The Rest of NYC – December 2016

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While I didn’t leave my last post on a cliffhanger, there was more time in NYC to write about that I never got around to. At least, not until now, when I’ve just returned from my latest trip (my annual pilgrimage to Los Angeles for Gallifrey One) and realized I hadn’t completed that post. Now I feel compelled to do so before I blog about the new trip!

There actually isn’t a whole lot to say about the rest of our time in NYC as much of it was spent soaking in the local sights, though there were a few notable callouts. After discovering the day before that we couldn’t do the NBC Studio Tour, we decided to do something else Scott had never done before – visit the Top of the Rock. I had done it on the solo NYC trip I did in 2012, but as long as the weather is nice (for the views), it’s somewhere I’ll happily visit again. You get such great views of the city from the top! You could argue this is the best place to get views of NYC, since the Empire State Building is part of those views (and it obviously isn’t when you’re standing on the top of that building). Fun fact – do you know the actual name of this building? As of 2015, it’s the Comcast Building and was previously the GE Building and the RCA building before that (that was its original name when it was built), but of course everyone knows it as 30 Rock. The tickets are pretty reasonably priced at $34 and you can add various upgrades and extras on top of that price, like a “keepsake photo”, a combo ticket with MoMA, the ability to do two visits in 24 hours (so you can see the views both during the day and at night), etc. Since we visited during the day, I would be interested in seeing what the views are like at night, so that upgrade may be worth it at some point in the future (or, since we’ve already been during the day, we could just buy a standard ticket and visit in the evening).

As we were walking around the neighborhoods near our apartment, we came across an artist selling his watercolors. They were well-done and all focused on various streets and buildings around the city and Scott found two of specific areas of the West Village that he loves, so we bought them. They were $35 each, which felt very reasonable, and they look great framed in our dining room today. The artist’s name is Kazua Morimoto and you can learn more about him and see his work on his website. If you see him selling his paintings when you’re out and about in NYC, stop and check them out!

Last time we were in NYC, we caught up with a friend of mine from Omaha and this time, we caught up with a friend of Scott’s who he used to work with, but has since moved to New Jersey. He and his girlfriend were lots of fun to chat with and we enjoyed our meal at the White Horse Tavern, the second-oldest continually-run tavern in NYC. Pretty cool, eh? We actually weren’t even going to go there, but our first choice (The Spotted Pig) had a two-hour wait and no one was interested in that! We spotted the White Horse as we were walking around looking for other options and I’m glad we did. The food isn’t anything fancy (think bar food – that’s pretty much what you get), but it’s tasty and decently-priced, especially for this city. They do only accept cash though, so keep that in mind if you’re planning to go there.

We also got to see another of Scott’s friends who actually lives here in the Twin Cities, but happened to be in NYC at the same time we were. Our plan was to meet up for a drink, but SantaCon made that a bit difficult as many bars were overflowing with people in Santa costumes. As someone who doesn’t love crowded bars, the prospect of wading through a sea of red just to get into a bar wasn’t exciting, but we just needed to hunt around a bit to find a place that either wasn’t yet full of Santas or just wasn’t participating in SantaCon (some had signs that made it clear they weren’t looking for crowds of Santas to descend upon them). Luckily, that place ended up being The Stonewall Inn, which I’d never visited before! It has an important place in LGBT history, so I’m really glad we got to visit. We didn’t spend a ton of time there, but there’s always time for a drink, so I’m sure we’ll return the next time we’re in NYC.

Random assortment of photos to follow…now!

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Great weather for exploring the West Village

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I loved seeing all the stoops decorated for Christmas!

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Outside Radio City Music Hall before heading up to the Top of the Rock

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A quick selife with the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree

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Sunny views of the winter-brown Central Park

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More views of the city and park

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Empire state of mind

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Pictures on a street corner

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I loved this Christmas tree!

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The bust of Thomas Moore in Central Park

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Gapstow Bridge in Central Park

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“Guests of the New Celebrity Ding Dang Dong stay at the world-renowned Plaza Hotel, New York’s most exciting hotel.”

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The Cubbyhole, our local bar when we’re in NYC

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Sant Ambroeus, a restaurant we haven’t visited, but hopefully will get to on a future visit

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Another festive front stoop

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The two prints we bought from Kazua Morimoto

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Outside the Stonewall Inn

Oh, and one more thing. We may or may not have (read – we definitely did) go see Mariah’s concert a second time the night before we went home. We just happened to check ticket prices on the Friday night (for the Saturday show) and found a great deal for really good seats, so we figured, why not! Being a big MC fan, I had no problem with this idea and it was nice to have the time to be more focused on the show without feeling the need to get as many pictures. Of course, I did still take a few pictures – only a few though!

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A nice shot of the Beacon before the show started

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The new seats weren’t second-row, but they were dead center and still really great

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A nice glow in this photo

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Singing her heart out!

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With the big choir


A fantastic intro for Joy to the World. Her voice was more on point this night!


A snippet of Christmas Time is in the Air Again

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Another big finale!

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Being a bit further back from the stage actually made some of the pictures seem better as I could more easily get the whole stage in the shots

And with that, we ended our (latest) trip to NYC. It was a blast and certainly more Christmasy-feeling, thanks to actual winter(ish) temps. With this being our second Christmas-time trip to the Big Apple, it certainly feels like we’ve established a trend. Long may it continue!

Mariah Carey in NYC 2016

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Another December, another Mariah Carey concert. Of course, I was beyond excited to attend this one in particular because we got SECOND-ROW SEATS! Although this is Mariah’s third consecutive year doing a Christmas concert series in December, the specific dates weren’t announced until fairly late in the game (late October/early November, I think), so we didn’t want to plan our trip until they were announced. And when they were, we decided we would go for the full experience and get up as close as we could. Our great seats were part of a VIP package, which probably sounds better than it actually was, but we did get a couple of gifts when we arrived (a scarf and a thermal bottle, both emblazoned with MC logos) and we also got to enjoy an hour of open bar time before the doors opened for the other ticket holders, which was a nice touch.

If you’ve never been there, the Beacon Theatre is a great concert venue. It’s a good size (its capacity is about 2,900 people), allowing for great sound and a good view from most seats. Last year, we were in the front row of the lower balcony, so we had a great view of the stage. But being in the second row on the floor this year, we had an even better view. 🙂 Mariah is famously late for most things in life, including this concert, but we had a nice time chatting with the people seated near us, including a great couple from Miami (they weren’t impressed with the cold weather!) and a nice woman sitting in front of us who said she’s met Mariah about 50 times! She has all the photos from those 50 times on her Instagram, along with photos of her with lots of other stars, so I was a little jealous. Of course, all the chatter died down when the show started (about an hour late, but I didn’t care).

