Posted in Catching TV, Listening to Music, Reading Books, Traveling to Places, Watching Movies

So…What Happened to 2015?

Well, I made it through the entire year of 2015 without blogging once. Don’t worry, I’m not touting this as a good thing. In fact, I’m downright ashamed about it. Blogging was my thing, the one way I held on to my love of writing that spawned over 20 years ago…and I just let it disappear.

 

I could sit here and blame a list of things for my lack of writing: no ideas, no time, etc., but it wouldn’t justify anything. I had ideas. I had time. I just got lazy. It became easier to just post on the many pointless social networks I belong to. In fact, basically all I did in 2015 was post to social networks that I don’t even like because I kept changing my mind about which one I wanted to use and didn’t want to use and it was enough to drive me crazy.

In fact, it DID drive me crazy. Crazy to the point where I decided that in 2016 I need to get back into long-form blogging and ENOUGH WITH THE SHIT OF SOCIAL MEDIA.

But I’m not here to discuss all the things that are wrong with social media in 2016. I’m here to tell you that I’m back and that this year will be much different than last year. It HAS to be.

So before I officially make my blogging return, here’s a quick run-down of the things that happened in 2015 just so you know that it wasn’t ALL social media.

• I realized that I liked other genres of books more than young adult. That’s right! 2015 was the year where I sort of broke up with YA and embraced historical mysteries and middle grade. Of course middle grade isn’t exactly new to me, but some of the best books I read last year were from the middle grade genre. And I absolutely tore through the Maisie Dobbs and the Beatrix Potter mystery series’, thus giving the British Cozy Mystery genre a new fan.

• I saw some movies in 2015! Even some in the theater! See, I’m not getting old just yet. A couple of stand-outs were Pixar’s Inside Out (which made me cry like a 15-year-old me watching Little Women), Cinderella (which was just PERFECT), and Star Wars: The Force Awakens (which is so freaking fabulous I may need to write a separate post about it).

• It’s no surprise that I listened to a ton of music this year, mostly film scores. Unlike YA books, film music will ALWAYS be my thing and I’ll never outgrow it. Highlights: Patrick Doyle’s Cinderella, Junkie XL’s Mad Max: Fury Road, Debbie Wiseman’s Wolf Hall, and DUH John Williams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

• Speaking of music, I finally got to see One Direction LIVE AND IN CONCERT in July. I went by myself, like all cool 36-year-old moms do, and had a freaking blast. Seriously, it was tons of fun. And hot as hell since it was like 95 degrees, but still tons of fun. After seeing New Kids on the Block in 1990, ‘NSYNC in 1999, I’ve finally come full circle. No more boy bands in my future.

• Oh, let’s not forget TV! Of course these days I usually only watch whatever my daughter watches (which isn’t bad at all), but last January brought the return of two of my favorite shows, Sherlock (Series 3) and Downton Abbey (Series 5). And then in May my other favorite show, Glee, finally came to an end after 6 seasons. Again, talking about that show and its ending will require a separate blog post.

• In terms of traveling, the only place we went this year was California to visit the in-laws. Despite the fact that my father-in-law’s health was fading during our summer visit, we managed to have some fun at Disneyland and my first trip to Universal Studios. We had to return to CA in October for my FIL’s funeral, which was sad, and doesn’t even count as a trip since it was literally for two days. This year, however, is a biggie when it comes to travel. In March we head to Japan for two weeks with my mother-in-law and brother-in-law in what will definitely be the most interesting and fascinating trip I’ve ever taken. You can bet there will be post about that!!

2015 was definitely an interesting year, with both the good and the bad. But it’s time to move on…time to remember the good, get past the bad, and welcome the new.

HERE’S TO BLOGGING IN 2016!!

Posted in Traveling to Places

From London, With Love

Whenever I can’t think of anything super interesting to write about, I tend to turn to Wikipedia to see if anything super interesting happened on that particular day, be it someone’s birthday or some kind of historical event that could warrant interesting blog post.  Unfortunately nothing has come up this week that makes me want to write about it.  There was, however, something that did catch my eye.

