Pretty Churches

During our trip to the UK we visited lots and lots of old churches and cathedrals. Husband especially loves touring old churches. There is so much history, architecture, art and intrigue. The United Kingdom had some especially beautiful old churches, and we were lucky enough to spend lots of quality time in them.

york hubs

When we visited Westminster Abbey in London they were about to start services and weren’t allowing visitors, sooo we did the only logical choice and told the guard we were going to services, which we did. We sat and and listened to the choir and services start, but Luna wasn’t exactly enjoying it or sitting quietly, so we left after about ten minutes. Unfortunately, that was the only time we had in that famous Abbey, BUT have no fear, we made up for all of that lost time in the York Minster, my all time favorite cathedral, er minster? Does anyone know the difference?

york minster

The York Minster is HUGE. Huge and gorgeous. We spent hours and hours covering every inch, brick and stained glass window. We toured the basement, which goes 2,000 years back into the Minster’s history. Husband and Dad-in-law climbed the winding staircases to the top of the Central Tower. (I had to stay back thank to some baby and “it’s too dangerous for kids” rule.) I spent a lot of time in “the orb” It’s a new exhibit that gives you a very rare opportunity to see some very cool, very old ancient stained glass. I’m not typically a huge fan of stained glass, but I found a whole new appreciation for it after spending time in the orb, and in the Minster for that matter.

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In Scotland, our favorite Cathedral, and Husband’s all-time fav church, with the St. Giles Cathedral. St. Giles is over 900 years old and is located in the center of The Royal Mile. It’s dark, mysterious and has some incredible stained glass windows. However, the most interesting part of the church is the Thistle Chapel. This little room caught Husband’s attention because it was off limits, due to theft. Obviously, he was intrigued and determined to go in, after a little research and a convo with one of the workers, the doors were unlocked and we were taken in right before closing for a little private tour.

stained glass more glass little room

I REALLY wish I would have immediately written down everything we were told because it was so interesting, but of course, i didn’t write down a single word. Here’s what I do know… The Thistle Chapel is a room created for the Order of the Thistle (Scotland’s great order of chivalry). There are 16 members of the Order. Each member has their own stall in the Chapel with their own “heraldic device” on display. After one member dies, another is invited to join the Order. The room is full of the most detailed and intricate carvings and designs. There are many symbolic details, and some silly ones too…like an angel playing the bagpipes. It was a cool room, made cooler by the fact that we got a private tour.

special room

Oh, so many gorgeous details.

arches

Where will our next ancient Cathedral be?

Cheers!

The Big Three

My happy little traveler.
My happy little traveler.

While we were in London, we took a few trips outside of the city to checkout lots of bucket-list type attractions. Our longest day trip was an 11-hour bus tour that took us to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and Bath. It was a lot to cover in one day, but the rushed trip was very much worth it.

Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle

We booked the tour with Viator. They picked us up at our hotel, bright and early. We were ready with our cameras, snacks, packed diaper bag and carrier.  The first stop was Windsor Castle and it was about a 2-hour drive from London. Windsor Castle is gorgeous. My favorite part was Queen Mary’s enormous and elaborate doll house. I’m talking BIG. It took a good 15-20 minutes to look at quickly. I wonder if any kids were ever actually allowed to play with it… Interesting fact: Queen Victoria was often called the “Widow Of Windsor” after Prince Albert’s death because on the rare occasion that she was spotted outside she was always dressed in black and mourning.

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We rushed through our tour because poor Luna had broken out in horrible hives all over her torso for the second time in a week. I realized she was wearing the same wool shirt both occasions so we quickly scoured through a couple souvenir shops and bought her a touristy London kids cotton tee to wear.

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Next stop, Stonehenge! To be frank, I was not super excited about looking at a bunch or rocks. The fact, that Luna was refusing a nap (shocking, I know) and being a grumpus didn’t help. I wore Luna in her carrier out to the rocks and was blasted with the craziest winds. She was screaming and I just did my best to keep bouncing and to cover her with my scarf, neither of which helped. Too bad too, because those giant prehistoric mystery rocks stacked on each other were very impressive. They are a part of UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites, which is a good list to check off if you travel. After a few photos, Luna and I spent most of our time in the gift shop playing with stuffed sheep and trying the wine samples.

