Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Quick Tour of Broadchurch

A few years ago, a show premiered in England that had everyone talking.  It was a fairly simple concept - over the course of 8 episodes, the detectives would solve the murder of an 11 year old boy in a small, sleepy town on the coast.  The show of course was Broadchurch.  And I'm not sure why it took off the way it did, but it was probably the combination of a superbly talented cast, a compelling mystery, and stunning cinematography.  I, like everyone else, was hooked on the show from the very first moment.  

This year, after 3 successful series, it's coming to an end, which is unfortunate.  However, the gorgeous filming locations still exist in West Bay Dorset, UK.  This means that any time you find yourself in the UK - as I did last month - you can visit this gorgeous area of the country, and relive the television magic.  To say this part of the country is beautiful, is an understatement.  And luckily for the residents, they're seeing a boom in their tourist economy in large part because of Broadchurch.  Tourists are finally seeing what the residents have known all of their lives, this area of the country is stunning and the people are lovely.  Quite honestly, after just spending a day there, I could have easily stayed much longer. Between the market shops, the great restaurants, the beautiful beach, and the hustle and bustle of kind people - tourists and residents alike - I was in heaven!

The stores really bought into the show...
Of course, the whole reason for visiting Bridport was because of the Broadchurch connection, but I did discover so much more to love while I was there.  The day started out with a snack - as most of my days do... - from the Waffle Box.  The Waffle Box is a fabulous food truck, owned by a delightful gentleman that was more than happy to treat us to a few tastes of his many different flavors of ice cream, and help us decide which particular flavor was best.  It wasn't too hard of a sell for me.  As soon as I saw Banoffee on the menu, that was going to happen.  And since the truck was called the Waffle Box, it was quite necessary to have my scoop of Banoffee on top of a waffle with hot fudge on top of that.  How could I possibly resist? 


After we ate, we headed down to get some shopping done.  Now my friend had been trying to find a rain coat all week because it had been pouring in London.  After no luck anywhere, she finally gave up hope. However, in the first store we visited - on a sunny 75 degree day - she found the perfect rain coat.  It was fate!  In that same store I found 2 dresses that I just love.  After that, we wandered over to a small market, where we found even more goodies. This time the goodies were handmade, which are my favorite type of goodies.

After a trip to the car to off-load our purchases, we then started our very own personal Broadchurch tour. I had found a small map on line, which told me where the locations were. But the truth is, the town center is so contained and I've been so hooked on the show, that I would have been able to recognize them without the map. 

First up was the hut that housed Jack Marshall's Sea Brigades.  Ordinarily, this is the town's Methodist church.

Right around the corner from there, was Jack Marshall's Newsagents.

Then there was the harbor, which was directly in the center of the bustling city center.  The small harbor played into Series one - which is where Hardy and Miller found blood in Mark Latimer's boat. And you realize that Hardy isn't a fan of the water - for some mysterious reason, that you won't learn until Series 2. (Have I peaked your interest yet?)

Across the harbor, is the small blue hut that Hardy lives in throughout Series 2.  The hut is adorable, and I'd be happier living there, than Hardy was.  As it turns out, someone must own the hut, as they were out front sun bathing the day we were there. How cool would it be to loan your home to David Tennant for a few months?

Then of course was the beach with those beautiful and terrifying cliffs, where Danny's body was found in Series 1.  They are stunning to look at, however, they had just experienced a cliff fall, which mean tons of rocks were piled up on the beach.  And yet, people were still sitting under the cliffs, like nothing had happened. I'm not sure I would have been that calm.

Heading away from the city center is a circular luxury condo building, that stood in for the local police station where Hardy, Miller and the rest of the force worked to solve the case. It's a beautiful building, but I'm not sure it would be a great place to live.  

A bit past the police station, is the caravan park that Susan Wright lived in.  Not nearly as foreboding as it looks on the show - though it's probably because Susan Wright, in all her evilness wasn't there to scowl at us.

