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Guest Blogger: Logan, 15 years old

We are frequent visitors to Regent’s Park, many times as a short cut to a friend’s flat in St Johns Woods. A couple of weeks ago, we came across Gorilla Circus ~ Flying Trapeze School. They are located at the corner of Outer Circle Rd and Avenue Rd on the north side of the Regents Park. The closest tube station is St Johns Wood (Jubilee Line).

We stopped to watch the school for a moment but ended up staying longer since we were all mesmerized by the wanna-be acrobats swinging through the air. I could tell John and Logan were tempted. Me, not so much ~ I have limited upper body strength. Logan made arrangements for a class which took place yesterday. She agreed to be a guest blogger and here’s her story:

After seeing the Flying Trapeze School, I was interested in going but hadn’t looked into it any further. Coincidentally, my friend said she went to the school and loved it. She asked if I wanted to go with her and she made the arrangements for a class which was yesterday. The maximum number of students is 10 and we had 9 in our class. They told us we would have a warm-up, practice on the lower bar and then we would go on the flying trapeze.

First, we did basic warm up which included jumping jacks, stretching side to side, running in place and a few balance exercises. Then everyone went over to the lower bar, they explained we would hold the bar, bring our legs up, hook our legs onto the bar and reach back. There were two people helping everyone up on the lower bar so don’t be intimidated if you feel you wouldn’t be able to lift yourself onto the bar. 

The instructors worked with you on your level of expertise so if you are more experienced, they offer more difficult “tricks.” Having never been on a trapeze, I was at the beginner level with the majority of the class. After my turn on the lower bar, they hooked a safety belt around my waist and we walked towards the ladder. It was very fast paced and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to do it but most of the people were worried too so it was reassuring. A few people wore jeans which I think made it more difficult. It’s better to wear tights/leggings.

We were briefed as to what would happen on the flying trapeze along with commands that would be called out. A person from the class was chosen to be an example and the instructors called out the commands which were:

  • Ready: bend your knees
  • HUP!: Gently jump from the platform with your arms extended straight out (locked arms) 
  • Tuck: put your legs onto the bar
  • Release: drop your hands and reach out

After the lower bar practice, we waited for our turn. I was nervous but concentrating on watching the other people so I could learn from them. Climbing the ladder turned out to be the scariest part of the whole thing but you’re hooked to a rope just in case. Once at the top, there’s a platform assistant who hooks you into the safety ropes and he holds onto the back of your belt so you don’t fall off the platform while reaching for the bar. The bar is heavy so reaching out to grab it is difficult because it felt like it was going to pull me right off the platform. Thankfully, the platform assistant was strong enough to hold me back. I followed the commands and “hupped” ~ I’m very happy they don’t say jump because that sounds more terrifying to me. “Hup!” seemed much less scary.

Grabbing onto the bar

Grabbing onto the bar

Ready To Fly

Ready To Fly

HUP!

HUP!

Knees Hooked

Time to get those knees hooked!

Hands Off, Arms locked and reaching

Hands Off, Arms locked and reaching

Success....

Success….

Flying Trapeze

Flying Trapeze

It was thrilling and I’m happy I did it. I want to go again. It’s an interesting work-out but the instructors are all very nice and supportive. There were all different age levels in our group. The minimum age is 8 years old but no maximum age. If you don’t “get it” on your first try, there’s usually time for another attempt.  I think my parents would enjoy it so I’m hoping to go again with them.

I have to admit, watching my 15-year-old be brave enough to do the Flying Trapeze has at least peaked my interest in wanting to try it. Since it seems very safe and the instructors didn’t “shame” anyone who missed the “hand off”, I might go just for the fun of flying on the bar.  If you’re interested, click here for all the pertinent details and let me know how you like it.

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The only West End Show John has begged repeatedly asked me to get tickets for is “Book of Mormon” which opened in February 2013. By the time I checked for tickets, the show was sold out through the summer with only a few very expensive seats available on third-party ticket sites. Last Tuesday, he decided to go to the box office to see if there were any same day tickets to be had. Turns out they have a lottery everyday for FRONT ROW seats. Here’s the deal: A lottery application has to be filled out at the Prince of Wales theater 2.5 hours prior to the start of the show. At 5 pm, John filled out his lottery application (photo ID is required). At 5:30pm, two hours before the show, they drew names from one of those rolling cages. It’s all very exciting as the names are called out. John went on a Tuesday, there were 21 tickets available for about 100 hopefuls and, “Hallelujah Joseph Smith”, John was the sixth person called for two tickets. The winning tickets are only £20 each. Quite a deal for any West End show but especially for this very extremely popular one.

The lottery in progress...

The lottery in progress…

John will his winning ticket

John with his winning ticket

Review (hopefully without any spoilers but I will mention a specific line and song titles)

Front row is not always considered the best seat in the house because you get a myopic view of things but I love to see the actors up close ~ sweat, spit and all. I’m in awe of those who can perform on stage night after night with such precision and energy. “Book of Mormon” did not fail in any aspect. The actors, music, energy, set were all top-notch.

