Travel

In Bloom at The Huntington

I just returned to Brighton from a whirlwind visit home in Southern California. While I barely survived the summer heat, I made time to explore new places (yes even in my own home), which included a first-time trip to The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. It was a perfect place to spend a sunny afternoon.

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Located in San Marino, a tiny suburb south of Pasadena, The Huntington displays diverse gardens with a wide range of international and domestic flora.

A friend and myself walked through desert gardens, greenhouses, a Japanese garden, Chinese garden and a rose garden — all the while melting in 90℉/32℃ heat. I was dripping with sweat but it was lovely to see koi ponds, sit beneath trees for a quick shady respite from the sun, and smell the sweet scent of roses.

Through the gardens there are also cafes and restaurants, and the elegant Rose Garden Tea Room, where reservations are recommended.

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At the end of the day I went into the library galleries and spent the remaining time reading my way through the permanent exhibitions: “Remarkable Works, Remarkable Times,” and “Beautiful Science: Ideas that Changed the World.”

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Overall it was a lovely afternoon well spent and I will definitely have to go back to enjoy the tea room.

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Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London is currently home to the Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains, a complete assault to your audial and visual senses. From now until 1 October 2017, you can experience this unique exhibition, which was curated to commemorate the band’s 50 years since they released their first single.

The V&A states:

The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains experience will be a spectacular and unparalleled audio-visual journey through Pink Floyd’s unique and extraordinary worlds; chronicling the music, design, and staging of the band, from their debut in the 1960s through to the present day.”

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I had the immense pleasure of visiting Their Mortal Remains on 31 May, and it was well worth it. I practically threw myself down the rabbit hole and Interstellar Overdrive was the song of choice. Headphones are a necessary part of this experience as they play Pink Floyd music while you’re walking through rooms, and they even sense when screens are showing interviews.

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Letter from Syd Barrett to his girlfriend, Jenny Spires.

From one room to another, I was continuously met with psychedelic concert props, album artwork, instruments band members used, and overall, the remnants that make up the history of Pink Floyd. It felt as if for just a moment I took an eerie journey through time and through music, and came out completely reborn. That’s how powerful this exhibition is. I could also be biased because I’m a huge Pink Floyd fan.

There is even an interactive portion where visitors can play with sound mixing to “Money.” You can rid yourself of vocals, emphasise the bass, or the guitar, or whatever your musical heart desires.

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When all is laid out in front of you: letters, lyrics, musings, etc. you are privy to the utter genius that is Pink Floyd. The last room is a virtual concert where you take your headphones off, and just sit back and watch the High Hopes music video and a live version of Comfortably Numb.

And so the exhibition entails what its title suggests: the remains of a great band’s past, experiences etched in memory through numerous interviews, and the artistry of the music itself. I was left wanting more by the time I exited the exhibition and that’s the way it should end. So if you are visiting London this summer, please do yourself a favour and buy a ticket to Their Mortal Remains here.

Last Call in Dubrovnik

13 May 2017

Due to the previous night’s adventures, I overslept from all the drinking. But because I drank copious amounts of water, I did not wake up with a hangover. Take that, 30! However, I missed my chance for an early morning hike up Mount Srd, which ended up being fate since it was incredibly foggy and overcast in the morning.

Instead, I went back to Dubravka 1836 Restaurant & Cafe for breakfast and yet again battled the aggressive pigeons.

Afterward, I finally made my way to the City Walls tour which completely surround Old Town Dubrovnik. It was 150kn, which is about €20/£18. The medieval pathways are pretty narrow so if you are a slow walker make sure you step aside to let faster walkers pass …. Sort of like you’re in traffic. Also, this is a one way journey so walk up the stairs and make your way towards the Adriatic. There’s also plenty of vantage points, cafes, and rest stops if you need a break or simply want to look over the sea with a delicious smoothie in hand.
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One of the towers you’ll see along the City Walls tour is Minčeta Tower, which was the filming location for Game of Thrones’ House of the Undying in Season 2 — where Daenerys enters to find her dragons. Did I reenact a few scenes and take some photos? You bet I did! “Where are my dragons?!”

