Thursday, July 14, 2016

Reunited with the Retrosnob clan*

*...well, minus dipsy sis number two, who is having a crazy adventure in the US of A with her school chums.

Since my last post, I have departed on a plane to Singapore. From there, I met my family and stayed one night in the capital, before we left for Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. We have now been here for four nights I believe? We leave KL tomorrow for a little island off the Mainland (but still part of Malaysia) called Penang, where we will be staying in a tree hut! What??? I am so excited. It already sounds like my dream home. But first, I better recap our adventures so far.

That's right, now I have to use plural pronouns, because I am no longer the sole feature of this blog. *Cries.*

In Singapore we saw Cloud Forest, which was absolutely mesmerising. There were waterfalls and tropical plants and pretty lights and crystals and everything wonderful and paradisiacal. I didn't particularly like feeling like I was in the clouds though. I'm realising I have a thing about heights - I can't be close to the edge of something, because I feel like I'm about to fall to my death.
The temperature there was muggy and sticky, but far more manageable than Bahrain. Surprisingly I didn't have even one moment of déjà vu as I did in London, even though Cantala's Europe tour in 2012 saw us in Singapore for roughly the same amount of time as the UK. I get the feeling I may have just seen a different part of the capital last time, perhaps?

Malaysia feels far more authentically Asian than Singapore. It feels less commercialised, I think is the way to put it? Day one saw us doing not much; we went for a swim in the hotel pool and then went out for dinner. Their spa pool was the same temperature as the main pool - absolute madness, and utter disappointment. The Mexican from Loco was brilliant. I had a surprisingly spicy vegetable burrito (hold the cheese successfully granted.)

Over the next few days we wandered around the mall inside the twin towers, saw Chinatown, visited the "Upside Down House", Butterfly Park (seriously lame sounding but highlight), and I even fell asleep on a tour bus...after sleeping in until 11am. I don't know how that happened.

So in typical me fashion, almost a parallel to the end of my time in London, I stayed at the hotel all day today. I went to the gym, but apart from that, I didn't even leave the apartment. I was just a bit over it. So Sophie and the parentals went out without me. I have no idea what they actually did, but Dad brought back cookies so that makes me happy.

I had no idea that we leave for Penang tomorrow until a few hours ago when it came up in conversation. I am tragically out of the loop.

P.s. Just to iron out the confusion: "Retrosnob" is an anagram for "Robertson" which I don't even know how we happened upon it but we roll with it...

Friday, July 8, 2016

Chilling with Shakespeare and dining on Cruise Ships

Once again, I'm playing catch up! So I left off on the train to Stratford-upon-Avon, which was a fantastic juxtaposition to the bustling London metropolis. If you didn't know, it is a 2ish hour train ride north of the capital, and it also happens to be the birth and death place of William Shakespeare. That is largely the tourist attraction of the little town - seeing the sites of Shakespeare and his family. I visited his birthplace and family home. I literally got to stand in the room where he was born, which was pretty incredible. I also saw Hall's Croft and visited Shakespeare's grave. The church was truly stunning, and the intricacy of the interior was quite mesmerising. It's just kind of a revelation for me witnessing places so old. It makes New Zealand seem embryonic in comparison; we're just a baby nation with not much history.

Shakespeare's Birthplace

Um lol.


Me and Will looking for trouble

Is this not the most beautiful thing you ever did see?

Shakespeare's grave

I also went to a brilliant museum which I think my young cousins would absolutely adore. It was called MAD, an funny little acronym for Mechanical Art and Design. It was completely interactive, where visitors began each of the displays with the press of a button, or the push of a pedal. There were epic marble tracks, moving cog artworks, optical illusions, light shows...I can't even begin to describe it but it really blew my expectations out of the water. The staff were really friendly and the admission was affordable.

Creepy af Einstein inverted face

Me waiting for customer service

I knew I would fail at this without even trying.

Happy chappy!