The play was written by the creators of South Park and it’s a religious satirical musical with plenty of clever lyrics and catchy tunes to keep your toes tapping. My favorites are “Turn it Off” and “You and Me (but Mostly Me)” which both John and I find ourselves singing frequently around the house. But mostly John.

Having lived in an area of the US with a lot of Mormons, I caught the little detailed nuances regarding the culture and terminology  of the Mormons but it seemed everyone in the theater enjoyed the show even the older Spanish-speaking man sitting directly behind me. During the opening number of “Hello” with the Mormon Boys, it had me wondering where they found so many Mormons who could act and sing. Even their twinkling eyes had me convinced they were the real deal. There’s something about a devout Mormon and his “smiling, shining eyes”. But when the “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream” came on and those same guys came out, they looked nothing like Mormons. And it wasn’t a costume change, it was solely their attitude and great acting.

It’s sacrilegious, vulgar and I have to admit during one song I thought to myself “I’m going to have to go see “Mama Mia” so I can wash off the stench of this song.” BUT the story itself is about acknowledging and respecting everyone’s right to follow (and sometimes invent themselves) any faith they choose. It’s an all-out onslaught at Mormonism through many fun songs but it could have been any religion’s dogma. What I took away from the play was it’s easier to tolerant another person’s religion if we look at the effect it has on the practitioners and not at the religion itself. In other words, actions speak louder than words.

Having seen the show, I’m surprised several British reviews I’ve read are less than glowing. I thought they’d love the satire. Perhaps it’s the complexity of the American view of religious tolerance, no matter how extreme the religion (so long as it doesn’t physically hurt others).

I would definitely recommend “Book of Mormon” but with the caveat that they understand it’s satire. Or as my favorite line in the play states “It’s a F&&^ing metaphor, you didn’t really think there was a Salt Lake City, did you?”

(more…)

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Urban Dictionary defines photobomb: “any time the background of a picture hijacks the original focus”

If you spend time around central London especially highly concentrated tourist spots such as Big Ben, Parliament, Tower of London, it’s obvious London is a photobomber’s dream. I still duck and attempt to stay out of other people’s photos but John has gotten into the game and loves to wave/smile big if he happens to run by when someone is taking a photo.  More and more I notice people posing in my photos. Recently, while walking along the canal near Regent’s Park, a runner stopped mid- stride and asked me if I wanted her in my photo. Awkward! If I said “No” she might feel rejected and “Yes” seemed a bit creepy.

During our short weekend trip to Spain, my daughter Logan was taking photos at Plaza de Puerta del Sol when a very colorfully dressed man did his best pose. First he sees his chance:

Opportunity Idenitfied

Opportunity identified

..and he definitely steals the focus while doing his best vogue:

Bam! Photobombed!

#Photo credit to Logan

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Hever Castle, located in Kent, definitely has what most would expect in a medieval castle: towers, a moat, a drawbridge, the “murder holes”, beautiful gardens, a maze and swans in the lake. Add a warm, sunny day and it made for a wonderful visit. Over 800 years old, Hever Castle was the family home to the Boleyns. Anne Boleyn was the second wife of Henry VIII and her sister Mary was a mistress of Henry’s for a short time. Brother George ended up being executed along with Anne on (trumped-up?) charges of Treason. In 1539, the Castle came into the King’s possession after the death of Anne’s father. A year later, he gave it to his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, as part of their divorce settlement.

In 1903, William Waldorf Astor purchased and restored the beautiful house and gardens. It’s obvious he was very particular about what he wanted for the house and it can be seen in the details such as the beautiful wood paneling, antique furniture, Tudor paintings, portraits, collection of torture devices, classical statues and a portion of a Roman triumphal arch (circa 52 A.D.). The only original part of the castle is the gatehouse.My favorite treasure of the house is Anne Boleyn’s “Book of Hours” ~ a prayer-book she had with her in the Tower of London on the eve of her execution. She wrote in the book “Le Temps Viendra” (“The time will come”). There’s also the room where Henry slept during his few visits to Hever. There’s a portrait of the king in the room and I can’t help but wonder what he really looked like since none of the portraits I’ve seen are flattering. I imagine the artists “air brushed” the portraits in order to win favor from the monarch (or at least avoid his wrath) so I can only imagine how his portrait would look if the artists were completely honest.

The Long Gallery is an impressive room and chronicles Henry VIII’s six wives using mannequin images. In case anyone forgot, the wives are: Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard and Katherine Parr. The guide told us the rhyme to remember what happened to the wives: divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived.

