer!  And see some outside sets, like #4 Privet Drive, the bridge, and the Potter's house, along with the Knight Bus and Hagrid's motorcycle.

Me trying butterbeer- surprisingly good!

The main model for outside shots of the castle!

The second half of the studio tour involved the creating of the various creatures, animals, or shows the pictures of the real animals used- like for Fang.  I think there were 8 or 9 different dogs used for Fang if not more?   It showed how the animatronic stuff worked,  Hedwig, the weird Voldemort thing in Book 7, etc... also how they did the dementors when it wasn't shot with CGI, how they did Gwap, Hagrid, and the ghosts!  

This was so much fun!!!  I highly recommend this to anyone who visits London, and if you visit before July 1- I will totally go again!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012- London, England

Well Thanksgiving over here was very, very different than any I've had before- even the one I spent alone in Italy...  but this was better because I was not alone!  But it was also not traditional as we (two friends and myself) went to the Hard Rock Cafe...because when you can't have a traditional table-breaking under the amount of food, Thanksgiving, then a restaurant that serves American food is the next best thing!  We would have stayed at our hall, Lillian Penson (LPH) because they were having a Thanksgiving dinner....but the success rate of the food here is not so good, so we didn't want to chance totally ruining Thanksgiving.   I also gave myself a holiday from school because I have never had to go to school or work on Thanksgiving, and so I didn't want to this year :)

For starters we had:

Minus the jalapenos!  (Courtesy of: http://www.praguedining.com/files/user/27/Hard-Rock-Cafe-Food-Nachos-l.jpg)

And this was my meal.  Twisted Mac and Cheese with Chicken.  This is what I get at every single Hard Rock I have been to, all over the world, with very few exceptions.  It is delicious, and I love it- i don't care what anyone says! 
Twisted Mac and Cheese (Courtesy of: http://www.urbaneapts.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/mac-chz.jpg)

   It was a wonderful Thanksgiving meal with two friends!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Greenwich- the middle of the world (kind of)!

Well, on November 11th, Remembrance Day over here, Veteran's Day in American, instead of waking up early and spending hours standing with hundreds and hundreds of people to catch a glimpse of the Queen, and try and see the rows of Vets marching down the road, I decided to sleep in a little, and then go out to Greenwich for the day!  It's very easy to get to, and I can use my Oyster Card since it's in Zone 2 of the London public transportation system!  

So about 40ish minutes from Central London (it's still technically London, a district in a Royal Borough), is where you can find Cutty Sark, The Prime Meridian and the Maritime Museum, among other attractions that I did not see.

First I did Cutty Sark since it would take the least amount of time and was the closest to the DLR station.

Cutty Sark is pretty cool.  It's an old tea clipper, one of the last surviving ones, from the mid 1800s.  It was just reopened in April 2012 after about 6 years of conservation work- as well as repair work caused by a fire in 2007.

 It traveled all around the globe, to China, to Australia, and everywhere in between for various trades- tea and wool mainly.  She's pretty much been in dry dock sine the 1950s and a museum almost as long.

The Maritime Museum was also pretty cool- basically the history of water travel in Europe- but mainly focusing on Britain, obviously, although the vikings and older exhibit was closed for renovations and some new exhibit.  One of the highlights we seeing Admiral Nelson's uniform that he was shot , and died, in.  You can see the bullet hole in it, although the bloody waistcoat is covered by the coat.  Another really cool exhibit was the Ansel Adams photography exhibit, which I very much enjoyed, having spent a good chunk of my childhood on family trips around the Western United States. Gorgeous photography, and I'm pretty sure I bought out the  exhibition gift shop....

 Next stop was the Royal Observatory, up on a hill, that made me wish I'd been working out these last few months...  It's actually a very small place, King Charles II did not want to spend a lot of money on it..
Here is where the Prime Meridian is!  This is the line of longitude that has been used as a reference point for the past 150 years or so.  Basically 0 degrees longitude marks the middle of the world, on a map, when looking at one in terms of latitude and longitude. (the middle of the map vertically, not horizontally)

There are some pretty cool views of London from a lookout point, but the main thing people come to see here is the Prime Meridian.

