Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Last Week - Some Thoughts on Storytelling

And, so... here it begins. And here it's about to end (le cry).

The beginning of my last week here in London. I really didn't think that I would be holding out on this blog for as long as I have - of course, these last two weeks have been very abysmal in updates, but the blog post from before was, hopefully, a quick update. And, hopefully, it will be enough to remind of me all of the incredible things that I go to do over these last two weeks. But, now, it's time to begin winding down, and this will be one of the last blog posts that I ever write about my incredible London adventure. I had no idea that I would be writing this, to be completely honest... I mean, I did, but... it's kind of like, if you've been writing a book series for years and years and years, imagine beginning to write the last book, knowing that this is the beginning of the end. Imagine how J.K. Rowling must've felt beginning Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It must have been a horrible feeling, you know?

Of course, writing a blog is no where near that kind of feeling, but... I think I understand why people sometimes write more episodes than would be honourable for the series, or continue making sequels, or have such a hard time just ending a story... it's an extension of yourself, and having to write "The End" - the conclusive, final moment... those last six letters. It's an incredibly depressing feeling.

And you never see the end of something until you're close to it. It's not like, "Oh, I know it's going to happen!" It's kind of like life... you go through life, living, and you aren't constantly reminded of your mortality until it's staring you right in the face, you know?

... wow, that was some pretty deep, dark shit.

At any rate, this is going to be one of my last posts about London - hopefully, not the last, seeing as I still have... five days left, right? Five days. I can definitely crank out two blog posts in five days.
Per usual - le Spotify.
Something about the Spotify playlist that I have going... it's a little bit off from the actual playlist that I have on my iTunes because, again, Spotify is a combination of my own library and the library that's available through Spotify. So, here are a few tracks that are missing from the Spotify playlist that are actually on the real playlist (Spotify doesn't have these songs, awkwardly).
  1. "Sabrina" - The Fake Carls (download their free EP here - my roommate's band!)
  2. "Theme from 'Hot Fuzz'" - David Arnold (from Hot Fuzz)
  3. "End of an Era" - Oliver Boyd and the Rememberalls (song attached to this post)
  4. "The Year Turns Round Again" - J. Tams Arr. A. Sutton & T. Van Eyken (from War Horse)
So, yeah... here goes nothing!

My Casual Day at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

I always knew that I wasn't a Muggle.

When I was younger, I loved the Harry Potter books and films - even to this day, I still love them, despite the fact that they're still classified as children's books and the movies have now officially ended (le sad day). My Mom had tried to read the books aloud to me, but after many attempts (and many mispronunciations of Hermione's name), she settled for the first film, which had just been released... and I was immediately captivated. Within two days, I had convinced her to buy me the box set of books, and one week later, I'd eaten them up like a cake - it was my first book series that I willingly read, the first story that I had truly been captivated with. And I was in love.

Having such wild imagination as a child, it didn't take much to have me convinced that I was a witch, and that one day Hagrid was going to come bursting down my door telling me that he was "pleased to inform you that you have been accepted to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry," and that I would be spending the next seven years of my life being educated in Herbology, Charms, Transfiguration, Divination, Potions and the like. I would play (loudly) the Harry Potter soundtracks up in my room, run around with Harry's glasses and a glow in the dark wand and, with my friends Denise and Ashleigh, would go on wild, dangerous adventures into the depths of my closet, my backyard and the "black top" at our elementary school. I knew that I was destined for great things - just like my friend, The Boy Who Lived. When my eleventh birthday rolled around, I went outside and actually sat by my post box for a few hours before resigning myself to the inevitable truth.

Hogwarts wasn't real, because if it was there was no way that I would be a Muggle. So, either I was a witch, or Hogwarts was actually a fictional place in some fictional book and I was just kidding myself.

It was a very sad day in the McManus household.

Despite my sadness in realising that Hogwarts was, in fact, not a real place, I kept up with the books and the movies. I knew practically every spell that there was to know, from the classical Wingardium Leviosa to Rictusempra to Crucio and even the dreaded Avada Kedavra. I avidly followed the book updates and fangirl-ed over every single production still from the set (you might say that these films - in combination with Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings films (my Mom remembers taking me to The Two Towers for four weekends in a row...) - were the beginning of my love for motion pictures) and checked Mugglenet practically every day for updates. I have Harry's wand in my room somewhere, and definitely have some hand-made robes of my own somewhere as well. I also used yellow ribbon and a cheap tie from Target to make my own Gryffindor tie (I am a Gryffindor, by the way, Pottermore says so). To put it simply, I was a bit of a fanatic.

But, like all good things, the Harry Potter books had to come to an end, an ending that I did not take to very well (don't get me wrong, I loved the book - I was just sobbing everywhere) - and, likewise, The Deathly Hallows, Part 2 came around to mark the end of the motion picture phenomena that had struck the world (again - the sobbing). Harry Potter grew up and had a family and sent his own children off to Hogwarts, and "all was well." And, then, I went to college, and my childhood - with Harry Potter being somewhere around its centre - was left behind me.

Over the last few years, my "fandom" drive has been propelled towards other things, namely action or adventure films such as The Hobbit trilogy, The Avengers, Star Trek (<3) and some epic television shows, such as The Legend of Korra, Game of Thrones and - of course - Sherlock. I always told people that I loved Harry Potter, but the love of it seemed to... well, die a bit.

But, luck had it that I was able to buy a ticket for the Harry Potter tour off of a fellow Dreamer, and I got to leave work early to randomly go there on a random Monday.

And, as luck would have it... the second I walked into Leavesden Warner Bros. Studios, I realised, once again that I am no Muggle.

Walking into the actual Great Hall of Hogwarts.
Words can not literally describe what that tour was like - as a Harry Potter fan and as a fan of filmmaking in general. The second that you walk into the first room of the tour, you're reminded of every reason why you love Harry Potter and what it taught you as a little kid in elementary school - the books, the fandom, the phenomena as it struck the world... everything. Right after that, they sit you down in a cinema-esque room and go through the books and the movies together in another film, talking about the process that was taken to create such incredible motion pictures, and the movie magic that made the magical world of Harry Potter come, literally, to life.

And then a screen rises - and you're staring at the doors that lead into the Great Hall of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Yes, the actual doors. And once you step through them, you're standing in the actual Great Hall.

For some reason, I've been very partial to making lists of things that I've been doing on this trip, and while I would hate to cheapen this incredible experience with bullet-points, there is so much that I did and go to see that it's really, kind of... well, the only way that I can properly get everything out without turning into a rambling machine (as if that wasn't possible already).

