Oh man, you guys.
After our last Secret Cinema event, Doctor Strangelove, left us rather disappointed, Moose and I said we'd only go again if we really liked the film they were showing. When Secret Cinema announced that their next event was going to be 28 Days Later we didn't think twice before booking tickets. We both love 28 Days Later, and this time we dragged three friends, all Secret Cinema virgins, to the showing, too.
Now, last time you can read how Moose and I really didn't like how split up and lost we were during Doctor Strangelove. This time, the format was very different. Usually, Secret Cinema allocates you a role, a character you 'become' during the experience. This time, you were just "you". We didn't get a different job title, just the instructions to wear hospital scrubs and bring some necessary props (a sample of blood, for example.)
The location was the same as before, in an old printing press near Canada Water station. We joined the queue and the moment we got in line, I knew it was going to be excellent. Around us were signs warning of the RAGE virus. As we waited to enter the building, a zombie came running towards us, only to be chased away and beaten down by armed security. We were in line to get our trial vaccinations, the last hope, really, of surviving the zombie outbreak. And it was awesome.
Inside the building, we were given instructions, and our phones were secured in zip-lock bags. Secret Cinema has to remain some sort of secret, after all. We were warned of the dangers, and given a small drink to take, in the hopes that it might inoculate us from the virus. We were then lead into a room where we were instructed to lay down on the hospital beds and sleep. We'd be awoken and tested again, to see if the antidote had worked. In theory.
Instead, we were "awoken" early, by a woman with a flashlight in the dark, who instructed us to follow her. In fact, she gave us one word, one vital instruction;
And so we ran. We ran around the building like our lives depended on it - because they bloody well did! We ended up running through various rooms that had been decorated to scenes in the film, first meeting a priest and later catching our breath in Frank and Hannah's apartment. We finally found the military and, yes, the women and men were separated. The women were chatted up by a slimy sergeant while the men were forced to do physical exercises such as pushups and kickboxing to show their worth to the military. Right after that, we were given some free time to look around, grab food (including some delicious halumi fries!), have a drink and relax. We went outside to get some fresh air, and then returned to the dark apocalyptic inside world to play some games and enjoy the zombie rave that was underway.
Not long after we got back inside, the siren blared and it was finally time to watch the movie. We were escorted into a huge room where, instead of chairs, there were hospital beds. The screens were tilted on the ceiling, and we actually watched the whole film while laying down in bed! It was amazing! So relaxing after all that running around (and believe me, it was exhausting!), and so comfortable!
It was an absolutely mindblowing way to watch 28 Days Later. The atmosphere was incredible and exhilarating. There were moments when we were genuinely startled, and genuinely running with gusto to get away from the zombie menace. It wasn't quite as scary as some horror mazes you might find during Halloween, but it told an excellent story and it was a fun adaption of the movie. It made for a wonderful day out, and I can't wait to see what Secret Cinema has lined up next!
Today we celebrated Luke's birthday by heading over to Bristol Zoo and enjoying all the lovely animals they had there! I thought it'd be a good chance to enjoy my new camera (a Sony A5000) but unfortunately the lens it comes with is pretty basic and it lacks the zoom I'm used to with my old Canon. Usually, this isn't a problem, and my A5000 takes far superior photos at closer range, but zoo animals are generally a hidden a little further away and the old zoom would have come in handy. Oh well! I'll treat myself to a better lens someday!
Still, it was a wonderful day. My highlight was dancing with the penguins, as they were entranced by my hand (and then my poncho) and kept following wherever I pointed and swayed! Very cute little things, it was like playing with a kitten by dangling a piece of string. I'm so sad nobody took a video of my magical penguin encounter.
I'm really happy with my choice of dress for the day! I bought this lovely Cath Kidston dress a while ago and I just love the print! It couldn't be more perfect for a trip to the zoo. I completed the look with my Disney Couture 'Simba' necklace, which sadly became hidden by my brown tribal-print poncho (heck, it is still April, after all!)
Here's a post I meant to make a long time ago, but at the time I didn't want to mess up my Disneyland Paris blogging (which I still need to finish, eep!). Since I've now abandoned the idea of keeping those posts in any sort of sensible order, I figured now would be a good enough time to talk about Secret Cinema: Doctor Strangelove!