Apparently back in the day – at least in London, England – beheadings were quite popular during this second week of February.  On February 13, 1542, Catherine Howard, the fifth wife of Henry VIII, was executed at the Tower of London on the grounds of adultery, and then on February 12, 1554 Lady Jane Grey, who ruled England for nine whole days, was beheaded at the Tower of London on suspicion of treason.

718px-PAUL_DELAROCHE_-_Ejecución_de_Lady_Jane_Grey_(National_Gallery_de_Londres,_1834)

Worst. Day. Ever.

And then all this made me realize – I was there!

Okay, obviously I wasn’t there at the time of the executions.  I’m not Doctor Who, and I don’t have a telephone booth or a Delorean that can transport me back 500 years.  But I was in London – and at the Tower of London – on those days exactly ten years ago.

2057_61093337712_9351_n

Actual ravens on the Tower green!

My husband (well, boyfriend at the time) and I decided on a whim to take a trip to London for Valentine’s Day back in 2003 because we were young and free and had the money to do such wonderful things (this was obviously before kids).  I had been obsessed with London and England in general for as long as I could remember, and the decision to take advantage of a good airfare deal took about two seconds to make.

photo-5

Courtesy of these guys.  And yes, I took the glass.

After a ten-hour flight from Los Angeles to London (which included a kosher meal but absolutely no sleep), we arrived at Heathrow airport on February 11th with just one thing on our minds: FOOOOOOOOD.  Seriously, we were so hungry that we decided to go to the first restaurant we saw after getting off the Tube in Notting Hill:  Pizza Hut.  Yes, I know we can get Pizza Hut anywhere, why would we want to go to it when we’re supposed to be off trying new things?

photo-1

Actual receipt!

Um, because we were starving, ya’ll.  We didn’t care.  And you know what?  That pizza tasted HEAVENLY.  I’m pretty sure it tasted British, too, for the record.  Which you can’t get in the U.S.

We stayed at a hostel (not a youth hostel, and REALLY not like the kind in the horror movies) in the Notting Hill area called Hotel Tria, and it was lovely.  In which lovely = tiny and affordable.  But it was actually perfect for us.  It had two twinish-sized beds, a bathroom, and a small TV hanging from the top corner of the room, which is all we needed, since we weren’t going to spend much time in the room.

view-from-the-front

Breakfast was included at the hostel, which was made up of mostly toast and corn flakes, and shared with other people staying there, which was made up of mostly German tourists who had a habit of talking really loud in the morning but who were also equally entertaining to be around.

Since it’s been ten years, I don’t remember every single thing we did or saw while in London, but I can definitely speak to the highlights.  First off, we walked everywhere.  We had one-week passes for the Tube, but it seemed that despite the cold February weather, we wanted to walk everywhere because that’s how you truly experience things, am I right?  By quickly walking by them while you freeze your ass off.

photo-3

This was before GPS.

British food is nothing to celebrate, but we did stumble upon a couple of awesome pubs, one in particular close to The City (as in downtown) called The Hung, Drawn, and Quartered where I had – I kid you not – the best peanut butter and jelly sandwich of all time.  What made it so awesome?  I don’t know.  I was drinking beer at the same time, though…that might have had something to do with it.

FYI London Travel Tip:  If you’re looking for a place to have dinner and you go to a pub, make sure you ask if they’re serving food or not.  We went to a particular pub on a Thursday night to have dinner, and it wasn’t until we ordered our drinks when they told us that they didn’t serve food on Thursday nights.  So after my husband downed his Guinness in record time, we went to the next closest restaurant, which was TGI Fridays.  Don’t judge us on our very American restaurant choices.  And for the record, I ordered chips instead of fries, which made it TOTALLY BRITISH.

Chips-Main-image

CHIPS, not fries.

Funny but true and somewhat embarrassing because I’m so ridiculous story:  Even though Starbucks is everywhere in the U.S., I first started going there while we were in London.  There was one near our hostel in Notting Hill, and because I wanted my green tea in the mornings, it was an easy and somewhat familiar place to get it.  I quickly started up a sort of “Starbucks in London” routine, getting the Tazo Zen Green Tea and different times of the day – mostly just to hold to keep my hands warm.  After a couple of days of this, I decided to be ballsy and started ordering my tea with an English accent and using terms like “pounds” and “pence”.  I’m sure they saw right through it, but I felt sort of awesome and ridiculous at the same time.  He he.

photo-6

Doubles as a hand-warmer.