  • I was the only one who showed up for the £29/ticket tour... so, they put me with the £70/ticket tour group and I got to get the Premium Experience for literally less than half of the price.
  • I stood in the actual Great Hall of Hogwarts, and sat down at the Slytherin table. There, I also stood on top of the actual duelling table from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, where one of the Warner Bros. staff members had a fake duel with me, and taught me how to cast spells as if I were in an actual battle with a Death Eater.
    • I would be an awesome member of the Order of the Phoenix.
  • I got to sit on the Firebolt and fly it around through London, Hogwarts, over the Black Lake, through the middle of a raging Quidditch match and even over the Hogwarts Express... okay, that was all on green screen, but I still felt like a proper wizard.
    • Don't know if I'd be good at flying - I would make a kick ass Chaser if I got over that "fear of heights" thing, though.
  • I walked through the actual Diagon Alley and some random staff member dressed up like a wizard gave me Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans (I got pepper, mango, pistachio, tart, and some other weird ones that I couldn't place) and a chocolate frog (without the card, sadly).
    • They had "U-No-Poo" at Weasley Wizard Wheezes. Life = Complete.
    • Gringotts was also there. It's incredibly imposing looking.
  • I stood on the Knight Bus - it's actually a triple decker, no joke. And the talking head definitely yelled at me when I walked by. I was freaked out.
  • I got to stand in front of the actual Privet Drive.
  • I finally got to meet Buckbeak - and yes, he actually moved (like a robot), and then actually open its mouth and screeched at me. It was probably the coolest thing of my life.
  • I took a tour of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, through sound stages J and K (that's not even a joke, that's what they actually are) and got to see some of the places - inside and outside of Hogwarts - that we Potterheads have come to know, love and cherish as if we'd been there ourselves (which I have... so, haha, in your faces). These include...
    • Hagrid's Hut, complete with a replica of Fang, and the giant tea cups.
    • The Gryffindor Common Room, in all of its cozy, lovely glory - Neville's plant-cactus thing was there, too. And Crookshanks... damn Crookshanks...
    • The Burrow, with floating knitting needles to boot.
    • The Ministry of Magic, including the fireplaces and the "Magic is Might" statue.
    • The Gryffindor Boys Dormitory - they even have Dean's West Ham posters!
    • Dumbledore's Office - I saw the Pensieve and the memory vials and Fawkes the phoenix.
      • This includes the entrance with the awesome statue.
    • The inside of the giant clock from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
    • Malfoy Manor - just as creepy as you'd imagine it to be.
    • The Potions Classroom in the dungeons - the lines were literally lined with disgusting things inside of vials, like eyeballs and tentacles... nasty...
      • Also, half of the cauldrons there actually had moving spoon in them, like someone had enchanted them to keep stirring.
      • I almost took the Felix Felicis from the table, but then thought better of it.
  • I found the Room of Requirement and was inducted into Dumbledore's Army (be jealous).
  • I also found the Mirror of Erised. It didn't tell me what my deepest desire was (sneaky bastard).
  • I also found the front gate to Hogwarts, topped off with the incredible, awesome flying boars.
  • I found the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets.
One last thing that I can tell you was... that the last thing that you see when you leave Hogwarts is, well... Hogwarts itself. A large replica. The actual castle, in its full - from every stone to every bridge, to every moss-covered rock and well-kept Quidditch Pitch and haphazard boat house, there it was - my second home for most of my childhood, taken from black and white ink on pages from my first copy of The Sorcerer's Stone and made into a reality.

Here are the incredible pictures of my tour of the Warner Bros. - Harry Potter Studios at Leavesden. If you ever are in England or in London, there is no excuse... just go and do it.

I could literally make this list... well, much longer than it is already, but it would just be superfluous and unnecessary. Because I finally got to see where the magic was made - where the story of Harry Potter came to life for millions of fans across the world, including myself. For three hours, I got to step back in time and take a waltz through my childhood. And, yes, it makes no sense and probably sounds a bit crazy, but as much as I grew up here in the "Muggle World," I grew up with Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger as they learned, loved and adventured together. I was 8 when I first picked up the Harry Potter books - young Daniel Radcliffe was 11. And when I was 18 years old, Harry was 17 in the films, battling it out one last time with Lord Voldemort. I pretty much grew up with these fictional characters who are as much a part of me as any other people that I got to know throughout my youth. I read their stories, went on adventures with them... and I learned so much. I learned what it meant to be brave, to do what's "right instead of what it easy," to truly cherish your friends with all of your heart, to fight back when no one else will fight alongside you. And, on some random Monday in July, with only a week left to spend in London England, I found myself - alone - at the Warner Bros. Studios in Leavesden, staring at a place that looked like my second home. And I was blessed to have touched upon that childhood again.

I'm a storyteller - it's what I'm meant to do. I'm obsessed with fandoms, I love films, I love to act and I love to read and learn and experience and tell stories... and Harry Potter was the first. It will not be the last, but it was the first, and that's really what matters.

So, I found myself at the beginning again, there at Privet Drive. And I was, again, reminded of the magic in the world around me, and brought back to the very beginning of my adventure in life. I may be in the middle of it right now, but I took my first step into storytelling with these words: "Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much..." I have read many books. I have seen many films. I have been taken on many adventures with many incredible characters... but, most of all, I grew up with an unassuming boy from the cupboard under the stairs who - chapter by chapter, page by page, word by word - dragged me along to his wonderful world of magic and taught me what it meant to be truly brave. 

And it is the journey with him that, ultimately, I will cherish the most.

War Horse at New London Theatre

As if my adventure at Hogwarts couldn't be the cherry on the cake of this entire adventure in London... I decided, "Fuck it, I'm going to see a show." And while my finances are completely kaput at the present moment (the fact that this internship is unpaid doesn't help matters much, let's be honest here), I would be pretty bummed if I didn't get to at least see some kind of theatre while I was here. I got to see three films in a row - all with Pegg, Frost and Wright's signature British sense of humour - so why not an incredible, quintessentially British show to finish it all off with a bang? So, we had several options laid out for us - we could see Billy Elliot or War Horse. Billy Elliot tickets were definitely £140+, so that was already out of the question. So, after asking permission from my parents, I bought myself a £60 ticket with my main bitty, Nicole, to see one of the best straight shows ever adapted from one of the most gripping war fictions ever fabricated on this earth... War Horse.

I've seen the film too, le duh - in fact, I saw it with Kib when she came to America to visit me two years ago. And it was good - it was rather good, in fact (though I could do without the melodrama at the end. C'mon, Spielberg, it's WWI not everything is sunshine and rainbows and slow motion silhouetting), and the fact that a) it's a war film, b) Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston are in it, and c) it's an incredibly moving novel just helped matters even more.

But I saw the stage show... and I was completely blown away.

And, guys, it's better than the film. It really is. I still like the film, but... Jesus, that was a good show.

Here's the trailer for War Horse at the Kennedy Centre, which Is can probably tell you... will not be / is not as good as the West End version. Again. Quintessentially British show.

As you probably know (or have heard), the horse is actually on stage, but it's not a horse - it's a metal contraption, controlled by three trained, very hard working and intense actors, who literally move the legs, the tail and the head to make this horse come to life. And it's not like it's a literal replica of a horse, with hair and the like. It's obviously metal and obviously controlled by three actors. But that didn't stop me from becoming connected to the horse - I felt actual emotions for it, it had an actual personality. An that, in combination with the incredible acting and the fantastic music (they sang folk songs... British-Celtic folk songs... my heart broke the second they started singing) and scenery, and just... God, you guys. Oh my God. It was just so incredible.

It's about WWI, obviously... which is a war that, in my opinion, is completely overlooked in many regards, being overshadowed by the monstrous destruction of WWII - especially by us Americans, who only got involved towards the end (thanks to the Lusitania and the Zimmerman letters). It was a horrible war that inflicted pain upon many people in so many different ways. And they portrayed that perfectly on stage. It was absolutely astounding. I was watching an actual war unfold before my very eyes, watching the trials and tribulations of so many proud, hard working and ordinary men and women. And the story of Albert and Joey was just so much more poignant when taken into account of the entire destruction of the war, and their unconditional love for one another. I think that... what I found so moving was the fact that Albert remained so innocent and loving and carding and hopeful, even in the midst of such unfathomable destruction and death... and all because of a horse.

I would be totally lying if I said that I wasn't crying by the end of this incredible show. I'd be telling you a flat out lie. Because not only is it beautiful and sad and inspiring and hopeful, but it's also an extremely personal show, and personal in the sense that it's a story that is... well, I would imagine it to very close to an Englishman's heart. I don't know how else to put it really...