For those who don't know what Secret Cinema is, it's basically a live interactive theatrical event themed after a particular movie of their choosing, complete with a bar and food vendors and, of course, a showing of the actual film. You're given a character, a whole new persona for the evening, and encouraged to dress accordingly. There are actually two different types of event; 'Secret Cinema Presents', and simply 'Secret Cinema'. 'Secret Cinema' is how they started, with events that were, well, sort of secret. You'd book your tickets blindly without any knowledge as to what the film was. Weeks before the showing, they'll send you the details of your outfit, your character and any props you should bring along, but won't reveal the film.
They seemed to stop putting on events like this, in favour of their incredibly popular 'Secret Cinema Presents'. These events seem to be much larger affairs, where the movie and theme is broadcast publicly from day one, which encourages more people to go, secure in the knowledge that the night will be one they'll enjoy. This started with 'Back To The Future', which was incredibly popular and looked amazing, I'm so sad I missed out on it!. Then, they put on 'Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back', which was Moose and my first foray into the world of Secret Cinema, and you can read all about that here. Put simply, it was incredible. We had an amazing time, loved every second of it so much that when they announced their next event, we jumped at the chance to book tickets.
This time, the event was simply Secret Cinema. All we knew from Secret Cinema was that the film seemed very 1960s, and very Cold War-y. Rumours started to spread that it might be Doctor Strangelove, which excited me no end because I actually hadn't seen it before, despite being a sucker for the Cold War and the Cold War era. I couldn't await to be designated a character for the evening so I could start buying props and costumes - 1960s clothes, be still my beating heart!
Finally, we received the email, and I was assigned a FCD, which was an airman, and Moose was assigned DOD, another military role. I actually ended up cheating and changing my character to a GOV - Government Official, so I could wear a pretty dress rather than a jump suit - I know, I know, kind of cheating really, but I did not want to buy a whole military airman outfit! Moose was fortunate to find his outfit cheap as a fancy dress piece, and I think it looked great! But then, I might be a little bias.
Finally the day came, and we dressed up, sorted out our props (I was to bring a rose, Moose had to provide surveillance maps) and our IDs, and we went down to the secret location (Canada Water, same place as Star Wars, actually). We were assigned different entrances depending on rank and ID but fortunately, Moose and I had the same door despite being different departments. We queued up together, and the whole area had been done up to resemble a military air base. Even from outside, with the actors not breaking character at all, it was very immersive and very impressive. We were so excited!
Now, Moose and I are admittedly quite a couple-y couple, and when we were warned we'd be separated for the start of the evening due to being different ranks, it originally put a dampener on things. We'd purchased these tickets in lieu of Valentines gifts, so we actually kind of wanted to celebrate together. So, when friend Laura (who had been to the event days earlier), warned us that we'd be separated, we were determined to make the most of it despite the circumstances! She advised that we should just throw ourselves into it and meet up after we've performed the tasks our characters had been given, so we arranged to meet up at the bar, and went our separate ways.
As a Government Lady, my first task involved going into a secret bar to talk to Lola. The bar was gorgeous. The decoration and scenery was just perfect. It was sexy and dimly lit with beautiful live music, beaded curtains to little dark alcoves where people were busy conducting their business. It was amazing! I was with some other Government Officials and we stuck together like glue. A lady named Purity taught us how to dance while we waited for a cocktail, and then we spoke to Lola. She tasked us with finding a diplomat.
And then ....it kind of all went down hill.
We bumbled around, as a group, lost and unsure what we were meant to do. We milled around the bar, before deciding to go back to Lola, who was now busy with some more people. We tried to overhear what she was telling them, but it was entirely different. We tried to wait to ask her again, but by then it was obvious that we were in the way of other people. So, we went to where we saw a bunch of diplomats, who were all paying guests like us, not actors. Surely they weren't what we had to find? So ...we just ended up horribly confused. I decided to wait around in the bar for a while, because I'd previously planned to meet Moose there and figured he might turn up (and it was such a lovely bar, I could have stayed there all night, honestly!) In the end one girl decided to go find her partner, who was had been assigned a Press character, and we left the bar into the outside area.
And that's when I realised why Moose hadn't been to the bar yet... because the rest of the event was huge and open and full of people that didn't know our secret bar existed! My new Government friend and I wandered around, lost for a while, until a chap came up to us and asked if we'd spoken to the Russian Diplomat yet. What? We were so confused. He advised that we should go and talk to him, so we wandered back to the secret bar, hoping for something, anything, to happen.
