Posted in theatre, Travels

Life Updates: Mini Show Reviews and an Athenian Adventure

I’ve had a bit of break from blogging recently. Apart from the odd couple, I’ve not posted much on here over the last two/three months. That’s because it has been a fairly busy time for me. There have been some changes in my life and I went on holiday to Athens recently (scroll down to read more about that!). That doesn’t mean I haven’t been seeing shows or haven’t had anything to blog about though. So, I wanted to do a post about what I’ve been up to these past few months and get back to blogging regularly.

A few shows I’ve seen that I didn’t get around to reviewing…

In June and July I saw three shows, the touring productions of Little Miss Sunshine and Titanic and Bare: A Pop Opera at The Vaults in London. Of these three, I definitely liked Bare best. I already knew I loved the music going into the show and I think the cast did a great job at bringing the emotion to it. When I left both my sister and I were fighting back tears after this production’s powerful addition to the ending.

            I’ve read negative reviews which take issue with the layout of the venue and the staging. Whilst I completely understand these issues I think they did a good job with what they had. The choreography sometimes looked a bit dangerous as the cast were dancing so close to one another on the small stage but I didn’t feel like I missed any of the action due to the staging or direction.

            Little Miss Sunshine is a film I have loved for years. After seeing the musical I have to say I think the story works better in film format but the stage show was still fun all the same. The actress playing Olive was incredible and the VW van staging was clever but the songs weren’t as memorable as other shows.

            I had a similar experience with Titanic, I liked it and thought the cast did a great job. The songs were quite epic but not the kind I’d add to my Spotify playlist. It was a good show but maybe not really my kind of thing.

Six days in Athens…

Earlier this month I went on holiday with my school friends to Athens. Although temperatures during the day made us feel like we were slowly frying, we had a great time. We had a look around the Acropolis, which included stopping at the world’s oldest theatre (of course!), the Theatre of Dionysus.

            The hike up to the top of the Acropolis was tricky in the heat, especially with all the tourists stopping at every patch of shade you come across on the way, but it was so worth it. The views you get over Athens are stunning and it’s amazing to think you’re treading the paths that people have walked along for millennia. We passed the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, another ancient theatre, and the remains of a temple for Asclepius before reaching the great staircase where the audio tours we’d downloaded began. From the staircase, you can see the temple of Athena Nike and the Propylea, the gateway. We walked around learning history and seeing the Erechtheion (this is where history and myth well and truly collide as the holes in the side of the building are said to be the damage left after Poseidon stuck the wall with his trident), and Old Temple of Athena before walking around the Parthenon, one of the most recognizable buildings in the world.

            Another one of my favourite places we visited was Aegina, an island near Athens. Aegina has a lovely beach but even better yet for me, more ancient history. We visited a museum, which led to a ruined Apollon Sanctuary. The views were beautiful and the area itself was amazing to see. As well as visiting the Acropolis and Aegina, we also went to an inspiring Turtle Sanctuary, watched the sunset from Lycabettus Hill, went around Hadrian’s Library, rode a ‘Happy Train’, visited some museums and ate some amazing food. So, all in all, it was a great trip!

Other bits and bobs…

I turned 23 in July and it’s officially been two years since I graduated university, I’m still a little puzzled about where the time has gone! As I said, I haven’t been posting as much as usual recently but I am planning on getting back to regular blogging from now on so expect a lot more on here.

Thank you for reading and I’ll be back very soon.

Posted in theatre, Travels

My Top 5 Edinburgh Festival Fringe Tips

It’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe time again and I’m sad to not be heading up to Scotland’s beautiful capital this August (I’m determined to go back next year!) but I have been a couple of times before and it is a brilliant experience. So, for anyone lucky enough to be heading there this year, here are my top five tips for making the most out of your trip to the Festival…

1. Don’t have a plan

There are so many shows to see at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe that it’s best to go in not being sure what you’re going to see and when. Likewise, if there’s a show you desperately want to see it probably is worth booking in advance to avoid disappointment but, for the most part, you can figure out what to see while you’re there. Trust me, take a walk along the High Street and you’ll be handed hundreds of flyers for all kinds of performances, many of them cheap and many of them great.

2. But also do have some of a plan

This is probably more advice for next year at this point but make sure your travel and accommodation is booked well in advance. So many people descend on the city of Edinburgh in August that all the cheap accommodation is snapped up quickly so book ahead to avoid paying a fortune unnecessarily.

3. Surprise yourself with what you see

There are so many shows to see at the Festival and so many of them are so cheap that it’s a great opportunity to push yourself to see something you wouldn’t usually see without the pressure of paying out a lot of money to see it. I’ve seen musicals, stand-up comedians, magic shows, spoken word, bizarre one-person comedy plays, a live sketch show, a beat boxer, burlesque shows, improvised performances and more at the Fringe and trust me, it’s always the shows you’re most unsure about that end up being the most memorable.

4. Make the most of free fringe but make sure you also have cash on you

Free Fringe shows are perfect for filling your free time between shows but you should be aware that ‘Free’ doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have to pay anything. At the end of Free Fringe shows the performers will usually stand by the doors with a bucket for you to add a tip so it’s important to carry around some cash with you so you’re always prepared.

5. See some variety shows

As I’ve said already, there are so many shows that you could see at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe that even if you’re planning to see five or six shows a day (which is actually perfectly doable), you’re still not going to get through them all. A great way to counteract this is to see some variety shows and cabarets. A lot of performers at the Fringe promote their full shows by doing short segments at variety shows. This means you not only get to see a lot of different short performances but it can also help you pick your next show to see if you particularly liked one of the performances. One particular variety show I’d recommend is The Midnight Show at Just the Tonic. It’s a bunch of comedians doing 5/10 minutes of stand-up to promote their shows in a cool underground venue at midnight. I went to The Midnight Show both times I went to the Fringe and saw some brilliant comedians both times.