All I can say is that I was blessed and honoured to have been able to watch that beautiful story unfold right before my very eyes, and seeing that show only reaffirmed my desire to be a part of the storytelling process - whether it be the creative mind behind the scenes, the director on stage, the clay that holds it all together, the characters that you fall in love with, or a mere cog in the machine. <3

St. Bartholemew's - Some Thoughts on Storytelling (WARNING - Contains *SPOILERS*)

In case you couldn't tell, I kind of love this show from the BBC-One. It's kind of incredible. It's called Sherlock, and it's a modern day interpretation of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (who was such a good storyteller that he got knighted. Yeah. Knighted). I could repeat myself about how incredible every aspect of this show is, but the fact that every single person that I've introduced the show to has immediately fallen in love with it just as hard as I have is probably all the evidence that I need to support such claims. But something that I've failed to mention is how wide the fan base is - and why it is the way that it is.

(From this point on, there are Sherlock spoilers, so don't fucking read this post unless you've seen the series - and this specifically goes out to my Dad, Jim. Don't do it, Jim. DON'T. DO. IT.)

The outside of Speedy's Cafe the day that
filming for Series 3 began!
We've all been Sherlocked! :D
The last few times that I've gone on my little adventures to St. Bartholemew's Hospital, I've hinted at a cool little thing that's there that is sort of an... unofficial memorial for Sherlock. I even posted a picture on my previous blog post (and warned you about the spoilers, then, too, so don't say I didn't warn you, you sods). At the end of the last series (S02E03), Sherlock Holmes took an unfortunate plunge to his supposed death. He literally jumped off of the roof of St. Bart's to his death... right in front of John Watson. It was probably one of the most painful things that I've ever seen on the big (or Netflix) screen. Truly, the emotion was so tragic and just... I was horrified. I coudln't stop crying, it was just.. wow. Just wow. Pretty much, Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch simultaneously broke my heart. And Steven Moffat (the writer)... damn you Moffat...

The day after the episode aired, Sherlock fans got together... and left fliers and postcards and messages all along the side of St. Bartholemew's Hospital saying things like, "I believe in Sherlock Holmes," and "I believe in Sherlock Holmes and John Watson," and "Moriarty was real! Richard Brooke was a fake!" Hundreds of them - literally. And while they've all mostly been cleared away (St. Bart's is an actual hospital, dammit!), there are still some that remain... fans from around the world go to this little telephone booth right where Sherlock "died" (we all know that he's not actually dead, le duh) and leave messages for him. Not only that, but since filming for Series 3 has started, people have been leaving messages on the door next to Speedy's Cafe - the door that they use for 221B. People are excited, people are antsy - they want more, and they can't wait until they get it!

Check out these crazy letters and notes that fans leave all around prominent Sherlock-sites in London. It's absolutely fantastic.

*Note to Self: If you ever start your own blog (a possibility now - this blogging thing is fun, remember), this might be a good article to expand upon and perfect!

No one imagined that Sherlock would become what it has become - an international phenomena. Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat have remarked that they were lucky that the BBC accepted their pilot in the first place, and that they were never sure if it would go past one season, the show having such a unique and strange format (each episode is as long as a motion picture, and is treated as such). Also, taking into consideration how long they take in between seasons, it's really not a far stretch to assume that people wouldn't be too keen on falling in love with the series... but they did. And now Sherlock-mania has hit the entire globe, from the UK to the United States, to Japan to Finland...
Ain't that the fucking truth.

And that's the same way with Harry Potter. Who could have guessed that a single Mom writing a children's book about a boy who lived in a cupboard under the stairs would have turned into a motion picture. And who would've guessed that what David Heyman presumed would be a "modest, British film" would become the most successful film franchise in history - a franchise that touched every corner of the globe.

And when J.R. Tolkien jotted down a random thought while grading papers one day - "In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit" - could've caught hold across the globe, as well, inspiring countless more fantasy novels of the like.

I am definitely a proponent - or, rather, a definite minion - in the fan hype surrounding these various fandoms and stories. I can't help myself - I just love the story. I'm obsessed with the story, and the storytelling process, and the characters... every aspect of it, I'll gobble it up.

And I love every single bloody second of it.

It's the stories that get people excited about reading, about movies, about writing, about... art. About characters, about acting about life. Those are the kinds of stories that I want to tell, the kind of adventures that I want to be a part of. I want people to think, to get excited, to be motivated... to fall in love with characters and worlds beyond our wildest imaginations. And I'm not the only one. If I was, then Harry Potter wouldn't be where it is today, and Sherlock wouldn't be teed up for not one, but possibly two more seasons (not including Series 3, which is currently filming in Cardiff).

My little letter on the Telephone Box. :)
It's just... absolutely incredible and, frankly, astounding and mind-boggling that a story could do so much to the world, could inspire so much excitement and hope and emotion... and it's beautiful, it really is. This entire week was kind of reaffirmation in my love for storytelling - as if I didn't need any more reason. Again, this whole acting thing has kind of been my jive since I was a little girl, but if that doesn't work out... I just want to be a part of the story. I want to make stories known - I want to get people excited! Because stories are the bread and butter of humanity - from history books to adventure novels, to "Guess what I did today at work," to "Oh my God, she's such a bore," to text messages... communication inevitably leads to storytelling. We thrive off of it. And it's what I want to do. <3

So... yeah... the beginning of the end has really just been a return to the very beginning for me... from an 8-year old, bushy-haired Katie reading Harry Potter to the present day Katie leaving messages for Dr. John Watson on a random telephone box in London, I'm made of the stories that I love, and I can't wait to be able to experience, fall in love with and tell more of them. :)

So, until the next adventure...


Monday, July 29, 2013

Jumping Into Big Smoke

So... ehem... long time no blog.

... but seriously. Sorry about that. Things have been crazy, as usual, but nothing so incredibly pressing that I felt the need to constantly blog about it, like I've been doing in the past. But today I suddenly realised... whoa, shit, I only have a week left in London and then another random week going on a random adventure (completely by myself) to Edinburgh, Scotland, and then I get to spend time with Kib again which is going to be the best time evar, but seriously... only a week left in London with my wonderful women and all of these incredible DreamCareers peoples and... it just hurts my soul. It really does. Physical pain, guys.

Before I go any further, however... Spotify, per usual. Enjoy (60+ songs? Didn't expect that...!).
So, here's a quick post to update you on what my last two weeks in The Big Smoke have been like, as well as segueing into this last week of absolute insanity and fantastic-ness.

Speedy's Cafe

Confession time... you know how I found that place that they use for the exterior for Sherlock? Well, it's really not that much of a secret, apparently, because I constantly see people running up to it in complete fangirl mode screaming their heads off going, "Oh my GAAAWD, it's 221B Baker Streeeet! Like, take a picture with me in front of iiit!" I should've known that Tumblr would've made this location common knowledge by now. Damn you, Tumblr. And while this is amusing to me (remember my freak out post from before? Thank God Speedy's was closed when that happened or they probably would've put a restraining order on me), it's also annoying, because... well, another confession time.

Speedy's Cafe is my not-so-guilty pleasure.