I got back to London just before 8pm on the 5th. The next day I found myself marvelling at the biggest Lush store in the world, which just so happens to be on Oxford Street. Believe me, I am not exaggerating, the staff told me themselves! The place is three levels, with a whole floor dedicated to bath bombs and bubble bars - they even have events and music gigs and things going on a few times a month. I was also offered to have my hair henna dyed for free! I may take them up on that when I'm back here at the end of July. One thing I noticed was that the staff in this store (and the Stratford-upon-Avon one I visited) are WAY less in your face. In NZ, as soon as you step in the door, the workers all seem to pounce on you with these feigned grins, asking cheerily "May I help you?", "Looking for anything in particular?" and it's all a bit too much.  Especially as 9 times out of 10, I never buy anything - everything is too pricey. Whereas here, the staff just let you do your own thing and wait for you to approach them with questions, for the most part. I took me home two soaps which I am 99% sure cannot be found in NZ stores. Also, I went to The Body Shop and found their prices to be ridiculously cheap in comparison - so I ended up with some much needed BB cream and concealer. And I'm not the kind of person who ever buys make up so that was a big deal for me.

Sheer disbelief.

I can't believe how much rubbish I just wrote about shopping, of all things. What an airhead.

That night I was invited to a tour and dinner on a cruise ship - excellent, and I am convinced I shall live this way one day - cruising the seas to see the world. So painless, skipping all the dreadful airports and economy flights. Travelling in style.

So that brings me up to Thursday the 7th. I had a much needed chill day; I'm trying to recover from a weird sore throat, sneezing, blocked nose fiasco - which Rob thinks could be hay fever. I've never had it before, so that's fun. That evening I saw Liz perform Mozart's Requiem with her choir, and also a more recent Requiem by British composer Rutter. I followed that up with a karaoke night in Soho - pretty much London's gay district. 'Twas very fun: free shots for every song, though they finished at 11.30pm, which was a bit sad. I did Beyonce's Love on Top and got a lot of cheers, compliments and even a hug from the MC afterwards. I met a bunch of people there who were all very friendly and all tourists, like myself. Some from the US, France, and New Zealand too!

Friday consisted of mostly packing and sorting. I also committed to a run, which turned out to be more impressive than I intended. I haven't run for months, due to Bahrain's crazy heat - and I hadn't pulled more than a 6km out of the bag since January at least. I was happy with my pace too, and MapMyRun is the bomb diggity. (Sorry.)

Anyway, that's enough typing for one day. It is almost 1am, so that's a thing. I leave for Singapore on Sunday night, to be reunited with three of the Robertson clan. Erin is off on her own adventure to the US with her school mates.

Until next time...

Monday, July 4, 2016

Beyonce, Florence + the Machine, Canada Day

NB: I wrote this on July 4th, and I can't be bothered to re-edit it. I will write about Stratford-upon-Avon ASAP.

Again, I'm so slack with keeping this up! And then all the days catch up on me and I can't even remember what I did yesterday.

Except I do remember what I did yesterday.

But I'll start from where I left off.

Canada Day was the 1st of July and I was invited to a Canadian friend of my Canadian friend's house party to celebrate. So much patriotism in one room. There were all sorts of decorations, flags, temporary tattoos, and even a Canadian-only music playlist complete with Avril Lavigne, Nickelback, Drake, Shania Twain, Justin Bieber and many more. There was much mocking of my vowels, mainly from the lone Australian in the room, pizza, booze, donuts and ice cream. What more could you want, really. I was introduced to flip cup, which trumps beer pong any day.

Also, earlier that day I did some unplanned op-shopping at Oxfam and scored a brand new, tag-in-tact jacket by a Dutch brand called G-Star Raw for £25. Further googling revealed the RRP is £257 so um...major profiting potential if I decide not to keep it.

The next day was Florence + the Machine at British Summer Time, Hyde Park! I got there around 5pm, sheltered under the PlayStation tent during the downpour, queued for ages in their ridiculous lines for some dinner, and then sat down on damp grass for Kendrick Lamar. I'm sorry, he's really not to my taste at all...