My husband had already been to London a year prior and had told me about a pizza chain called Pizza Express that he swore was better than California Pizza Kitchen.  So I tried it, loved it (mainly the doughballs, which are exactly what they sound like, and dipped in buttery garlic), and we managed to go to three different Pizza Expresses during our week in London.  The most memorable Pizza Express was located in Oxford (where we spent one rainy day) in an 800-year-old building.  It’s stuff like that that makes you realize how young the U.S. is in comparison.

photo-7

We bought the cookbook.  You’re welcome.

And although it was cold and rainy, Oxford was pretty awesome.  The university pretty much takes up the whole town, and those academic buildings are CRAZY.  Like, this-can’t-be-an-actual-college-campus crazy.  Seriously, it made my alma mater in Wisconsin look like the slums.

2057_61093367712_3200_nAn old Oxford building and some bikes.

In Oxford you can also find Alice’s Tea Shop which, if you’re a fan of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland like me, you’ll thoroughly enjoy.  I got a magnet and a button and other various odds and ends to bring home with me, but I had to be careful of how much I could buy.  Not necessarily because of money, but because of space.  That’s because there were no suitcases on this trip.  Nay, my husband and I decided to keep it simple stupid and just bring a backpack each.  That meant just bringing one pair of jeans, two different tops, and before you get grossed out, seven pairs of underwear.  I guess at the time it was convenient, but looking back I wished I could have brought home more souvenirs.  I didn’t even take that many pictures because this was a time before iPhones and even digital cameras, and I was using a camera with FILM in it.  And apparently I get lazy when I know I have to develop a bunch of film.  So the pictures you see in this post are pretty much it.

1947_56108422712_3662_n

I apologize for the poor quality as well.  It was 2003, you know.

Anyway, we saw most of the sights around London that most people tend to see when they’re visiting:  Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the Millennium Bridge, the London Eye, Hyde Park, St. Paul’s Cathedral (I used their bathroom in the basement!), and Buckingham Palace.  We also spent a good part of the day at Harrod’s, which if you don’t know is a HUGE department store – so big that we definitely didn’t get to every section of the place.  Of course we made it to the important parts – the candy and sweets department, a somewhat out-of-place 50s diner near the women’s clothing department that served the fattest pancakes ever, and a pretty awesome all-children’s bookstore where I picked up a strange-looking British edition of a The Baby-sitter’s Club book.

1947_56108437712_4500_nThere are only two pancakes on this plate.

And of course I couldn’t visit London without at least one semi-stalking adventure.  I had a bit of a thing for Orlando Bloom back in the day (my husband was very tolerant) and after learning that he attended Guildhall School of Drama, I just had to scope the place out.  That chapter can be appropriately titled “In Which I Pretend I’m a Prospective Student, Steal a Class List Containing the name of Orlando’s sister Samantha, and Leave My Gloves in the Bathroom”.

1947_56108417712_3387_n

Why, yes, I am very interested in studying here.

We spent actual Valentine’s Day at the same place Lady Jane Grey, Catherine Howard, and about 110 others literally lost their heads.  Because apparently the Tower of London is the most romantic place on earth.  Seriously, though, it’s a very cool place that’s absolutely riddled with history.  I addition to seeing Tower Hill (the actual site of the executions), we got to see the Crown Jewels, rooms filled with actual suits of armor, and rooms recreated to look as they did 500 years ago.  It’s cool even when it’s staged.

photo-2Actual admission ticket!

We spent our last Saturday there in Notting Hill at the Portobello Road street market, which I only really knew from the movie Bedknobs and Broomsticks (and proceeded to sing the song “Portobello Road” ALL DAY) where we were stopped at one booth after another looking at the various antiques and kitschy odds-and-ends that were being sold.  The one exciting thing I remember happening there was when we were walking through the street and someone else bumped into me as she passed by, and I quickly realized that it was Minnie Driver.  Yes, Matt Damon’s ex-girlfriend totally ran me over.  It was pretty awesome.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI didn’t take this picture, Wikipedia did.  But imagine me in that crowd and Minnie Driver running me over.