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House of the Undying in Game of Thrones, but Minčeta Tower to Dubrovnik.

After exploring the City Walls I headed to the Old Port where I caught a boat to Lokrum Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Come to think of it, Old Town Dubrovnik and the walls are Heritage Sites as well. Within Lokrum, you will find a Benedictine monastery. Its gardens were also used to film Qarth scenes for GoT Season 2. I hiked around the island, dipped my toes in the Adriatic, and took a few pictures of the local wildlife. It is a gorgeous island that you can definitely plan a picnic at, especially if cruises are overrunning Dubrovnik. In fact, Robert my GoT tour guide, recommended that if a cruise comes into Dubrovnik the city will definitely be overcrowded. So, it is during this time when people should visit Lokrum.


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Also on Lokrum? A Game of Thrones Media Centre where you will find the Iron Throne!

When I left the island I went back to Barba for some lunch then, with the sky now clear, I headed to the cable cars. I went up Mount Srd and took a few lovely shots of Dubrovnik.

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View from Mount Srd

Afterward, I went back down and back into the city where I walked into a marching band walking through the main path. They stopped at Luža Square, and played, I kid you not, the Game of Thrones theme song. It was fate.

 

I then grabbed some dinner at Pizzeria Oliva and ended my night in Dubrovnik the way it started: drinking wine and D’vino.


Overall, Dubrovnik was truly amazing and I will definitely go back. I’d also like to explore more of Croatia and go on a wine tour or two. It was easy to give myself into my surroundings. I would just sit, relax and listen to the swarm of birds, the waves softly crashing on Lokrum, and even the mating calls of the peacocks. Each city during my Journey to 30 was unique and beautiful in its own right, but Dubrovnik was hands down my favourite. Also, my departure from the country was made all the more better as I witnessed an obnoxious and entitled drunk passenger get kicked off my EasyJet flight. Helpful travel tip: Don’t board a plane while completely belligerent and smelling of booze.

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Dubrovnik: A Game of Tours

12 May 2017

Today was the day. The day I was most looking forward to throughout my entire Journey to 30: the Game of Thrones walking tour in Dubrovnik!!! I woke up feeling giddy and the city bells chiming in the distance really gave a King’s Landing vibe.

I’m not one to skip breakfast so I headed back to Dubravka 1836 Restaurant & Café before I met with my tour guide. I had a seaside table, therefore, I was also right next to the pigeons who were pretty aggressive trying to steal my bread. NOT TODAY, PIGEONS!

Then it was 9:30AM. Go time. Our meeting point was right next to the cafe so I walked over and met Robert, the tour guide, or Bobo as the locals know him. Robert is a current Game of Thrones extra and has been since season 2. His ultimate goal? To be killed off on the last season of GoT. The tour group was small with only 5 of us (plus a baby strapped to a mother’s back and a toddler. Go Mom!).  

Robert led us to our first stop: Fort Lovrijenac, where many scenes were filmed including Joffrey’s name day and various Red Keep scenes. The Fort also provided vantage points overlooking the Adriatic. It also overlooked the scene for the Purple Wedding, aka Joffrey’s wedding scene and [SPOILER ALERT!] his subsequent death. Muahahaha!

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This site was chosen for Joffrey’s wedding scene, aka: The Purple Wedding.

We headed back down the stairs towards Pile Gate and looked at another filming site from Season 2, where Joffrey orders Gold Cloaks to kill all of Robert Baratheon’s bastard children.

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Then we stopped at Pile Gate where Robert talked about filming the riot scene where King’s Landing peasants attack Joffrey … by throwing “cow pie” at him as Tyrion says. Robert was one of the peasants in the background.

 

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Robert proudly presenting his work on the riot scene.

We then walked up more stairs to the infamous steps where Cersei’s Walk of Atonement took place, or, walk of shame. Shame. Shame. *bell rings*

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This was actually taken on a different day, but with far less people than there were when I took the tour.