The hospital that I have to go to for this tea burn madness (University College Hospital) is literally right across the street from Speedy's. I feel like a total badass, just casually being one tube stop away from the exterior location to literally one of the best shows on television. But not only that, it's probably my favourite cafe in London, and not because of the obvious. But because of the following reasons:

  1. It's only one tube stop away from my flat at King's Cross.
  2. They have milk for sale there called "Watson's Milk" (#winning).
  3. The staff is super nice and incredibly friendly, even if they don't necessarily speak English fluently (I'm pretty sure that there are Polish immigrants most times I'm there - I like me some Poles).
  4. It's got an incredibly awesome small-business kind of feel to it, the kind that I really enjoy (not the nice shops where you're afraid to sit down for running the fine polish or scuffing the paint, but the kind where everything's a bit worn and cramped, but well taken care of).
  5. It's incredibly cheap.
  6. It's incredibly delicious.
So, every day after I get out of the A&E after four hours of sitting next to coughing elderly people and wailing babies with stomach problems and not-so-slightly insane homeless people ("tramps" here in the UK), I go in one Underground exit (Euston Square), come out the other (Warren Street), walk to Speedy's and get myself some nice take away for the Tube ride east to Liverpool Street Station to begin my working day. And it's absolutely delicious. It's like a little sandwich shop in which you get to choose what kind of sandwich you want / throw your own toppings on top of. Not only that, but they have fruit (dear God, fruit?!), coffee drinks, breakfast things, and some nice sit down food for the person who's in not-so-much-of-a-hurry (that I haven't tried quite yet, but I'm going to, I swear!). Let me give you a breakdown of what I got yesterday after my last burn check up:
  1. 1 chicken sandwich, with lettuce (salad, they call it), cucumbers, tomatoes, mayonnaise and cheese (yummy), done up with some nice wheat bread.
  2. 1 cappuccino, no sugar, extra espresso shot (one of the best cappuccino's I've ever had).
  3. 1 banana (yum).
Another picture of Speedy's - what a great place, seriously.
And this totalled up to be: £3.40. Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me? In Shoreditch (where I work), I bought a teeny ass mocha from this place called Nude Espresso (apparently a Keira Knightly haunt) and it was £2.50. But I got a sandwich, a banana and a cappuccino for £3.40? In Islington?! Pinch me, somebody, I'm in heaven. This is the cheapest food that I've been able to haggle whilst in London, not even a joke - even the Nido cafe was more expensive than this (I ran out of my £250 last week - time to start starving to save money). I'm very serious, from now on I'm going to be waking up early just to take the extra 20-30 minutes to take a Tube over to Speedy's cafe so that I can get myself a cheap ass lunch and a nice tea or coffee to start the morning. I'm literally obsessed with this place. It's the best possible place to start a morning in London. The one thing is that it's a breakfast-lunch kind of place. It opens incredibly early, but then closes around 14:30 (2:30pm) every day, and it's closed on Sundays (Poles = Catholic), and open for limited hours on Saturday. But, quite honestly, I don't care. Love this place, I go every time that I get the chance.

So, against my better judgement, here's the link to their website, which has their address, hours and also a Twitter page! So, I'm going to start following them on Twitter, casually, because I'm incredibly jealous of the fact that they get to be a location for a BAFTA-award winning television series with two of the best actors in the entire business (I think Benedict Cumberbatch is going to take over the world, and it'll be a better place for it), but also because I definitely want to stalk them and find out when they're filming so I can be a creep and head on over and try and hand off my CV to someone on set. Yup. So, there's that.

And if you're ever in London, please go - not just for the fangirling (I know that you will all do it), but because it's an incredible small business with great food, great service and great prices, and deserves just as much hype for that as anything else.

These Past Two Weeks...

... have been more relaxed than anything, which is odd, considering that we have literally one week left in this incredible city and all are kind of feeling, like, "We need to get everything done now - we need to do everything possible in our power to do everything and see everything in London!" Which is not realistic, but, hey, YOLO - You Only London Once.

But I don't like that - I don't want to YOLO. Again, I'm planning on coming back here. I want to see myself living in this city one day - if not for an extended period of time, at least doing something for a year or two. The ultimate goal would be to study acting here for two years, but... you know how that goes. :) We'll see when it happens.

At any rate, while these past two weeks have been flying by in an utter and complete blur for myself, and I haven't blogged about them at all (which is really unfortunate, but hey, can you blame me when I'm having the time of my life in the best city in Earth)? So, to kind of skim over everything, I'm going to bullet point what I've been up to, in no particular order! :)

Things That I Did During My Random Hiatus From the Rest of the World
( no particular order...)

  • My girls and I went to the London IceBar. We stood inside of a literal igloo in the middle of London, and drank mixed drinks (whiskey, kiwi and strawberry for this girl) out of glasses made literally of ice. It was freezing, but absolutely fantastic.
    • We're total eskimos - that bar was AWESOME.
    • I got hit on by a middle aged ginger man, which was gross but also hilarious in retrospect, especially when I told him that I was "American, 20 and unavailable" and ran away.
  • We started a pub crawl in Shoreditch before becoming so ill from something that I ate earlier that day that I had to cab it back to NIDO where I spent the rest of the night and early morning in complete and total misery.
    • Watching Star Trek was the only reason that I kept myself distracted. Thank you, Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto.
  • Finally decided to brave my fears of talking to one of my acting idols, Martin Freeman, when - in the middle of the work day - I threw my hands up in the air in frustration an  shouted, "FUCK IT!" to a startled room of my coworkers, before grabbing a paper and pen and scribbling out a very thoughtful letter to the man.
    • I then proceeded to go and find the nearest post office, before I realised that the address for his fan mail is literally a ten minute walk from work.
    • I didn't eat lunch, but Dr. Watson's got some fan mail waiting for him in Shoreditch.
  • A fellow Dreamer was able to get all of us a free admittance to a hoppin' London club called The Church - which is a church that is now one of the craziest clubs in London. We had no idea what it would be like, so we just showed up. They give you bags of beer. Literally, a plastic bag with three beers. And it's absolutely insane.
    • We had the time of our lives getting drunk in the middle of the day at this club where literally everyone is dressed up like it's Halloween. No one grinds on you (thank God), and they play really good music (The Proclaimers! Coldplay! The Killers!). I danced my face off like a crazy fool (when I dance, I just jump up and down and do random punching motions. It's equally entertaining and dangerous).
    • Some very awkward things also happened. I'll spare you the equally awkward details (no worries, I was unsullied).
    • We pretended that we were Canadian so that we wouldn't be patronised by all of the British people who were there.
      • It worked.
  • Nicole and I went to The National Army Museum, which is strangely kid friendly, but also incredibly fascinating. There, we got to learn about the military history of the United Kingdom in its full - from medieval times to the Boer Wars to the World Wars, to Korea, etc...
    • We did an WWI interactive thingy where we had to be a Medic, a Captain or a Private, and we had to make decisions along the way that may or may not have ensured our survival or demise.
      • We would be awesome medics.
      • We would not be good Captains.
      • I'm pretty sure that we'd be dead if we were Privates.
    • We also walked through the Afghanistan exhibit, where we learned about IEDs, terrorism and their history throughout the United Kingdom (the IRA was incredibly prominent on the timeline, which made me very uncomfortable). After learning about IEDs and how to locate them, we then walked through a section of the exhibit that was a recreation of a section of an Afghani town, where we had to find where IEDs were planted based on certain clues (cigarette buts, moved soil, wires, discolouration in the wall, cell phones, etc...).
      • We would definitely be dead if that exhibit was real life (damn cell phone).
  • We went on an adventure to the South Bank, where - while my girls went on the London Eye - Stevie (Julie's friend from the States who was also randomly in London) and I ran around and explored that awesome part of town (I'm kind of in love with this place).
  • DreamCareers threw us an awesome end-of-your-adventure party this past weekend at the club, Bounce - complete with glow in the dark ping-ponging (at the place where ping pong was invented) and karaoke (we all rock that mic like no one's business).
    History... history everywhere...
    • "I Will Always Love You" DreamCareers people. <3 You guys are always going to be close to my heart, my fellow adventurers!
  • We had a wonderful picnic in Hyde Park that evening - I read The Hobbit while everyone else ate cheese and drank wine, and it was an absolutely pristine way to end the weekend.
  • My Irish cousin-twin-sister, Lakin, went to Speedy's Cafe (I'm tellin' ya, that place is awesome) so we could take pictures for her sister (who is also a huge Sherlock fan), where we met this awesome Italian girl named Ali.
    • We then proceeded to go to St. Bartholemew's Hospital, where we saw an awesome Telephone Box covered in letters to Sherlock and John (Why St. Bart's, you might ask? S02E03. Watch the damn show). I left a little letter there myself. :)
    • Then, we wandered around near Barbican and Farringdon stations for a while before heading back, after which we all had a wonderful evening of ping pong frivolities (see above, please)!
  • I finally went and explored the British Library, and it was absolutely fantastic - or it would have been if I had a reader's card to be able to explore the stacks. Still, it was rather lovely getting about again and seeing so much knowledge packed into one building.
    • I got mugged walking back. Again. Stole my bloody Oyster Card, the wanker...
    • Wait, did you know that I had gotten mugged the first time? Well, I did. Some guy stole my scarf in broad daylight... in the middle of a crowded Tesco's. I have no idea how that happened, but it did.
  • I went to a concert with my roommate, Julie, in East London near my work (not really, but kind of). It was at a random pub in the middle of nowhere called the Sebright Arms. Julie works at a music distribution company, and she got us free tickets! So, #beerandgoodmusic! We saw an American band called He's My Brother, She's My Sister - and they were absolutely fantastic! They stole the show, they were completely fantastic, and they played our favourite song - "How'm I Gonna Get Back Home" (which was really fitting, 'cause at this point we were fairly inebriated after a wonderful night of frivolities and men buying us drinks, and we had to actually figure out how to get back to our flat... which we did, thank you very much).
  • I went to the Cornetto Trilogy (also known as the Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy) marathon and midnight premiere of The World's End with my lovely friends Alli and Shannon - and also got to hang out with DJ again (and his fellow actor friend who's also studying at LAMDA with him this summer). It was hilarious and incredible and I've never laughed that much in my entire life. I got free Cornetto ice cream and drank five pints of lager before watching Shaun of the Dead and was laughing so hard by the end of the evening that I was crying and I woke up the next day with an incredible sore stomach.
    • I love the people I got to hang out with.
    • I also love Simon Pegg.
    • Obviously, Martin Freeman is just awesome.
    • British humour makes the world go 'round in a happy, dry, absurd and sarcastic way. :)
  • My stomach is almost completely healed, which is absolutely fantastic - I really was not too keen on having an incredibly epic scar on my stomach for the rest of my life.
    • I'm still drinking my three cups of tea a day. I WILL NOT BE AFRAID OF YOU, DELICIOUS, BRITISH BEVERAGE!
  • I have not only been inspired to pursue this crazy acting career thing, but I also have been inspired to begin writing a script for a play that I've been musing over for the last two or three years. This means that I'm going to be a very busy camper this next year (but, then again, when is that a new development in my life?).