By our last day it was evident we were completely wiped out – walking around London in the cold and rain will do that to you, and even spending one of those nights back at the hostel eating crackers and watching “Ant and Dec” (a variety show of sorts) didn’t do much to rejuvenate us.  So while I absolutely loved every moment we spent in London town, I was very much ready to go back home.

Of course I desperately want to get back there – specifically up to the more northern areas like Liverpool and Carlisle and Newcastle upon Tyne – and this time I’d pack a suitcase, bring home more souvenirs, and definitely take more pictures.

1947_56108427712_3927_n

Oh, I would be checking into every single place we walked by via Four Square and location tagging all my Instagram photos.  Because that’s how we roll in 2013.

Posted in Geeking Out, Traveling to Places

My Travels Through Middle Earth

I understand this post is long overdue, but since I’ve been on a Lord of the Rings kick lately I figure now was as good of time as any to write about my trip to New Zealand, aka my honeymoon, seven years ago.  I always meant to write about the trip, or at the very least scrapbook about the whole thing, but since I severely lack scrapbooking skills, that never happened.  I wrote a small piece called “What Lord of the Rings Means to Me” back in 2006 for LiveJournal (remember that site?) where I briefly mention my trip, but I’ve never chronicled the whole experience like I plan on doing right now.

So yes, it was seven years ago this November that my husband and I traveled down to Middle Earth, even though it feels a lot more recent than that.  When we were thinking of places we wanted to go to for our honeymoon, ideas like “Scandinavian Cruise” and “Northern England” came to mind, and we even got suggestions from people who told us to go to Hawaii because we could stay with family.

Because who doesn’t want to stay with family members while on their honeymoon?

But in the end the decision was easy.  My husband and I aren’t beach people, we had already traveled to England, and a cruise around Scandinavia was outrageously expensive.  But that’s not what made our decision to go to New Zealand easy.  It was the fact that we were meant to go there.  The Lord of the Rings movies were what brought my husband and I together in the first place, and since all the movies were made there, it made sense as the only place to go.

I connected with a company called Red Carpet Tours in Auckland, New Zealand, which specializes in LOTR tours, and booked a two-week tour of the North and South Island, hitting all the important and hard-to-get-to LOTR sites.  And for anyone thinking of going on a LOTR tour, I highly recommend this tour.  The people involved are awesome, and it’s the best – and easiest – way to see the county.

So on November 5, 2005 we departed the Los Angeles International Airport for Auckland, New Zealand where we endured an extremely long flight (13 hours) and lost a whole day in the process.  I can’t sleep on planes, so when we arrived – in the morning, I might add – I was completely exhausted and looked, well, not pretty.  But you know what?  I didn’t care.  I was in New Zealand, and that was all that mattered.

We spent the first night in Auckland, but since there are no LOTR sites in the capital city, we left the following morning for Matamata, aka The Shire.  And when I say “we”, I mean our awesome tour group.  There were about 20 of us with our guides from all over the world: California, Utah, Illinois, Indiana, New York, Maryland, England, Australia, and Finland.  It’s funny to look think back on that first day and how none of us knew each other, to the last day after we had grown so close.

But as I said, Matamata was our first stop.  This is where Peter Jackson and his amazing crew had built The Shire / Hobbiton / Bag End all from scratch.  And when we were there, various Hobbit holes remained.  Not because they were tourist attractions at that time, but because they knew…somewhere down the line…that they would need them for The Hobbit (seven years later).

Matamata was such a special place, not only because it’s Hobbiton, but because still seemed so untouched and peaceful, with its many sheep wandering in and out of hobbit holes.  It had an innocence that perfectly matches the innocence of the beginning of Fellowship of the Ring, and although it rained the entire time we were there, none of us cared at all.  Because how often can one say that they actually stood in Bag End, or danced under the Party Tree?

From there we headed to Rotorua, which is best known for its large population of Maori tribes.  That evening we went to an active Maori village where we saw a “haka” and ate some amazing food.  It’s always interesting to see how other peoples live and to witness their traditions, especially when they’re so different from your own.  It was obvious that New Zealanders (Kiwis) are very proud of their Maori people and heritage, and it’s just another thing that makes the country so special.

