31 March 2015

Heather's Back & She's Talking German

Heather Here. I'mmmmmm baaaaack!

A few weeks ago, I finally got to leave London for the first time in months
to adventure in Deutschland!
For those of you who haven't a shred of German - that means Germany.

I flew out with my sorority sister, Rachel, who is living up in Leeds.
We both needed a little break from life, so why not make a trip to Berlin?

There weren't too many helpful guides on the city out there when I searched,
and I loved the place so much that I thought I would help you out next time you decided to make a visit!

We stayed at an awesome hostel - St. Christopher's Inn.
If it sounds familiar, it probably is.
There are a ton of St Christopher's located around the EU and UK - it's one of the most popular out there.

The reception was stocked with a full bar, and the drinks were REALLY cheap.
And if that doesn't convince you to book a stay, I'm not sure if I ever will be able to.

The hostel is no more than a 10-second walk from the Rosa-Luxemburg subway stop,
making it convenient to get anywhere in the city.
Although it wasn't the closest stay to the city centre, the location is great if you are looking to do some shopping in the boutiques and malls!

Depending on the time you get to your hostel,
going to one of Sandeman's Free Walking Tours is a MUST!
They are everyday starting at 11AM and 2PM right in front of the Brandenburg Gate.
I can't say enough about how amazing, fun, and informational the tours are!
This will give you a great foundation of knowing the city for when you are walking around without a guide later.

A few of the places we crossed on the tour:
The Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe - by far my favorite memorial I've ever been to
The parking lot above the bunker where Hitler killed himself
Bebelplatz - where the book burnings took place
Checkpoint Charlie
The Berlin Wall
and so many other sites!

After this, you can stroll right up to Museum Island and the Berliner Dom.
While it's still light out, head into the Berliner Dom and take a self-guided tour inside the cathedral.
It's only a couple Euros, and if you're a student you'll even manage a discount.
 After you've seen the tombs and chapels, climb up to the top and get a gorgeous view of the city.

From the Berliner Dom, you can walk around the island and enjoy the free museums.
I suggest hopping across the bridge and finding yourself an outdoor seat at one of the nearby cafes
to enjoy the beautiful view of the river and Museum Island.

Saturday gives you the chance to see a different part of Berlin.
There are dozens of different markets all over the city for everyone to enjoy.
Taking a stroll through one of the many parks, I've heard, is an amazing experience.

As it was too cold to stroll around Mauerpark, which houses the Berlin Wall Memorial
as well as a large strip of the Berlin Wall,
Rachel and I decided to forgo that opportunity.
During the spring and summer, though, it's a wonderful place to sit and relax.
If you're lucky, you'll get to enjoy one of their many open-air events

Großer Tiergarten is another park closer to the centre of town.
It holds a supposed haunting ground, as well as The Victory Column, different museums, cafes, and the Reichstag.

The Reichstag is the equivalent to the British Houses of Parliament, and is an absolute must-see.
Located on the edge of the park and adjacent to the Bradenburg Gate, it provides stunning views of the city. 
The top of the building has a massive glass dome with a spiral staircase that leads all the way to the top.
In order to go, you'll need to make a reservation at least a day in advance - but it's free!

From here, you are just a few minutes walk from Fassbender & Rausch Chocolatiers am Gendarmenmarkt,
which is a DELICIOUS chocolate store.
They had chocolate sculptures of the Berlin Wall, the Reichstag, and a real chocolate volcano!
Plus, they have about 500 different truffles to choose from - good luck with that.
The top floor is an elegant and inexpensive restaurant that serves different forms of chocolate with each tea, bread basket, and meal.
Don't forget to indulge in dessert (don't worry, we don't count the chocolates with the meals as dessert) with a delicately designed mocha or a shake!

After this, you should be ready for the evening.
Berlin is known for it's eccentric nightlife.
And although I didn't get to experience the famous bars and clubs around, it's definitely worth exploring.
Or, if you are up for a more leisurely night, I suggest the Hofbräuhaus.
And it's only a stones through from St. Christopher's Inn!
If you've never had the pleasure of experiencing a Hofbräuhaus,
just imagine leaderhosen, 1 litre steins, cute men everywhere,
loud music, drunken dancing, and one thousand of your newest and closest friends.
What's not to love about that?

