London Film and Comic Con

Last Sunday Gary and I completed our own Back to the Future Trilogy – 3 amazing BTTF related events in the space of 12 months.

We’d already gone back in time with Secret Cinema and seen the movie accompanied by an orchestra. On Sunday we headed to the Kensington Olympia for London Film and Comic Con.

As soon as we heard that Michael J Fox would be attending as part of the BTTF 30th anniversary celebrations and holding a talk with some of the main cast, we knew we needed to buy tickets. I’ve been to a few collector type events, being so close to Collectormania in Milton Keynes each year, and having been an uber geek in my teens this was like coming home!

The Olympia was chock full of stalls selling goodies and the Cosplay turn out was epic.

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After a mooch around the stalls on two of the floors we headed to the auditorium where talks were being held. We decided to stand in line for a free BTTF documentary talk which was fairly interesting, before heading outside again to line up for the BTTF cast talk.

imageAttending along with Michael J Fox, Christopher Lloyd and Lea Thompson were the actors who played the original Jennifer, Principal Strickland, Marvin Berry, Goldie Wilson, George McFly (BTTF2/3) , Dave McFly, Data/Needles (BTTF2/3) and Stella Baines. Each actor was announced as they walked onto the stage, but Michael J Fox received a standing ovation when he walked on.

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And you could tell all the actors up on stage agreed with our applause by looking at the pride on their faces.

It was amazing to hear them talk, and take questions from the audience. We were in there for an hour but it flew by. We even got a little sing along of Earth Angel with Marvin Berry!

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And it was great to hear Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd speak about their experiences during and after making the films. Definitely a once in a lifetime experience.

Now I probably ought to start working on re-watching the other two films….

Day Trippin’ in Liverpool

Last weekend Gary and I headed up to Liverpool. My Mum had won tickets in a competition for free entry to The Beatles Story and asked whether we wanted to come along. So on Friday night after work, we packed our bags and headed off for the 3 hour drive to the Docks.

We’d decided to stay at the Titanic Hotel which is about a mile from Liverpool centre. Having only been open a year, we’d never seen it before, but were mightily impressed. The hotel was built within an old rum warehouse and decor inside was amazing. Bare brick walls and wrought iron beams were exposed everywhere. The staff dressed in their denim waistcoats, shirts and jeans were very friendly, and checked us in quickly. By this time we were exhausted and just wanted to sleep!

Once on our floor and out of the lift we were amazed by the size firstly of the hallway leading to the rooms, and then the size of the rooms.

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The floor space of our room and bathroom combined was larger than the floor space of our house… no joke. The bed was massive but was dwarfed in the huge room! After a quick Skype with my Mum and a quick Periscope to show people what the room was like, we called it a night and went to bed.

We woke fairly early in the morning, since the night before we’d discovered what looked like a potentially wonderful place to have breakfast. Moose Coffee promised to serve American/Canadian style food, and an all day breakfast. Just looking at their menu made me hungry and we could tell that they would probably get busy fast. We walked down and arrived 20 minutes after opening. We were told there would be a 15 minute wait, which was fine with us. We were the only ones waiting and within about 10 minutes we had our table. By then there were about 5 other parties waiting for tables.

We were sat upstairs. I ordered coffee and a Mighty Moose and Gary ordered OJ and pancakes.

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I was unable to wait to dip into my egg before taking the photo, sorry! My breakfast was a garlic, onion and mustard hash, fried eggs, bacon and warm toast. It was very very good and right up my street.

From here we walked to the Albert Dock and met my parents. The Beatles Story has two locations, one at the Albert Dock and one about 10 minutes walk down the docks. The Albert Dock location was heaving so it was suggested to us to begin our tour at the second location, which is what we did.

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On our walk we passed lots of locks on the docks :D

Starting with the 4D Beatles experience (which was fun, but nothing compared with 4DX) and then moving onto the museum tour. Art work and costumes dominated this part of the Beatles Story.

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This was the view of the docks from the gallery. Soon we were ready to walk over to the other location and the lines had diminished.

Gary and I had visited the Beatles Story before but it was interesting to see it all again.

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From here we grabbed a quick lunch and headed back to our hotel to change for the evening.

