Sunday, May 24, 2015

London Trip Highlight: Meeting A Blogger Friend

One of the highlights of my London trip was having an awesome opportunity to meet a blogger friend that has been friends with me for more or less 7 years. Due to our diary-like blogs, we felt that we had known each other in some ways and when we met, it did feel like meeting an old friend and the bonus part was that we found out many more things we had in common. :-D We are both not good at finding directions (Nikki doesn't actually live in London), so we were glad to have Google Maps on our mobiles he he he he...We had fun being tourists in London for the day!

Prior to our meeting, we had decided roughly on the places we'd visit. First breakfast, then off to roam around the city and then lunch at Chinatown. Planning the meeting was fun, but experiencing the day itself was the most fun of all! :-D Here is what Nikki wrote about our meeting and I'll just have some bits to add here. 

We chose Balthazar at Covent Garden for breakfast. We had browsed through the online menu prior to our meeting, but still that day we had a little trouble to choose because we wanted to try so many things LOL!!! We ended up choosing the same dish: Scrambled Eggs and Cornish Crab. It was yummy! For drinks, we had water and coffee latte to wake us up a little.

Here's the beautiful Nikki at Balthazar.

And a pic of us together. 

And a pic of our food:

And because I'm a crazy Asian, I just had to take a pic of myself in the toilet HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHHH...Ahem...actually, someone in Tripadvisor has advised us to go check out the toilet in Balthazar. I'm serious. So we did LOL!!!

Then we moved on to Covent Garden market, but it was still closed (we were a bit early), so we roamed around the area while waiting for the market to open. 
Here are some photos:

There's an explanation for the weird-looking horse statue behind me.

This is the huge lion statue in the same location:

While walking around the place, we also saw this gorgeous bakery and as we both loved cakes, we decided we'd go back to this bakery later on. 

This was the window display that stopped us on our tracks and made us drool. 

The thing was that we didn't write down the address or remember the bakery name or take a photo of it (this photo was taken after we had cakes there), so we had a bit of a fun time trying to find it again after we visited the Covent Garden market HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH...but we did find it again eventually. Here's the site for the bakery: BB Bakery.

Here are two pics of Covent Garden market. I found a T-shirt for myself and a belt for R2 (I was very tempted to buy other lovely stuff too from this market, but I had a budget to follow HA HA...). We also looked around at some shops there on the ground floor and saw a bit of a group of musicians performing their music. Another day when I went there again, there was an opera singer belting out her song (incredible strong lungs!). 

From there we went back to the lovely bakery and had different cakes. If I remember correctly, a package of tea and a cake cost £8.50. Again we had a hard time trying to decide which cake to choose as they all looked so gorgeous! I told Nikki it would be more fun to go there with a group of friends because then we could each choose a different type of cake/muffin and we could take turns trying different cakes/muffins he he...

Here are some photos of us and our cakes. My teapot is so pretty, isn't it?  

The whole place was so pretty that even the toilet was pretty! Yep, I must be weird because I keep taking photos of toilets ha ha ha ha...

After we filled our bellies with cakes, we continued our way towards Chinatown. On the way there we also saw some street performers. The guy below was in chains (the two young guys were helping him out by tying up the chains around his body) and then he had to escape within a certain amount of time. It looked painful, but of course he managed to escape he he...

And this guy in uniform actually posed for me when I took out my mobile and prepared to take a photo ha ha ha...Note: notice the sun? Yep, it came out for a little bit that day he he...

And we finally arrived at Chinatown! YAAAAAAAAAYYY!!!!! Here's the beginning of one end of Chinatown. Yep, so many people trying to take photos of themselves with the Chinatown gate. I bought some food and snacks to take home from one store that sold Asian food stuff and I promised myself I'd get back to Chinatown for more before I had to fly back to Finland he he...

It started raining when we were in Chinatown, but we were way too full to have a proper lunch, so we decided to rest our legs and just had some light dim sum. It was great to have lots of places to choose from and the one we chose was kinda quiet, so we could chit-chat and relax there. 