At this point we also took a little break while Robert went to get replicas of GoT swords! He had an almost-replica of Needle, Arya Stark’s sword, a Lannister shield, and of course, Longclaw, Jon Snow’s Valyrian steel sword. When he asked if I wanted to hold the Lannister shield, I believe my exact words were, “I’m not about that Lannister life.”

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I am no one. #ValarMorghulis

After our photo-op, we walked through the city following the shameful steps of Cersei, and towards Kula Luda, which provided a vantage point of the Old Port. Robert ended the tour here and told us some amusing anecdotes.* Overall, it was such a great experience! I highly recommend completing a tour with this group as all of the guides do have some involvement with the show. For more info, click here.

My Nosh for the Day:

Lunch @ Barba

I had the shrimp salad and salmon sandwich with the Barba Pale Ale from LAB Split Craft Brewery (located in Split, another seaside city north of Dubrovnik). The name of this casual restaurant and name of the beer is purely coincidental. Their menu is simple but delicious, serving seafood only. Most popular dish? The octopus burger. I highly recommend this place if you like seafood.

Drinkies @ D’Vino

Of course, I had to come back again. This time I ordered the flight of white wines. Then I bought a glass of a sauvignon blanc. I stayed here and talked with friendly employees (shout out to Ana!) until I had to leave for my dinner reservation.

Dinner @ Nautika

Nautika is known to both tourists and locals. It’s a high-end restaurant specialising in “Sophisticated mediterranean cuisine” as their website states. I normally do not eat seafood but everything was locally sourced, and hey, “When in Dubrovnik.” I definitely had to take advantage of my location and Nautika’s Head Chef Mario Bunda. And people, the man knows what he’s doing. OH.MY.GAH! My dinner was worth every F***ING penny. I spent somewhere around £80 for everything. The check does look scary in Croatian Kuna though.

I started with a cocktail: Nautika Mule

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My starter: Shrimp Polenta

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Main: Sea Bass on a bed of tomatoes paired with a white wine my waiter chose for me. I apologise everyone, I was too eager and forgot to take a picture of this freaking delectable dish. My bad.

Compliments of the chef:

A matcha goat cheese and HOMEMADE chocolates with figs. I. CAN’T. EVEN.

To be completely honest, I was drunk by the end of my dinner. C’mon though, can you blame me? I had a flight of wine, two full glasses of wine, and a strong cocktail. Oh and I forgot! The aperitif Nautika gave me, which I could smell when it was placed in front of me. After dinner I headed back to my Airbnb and passed out. Best day evvaaaa!

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*Robert’s Anecdotes:

  • One of Robert’s favourite scenes actually involves his former chemistry teacher. He happily watched his former teach being grabbed by the throat by a Gold Cloak in the scene where the Baratheon bastards are being killed.
  • If an extra dies and his “dead” face is seen on camera, that extra can no longer work on the show. Huge red Xs are scribbled across their photos and they’re done with GoT. Because of this, most of the extras try to hide their faces if they are part of the dead in the background. One of the directors encountered this while filming a scene and ordered extras to lie dead on the ground. All of them decided to lie face down. When the extras were told that some had to turn around, the extras would lie face up but threw their arms across their faces. The director had to explicitly state that he had to see some faces. HAHAHAHAHA.
  • Robert personally thanks Malta for preventing further GoT filming there as it was the location for King’s Landing in Season 1. After a squabble, GoT moved to Dubrovnik, for which they are grateful.
  • Dubrovnik extras loved Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister) because he explored the city a lot and played the tourist. They also loved Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister) because he took the time to learn about the city and its history. They were also pretty unanimous about who they did not like, but this isn’t a gossip site so move along. Or better yet, do a GoT walking tour and ask!

Magic of Dubrovnik

11 May 2017

My final destination during my Journey to 30 was Dubrovnik. And you guys, Dubrovnik took me. I fell in love with the city as soon as I saw the view from my Airbnb (Shout out to Anesa!). I mean, there’s stairs to get everywhere: stairs to my Airbnb, stairs into the Old Town, stairs within Old Town, stairs to get out of Old Town – but having ran a marathon the previous weekend, I was ok with all the extra workouts.