It's Suddenly Dawning...

... that I only have one week left in London, England. And I don't think that you guys fully realise how absolutely... depressing that is. I'm actually physically depressed. I have actually spent an entire day completely moping about the entire thing. Completely inconsolable. I'm torn between my Rocky Mountains and my loving family and my awesome friends and my dogs... and this incredibly city that has now not just become my second home, but a home in it of itself. I don't want to leave, not this soon - not after spending so little time here. Eight weeks has not nearly been enough time. I feel cheated, which is so selfish and whiney, but... I don't know. It's like, when I leave, I'm going to be leaving a part of myself behind, too, and it feels weird having to just... leave it here.

I'm being a very bitter, sad person. Which, again, is selfish and illogical. But I can't help it, I feel like my heart's breaking a little bit every time this August 9th deadline creeps closer and closer...

But, I have two weeks left in the UK, including an incredibly random and last-minute kind of trip by myself to the Scottish capital, which should be nothing but sunshine, rainbows and haggis. :) I'll, of course, keep you updated, 'cause, as always... I'm behind on this blog because I'm too busy trying to catch up with my own life! Everything happens so fast, and it's sure to stay that way until the end of this incredible journey.

So, until the next adventure...


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

La Ville De L'amour

Hey, y'all! So, I'm going to try and get all of this Paris adventure-time story-telling out of the way, because I'm sure that some other random adventure will be happening very shortly, and I don't want to fall more behind than I already am (is that possible? Definitely). It was a wild two days in the City of Love (La Ville De L'amour), and I'm sure that I could go into much more detail, but I'm beginning to realise (or fully comprehend) that this blog is just going to be a way to "re-jog" these memories that I'm beginning to pile up. I can't really express the full experience of this incredible adventure to you guys, even though I'm trying to through this blog... so, no matter what I write about Paris within the next blog post, I won't be able to... you know... transport you there. <3 For that, I'm sorry, because it was really truly incredible. There is no place like Paris - just like there's no place like my London.
As usual, here's the updated Spotify playlist. It didn't grow as much as I would've liked while I was in Paris, but there was so much music that I couldn't keep up with - also, I don't speak French, so it was hard to write down the lyrics to look up later seeing as... you know... it's in a language that I'm completely unfamiliar with. 
I'm not going to lie... for some reason, I've been staring at this blog post for the better part of an hour trying to figure out where to start / how to go about this entire thing. I have no idea why this is that hardest thing to write about so far (it's freakin' Paris, I should have a lot to talk about, and anyone who knows me knows that I like to tell stories - and I'm a professional rambler), but... it has been. So, if it's not up to par, please forgive me. :) I hope you enjoy it at any rate!

Bienvenue a Paris - First Day in the City of Love!

The night before we left for Paris was pretty fantastic. I wasn't feeling too well (my stomach was rather painful), so I stayed in with my roommate, Julie. We went to the pub across the street for a drink or two (or three) and ended up having awkward dance parties all night long, which was absolutely fantastic. We came back and hung out with Scott for a bit, before finally packing and falling asleep to get ready for the epic adventure the next morning!

Woo! Get ready for adventure time!
We headed over to St. Pancras - which is the train station attached directly to King's Cross Station. King's Cross is the train station that has trains that go all around England, whereas St. Pancras does a lot of international kind of stuff. Us Dreamers all took the "Chunnel" (meaning, the train that goes underneath the English Channel to France - yes, this exists. I have no idea how they managed it) to Paris. While we were waiting, though, I sat around the lobby at the train station and got to have some epic and awesome conversations with some Dreamers that I'm not too familiar with, such as Lakin, Sam, Ashley (remember them from the boat cruise?! <3), Monica, etc... Number one, Same and Ashley are just too damn fabulous with their awesome fashion sense and flower hair! Number Two, I'm pretty sure that Lakin and I were separated at birth or something - she's my Irish-cousin, Italian-sister, or something like that. :) Or both. Long story short, these people just... radiate awesomeness, and I'm blessed to have spent some time in their sunshine.

We got onto the and left the station at around... 9:43, if I'm not mistaken, and... again, I love train rides. I can literally sit on a train next to the window and stare out at the landscape for hours, listening to music and journaling away or reading a book or something. That's the definition of relaxation for me - taking a break while traveling to places unknown. If I ever win a million dollars or something, I'll probably pay for my siblings' education (college = $$$... or £££?), donate some to some charity somewhere, and then blow ton just traveling everywhere, if I'm feeling particularly selfish. :) Anyway, it was good craic, and when we go to Paris it was immediately "go, go, go!" as we all got out to take a giant DreamCareers picture in front of the Eiffel Tower! I personally snagged a picture with some random French soldiers (they were very suave and friendly, even with their AK47s), and then got a "heel clicking" picture just for my brother (now we both have one in front of the Eiffel Tower, Chris!). It was pretty great. We were all kind of tired after traveling, but we only have two days in this city to live it up to the full... so, right after we got settled into the hotel, we all went on epic adventures.