The next LOTR stop we made the following day was to Mount Ruapehu, which is where the beginning of The Two Towers was filmed with Frodo, Sam, and Gollum, and also the location of Mount Doom.  It was one of those moments where you’re sitting in the bus just looking outside at the flat lands and then suddenly you’re like, “Holy crap, it’s Mount Doom!”  It just sort of appeared out of nowhere, which made it even more cool to look at.

And yes, there were some reinactments occuring at this location.  Because we’re nerds, and we love LARPing.  And what better place to do it than the actual site?  Makes for much better reinactments.

Oh, and this is where we stayed that night.  The cast also stayed here while filming, and we all got to stay in a room that a cast member stayed in.  Since Sean and I were “The Honeymooners” on the trip, we got to stay in an extra-special suite…the one that Peter Jackson himself stayed in.  And, um…yes…it was awesome.

The next day we drove over to the Powderhorn Chateau, another place where the cast and crew stayed many a night.  The most exciting part of the day was an obnoxious picture us women all took on the bed Orlando Bloom slept in when he stayed there.  Because we love our elves.  And let’s face it.  THAT’S AS CLOSE AS WE’RE GONNA GET.

We spent the rest of our time on the North Island in Wellington, the heart of New Zealand, and also the place where Peter Jackson’s Stone Street Studio and Weta Workshop reside.  We saw some random sights in Wellington like the area where Rivendell was “created”, and the path where the Hobbits are walking in the first movie when they first see The Black Rider (“Get off the road!”).

But the best place BY FAR in Wellington was Weta Workshop, which is run by visual extraordinaire Richard Taylor.  On the day we went down there, our guides weren’t sure if we could go in.  Our best bet was to just see the lobby and that was it because they didn’t think Richard Taylor was there.  But after checking it out and making us wait patiently on the bus, our guide returned with this:  “We’re going in.”

But he didn’t just mean the lobby.  No, we were going IN in the workshop.  We were going to see where all the armor, costumes, etc. were created, and Richard Taylor was going to be our personal tour guide.

This was probably the geekiest moment of my entire life.  We got to see the COOLEST things – things that were so top secret that we were told not to post any pictures of them on the internet (in 2005 this was not difficult to do), mostly pictures of props from the upcoming movies The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and King Kong.

We got to meet some of the artists who worked on the films, and of course got to hold some of the props, the coolest being King Theoden’s sword.  I also got to hold one of the (many) Academy Awards that Weta won for the three movies, which was awesome.

Soon our journey took us to the South Island, a land consisting of mountains and sheep.  Oh, and lots of filming locations from all three movies, plus an awesome new tour guide who was an extra in The Two Towers.

One of the coolest places we visited was the site which would become Edoras, the Rohan Kingdom in The Two Towers.  Known as Mount Sunday in real life, this oddly-shaped landmass is very remote – you have to walk across a swiftly-moving stream and climb up to get there – and if you’re not careful, you could get carried off by the wind, which sometimes feels as though it’s moving at hurricane force.

But the views are definitely worth it, especially when you’re doing your best Eowyn impression.  None of the Rohan village was there, of course, but it really did look like this when you stood there.  Super cold, super windy, but super awesome.

A day or two into our South Island adventure, we stayed at a place called The Hermitage, which is a hotel in the middle of a range of glacial mountains.  Mount Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand, was clearly visable from our hotel room.  We also heard the cracking of falling glaciers during the night, a sound I highly recommend hearing some time in your life.

One of the reasons why I loved the South Island so much was because most of the landscape shots you see in LOTR were done on the South Island.  And one of the reasons why I love watching The Two Towers so much is because I see the South Island everywhere.  Despite the fact that I was extremely hungover from too much wine the night before (thank you to Oliver’s restaurant, which serves their wine in glasses so big they look like tankards), the day we spent at Poolburn (Rohan plains) was one of my favorite days.  Lots of reinactments, and lots of “I recognize this!” and “I know this exact shot!” and “Oh my God, this is Aragorn’s rock!”

It was just so open, not a building in site for miles, and it was, simply, Rohan.  In the flesh.  I half expected Eomer and the Rohirrim to come riding by any second, or a group of Orcs to come running through, carrying two captured Hobbits on their backs.

Again, if you’re ever on the South Island, make sure you go to Poolburn, preferrably with a tour.  I can’t imagine going on my own without getting completely lost.