Past the harbor there are 2 piers.  On the first, you can find the shack where Hardy met with a doctor friend in Series 1 about some mysterious illness he has.  I have to say, I was more than happy to sit where David Tennant sat.  On the second pier, you'll find the benches where Hardy and Miller sat at the very end of Series 1 during Danny's memorial.  Also again, I sat where David Tennant sat!

Lastly, from the pier you can see a beautiful house up on a hill which is the house where Jocelyn, the Latimer's solicitor lived.  This house is gorgeous and yet, I can't for the live of me figure out how to reach it without climbing that scary hill to the left of it. 

So there you have it, a lovely tour of one of the prettiest - in my opinion - towns in England.  The only Broadchurch locations we didn't get to see were the church and the High street - which were filmed about 50 miles away in Exeter.  As much as I wanted to see them, I was more terrified of driving through the small towns.  So those areas will need to wait until next time. But if ever you're in England, and feel the need for a quick field trip out of the major cities, I highly recommend Bridport Dorset, even if you're not a Broadchurch fan.  Bridport is a really a beautiful town, and you'll find some great food, shopping and fun around every corner. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Assassins at City Center: Weird in the Best Way Possible

I've always thought that in musical theatre, there were two camps.  In the first camp, you have the Sondheim fans; the lovers of all things Into the Woods or A Little Night Music. And in the other, you have the Andrew Lloyd Webber fans; those that gravitate to "Jesus Christ Superstar" or Phantom of the Opera.  I have always been in the Andrew Lloyd Webber camp.  Jesus Christ Superstar was the first musical I ever saw, and Phantom was the first I saw live.  So you can say Lord Lloyd Webber has a special place in my heart.

Sondheim, on the other hand, not so much.  Until recently (we're talking just last month) I'd never seen a single Sondheim show.  In my mind, he was too classic for me.  I like new and different, and I'm not such a fan of the high soprano.  However, as I wrote about here, I saw the marvelous production of Sweeney Todd at the Barrow Street, and just fell head over heels for it.  So I decided that it might be time to give Sondheim another shot, which is how I found myself seeing Assassins at City Center (oh, and it must be said, NY City Center is beautiful! If you're a fan of great architecture and design, I'd definitely recommend seeing a show there.) Encores this past weekend.

On paper, this show is so not a me show.  It's about people who kill presidents or try to kill presidents, as the case may be, and it's written by Sondheim.  However, the piece you're missing is Steven Pasquale was playing John Wilkes Booth.  After seeing him in The Robber Bridegroom, I've been dying to see him in something else.  And let me tell you, he did not disappoint. 

But let's start at the beginning.  Did I like the show?  Surprisingly, yep!  I sort of loved it.  It was weird and sarcastic in the best way possible.  It's meant to be a satire, which worked really well for the strange concept - assassins and would be assassins all meeting in some strange cafe.  I'm not sure the music tells the story as well as Sondheim hoped, but the songs themselves are pretty fantastic.  A few of them have been playing in my head since last weekend.  

Now I may have mixed reviews on the show itself, but the cast was 100% fabulous in every way.  Steven Pasquale as John Wilkes Booth, was a perfect fit.  This Booth is sarcastic, and droll, and he plays that so well.  Booth was given all the best lines, in my opinion, and he nailed them all.  The rest of the assassins were also quite good in their parts.  The 2 women - Squeaky Fromme and Sarah Jane Moore were meant to be the comic relief of the show, which they did flawlessly.  I can't help but giggle at Sarah Jane.  She was not the greatest with her particular gun - often pointing it at people to emphasize a point -, and when the bullets fell out while she was attempting to kill the President, she threw them at Gerald Ford instead - something, that apparently really happened.  At least in this instance, being truly terrible at your job is an asset.

The most uplifting part of the show, was something I'm sure Sondheim never imagined it would be.  In one of the first songs, the Balladeer sings - "Every now and then the country goes a little wrong.  Every now and then a madman's bound to come along, Doesn't stop the story, story's pretty strong. Doesn't change the song."  The first 2 sentences of that lyric got extended applause.  I'm sure you can guess who the audience was equating that description to.  However, the idea that, our "story's pretty strong" is a happy thought to get us through. 