My Mum had bought us all tickets to see the John Lennon Songbook, a show of John Lennon and Beatles music played by the Liverpool Philharmonic and his life narrated by Mark McGann. It was an interesting performance and was lovely to hear the music played by an orchestra.

Before we headed to the show we stopped at Yee Rah at Liverpool One, a fusion restaurant we’d eaten at the last time we were in Liverpool and really enjoyed. We made it into the restaurant just as the rain started! I ordered Massaman Curry.

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The meal was amazing. So tasty, and even though it was marked as not spicy it made my ears itch – that’s a sign that it’s just spicy enough! I’ve been craving another bowl of it ever since.

The next day we had a lazy morning in the hotel, breakfast and packed our bags. We then headed to the Philharmonic Dining Rooms where we were having Sunday lunch with my parents. There’s nothing like a nice roast dinner on a Sunday!

Our drive home was fairly uneventful, however we kept ourselves entertained by listening to some of the Hot Dub Time Machine podcast I had downloaded. They’re amazing, if you haven’t heard them.

And so ended our weekend! But the weekend fun doesn’t end there….. we were lucky enough to get tickets to London Film and Comic Con for the BTTF 30th anniversary celebrations next weekend, and we can’t wait! I’ll no doubt be Periscoping and instagramming from the event, so make sure to follow me!

Allergy Food Show & Going Back In Time (Again!)

This past weekend Gary and I headed into London for a packed day.

Firstly we headed to the Kensington Olympia for the UK Allergy Show, a food show dedicated to free-from foods and food allergies. The place was packed and rammed with stalls. We had a really good look around and I was pleased to see some brands I already knew about: Everything But The Cow, Bounce, CoYo and Dream. I had a few free samples, but we got hungry pretty quickly and went in search of food. Despite seeing a few people with tubs of fresh food and carrying pizza boxes walking around, we struggled to find anywhere to actually eat a decent lunch. We ended up going to the specially set up Free From Cafe where we spent over the odds for not much food – at least I could guarantee mine was dairy free!

We left the Olympia and headed to White City for a mooch around the shops, before we made a visit to Five Guys for an early dinner and an awesome burger. Their burgers never fail to impress (I’m over the moon that their about to open one in Milton Keynes!).

We then took the tube and a leisurely walk to the Royal Albert Hall where we had tickets to see Back to The Future Live. If you’ve read my blog for a while you’ll know that last year we went to a few BTTF events including the amazing Secret Cinema. This year being the 30th anniversary we had some more fun events to attend! Back to The Future was being shown with the score played by a live orchestra. We saw Pixar Live and Brief Encounter in this way last year, and couldn’t wait to see Back to The Future.

IMG_3257We sat opposite the Hall in the sun for a bit and then headed over to the front of the building where people were crowded around a Delorean. You could have your photo taken inside it for a fiver, but we decided to just stick with snaps from around it!

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And then we went inside. We’ve found some seats that we like to book every time we go to the Albert Hall, lots of room in front of our seats and a great view of the stage.

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The orchestra started by playing the main theme before the movie started. The first half of the movie was screened, with a few additional score pieces played over scenes that didn’t originally have score (these were written by Alan Silvestri, who scored the movie), and then there was intermission. Everyone was really enjoying the movie and you could tell the hall was filled with hardcore fans, with laughter and clapping in all the relevant places.

The second half was started with the orchestra playing the main theme from BTTF3 (set in the wild west), to everyone’s delight. And then the rest of the movie began.

It was a really enjoyable evening, though I was dog tired by the end and attractively fell asleep on the train on the way home with my mouth hanging open…. Gary has photographic evidence. I’m sure he’d show you if you asked….

Back to The Future is one of those films you can watch again and again, which is handy because I’ve probably seen it more than any other film now! And we get to experience it again, in part, mid July when we visit London Comic Con and attend a BTTF talk with Michael J Fox and other cast from the first movie. I can’t wait!

An Impromptu Trip

A couple of weekends ago, not wanting our holiday to end on the Friday and go back to normality quite yet, we decided to take the train to London. We do this semi-regularly but decided we wanted to go somewhere we hadn’t been before, and somewhere outside since the weather was so glorious.

