OXFORD AND WARWICK
It's that time again. Packing for a trip to England. A little Oxford first and then to Warwick, Stratford, Birmingham and even the Warner Brothers Studio Tour (2nd time...lots of new sets). Watch this space though our laptop (new 4 months ago) died so hopefully it's back by Thursday.
Well it was a quick breakfast as we were due to meet up for a photo with Taron at 10:45 am. My "London"sweatshirt was depilled and freshly vacuumed I was ready for a little meet up with a Kingsman. Met lots of fans in line and found they weren't queeky like Avengers fans but more into classier films and actors. Most had done a lot of research and more than us had learned how to greet him in Welsh.
As I went in Taron looked at me and I introduced myself as Baxter and then I said, "Shwmae". I guess I was the first one because he replied with a rather astonished, OH! I like that he grabbed me wee bum and made sure I was safe. I didn't have a lot of time because we had to join line #2 for a chat and autograph.
Now at last it's noon-ish and we are lined up again for a proper hello. We had brought along a Lego build of all his famous characters from his films plus a bag of Oreos. The Taiwanese girl before us gave him some strange cheese cookies and he the best he could manage was a thanks and that he'd never heard of a cheese cookie before. She didn't speak great English either but he was nice to her. Then I went up and said, "If the Avengers all have their own minifigs then it's time you had your own". To that he said, "Huh....Avengers". He seemed rather excited and gave it a good look and carefully put it in the box. Then I said I heard he liked Oreos to which he replied rather loudly, "I LOVE OREOS!! Much better reaction than the cheese cookies because it was spontaneous and not rehearsed. He grabbed that bag of cookies pretty fast I can tell you. Talked a bit about Eddie the Eagle and the response at the 88 Olympics and Daddy thanked him for all his great films. At this point he wasn't suffering yet from insane jet lag.
Time to bother the folks again at "They Reach"and had a really long talk with the director. He showed us other scenes on his phone and how he'd chosen to light some of the scenes and why. Even explained his colour palette so it was full on 1979's. The attention to detail on costume (Mom in the 60's wearing an apron) were so carefully thought out.
Off to another panel to see Josh Brolin, Zoe Saldana and Lee Pace. Josh Brolin pretty much gave some life advice, don't be like him. Basically an asshole back in the day. He was funny, thoughtful and I think he's come a long way. I was impressed at the effort he put into the show. Zoe is a sci fi nerd and his specially found a niche she could fill. That of any colour of character like blue in Avatar to green in the Avengers. I didn't know Lee, I mean his in Avengers but with all the make up off I didn't recognise him at all. Much better seats, we could actually see the gang sort of.
Now it's Taron's turn and we were in the 2nd row. Poor Taron. He flew in from England on Saturday night for the Sunday show and was flying home tonight. He wanted to see Seattle so just closed his eyes for a nap around 5pm on Saturday and that was it. Fast asleep so he saw nothing. By 4:15 his body wants to go to bed and he's looking severely jet lagged (which he is) and was hurting big time. You can always tell by the eyes. Still he soldiered on. When audience members asked questions and he'd met them at the autograph session he actually remember their names. Who does that? Taron that's who. Ever since his latest movie wrapped (like 6 days ago) he's having nightmares that maybe this crazy dream of the last 5 years is over and he'll never work again. He is genuinely concerned. He said he'd play in any Avengers any Marvel or would love to be asked to do work on the Westend or Broadway. He just really, really, wants to keep working. His hobbies are music (well his Welsh people of course he loves it) but it just discovered Canadian singer Joni Mitchell and was planning to listen to her music on his way home. Nice shout out to the Canadians. HIs hobby is hanging in the pub with his mates (hey he's a British lad in his 20's, that's what they do). I sure hope he gets some new work very, very, soon.
It was all over too fast but what a genuine sweetheart. He might even be cuter than me. But alas the Comic Con had come to an end. Oh he signed a piece of Kingsman original art that we bought and our CD. Anyhoo it was a very, very, over cheesy pizza for dinner and then crashed for the evening. Planning on the underground tour in the morning.
Here's Taron deep in thought, obviously a question he hadn't been asked a lot.
First stop today was the MOPOP (or the Museum of Pop Culture). It's right behind the Space Needle and it's super cool. I mean they got everything from a collection of "The former artist formerly known as Prince", they got Elton John stuff and guitars (so many guitars) and Indiana Jones fedora and jacket and a Gremlin (I could go on but I mean they got it all folks). We spent a solid 2 1/2 hours there and didn't even hit the gift shop for goodness sakes alive. Grabbed a snack and headed back to the Monorail and light rail transit to take us back to the Wamu Centre for Ace Comic Con.