Julie went to go and visit her "Frenchies," and Nicole, Alison, Morgan and Lizzie all wanted to do some window shopping, but... IDK, that's not really my vibe. Not only am I broke-ass poor in this country (the exchange rate is only minimally better than London), but I'd rather go walking and get lost / do something a little bit "dangerous" (though tourism is hardly dangerous in Paris), or against the grind. I wanted to see all the city-stuff! So, I tagged along with Lakin, Ashley and Sam to check out the Arch du Triomphe and get up and close and personal with the Eiffel Tower. EXCITING FACT OF THE DAY: It was Sam's 22 birthday that day! HOLY COW - what a way to spend your birthday, in the City of Love! <3 <3 <3 The walk from our hotel to the Arch du Triomphe isn't too bad, and once we got there it was literally tourist central. It was the first major French landmark that we got to see up close and personal, so we kind of got pretty excited. This was our first time experiencing the random French phenomena called "This random tourist wants to take a picture with you just because," so... we rook a random picture with some other random tourists that we will never meet again. It was one of the strangest things that has ever happened.
Lakin and I were separated at birth,
I'm sure of it.

This phenomena was repeated on the other side of the Arch du Triomphe when some random Japanese tourists wanted to take pictures with us - which was awesome, yet awkward still. They did the whole "peace sign" thing, which I thought was a misguided stereotype, but it actually definitely... isn't. At any rate, it was fun and hilarious to run around and taking random pictures with random pictures in a tourist-infested part of town. We also got some cool wish-bracelets from this guy in the tunnel... or, rather, he just ran up and started making them on our wrists and such and made us pay. That happened quite frequently, actually - random, unlicensed vendors and gypsies would just run up to you and demand to sell you things... and they just wouldn't leave you alone. This little string bracelet cost us €2, which was just obscene, but we learned our lesson from that little adventure and made sure to avoid street vendors at all cost after that.

At any rate, we made our way over to the Eiffel Tower, and got to walk through a nicer, less tourist-y and less crowded part of town. Once you get away from the gypsies and crazy vendors and the swarms of tourists, the real "magic" of Paris finally emerges. It was truly marvellous to wander through these residential streets of Central Paris and experience the sheer... beauty of everything. The streets are cobbles, the buildings are all similarly structured and designed - with white stone and dark, metalwork railings. The streets are wide, the trees are tall and beautiful... Of course, though, I had to keep everything into a historical perspective, seeing as Paris and London aren't comparable design wise, seeing as France didn't get railed by Nazi Germany like London did (my poor London <3). Walking through Paris, again, was truly magical (there's no place like the City of Love), but being the geek that I am I couldn't help but reminding myself that it was only 75 years ago that these streets were filled with Nazi Panzer tanks - that Nazi forces walked underneath Arch du Triomphe, straight through the city. It was a humbling, sobering reminder of this city's very scary past, the past that was controlled by the National Socialist Worker's Party. There's this thing called Vichy France, and if you don't know about it shame on you educate yourself.

I am damn fabulous. I mean... erm... Paris. Paris is fabulous.
Very sobering to think about. And, for lack of a way of saying this in a more distinct and/or offensive way, and trying not to offend anybody reading this who might have some serious French-heritage-pride going on... looking at the nearly pristine, preserved streets of Paris in comparison to London gave me a distinct "differentiation" between the two... if you catch my drift. *winkwink*

Anyway... getting back to this magic thing.

We get down to the Eiffel Tower and all got incredibly excited about it because... well, it's the freakin' Eiffel Tower! It's awesome! We walk through this park that will take us to the Eiffel Tower, and suddenly, there are bunch of unlicensed street vendors running around us, shouting random stuff out in languages that I'm not going to even try to pretend I knew. And we're right in the middle of it. And suddenly, the gendarmes (French policemen - "men at arms") are chasing after them, shouting out random things in French. It was an unlicensed vendor's bust, and we were right in the middle of it! It was absolutely insane. Kind of scary, but it's fun to talk about it now that we aren't feeling like our lives are in danger, haha!

Anyway, we continue to walk towards the Eiffel Tower, talking and laughing... and then this old French man grabs my ass. Straight up grabs my ass. And he's this old French geezer with a cane, so I can't exactly hit him back. 'cause he has a cane and stuff. This whole "City of Love" thing was not looking too promising.

This place is magical. I feel like I'm on top of the world!
At any rate, we finally get there, and it's magical. It was fantastic to lean up against the stone barrier and stare out at the Eiffel Tower from the other side of the winding Seine River. Ashley snapped some incredible pictures while we were there - stumbling along the wide roads and laughing like we didn't have a care in the world, and pretty much just getting a kick out of everything that was going on. We were giddy and "drunk" with the contagious French mystique. Some French gendarmes dude even gave me a little souvenir that he had confiscated from an illegal street vendor! Now, that's what I call a souvenir!

My life.
The best part about going to the Eiffel Tower, though, was definitely the carousel nearby! I'd never known about it until Ashley brought it up and said that it was one of the spots that she would love to photograph. And boy, she sure did! Her photos are awesome, and riding on a French carousel for three minutes was literally the highlight of my day. Also, the French strawberry-vanilla ice cream was absolutely mouth watering. Definitely not Italian gelato, but a pretty damn good second place!

We headed back through the city after that and found some restaurant that wasn't closed (we happened to be in France right before Bastille Day, and French people just randomly close their shops / take siestas when they want to - again, Europeans know how to relax), and got ourselves some lovely French food. And, okay, while it was pretty good, it was obscenely expensive. I got the cheapest thing on the menu (French Onion Soup - appetiser status), and got a teeny little cup of cappuccino to keep me awake (we were tired) and I still ended up paying an astounding €20 on that meal! WTF!

I feel like I'm playing God in this picture. Or
Napoleon. Or Gustave Eiffel.
After that, we took this fun bike-ride thing back to the Eiffel Tower to see it at night, while it's all lit up and fabulous. There was a concert going on underneath the Tower (for Bastille Day), but it was so packed that we decided against going - a decision that I regret a little bit in retrospect, but it's okay. :) At any rate, it was gorgeous at night, and we enjoyed ourselves a lot. We saw some street performers performing some Mexican-Spanish salsa/mariachi music (the craze is hitting Europe), while this Italian guy danced the night away. Seriously, this old dude had the moves. It was all great up until some street vendors got into a fist fight and the gendarmes had to come and bring calm back to the area, but other than that, it was magical.

As for my one and only night in Paris? Well, sorry to disappoint you guys, but I turned in at 2:00am, completely exhausted and mostly sober. We were all properly knackered after our day of adventuring and walking and picture-taking and ice-cream eating. I had a French beer (which was some intense stuff - 10%, for a teeny little bottle - but also delicious), before hitting the hay. I was exhausted!

As for the incredible photos that Ashley took... I've posted a few on here, just to show you how incredible the carousel / the Eiffel Tower was / add some flavour to this normally bland-looking blog, but I don't feel comfortable saving them all onto my computer and then putting them onto a slideshow, because they're not my photos. Of course, I've done that with a few things (all of the photos from the scavenger hunt are definitely from Nicole), but these are of such a professional and beautiful caliber that... it just doesn't seem right for me to do that. So, you're just going to have to deal with not looking at them via my blog. :)

Consider this a serious photography recommendation, then: If you're friends with me on Facebook, by all means creep away at the all of the incredible photos that she took (I'm tagged in quite a few of them - look for the album "I LOVE PARIS!"), but if you're not, then PLEASE head over to Ashley's Facebook page, Open Eye Photography by Ashley Kickliter, or go to her WordPress blog! She's truly an incredible photographer. I've never felt happier with photos taken of me... like, ever. I hate pictures of myself, and the photos that she took of me while in the City of Love truly made me actually feel good about myself. She captures the beauty in everything! <3
As Ashley would say, these people radiate good vibes. :)
Why am I friends with so many wonderfully talented people? It actually hurts a little.