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Our final stop, and longest drive, was to Bath. In my opinion, they saved the best for last. Bath, yet another World Heritage Site, is gorgeous. The yellow stone, Georgian architecture and the river that runs through it is stunning. Just the sight of the city as you are getting close is breathtaking. Sadly, we didn’t get a lot of time to explore the city of Bath because we focused our time there at the Roman Baths. Somewhere around a million years ago, give or take a few, Romans turned bath into a spa town. They used the natural hot springs to create lots of baths and fancy places to hangout and relax. These Romans had the right idea. I just wanted to go back in time and hop into these hot springs while I walked around listening to the audio guide with my scarf and coat wrapped tightly around me. That hot water and skinny dipping sounded heavenly.

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So, drinking the water from the hot springs is  said to be "healing".
So, drinking the water from the hot springs is said to be “healing”.

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It took almost 3 hours to get home, but it wasn’t horrible. The entire day was fast and furious, but considering it was the only way we would have possibly been able to squeeze all 3 sights into our itinerary, I’m thrilled we did it. (Plus, even with all the driving, we still managed to get more than our 10,000 steps in for the day.) If you are ever in London, I highly recommend taking the day trip to all three sights. unless, you have lots of time. If you have the time then I would suggest spending a full day in Bath. I would love to go back and spend a day exploring!

Guess we will have to plan another trip to England one day…darn.

Cheers!

These Boots are Made for Watching

Kinky Boots is in Nashville!!!! EEEEEeeeee! I LOVE this show. I saw it on Broadway in New York when it opened and actually sat right behind Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein (the creators of the musical).It was a magical night of drag queens, glitter, shoes, high kicks and British accents. Can  you ask for more? Yes. You can ask to see the show again, the traveling show. Lucky me. I got to see it for a second time last night at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center.

kinkyboots

My friend, Bella, and I went together and because we love dressing up, we decided to dress the part, which can best be described as….well, kinky. That’s really just a nice way to say we looked like hookers, cute hookers. TPAC was decked out for the show. They had the usual huge crowd, themed snacks and souvenirs, but they also had a shoe cam. It’s like the one you see on the E! network.

workin' it!
workin’ it!

The BEST part was seeing Tony (one of TPAC’s best employees) dressed in the iconic red high-heeled boots! From across the room a spotted a photo backdrop and a line of people waiting to take their photo with who I assumed was a cast member. I then see Tony’s head peaking through the crowd and thought he must be doing crowd management. Then, the crowds parts just enough that I spot the boots… the red boots on Tony’s feet! It was amazing, and yeah we definitely took advantage of that Kodak moment.

tony

 

Before the show began we took the theme one step further and ordered ourselves a double of the “Kinky Boots” drink, delicious BTW. One minute before showtime we finally got to our seats, settled in, took a sip of our pink drink and got read for a show unlike any other.

red boots

 

Kinky Boots is a musical based off of a movie based on a true story. The story is of two boys with two dreams. One dreams of dancing in high heels. One dreams of doing anything, but running the family business, a shoe making factory. As adults. the first boy is a very talented drag queen in London, the latter is forced to run the shoe factory when his father unexpectedly passes away. The factory is failing quickly and the son has no clue how to save it in everyone he loves’ jobs. The two very different young men cross paths unexpectedly and together they not only learn how to save the business, but also discover the importance of accepting others and being true to yourself.

Throughout the heartwarming and hilarious story are some seriously impressive musical numbers. The music and lyrics reminds me of classic Broadway hits, but the dancing is like none other. It’s not often you see grown men doing high-kicks, splits, back handsprings and a myriad of other moves in 6-inch heels. Well… I guess it’s possible you do see this often, depending on what clubs you frequent, but I guarantee you that you have yet to see this level of talent.

The show rocked. We left feeling excited, happy and desperate to go shoe shopping.

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Kinky Boots will be playing at TPAC until February 8th! GO SEE IT! You may even spot a celebrity… Reba McEntire and Kelly Clarkson were there last night. Check out show details and future shows here. If you don’t live around Nashville (shame on you), check out the tour dates here.

Cheers!

I Met the Blue Men

the group

The Blue Man Group is in Nashville at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center this week, and I should have seen them last night, but thanks to a sick cranky baby (who is currently fighting sleep with every little bit of will power she has), I stayed home and Husband went to the show. Lucky for you, he’ll be sharing his very own review very soon. I have seen the Blue Men before, once in Orlando and once in New York, but I was still very excited to see them again. Not all was lost though…this morning I had the pleasure of meeting a couple of the guys (sans blue), learning about their instruments and even snagging an interview. Lucky me.

