Emotion, Food, Life, Travel

I see England, I see France

I’ve been traveling so much these days! It’s great, it really is, but it’s also nice to have weekend at ‘home’ (home being Amsterdam.) Over the past month I’ve spent weekends in London, Disley, Oxford, D√ľsseldorf/Bonn and Maastricht, in England, Germany and the Netherlands, respectively.

And I fully understand the benefits of a backpackers backpack now. However, I have a laptop with me, so I have this little rolling suitcase/laptop case. It is really great, but not fun when in a rush or when walking on cobblestone! (Note: when walking on cobblestone, I usually pick it up, hence the annoyance.)

Image

The brand, London Fog, is so fitting for me, since I’m a proclaimed Anglophile (who isn’t though?). It has “Big Ben” on every zipper ;). When I was buying it, it was next to a Parisian brand that had Eiffel Towers all over it. These brands know who their target markets well, that’s for sure.

So anyway, each weekend I bring like, 1.5-2 outfits, because that’s all I can fit with all the other stuff I’m bringing – journals, laptop, sometimes work stuff. I just have to get creative with my clothes, trying to make them look like I wasn’t wearing it the day before, or sleeping in it.

When I went to London a few weeks ago, I had breakfast with a blogger friend of mine, Sara, from realfunfood.com. I’ve always loved reading her blogs, because I feel like they’re perfectly catered towards me – a young female living in London and likes cooking and fitness and other geeky things. So it was very cool to meet up with her! It was tough picking a restaurant out of all the wonderful options, but we picked one called the Electric Diner in Notting Hill. The restaurant looked super cool and the location was great. I love Notting Hill and I don’t think I could ever get bored wondering through Portobello Market, which we did after breakfast!

Image

Photo courtesy of Sara at realfunfood.com. ūüėČ

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Then I had to rush to the show Les Miserables, which was unsurprisingly fantastic. The only unfortunate thing is that I’ve been exposed to the story so many times now, I think the emotional effect it should have on me is waning…. it’s unfortunate, so (once I finish the book!) I’ll take a break from it for a while. It’s the same concern I had about Harry Potter, haha.

Image

Who wants one?:

Image

Is it just me or did they crop the photo on that bag really poorly?

And then I walked to South Bank to meet my friends for dinner and I unexpectedly and delightfully came across Trafalgar’s Square, which was as beautiful as it’s ever been, give or take a couple more blue rooster statues.

Image

Image

Kim, Warwick Davis was inside this building, below. I’m pretty sure that was his last day of the show, too. (I should specify, the building with the “Spamelot” sign, not the old green taxi station.)

Image

Looking at the photo below, it’s taking my breath away even now, if that tells you how beautiful the view was in person.

Image

Right around where I was meeting my friends for dinner, I passed by this outdoor food market, that served hot meals from all ethnicities. It smelled¬†amazing. You have no idea. I told myself that next time I was in London I was definitely getting food from there! However, I¬†was in London the very next weekend, but didn’t make it out there. But¬†NEXT time I’m in London, I really will. For sure.

Image

Image

And here’s my friend Seb’s photo of the restaurant we went to. By the time I got there it was dark… because I went to the wrong Wahaca! There are two in South Bank! I definitely recommend going to Wahaca, but make sure you know which one you’re going to. I felt so stupid, because I’d given them the address of the right Wahaca myself, and then I went to the wrong one. That’s what happens when you rely too much on the internet and then you unexpectedly don’t have it anymore…

Image

And for those fans of Pride & Prejudice, I¬†definitely¬†recommend going to Disley, a little town near Manchester. It’s got the Pemberley Estate from the BBC mini series of Pride & Prejudice! I was sooo excited to go, pretending I was Elizabeth Bennet instead of Elizabeth Berens, taking a turn around the gardens at Pemberley.

And I can’t let this irony slip past you: I, Elizabeth, walked out of the courtyard at Pemberley to be unexpectedly greeted by Mr. Darcy himself, soaking white shirt and all.

Image

Image

The very next weekend, I returned to England to visit my friend in Oxford! She’s just started there 3 weeks before my visit, so it was all new and exciting and surreal. Though, to be honest, I don’t think the omg-is-this-really-my-life-I-go-to-bloody-Oxford feeling will ever fully go away.