London is wonderful in the Summer. Hanging baskets are full of flowers, people are everywhere enjoying the sun (and street fashion moves up another level). We headed for Borough Market, located underneath London Bridge. Its history goes back to the 11th century and it’s exactly what you’d want from a market like this. Split between two sides of the bridge, one side is mainly produce – breads, fruit, vegetable, meat, cheese, fruit. There’s smoothies and juices, cakes, sandwiches, teas and spices.

IMG_3238Had our journey home not have been so long on a hot train, I would have started shopping. Instead we were good and bought some fresh juices and flavoured breads for brunch.

IMG_3239I also did a little Periscoping!

The other side of the bridge was more produce but also fish, cakes and pastries and food carts. One particular cart stuck in my mind – a German food stand selling raclette. Huge wheels of cheese had been cut in half and then turned on their sides, braced in a special vice and the cut ends melted until bubbling. It was then scooped onto new potatoes and topped with cornichon. Unable to eat that much cheese I was devestated I couldn’t try this – the line was huge and you know that means it’s going to be good. But there was all sorts of other foods and it smelled amazing!

I plan to go back, with a large wodge of cash and a tote bag!

I also want to mention another amazing event I attended the next day. I’ve run the Race for Life for the last 2 years and had signed up this year, only to royally injur myself a few months ago. I still can’t run, but my friend Tash, who I’ve run the last two with offered to take my number and run with another friend Sarah. Sarah was determined to PB this race, and as a non runner had been training hard to achieve this year.

On that freezing cold, wet and windy Sunday morning we huddled under our brolly. Gary and I then stood by and watched as Tash and Sarah smashed their race and both finished with PBs – Sarah finished over 9 minutes faster than the previous year!

IMG_3241This was taken at the end of their race – see how good they look?! I’m so proud of these two, and so grateful to Tash for taking my place.

Here’s to next year!

New App Obsession: Periscope

I’m not usually late to the party with apps. I’d suggested I’m even an early adopter. I was quick to the Facebook, Twitter and Bloglovin’ parties –  I just sometimes don’t understand them. Take Snapchat for example. I used to kind of get it, even if I didn’t really use it. Then they did a major update and now I’m lost again – it sits on my phone, untouched. It was even on my front page until recently when the app icon was replaced…. by Periscope.

Periscope has been brought to us my the makers of Twitter. It’s a good-looking, fairly bugless and truly addictive app. Essentially it turns the phone of the user into a live, one way, webcam. A flick through the world map shows pins in any location where someone is ‘broadcasting’ and allows anyone who has the app to watch, and interact via message and ‘hearts’ (you can tap the screen to show the broadcaster some love). You can of course also broadcast yourself. So far the highlights (amongst many many); I’ve been walking through Hollywood, watched the sunrise in Honolulu, ridden an amazing rollercoaster and watched people dance at Ocean Beach in Ibiza. I’ve chatted to people in Texas and San Francisco and made friends that I now follow on Twitter.

This app is amazing. It gives you access to things you might never see, and reminds you how big the world is whilst at the same time making it feel so much smaller and accessible. You can choose to follow the users you like, and when they broadcast you have the option to receive notifications telling you they’re Live. It also sends a tweet to your Twitter feed to let your followers there know when you’re filming.

I’ve made a few Periscopes myself, a couple whilst on holiday recently and a couple going around Borough Market in London, and it’s really fun. People asking you questions in real-time and knowing that you’re sharing a little bit of your life to people all over the world.

Obviously there’s scope for abuse on this platform. You don’t know whether you might log onto something X Rated by mistake, or gain pervy followers, and I can’t tell you how this is being policed. You never know if someone might decide to use the platform to glamourise a crime or for political means. But at the moment it’s great and I’ve never come across anything like that. There’s not too many users at any one time, and I’ll continue to use it to watch things like the Paris Disneyland fireworks, pool parties in Las Vegas and chat to people who live in cultural backgrounds that I know nothing about. It’s also doing wonders for my geography knowledge :D

At the moment you can download it on iPhone and Android – and I know you can watch on web somehow because when I was broadcasting I had a few web viewers, but I have no clue how you do that! But if you’re nosy, and interested in other people, you want to find out about the lives of others and what’s out there in this big wonderful world, then Periscope might just be for you!

If you use Periscope or you think you might in the future, please feel free to add me @groggits – you never know when I might broadcast!