First of all, if you haven’t seen them perform yet, you are missing an incredibly entertaining and wildly creative show. Second of all, if you have seen them, you should know it is REALLY weird to see them in real life without all of that blue paint. I know this should be obvious, but they look like real people. Real people, with hair, regular eyes and the ability to talk and smile. It’s hard to imagine them as the performers when you are talking to one out of character. It’s a lot like talking to a 70 year old Asian woman who tells you she is Mickey Mouse from 9 to 5 at Magic Kingdom. (True story.)

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It was cool to watch them play a few instruments, goof around and talk to us about how all the pipes and whatnot in the show work, but the real excitement was when I got to talk one-on-one with one of the talented performers. His name is Adam. He’s young, very tall, funny, a former musical theater performer and has been a Blue Man for the last year and a half.  Here’s what he had to say about being on tour, auditioning for a Blue Man and more…

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Me- What’s the different between the tour and the permanent shows, like Orlando and New York?

Adam- There are a decent amount of difference between the shows. New York is our smallest show and it’s very intimate. They aren’t able to do the bigger aspect of the shows that we do on tour in these big venues. New York is a great show though, and you can really see and connect with every single person in the audience, which you sometimes lose in these bigger shows. We try to accomplish the same goal in each show though, which is to communicate with the audience on a different level, without talking.

Me- What’s your trick to keep from smiling? You guys are so funny, yet you never crack a smile! How do you look at each other and never laugh?

Adam- Well, we do, in our heads. When we are in character we try to stay solid. Instead of thinking of things as funny, we try and discover why the audience is reacting to certain things.

Me- Have you ever accidentally broke character?

Adam- Well, I mean, we try not to, but it’s tough. Sometimes, random things happen and we are just like “that was crazy!”.

Me- Once you become a blue man, how long can your career last?

Adam- Potentially…it’s kind of open ended. As long as you keep evolving as a Blue Man and keep exploring your character and coming up with new things, keep it fresh, it can be open ended. It’s awesome, it’s a great job. A dream job.

Me- When auditioning to become a Blue Man, what are some of the things you have to do?

Adam- We do a little drum interview, but it’s not very long because most of the audition is about acting. They do a lot of silent improv kind of games. They might set up a situation that you have to solve with other guys without talking. You may be up there with three guys you’ve never met before, put in a really strange situation and you can only communicate with your eyes and non-verbally. After a few days, you end up learning a number from the show and implement that into the audition as well.

Me- That sounds hilarious. We should be able to watch auditions.

Adam- It’s a kind of a secret process. They have their ways of trying to see the Blue Men in people.

Me- Do you have a background in acting?

Adam- I do. I was in musical theater before this. I did a lot of singing, dancing acting and I also played piano, which helps a lot in the musical aspects of the show. So, I went from that to not talking at all! I love it though, it’s really the best job in the world. I get to do it every night and we get to experience different cities. It’s a blast.

Me- Okay, one more…are the ever any inquiries about “Blue Women”?

Adam- It is possible, yeah. As long as you meet the requirements. You have to be musical, able to carry a beat, 5’10 to 6’2… so a pretty tall woman, but if you meet the requirements and have what they want than yeah, it’s possible. They hired a woman who was a Blue Man before, who performed in Boston.

Very cool.

Thanks Adam!

Stay posted for Husband’s review of the Blue Man Group and remember they are in Nashville until January 11th. Get your tickets here!

Cheers!

The Many Tales of Camelot

It isn’t until last night that I realized just how much King Arthur has been a part of my life. There was The Sword in the Stone that I watched numerous times as a child. Then, there was Monty Python and the Holy Grail that we all loved in high school. I was lucky enough to see Spamalot in my early twenties, and then last night I saw the musical, Camelot for the first time. I am ashamed to admit that I didn’t know this musical existed until recently, but thrilled to say that I have now been able to experience it.

Don't you want to watch this again? I do!
Don’t you want to watch this again? I do!
And this??
And this??
And, this is another musical everyone should make an effort to see.
And, this is another musical everyone should make an effort to see.

After a very busy day of errands and baby duty yesterday, I was relieved to get away for a few hours and head downtown all dressed up to see another Broadway show at Tennessee Performing Arts Center. This place is starting to feel like a second home, and I am not complaining. Between the Broadway shows, the ballets and the myriad of other events I am making the drive to this theatre very often. Nashville is lucky to have such a nice theatre and the opportunity to see so many shows.