I’m seriously seeing Swatches everywhere now. Every airport has them, every flea market! I got one for Sara from an Amsterdam flea market and I remember thinking, “Omg, it’s so lucky this flea market has them!”

Image

There’s a cool covered market in Oxford. It’s got higher end goods, like boots and vintage clothing, along with product, meats, cafes and lots of cool trinkets. I was in the market for boots, so I went into many of the boot shops, but none of the sales people paid much attention to me. I felt a bit like Julie Roberts in¬†Pretty Woman when she tries to buy nice clothes while wearing her hooker clothing. Haha, no, I was normally dressed, but still not looking the part, I guess. I scoffed a bit at them, but then I looked at the price, cringed, and walked out. So it goes.

Image

Image

Image

And now ladies and gentlemen, Oxford:

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

Did anyone recognize some¬†Harry Potter¬†locations? Yepp, that’s right – the staircase to the great hall, the room they had Yule Ball dance lessons and the courtyard where Draco turns into a ferret – all at Oxford. There was also the Restricted section of the library, but you had to pay for a tour and we didn’t have that much time.

Then we were a bit peckish so we got scones and tea! Of course they were good, but they still don’t match the scones I had at the YHA St. Pancras Hostel!

ImageImage

After tea time, we decided it was time for another kind of drink, so we headed to the Eagle and Child, a bar famously frequented by J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.

Image

They even had board games!

Image

And though the menu at Eagle and Child had delicious-looking British grub, we weren’t too hungry, so we decided we’d have a night in with pizza, beer and the IT Crowd. I’ve been living on my own for a while, and despite being in¬†Oxford, England, I was really wanting a girl’s night in with my friend. And anyway, the night before, we’d gone to Formal and out to several bars (including one in an old church with very high gothic ceilings!)

Image

I had to leave the next day because I was also spending a day in London! I met up with a fellow MSU graduate for drinks and also with Sara again! Her boyfriend, also American, met up with us too. First we went to this very cool art deco 1920’s speakeasy-style bar. I definitely want to go back there someday too. Then we went into Chinatown for dinner and little fish-shaped desserts! I had such a great time!

Image

Image

20131029_211025

And then I found out Dan Radcliffe had a stage show in London. :O Gaaah, maybe next time I’m in London.

20131029_193733

Oh, and if you’re wondering about the “I see France” part of my blog title, I’m headed to Paris for a trade show in a couple weeks, for work! I’m meeting up with my friend and colleague from work there too! I can’t wait!

Cheers!

Standard
Life, Travel

LeakyCon – a home for us geeks

So… if I haven’t already revealed this about myself: I’m quite a big Harry Potter fan. The books comfort me like coming home after a long vacation; the movies are totally awesome; and the makers of the movies (the trio, the crew, the designers) are inspiring, talented people.

To give you an idea of just how much I invest in the Harry Potter fandom, most of the vacations I’ve taken in the past few years have been Harry Potter related.

1) Orlando, Florida, June 2010: My three best friends and I flew down for the opening day of Wizarding World of Harry Potter! Watched the opening speeches and the banner drop! Then we marched into the park at the tail end of a parade led by Dan Radcliffe himself!

The four of us in front of Hogwarts at Wizarding World at Universal Studios 2010!

2) Connecticut & NYC, Summer 2011: The same three best friends and I road-tripped it to my friend’s cabin-in-the-woods, but with a day trip to NYC for the traveling Harry Potter props museum and Dan Radcliffe in Broadway’s How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

I couldn’t find a photo of us at the NYC exhibition, but here’s the 5 of us at Camp Bethel in Connecticut, 2011.

3) London, England, May, 2012: For the Harry Potter studio tour at Leavesdon Studios (Three of us visited the fourth friend, who’d been teaching abroad in Paris, then the four of us, erm, “Pottheads” chunnelled over to London for the best week of our lives!

Here we are in the Great Hall of Hogwarts! At Leavesden Studios in Watford, England, 2012.

4) Chicago, IL, August, 2012: LeakyCon! Essentially, Harry Potter Con! FYI: Leaky > www.the-leaky-cauldron.org > The Leaky Cauldron, a pub in the Harry Potter series.

A mild expression of our excitement.

LeakyCon’s entrance banners said “Welcome Home” which felt exactly right. We’ve all felt a little homesick since the books and movies ended. But here we got to reconvene and geek out like the good ‘ol days!