Hever Castle, Kent, UK

Hever Castle, Kent, UK

Hever Castle with rental cottages in the backgound

Hever Castle with rental cottages in the backgound

Hever Castle Fountain

Hever Castle Fountain

Hever Castle Love in the Gardens

Hever Castle Love in the Gardens

Hever Castle Gardens

Hever Castle Gardens

Hever Castle Gardens

Hever Castle Gardens

Hever Castle Garden Statue

Hever Castle Garden Statue

Hever Castle Garden Walkway

Hever Castle Garden Walkway

Hever Castle Statue

Hever Castle Statue

Hever Castle Gardens

Hever Castle Gardens

Graveyard outside of Hever Castle

Graveyard outside of Hever Castle

Outside Hever Castle ~ Bench

Outside Hever Castle ~ Bench

Hever Castle Swans ~ True Love!

Hever Castle Swans ~ True Love!

If you want to visit Hever Castle, it’s located 30 miles SE of London and can be reached by train from Victoria Station in about 50 minutes. We went by bus and it was about a 1.5 hour drive. Click here for information about visiting Hever Castle. No photos allowed inside the castle but the grounds are gorgeous for photography.

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I don’t think of myself as a “foodie” but I’m learning a lot in London. This city has a fantastic array of restaurant and market choices. I may not be an expert when I leave but I know I’ve been spoiled!! Seems around every corner is an opportunity for a great meal or nibbly bits. We happened to walk by Green Valley Market the other day on our way to Hyde Park. After seeing the gorgeous mounds of Baklava in the window display, we couldn’t resist going in. It cost under £5 to buy 300g of assorted Baklava. YUM! If you’re in London (living or visiting), I would highly recommend checking this market out.  In addition to Baklava, they have fresh fruit/vegetables, a deli, other candies, bakery items, etc. It’s located at Edgware and Upper Berkeley close to Marble Arch/Hyde Park.

Baklava at Green Valley Market

Baklava at Green Valley Market

Green Valley Market on Upper Berkeley and Edgware Road

Green Valley Market on Upper Berkeley and Edgware Road

Baklava in the Market Window

Baklava in the Market Window

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Last night, we were invited to a reception at the Penthouse of a building just off of Trafalgar Square. The outside of the building is not so pretty but the view is spectacular! Unfortunately, I didn’t have my canon camera but did get a few shots with the compact camera.

View from the Penthouse

View from the Penthouse ~ love all the red buses

Overlooking Trafalgar Square

Overlooking Trafalgar Square

London Eye, Big Ben, Whitehall, Horse Parade

London Eye, Big Ben, Whitehall, Horse Parade

Overlooking Trafalgar Square at Dusk

Overlooking Trafalgar Square at Dusk

Looking out to Westminster and Big Ben

Looking out to Westminster and Big Ben

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The Queen’s Life Guard are mounted troopers of the Household Cavalry. The Horse Guard House is located between Whitehall (off of The Mall) and the Horse Parade ground. There are two mounted troopers on guard outside the Whitehall entrance to the Horse Guard House daily from 10am to 4pm. Thankfully they change out every hour ~ it would be hard to put up with silly tourist getting up in their faces trying to make them respond for much longer than an hour. I love the sign that warns the horses may bite or kick. There are two dismounted sentries on duty until 8pm when the gates are locked.

There is a changing of the Horse Guard Ceremony weekends at 11am and on Sundays at 10am. When the Queen is in London, the Long Guard consists of: 1 Officer, 1 Corporal Major who carries the Standard, 2 Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs), 1 Trumpeter and 10 Troopers.  When the Queen is out-of-town, it is known as the Short Guard which consists of: 2 NCOs and 10 Troopers. The Ceremony begins with the Old Guard coming through the Arch to the Horse Parade and lining up on the north side. The New Guard rides in from Hyde Park and lines up on the south side. As the New Guard arrives, each Guard carries their Standard and the Trumpeters of both the Old and New Guard sound the Royal Salute.

So glad I finally went to see the Changing of the Horse Guards ceremony yesterday. Very tradional ceremony and what’s not to like about seeing gorgeous horses ~ they are big with lots of spunk. Kudos to the troopers for keeping those big beasts under control for such a long time.

New Guards riding in from Hyde Park

New Guards riding in from Hyde Park

Horse Guards

Horse Guards

Horse Guard Change

Horse Guard Change

Mounted Trooper

Mounted Trooper

Old Guard

Old Guard

Horse Guard Exchange

New Guard on left, Old Guard on right

Horse Guard

Horse Guard

New Guard

New Guard

Trupeter ~ Queen is in London!

Trumpeter ~ Queen is in London!

Spunky Horses

Spunky Horses

Horse Guard leaving for Hyde Park

Horse Guard leaving for Hyde Park

Wolseley on Horse Statue

Wolseley on Horse Statue at the Horse Parade Grounds

London Eye

View of London Eye from the Horse Parade

WWI Memorial across from the Horse Parade

WWI Memorial across from the Horse Parade

Horse Guards with Wolseley Statue in background

Horse Guards with Wolseley Statue in background

Horse Guard

Horse Guard

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