... okay, it doesn't, it's freakin' awesome, but seriously - I'm one lucky person to have gotten to meet and know so many awesome people on this incredible London adventure. <3

Check out these random iPhone photos (much less beautiful and awesome than Ashley's) that I took while wandering around France during that first, insane day! :)

The Sacré Coeur, Notre Dame and Getting Lost

I woke up the next day pretty tired and such, and my stomach was pretty sore from doing all of that adventuring the day before. I got down to the lobby around 11:20 to try and grab a late breakfast... which I had just missed. So, no food for Katie. That morning I wanted to go with a group to go and see the catacombs, but because it was Bastille Day, they were closed. The Louvre was free, though - but because it's free, it's flooded with people, and the wait was at least two hours... and I only had one day left in this beautiful city (and I'd also been there - props to the 'rents for an awesome childhood). So, I decided to try something new... I went along with a group of fellow Dreamers to go and check out the Sacré Coeur, which is this awesome church on this hill in Paris that gives you an incredible view of the city. Not only that, but there's this incredible little French marketplace right next door with a lot of great crepe shops and souvenir locations. It was a really grand way to start the day!

We took the Metro (Metropolitan) up to the Sacré Coeur - which was a good long while, but I got to have some spiffy conversations with some Dreamers staff and other Dreamers. When we got there, it was literally so gorgeous, it was heart stopping. Even the trudge up the stairs was worth it (I needed the exercise anyway, never mind the blistering heat). But, being a hotbed for tourism, there were not only a lot of tourists, but street performers and gypsies and street vendors there, as well. At this point I'm not only getting used to these annoying street vendors, but I'm getting really... well, fed up. Because sometimes, "No" means "NO," and "NO" means "get the fuck away from me," and sometimes they don't realise that, so they literally follow you around demanding for you to buy their stuff, but quite honestly, why am I going to buy your crappy souvenir things when a) a hot French policeman gave me one yesterday and b) you can't respect my privacy and stop hounding me? At one point, a gypsy boy started following me around, which I took for just another street vendor kind of scheme... until I felt my messenger bag being tugged.

I thought nothing of it - we're in a bustling, pushing, loud crowd of people headed up to the top of the hill at the Church, and I've been bumping into people all day... and that's when I heard my buckles come undone, the velcro rip -

And, okay... I'm ashamed of myself for doing this, but it was a gut reaction created from a combination of a) being exhausted because of the heat and b) being fed up from being hounded: I spin around, I kick this little gypsy boy in the stomach, and I shout a very choice, obscene French word at this little boy. And he just stared at me with these huge eyes...

... and shouted something obscene back, and ran away, into the throng of shocked, horrified tourists.

I can laugh about it right now, or I can feel ashamed. When I told some of my friends about it later, one of them (you know who you are) said, "... are you fucking kidding me? You kicked a little boy?" Yup, I kicked a little boy. Who was trying to pickpocket me, and really... half of me is ashamed, but the other half of me is going all silver-backed gorilla over my precious valuables and beating its chest in pride.

It kind of looks like a mini Taj Mahal...?
Anyway, we get up to the Sacré Coeur, and it's just as beautiful as I could have imagined - even more so, seeing as I wasn't really expecting much from it (I came for the view, which was not as impressive as I thought it would be, seeing as Paris is literally covered in gross city smog). Still, it was worth the trek, definitely so. We got to go inside of this beautiful church (no pictures allowed - sorry, y'all), and then we got to spend a good hour or so inside of this incredible marketplace! There were so many exciting things to see and do there, that I kind of... purposefully got lost. I love getting lost in a strange city, it's always so much fun. Of course, I stayed close enough to everything so that I would have a vague idea of how to get back, but I was enjoying myself too much, walking into random French pastry shops and trying out my very poor French on anyone who would stop long enough to listen (they were all actually very kind about it, because they could tell that I was trying my hardest - that's different than from last time!). I met some crazy British students on a class trip (literally crazy), and ate a nuttela-banana crepe, which was a throwback to my family's trip there two years ago. I then walked through all of the different places that you could get paintings, but didn't buy anything (as I had literally just run out of money with this whole crepe thing - damn, Paris is expensive...).

Business in Paris!
While most of the unlicensed street vendors and gypsies hung around the actual church itself, there weren't many people like that in the actual marketplace, which was an absolute relief. This experience was a firm reminder of the fact that, if you really want to fall in love with a place, you have to get the tourist-y stuff out of the way and really see where people live and work and thrive. You need to get away from the hustle and bustle and tourism, and experience the city life that the actual residents of said city get to experience!

This lady was kind of my hero of the day.
That being said, the best part about the marketplace were definitely the street performers. There was an old man playing a music box and singing into a microphone, which was absolutely lovely and adorable... and then there was this... theatrical old woman who should have straight up been cast in a French movie for her awesome stage / street presence. She was my favourite thing about that entire experience, hands down. I was eating this French crepe, listening to this woman sing away to the best French song ever written, "La Vie en Rose," and I literally could have sat there for that entire day and done nothing but listen to and watch her. She was seriously the badass of the day. That is the Paris that I love. <3

Unfortunatley, we had to leave the marketplace soon after that, but no fear - next stop was Notre Dame!
Check out these cool pictures from the marketplace near the Sacré Coeur, and the beautiful church itself! What a cool part of town - and definitely brought the real magic of Paris to life!

"Who is the monster and who is the man...?"
When I was in Paris two year ago with my family, we ended up not actually going inside of the Notre-Dame de Paris, because a) it was closing and b) there were so many tourists there that it was suffocating. This time, there were just as many tourists... but there was a much more organised way of going about the entire ordeal. Myself, being a determined adventurer (I should just be Katherine Adventure McManus or something), got in line to wait out the entire ordeal - which actually wasn't that long of a wait. Finally, I got to go inside of Notre Dame. And, okay, I've seen the Vatican, and I've seen Westminster Abbey, but there's something about Notre Dame that is just... sheer power. Sheer, dark, medieval power. It was kind of overwhelming. While the rest of the Dreamers went through the cathedral pretty quickly, I sat down and just stared up at this... enormous ceiling, this towering structure, and I was completely in awe. Again, pictures can hardly do this journey of mine justice, and this is no exception - just... sheer power. Awesomeness. And it also helped in that my fellow Dreamers and I had been singing "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" before going in, though Quasimodo wasn't actually there. Ah, well - can't have everything in life!
Check out these random (albeit poor) pictures of the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris!

Next begins my... random, crazy adventure back to the hotel for, once I left Notre Dame, I realised that I was completely alone, in a foreign country, with no WiFi, and no map to get me back (France is not good with having public maps like London is). I was on the other side of Paris with no money, and no possible way to know how to get back. So... I improvised.

Yup. Improvised.

Okay. Before I went to France, my mother had one very specific request for me, and that was to always have a buddy with me. I'm pretty sure I freaked her out with my stories of "I just wandered around Warsaw, Poland by myself for six hours," from last year and I have this tendency to do a) stupid shit and b) get hurt doing stupid shit / even mundane tasks (hence the searing tea burn on my stomach). So, yeah... a mother's concern is to be expected.