As for the concert itself, what can I say? I loved it! I’ve loved Mariah’s music since I was about ten years old and when you couple her voice with Christmas music (which I also love), it’s the perfect combination. Although she had a bit of a cold and didn’t sound quite as good as she did at last year’s show, it was still perfection. Obviously I’m biased, but I think everyone who can see it should! But if you can’t make it, check out the selection of my photos below and you’ll get a good feel for it.

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Heading into the Beacon

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Oh yes – VIPs!

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I loved this Christmas tree just outside the door to our seats

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We’re ready – bring up that curtain!

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Opening the show with Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

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It was so nice of her to look directly at me and smile for this photo 🙂

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Sparkles!

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Mariah and one of her dancers, Anthony

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Talking to the super-talented kids (all dancers and the girl on the far left also did some singing) about what they get excited for at Christmas

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Singing Oh Santa in sepia

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One of my favorite shots!

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Last song before her first costume change

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Mariah’s friend and backup singer Trey Lorenz sang a solo of Jesus, O What a Wonderful Child during Mariah’s first costume change

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Trey and the choir

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Silent Night

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I only took the color out of a few photos because the set design was really colorful and I didn’t want to lose that, but monochrome worked well a few times

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Loved hearing the Christmas classics!

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I like this picture, but I wish Mariah hadn’t been moving her hand

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Playing around with some blurs

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Catching up with Big Jim Wright between songs

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Looking very angelic here

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Bringing out the dancers for When Christmas Comes

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This is another favorite shot – it was so great to be close enough to take such clear photos

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Mariah’s kids, Moroccan and Monroe, wanted to come on stage. So cute!

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Mariah and Roe Roe striking a pose. I felt Instagram famous for this shot because not only did Mariah herself (or her social media team) post it on her Instagram, but the next day, People Magazine reposted it! #famous

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On the lookout for Santa

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There he is!

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Mariah brought R. Kelly on stage as a special guest and they sang a duet of The Christmas Song

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R. Kelly singing his part

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This was just before they grabbed glasses of eggnog

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Mariah and her new boyfriend/rebound/backup dancer Bryan Tanaka

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O Holy Night is a favorite of mine!


I had to get a video clip of the end of this song. So amazing!

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Yes, there was another costume change just before R. Kelly came out

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Time for the dancers to come back out, this time for the first of three non-holiday songs. First up, Emotions!


Whistle notes for daaaaaaayyyyys

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Now wearing one of her dancer’s jackets to avoid any potential wardrobe malfunctions (which apparently happened the previous night)

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Her last non-holiday song was the always-classic Hero


The end of Hero

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Final outfit for the final song, All I Want for Christmas is You

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Back with the kids at the beginning of the song

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So happy!

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And now with the grown-up dancers

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Love this one because of the way the dancers are framing her


I had to get a clip of the end of this song, too. So much happening on stage!

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Not quite done yet

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Mariah being danced away by Tanaka and Anthony

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Saying goodbye until next year!

It was an amazing show and I definitely enjoyed myself. Already looking forward to next year!

All I Want for Christmas is…NYC!

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Well, another trip has come and gone! What’s that? I forgot to tell you I was even going on this trip? Oops! Well, much like last December (even though I didn’t blog about it until February – oops again), Scott and I decided to make another Christmas-time trip to the Big Apple. And would it surprise anyone to learn that we also came to see my girl Mariah Carey do her Christmas concert again? Hopefully it doesn’t because that’s exactly what we did! As I’ve mentioned before, NYC is Scott’s favorite city, so he always loves visiting. I like it (not as much as London, but it’s still fun) and I love the Christmas vibe here at this time of year and, of course, I love any opportunity to see Mariah, so I was happy to come along.

First order of business – our home away from home. As usual, we looked to Airbnb to find a place to stay, focusing on the West Village (Scott’s favorite neighborhood). We didn’t have a great experience with last year’s apartment, so we splurged a bit on this year’s – still small, but perfect location, well decorated, really nice hosts (we met them on the first night and they checked up on us throughout the weekend), fast wifi, and comfortable sleeping arrangements. We flew into Newark this time, which worked really well, as it only took our Uber driver about 30 minutes to get from there to our apartment. The two guys who own the place were there to greet us and give us the keys (which is a bit unusual, as we often don’t meet the actual hosts) and then we were on our own. They also gave us a great restaurant recommendation for dinner (since we arrived there around 8p, we were hungry!), so after we got a little settled, we strolled over to Malaparte. It’s a great little (emphasis on little – like many restaurants in the West Village, it’s not a big space) Italian restaurant, with great homemade food and fresh pasta. Scott had spaghetti with pesto and I had lasagna and both were delicious. The prices were pretty decent, especially for Manhattan as I think we paid about $45 for both entrees, a cocktail for Scott, and some really tasty bread.

Post-dinner, we walked around the neighborhood a bit more and then headed back to our apartment to relax and get some sleep.

Interested in this trip’s home away from home? Pictures below!

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Just inside the front door was the kitchen

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To the right of the kitchen was the bathroom. Nicely decorated!

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The shower wasn’t big (like everything in the apartment), but it was perfectly serviceable

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The living room, with a nice TV (that we didn’t use at all) and a comfy sofa

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The bedroom was predictably small, but perfectly comfortable. Only a queen-size bed though, which is too bad as it feels really small after being used to sleeping in a king-size at home!

After a decent night of rest (I always take some time to adjust to sleeping in a new location, so I don’t usually sleep really well the first night), we had a leisurely Thursday morning as we figured out what we should get up to before the concert that night. On my first trip to NYC, I did a few of the bigger touristy things and I assumed Scott had done them as well, but it turned out he hadn’t, so we decided it would be fun to do the NBC Studio Tour. Unfortunately, their website told us there were no tickets available over the next two weeks, but it also said pre-booking was “strongly recommended” rather than “required”, so we figured it would be worth just showing up to see if we could buy tickets at the door. With as much as we love to walk around the places we visit, especially in NYC because Scott loves it so much, we meandered towards Rockefeller Center. The weather was chilly, but sunny, so it was a nice walk and we got to snap a few pictures along the way. At the Rockefeller Center, we saw this year’s tree (seeing it during the day isn’t as magical as seeing it all lit up at night, but the whole place is still full of Christmas vibes) and walked around the plaza a bit. We kept our fingers crossed as we went inside to check on tickets, but alas, it wasn’t to be – no tickets available until 12/23. Oh well! Had we thought about it earlier, we definitely would have pre-booked this one (along with Ellis Island – I recommend pre-booking both on your next NYC trip), but not going this time means we have something to look forward to next year!

After the tour bust, we decided to find somewhere for a late(ish) lunch. Having eaten Italian the night before, we decided to consult Yelp for a good Mexican restaurant, which we found in Ponche Taquería. It’s another small place, so expect to wait if the tables are full (they weren’t when we were there, but were filling up by the time we finished), but the food is worth it! I had a delicious quesadilla and Scott had a trio of tacos and we both shared some excellent guacamole. Price-wise, this is another good option, with the whole meal costing us ~$40. Worth a visit when you’re craving Mexican food near Rockefeller!