Like I said, I've always been a Webber girl, and I'm pretty sure I'll stay that way.  But for now, I must admit, there are some definite positives to the Sondheim camp.  I mean, obviously, since he's the biggest name in musical theatre, but also, he's growing on me.  So what I'm now asking is for Broadway to get in on the act and start reviving A Little Night Music and Into the Woods, for all the Sondheim lovers out there, and for me because I may be on the verge of being a fan!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Eating My Way Around London

I’ve never been a huge fan of tours.  I like exploring things on my own and happening upon new sites and restaurants.  Or I do what every other crafty person does; I search Pinterest for fun things in whatever city I’m traveling to, and then note them in my phone so I can find them (or get lost trying to find them) when I arrive.  However, in 2015 when I went to England and Belgium, my travel partner in crime booked 2 tours for us.  The first was a Secret Garden Tour of the Cotswolds and the second was a Chocolate tour of Brussels.  Well, to say that these tours were awesome would be a huge understatement. They were phenomenal, and I had so much fun – and I ate so much food – and they totally converted me to being a tour person.
When left to my own devices, I chose Pancetta Ciabatta - Yum!
That’s why, when this year’s England trip rolled around, I actually mentioned a food tour of London as being something I’d like to do.  Of course, the travel partner in crime, already aware of how cool tours can be, was more than happy with this idea.  After a few Google searches we happened upon the Secret Food Tour of London. Secret Food Tours operates tours in cities all over the world.  In London, they have 3 choices for this type of tour.  We chose the Traditional British Food Tour, which takes place in the London Bridge area of town, and includes Borough Market, and traditional pub fare.

Unfortunately, the day we chose for the tour could have been a bit better – often torrential downpours on a walking tour are never fun.  However, our guide Mat was delightful.  He never let the weather get in the way of our fun.  He was so adept at giving the tour, and managing the weather that he would change the order of things, just so we’d be under cover for a lot of the heavier rain.  While he was young – a university student, we learned – he knew a great deal about the area and the food.  He was also a big fan of London in general, so he had great tips for touristy and non-touristy things to do while we were staying in the city.  But to me, the avid scrapbooker, the best thing he did was take our emails so he could send us a listing of the food and the vendors we tried on the tour.  That saved me from having to remember all of the vendor names, while shoveling in all of the delicious food. Mat really was a fabulous host, and I’m so happy we had him as our guide.

Now on to the really good part – the food!  And oh my goodness was there lots of it.  I’m pretty sure I ate my weight in deliciousness in those 3 hours, and I’m not even sorry about it. It was the best 3 hours I’ve ever spent in London!

We started the tour in Borough Market, home of a green market, handmade delicacies and a fish/meat market.  The market is full of so many things to try, that I’m quite happy we were touring it first with an experienced guide.  That way we didn’t waste our time and were introduced to the best items first.  As an appetizer for the day, we were treated to a Scotch Egg from Scotch Tails.  Now Scotch Eggs often get a bad rap for being stale, unhealthy, and tasteless.  However, this Scotch Egg – a deep fried sausage ball, filled with a medium-boiled duck egg – was unbelievably tasty.  It wasn’t tasteless or dry at all, and I’m a sucker for a perfectly cooked egg, so even though it was the first thing I tried, it was my favorite of the whole tour.  

We then learned a bit more about the market and took a few minutes to ourselves to wander. After wandering, it was on to the main attraction of Fish & Chips from Fish!Kitchen, which was our biggest meal of the day. Instead of the usual English Cod, this fish and chips was made with Haddock.  As a non-fish person, fish and chips are not usually my thing, but these were also delicious.  The fish wasn’t too fishy (my super scientific scale for rating fish), and the chips were crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside, just how they’re supposed to be.  It’s no wonder this particular vendor won Best Fish and Chips this year in the British Fish and Chips awards (and as an aside - how does one get on the judging committee of these awards, because that sounds like a pretty great job...?)