A Short Break Away

As you may have gathered from my previous blog, Gary and I decided we wanted to take a break away and discover the newest in the family of Center Parcs. Situated in Woburn, it’s a short drive from where we live, but being familiar with Center Parcs we knew it would still feel like we were on holiday.

As I write this, it feels as though I’m going to be writing a very negative review of this place. Don’t get me wrong, we had a wonderful time. It was relaxing and beautiful and lovely to be in nature and away together. However, knowing what we know about Center Parcs in general, we won’t be coming back to this particular venue, unless we visit the Aqua Sana.

On checking into the Parc we were both given rubber wrist bands. These were our room keys, access to lockers in the spa and Subtropical Swimming Paradise. It also allowed you to make payments in certain shops and the pool snack bar. Really handy. Mine was a little large with no way to make it smaller, so I just let Gary wear his and left mine in our room. Staying in the hotel meant we didn’t have to worry about self catering. We’ve stayed in the hotel at one other location and really liked it. This hotel, being new, was plush.

You can see from the photo it’s very basic. The hotel rooms in the Woburn hotel are all air conditioned which was a big plus for us. This means windows hadn’t been left open to air the room out and no bugs had gotten in. You can see behind the double bed is a mirror and lit up area, which is the ‘dressing room’ area with sink and vanity shelf. And then to the right of the bed (left in our room) is a large walk in shower. I really don’t like showers but very much enjoyed using this one. You might be able to see the glass door of the shower, so you can gather there’s not much privacy if you want to share a room with someone who hasn’t seen you in your ‘natural beauty’ before. Something to think about! Don’t panic, there is a toilet with a door as you walk into the room.

One thing that bugs me about hotels in general is that they don’t seem to put enough plug sockets in. In this room there was a USB charging socket on ONE side of the bed (why they don’t put them on both sides, I have no idea.) There was one double plug socket by the balcony doors, where you could plug in the kettle tray. It’s about 2.5 metres from the wardrobe mirror which made blow drying and straightening my hair a little tricky. Incidentally, the kettle wouldn’t fit under the tap in the sink so I had to fill up a cup and pour it in. (And our water glasses were never changed the whole time we were there, which I found a little gross.)

Maid service was daily and towels were changed every other day, or if you leave towels on the floor they’ll replace them. The balcony was lovely to sit on and watch the lake and crazy-golf players.

Everything is very close together in this Center Parcs, which is great if you don’t like to walk or have a toddler. But I do like to walk, and I like to investigate places. There’s no investigating to be had at this location. There aren’t any places to walk to and sit and relax and people watch. This was problem number one for me. I love to people watch. The lake was tiny. You could hire boats and pedalows but you’d be done within 5 minutes.

We found, on the map, an area called ‘Nature Area’. I eagerly got my camera and headed off to walk and find it. Within 15 minutes we found a scummy pond with a bench by it, and two chavvy girls having a cheeky smoke. Yes, I know it’s a new location, but knowing what I know about the other Center Parcs, I was a little disappointed.

There are no golfing or country club type areas. There’s no rustic pub in the midst of the trees. It’s all in one place and just felt a little more down market than the others. Yep, I’m a snob, but I like things how I like them when I’ve paid my money.

Don’t worry, I thought, we can spend our spare time in the pool! I was wrong. We headed into the Swimming Paradise, walked past the baby pool, saw the lazy river and ended up by the baby pool. Hang on a minute, we thought – if that’s the baby pool, that means the first pool we walked past was the main pool…… eek! The tiniest pool you’ve ever seen, with a massive depth of 1.5 metres. I could stand at the ‘deep’ end without my chin going into the water….. The pool wasn’t full with people but you couldn’t swim in it, or do anything much at all. One of the things I love about the other Subtropical Swimming Paradise locations is that you can lie on your back and see the sky and clouds, but this one was just a concrete box with a roof. Blah!

Yes, guys and gals – that’s the WHOLE pool (note people standing at the far end)

We waited for the waves and then headed to the outside bit. Outside was river rapids but not many places to frolick in the outside water, before the tide swept you all the way around and then back inside….. great. This pool does have some inflatible flume rides, but they’re not my cup of tea. And there’s only so many times you can do that before you’ve ‘done’ it.

We found ourselves wishing we were back in the Aqua Sana pool, but resolved to spend the day of our return home in our gym pool instead!