Even though we didn’t “see” a lot per se, here are some pictures from the sights around the city.

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Jackson Square decorated for the holidays

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Checking the time at Met Life Tower

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The Flatiron Building is always photo-worthy!

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The General William Jenkins Worth Monument near the Flatiron

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I didn’t get the name of this church! Anyone know it?

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The New York Public Library is a really amazing building

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Christmas lion is Christmas-y

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St. Patrick’s Cathedral, just across from Rockefeller Plaza

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No trip to Rockefeller is complete without taking a picture of their famous Christmas tree!

Thus ends our arrival and (most of) our first day in NYC. Of course, we haven’t talked about the big reason for going yet – the Mariah Carey concert! Check out my next post for details on that, though it will really focus on a lot of pictures. We were in the second row, so I couldn’t miss the opportunity to take lots and lots of pictures.

Stay tuned

Thursday’s London Travels – The Last Full Day

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I don’t want to go! I said in my previous post that I had “plenty of time” to think about the fact that I’m flying home tomorrow afternoon, but that’s no longer true because in about 12 hours, I’ll be at the airport. But as a silver lining, the trip will be much quicker because I’m starting from Earl’s Court rather than Lewisham and I also don’t have to change trains because I can take the Piccadilly line directly to Terminal 3. And of course, I’m going to home to my husband, my dog, and my house, so I’ve got all that to look forward to. And the memories of another great UK trip to tide me over…until the next one. 😀

I know I generally have a loose agenda at best for what I’m going to do on any given day on trips like this, but today I truly didn’t have one. Unless you count finishing my Wednesday blog post and finding a carrier bag big enough for that TARDIS soundtrack set as agenda items, that is. If so, I’m happy to report that I completed both!

I was thinking I would get an earlier start out of the hotel today, but I still left around midday, which worked out fine because it was rainy for a good part of the morning anyway. Thankfully, it didn’t rain the rest of the day and the sun even made a return appearance, so I was able to spend most of my time doing what I do best in London – walking! I started out with food on the brain (since I almost never have breakfast in London) and I knew where I had to go – Pizza Express. I hit Tortilla yesterday, so I couldn’t let a UK trip go by without hitting my other favorite restaurant. And, as usual, they delivered the goods! As you’ve no doubt read in this blog before, Pizza Express isn’t fancy and it is a chain, but I’ve come to really enjoy their food and it’s always a sure thing. I’ll always recommend it as a place to go for a quick, tasty meal, so take my advice and go there. Well go on – what are you waiting for??

Because I was right around the corner from Trafalgar Square again and I was walking that direction anyway, I took another stroll through it and I’m glad I did because the newest addition to the Fourth Plinth pantheon had been unveiled just a few hours earlier. I truly had no idea that was happening, else I may have tried to be there for it as the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, was there to do the unveiling. The new piece is called Really Good and it’s a giant thumbs-up (emphasis on the GIANT, especially the abnormally-long thumb), apparently designed to make it clear that “something, somewhere, is really good.” And that’s true, so I like it! I’m not sure how long each piece stays on the Fourth Plinth, but give it a look the next time you pass through Trafalgar Square.

After the Fourth Plinth, I made my way to Forbidden Planet to see if they had any geeky (ie – Doctor Who) stuff I should pick up. There are tons of great things to find there and if you’re a fan of any cult TV show or movie (Star Trek, The Walking Dead, anime, etc.), you’ll find it easy to spend a lot of time in this store. I picked up a couple issues of Doctor Who Magazine, which I don’t normally buy, but I figured I could read them while I’m in transit tomorrow. More importantly, as a purveyor of items of all shapes and sizes, I held out hope that they would have a carrier bag big enough to hold the TARDIS soundtrack set I picked up on Tuesday. And thankfully, they did! It felt a bit odd to get a giant bag for such small items, but I was just happy to have found one that worked for what I needed. I still have to lug the thing back home, but at least I can do it in a bag instead of just carrying it (which is what I had to do to get it to my hotel from Camden).

After a quick stop back at my hotel to drop the bag and Forbidden Planet goodies off (and to confirm the set would indeed fit in the bag), I spent the rest of the afternoon walking around Embankment, taking pictures, and feeling a bit like a local. I decided to pop over to Retro Bar for a quick drink in the late afternoon, which brought back happy memories of being there with various friends over the last few years. Here’s hoping I’ll get the chance to go there with some of them again in the near future!

You’ll see some familiar locations in today’s photos, but they all make me happy. 🙂

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“My” Pizza Express, just across from Charing Cross Station

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Mmmmmm, pizza

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Back in the square…

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…now with added thumbs-up!

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#thumbsupselfie

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The Palace Theatre, home of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I’m not a Harry Potter fan, but the theatre looks pretty cool

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I’ve run into some of this guy’s work before and was happy to find some again

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Statue of Henry Irving near the National Gallery. Irving was Victorian stage actor

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Charing Cross Road

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Underground sign + Big Ben = pure London

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I’ve got my Eye on you!

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#bigbenselfie

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Battle of Britain Monument

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Looking across the Thames

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Retro Bar!

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A street performer in Covent Garden

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A better shot of Really Good on my way back to the hotel

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Oh fine – one more selife!

And now it’s Thursday evening, my bags are packed, and I’m about to go to sleep. Thankfully, I don’t have a 430a wakeup call like I did when I left London last time. Thanks for following along with this journey! There will be more, though I think I’ll just be traveling domestically for the rest of this year. But don’t think I’m not already thinking about my next UK trip – plans are brewing.

Stay tuned!

Whiling Away Wednesday in London

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I can’t believe it’s already Wednesday! Well, it’s Thursday in reality, but this post is all about my Wednesday – another lovely day in London. Once again, I had one specific thing planned (more on that shortly), but the rest of the day came down to where the wind took me. And, since I hadn’t yet visited my favorite spot in London, I knew I had to start there. Do you remember what my favorite London view is? If you guessed Tower Bridge, you’re right! I don’t know what it is about it, but ever since the first time I saw it in person over 13 years ago, I’ve loved it, so I make a point to visit it simply to soak up the views. While you can actually go to the top of the bridge and visit its engine rooms, I’ve only ever done that once because when I’m inside it, I can’t look at the outside of it!

Getting to Tower Bridge from Earl’s Court is quite easy – I hopped on the District line again, but I stayed on a bit longer than yesterday, passing Embankment to get to Tower Hill. The station is situated right by the Tower of London as well, so it really is an iconic part of the city. I’ve also been through the Tower of London a couple of times and it’s something I will likely do again as it’s a neat tour and you get to see the crown jewels to boot, but that wasn’t on my agenda. I was happy to take in the exterior views and, more importantly, make my way to the river so I could see the bridge. I was there around lunchtime and because the weather was so nice, I wanted to take advantage of it by eating outside, so I grabbed a sandwich and enjoyed it on a bench with Tower Bridge in front of me. So nice! As I ate, I just watched the world go by as people jogged past, talked with their families, read books, or just enjoyed a quick bite like me. There are lots of benches along the river by the bridge, so I recommend enjoying a little picnic on one of them when you’re in London. And even though I’ve only done it once, I do recommend the experience of going inside the bridge at least once. It’s fun to say you’ve done it and you get some great views of the city from the top of the bridge.