And honestly, that's how we spent most the night. Lost, confused, wandering around, following people who looked like they had a lead. Eventually we found the Russian Diplomat, who told us to go and do something outside, and that's where I finally bumped into Moose again, who had had an even more disorganised time than I. He'd been originally tasked with finding some secret codes, which he wrote down, and then the group of people he'd been with had all split up and nobody knew what they were doing - one had just gone to the food area and stayed there, and when Moose asked an actor for help, he was told it was all 'top secret'. Helpful! So when he finally found me, a good hour or so later, he was pretty annoyed. We hadn't eaten yet, and hadn't known there were actually two bars - he'd been waiting in an army mess, having no clue about the secret bar I'd been in. We were stressed because we wanted to get food before the film, annoyed because we'd spent so much of the time lost and confused, and generally not very satisfied!
By contrast, the milling around at their Star Wars event was amazing! We were free to come and go anywhere as we pleased, and while we had specific tasks to perform (trading with Jawas, for example!), it was all fun and easy and we didn't feel pressured or lost at all. We had had plenty of time to grab food and drink and meet actors and it was just generally very, very awesome. I get that with a Cold War themed movie, secrecy and deception is kind of par for the course, but when somebody who has paid nearly £70 asks for advice as to how they can get the very best out of their evening, it'd probably be nice to assist in that a little.
Reunited, we went and grabbed food, I showed Moose our secret bar and then it was time for the movie. Now, this is where the evening really was wonderful. The movie was incredible, and the actors really pulled you into the story. The film itself - Doctor Strangelove - was so so good! I'm so glad I watched it for the first time in such an amazing way - the climax ended with huge confetti canons exploding above our heads and (despite the hugely damning end to the film), we all rose and clapped and whooped for joy because it was such an amazing production. It was excellent.
We left, milled around in the rooms after that. There was an after party in the secret bar, but we decided to go home instead as it was late and the location was pretty far out from where Moose lives.
Over all, the night was... okay. The film was incredible. My night was significantly better than Moose's, I think, but simply because I was lost with other people who were also lost, which isn't a particularly great selling point, to be honest. Also, we had the secret bar, which I could have happily stayed in all evening, but it probably wasn't worth £70 to stay in the bar all night.
I cannot fault the actors at all. Everybody was great! Nobody broke character, and they were really good at pulling you in, even with small interactions that have no relevance to tasks or plot at all (a soldier got engaged in the bar and got very, very drunk, for example!) The scenery and environment was also really really great, but I'm a sucker for that stuff anyway. The biggest let down for us was that I think they were trying to do far too much with the event. Optional tasks are great fun - like I said, Star Wars was a blast! - but when you're guided into it, separated from your party and then forced to spend spend most of the evening wandering around because you missed something somewhere and have no way of fixing it... just ...eh. I heard a lot of people making the same complaint, which is quite reassuring since I was worried maybe it was just us! And it's such a shame, because I really did try to get involved and throw myself into it, and Moose did too. He showed me all the notes he'd taken and the codes he'd deciphered and I could tell he was really inspired at the start. The evening just plain became a confused mess midway through and I really hope in the future they revert back to the open-ended tasks where you can actually relax and enjoy yourselves.
The highlight of the entire evening for me was the film, because it's a great movie anyway and because the way they presented it was absolutely wonderful. The rest of the evening ...not so much.
We're eager to give Secret Cinema another try, though, since Star Wars was so danged good, maybe this one was a blip? So we've booked tickets to Secret Cinema's next production - '28 Days Later'! We're actually due to go in a couple of weeks and I am so excited! It's their first time with a horror movie and I hope it's really, really creepy! We haven't been assigned characters yet and I don't really know how they're going to go about it all, but I suppose not knowing is half the fun. It is a secret, after all!
Wednesday! We started the day in the Studios, where we rode The Tower of Terror right away! The Tower of Terror is hands down my favourite ride in the whole Disneyland Paris resort. It didn't exist last time we went to Florida (back when the sister park was called MGM Studios, which sort of shows you how long ago that was!), so I've only experienced the French version, but I have been lucky enough to hear the English video and commentary at Disneyland Paris - it's very rare, but they do play it sometimes! We actually didn't get it in English at all this holiday until the very last day, the last time we rode the ride! It was like the park was saying g'bye to us! D'aw.
We then ran along to the Rock n' Roller Coaster which had a pretty short wait time, then scooted over to Animagique. I'm really glad we got to see Animagique one last time. It's not my favourite show in the whole world - don't get me wrong, it's lovely and fun and very well performed, but it's not as exciting to me as some have been. However, Disney had recently announced the show was closing down a few weeks after we were due to visit, so of course we had to go see it!