To accompany our fish and chips, we were treated to some Honey Mead courtesy of Mat.  I don’t do carbonation, so it really wasn’t my thing.  But others seemed to like the sweet treat. Continuing on, we then enjoyed an “Exceedingly Tasty Sausage Roll” from Ginger Pig.  Now, you’d think after I went gaga for the Scotch Egg, that more sausage would be my thing, but not in this case.  It was good, but it definitely wasn’t my favorite (also it made for a really ugly photo, which is why you see a photo of potato merchants below...)  It was a little bland, and honestly, if I was eating sausage, I’d really have preferred it contain a perfectly cooked egg…

Then it was time for the Secret part of the Secret Food Tour.  The gimmick of these tours is that there’s always one food that’s kept secret as a surprise for those on the tour.  Of course, this made more sense before Yelp and TripAdvisor.  I was unwittingly spoiled by checking out what others had said about the tour (and I'm apparently spoiling it for you too - a point I just realized).  But even being spoiled by what the secret food was, didn’t stop me from enjoying the giant Vanilla Cream filled, Sugar-Cinnamon Dusted donut from Breadahead. Oh My Goodness!  If I could have one of those every morning for breakfast, I’d be as big as a house, but I’d also be a very happy girl!  It was definitely a highlight – after the Scotch Egg of course.
Donut of Deliciousness (DoD)
Happy Girls enjoying the DoDs
After all of that deliciousness, we left Borough Market to see a bit of London Bridge, then traveled to the Mug House – a pub in Victorian London Bridge for a few cheeses and some ale.  It was here that Mat stepped up again, and really showed what a great guide he was. He remembered me saying that I wasn’t a drinker, so he ordered me an Elderflower Soda instead of the ale that everyone else drank.  Such a thoughtful tour-guide!  The cheeses were not my favorite, but I did enjoy the grapes and crackers served with them.

After a bit more walking, we ended the day at Horniman’s for dessert.  You may wonder how we could have enjoyed dessert after eating all of that food, but when it’s put in front of you, you really do have a hard time resisting.  In this case it was pots of tea and a Lemon tart. I went 50 – 50 on this – not a lemon fan, so I didn’t love the tart, but the tea was the perfect ending for a chilly and gray day.

All in all, I can’t say enough about just how much I enjoyed this tour of London.  The weather could have been better, but I’m not sure we would have had the same experience if it had.  We spent a lot of the time on the tour joking about the climate in London and dodging other’s umbrellas.  Mat was a superb tour-guide and he has a perfect personality for this type of work.  I learned so much about London from him and enjoyed all sorts of foods I'd probably never have tried if I were there on my own.  So, if you’re ever in London, I highly recommend trying out the Secret Food Tour of London.  But be warned: skip breakfast that morning.  You’ll thank me later!

Ruins seen walking from Borough Market to the Thames

3 hours
Cost: 59 pounds (not sure what the current exchange rate is)
All food and beverages are included in the price.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Third Time's a Charm

Closing Night Bows
I've been pretty open about my affection for Falsettos and its cast.  It is undoubtedly one of the best shows I've ever seen and will always have a special place in my heart.  From its cast to its set to its message of love, acceptance and family, it is perfect from beginning to end. Since it closed back in January, I've been mourning it pretty hard, by listening to its cast album endlessly.  But last night, I finally had the chance to see it again.  This time, at the movie theater, thanks to Lincoln Center Live's phenomenal choice to record it.

I'll go on record as saying that nothing will ever beat live theatre, however I really, really enjoyed seeing this particular show in this context.  To start off, this cast is still incredible.  I can't say I've ever seen a cast gel so well on stage before, and this melding of minds and talent definitely translates flawlessly to the screen.  They looked and sounded great on a big screen and in surround sound.  

But my favorite part was having the chance to see what I couldn't see live.  I didn't have fantastic seats the two times I saw it, however they weren't terrible.  I was in the orchestra both times, so I had a decent view of the entire stage.  However, thanks to the use of close-ups in the filmed version, I picked up on all sorts of little facial expressions and reactions I missed seeing live.  