One of my favorite scenes in Fellowship of the Ring is at the end when Frodo decides he needs to carry on this task alone, but before he can do anything, Sam comes running along, telling him that he’s coming with him.  And I was lucky enough to be able to stand on those very same shores as he did (and do my own little reinactment, holding the ring and deciding my own fate).  The location is near the AWESOME town of Queenstown, and it’s such a beautiful area, with the blue waters and the Remarkables mountain range taking up the background, and it’s a great place to picnic and enjoy some peace and quiet.  Oh, and a great place to be a nerd and pretend you’re Frodo.

Speaking of reinactments, here are three more for you that took place on the South Island.  In one some of us are Rohan refugees (we’re trying to look cold and miserable – at least we got the cold part down), and in the other I’m pretending to be falling off of the cliff that takes Aragorn and the warg rider off it’s edge.  We even got another traveler who wasn’t with our group to join us in the reinactments, and he had so much fun that he wanted to ditch the people he was with and continue on the whole tour with us.

And finally here we are on Pelennor Fields, recreating the Ride of the Rohirrim, and looking mighty fierce, I might add.  This location was pretty cool because if you were lucky, you might find a small prop like an arrow still lying on the ground.  None of us did that day, but those fields are so spread out that you know there’s got to be something out there.  And if you’re unlucky, you might just find one of the mines that the New Zealand Army has lying about.  Just watch your step.

There are a lot more pictures I could add to this, but that would make this post way longer than I originally intended.  And like I said, this post really has no significant purpose other than the fact that I finally got to write about some of my experiences that I’ve been too lazy to do over the past seven years.  But even though seven years have passed and I’ve traveled to other places, I still hold a very special place in my heart for New Zealand.  If you ask anyone who’s been there, they’ll tell you that the place changes you.  There’s something about New Zealand that is unlike any other place on this earth.  The people, the land, the air…it really feels like a magical place that shouldn’t exist in today’s world, but people who have been there are lucky because it does exist.

Posted in Learning Things, Living Life, Traveling to Places

The American Anglophile

England was the center of attention this weekend when The Queen celebrated her Diamond Jubilee and sixty years on the throne.  The royalty, the boats, the fanfare, the people!  And just like the wedding of William and Kate, people went nuts over this.

I don’t blame them.

It’s not that I’m only obsessed with royalty, I’m obsessed with everything British.  I’m a total Anglophile.  If it’s British, I love it.  The weather, the accents / dialects, the pubs, the countryside, the slang, the history, and even the food!  Spotted dick?  Hilarious.  (It’s pudding with dried fruit, in case you’re wondering).

Um…does not look appealing.

My love for the British is just another one of the many things I’m blaming on Christian Bale.  When I was 13 and learned that this handsome boy came from a place called Bournemouth in southern England, I decided that England was the best place in the world.  From there I discovered that England is much more than cute boys (though there are many of those as well).

My husband and I traveled to London nine years ago, back before we were married.  It was our first big trip together, so it was a pretty big deal.  We went during the week of Valentine’s Day, because where else would I want to go to celebrate the man and the country that I loved?

The weather was frightfully cold and rainy, but we didn’t care.  We were in London.  We walked everywhere and saw everything there is to see in London.  The London Eye, the Millennium Bridge, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Harrods, Kings Cross Station, Portobello Road (where I ran into Minnie Driver, like, literally – the woman nearly plowed me down), the West End, Kensington Gardens, Buckingham Palace, and Whitechapel.  We paid for our tea with British currency.  We drank British beer.  We bought British editions of books we already owned.  We stayed at a hostel with a bunch of crazy Germans.  And we also spent Valentine’s Day itself at the Tower of London, which is like the most romantic place on earth.  Seriously.

Love is in the air.

And since at the time I was going through my Lord of the Rings / Orlando Bloom phase, I made sure we stopped by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, which is where he attended school, and where his sister was currently attending.  We went inside and walked around, and then when I was looking at one of the bulletin boards I noticed a class list that had the name “Samantha Bloom” (his sister) on it.

So I stole it.