We were all anxious and thrilled, especially Kim, to meet the designers of Harry Potter, Miraphora Mina, Eduardo Lima and Lauren Wakefield, aka MinaLima. They designed everything from wizard book covers, to Horcruxes, to the Sirius Family Tree to Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. They’re who inspired Kim and I to take our career paths!

In order, Lauren, me, Kim, Eduardo, Mira

Popular young adult author, Maureen Johnson’s Midnight Movie – in which she commentated through “Breaking Dawn” – best commentary ever.

The Giant Squid never misses a party.

Luna supports Gryffindor!

Christina and I, in our totally awesome character shirts (Neville is my hero!) standing in front of the also totally awesome breakfast buffet ‘leaving feast.’

Oh, and then this happened.

Standard
Life

Olympics with a side of gin.

Watched the Olympics with my friends this year! I’ll admit, I don’t normally watch the Olympics. (:O!?) But not because of an aversion to the Games, or anything. I think it’s more just the lack of occurring to me to turn on the television.

But this year, the Olympics are in London, one of my favorite cities of all time! So yes, watching religiously.

We had a party for the opening ceremony (great job Danny Boyle & team!)

My friend Christina’s awesome (and delicious) Olympic cookies!

American Flag fruit kabobs – made by Kyle!

There were many highlights, but I must mention how great it was that the ceremonies celebrated children’s reading! I admit, I can get pretty blubbery when I think about JK Rowling’s success – her humble, impoverished beginnings, and how her incredible hard work got her so much more than she asked for!

Aaahhh! There he is there he is kill him!

Though Jo Rowling’s own participation in the ceremony was minimal, seeing her villain towering over the audience with the powerful music and intense performance was yet another reminder of the impact that Jo Rowling and her books have had on the world! *sniff sniff*

And basically the whole world singing “Hey Jude” with Paul McCartney. Another dab at the eyes during that part. (I’m ignoring the fact that I watched it 5 hours after it happened.)

I thoroughly enjoyed the opening ceremonies, and it’s tributes to British culture, history and entertainment. But what about the people who don’t know or care about all-things-British, like I do? I wonder what they thought of the opening ceremony?

After our gin & tonic each, everything we said awarded raised eyebrows and a questioning look from our sober friend. ;P


I’m so happy that my friends and I were in London in the build up to the Olympics! It’s great to be (yeah, very slightly) part of history in that way. Here’s a photo of us at Tower Bridge, just before the Olympic rings were hung:

Excited to be at Trafalgar Square in London, in front of the Olympic countdown!

Standard
Advertising

The Olympics in advertising and packaging, creating history.

An advertisement isn’t just a thing of the moment, it immortalizes a brand and a time period. During the Olympics, brands feature the Olympics, their athletes, Olympic events, or just the logo as another way to grab attention and, well, capitalize on a popular event.

Brands, ads and packaging tell stories about history. For example, these days so many commercials have the husband doing something stupid and the wife challenging him or correcting him. That’s a very different portrayal of marriage than 50 years ago! Another way ads reveal changing times is that print ads don’t have too many words on them these days – they used to have paragraphs of copy! But people are constantly on the go, and don’t want to read novels about a product anymore.

Harrods uses Olympic events to add a new level of interest to fashion.

And when so many brands collectively feature something like the Olympics, it puts them in a new section of history. They’re not only telling a story about users of their specific product, but also about the widespread interest of the Olympics, which I think is so interesting!

P&G finds emotion in their brand through the eyes of Olympian mothers.

 

In London, my sister, Kim, and I went to the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising. (That place is so cool!) It went through decades of advertising from the Victorian Age to today. Ads and packaging would feature the Royal couple of the time. I thought it was a relatively new thing to plaster famous faces on products! But no, they’ve been doing it since at least Queen Victoria in the late 1800s!

Marmite featuring the Queen’s Jubilee.

 

To see a collection of packaging, from body soap to chocolates, kids toys to cereal boxes with the King and Queen on them was so cool. It’s a great insight into advertising tactics, as well as what was popular in the day.

Adidas, an official sponsor of the UK, and the official sportswear of UK Olympic athletes, does a great job adding emotion to their brand in this Olympian Adidas ad. It says intensity, hard work, competition and success.

I can’t wait until the collection of Olympic ads makes it’s way into museums like the Museum of Brand, Packaging and Advertising!

Standard