The restaurants were okay, but it always bothered me that they replaced most of their ‘home grown’ restaurants with chains like Cafe Rouge and Strada which are the kind of places we actively avoid when home. Various issues like slow service and hairs in our food (and other people’s) were experienced but I was impressed by some of the restaurants choices for lactose intolerant diners. The Sports Bar even had a seperate menu, though I was able to eat from the usual menu most of the time with the help of my handy lactase tablets. There was a good choice of ‘healthy’ options, however one thing the place was screaming for was a juice and smoothie bar.

Our visit was relaxing and enjoyable. We were forced to do a lot of sitting around and wandering, which was nice. It’s reignited my like of swimming, and since I pay for a gym membership with a lovely inside and outdoor pool area, I’m glad I’ll be making good use of it in the months going forward. We still spent our time doing activities (playing pool, mini golf, gaming in the arcades) and chilling out, but overall Gary and I both felt a little disappointed. Mainly because we know how good a Center Parcs can be, and this just wasn’t. I really look forward to coming to a Center Parcs with my book club girls, partners and kids – but it might have to be to a different location if we want to get our money’s worth.

Aqua Sana, Woburn

This week Gary and I have taken a little holiday to the newest in the Center Parcs family, Woburn Forest.

It being about 40 mins drive from our house, we knew it would be more of a staycation, but knowing Center Parcs well we also knew it would still feel far removed from our usual day-to-day lives.

This holiday park (if you want to call it that!) opened a little under a year ago. Knowing that their Spa had been given the special treatment, I decided to pop my Spa cherry and take a visit to the Aqua Sana. Gary and I chose the Twilight Taster for Two package, which allowed you to experience all the different rooms as well as their infinity pool.

After arriving and being told where to get our robe and towel we were ushered through to the changing rooms. Our package promised us a glass of bubbly each before we started the experience, but this was never mentioned or offered. Neither of us are big drinkers, but this bothered me a little since we’d paid for it. Ever the Brits, neither of us mentioned this as we were inside the spa proper by the time we saw someone. This staff member could obviously see we were lost, and made the effort to explain in which order to enjoy the rooms in and where we could go.

The various different rooms were very nice, though I didn’t really like the steam rooms, I did enjoy the saunas. The water beds were really comfy and I could have fallen asleep. The whole place had a very relaxed and holistic feel to it. The highlight of the experience for me was the infinity pool. Outside as it started to rain, we swam in a 1.4m deep pool which was salty as opposed to chloriney. I’m also really glad that we got the use of this pool, since the main pool in the park turned out to be less exciting than we had expected (more on that next time!).

I didn’t really get the rooms which were literally just seats with ding dongy music since I wasn’t really experiencing anything, but that’s just not my style I guess.

We managed to spend 3 hours in the Spa but if you wanted to experience every room fully you could easily spend the whole 5 hours allowed, or even a day if you booked a suite.

After leaving the main Spa I immediately booked a Swedish massage for the next day, knowing I would benefit. Having never had a massage either, I thought I should continue my week of firsts!

So the next day I trotted back to the Aqua Sana and checked in. After changing into my robe, I managed to find my way into the treatment waiting area, but there being no one there I wasn’t sure if I had to fill out one of the medical forms everyone else had. As I say, I’m a total newbie and a little direction would have been helpful. My masseuse introduced herself and promptly asked for my form. So I had to fill it out quickly whilst she waited. I did mark that I had muscle injury, but she never asked me where this was, thought she did ask if I had any tension in my back worth noting. I honestly think tense is my default shoulder position so I just told her no.

The massage was wonderful, though I don’t feel that it made a massive difference to my life. I think maybe I’m just not a treatment kind of girl! But I’m glad I experienced it. That being said, I walked out of the spa feeling a lot lighter than I had when I walked in so it must have done something.

On leaving through the treatment waiting room I could see 5 or 6 staff members waiting to assist people as they walked in, and I realise that I should have had this assistance when I entered. They must have all been on their breaks or something – not the greatest service.

Overall we were really impressed with the Aqua Sana, not so much with the staff. It being so close to where we live I think we both decided that if we had the cash and time we’d like to come back and experience it again, and I might even try the steam rooms for a little longer this time!