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Anyways, I’ve gone off track now. Back to Camelot! Camelot the musical is based off of T. H. White‘s novel The Once and Future KingIt tells the story of Arthur, how he becomes king, falls in love with the beautiful Guenevere, learns from Merlin, attempts world peace and is eventually betrayed by everyone he loves. It’s actually fairly heartbreaking. It has just enough laughs to keep it somewhat light-hearted and fun, but I left feeling sad for Arthur. I wanted to hug him, pat his head and say “there, there, it will all be alright”.

OH, what I would do to see Julie Andrews perform...
OH, what I would do to see Julie Andrews perform…

That isn’t to say, I did not enjoy the show. I loved it. While it’s slightly old fashion (Hello! Julie Andrews and Richard Burton originated the roles!), it remains classic. War & peace, men in tights, magic tricks, love triangles, bloodshed and dysfunctional families never get old. Adam Grabau, who plays King Arthur, is phenomenal! He began the show with a passionate and almost frightening speech, but quickly transformed to a clueless funny young King. I couldn’t get enough of his character. I’d say he stole the show, but the local boy at the end, who played Tom of Warwick, was pretty impressive.

The show brought back many fond memories of the various other forms of King Arthur’s tale that I grew up loving. Now, I have one more version of Camelot to enjoy!

If you are planning to see the show head to TPAC’s website for more info. If you aren’t local then visit the Camelot National Tour’s website for cities and dates.

Cheers!

A Puppet Show for Grown-Ups: Meet Joey

Yesterday was a very busy day, so busy that I didn’t open my laptop until midnight and fell asleep on the couch two paragraphs into this blog with Harry Potter on the  TV and all the lights on around me. Besides running all over town completing errands (which included getting my eyes dilated for the first time, that was interesting)  I was invited to meet a few of the stars from the traveling broadway show, War Horse. If  I’m being completely honest, I was not excited about this particular press event. It fell in the middle of other appointments, and War Horse has never much appealed to me. I’m not sure why…I don’t actually know anything about the play, I just heard it was sad and decided not to see it. Also, they use puppets, and it’s very hard to create impressive puppets. I mean Lion King did, but (don’t hate me for this) I didn’t actually love Lion King on Broadway. Today, the star of War Horse, changed my mind completely.

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Joey, a horse…or horse puppet actually, is the main character and he was the center of attention at yesterday’s press event. Joey showed off his many skills in the lobby of the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. It was surprisingly impressive to watch this life-size hand-made puppet (created by the Handspring Puppet Company of South Africa) rear back on his hind legs, trot around the room, swish his tail and even wiggle his ears. It is one of those experience where the people controlling the enormous puppet seem to disappear and the horse appears to be more horse than puppet.

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The coolest part was when they ushered us all outside so that Joey could come out and meet the local police horses! OMG it was soooo stinkin’ adorable to see this puppet interact with real horses. The puppeteers are incredible at making actual horse noises and they were able to move and sound like a horse enough that the real horses welcomed Joey like a new friend. I know just hearing the word “puppet” often brings a cheesy play to mind, but I promise these are not your typical puppets.

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After all the adorable horse nuzzling we got to talk to the people inside the horse. A whole group of us got to chat with these talented (and very strong) actors about their not-so-typical acting gig. First off, the cast is hilarious and charming. They came out ready to talk and gave us an entire reviews worth of info before anyone even asked the first question. They seemed like a group off BFF’s traveling the country together. I guess when you work under a puppet connected with two other people for months at a time your bound to form some close relationships. They even compared their co-workers to partners in a ballroom dance, it’s a lot of learning to work and move with one another.

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Clearly, learning to control a puppet that weighs well over a hundred pounds  well enough that the audience believes they are watching a real horse takes some practice. The puppeteers play off of the people interacting with Joey during the show, so if an actor moves one way one night and a different the next, the “horse” will actually respond accordingly. This means there’s a lot more impromptu movement than you’d expect. These people are basically one-with-the-horse. Horses actually…there are quite a few horses that appear on stage, and did I mention that people ride them??? Because they do, people ride these puppets, meaning the actors under the horse are carrying not only the puppet, but another actor. Can you imagine preparing for this type of role???

joey

I wanted to know exactly how they did this…Did they sleep in a barn for a month? Live with a real horse? Read Black Beauty? Watch lots of Westerns? Not exactly, but they did watch lots of YouTube videos, visit horses in just about every city they visit and of course they hit the gym virtually everyday. It actually took two weeks of training for them to just move the horse across the stage in a trot together. They even spent time in a dark room, shutting out the sight of each other, and pretending to be and sound like lots of different animals. I would have loved to have been a fly on that wall.