When not bugging Jason (aka Robert Downey Jr) or the cast, director and producer of "They Reach" we could be found in a panel. Today's live panel was a few unknown actors from a little flick called "The Avengers - End Game". Yup it was Jeremy Renner, Chris Evans and Don Cheadle. I now like Jeremy Renner but Chris is as exciting as his character. Jeremy Renner is a nutball. Then we stayed for the panel for "They Reach". Both excellent.
Quick trip back to the hotel for dinner and then a walk all the way down to Pike's Market and continued down wayyyyy too many stairs to reach the Seattle Great Wheel. Not too long a wait and had our own car or pod or bubbly seat thingy. We weren't supposed to walk around apparently but we spent most of our time switching seats and moving about. Bad us I guess. Still some wonderful views and such a beautiful night. It's exactly 1 mile (not km) from our hotel to the wheel so that's a 2 mile walk after a full day. Not bad for a bunch of stuffies and a couple of oldtimers.
No more driving to Seattle shenanigans for me. No siree! First time on the Clipper....a not so wee passenger ferry with just over 400 souls onboard. A crossing of about 2 hours and 45 minutes and then we arrived in Seattle.
Now the government of Seattle is very very naughty and have granted licenses to those nasty African scammers who practically force you into unmarked vehicles and lock the door until you realise there is no meter and no posted prices. That's right...you're hostage to whatever ridiculous amount you have to pay. I felt like we were LIam Neeson's family so it doesn't just happen in Paris. They take no credit cards and force you to find cash and wait while you head for an ATM (happened to our co-riders). The lovely family got "TAKEN" for $25.00 for what should have been about a $7.00 taxi fare ($10 at most). They were so angry they told leaned in and told us how much they were scammed. At this point we still were hostages. We made certain to talkabout just exactly what we would pay and what would happen if we were charge more (very loudly to each other in the back seat). Still they took us for $15 in what we would later discover was a $7.00 cab ride. Still me olde Dad would have insured that the driver's wrist (or maybe entire arm) would not have been very useful if we were actually held hostage. Just cause me olde Dad is old doesn't mean he's not trained to hurt folks very, very badly if required.
Even hotel porters/valets are in on the scam so order your cab at the front desk, ensure it's an actual cab, licensed and with a meter. Other than that little scam the Hilton Garden Inn had a lovely restaurant, comfy rooms and a decent price. It was about a 10 minute walk to the light rail transit from which you can get to all the major attractions.
After dropping our bags it was off to ACE COMIC CON. Bit of a confusing walk from the light rail "Stadium Station" to the WAMU but we found it. We got there right at opening time, picked up our swag bag of luggage tags, children's toys (given away to regular ticket buyers), a nice ACE blanket, lanyard with Taron Egerton's adorable face on it and our actual tickets.
First stop was the surprise addition of a large Lego display courtesy of SEALUG (the Seattle Lego Users Group). Chatted with them for about an hour. Stopped for some mini corn dog bits with fries (fries were decent) and then onwards. Fantastic evening meeting the cast and crew of a new film called "They Reach". It is on the waitlist for the Toronto Film Festival. The trailer looks pretty good and the director's attention to detail and the art direction and photography is incredible for such a small budget film.
Later another half hour chat with a Disney artist that worked a lot on Frozen. According to him the best Disney attraction anywhere is in San Francisco, the Disney Family Museum. Pulled at his heartstrings. That is now a plan.
Finally (and maybe the highlight) was a Robert Downey Jr impersonator who was so much like RDJ (right down to personality, body movement, voice, smile...everything). Somehow we sort of befriended him and then kept running into him even outside the con. Turns out his boss is a Lego builder like us and that we very likely have met his boss at Brick Can. I don't know how long we talked to him but overall a few hours. It was like hanging with RDJ and he knew every film. His favourite is "Chances Are", same as me olde Mam's. Here's a wee photo of Jason and me. More coming.
So I think to myself, where to go when it's snowing in Victoria? Someplace warm and dry so I picked Disney. Well whoopsie doodle it twer cold and raining it twas. Still it twer fun. First we stayed at that there Anaheim Majestic Garden Hotel and they upgraded us to a giant suite with a living room and everything. This hotel looks like a castle and we stayed in the turret so our bedroom was round. Nifty huh?
Day one was breakfast in the Surly Cafe (otherwise known as the hotel's restaurant). It was full of grim faced, miserable type folks from that there place on the other side of Trumps invisible wall. I guess they just aren't morning folks but jeez louise! They do win for surliest waiters in the world and that includes the ones in Paris.