Purple dim sum, anyone? Unfortunately for some reason they've put on some purplish light on top of the tables, so the dim sum looks like this, but it was just the perfect portion for the both of us. :-D 

After dim sum we headed to the tube to go to our separate ways. It was certainly a day to remember! I have very fond memories of this meeting and I hope it's not going to be our last. Either way, though, I'm thankful that blogging brought us together. I'm looking forward to meeting Nikki again, wherever it may be. :-D Thanks SO MUCH for taking time to meet me in London, Nikki!!!!! 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Impromptu Trip: Two Operas

Apologies for the neglect, my beloved blog. I was so busy with work, then I got sick enough that made me choose to take antibiotics as I had already booked an impromptu trip and when I got better, I only had time to prepare for my trip. I went to London for a few days to meet some friends and to watch an opera. I ended up watching two operas instead of one.

One of my long-term goals had been to watch The Phantom of the Opera. I first fell in love with it when I saw the movie on TV (not a musical). Then I found the CDs of the opera (London cast with Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman) and I bought and read the book and fell all the more in love with it. I then saw the newer version of the movie with Gerard Butler in it, but I thought he still looked far too handsome to be The Phantom LOL!!! 

I must say that I was a bit afraid of having too much expectations, so I tried my best to not have any expectations at all. The movie with Gerard Butler is actually pretty similar to the opera version, but the difference is that in the opera show, any mistake can be seen right away. My friend who accompanied me to the opera then commented afterwards that some of the props were too old and they were a bit wobbly he he he he...I did notice it during the show, but I was much too immersed in all the drama and intensity of the show.

To cut the story short, I enjoyed the show. It was really dramatic and intense. I love the wardrobe and the props and the singing was perfect, as well. I can't help imagine how difficult it would be to sing, act, and move the heart of the audience. At the end of the show, it was so climactic that I couldn't help crying. The way the Phantom sang his heart out was just so heartbreaking. And yes, I did sing along (silently) with many of the songs he he he he he...

I wasn't exactly planning ahead to watch the second opera, but friends of mine had recommended it to me and because I still had some fund left for it (it's not that cheap to watch the opera if you want a pretty decent seat), I went to buy the ticket a few hours before the show started. This second opera is called the War Horse. I paid around £47 (around €65) for each ticket.

I had seen the genius artwork of the War Horse puppetry through youtube prior to watching the opera. Here goes in case you have never heard of it:

I got a seat at the very back, middle part of the stalls area and I was hoping that nobody would block my view as I'm pretty short. When people started sitting down, I felt a bit deflated when a couple came in and the guy sat in front of me. The guy was rather tall (almost a head taller than the woman) and he was blocking my view. I was almost tempted to ask them to switch seats, you know? LOL!!! But I decided to wait. Luckily for me, turned out there were two empty seats next to that man and next to me, so I moved to an empty seat next to me and it was the best seat ever! Because there were nobody right in front of me, I could get a clear view of the whole stage! WOOOOHOOOOOO!!!!! 

As usual, just like Phantom, the first act (before the break) is the build-up for the second act and the climax. Again I cried during the climax of the show. Very very moving. Both operas are different in how they use the stage. In War Horse, they use less 3D props/backgrounds/costumes, but they make more use of the space between the stage and the audience sitting in the front row, so I saw some of the actors running around in between the stage and the paths behind the audience in the front row. That's why I said I had the best seat ever! I could see everything clearly from the back. In Phantom, none of the actors ran in between the audience.

The Horse puppet and the puppet masters in War Horse were just superb. Brilliant! They really mastered the horses' movements and could manipulate the horse puppets in a realistic way. I also love the guy who played the duck puppet. Very entertaining! 

All in all I think both shows are on par with each other (though I'm a bit biased when it comes to Phantom LOL!!!). I don't know if I want to watch the both of them again next time I visit cities that have opera houses, but not because I don't want to. It's more because of the money restriction and because I want to watch other shows, as well.

Additional note: Almost forgot to write that the guy who sat next to me (who was then one seat away from me after I moved) actually started snoring about 15 minutes into the first act. Crazy! It was OK to sleep, but his snoring bothered the couple in front of him. His friend kept on having to tap his shoulder to wake him up. After the break, he never came back! I couldn't help thinking of the wasted money! Oh well...his loss! 

Anyway, I'm very thankful that I got very lucky with the weather during my London trip. It rained the first evening I was there, but the days after only got warmer and warmer. The last full day I was there, it was 22'C during the day and the sun was shining brightly. People were sitting outside and sunbathing. 

I'll write more about my London trip later, but here's a pic of my ice-cream and the River Thames at the back (yes, it was hot enough to sit in the shade) and a pic of me with Big Ben he he he he...The bad thing about travelling on your own without having a selfie stick is that you have lots of pics of the different places you've seen, but very few pics of yourself LOL!!!!