By now, time was moving and our tummies were rumbling so we went over to the Magic Kingdom for something to eat. Initially, we were going to go to Hakuna Matata, but the restaurant was closed, so we wandered around trying to find somewhere else. We ended up at the Agrabah Café, a buffet I'd never been to before but was super, super yummy. I don't know why we'd never tried it before! I'd love to eat there for an evening meal as there was so much choice and I don't think we did it as much justice as we could have done, haha. Their whole dessert section was baklava and I looooove baklava! Plus I ordered what I thought was a glass of wine for €7 and it turned out to be a lot more than that! Bargain!
We then rode Phantom Manor and Pirates again before enduring Small World, haha! I'm not a huge fan of this ride at all, the puppets are cute but kind of creepy and the song is the worst earworm imaginable! But, I consider it an absolute Disney staple and it's a ride I think you have to do if you can. I recorded the whole thing with the intention of blogging about it afterwards, but I still haven't gotten over my anxiety of vlogging in public so that never really happened.
As we were leaving Small World, we noticed the parade was about to start! We'd actually missed it entirely this trip so far, so we sat down on a wall and watched from afar (we were far too late to try and get a front row, er, seat). We then followed the parade around to Discoveryland and decided to queue up for Autopia - seriously, this ride always has the longest queues! No idea why it the queues were so long, considering everything else around it (Buzz, Space Mountain) had like five minute queues, but it is a cute ride and I love love love the 1950s futurism theme of it. I let Moose drive, since he passed his driving test in October last year but still doesn't have a car so I figured the, uh, practice would do him good. I did control the throttle though (much to his anguish when we accidentally went crashing into Luke and Sarah in front, oops!)
Afterwards, it was nearly time for Dreams, the big closing firework finale! We got a pretty decent spot, a little too far to the right really but I've seen the display so many times now it was nice to have a different view I guess! I was sad they've taken out the Frozen segment and replaced it with Brave again! I know, everyone is sick to death of Frozen, but I enjoy Frozen way more than Brave.
After that, we joined the mass exodus and found ourselves in Annette's Diner. We didn't fancy anything too large after the buffet earlier, but me and Moose still ended up ordering a huge three course meal, haha. Heck, if you can't let your hair down and enjoy a lot of good food when you're at Disney, when can you enjoy it?
On to day two, and our first day in the actual park! We all got up early and grabbed breakfast (the Golden Forest upgrade in Sequoia Lodge offers a cooked breakfast, so we dined on bacon and pancakes!) and headed into the park. This day was actually our anniversary, so Moose and I headed straight to City Hall to book dinner reservations for that evening at Blue Lagoon! It's my favourite restaurant in the park and the gorgeous night time atmosphere makes it a perfect date night venue.
We then headed to the very back to the park, walking up Main Street with me squealing like a maniac the whole way! We grabbed a Photopass, and then even though it wasn't the greatest weather, I was determined to grab some ice cream, so we ended up at a little kiosk in Fantasyland. It was then we noticed that Les Pays des Conte de Fees (Storybook Land Canal Boats) was actually open! It's been closed every visit I've made to Disneyland Paris, so even though it wasn't the highest on my 'do-do' list, it felt like we absolutely had to give it a go! It was cute, and I loved going into the Cave of Wonders from Aladdin, but it's probably not something we'd do again on a cold day! We then went straight to Casey Jr. which, again, isn't very high on my list but also had never been open in previous visits and I just don't feel like a very good Disney fan without finally riding it!
We then went along to Adventureland and jumped straight onto Pirates of the Caribbean, which is one of my personal favourites! I love the Disneyland Paris version so much, and it was super fun sailing past the restaurant knowing we'd be dining there later! We then jumped onto Indiana Jones! Sarah doesn't much like rollercoasters and had set out determined to ride some at Disney. Unfortunately, Thunder Mountain was closed (and remains closed for most of 2016, sadly) and Crush's Coaster was also down for maintenance the week we were there, so that kind of limited her plans to Indiana Jones, Space Mountain and Rock 'n' Rollercoaster. Oh well!
I didn't mention to Sarah than Indiana Jones had a loop, and of course by the time you see it, you're already strapped in and on your way! She forgave me, though! Here's an interesting factoid - Indiana Jones in Disneyland Paris was the first Disney ride to feature an inversion. Woo!
On our wonders, we met Timon! He was actually the only character I got to meet this time at Disney as everyone else had long queues. I'm so glad we bumped into him though since The Lion King is my favourite Disney movie ever! He was great, and did the Baymax, er, fistbump badaladala!