I also accidentally left my gloves in the girls’ bathroom.  *karma*

We also spent one of our days in Oxford, which is another awesome place to hang out, especially if you’re a Tolkien fan like us.  It was freezing that day, but we found refuge in an 800-year-old Pizza Express, which turned out to be our favorite restaurant chain while we were there (we went to three different ones).

After our trip, I was fully in love with England, even though I had only been to two cities.  It suddenly seemed that all my favorite actors were British…Orlando Bloom, Christian Bale, Keira Knightley, Christian Coulson, Jude Law, Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet…I could name about a hundred of them.  I started watching a lot of British TV shows like Doctor Who, Footballer’s Wives, Mile High, Eastenders, The Catherine Tate Show, Coupling, and Top Gear, which of course made me love British cars.

Aston Martin…you know, the kind that James Bond prefers.

I also decided that British football was much better than American football and frequently stole my husband’s Manchester United David Beckham jersey.  This was before David Beckham was David Beckham.  He was super popular in the UK, but not too many people knew who he was on this side of the pond.

Oh, and British music?  I have two words for you.  The Beatles.  That is all.

I can’t write about being an Anglophile without mentioning Harry Potter.  Part of the reason why I love those books so much is because they’re so British.  I love that J.K. Rowling didn’t try to Americanize them too much (though I’m still kind of annoyed that they changed Philosopher’s Stone to Sorcerer’s Stone for us silly Americans).  Whenever I feel like I’m homesick for England, I’ll most likely read a Harry Potter book.

Or watch Love Actually and Bend It Like Beckham.

And speaking of literature, just think of all the literature that has come from England.  You have Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, The Chronicles of Narnia and everything Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and The Brontes ever wrote, not to mention England’s famous mythologies of Robin Hood and King Arthur?  And who doesn’t love a juicy Arthur/Lancelot/Guinevere story?

Although I consider myself to be “a very unpublished writer”, I began writing a story that took place in London about a girl who grew up in Carlisle, which is located in northern England near the Scotland border.  This story required me to do a TON of research.  I had to learn everything about this northern city located in the Lake District.  I had other characters from places like Cardiff, Wales; Manchester, UK; Birmingham, UK; and Cambridge, UK, and I had to research those places as well.  I spent hours and hours doing research, and I know I wouldn’t have put that much effort into it had I not been absolutely in love with the country.

I got so good at recognizing regional dialects of England that I could tell where a person was from just by listening to them talk.  A customer came into work one day and I could immediately tell that she was from somewhere around Newcastle, and when I asked her this I think she was a little frightened that some girl living in southern California knew something like this.  I didn’t want to explain the whole “I’m writing a story and I’m doing research” thing, so I just lied and said that I have a friend who lived in Carlisle.  I guess it was kind of true, right?

I love learning about British history, whether we’re talking about the early Druids or the Roman invasion or World War II or even as recent as the 1980s riots.  Hadrian’s Wall and Stonehenge are fascinating to me.  And of course I love learning about British royalty.  You can’t call yourself an Anglophile without a little bit of Royal Love.

I loved Princess Diana growing up because we kind of had the same name, and she was pretty.  When I was 13 I also decided that I liked her son William, even though he was younger than me.  I think I knew that he was going to be kind of gorgeous when he got older.  And like much of the world, I was devastated when Diana died.

Shortly after his mom died, William became sort of a heartthrob (duh) and his brother became a rebel (duh) and his dad married the woman he was cheating with while still married to Diana.  But luckily William has a good head on his shoulders and 14 years after his mom died he married his longtime girlfriend Kate Middleton, who is lovely.  I was one of the many millions of Anglophiles who stayed up until the early hours of the morning when William and Kate got married, because no way in hell was I going to miss that.

Since we were only in England for a week, I definitely want to get back to my other home away from home (I am, however, excluding New Zealand from this because it runs a very close second, and I’ll explain why in a separate blog post).  There are many, many more places I want to see in England that we didn’t get to:  Windsor Castle, Cambridge, Hampstead, Carlisle (I feel like I know so much about it that I kind of have to go), Newcastle (my favorite beer), Stonehenge, Wales, and many many many other places.

In just a couple of months, the Summer Olympics will be taking place and you can bet that every Anglophile out there will watch every minute of it, just because it’ll be The British Games.  I’ll be cheering for the American athletes, of course, but deep down I’ll be cheering the most for my favorite country.