Since Sunday is normally a travel day, it's best to catch a morning tour.
Rachel and I chose to go to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Memorial with Sandeman's.
They have loads of other tours, as well as the postdam tour, the Third Reich Berlin Tour, the alternative city tour,
and even a pub crawl.
We also chose this day to walk up and down Unter den Linden - the central road in Berlin -
to buy some keepsakes and souvenirs.

Berlin is such a wonderful city - I hope you get the chance to enjoy it someday!
It definitely sits in my top four favorite cities so far. The culture, history, art, and beauty of the city
is what makes it such a unique place to visit.

Happy traveling - I hope you love it as much as I did!

 It's Travel Tuesday!
Did you miss last week? Check out my favorite post from Meghan at Submerged Oaks.
She went dog sledding, and I mean what else do you want me to say? DOGS!
Next week we're going themey here, as it's the first of the month and that's just what we do.
This time it's "Where You Came From & Why You Left"
Tell us a little bit about you and where you came from,
and what made your decision to leave, whether it was a big move or just a travel.
Everyone's got a story - what's yours?
Link up below!

24 March 2015

Flat Hunting - Part Four

I've done a previous series about flat hunting from another country,
but now that I am IN the country and it won't be long until Heather and I start this dreaded process again,
I thought it may be helpful to start explaining how we are going about it, now that we don't have to search from across the world.

London is a big, BIG city.
I can't even begin to guess how many agents, landlords, websites, etc. there are dedicated to rentals.
It gets a bit overwhelming.
But if you've got the basics that are needed to find a place to live,
it won't be as bad as you think.

To start, Heather and I have spent a lot of time around the areas of London that we haven't been to.
This includes areas out in zone 2 and 3 that we've heard about and haven't managed to visit,
but also includes those 'dream' areas that if we find an affordable flat we will jump at.
Right now, we've got a range of areas from Clapham to Fulham to Stratford to Islington.
Having a list of higher priorities makes it much easier take on the millions and billions of areas within the city.

We've first chosen areas based on what we want the most, which are safety and distance to a Tube Station.
After this, we begin listing more of the necessities; price range, how much space, furnishings, etc.

Once we've got a little spreadsheet of our desirables, then it's time to search.
Or in our case right now, browse.

Estate agent websites can be tough to navigate, but they aren't all difficult.
Strutt & Parker specialize in properties around both London and Wiltshire, and is one of my favorites to browse around.
It is a great example of how letting agents should organize their site.
There is nothing better than an easy property search function with all of the categories that can help narrow down to exactly what you are looking for.

Right now, as we have some time before we need to get serious, we are really looking at different agents that we may be interested in,
as well as the portal sites that have multiple different properties.

We're just getting prepared with ideas now, but there's no harm in starting early, right?



Happy Travel Tuesday!

Not here last week?
Don't worry - I've got the best post of the week right here.

On the greatest things that traveling and jumping out of your comfort zone can bring you, 
check out Amy and the Great World --> How Moving Abroad Has Changed My Life

Link up below!

22 March 2015

Sunday Lovin' - In Photographs

Had a few guests in town, so we spent a significant time wandering around the city.
Photos are through Regents Park, South Kensington, St. John's Wood,
and embarrassingly my first time ever in Hyde Park..

17 March 2015

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical - The Aldwych Theatre

I'm a little late on this, but it takes about 3 weeks to get over the fact that you actually saw Carole King,
so forgive me.

Beautiful opened on Broadway in 2014 to rave reviews,
so it wasn't a surprise when the announcement came that it'd be making an appearance in the West End.

The musical follows Carole King,
in her life from the beginning of her career at the ripe age of 16,
with her first hits It Might As Well Rain Until September, and Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,
to the making of her legendary album Tapestry into her first live performance at Carnegie Hall.

The story captures her success in topping the charts with husband and song-writing partner, Gerry Goffin,
along with the growing relationship with best friends, and fellow music legends, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann,
and moves on through the journey she takes of finding herself as a solo artist.

From some of Carole's most popular solo songs, 
You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman, It's Too Late, and You've Got A Friend,
to others that were given away to some of the top artists of the day,
Up On The Roof, Pleasant Valley Sunday, and Chains,
the show features hit after hit, making it quite hard to stay in your seat.