I was originally drawn to Dubrovnik because I’m a huge Game of Thrones fan and HBO has been using sites in and around Dubrovnik for King’s Landing, among other Westeros and Essos locations. However, Dubrovnik is so much more than a GoT filming location, and its medieval walls were breathtaking. Like, if I were to retire tomorrow, I’d probably head to Dubrovnik….but real estate is expensive, so, wishful thinking.

When I first arrived I dropped my things off and headed out into Old Town Dubrovnik, the main centre enclosed by the medieval castle walls, which was a perfect walking distance from my Airbnb. Also nearby was the bus stop for the shuttle to the airport and the entrance for the cable cars that go up Mount Srd. So my Airbnb was in an ideal location.

As I took pictures of the beautiful city I made my way to D’vino, a popular wine bar amongst tourists and locals. I loved it so much I went there my next two nights. Thank you exchange rate for the cheap price of Croatian wine! 🙂 I bought the cheese platter — usually for two but because it’s me I ordered it anyway — paired with a white wine: Antunović Graševina Premium 2010. DEE-LICIOUS! #DLiciousDVino™

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D’vino’s Cheesy Platter featuring dried figs, fresh baked bread and Croatian cheeses. Yummy!

I walked around the city a little more and made my way to a restaurant (the cheese platter for 2 was just an appetiser). I ate at Dubravka 1836 Restaurant & Cafe and had a fantastic view of the Adriatic. Also I walked into the place with ice cream in hand because I’m an adult and I decided to have dessert before dinner. Seriously though, great views!

I walked around a little more, and yes, it felt like I was walking through King’s Landing, then I headed back to my Airbnb as I would have an early start the next morning for my GoT walking tour! Woo-hoo!

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“That’s what I do. I drink and I know things.” – Tyrion Lannister, Season 6

Vienna: Day 3

10 May 2017

So fun fact: I had to bring work with me during my Journey to 30 holiday because my PhD supervisor scheduled a Skype sesh for this morning. However, after a really productive meeting, I headed straight to Schönbrunn Palace!


I purchased my ticket online so I just had to scan the barcode on my phone to gain entrance. Beforehand, I had a quick lunch at the Residenz Café Restaurant. Delicious coffee and even more delicious pastries! I had a spinach and goat cheese strudel, which was perfectly flaky. Yummy! The café also offers private Strudel shows in the Imperial Bakery.

After my lunch I headed inside the Palace where, unfortunately, photography is not allowed even if you’re not using flash. *Sad Face* …. So I switched from my Canon to Phone again for a clandestine operation. Shhh, don’t tell them. #SnitchesGetStitches.

Then I headed to the absolutely beautiful gardens. If I was part of the Imperial family I’d be in the gardens all the time, chillin’ and drinking champagne while playing human chess à la Mel Brooks’ History of the World. Obviously joking, but I would definitely love to lounge in the gardens with a good book.

I then made my way to Gloriette, a lovely belvedere with a vantage point of the Palace and the surrounding neighbourhood.

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After my Schönbrunn Palace visit, I made my way to Naschmarkt, basically the Borough Market of Vienna. I was overwhelmed by the shops and stalls available and the amount of food to choose from. I decided to eat at Neni and basked in the sunlight with a glass of white wine.

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I headed back to my Airbnb to get ready for my night out at Porgy & Bess, Vienna’s popular jazz club where I snagged a front row table to watch Enrico Rava and Geri Allen. This place is cash-only so make sure to bring those Euros if you book a table here. After my jazz and wine I was definitely feeling the need for sleep. This was also my last night in Vienna and I had a fabulous three days! I definitely need to go back to Austria though to visit Salzburg. Until next time, Austria!