By now, our tummies were rumbling, so we decided to mosey on down to the Lucky Nugget Saloon for lunch. Surprisingly for out of season, they had a live band! We were seated right by the stage and it was a wonderful little break while we worked out the rest of our day. I love the theme and atmosphere of the Lucky Nugget, but then I am a sucker for Westerns and cowboys! Hah. The food isn't bad, and it's a pretty cheap place to grab lunch by Disneyland Paris standards (€18 for burger, twisty fries, unlimited drinks and a little ice cream).
Our plan was then to ride Phantom Manor, but as we approached we were informed that it was temporarily closed. Aw! So, we rounded back across Main Street and ended up in Discoveryland and discovered (see what I did there?) that Space Mountain only had a ten minute queue! Well, rude not to, right? But here's a thing about Space Mountain (Mission 2, the DLP version) that I don't remember from my first visit back in 2012 - it hurts. It's a fun experience and I wish it didn't hurt because I enjoy riding it, but my head gets knocked around so much no matter what I do! Lean back, knockknockknockouchouchouch. Push my head out past the restraints? My ears smashed against the harness. Aaah! It must be a fun ride because we returned like five times during the week, but I suffered for it each time. Ouch!
To recover, we rode Buzz Lightyear's Laser Blast! Moose and I started a thing last visit that we'd ride Buzz every day and see who came out the ultimate winner at the end of the week. It's always Moose. :P But I got a few good moments! Hilariously, Moose got an obscene score on our last go on Buzz, but the Photopass overlay wasn't recorded, so we have no reminder of it! Oops! Sorry Moose!
We then went back to Sequoia Lodge, to make use of our Golden Forest teatime treats! We warmed up with a lovely hot chocolate and some sweets before venturing back into the park. We were planning on going straight to the Studios this time, but as we approached the gate Luke realised he'd left his ticket back at the hotel. D'oh! So, fighting for time now (Moose and I had dinner booked for 5:45 as the park closes at 7pm in January), Sarah, Moose and I went ahead and into Ratatouille! We were constantly surprised at the short wait times for Ratatouille this visit - last time the shortest non fast-pass queue was over an hour! This time said it was a fifteen minute wait, so we used our hotel fast pass. Unfortunately, the queue ended up taking a little longer than we anticipated, and we had to peg it back into the main park and all the way up to the Blue Lagoon! We got there late and, thankfully, they'd been holding our reservation for us. Phew!
I love the Blue Lagoon. I love the atmosphere and the food so much. This time, Moose didn't enjoy his food quite as much as before (he always goes for the swordfish), but I loved my chicken as usual. It was nice to have a little 'us' time away from the hustle and bustle of Disney. We stayed as long as we possibly could, and eventually we were the only ones left in the restaurant. What I didn't realise was that the park had actually closed around us! We were informed that we'd need an escort once we were done with our food, and what happened became one of my favourite Disney moments!
When we left, the park was officially closed. The whole castle had been cordoned off for the Dreams fireworks display, so we had a long detour. We actually walked right through Fantasyland, through the doors where the parade starts (which usually isn't open to the public!), all the way around the side of the park and into Discoveryland. We were the only non-castmembers there! It was surreal and awesome. We felt like VIPs (or criminals haha) being personally escorted out of the park. I actually recorded the whole walk, but the quality isn't very good, sadly. By the time we walked to the top of Main Street, there were a couple of non castmembers around (the shops were still open), but the whole place was very quiet and we managed to get some cute castle shots (again, shame about the quality!)
Until next time!
Wow, is it February already? Time really does go fast when you're having fun! A couple of days ago I returned from my fourth trip to Disneyland Paris and I'm trying to get myself back into some sort of routine here at home which is difficult, to say the least (it doesn't help that Moose gave me a stinker of a cold and I'm generally in a post-Disney-blues-feel-sorry-for-myself kind of mope.)
Disneyland Paris is wonderful. The park is going through a bunch of renovations at the moment and I was a little worried it'd be lacking in its usual magic, but the moment I stepped foot inside I was bouncing with my usual excitement! The biggest shame was that Big Thunder Mountain was closed (and it's closed pretty much all year), because that has to be one of my favourite rides in the whole park. Frontier Land really isn't the same without the regular clackity-clack of that ride ascending!
Moose and I celebrated our five year anniversary in Disneyland Paris last January and that's sort of why we went back this year in January too, only this time we dragged along two of our best friends! We'd all been to Disneyland Paris before in 2012 along with our other buddy DC, but back then we'd only had a single day, so it was nice to have the full five days to explore the park as a gang.
