Wordless Wednesday: St. Thomas Views

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The view out of our rented Jeep on the first day.

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The view when ziplining

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The view from a bar window

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The view from our rental home – what a tease! It’s too dangerous to climb down…

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The view of me underwater

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My view of my daughters kayaking from my kayak

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The view of Charlotte Amalie lit up at night from a kayak

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The view from our rental home at sunset

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The view from our highest ziplining point

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Underwater snorkeling views

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Me enjoying the views!

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Dinner at Dishoom, London

Just weeks before I visited London in June, my cousin’s wife was there with their daughter. I asked for suggestions about places to eat and things to do, and she recommended Dishoom. She called it “Indian food,” and after all four of us loved our meal at Sanaa (twice), we figured it was worth a shot.

map to dishoom kings crossDishoom describes themselves as paying “loving homage to the Irani cafés that were once part of the fabric of life in Bombay.” There is more than one Dishoom location, and we chose the King’s Cross location for dinner after a day in The British Museum. Luckily, my Google maps were choosing to load that day, so I could find the way from the train station to the restaurant. We almost didn’t make it, because the front door is not visible from the street. You have to walk around the side of a large (office?) building.

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Kings Cross Station

interactive birdcage art piece identified flying object

“Identified Flying Object” interactive birdcage art piece outside the station (DD2 inside)

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Dishoom – we found it!

We hadn’t eaten much that day, and had done a lot of walking, so we were ready to share a family-style feast! We were seated upstairs – the stairs are behind the clock in this photo:

dishoom interior

The four of us went through the menu, and since we were a little concerned with our pronunciations and the server understanding us, I started a notepad file on my phone and listed all the items we wanted to order. We got: lamb samosa, vegetable samosa, black daal, cheese naan, rice, calamari, chicken ruby, gunpowder potatoes, murgh malai, far far and 2 drinks for Brian. The samosas were yummy, the daal was amazing, the calamari my husband and kids liked so much they ordered a second portion (they were small, tapas-like sizes), and I loved the gunpowder potatoes but they were too spicy for Brian.

dishoom far far menu

See the description of Far Far?

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Here’s what Far Far looks like! It tasted like unsalted Bugles

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dishoom black daal

This daal was the best I’ve ever had, with creamy undertones!

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The teen daughters enjoyed it! YOLO they said, about ordering the Far Far…

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Here’s a peek at some of the architecture:

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Through the window we could just make out a ping pong tournament

Through the window we could just make out a heated ping pong match

Aqua leather booths

Aqua leather booths

Bartender below us in the Permit Room

Bartender below us in the Permit Room chopping an ice block

It was trendy, funky, comfortable and fun. Although we all kind of wanted dessert eventually, we were full as we were leaving. We asked one of the hostesses if she could recommend a good place to have dessert in a couple hours. She recommended Flesh and Buns. “It’s near Matilda,” she said. “Matilda the musical?” I asked. “We actually have tickets to see that show on Wednesday. We’ll have to go to Flesh and Buns for dinner that night.”

 

10704222_10153285720715923_4313730862484977527_oThen – get this – she gave us 4 coupons to come back to Dishoom for breakfast and get a free drink! So two days later we were back for naan stuffed with eggs, sausage and other goodies! The runny egg yolks were really dark, almost orange. Farm fresh! My mango banana lassi was delicious!

She told us about the Flesh and Buns menu and said to ask for her boyfriend, Casper, one of the bartenders. And we did… but that meal is a story for a different time!

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Flying over Leeds Castle

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Get in the trees!

When our family ventured to London last June, we researched fun things to do with TEENS beforehand. Traveling with older teenagers is not like traveling with tiny children – but they aren’t quite like traveling with a set of contemporaries either.

adventure-GoApefamilyOne of the fun adventures my husband stumbled across online was Go Ape, a tree-top adventure that lets you “get in touch with your inner Tarzan.”