That's the glory of seeing a production like this.  While live is still best, through movie magic you're able to really see small choices the actors are making.  These choices make the production much fuller and more nuanced.  After a while, it became a bit of a game for me to pick up on these micro-expressions.  Some of my favorites were:

~ In a "A Tight Knit Family", Whizzer is actually questioning Marvin about the Hepatitis he's just realized Marvin may have.  I've listened to that song dozens of times, but always thought it was just harmony.  Thanks to the look on Andrew Rannell's face, that line is much funnier now.

~ Charlotte never really eats Cordelia's food.  She spits it out when it's given to her, and tries to warn the others silently about how terrible it is.  In the end, it now makes so much more sense when she's shocked by how good the food actually is.  And in this same scene, Trina's discomfort, when Charlotte and Cordelia kiss is a truly funny and almost missed piece of comedy thanks to Stephanie J. Block.

~ After Marvin hits Trina, instead of just looking shocked by what he's done, Marvin tries to apologize quietly but is cut off by Mendel.  I didn't pick that up the first 2 times seeing, but thanks to better recording devices, you can hear a little of what Christian Borle is saying. (Also, on the big screen, you are still mesmerized at how amazing an actor he really is - not a surprise but I thought I'd mention.)

~ During "Falsettoland/About Time" Marvin collapses the entire set.  That never made sense to me.  However, thanks to a well-timed closeup, I realized it's because Whizzer was sitting at the end and he's still angry at/in love with him.

~ And then, the moment that really hit me hard was in "Days Like This" when Jason brings the Chess game to Whizzer.  Whizzer tears up and gets defensive when Jason tells him "I'll let you win, Whizzer." It's a terribly hard scene to watch anyway, but tears make everything harder.  Andrew Rannells and Anthony Rosenthal really knocked it out of the park!

As you can see, I may have analyzed a bit too hard, but this particular recording was just so good, it was hard not to.  Of course, there was one thing that could have been handled a bit better - the use of language.  I understand that some words needed to be changed to get past the PBS sensors, however, some changes were just odd, and I'm sure they were cumbersome for the actors to memorize.  But I do admit, if you haven't heard the music before, they do make sense in context, musically and lyrically.

So there you have it, my overly gushing review of a beautiful show.  Even after seeing it like this, I'm still itching for October to roll around so I can see it on PBS as well. Bravo to everyone involved!  You really nailed it and we're so thankful for that! 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

There and Back Again

After planning, and worrying and packing and worrying, I just spent the loveliest 2 weeks in England.  I shared a bit about why I was worried here, though luckily, everything turned out ok. There were a few hiccups along the way, but it turns out I needn't have worried so much. London and Cornwall are still 2 of the most beautiful places in the world to me, and I still love that country with all my heart. 

It's just a different way of living over there.  When I'm there, I act differently, speak differently and most of all, I'm braver.  I'll try new things, and drive cars on the wrong side of the road.  I'll explore and chat and mostly, I just have the best time.  As I say, each time I come home, one of these days I'd love to live there for an extended period of time, just so I can explore even more than I already have. When my financial plan finally comes together (i.e. - winning the lottery), this will definitely happen.  For now, I'll just reminisce about the fun things I did on vacation, for instance...

Just a few highlights, before I give you the whole story in the coming weeks (whether you care or not)...

In Borough Market, I took a Secret Food Tour and I ate so much, it should be criminal.

In Notting Hill, I discovered a great restaurant called Farm Girl and I enjoyed the best breakfast ever.

In the West End, I watched Andrew Scott (Moriarty in Sherlock) knock Hamlet out of the park. (Don't tell Sherlock, but his Hamlet was better than Benedict's...)

At Wembley, I rocked out at what may be Adele's last concert ever.

In Bridport and Port Isaac, I geeked out while I toured the filming locations of Broadchurch and Doc Marten.

In Tintagel, I climbed to the top of King Arthur's Castle in flip-flops...

And I loved, loved, loved it all!