Next up was All Hallows-by-the-Tower Church. Although I’ve walked by this church many times before, I’d never been inside it, so I poked my head in and I’m very glad I did as it’s a really interesting building. Did you know it’s the oldest church in the City of London and that it dates back to 675 AD? I certainly didn’t! Like any good London church, it also includes a crypt and this one is not only open to the public, but it also contains a little museum and entry is free (it’s also free to just go into the church and look around). This was definitely a good spur-of-the-moment decision and I’m glad I stopped in!

Because I was only about a mile away from St. Paul’s, I decided to walk down and pay it a visit. When I was having dinner with my friends in Brighton last week, we got to talking about St. Paul’s and I said that, while I had been inside it before, I had never climbed the stairs to the top. I thought of that when I realized how close I was and decided that I would take the plunge (or is that make the climb?) and do it. The walk through the city was pleasant and it was cool to see St. Paul’s from a distance. It’s kind of like watching a movie when you see these iconic views in person, right? Once there, I paid the £18/$23 USD entry fee (a bit steep, I realize, but since I haven’t been visiting a lot of paid attractions on this trip, I figured it would be worth it), had a bit of a wander around the church, and then headed for the stairs. St. Paul’s is a really beautiful building, so if you’ve never been before, do yourself a favor and visit when you’re in London. The entry fee includes an audio guide that’s really good (I’ve used it in the past) and there’s a ton of history to learn about this building. And when you’ve had your fill of history, you can get a workout in by climbing the nearly 600 stairs to the top. Yes, that’s 6-0-0. 🙂 As I climbed them, I was reminded of the time Scott and I climbed to the top of Belfort in Bruges, but this was worse because St. Paul’s has about 200 more stairs! Obviously you should be aware that climbing that many stairs can be pretty exerting and the staircases are windy and, in some places, quite narrow. Thankfully at least, the traffic is one-way, so people don’t come down the same stairs as you’re walking up them (except at the very beginning, but that staircase is very wide). Because of this though, you can only turn around when you reach one of the three galleries, so make sure you’re committed before you begin! The views from the two outdoor galleries make the climb totally worth it though! As long as you’ve got your stair-climbing shoes on, I highly recommend this!

After all that exertion, I thought I deserved a little treat, so I went to HMV to do some Blu-ray shopping. 🙂 We don’t have a lot of dedicated movie/music shops like that back home (though I have fond memories of places like Suncoast Video from years ago) and being a collector of Blu-rays, I always pay HMV a visit when I’m in London. They usually have great sales going on and that was true today as well, so I picked up a few titles and made my way back to Earl’s Court for a bit of relaxation and blogging before the final event of the evening.

So what was my only planned event for the day? Would you believe I went to another show?? While in Swansea, I talked about my plans to see The Book of Mormon and Ruth Ann said she was interested in going as well, so we made it happen! I checked tickets last weekend and it seemed like there were lots of options at different prices, so I wasn’t too concerned about booking right away, but by the time I looked again on Wednesday morning, there were very few left. We eventually settled on one of our only options to get two seats together – box seats. I did appreciate the comfort of box seats because we had individual chairs (rather than attached rows of seats) and we had no one in front of or behind us, which was great. There were only a few times was something was happening in the back left corner of the stage that our view was restricted, but that didn’t detract from our enjoyment of the show. And at only £42/$54 USD apiece, the tickets were a steal, especially compared to the prices you can expect to pay on Broadway. If you’ve never heard of it, The Book of Mormon is written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone (the creators of South Park), so there’s lots of swearing and debauchery, but it’s a hilarious show and I laughed out loud constantly. I highly recommend it!

Photo recap begins in 3, 2, 1…now!

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The wall around the Tower of London

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Tower Bridge

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#towerbridgeselfie

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Aaaaaand, maybe one more selfie when I got closer to the bridge

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Cradle Tower, part of the Tower of London

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Looking across the river towards the Shard

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Closer shot of the Tower of London

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And one more shot of Tower Bridge before moving on

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All Hallows-by-the-Tower. Although the church dates back to 675 AD, the building is definitely not that old, largely because of things like the bombings during World War 2

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Looking towards the altar

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Cool architecture

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This is the oldest Saxon arch in the City of London and is believed to be made from Roman roof tiles

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A preserved Roman walkway in the crypt museum

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More from the crypt

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These wooden grave crosses are from World War 1 battlefields

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Catching a glimpse of the Walkie-Talkie on my walk to St. Paul’s

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One of my favorite photos of the trip so far!

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#selfiewithstpauls

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Directional sign + St. Paul’s

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The main entrance to St. Paul’s

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It’s a really amazing building

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Huge altarpiece

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The sign telling me I made it to the Whispering Gallery – not to the top yet

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First view from the Stone Gallery (still not the top)

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Looking over the Millenium Bridge from the Stone Gallery

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They weren’t kidding when they said some of the staircases are narrow!

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The amazing views from the Golden Gallery made all that climbing worth it

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London – the city I love 🙂

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#goldengalleryselfie

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Looking over the main entrance from above

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When you leave St. Paul’s, be sure to walk through Paternoster Square for a drink, a snack, or just the great views

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One last peek at St. Paul’s on my way to HMV

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As I do every year, I took a photo of the Earl’s Court police box

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The view of the theatre from our seats at The Book of Mormon

Another great day in the books! And happily, this post brings you up to date with where I am today. It’s Thursday morning as I write this post and I’ll shortly be headed out into London for my last full day here. I fly out early tomorrow afternoon, but there will be plenty of time to think about that later. In the meantime, it’s time to do some more exploring!

Tuesday Happenings in London

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Let’s see – what can I check off my list for this trip?

  • Get from Minneapolis to the UK – check
  • Get from London to Brighton – check
  • Get from Brighton to Swansea – check
  • Have an awesome time at Regenerations – check
  • More Doctor Who delight in Cardiff – check
  • Get back to London – check
  • Enjoy my favorite city in the world – in progress

Oh, I do so love being in this city! When I’m here alone, I don’t generally have a set agenda (well let’s be honest – that’s how I often travel anyway), but I always seem to manage to fill my time here. While that may sound a bit odd to people who want to squeeze every bit of time out of the places they visit, it really isn’t. So much of the fun I have in London is just in being here as I get a great energy from this city. Whether I’m doing a bit of Blu-ray shopping at HMV, going to a museum, or just walking around (especially when the weather is nice, as it has been so far), I get a lot of enjoyment from London. I learned a long time ago to travel in the way and to the places that make me happiest, so take a page from my book. Travel is what you make of it!