Their course includes a high ropes course adventure with a zip line at the end of each challenge. Our family had done a ropes course at Dollywood, but certainly not in treetops near a castle! And it did not include ziplining. (After only three years, Dollywood removed the two-acre Adventure Mountain multi-level rope course, so don’t go looking for it now…)

While at Dollywood, I found myself gripping the ropes tighter than I thought I would, getting a little stressed about falling despite the harness and safety wire. It was still an enjoyable trip, though, so when Brian recommended taking a train to Kent for the day and trying the Go Ape course, followed by a castle tour and hedge maze large enough to actually get a little lost in, we were all really excited about it.

On the train from London to Kent you can read, nap, chat, and enjoy views like these!

On the train from London to Kent you can read, nap, chat, and enjoy views like these!

We prepped by reading their website. The text and photos promised breathtaking views of the beautiful area surrounding Leeds Castle (near Maidstone), and “obstacles that will get the hairs on the back of neck bristling”. It also said the high ropes courses were approximately 40 feet above the forest floor and zip wires were over 800 feet in length – and my favorite part “leap off our Tarzan Swing and tackle our crossings whilst enjoying some of Britain’s most breathtaking scenery“.

Gorgeous castle grounds

Gorgeous castle grounds

raffi apeAlso thanks to the website, we knew how to get there, how early to arrive before our scheduled flight time, and what to wear – something you don’t mind getting grubby that covers your stomach and an emergency rain jacket. Appropriate close-toed footwear with soles with good grips – no sandals or slip-off shoes. Long hair should be tied back. And they recommended gloves, so I grabbed a pair of those $1 stretchy Target gloves for each of us. (I was the only one who wore them. I thought they were to avoid rope burn, but they were really to prepare for bad weather – and we had GORGEOUS weather!)

You can bring scaredy-cat friends who don’t want to participate to enjoy the forest grounds and take photos for you. You can also bring little ones: the Tree Top Junior Adventure includes up to an hour of exploring the tree tops for 6 – 12 year olds to enjoy.

We arrived right on time, locked up our belongings, signed insurance waivers, and got fit into our safety harnesses.

Brian steps into his safety harness

Brian steps into his safety harness

An adventure begins with a safety briefing. There was a group of teens there celebrating a friend’s birthday, and we had our safety talk together. That was nice, because you could see the information repeated a few times so it would sink in despite your excitement.

Then there are a couple of easy obstacles to try near the start, so the safety person can make sure you are doing them correctly, and so someone can back out if they are too uncomfortable.

Then you are led by signs through the forest from obstacle to obstacle, climbing at the start of each one, and meeting the ground after each one with a fun zipline down!

My daughter ascending to an obstacle

My daughter ascending to an obstacle

All of us enjoying the course

All of us enjoying the course

DD1 gets ready to zipline down!

DD1 gets ready to zipline down!

DD2 wanted me to take photos and videos of her throughout the course, but my hands were shakey from the height and from gripping so hard, and I was worried I would drop her iPhone! That didn’t stop her from making her own videos and taking selfies up high in the treetops without fear.

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At one point my nervousness got the best of me. I ziplined down to the ground and took photos for a few minutes, and then finished up the course with the rest of the family. I just needed to feel solid ground for a few minutes, and my daughters applauded me when I stuck with it and climbed back up! #gotMyBack

Here are some more visuals of our tree-top Go Ape adventure:

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“I’m so glad we did this instead of Harry Potter, mom!”

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At the end we all received certificates of completion, as a memento to the fun you just survived. Just a short walk from the course is Leeds Castle, known as the Queen’s Castle and “the loveliest castle in the world“, where we planned to have a picnic lunch.

Enjoying the walk to the castle

My family walking to Leeds Castle on a gorgeous summer day in the UK

With peacocks roaming and sheep wandering, you’ll feel like you’ve gotten away from it all! I loved much of the art inside the castle as well.

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Outside the castle an animal show geared towards young children was going on. We went into the hedge maze while many of the other guests are occupied. It’s NOT an easy maze.

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The maze ends in the center, where you take steps down to an underground grotto!

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In the grotto

On our way back to the meet the shuttle to our train, we spotted pre-wedding photos happening on the castle grounds. The castle was closing as the wedding caterer arrived.