I truly felt so excited about this show after meeting the cast and seeing the crazy horse puppet. I don’t typically enjoy sad or serious shows, but I always enjoy watching true talent, and I knew that’s what I was going to get after learning how well-trained the actors are, how much work was put into making this story realistic and seeing the passion and heart behind the show. I’ll get the review of the show up ASAP, and if it isn’t already obvious, it gets a pretty good review!

War Horse will only be at TPAC until June 8th! Get your tickets here and check out the tour schedule here.

Cheers!

10 Reasons Why You Should Definitely See Wicked on Tour

 

Wicked - Emerald City

After all this time, I think it’s clear that I am a fan of Wicked. I mean…why else would I see it 6 times in 3 different cities? I love it so much that I am finding it difficult to write a fair an unbiased review. Since, Thursday night I have been brainstorming and trying to come up with some critical remarks. The best I’ve got is “the actress playing Glinda isn’t my favorite…still incredibly talented, but not my favorite.”  And that’s it! So, instead of telling you the good and the bad parts of this show, I’m just going to tell you 10 Reasons Why You Should Definitely See Wicked on Tour.

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10. The Costumes. The costumes in Wicked are nothing short of great. They munchkins look short and funny. The Emerald City citizens look crazy and whimsical. Glinda looks spectacular while Elphaba manages to look simultaneously nerdy, homely, studious and wicked. I’ve seen these costumes backstage on Broadway and the detail is fantastic. These are the types of wardrobes you will want to touch, try on and ooh and aww over.

Wicked - Emerald City

9. The Set. The Wicked Tour is extra special because the set (which is insane) is basically identical to the one on Broadway. The producers of the show want you to get your moneys worth. They are determined to give you nothing short of what you would see in NYC. It’s incredible to walk into the theatre and realize they have transformed the stage into this incredible place that has flying witches, bubbles, a giant dragon, bridges, castles and enormous moving gears and clocks. I was there to see them put the set together and still don’t know how they do it!

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8. The History. Wicked has broken numerous box office records, won a crazy amount of rewards and has been seen by literally millions of people worldwide. This show is a piece of artistic and theatrical history. It’s songs are performed time and time again, it’s referenced in TV shows and movies and  Idina Menzel and Kristen Chenoweth originated the roles of Elphaba and Glinda. This musical will be talked about for years to come, don’t you want to participate in those conversations?

7. The Lessons. I touched a lot on this in Thursday’s blog. We learn about accepting ourselves, being brave and standing up for ourselves and others from Elphaba. From Glinda, we learn to accept others and the cost of getting what we wish for… it’s not always what it seems.

Wicked

6. The Backstory. In case you haven’t heard, Wicked is the untold story of the witches of Oz. You will learn how one became good, one became Wicked and even where the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, the Wicked Witch of the East, they flying monkeys and the Wizard came from. It’s interesting.

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5. The Culture. Face it, most of us are not getting enough culture in our lives. We don’t go to museums enough, read enough, listen to great music or see enough theatre. We need to feed our souls with more talent and art! Do your soul a favor and buy a ticket to Wicked. Get the Broadway experience in your home town and watch some truly talented actors perform their hearts out.

4. A Night Out. Seeing Wicked on tour will give you and your better half a chance to have a fancy date night. You can dress up, have dinner, see the show and grab some cocktails. OR, make it a family night out. Wicked is kid-friendly which means you can all go and check it off as family outing and an artsy night for the kids. Perfect.

3. Defying Gravity (and all the music). I am still obsessed with the entire soundtrack from Wicked. Husband and I know every word to every song and sing it a little too often on road trips. The obvious standout is “Defying Gravity”. Even if you’ve never seen Wicked, you have most likely heard this song on various occasions. It’s been on Glee and New Girl and it’s been performed by dozens of others. I get goosebumps every time I hear someone hit that high f at the end. I also get goosebumps every time I hear Idina sing.

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2. The Comedy. Wicked isn’t known for it’s hilarity, but there are many LOL moments. Glinda’s character is hilarious. No matter how many times I’ve seen the show I can’t help but laugh at her ditzy nieve self.

Gina Beck by Matt Crockett

1. The Magic. I guess one reason I love Wicked so much is the same reason I love Disney so much…it’s magical. I get goosebumps and tears in my eyes as I watch. The sets change so seamlessly, characters disappear, costumes change, wizardry is performed and you will constantly wonder “How did they do that?”

Convinced? Good! Now check out their tour schedule and order those tickets. Or, if you are in Middle Tennessee get your tickets here. Have fun and let me know what you think of the show!

Cheers!