These 3 pictures above show the telescopes that keep the Prime Meridian where it is, they keep it from changing.  It's 2 telescopes- one on either side of the room, with enormous an mechanism in the middle.  I have no idea how any of it works, but it looks pretty cool.

Walking back to the DLR station, I saw this gem of a car- I wish I had gotten a video because it was playing some pretty spectacular music.  I believe all of these decorations are stickers, and whoever this car belonged to, was selling Christmas Cards.

I loved Greenwich and would definitely visit again, and I recommend it to everyone who is going to, or wants to, visit London!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Brighton 21st Oct 2012

This one will be slightly shorter than the last as we, Brittany and I, only spent a half day in Brighton.  It's only about 1.5 hours or so by direct train, which is nice.  The day we picked was grey, chilly and slightly rainy.  However, I liked Brighton, it's a nice little town, much like Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard, but with a little bit of carnival thrown in, like from Atlantic City/Ocean City, etc... with the boardwalk atmosphere.

The first thing we did was walk down from the train station along the water to try and find the Royal Pavilion which was the main reason we went down there in the first place.  We wandered by the pier and finally turned around and headed into the town part.  This is where the Martha Vineyard/Nantucket aspect comes in as they're old buildings with old and new shops in them, along with pubs, restaurants, hotels, b&bs, etc... There was a Nordic bar/restaurant on the same street as a Baby Gap- just a few doors down.  A nice mix of old and new.

The Royal Pavilion is really cool. It was built in the early 1800s for George IV as a getaway from London.  You aren't allowed to take pictures inside, so this is the link to its website: http://www.brighton-hove-rpml.org.uk/royalpavilion/aboutthepalace/pages/home.aspx 

The inside looked like it came out of a China/India/Asia hybrid.  There were dragons, bamboo, red and gold wallpapers, oriental drawings and decorations, and, as always in a palace, wonderfully outfitted rooms to just look at in awe.  The Indian aspect comes from the architecture of the building itself, it kind of looks like a miniature Taj Mahal, because of the way the domes were, which I guess doesn't really mean it looks like it, that was only a helpful guide, as it is white stone with the dome that is associate with the Taj Mahal.

That tour took about 45min (We walked fast and didn't take the audio guides), and afterwards we walked down to the Pier where I proceeded to lose about 4 pounds to the multitude of arcade and carnival games that were present.  They had the classic ones like trying to knock the cans off, and everything.  I almost won the game where you had the roll balls through different colors to make the dolphin move, but some kids dropped his ball and I accidentally kicked it while trying to move it closer to his mom, so I gave him one of mine. (she replaced it with the one he dropped and thanked me).  oh well.  Inside the buildings on the pier it's like 1000 types of 1 game.  The one you see at places like Chuck E. Cheese's where you drop a coin in and it rolls down to the ledge and gets pushed off onto another ledge and all the coins are hanging off the end and you keep putting coins in waiting for all of them to come down?  Yeah....  oh well, you played with 2p coins that you could get from a machine- I didn't realize this at first when I put a pound coin in and 50 coins started pouring out into the slot.  That's about all we did, Brittany watched as I lost money, and then we walked around the pier to look at the different rides and attractions, watched the crazy seagulls divebomb a couple of people for their food, and then we went to JB's Diner for dinner because it was an American diner.

Well we both ordered milkshakes , she got banana and I got mint chocolate chips.  It.was.so.good!   We also ordered southern fried chicken fingers.... the first time they came out it looked like grilled chicken wings so we sent it back.  The second time it was right , but they looked like Burger king's chicken fries...which doesn't mean they were mad, just not even close to what I was expecting.  They were actually pretty good! The cheesy fries not so much.  And then we went to the train station, began making plans for Thanksgiving- mashed potatoes, sweet potato pie, pumpkin pie, and apple pie.  We think it sounds good!

All in all a good day and a good end to a pretty fun weekend!