Last year, Moose and I stayed in Sequoia Lodge and we loved it so much we decided to return there this year. The whole hotel is just perfect and cozy which is exactly what you want on cold January evenings! We'd booked a mid-week Monday-Friday Disney package, but we didn't actually get into the park until Tuesday. Monday was spent travelling (my first ver trip on the Eurostar! SO effortless compared to flying!) and then heading into Paris with our friend Saran. I met Saran in TF2 around the same time I met Moose, and over the years gaming together he's become one of my favourite people. Unfortunately, he lives in Paris so we don't get to hang out nearly as often as I'd like, so we make the most of it when we can!
After meeting Saran at the station, we went to a gaming bar in Paris called Dernier Bar.It's an amazing three story place filled with boardgames and books and surprisingly great food. It was similar to Loading Bar in London but (sorry, Loading Bar), far, far nicer. It was in very central Paris (as opposed to Loading Bar's location a good hour away from central London, a heck of a trek from even the nearest tube station) and it was properly tailored, perfect for a gaming bar through and through. I'm so jealous of Parisian geeks! The top level was very open and had a wall covered in boardgames and books. They served gaming themed drinks and even the food was named after nerdy things.
However, as awesome as all that was (and we spent hours there enjoying Colt Express and Tiny Epic Galaxies), we had an ulterior motive for finding this bar, Our friend DC runs a weekly game of Shadowrun online via Roll20 and uses Google images to source suitable background images for our games. He recently discovered that three of the images he'd sourced actually all came from the same place - Dernier Bar! So of course, we had to go and check it out! Dernier Bar's middle room is very sci fi themed and the downstairs basement (which was closed off sadly so I had to sneak down for a photo) is very sort of cyberpunk grunge. It was awesome!
We could have stayed there all night, easily, but of course, Disney awaited! We caught the train and decided to take the Disney shuttle bus from the station to our hotel even though it's not a very long walk. We checked into our Golden Forest rooms (a slight price upgrade, but Golden Forest rooms offer hot breakfast and also a separate lounge that provides free drinks and treats from 3pm) and then decided to go for a wander around the village. It was pretty late by now so we weren't sure what would still be open, We had originally planned to have dinner in Sequoia Lodge's own restaurant, but after the lunch at Dernier we didn't fancy a big meal. We ended up in King Ludwig's Castle, which was one of our 'go to' restaurants for the week anyway. I had a schnitzel and a huuuuge jug of beer (Ludwig do these for only €5 on happy hour!) which was all yummy.
Fully fed and exhausted, we had a slow wander through the village back to our hotel. Luke and Sarah had been put into an adjoining room so we could just open the door and hang out between the two, but by now it was pretty late so we pretty much got back to the room and crashed out - ready for day two!
*Thanks to Sarah for some of the photos of King Ludwigs - my camera is not very good with low light images :(
Wow guys! It's been a while! I'm so sorry! The past few months (specifically August, September and especially October) have all been so, so busy I just couldn't find time to sit down and catch up! With November here, I'm finally free! I've got some awesome new plans for blogging in the new year (including finally uploading videos to my long neglected Youtube channel!) so I think it's about time I finally blew the dust off this place and caught everyone up!
Way back in August, the last thing I blogged about here was Kitacon! That same week, Moose and I had tickets to go to 'Secret Cinema'. For those who don't know, Secret Cinema is a whole immersive experience based around a particular film. In the past, they've featured Back to the Future, The Shawshank Redemption and Casablanca. This year, they did Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Moose wanted to go the second he heard about it, but to my shame, I'd never seen Star Wars! I know, I know.
Anyway, he scored tickets for his birthday, and it was incredible! I made sure to watch 'A New Hope' before, and I gotta say I can think of worse ways to watch 'The Empire Strikes Back' for the first time ever! The whole evening was brilliant! Secret Cinema assign you an ID and a role (Moose and I were both 'Galactic Explorers') and tell you a time and place to meet. You're given a dress code, and a pop-up shop in London provided us accurate props and accessories. We went to the meeting point and were directed into a huge building where the fun began! We were being smuggled off Earth, and ended up on Tatooine. We were given tasks and things to do as Galactic Explorers (barter for spices, get droid parts, etc.) but it was also just lovely wondering around and taking in the atmosphere! We bought some drinks ('droid oil', illegal and smuggled), grabbed some food and avoided roaming Jawas. We took a lesson from a real life Jedi, met Luke Skywalker's Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, and bartered for illegal spices. The actors were all perfectly on point! As the evening went on, Stormtrooper presence increased. Scuffles broke out between rebels and The Galactic Empire. After a quick drink in the Cantina, it was time to leave. We traded in our spices for a ticket on board the ship that was going to take us on board the Death Star. We were about to infiltrate!