My second-favorite place to just “be” in London is Trafalgar Square and it’s where I start nearly all of my trips here, if I can help it. So naturally, that’s where I started this trip! Because my hotel is so close to Earl’s Court, I was able to quickly walk there and catch the District line to Embankment, which is just a few minutes away from Trafalgar Square. Easy-peasy! I use my Oyster card to get around London and I highly recommend getting one if you’re visiting London for any length of time or if you visit frequently. They can be picked up easily from most stations or you can buy a Visitor Oyster card ahead of time – they work the same as regular Oyster cards and have the added convenience of being delivered to your home already pre-loaded with credit. Something new since my last trip here (Nov 2015) is the push to also use contactless payment for tube, trains, and buses, so that could be a great option as well, since it has the same daily caps as Oyster cards without needing to be topped up. I haven’t tried it myself, but I’ve seen people doing it and it seems just as easy as Oyster cards. Of course, there are also travelcard options that can be good as well, so do a little research and figure out what works best for you based on how long you’re going to be here and how much you’ll be using public transport (spoiler alert – you’ll use it a lot while you’re in London!).

After enjoying Trafalgar Square for a bit (and a quick Facetime with Scott back home), I went literally around the corner to my favorite lunch spot, Tortilla. I say lunch, but really I just love their food, so I’ll eat there anytime. 🙂 If you’ve read my previous London posts, you’ve already heard about this place, but it’s just so good that I have to come back every time I’m here. I love Chipotle at home and Tortilla is similar, but definitely has its own flavor. A large naked burrito (all the filling served in a bowl instead of in a tortilla), chips, and a can of soda cost me £10/$12 USD and that meal always lasts me allll day, so it’s totally worth it. Check it out the next time you’re in London!

After my tasty lunch, I made a quick trip to Leicester Square, another favorite place to visit. This one has changed a lot over the years and it seems like there’s always something going on there (last year, I couldn’t even walk through it because it was full of people and stuff for some kind of funfair/carnival), including construction, but it’s always nice to stop by. Ruth Ann and I used to always stop at a gelato place there, but it closed a couple of years ago, which is a bit of a bummer. Still, that’s okay – lots of other places to get gelato, right?

My Leicester Square drive-by was followed by a nice walk up to Camden to run an errand at Silva Screen Records. Last month, I won an eBay auction for an amazing Doctor Who 50th anniversary soundtrack set that sold out almost instantly when it was released a couple of years ago. Because they were going to charge me quite a bit for shipping, I asked if they would hold it until I came to London, which they were happy to do. I totally lucked out! It was a brand-new set, left over from the pre-orders two years ago and Silva only had them because a handful of people didn’t follow through on theirs, so their loss was my gain. For better or worse though, I quickly realized the high shipping price was legit because the set was way bigger than I anticipated. Not huge, but it’s a solidly-built TARDIS, so hauling it through London isn’t something I would have chosen to do, but it was worth it in the end.

After I got the set back to my hotel, I did some photo editing and jumped in the shower for my final planned event of the day, a West End production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. My friend Zoe (formerly from the US, but she’s been living in the UK for several years) arranged free tickets through someone she knows who’s involved in the production, which was amazing. She and a group of friends go to shows somewhat regularly, so there were eight of us there. Given that, I assumed the seats would be in the upper balcony (not that I’d ever complain about that – free is free!), but they were in the stalls (on the floor), just ten rows back from the stage. How cool! And it was such a great show, too – awesome cast and great technical work. Really glad I got to see it! And of course, I was happy to see my friend Zoe and meet everyone in her group. Definitely a great way to end my first full day here!

Now, for pictures. Don’t worry though – there aren’t nearly as many as there have been in the last couple of posts!

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Earl’s Court Station, located just a few minutes from my hotel – so convenient! Also, can you spot the TARDIS?

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I still love Underground signs!

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I don’t love them quite as much when I accidentally take the wrong train, but that’s okay. I just had to turn around at High Street Kensington!

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I was greeted by Villiers Street as I left Embankment (once I got on the right train)

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Charing Cross is my normal “home station” when I stay at my friend’s house

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Ahh, Trafalgar Square!

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Lord Nelson sitting atop his column as usual

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Mmmmmm, lunch at Tortilla!

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Every time I stop by St. Martin-in-the-Fields (just off Trafalgar Square), there’s something going on (including this day), so I’ve never had a chance to properly explore it

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And another happy place – Leicester Square

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While walking to pick up my soundtrack set, I came the closest I’ve ever been to BT Tower. Did you know it was the tallest building in the UK from its completion in 1964 until 1980?

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St. Michael’s Church in Camden. I didn’t go in, but the building caught my eye

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It was worth lugging this thing through London!

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When you flip the switch on the back and open the doors, the box plays the TARDIS landing sound and the light on top flashes

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Outside the theatre for Charlie

And just like that, I filled up my first day in London. And, even better, I’m now just about current on my posts, since I’m publishing this on Wednesday evening. Just in time for me to go home – ha! Not quite true, as I have all of tomorrow before my flight home on Friday. But I can pretend that’s ages away! More London fun to come. 🙂

The Doctor Who Experience and Getting to London

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After a fun weekend at a Doctor Who convention in Swansea, you may think I was Who’d out, but you’d be wrong. 🙂 Matt, Douglas, and I made plans awhile ago to attend the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff, about an hour from Swansea. I was really excited to visit because I had never been before, though I visited a previous incarnation several years ago when it was at Earl’s Court in London (ironically, that’s just around the corner from where I’m staying on this trip), but the show has changed a lot in the intervening years!

Tickets are pretty reasonable (£15/$20 USD) and you’re encouraged to book online ahead of time through the site linked above. You can also buy tickets in person, though if you don’t check the website ahead of time, you have no way of knowing which timeslots have availability. There was some kind of event happening in the morning, so the first available time on Monday was 130p, so that’s what we chose. Over the weekend, our friend Mike, who lives across Cardiff Bay from the Experience, said he was planning on going as well, so we booked as a foursome and made our way to Cardiff from Swansea on Monday morning after saying goodbye to our Regenerations friends.

I’ve been to Cardiff once before, but I wouldn’t have minded doing some more exploring of the area around the bay, but it was raining somewhat heavily when we arrived and we didn’t have a ton of time anyway, so we opted to grab some lunch instead (if you have the time though, definitely plan time to see some of Cardiff, if only to see the many locations where Doctor Who has been filmed). There’s a place called World of Boats next to the Experience and Mike told us their café is quite nice, so that’s where we went. It’s a small, comfortable place, but has a decent menu and the food was tasty, so I recommend it! I wasn’t too hungry as we’d had breakfast a couple of hours earlier, but Matt and Douglas both enjoyed some delicious-looking cawl while Mike had a panini and I had a piece of cake. That gave us the energy we needed to explore 53 years of Doctor Who history!