Vienna: Day 2

9 May 2017

Another full day of adventure. I left my Airbnb early and headed to Café Neko, a cat cafe — these seem to be trending. Don’t get me wrong, I love cute kitties, but where are the puppy cafes? I’d like to see a puppy or doggo cafe before I die. If one does exist, please let me know so I can book a trip immediately.

Unfortunately the food menu was not really existent, but cats and coffee were plenty! I had a cafe latte and took a few pictures of cats observing the “If I fits, I sits” rule, and generally just lounging around. There was really cute artwork too.

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If I fits I sits.

 

Afterward I walked over to the National Library of Vienna and saw the State Hall. It. Was. Stunning. I seem to be ranting a lot in this post but just once, I wish there was a working library with medieval and modern texts. Can’t I just lounge and look at digital copies of these books or their later editions? I wanted so badly to explore upstairs and pretend to be Belle but alas, I was only able to admire from afar and take a few pictures. One day I want a library just like this one! … a bit ostentatious, but a girl can dream!

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I explored the city some more, took a few wrong turns, and headed to the Vienna State Opera for a 3pm tour. Again, I used a student discount – 3.50 y’all! That’s a steal! Our tour guide was great and she mentioned that the Tea Room can be rented for 15 minutes for the low price of €800. She also mentioned people actually book this room to fit in a 15-minute wedding ceremony! I wonder how much the library would be though …

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After the tour, I headed to the MuseumsQuartier (MQ) which has modern artwork and museums.

 

I had a late lunch/early dinner (linner?) at Halle (English and German menus available)…
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… Then I took the metro to see the infamous Hundertwasser Village created by artist and architect, Hundertwasser. It was funky and colourful, and these are working apartments, so unfortunately tourists cannot enter unless you happen to know a resident. A shame since I really wanted to see the rooftop garden/forest, but understandable of course. I wouldn’t want a bunch of randos walking through my flat either.

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“I am opposed to destruction and favour a constant evolution in harmony with nature and individual creativity.” – Hundertwasser

Before I went back to my Airbnb I stopped for some delicious ramen at Karma Ramen. I had the yasai ramen (vegetarian) that had sweet potato, which I was wary of but it was surprisingly delicious and paired really well with the miso broth. Yum!!!! Once again, I ate everything. I imagine I looked like an anime character if anyone happened to watch me eat. Ya’know, bowl to my face as I slurp and shove noodles in my mouth with chopsticks. Luckily no one was sitting next to me so I didn’t have to give any warnings about the splash zone. After a full day of walking, and with a full belly, I was ready to unwind and get ready for the next day.

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*Drools gracefully*

Vienna: Day 1

8 May 2017

The second location I visited during my Journey to 30 was Vienna, Austria! Mostly because the train ticket from Prague to Vienna was under 25. #Bargain

I walked to my Airbnb from the train station and met with one of my hosts (Shout out to Ivan and Neva!). Ivan was really helpful and provided me with a map, and info about public transport and cool places to visit. He even suggested I visit a nearby tobacco shop to purchase a public transport ticket – which I did. I’ve noticed several tourist-y websites that suggest purchasing a “Vienna Card,” which will provide discounts around the city, and can be used as your transport ticket, but I overheard another tourist who said it sucked. His words, not mine. Having said that, I got by just fine purchasing a €16 week pass for all transport (bus, tram, metro), and using my uni discount everywhere. Worth it!

And with my public transport ticket in hand, I ventured off to experience the city. I first looked up vegetarian places to eat and Google suggested Wrenkh, which I’m glad it did because the food was delicious. Wrenkh did have meat options on the menu but it was predominantly vegetarian/vegan.

I ordered an olive tapenade, mushroom ragu, and the house white wine. Of course, I ate it all because I was starving.

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After that I snapped a few pictures of St. Stephen’s Cathedral before I headed down to the metro.

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I specifically took the metro to Prater so I could go on the Wiener Riesenrad (ferris wheel), and overlook the city. It was unfortunately raining at this point but it was still beautiful. Afterwards it was getting late and cold, so I grabbed some takeaway and I headed back to my Airbnb to get an early start the next day.

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