OXFORD AND WARWICK
Yup...we were there right when it opened, first rotation as it were. Little cloudy but views were good and you get lots of time right up at the window. This is me with all me brothers, all with their own travelling interests. Except me, I like everything.
After the "Eye" it was a trip to the Bank of England to exchange our now useless 20 pound notes. We are so good at exchanging expired money now. Luckily this is where they shot "Mary Poppins Returns" so we got our little taste of movie location time.
The evening was spent at the very lovely "Ivy", the restaurant where all the celebrities hang out. This is not far from Leicester Square and we had lovely food in a nice atmosphere. No celebs but our friends did see Stephen Fry last time they were here. Lovely day all round and not very taxing on the brain.
First time to visit the home of Mister Charles Dickens. He lived here when he was in his 20's, recently married to a woman he adored and they had a child. He was perhaps the first worldwide celebrity and it is here he began to entertain some of the great men of science like Charles Darwin. He was moving up in society but he didn't forget where he came from. Lovely little house with so much interesting history and rooms to enjoy (upstairs and downstairs). It was at this home he wrote my favourite story "Oliver Twist" and if you wander the neighbourhood you can see so much of the inspiration for scenes in that book ( or series rather).
On this very desk he wrote "Great Expectations". I did think I might feel his ghost or something but I didn't. Still I really loved this place and it's very much worth a visit.
Later it was time for a brief nap (because we've been sleeping poorly) and then off to the front row of Les Mis (my 3rd time I think). Oh my! It was awfully confusing when the young Cosette was white and the grown up Cosette was black. Never wrapped my head around that. Kind of ruined it (it would have been so very easy to have a young black actress play young Cosette). I think the director was on drugs or something. Valjean (looked exactly like Russell Crowe so I immediately thought him the bad guy) was rather gruff and unlikable in this version where Javert was handsome and such a lovely singer you sided with him. I blame the director on this one, had he just reversed the roles of Valjean and Javert it would have been 100% better. Still I loved Bradley Jaden and he was a joy to watch. It sure is funny how you can take a great play and make it less great with a bad director. At least we had great seats.
Now this might be one of my most fun things to do in London. It opened a year ago and it's called MAIL RAIL. It's the little tiny, underground railway with tiny little cars and a tiny glass dome. This is how they transported mail under London for many years.
You squeeze into your tiny car (don't stand up, don't be over 5 feet tall or you'll almost have to duck just to sit in the seat. Boy though, is it fun. Then after you go through the Rail Mail museum and you can go in a rail car where you have to sort mail while the moving floor tries to throw you off balance. Not sure which was more fun, the train or the sorting. Super friendly folks. Then after you go across the street to the museum (well you go there first for tickets but really you should pre-book) and check out the entire history of the British Postal Service. Wow...interesting or what? Loved this day. Afterwards we went to the local "Futon" shop and bought a mattress topper to put on our hotel bed so that maybe we could actually sleep on the cement bed. It did make it much better and the 100 pounds was cheaper than moving hotels and paying an extra $100 pounds a night for a room. Sometimes you gotta just be creative in your stay.
New friends at Mail Rail. I told you they were super friendly.
Arrived via that British Airways Bird and rode the Heathrow Express into London. Quick cab to King's Cross and checked into....ahhh....the hotel with the worst ever bed in the world (Holiday Inn - Bloomsbury). We grabbed an hour nap on the plane (best sleep now till we hit Paris).
Time to check out the local area. Tube station with great access to everything (check), shopping centre a 1/4 of a block away (check), and then walkies to to the Platform 9 3/4 shop at King's Cross. Crazy!! They take your photo with luggage cart (but the wait is like a 1/2 hour or more) or you can just pop in the shop (crazy busy, packed every hour of every day). Still lots of fun things to buy so we got a couple of pens and I got my photo with a lovely lass inside.
Me with the lovely shop assistant at Station 9 3/4.
I have a saying when I see something amazing. I have no idea why I say it but goes something like this. "Holy Crap on a Stick". Well I went to Brickworld but instead I wound up at Jurassic Park. This Lego built world was better than the movie or any ride Universal comes up with. This is what Universal should have build (loser heads). I never wanted to be a minifig more than I did here. I mean there was this nifty jeep thingys, a dolphin show, a movie, a rollercoaster and I can't remember the number of dinosaurs (maybe 80 or 200, it was a lot). Hundreds of minifigs were there too. The park is like 18 feet long (though that's likely not exact). What I do remember is it cost $20,000 U.S. to build this sucker. Did you know Universal wanted to "borrow it". James Burrows (the builder guy) said no way. I mean if they offered him money or something but they didn't. Anyway it will be at the premiere of the film in Tampa (cuz that's where James is from). Did I mention this was my favourite thing at Brickworld?
Now fantastic as it was I had a very, very, very close second. That my friends was.....drum roll please. Yes it's a full mechanised Quidditch match with Harry Potter and his cursed broomstick. What you don't see is the rest of the build so add another couple of tables (and apparently this is 1/2 of what he has). It's the entire Harry Potter Experience. So to the wonderful Eric and Emily Krans, well done you. (See below for my little film).
There were so many great builds but my 3rd favourite was the giant bridge, he won for best building and best light show. The Quidditch March won for best mechanical. My special mention was the diorama from "To Kill A Mockingbird", the full 'How to Train Your Dragon" display and special nod to the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse. Then there was a pirate village with ships and stuff which was awesome and then the crazy clown attack of a castle (sooo many clowns).