I digress, so off on the hotel's shuttle (they have 2) we arrived at the Wonderful Wet World of Disneyland. The good news is there were virtually no people there which means you walk on rides, get off, circle around and just walk on again. You also get lots of pictures with cast members as well, nobody's around. We got to hang out with Mickey for quite awhile which never happens
Now we did have a bit of an adventure on the Jungle Cruise. You see the rain gathers on the boats canopies which the staff have to empty out. Little problem is that they empty out on the riders so you get a canopy waterfall down your back (not that you weren't already wet from the rain) but your underpanties feel like you wet yourself for the next few hours (so sticky to my bum were they).
My brother Spookie enjoyed the Haunted Mansion because, well, he's a ghost.
Our main priority of this Disney adventure is to see how much we could spy on the new "Galaxy's Edge" attraction (Star Wars thingy), opening this summer. We found a mural and the model for the new land so here be a sneak peak.
What I didn't expect to find at Disneyland were props and design prints from Mary Poppins Returns. This may have been the highlight of Disneyland for me. Too bad Mary Poppins was the old one and she wouldn't talk about the new Mary no matter how hard I tried. That was kinda sad. Here's some of the props I got to see (if you know where they hid them).
"I used to be a tour guide", he said. So we begged him, "The Guide That Cannot Be Named" to take us on a trip to Normandy. We want to see the Normandy Beaches (we should have been far more specific as in take us to Juno). So giving him the beach information he quickly designed a tour for the Monet home and gardens because they are pretty. Dude...I live in Victoria, home to one of the greatest gardens in the world. I don't need to see gardens.
So everything was changed and we raced (as in ran our feeties off) to the Metro and then on to the train where we raced to grab the next (just departing no time to have your ticket checked) train to Rouen. Home to Joan of Arc but maybe not today. You see Rouen appeared to be closed, all of it. As in no museums open, no Cathedral open (though it is beautiful from outside). The outside was carved to look like lace or lacework so it is amazing. We didn't have time to look (not sure why since clearly we can't go inside or see a museum so we should have tons of time). Nope had to race through the streets. Really lovely old buildings though and had we not been with a guide we'd still be there in a maze of streets designed to keep you from finding your way to anything (it's true, they were built to confuse the enemy). Run through we must though as we have a train to catch.
We got very excited since we were apparently in such a hurry that we would get to Juno though we thought that we should have gone directly there. No such luck. We were racing to Le Havre. No history there, or at least as far as 'The Guide That Cannot Be Named" knew. Nope he wanted to show us a beach because you can see boats and water and stuff. Dude...we live 10 minutes from the ocean, we can see beaches and boats every day ("Well I didn't know that", he said).
Apparently all beaches close in France, or at least northern France on October 1st. That and this wasn't exactly a beach. It's a whole shitload of pebbles, no bathers no nothing. Wait I lie, there was one thing. You see all the public toilets were closed because the beach was closed so we managed to find a restaurant overlooking the beach where I may have had one of the best gelatos ever. The highlight of the day actually. Beautiful view if you don't mind pebbles and rocks. The toilet was nice though. Thank you La Croisette restaurant for a nice break and view.
We raced back to the train and back to Paris where our guide fell asleep and drooled all over himself. This is apparently the most embarrassing thing a Parisian can do, he was horrified. Now the best thing about our guide is he was a huge movie fan. There is us and then there is this guy, movie fan times a thousand. Not much he didn't know about film because he was a cinematographer. So even though the trip north was a disaster we still had a wonderful time learning about film.
He felt very guilty about not knowing France was closed on Mondays so he stayed with us and took us to movie locations around Paris. That included where they filmed the Bourne Movie. He showed us so many film locations I hate to stay I've forgotten them all. That and a lot of historical places that tourists don't normally see. Secret medieval alleys and the old walls of Paris.
Oh I forgot but where Joan of Arc got burned is all ripped down and under construction so didn't even get to see the statue.
Anyway we wound up at a very famous (perhaps one of the most famous) cafe's in Paris. The Bouillon Chartier founded in 1896. It's where all the poor folk used to gather for meals and it is still sort of like that. Basic fare (quite good actually) but packed. You actually form a line in another building then out into the street and then back into the main restaurant. It's crazy huge and seats something like 500 or more people. At last we found our first rude Parisian waiter (horray!). When we asked for medium well he said "NO!". That was it, just no, very adamantly. The medium was fine in the end, very tasty.
Lacey looking cathedral thingy.