So, there you have it. If you are heading to Edinburgh for the Fringe this year, lucky you, I’m very jealousI hope you have an amazing time and make sure you take photos and cram as many shows into your time there as possible, you won’t regret it!

Posted in Travels

Three Baltic Cities in a Week: Helsinki, Tallinn and Riga | Travels

My sister and I booked to go on this tour she found online for Helsinki, Tallinn and Riga a few months back and next thing you know the end of April rolled around and it was time to go (I mean seriously, I don’t know where the time went!). Before my sister told me about the tour I had no idea where Tallinn and Riga were but I think sometimes that’s the best way of doing a trip. Picking a random place, going to somewhere you wouldn’t have thought to go before and seeing what you find. So that’s what we did and let me tell you, I had a really great time.

First time coach-tripping

Ok, so the tour we booked was definitely aimed at an older crowd and we did spend quite a bit of time on a coach but this was my first time on a tour holiday and I can definitely see the appeal. Having everything organised and booked for you did make everything pretty much hassle-free and in each city we had a coach/walking tour with a local guide which was a great opportunity to learn the culture, history and what the key sites were before deciding how to spend the rest of our time in each place. However, being in a tour group does slightly limit choice and I couldn’t help feeling if we’d planned it ourselves we could have saved a fair bit of money. Swings and roundabouts though and I liked trying something new.

Helsinki

Helsinki was on some level what I was expecting, a nautical city slightly on the pricey side. Having visited Stockholm just six months before I was curious to see how it would compare. I think, overall, if you’re looking for a city that has a busy slightly more London-y feel to it then Stockholm is maybe more your thing whereas Helsinki feels more calm and a bit less cosmopolitan. But, honestly it’s hard to say for sure since we visited Helsinki over May Day which is a really bit deal in Finland and there people were mostly off-work and celebrating the holiday.

            For May Day, they wore their white graduation caps (which are like sailor hats) and lead a celebration in the city, placing caps on statues and having a good time. It was really lovely to be in Helsinki to see this tradition and definitely made me wish our graduation caps in the UK were a bit cooler. Also, whilst in Finland we did an excursion to Porvoo which was a cute town with colourful buildings and nice souvenir shops just out of the city.

Tallinn

Although I went into Helsinki with some expectations in mind, I had no idea what to expect in Tallinn and honestly I fell a little bit in love with the Estonian capital. Tallinn has a beautiful old town with cobbled streets, lively squares, old buildings, various churches and a great variety of viewpoints to show you the city from above.

            Through the rain, wind and even snow(!), we had a great time exploring this city. I bought a Baltic amber ring from a market stall and we had dinner in a Medieval-themed restaurant (lol). Tallinn and Riga both feel as though they have quite a bit more historical places of interest than Helsinki but both also have a life outside of their old towns as well. In Tallinn we ventured to a pub outside the Old Town called The Scotland Yard, which is, just as it sounds, themed around the British police force. As a British tourist, this was a pretty strange experience but was great none-the-less. My favourite part of exploring this city though was definitely the viewpoints and seeing the sights from Mary’s Cathedral tower – even if I did nearly have a panic attack on the spiral staircase. I have a fear of spiral staircases, it’s a thing, I know it sounds really daft!

Riga

Similarly to Tallinn, Riga has a stunning old town. There’s a gorgeous street filled with amazingly intricate art nouveau houses that is worth seeing and plenty of buildings much older still including the Three Brothers. These are three houses next to each other with one built in the 15th century, the next in the first part of the 17th century and the last the second half of the 17th century, supposedly all by members of the same family. Then there is the beautiful House of the Blackheads, a museum that used to serve as the meeting place for the Brotherhood of Blackheads guild of unmarried merchants. So, if you are like impressive architecture, Riga is definitely the city for you. Plus, you can get a great view over the city from the Skyline Bar, 26 floors above the ground.

            Riga’s history also goes way back so we went to our second Medieval-themed restaurant of the trip where I had a Hot Balsam cocktail which was a mix of spices, blackcurrant juice and the national drink of Latvia, Black Balsam. Apparently Black Balsam can be used for medicinal purposes like curing colds so I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it but actually it’s worth trying a Black Balsam cocktail if you’re ever in Latvia, it’s way nicer than you’re expecting it to be! We also went to a very aesthetic café/bar called Black Magic (twice!) which sold amazing truffles and, of course, lots of drinks, chocolates and cakes featuring Black Balsam. I say you should try it if you go to Latvia but it might be more the case that you will try it whether you like it or not!

            Both Latvia and Estonia have also had periods of occupation in their histories with both of them only achieving independence from the Soviet Union less than thirty years ago. Seeing the Freedom Monument in Riga, which was created to after their fight for independence between 1918-1920 served as a reminder of both Latvia’s difficult past and bright future for me.

            We had an extra day in Latvia and our guides took us to the Gauja National Park to see some Latvian castles and the beautiful Sigulda landscape. I really enjoyed my time in Riga and would definitely recommend this fascinating city to everyone!

I had a great time on this trip and learnt a lot about the Baltics. From not really knowing anything about Finland, Estonia and Latvia, I feel like I could tell you quite a bit about their beautiful capital cities, which I definitely recommend you visit. They probably all have some great Christmas markets, I know Riga definitely does, so if you’re looking for a place to visit in December so are just curious about visiting this part of the world, do it! You won’t regret it. Anyway, thanks for reading and I’ll be in Athens in August so expect a blog post on that coming up as well. Bye for now!