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This was certainly one of the best days of our London vacation in the summer of 2015! We had active time and passive time, we worked individually and as a team, we got exercise and enjoyed the amazing beauty around us. If you take a family trip nearby, I recommend a day trip to Kent, Leeds Castle and the GoApe treetop zipline adventure for sure!

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Are you a Fansie of Newsies?

I’m a pretty huge Disney fan. I’ll sit and watch “The Little Mermaid” for fun with a daughter (and, not coincidentally, both daughters are named for Disney characters), or see a newly released animated film while it is in theaters. For some reason, though, I’m not a Fansie.

IMG_4166What? Haven’t heard of Fansies? They’re the cult followers of Disney’s “Newsies”, a musical based on the New York City newsboy strike of 1899. This sleepy 1992 film was so requested as a musical, that Disney took it to Broadway. It seems many tweens on Tumblr followed – in overalls and snap caps – drooling. Now in its first national tour, Disney’s “Newsies” is CURRENTLY IN TAMPA at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts.

I was offered two free tickets to see Newsies in exchange for an honest review of the show. Here’s my opinion:

I enjoy a musical without too many extra bells and whistles. I like to focus on song, dance and story when sitting in a theatre. Emotion on an actor’s face and in his voice is enough to make me tear up. I don’t need techno tricks and LED boards. Newsies earns an A- in this area. The dancing is highly energetic and emphatic. I read there are over 37 backflips in each performance! These young men are acrobatic and adorable, and can capture your eye while pirouetting 6 times on a single piece of newspaper.

The amazing dancing you can expect to see in NEWSIES

The amazing dancing you can expect to see in NEWSIES

On the other hand, the songs are repetitive. Kinda cute and catchy, but repetitive both in the lyrics and in the way they reprise throughout the show. Maybe this is to help get the crowd singing the songs in their heads, or to leave singing “I’m the king of New York!” But my husband admits that trick didn’t work on him. He did not leave singing and had forgotten most lyrics aside from the phrase “I’m the king of New York!” by the next morning. As much as he was entertained by the spectacle, he’s truly not a fansie. Like the Orlando Weekly said, “Alan Menken’s score, which includes “King of New York,” “Santa Fe,” “The World Will Know” and “Once and For All” from the film, plus a few newly composed songs, really has less than a dozen tunes in total, with several reprised repeatedly.”

The set has a bit of digital background, but other than that it is old-school. The multiple levels of fire escapes spin, while losing and gaining staircases, creating clever use of space. The first time the set moves completely before your eyes, it’s quite captivating. The digital effect I liked the most was that the clouds in the “sky” moved across the moon throughout the show. It made me feel like the boys were really outside even though I was in a theatre.

I grew up with much love for the musical “Annie”. I wondered if “Newsies” would just be Annie for boys? In fact, the two shows have had a sing-off over which is the ultimate show about New York City. But despite the appearance of ragamuffin youngsters and a Roosevelt or two, the shows aren’t very similar. “Newsies” had a larger story about challenging a young generation to make change for the future. Perhaps boys selling newspapers working together to fight ‘the man’ could also help make life better for children in sweatshops, shoeshines and others trapped in child labor. Seriously, this is discussed in song in the show!

In a review of the show by Carter Gaddis for Tampa Bay Bloggers, he says, “Morgan Keene‘s performance as Katherine on Watch What Happens was my favorite number — as a longtime journalist, I could relate to the nerves associated with an intense desire to get the story JUST right.” In this somewhat-meta song she mentions the story in a story placed before her and the audience. There’s the David and Goliath story of the newsboys rising up against media giants, and there’s also the thought that she could cover the story and make news out of the little guys. I enjoyed the message of this song, but Keene’s performance here was not my favorite. My husband and I both thought she got a little screechy at times.

Something about the refrain she sang throughout the show made me hum a line from Beauty and the Beast’s ballad “Home”, “What I’d give to return to the life that I knew lately.” The musicality of the two were very similar to me.

To see a bit of the show for yourself, here’s a playlist of clips:

Follow @newsies or #newsiesontour online to find out more about the cast.

Disney’s “Newsies” is at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa, Florida, through Sunday. Click here for show times and tickets. I was provided with two tickets to the premier of “Newsies” for review purposes.

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