From there, actors replayed the very end of the first movie, and we were a part of it, jeering and gasping as Obi fell to the ground, and cheering with genuine elation as a freaking live size X-Wing flew over and Luke Skywalker stepped out. The whole event was absolultely incredible, and I really can't express how immersive it really was! There were times when I really didn't know how I should react - I was torn between getting deeply into character and taking everything very seriously when the arguments broke out between the rebels and the Empire, or just laughing and smiling like an idiot and enjoying the moment! Serious props to the actors, they were all so perfect and never once broke character. Here's a nice write-up with some photos (cameras and phones weren't allowed inside) that captures it better than I can!
A few weeks ago now (eep, how time flies!), we went to Kitacon! Last time I went to Kita, I was behind a table in the dealer's room and business was pretty slow, but the little I saw of the convention made me yearn to go back as an attendee! When they announced that Kita was going to be the Big Summer Con of 2015, we all jumped at the chance to go!
The con was incredible! It was just such a lovely, fun, relaxing, silly convention. I didn't get to as many panels as I'd like to have, but I did get a chance to catch Ashley Burch talking about her career in video games and on Youtube. I must admit I spent most of mine time in the games room - they had a retro gaming section and there was a copy of Chuckie Egg I just had to get my grubby paws on! I think I got a little obsessed, haha. I used to be really good at Chuckie Egg - back when I was five.
Moose spent a lot of Sunday in a Magic the Gathering draft, which he won (of course), while I hatched my own little plan. His birthday was two days after Kita and I really wanted to do something. Unfortunately, every plan I had sort of fell through and it became a bit of a scrabble despite my attempts at forward planning. I asked my friends Sarah and Luke to buy a cake as I'd have had no way of hiding it, and we decorated their hotel room while Moose was busy playing MTG. By 'decorate'... I mean, we blew up some balloons and draped some paper over the pictures, haha. It wasn't the most sophisticated affair, but we put candles on the cake, put some presents around and gathered all of Moose's friends! An awesome touch was that our rooms (Sarah and Luke's, where we had decorated, and the room I shared with Moose) were right next to each other, and attached by a little balcony we could walk between! So, when Moose was done with Magic, I told him I needed to go back to the room to grab some money while everyone else waited in the other room, and then we walked between the two and SURPRISE!
Okay, so it wasn't the most perfectly executed plan, but it meant a lot to me that I try and do something to acknowledge his birthday! He and I already had plans to spend the actual day together at Secret Cinema (The Empire Strikes Back!) - so this was just a little something I wanted to do with his friends as well. It was important to me that we do something as a group, and I think he appreciated the effort and thought if nothing else! I'm looking forward to when he and I live together and I can throw proper parties for his birthday, but for now the little things will have to be enough.
The evening parties at Kita were also pretty great. I'm not all that into parties normally - you'd never find me in a nightclub! - and I'm not interested in J-pop and J-rock really, but they had a proper rock night and Sunday evening featured a beautiful formal ball, complete with a string quartet playing appropriate songs like the Jurassic Park theme and music from The Lord of the Rings! It was lovely! I really enjoyed the chance to dress up and see all my friends dressed formally - it's not something any of us do all that often (sadly!).
Kitacon was incredible. Moose said it was probably his favourite time at a con, simply because it was just relaxed and fun all the way through. Really, my only criticism of Kitacon is about the venue - or specifically, its location and the lack of available food nearby. Kita is held at the Birmingham Hilton Metropol, and it's bloody expensive. I'm talking £15 for a sandwich. They put on a few deals - pizza, mainly, and they offered some 'street food' for the convention but it was just ridiculous. (£7 for a tiny hot dog with a spoonful of chilli on top). We ended up walking all the way through the NEC, to the airport just to get a Burger King meal because the food was so expensive at the hotel - and we weren't the only convention attendees who did this! I really like the hotel, and the pool and spa was a lovely touch and great way to unwind on Friday night, but the food is such a downer it's actually a huge turn off, for me. For example, it doesn't compare to the Warwick Arts Centre, where Ayacon used to be held, and where Amecon is being held next year. Warwick is my favourite venue for conventions - with several places to grab food, including a nice studenty pub and an actual affordable corner shop! Warwick also seems better suited for conventions in other ways, too - it features proper tiered auditoriums for panels and shows, which solves a few of the viewing problems I had over the weekend. Of course, the limitation is that Warwick is a smaller venue, but frankly I think I'd rather a smaller convention with better dining options, even if it doesn't offer a pool and spa!