But getting lost in Paris, France? By myself? For four hours? Too tempting. Sorry, Mom, I can't keep promises of this nature for very long! ;)

Coolest, spontaneous attraction ever.
First off, I'm not going to leave France without checking out the residential areas. So, I wandered away from Notre Dame and walked along the Seine for a while, popping in and out of random stores and churches (there are many random churches in this city, much like London / the rest of Europe, which is awesome and exciting). I stumbled upon this giant building which I think was the Institute of France (whatever that is), and then I ended up finding the famous Love-Lock Bridge, right by the Louvre! This phenomenon started about two years ago and since then literally thousands of couples have come from around the world to put their lock of love onto the bridge. I looked for a particular name (*cough*Kelsey*cough*), but couldn't find it amidst all of the others. I almost put one lock up myself (with <3 McManus Clan on it - something with family sentimental value), but couldn't afford it, once again. Ah, well - it was a beautiful sight to behold nonetheless, and the fact that someone was busking nearby and singing romance songs (including Damien Rice's "The Blower's Daughter") wasn't a bad way to enjoy the romantic atmosphere, either!

And it is at this point of our journey in which Katie goes "... oh, shit, I have an hour to get back to the hotel, and it's a fucking far way away." Because, while Katie is at the Louvre, the hotel is all the way down the Champs-Élysées, past the Arch du Triomphe - a good four miles away (with less than an hour to go). And, if you read the last post about my feet... and my burn... yeah. Yeah. Not looking forward to this.

Vive la France! #bastilleday
The rest of the day was literally a "race" against time and the sunshine (I was still wearing this damn hoodie - I was afraid to expose my gauzed-up stomach) It was nice getting to walk down the Champs-Élysées, though, at any rate, because I got to see the aftereffects of the Bastille Day parade (which I had missed that morning, due to our adventure to the Sacré Coeur). There were just a ton of French flags everywhere - including a ginormous one hanging off of the middle of the Arch du Triomphe. There were a few French soldiers guarding the arch when I quickly stumble-walked past it (damn, it was hot), and I would've stayed to look at it a bit more closely - but I had fifteen minutes left to get back to the Hyatt before the DreamCareers peoples left for good and I had to find my own way back to England - which would not be a pleasant experience, to say the least.

Long story short, I got back to the hotel on time (drenched in sweat, hungry and exhausted) after a long, lonely day of adventuring - lonely not in a bad way, but in a good, relaxing kind of way (even extroverts like myself need their alone time, and that's exactly what the doctor ordered for this weekend, let me tell you!). I met up with all of my friends (who had some wild French adventures of their own, adventures that I will not go into detail with *winkwink*), and we all sat down and enjoyed one another's company before DreamCareers packed up, got into the buses, and headed back towards the France Norde train station to begin our return journey back to St. Pancras at King's Cross Station.
Check out these random pictures from my insane last day in Paris, France, from getting lost to getting un-lost, to getting lost once again - all alone in a hoodie, with no WiFi, map, or French-speaking abilities.

Return to London, England

The ride back to England was simply lovely. I loved staring out of the window and staring at the French countryside as it flew by me - and the fact that the sun was setting wasn't a bad cherry to top the cake, either. It was absolutely stunning, and I took a few crappy videos to attempt to capture the sheer, simple... serenity of what I saw. Before we hit the coast and found ourselves flying beneath the English channel, however, I caught one last glimpse of France and was reminded of the fact that... we live in an absolutely beautiful world, and we are all blessed to be here. <3

Coming back to London was actually... wonderful. Again, I love Paris - there's a magic that's there that's unlike anything in the world, but... I'm not quite sure how to put this... London is kind of like... part of my heart? I don't know, living here and working here has really opened my eyes to this wonderful, strange and eclectic city. Sure, it may not be the "prettiest" city out there - let's be honest here, there are plenty of other beautiful, untouched and pristine cities throughout the rest of Europe, especially in Italy, Austria, Germany, Paris, etc... Little places here and there that just seem so... I don't know... old. And London is not like that, not necessarily. There are old parts, definitely, but it's interspersed with the random and the modern - the old, the new, the riotous and the traditional. Pubs on every corner, hidden away in narrow, cobbled roads... right next to a giant glass building shaped like a bullet!

I could spend an entire life traveling Europe, and never be bored. I would never be unsatisfied.

And you know what? Paris, France - while absolutely gorgeous and wonderful and a perfect place to have a wonderful, long holiday - is just too pretty for me to stay there for too long. I'm not that kind of person, I can't handle the quintessentially beautiful for extended periods of time. Even Colorado, with the pristine mountains and beautiful natural scenery... I like the old, wooden cabins and the dirty days of hiking and the rough and tumble outdoorsy lifestyle. Just so, I like the dirty parts of London, the parts that don't match up - the brick and the glass, and the old and new - the fact that people are always in a hurry, that there are pubs at every corner. That you don't have siestas. It's not perfect, and it's not the best place to have a nice, long holiday (for most people, that is), but... I like London. I love London.

There's a quote by some guy somewhere that I read recently... it said, "London is a riddle, and Paris is the answer." But I like the riddle more than the answer, if that makes any sense. If you have the answer already, what's the fun in that?

London is my home away from home. Europe is an absolutely beautiful, perfect place... but you don't have to be living out of a Hallmark card to have a good time. Sometimes the best places to live aren't the romantic comedies with the perfect, Hollywood ending - they're the documentaries.

And I never liked romantic comedies much, either. ;)

Update on the Tea-Burn

So, this burn business is a real pain in the ass. I've been going back to the A&E every other day ever since the incident last Tuesday (a week ago today as I'm writing this), and it's been... well, a very stressful process. I'm incredibly worried that I'm going to be left with a horrific burn scar (which is a definite possibility - I'm so nervous about it that even googling burn scar remedies makes me shake with worry. The can be... well, pretty horrendous). The good thing is that I've avoided infection, and that these regular trips to the A&E won't be necessary for very much longer (which is a blessing, because I sat in the hospital for a good 4 hours today in this damn queue to see a doctor - #downsidetoNHS), we're going to move away from that topic and turn towards avoiding scarring / helping the wound heal smoothly. This is actually some pretty tricky business, seeing as it's on my stomach, which is... you know, something that I use quite often. I'm bending over / standing up / sitting down constantly, so it's always getting agitated, which can lead to some complications.

So... yeah. Infection is probably not happening anymore, thank goodness - but scarring might ensue, and it might be pretty severe, so I'm not too happy about it. I can't believe that I might be permanently (and badly) scarred on my stomach from a burn given to me in England... while trying to make tea. Half of me wants to laugh at how absolutely absurd this is, but the other half of me literally just wants to start sobbing everywhere. So I'm just settling with trying to ignore it for the time being, being being a severely scarred actress is not exactly "hip."

It will all be okay... plenty of actors have scars, right? Look at Tina Fey!

Some Irresistible Work!

So, Irresistible has been doing a ton of post-production work for a lot of the projects that I got to work on these past few months, and one of them is about to go live soon! Go to the Cadbury's website soon and see if you can find the Crunchums module, which is pretty much an interactive kind of deal where you make music... and chocolate explodes everywhere. Or something like that. It's tailored to focus on a specific age group / gendered audience (male, early 20's), so I'm not exactly sure where it's going to go... but, still, it'll be cool to check out

Also, make sure to keep an eye out on the Warburton's website and YouTube pages to look for the Warburton's Krazy Kitchen - and keep a look out for Kelvin, who's my fellow intern who got a random cameo in the advert! :) Very exciting business!

As for the short, "Mike" - that won't be hitting the net any time soon, seeing as it was just filmed a few weeks ago and it still has to go through the post-production process. Also, it still has to go through the UK Film Festival, which won't be until late August. Patience, young Padawans, but no fear - you will get to see this beautifully short (but also very tragic) film very soon. <3

Well... and that's it for now! I'll try and keep up with everything that's going on, again - and, again, sorry for the rambling. Just trying to write everything down so that I can remember it later on! And tomorrow is the The World's End midnight premiere and Cornetto Trilogy marathon madness with Shannon and Alli! CAN'T WAIT!

So, until the next adventure...