After lunch, we headed into the Experience and awaited our entry, which came fairly quickly. They take groups of ~30 people in at a time to go through the first part of the Experience, which is an adventure with Peter Capaldi. I won’t spoil anything about it, but it’s a fun way to get started, so look forward to it when you book your tickets! No photography/videography is allowed during the adventure, but after that, you can snap photos to your heart’s content, so have your cameras and phones ready! Everything else in the Experience is self-paced, so you can take as long as you like to see all the cool props, costumes, etc. from the show. And of course, don’t forget to buy some shiny things in the shop at the end!

As for the rest of this post, I hope you want to see pictures because I’m sharing a lot of them. 🙂 And this doesn’t even include all the ones I took!

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Approaching the building before heading next door to World of Boats for lunch

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I’m a sucker for anything with a TARDIS on it

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Can you spot the TARDIS in this photo?

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We had a cyberman keeping us company while we waited to go in

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Daleks! In the entrance hall!

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I had to take a picture of this because those handprints belong to my friend Sophie!

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It took a lot of Lego bricks to build that dalek

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Doctor Who Pinball!

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The costume for Omega as seen in the 1983 story Arc of Infinity

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Now entering the actual exhibition after our adventure with the 12th Doctor. I love all the TARDIS consoles, so I took lots of photos of them

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Zooming in on some of the controls. I don’t think that Yearometer is calculating properly!

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Selfie with the roundels

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Oh go on – another selfie then

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More roundels!

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Different angle of the console after getting a bit further into the exhibition

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Eek!

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This was pretty much the perfect angle for the original console

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So perfect, in fact, that I had to do both a black-and-white and a color version

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Sound advice! This is from the 1964 story The Dalek Invasion of Earth (though it’s not the original set)

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Again, not the original TARDIS, but it’s a very good reproduction from An Adventure in Space and Time

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Did I mention I love anything TARDIS-related?

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My favorite console! This one debuted in the 20th anniversary story The Five Doctors in 1983

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Different lighting on my favorite console

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Bessie, the preferred method of transportation for Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor

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The 1980s TARDIS with K9

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The 9th/10th Doctors’ console

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Me in the 9th/10th Doctors’ console room

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Another shot of the console

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Yep, another TARDIS (9th/10th Doctors’)

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The Experience is on two levels, so I got to look over the consoles on the lower level as I walked upstairs

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The angle wasn’t quite as good for the original console, but still cool

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Cybermen! Well, their heads anyway

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Close up on the first incarnation of the Cybermen from the 1966 story The Tenth Planet

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Cyber conversion unit from the new series

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Watch out!

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The Face of Boe, who debuted in the first series when the show was revived in 2005

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Lots of monsters from the new series

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Davros as both himself and the Emperor Dalek (1980s stories)

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Melkur from the 1981 story The Keeper of Traken

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The giant robot from the 1974 story Robot, which introduced the Fourth Doctor as played by Tom Baker

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A Mandrel from the 1979 story Nightmare of Eden. This beauty was only brought into the Experience very recently

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Morbius, from the 1976 story The Brain of Morbius, was also just added recently

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A new series reference to Amelia Pond’s childhood memories of the Doctor

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More daleks!

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The Emperor Dalek model used in the finale of Series 1 in 2005

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Inside a dalek

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Davros as he appeared in the 2015 series of Doctor Who

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I was delighted to find another console! This incarnation was last seen in the 1984 story The Two Doctors

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I was able to get it from a great angle!

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And of course I also got a picture with it

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The War Doctor’s TARDIS as seen in the 50th anniversary special, The Day of the Doctor

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The TARDIS painted in memory of Clara as seen in the 2015 story Face the Raven

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Cool panorama of all the costumes of the Doctors

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Time Lord costume

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The board UNIT uses to track all known companions of the Doctor

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One last monster – the Fisher King from Under the Lake/Before the Flood in 2015

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Shrunken TARDIS in the gift shop

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Guinness World Records certificate for Doctor Who Magazine in the function space next to the gift shop, which currently houses an exhibit about DWM and the covers of the Target novelizations

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A selection of DWM covers from the exhibit

Whew! Lots of photos, but I hope you enjoyed them as I certainly enjoyed taking them! Going to the Experience was so much fun and I can’t recommend it enough if you’re a Doctor Who fan!

After the fun of the Experience, we got back on the road towards Brighton, where the plan was to drop Douglas off and then drop me at one of the train stations there so I could get a train to London, where I’m spending the rest of my trip. Matt had the brilliant idea to drop me at Gatwick Airport though as it was on the way and taking a train from there would prevent me from having to backtrack by going to Brighton and then to London. I could have taken a regular train, but I opted for the quicker Gatwick Express – just under £20/$26 USD and 30 minutes, which was perfect. The train brought me to Victoria, where I caught the Underground to Earl’s Court and walked to my hotel from there, just a few minutes away. Would you believe I’m staying at another Premier Inn? They’ve proved to be a reliable and comfortable chain, so I was happy to stay in another one for my first hotel stay in London (weird, but I’ve never actually stayed in a hotel here because I always stay with friends). It’s been a great home away from home so far! Check out a few pictures below.

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Looks like a great old building on the outside

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Plenty of room for one!

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It’s not the biggest room in the world, but it works perfectly for me

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Perfectly adequate bathroom as well (and again, it has great water pressure)

Don’t worry – no more posts with a million photos and no more Doctor Who-centric ones either. I’m just about caught up with my posts relative to where I am on the trip now, so look for more on my London exploits soon!

A Doctor Who-Filled Weekend in Wales

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As you learned in the first post of this trip, my destination for the weekend was Swansea, Wales – home of the Regenerations Doctor Who convention. Why a Doctor Who convention? Well, you’ve undoubtedly seen in some of my previous posts that I love attending conventions and this one is particularly fun because I’ve been going to it since it began in 2005. It was that convention that prompted my friend Ruth Ann and I to take our first international trip together, so I have fond memories of it. I missed two years (2011 because of grad school and 2013 because that was the year of my first trip with Scott and the itineraries didn’t match up) and thought it was gone forever because Cary (the guy who organizes it) said the 2013 convention would be the last one. I guess people loved it so much that they wore him down over the years, so he brought it back this year! And with my friend Matt not running his one-day event in November this year, there was no reason for me to wait until then to visit the UK, so I built my trip around spending this weekend at the convention. I’m so glad I did because it was as fun as it always has been! I saw lots of good friends, went to several panels (which I don’t do at most other conventions because I’m too busy working them), and even enjoyed pretty decent weather. Definitely worth the trip here!

Speaking of the trip, the road trip to Swansea was spent with my friend Matt and another friend, Douglas, both of whom lived in Brighton. We knew traffic was likely to be bad, since we drove on a Friday, and it definitely was. Although Brighton and Swansea are a bit under 200 miles apart, the trip took 7-8 hours – ugh! Granted, we did stop for lunch and for a couple of rest breaks, but it still shouldn’t have taken us that long. Still, what can you do? Can’t change traffic! And the company in the car was great, so that made the time pass quickly.