While queuing for the equally ridiculously long toilet queue I heard a woman have the audacity to say she didn't have time for Florence, and was gapping it after Kendrick. Ugh, some people.
Florence was a dream. Personal highlight was when she got out the rainbow flag for "Spectrum". Ironically I filmed her little spiel about putting away phones for the next song (it was How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful)... I'll try put the video below because it's kinda funny. 

She played the new stuff, the old stuff, and the super old stuff. She talked about how this is where the band got started, and that this was the final concert for the HBHBHB album. (What an acronym, huh?) She did an encore with What Kind of Man followed by Drumming. I could have lived in that moment forever, besides the fact that it was cold and there was a guy who got taken away by security for who knows what. At a festival with booze (and marajuana...I thought I smelt?), anything can happen!

Fast forward to yesterday, with the legendary Queen Bey. The damn tickets only said what time the gates opened so I arrived at 3.00pm for the 4.30pm opening, only to realise she didn't start until 7.30pm. That was a bit of a lel. No free wifi either. Erin got her blasted tour tee for £30 and I had an internal cringe about my spending habits this last week. It's worth me mentioning that at both Beyoncé and Florence + the Machine there were fake merchandise stalls all over the place, selling cheaper priced knock-off versions. No one seemed to be falling for it, so I wonder why these people do it? To be honest with my track record, I'm surprised I didn't fall for it - though I was warned about these fakers.

Beyoncé did not disappoint. Her show was breath-taking and the stage set up was so intricate. We were graced with all the elements: water, fire, air, oh - except earth... There was a huge screen centre stage, where at one point a super close up of Bey's face had fireworks shoot out of her eyes. I learned that Beyoncé has been active for the last 19 years since her debut at age 16 in Destiny's Child. I had no idea she began that young. Her set was fantastic, dancers most definitely "slayed" and she had SIX costume changes in just 2 1/2 hours.  Oh Lordy she was extraordinary. We got to see some home video footage too, in between acts - when she was frantically getting changed I assume. Actually she probably has people change her while she just stands there oozing bootyliciousness.

She played something from every album it seemed, including a few Destiny's Child soundbites - a lot of her older songs were mixed as mash ups. My favourites were Formation (her dramatic opening song), Daddy Lessons, Partition, Crazy in Love, Diva, Irreplaceable, Countdown, a delicious a cappella version of Love on Top, and Naughty Girl. Wow just recounting this I realise how much material she covered!

The finale saw her ditch the heels for barefoot dancing at the front of the runway, where the stage was covered in 3 inches of water and all the mosh pitters got absolutely soaked. It was mesmerising seeing Bey and her dancers kick up the water to an intricate and beautiful routine. Her final song was Halo, if I remember correctly.

I can't imagine how many hours go into memorising such a show. The stage setup itself was so dynamic; at one point I worried that the massive rotating screen was going to hit her, but the clearance was maybe half of a metre. I should have never doubted my faith in Bey, really. Lesson learnt.

Wembley Stadium
London Underground home

Today, I'm headed to Statford-upon-Avon for the night, after an almost-wild goose chase around London town. My ticket said depart from Charing Cross, but the (idiotic) official told me it leaves from Paddington. At this stage I was panicking as I was under the impression I had just 20 minutes to make the train. Upon arrival to Paddington a (much more helpful) official informed me that I should actually be at Marylebone Station, and that I could catch any train after 9.30am, no questions asked. I walked from Paddington to Marylebone and boarded after eating the most fantastic Mexican Indian fusion burrito I have ever tasted. (Disregard the fact that never before had I tried Mexican/Indian fusion.)

Train selfie, always

First stretch of green for 7 months +

Okay so we're just about up to date and I'm writing this aboard my Chiltern Railway en route to Stratford-upon-Avon via Dorridge. I have one of those comfy seats with a table, and I'm sitting next to a lovely French mother and son. I briefly chatted to them, both in French and English, and (I think) they are from the French Riviera area - judging by what I understood from them.

My Topdeck tour this month goes to Avignon, French Riviera, and Paris! So excited, hopefully there will be more conversations with the locals en Français to come.