It be a blustery day so we decided to "keep it indoors". Grabbed the Metro to Les Halles, a shopping centre. A super crappy, why did I go there, shopping centre. French it was not. It has all the American outlet chains, every shop I can go to at home in Canada or any city in the U.S. What a friggin disappointment. No place to sit down for a bite because the one thing missing was a food court. All the friggin mall directories seemed to have the Lego store in a different place so it took us a long time to find it.
The Parisian type Lego builds weren't bad but you couldn't get a good photo as they were in the windows so all you got was glare. The good thing was the build a minifig did have chef hats, French style torsos and they had their own "sort of" French dude blockhead (we got two they are kinda cute).
The next stop was the "Opera" stop (no tours today) so we stopped to see a little film called "The Paris Story". It was decent enough. Then into the Galerie Lafayette. This is a department store under a big dome of stained glass. All the levels open to the main floor and it's all very, very shiny and sparkly. We hit up the children's floor (fun Lego displays built by the staff) and lovely little outfits. We were shopping for an old friend from England who is having a baby girl. Of course every little girl needs a French dress from the best shop. Bit of a wasted day really, except for the little dress which Canada Post probably will lose or toss in the bin somewhere as we didn't pay $70 to track it. Friggin hate Canada Post.
First thing today we went to jail. The jail where they locked up Marie Antoinette before they chopped off her head. Before you go into the jail you have to check out the church called Sainte Chapelle. It's pretty nifty inside, some say more interesting than Notre Dame but alas no hunchback. The walls are almost entirely made of stained glass though so it's quite beautiful. Through the courtyard to the street and then it's into the Conciergerie. It was a prison and a large one it was too. It could hold up to 2700 people. You could even pay rent if you wanted a nicer cell with a comfy bed.
Did you know that before they cut off your head you have to get a haircut. That's so the blade goes through better. They have a little sort of barber shop inside. I thought that was pretty nifty.
After jail it was off to find Madame Curie's laboratory. We knew it was close to the Pantheon but there was a problem. You see there is the Madame Curie Musee and the Curie Institute. The institute was easy to find but we could nary find a sign or entrance to any museum. After about an hour of wandering and asking every Parisian who does not speak English we finally realised it was the same thing. Grrrrr! We'd been past it sooo many times. Now this musee is very very tiny but tons of info. They had to decontaminate the lab and her office because it was very radioactive and that stuff lasts for years. I hope they didn't just pretend they got that radioactivity out of there. Here's a couple of photos of my brother Normie, he's super into science.
Brave...brave Sir Normie.
Afterwards it was off to discover the Pantheon. Very large and you can find all the tombs here. You don't have to look at the map to find Marie Curie's as that is where everyone is going. Follow the crowd. The second most popular is Victor Hugo...the Les Mis dude.
Joan of Arc is in here too but we didn't know that so we missed it. We spent a day in Rouen looking for Joan but it was never meant to be. That's coming up.
The Pantheon. Aren't the clouds looking nifty?
So we walked through the gardens, over the bridge and there was no line at the d'Orsay (none of this pay extra silly business...not if you get there early enough). I do say I rather like this place as there are statues (my favourite) and some super famous paintings and a shiny ballroom (see left) and some over the top cafe's we didn't stop at though there is a grab a coffee and sweetie bar on the lower level. This was way better than the Louvre...just sayin. Don't be wasting your precious time at the Louvre when you can see the great stuff in here.
Then we grabbed the Metro and headed to the stop for Sacré-Cœur but alas it was closed. We got off at the next stop but without a map or phone we had no idea where to go. Luckily this little church place is on top of a very high hill so we just headed up every street that continued up (I think we went up the backside). We found 120 stairs and up we went. Did I mention it was like +26C out there so we were hot and bothered by the time we got to the tippy top.
We went in, wandered about and then decided we were either going with sunstroke or low blood sugar from the climb. Feeling about to pass out we found a giant Cola Slurpee thingy coming in at about 1 million calories. That went down in seconds and we ventured onwards. It was getting late and the sun sets early in October. That means when you finally reach the Awful Tower (looking rather splendid) you get views like this. Am I an awesome photographer or what? We didn't go up but rather just enjoyed the view and wandered around at the base of it and down the river. That was our day...not bad eh?
Okay my cute face isn't in this one but this is literally the view just a 1/4 block from our Parisian apartment.
We took the Eurostar from London and then a taxi to our private apartment where we stay all week.
First stop was the market for fresh fruit, roast chicken and potatoes and veggies (and to practise our French). There were Patisseries nearby so somehow we managed. Then walked up to the Arch de Triumphe for sunset time.
It was a travel day so not too much to report. Still I am loving this view.