Check out a few pictures from the car below.

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Crossing the Severn Bridge from England into Wales

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Matt was a happy driver!

Most of the rest of this post is going to focus on pictures from the convention, but because the weather was nice enough, I went out for long walks on both Saturday and Sunday, so for those non-Doctor Who fans out there, you’ll get something else to look at. The forecast for the weekend made me a bit dubious about being able to get out to do some walking in Swansea, but thankfully forecasts are almost never correct anyway. The weather wasn’t tropical by any stretch, but not having rain was enough for me!

Check out the photos from my Saturday Swansea meanderings below.

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This marina is pretty near the hotel

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More of the marina

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The Dylan Thomas Centre

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Swansea Museum

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Morgans Hotel

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The National Waterfront Museum

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More marina fun

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Statue of Dylan Thomas, a famous Welsh poet and writer

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Waves! And a seagull

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Selfie!

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It seemed a bit weird that this guy was fishing from the shore, but hopefully he caught something

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I love, love, love walking by the water

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Not sure what this is, but I saw it from a distance when I started my walk along the seafront and made sure I reached it before turning around

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A bit cold, but a must-do regardless

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More waves!

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Before I left the seafront on my Saturday walk, I took a nice panorama of the area

And here are the Sunday pictures!

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I started my Sunday walk going in a different direction, more through the town, and found myself at St. Thomas’ Church

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More of St. Thomas’

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Just a nice-looking street

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Continuing to wander through Swansea

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Flying Figurehead

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Another shot of the Swansea Museum, this time in the sun

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I just liked this 🙂

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I had to walk around to a little concrete peninsula to get this picture, but I think it’s a great shot, if I do say so myself

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I didn’t take many seafront pictures on my Sunday walk, but I had to get this one to show how brightly the sun was shining!

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I assume this rail bridge used to cross over the water at the marina and that just this small piece of it was preserved

If you aren’t a Doctor Who fan, you may not care about the rest of this post, but hopefully you enjoyed some nice photos of Swansea. 🙂 The time I spent at the convention was a lot of fun and brought back lots of happy memories of attending it over the years. As I mentioned above, I work at many of the conventions I attend (as a guest liaison), so I don’t usually get to attend a lot of the panels, etc., so it’s always a bit of a treat to do that, especially at Regenerations because Cary gets so many great guests. And I of course also enjoyed spending time with my friends, especially the ones I see less frequently because they live here and don’t travel to many (if any) US conventions.

Anyway, roll on pictures! The first set is from Saturday.

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K9! The little girl just to K9’s right was pretty scared of him

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Jacqueline Pearce, who was only in one Doctor Who story, is a very well-known UK actress, but I’d never met her before. She was a hoot!

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She was wonderfully expressive during her panel

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Jemma Redgrave is another well-known actress (and member of the famous Redgrave family) and has featured in several Doctor Who stories over the last few years

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I included this one only because of Jemma’s embarassment about confusing Chris Evans and Chris Eccleston

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Peter Davison, who played the Fifth Doctor

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We had a surprise birthday party for our friend Mike – this is everyone waiting for him to walk in

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Happy Birthday, Mike!

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Me and Ruth Ann at dinner. It’s been over a decade since we took our first UK trip together!

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Matt and Dai, looking glamorous

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Another friend, Ed (on the far left) is part of a team creating a web-based series called Anoraks, which is about three Doctor Who fans. They’re crowd-funding to finish off the current series – check them out on Kickstarter!

Next up – Sunday!

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The gorgeous and kind Louise Jameson (far right) on stage with Annette Woollett, her co-start from Horror of Fang Rock

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The tail end of a slap given by Louise while re-enacting a scene from Horror of Fang Rock

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With Matt!

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A dalek lurking in the vendor area

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Matt and Louise looking too fab for words

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Regenerations organizer Cary saying goodbye…for now

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At the closing ceremony with all the guests who hadn’t left yet

If you’ve made it to the end of this post, congrats! It was a whirlwind of a weekend, but totally worth the travel. I would invite you to attend Regenerations next year, but there are no plans to put another one on as of now (as far as I know), but keep an eye on the website linked above. If Cary does put another one together, I highly recommend going – great guests, fun and intimate atmosphere, and the chance to meet lots of new friends. And Swansea is a nice place to visit for a weekend. Don’t forget to walk along the seafront!

Don’t think you’re done with Doctor Who yet – the next post is all about our visit to the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff.

Stay tuned!

UK Update – Finally! (AKA Brighton Beginnings)

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Ack! I don’t think I’ve ever gone this long without updating my blog when starting a trip before now, but this one has been a bit of a whirlwind. But definitely fun! I’ve already been to Brighton, Swansea, and Cardiff and I’m now ensconced in a hotel in London, where I’ll be for the rest of my trip. Don’t worry though – I’ve been having a great time and I intend to provide a full recap on what I’ve been up to – just not in the daily posts I generally do.

First up, my (brief) time in Brighton!

It’s now Monday evening and I arrived in the UK last Thursday around 1p. In my experience, the direct flight from Minneapolis to London usually lands a bit early due to good tailwinds, but that didn’t happen this time because there were storms in Minneapolis the evening I flew out. By the time we taxied out to the runway, there were 15 planes in front of us waiting to take off! There was a bit of turbulence shortly after takeoff, but nothing too bad and the rest of the flight went smoothly. I chose a seat in Delta’s Comfort+ as usual and there were quite a few empty seats, so I didn’t have anyone next to me, which is always nice. Of course, I didn’t get much sleep on the flight, but I did doze periodically, so that probably helped me a bit by the time we landed in London.

We were just about an hour late by the time we landed in London, which normally wouldn’t be a big deal, but I had already booked a National Express bus to get from Heathrow to Brighton to meet up with my friend Matt, so the delay meant that I had just over an hour to make the scheduled departure time. I still wasn’t too concerned as the immigration line at Heathrow moves quickly in my experience. Although it did move quickly, it was longer than usual, so it took about a half-hour to get through (silver lining – my bag was waiting for me as soon as I got my passport stamped). Again, I was hopeful I could still make it work since all I had to do was reach the bus, but the fates were against me in two ways: I saw no signage for National Express (helpful tip – just follow signs for the Central Bus Station) and I had booked a departure from T4 as that’s where Delta operated their Heathrow service until a short time ago, when they moved to T3. Ah, travel frustrations! But the issue was quickly resolved by stopping by the National Express desk in the bus station (once I followed the signs to get there), where a very friendly agent changed my ticket to the next bus, which was leaving about 20 minutes later. At the end of it all, I got on a bus and made it to Brighton and that’s all I wanted. Success!

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Yes, I did finally reach the bus station!