Brickworld is overwhelming because there are thousands of things to see and classes and stuff. We went to 2 photography classes and a how to build terrain class. Lost of opening/closing ceremonies where they gave out prizes of free sets (expensive sets too). Then there was some nifty auctions and lots of specialty companies that do custom brick signs (I bought a Coke machine) and some fun military stuff from Brickmania (man these guys have some super fun stuff). May I just say I didn't drop over $400 on their stuff. It was more actually. Going to do a whole entire Bessie Coleman (first North American pilot to have an international pilot license and she was a woman and she was black). Take that Amelia Earhart. Bessie's from Chicago too.
Well...we took the early ferry and thought, "Easy peasy" it's a 40 minute border crossing into the U.S at the Peace Arch Crossing. Ha...ha...ha! They lied. It was new staff training day and it took 1 hour and 45 minutes. Headed next to Tulalip Casino where we won about $80 before heading to Seatac and overnight at the Crowne Plaza (have now found my new favourite hotel at Seatac). Next morning it was off to Alaska Air and our flight to Chicago.
Alas we hit Enterprise and they just couldn't seem to combine a car with a GPS and an actual trunk where you can ensure you luggage is safely hidden. After finally finding a portable GPS we were on our way to Shaumburg, Il. It's just about 45 minutes sort of north of Chicago. Stayed at the Homewood Suites which was excellent. Full kitchen, our own apartment, free breakfast and free dinners (Mon-Thurs). We had time to head to the convention centre for our Brickworld Badges, register and set up our wee pirate display which needed some rebuilding after being in our carry on.
We done got ourselves a new Ipad thingy but it didn't let me do my Blog or website so sorry for the delay. Just now have time to get everything put in. So join me on my journey for 5 days at Brickworld (Lego mania and after 5 days I still didn't see everything). That folks is a whole lot of Lego.
Here is me, me brother Snuzie (boat guy) and Normie (Science Guy). We are having an Isambard Kingdom Brunel day here in Bristol. Who is Isambard? Only the most influential human from Britain that ever existed. He figured out how to tunnel under the Thames, build the Clifton Suspension Bridge and basically invent steam ships which brought all those folks overseas faster than them there sailboats. That and he figured out that ships made of iron floated good too and held more stuff.
This here ship that I'm on used to be called the SS Great Britain but is now, officially, Brunel's SS Great Britain. You can go on it, in it and under it. There are rebuilding the dry dock area to resemble how it was in the 1800's along with a Brunel museum.
You can even climb the rigging but much as I tried, and I tried, a lot, my dear old Dad wouldn't climb up. Tried all day to convince him but it was not to be. It's not that high.
Rigging me olde Dad wouldn't climb. Did you know this boat sailed around the world 32 times? Now enjoy my little pictures. Nuthin more fun onboard ships than playing with the food.
It's always fun at the ÄT BRISTOL SCIENCE MUSEUM. There is tons and tons of interactive things to do like looking at at brains, picking up brains, playing with brains. Then there's lost of skulls which you can look at and pick up and play with. The mostest fun thing to do though was the second floor. It's all about movie animation at the moment. From claymation (because this is the home of the company that made Chicken Run and Wallace and Gromit). You can see sets and storyboards and even make your own little movies. They are good at science and fun stuff but crappy cafe and not much better gift shop. Guess you can't be good at everything.
This is one of the sets from a Wallace and Gromit film. You can make it all different times of the day and even turn the cars lights on.
Afterwards we climbed the "Big Hill", I think it's Park Street. The super beautiful Bristol University is up there and it's pretty darn amazing. You can also play in the fountain (which I may or may not have done). After you've hiked "The Big Hill" why not stop for a super duper pizza (made in a proper brick oven thingy). It's delicious....and it's called Pinkman's. It's a bakery too. Wish I was there right now.
So it's off to the bridge so you call a taxi and the driver apparently speaks no English and perhaps has never even been to Bristol. He needs an address and his GPS. First stop is to see where me great great grandfather George Harris lived. 4 storey house it was on Freeland Place. Little did we know that since it "the house"is so tall you can spot it easily from high atop the Clifton Suspension Bridge (it's even in some sketches). George was a pilot (not airplanes silly it's like 1890). No, a pilot that brought the big ships into the harbour.
So we want to go up to the Clifton Observatory, taxi driver had no idea and took us miles downriver where in the far, far distance was the bridge. The Observatory is like a 3 minute walk...grrrr. So we get him to drop us by the bridge and we walked across and stopped for brownies before heading into the visitor centre. The dude that designed it never saw it completed though. Guy named Isambard Kingdom Brunel (that's one heck of a crazy name). He designed the S.S. Great Britain (big boat thingy) and the bridge design was part of a competition.
After the bridge we walked the 3 minutes up to the Observatory and you can see by the photo it's bloody amazing and awesome and super pretty too. There was a nifty camera obscura where we could see the reflection of the bridge with cars going by.
Now we headed into Clifton to do a walkabout and visit what was the longest terrace in Europe. It is known as the Royal York Crescent. So we see this gentleman sitting out front and we start talking to him and he lives inside one of these fancy houses. So the next thing you know he's a history buff and film buff and he's invited us inside. We are inside one of these fancy ass houses. Turns out he was a seller of estate items (over 3,500 he has sold the contents of). He puchased the finest pieces for himself and his home is a treasure trove of everything from amazing art (some movie star related) and even letters written by Randolph Churchill (Winston's Dad). He owned a wee home called Blenheim Palace.
There are books signed by the the founder of the Methodist Church and well literally boxes and boxes and boxes of treasure. Take that Bristol Museum, you got nuthin on this guy. When I say guy I mean Michael Beese. They own Rachel's & Michael's Antiques. No picture I'm afraid, too busy going through treasure for pictures.
Grabbed a bus back to town and grabbed a sandwich at Sainsburys'. The olde Mam went to the Hippodrome (old theatre from 1912) for tickets to the live show of The Addam's Family. They're creepy and their spooky...and Baxter's kind of kooky, he thinks he's in the cast now of the Addam's Family.