Aside from the food, I really loved Kitacon. I'm not sure if I'll be back next year because it's on in March (taking the Spring slot and swapping with Amecon for the Summer slot) but I'll definitely get back when it comes back as a Summer convention!
Moose and I haven't had an actual date, just the two of us, in a while. We're always busy doing things and going places with other people, which is awesome, of course, but I really fancied a day out that was just the two of us. I told Moose I was coming up to London and fully expected a day doing our old staple activities; a mooch around Southbank, a wander around Leicester Square and dinner in Chinatown after browsing Forbidden Planet. So, when he told me he'd found something different to do, I was intrigued! When I got to London, he told me we were going to go somewhere new, and that I was going to 'visit the mayor'. Of course, I was completely confused, and started wracking my brain for every mayor I could think of - are we riding 'Boris Bikes' around London? Goodness, I hope not!
We ended up on Brick Lane, by Old Spitalfields Market, where Moose said he'd heard there were lots of vintage stores he knew I'd like to look around. He was right! We spent an hour or so looking around a few lovely shops full of lovely vintage clothing and I resisted the urge to try on several dresses, before Moose said he thought it was time we went to 'visit the mayor'. We wandered around for a while and finally came across a little cafe/restaurant called The Breakfast Club. I decided that this was the surprise - a cafe themed around one of my favourite films? Excellent! Only as we approached, he told me that I have to tell the lady seating us that I'm here to 'see the mayor'. She greeted us and started to guide us to our table when Moose nudged me so I said, very sheepishly, that I was apparently here to see the mayor. She nodded knowingly, and then guided us into the restaurant and opened up a giant fridge. Confused, I assumed maybe I was getting a free drink for mentioning the 'mayor', only to see the waitress vanish through the fridge! Suddenly I clicked! This was a speakeasy, a secret bar under hidden behind a conspicuous fridge in a cafe! The waitress told us some rules, explaining that when we leave, we were to take a different door so as to keep the secret, and then we were lead down and inside 'The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town'!
The secret bar was small and cozy, with quirky, cat themed décor. The menu was mainly cocktails, where I opted for a very rich Bloody Mary that had a heck of a bite to it. They were expensive, but the atmosphere and experience more than made up for the price of the drinks. I got such a kick out of the whole thing! I love the knowledge that there were people in the cafe above us who had no idea that they were eating above a secret bar. It was great. It's really fun being 'in' on a secret like this, and I can't wait to check out more unusual places in London like it, now we're staring to venture off the beaten track.
It's no secret that my friends and I are all pretty big Doctor Who fans, so when Sarah suggested we all go to the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff for her birthday, who was I to refuse? I'd already visited here once before with Luke while some Australian friends of ours visited, but that was a very long time ago and so much has happened in the world of Doctor Who since then! The exhibition is actually in a new location from when we visited before and now lives in a purpose built warehouse just next to the bay. The biggest new feature was the actual 'Experience' part, which is a little guided event that happens before you enter the museum. I won't say much about it because of "spoilers, sweetie", but it was very cute!
The museum itself didn't really hold a candle to the old Earls Court exhibition a few years ago, where there were whole areas to walk around dedicated to certain episodes, giant props like the Empress of the Racnoss, and a large greenscreen where you can see yourself 'in' the TARDIS. They did have something similar at the Doctor Who Experience, but it was just a booth and you had to pay for the print. No, thanks.
Afterwards, we went for a wander around Cardiff Bay, and found the shrine to Torchwood's Ianto Jones that fans created in his memory! Sadly my camera died before I got any photos of it, but a quick Google search gives you an impression of what it is! I love that it exists, that fans are genuinely that passionate and dedicated to their fandoms, and that Cardiff City Council hasn't tried to take it away. The BBC even put up a plaque, making the whole thing quite official, though it does include a little note on the bottom explaining who Ianto was to anyone who isn't quite as Who-savvy as the rest of us!
I'm Selena, an artist, blogger and gamer - but maybe not always in that order! Dream Somehow is a blog dedicated to travel, art, geeky adventures, vintage style and a little bit of Disney Dreaming! If you'd like to know a bit more about me, click here!
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