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I thought a selfie might help keep me awake on the trip to Brighton

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My very serviceable home away from home in Brighton

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Good bathroom with strong water pressure – a must!

So, why Brighton? The weekend destination was the Regenerations convention in Swansea, Wales, so Matt and I (along with another friend) planned to drive from Brighton to Swansea on Friday, so I made Brighton my first stop. As an added bonus, I have several other friends in Brighton, so going there gave me a chance to see them! And see them I did when we all had a nice dinner at ASK Italian, which was conveniently just down the road from my room at the Premier Inn (the same hotel I’d stayed at when I was in Brighton in 2014 and 2015). It was a great night, though I started to fade pretty quickly by the end of dinner, so it was off to bed for me.

The next morning, I felt (fairly) refreshed and had time for a walk in the bright sunshine before meeting up with my friends to start our road trip, so check out the pictures from that below.

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This former church is home to Fabrica, a visual arts organization

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Fabrica was Trinity Chapel in a former life

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The ruins of the West Pier, which was last open in 1975

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Brighton Pier, on the other hand, is alive and well

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Waves in the sea

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A closer shot of the West Pier

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The new British Airways i360. You can pay £15 to go to the top of the pole, which I may have to do the next time I’m in Brighton

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I’m guessing this smoke house belongs to one of the many restaurants along the seafront

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The donut sculpture near Brighton Pier

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More of Brighton Pier

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Isn’t all that sun great??

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Another shot of the i360, this time with people going up (snapped on the way to my friend Matt’s place

After that lovely walk, I made a quick stop at the Red Roaster to say goodbye to my friend Steve (fun fact – we once saw Renee Zellweger in that coffee shop) and then got scrubbed up and headed for Matt’s house. We picked up our friend Douglas on our way and then we were off!

Next episode – a Welsh weekend of Doctor Who fun!

One Last Lundi (Monday) in Canada (Day 4)

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Always leave ’em wanting more, right? While you’ve been waiting on the edge of your seat (or something like that) for the last post about my Canada trip, I’ve been busy with life back at home in Minnesota. And also planning for my next trip! More on that in a bit. As for the end of this trip though…

The last day in Montreal was good, albeit quiet. After an early start for the trip to Québec City the previous day, we unsurprisingly opted to not get up early. And since we had to head to the airport to catch our flight home in the afternoon, we didn’t have time to do anything too crazy either. So this day was really about just enjoying the city, doing some more walking around, and of course, eating. 😀 First up on the agenda was a trip to Schwartz’s Deli, which not only came recommended from a friend of mine, but is also a very well-known eatery in Montreal. We had already gotten a peek at it when we went to Coco Rico as they’re next door to each other, so we knew exactly where to go! It was a little early for a full-on lunch meal (we were there around 1030-11a), plus we wanted to save room for poutine (more on that below), so we opted to just split a sandwich. I say “just” but the sandwiches are pretty damn big there, so half of one is very decent snack! Like Coco Rico, Schwartz’s is often pretty packed, so don’t be surprised if you see a line out the door when you visit. But don’t worry – many people are there to just grab something to go. Also like Coco Rico though, there isn’t much eating space inside Schwartz’s (just a collection of about 12-15 stools along the back wall), but there’s more than enough space to enjoy a sandwich. We opted for a pastrami sandwich as that felt suitably deli-ish – it was pretty tasty! As I said, the sandwiches are big, so there’s a lot of meat in them and they’re also not particularly cheap (~$7 USD for our pastrami), but you should still grab a bite here the next time you’re in Montreal. If we hadn’t already been planning on eating poutine later, I would totally have ordered their poutine – a couple seated next to us was eating it and it looked amazing!

Speaking of looking amazing, a couple of photos!

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Our pastrami sandwich with mustard. I told you they come with a lot of meat!

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I took this when we left and the line was definitely longer as compared to when we arrived

After Schwartz’s, we continued to stroll, mostly through the Plateau neighborhood, with two goals in mind – chocolate and poutine. Scott wanted to pick up some decent chocolate (ie – something nicer than a candy bar from back home), but the shop we were going to stop at is unfortunately closed on Mondays, so that was a bit of a bust. But we still enjoyed the walk, though this day was definitely the hottest of our trip. Not unbearably hot, mind you, but still the most heat we had to deal with. No matter though – we continued along to another destination, the Gay Village. Since it was early afternoon by this point, we didn’t have our eyes on going to clubs and getting drunk, but it was cool to see such a vibrant, big LGBT part of the city. And as an added bonus, there was an art installation lining the streets as part of the Aires Libres Public Art Event, so we got to enjoy that as well.

Our final “official” destination in Montreal was La Banquise, a restaurant famous for their poutine (a quintessential Canadian food). This is another place that came to our attention through both our own research and recommendations from others and it was delish! One look at the menu and you’ll quickly realize that poutine is the dish you HAVE to try, so don’t even bother getting anything else. Or do, but make sure you get poutine to go with it. 😀 This is another really busy place, so expect to wait, but it will be worth it! Pay attention when you’re walking in though – there are two lines (one for takeout and one for eating in), so pick the right one. We ate in and only had to wait in line for a few minutes before we got a table. The prices are very reasonable ($7-10 USD for a regular size of poutine) and the portions we got were pretty generous, so you won’t leave with an empty stomach. We each ordered a regular size, but we could have easily split one, though that may be because we’d already had that delicious pastrami from Schwartz’s. Bring your appetite and your cash as La Banquise only accepts cash or Canadian debit cards. Don’t worry though – they have an ATM in the restaurant, so if you forget to bring cash, you’ll be able to get some there.

Check out the rest of our day below!

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Walking through the Plateau

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A random church we passed while walking through the city

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Skirting around the edge of La Fontaine Park

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Walking through the Gay Village and enjoying the art installation

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I only took this picture of Mado because I loved the sign 🙂

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The Gay Village is on Rue Sainte-Catherine, so I had to get a directional sign picture with the rainbow flag

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The poutines we enjoyed at La Banquise. I had La Festival (swiss cheese, hot peppers, and onion rings) and Scott had La Bacon (with, you guessed it, bacon). Needless to say, we didn’t finish either one!

And thus ends our time in Canada! We really enjoyed Montreal and I’m so glad we did the side trip to Québec City as well. I would re-visit both again, especially Québec City as we were there for such a short time. I recommend paying both a visit, especially in early September because of the great weather.

Next up…back to the United Kingdom! Yes, I’m off there for about a week very soon, so watch out for a new group of posts about my favorite place to visit. After arriving in London on Thursday, I’ll be heading straight to Brighton to meet up with friends and will then head to Wales the next day for a weekend of fun and Doctor Who with even more friends before heading back to London on the Monday to spend a few days in my favorite city. Late September used to be the time when I would often visit the UK, but over the last few years, that shifted to November (primarily because of the timing of the Doctor Who events I wanted to attend). I’m excited to be going back in September again though and even more excited to be seeing lots of friends in the process.

See you soon, UK!