When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” – Samuel Johnson

Posted in Reading Books, Traveling to Places

Escape to Another World

The one thing I love about reading is all the different worlds I get to read about, all the worlds I can escape to when SoCal is just too boring to be in.  That’s what’s so great about reading sci-fi and fantasy books – there’s nothing real about them, right down to where the stories take place.  So which places are my favorites?  Well, I have a few.  Here are the ones I would visit in a heartbeat if given the chance.

Wonderland from Alice in Wonderland

Who, when reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland for the first time, didn’t want to go to Wonderland?  Yeah, so the fall down the hole probably would have been a little scary, as well as The Queen with her whole decapitation obsession, but still…the animals talked, everything you ate and drank either made you really big or really tiny, the flowers could talk, you could go to really weird tea parties, and, well, everyone is mad there.  Come to think of it, maybe Wonderland isn’t such a good place to visit after all.  I mean, do you remember the Jabberwocky???

Narnia from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Imagine opening your closet and walking into a winter wonderland.  Since I love snow and winter, this would be a dream for me, especially if that kind of weather doesn’t happen where I live.  And who wouldn’t want to meet Mr. Tumnus?  He’s just full of awesomeness.  Of course if you come across the White Witch and she offers you Turkish Delight, I hope you keep your wits about you and decline and run away immediately back into that closet.  But until then, just enjoy the snow and the company of fawns and beavers and hope that Father Christmas finds his way to you.

Sherwood Forest from The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood

Okay, so I kind have always had this thing for Robin Hood.  A bit of a crush, really.  Anything to do with the story of Robin Hood, I love.  And I know most of the places in the story are real – Nottingham, even Sherwood Forest itself – but it’s the Sherwood Forest from the story that I want to visit.  I want to see Robin Hood and his gang of merry men in their hideout, practicing their archery, and having feasts with lots of food and beer and Maid Marian.  Sweet.

Moominvalley from Moominland Midwinter

The Moominland books by Tove Jansson aren’t as well-known in the States as they are in Scandinavia, but they’re amazing children’s books that are about a family of trolls who are white and roundish, with large snouts that make them resemble hippopotamuses. The family lives in their house in Moominvalley, in the forests of Finland, though, depending on the book, they’ve also lived in a lighthouse and a theater.  But it’s in the book Moominland Midwinter where I love Moominvalley the best.  The Moomins hibernate for the winter, but in this book the character Moomintroll does not, which makes him all alone in Moominvalley.  Winter becomes a haunting character itself in this book, and makes it all the more beautiful.

Bayern from the Books of Bayern Series (The Goose Girl, Enna Burning, River of Secrets, Forest Born)

Okay, so I’d probably visit the country of Bayern solely based on the Alison Jay covers, but after reading all the books the place seems pretty magical anyway.  It’s a fictional kingdom, which means there are fictional kings and queens and other royalty, and who doesn’t love that?  But it’s the cover of the book Forest Born that I love the best.  Bayern is surrounded by beautiful forests where magic is everywhere, which makes for a wonderful combination.

The Shire, Hobbiton from The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring

This was kind of a difficult one, as there are many different lands in Middle Earth created by J.R.R. Tolkien.  So what I did was some process of elimination – cross out Mordor, Gondor, Harad – and then decide which place would be the most fun.  Rivendell and Lothlorien are beautiful elf lands, but they’re way too serious.  Rohan wouldn’t be too bad, what with all the horses and Scandinavian-looking men, but it seems rather cold and windy.  And then my decision was easy.  I want to live among the Hobbits and drink ale and eat food and smoke pipe-weed and just celebrate a simple life.

The Wizarding World from Harry Potter Books 1-7

There was no picking just one place for this one, as every place in the Wizarding World sounds awesome.  Hogwarts with its dorm rooms and common rooms, the Great Hall and its magical feasts, the moving staircases, the Quidditch pitch, and Room of Requirement sounds way better than any school could.  And Hogsmeade with the butterbeer at Three Broomsticks, the candy at Honeydukes, the tea at Madam Puddifoot’s, it’s a great way to spend the weekend.  And the best way to get to these places?  The Hogwarts Express, of course.  Grab a compartment, buy some sweets, and enjoy the ride.

Happy traveling!