The cast compliment the music beautifully, giving a perfect portrayal of the story that plays alongside;
Katie Brayben is a force to be reckon with, leading the show as a Carole King,
Lorna Wants gives Cynthia Weil the spunk she deserves,
and Ian McIntosh adds the humor to the show as an overanxious Barry Mann
Each give a standout performance and are more than deserving of their most recent Olivier nominations.

Once the show finished and the applause began,
the cast got a surprise of a lifetime from Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, and the incredible Carole King.
They thanked the cast for the wonderful performance, and Carole took to the mic to speak.
After praising the cast, she explained how Gerry would have enjoyed it just as much as she did.
(Gerry Goffin sadly passed away in 2014)

She then continued saying, "I don't know if there's any better way to thank you, then to just say this.."
and with a motion to the conductor, she began singing You've Got A Friend, inviting everyone to join in.
And yes, I absolutley cried. I have no shame.
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical runs at The Aldwych Theatre.
Performances are Monday to Saturday 7:30PM, with matinees Thursday & Satuday 2:30PM.
The running time is approximately 2 hours 20 minutes including one intermission.
Happy Travel Tuesday!
Link up below!

13 March 2015

Fab Four Friday - Let It Be at The Garrick Theatre

Is there any better way to celebrate Paul coming back to Europe other than an event that literally centered around The Beatles?

Let It Be is less of a musical and more of a tribute.
It previously hit the West End in 2013 where it played at The Savoy Theatre,
and has recently found its way back - this time, though, at The Garrick Theatre.

Wednesday was opening night for the show, and in celebration, there were a few events held leading up to the evening performance.
The first, that I was invited to with the lovely Rebecca at Official Theatre,
took place at the Waldorf Hilton Hotel
They've recently become the hotel sponsors for the show, and have redecorated one of their suites in a Beatles-themed paradise.

Beatles being Beatles

The suite was filled with Beatles memorabilia and photographs from the production.
Beatles fanclub letters on the desk, playing cards, and even a guitar with a song book to try and teach yourself a few tunes.
The bedroom had more photos I couldn't stop gushing over and Sergeant Peppers pillows on the bed that I was resisting urges from taking home with me.
There was also champagne
and cake pops
and if you haven't already caught my drift, a LOT of Beatles stuff.
I was a very happy girl.

The band had a short acoustic set to play for us during the event
and as much as I wished they were taking requests, they did play If I Fell which was one I was hoping to hear, so I was pretty satisfied.
After, the guys gave some interviews and took a few photos with fans.
They were a bit rushed for time and others had prepared legitimate questions to ask them about the show and their role,
which was much better than my position, which was really just wanting to talk about the actual Beatles with a bunch of people who obviously loved them too.

So while the others got all professional, I gushed over how cute the boys were in A Hard Days Night that was playing on the TV while trying not to jump on the snare that Ringo left open...

The event ran for about an hour before the boys were rushed out for their NEXT pre-show event,
which was a 'rooftop concert' recreation on the balcony of the Garrick Theatre.
I was finishing up my 1st (or 4th) glass of champagne
and coming to grips that I was, in fact, not going to be allowed to call this suite my new home,
so we unfortunately missed the performance, but made it just in time for the actual show.

Now I'm a stickler when it comes to The Beatles.
If you don't know, I am a pretty big fan.
I notice the little movements and mannerisms, and can be pretty critical when they aren't up to par.
Overly picky? It's possible.

Anyways, even with this particular attitude,
I will say Let It Be is incredibly authentic.
For how much you can capture who John, Paul, George and Ringo were on stage,
these guys do a pretty good job.

The most impressive aspect of the show, though, is when they sing together.
Their harmonies are so close to what you'd hear on an actual record it blew my mind.
And that's coming from ME - so you know that means they did it really well.

They also threw in the 'cranberry sauce' at the end of Strawberry Fields,
'Paul,' while a bit ambidextrous, played most of the show left-handed
and was barefoot during Abbey Road,
'John' counted off a song as typical John would do (1, 2, 3, SEVEN),
and 'George' absolutely smashed all three solos in The End,
which probably all made me happier than it actually should have.
Even if you don't notice these things,
or aren't disgustingly in love with The Beatles,
it's still a night to be enjoyed.
Everyone is on their feet rocking out, clapping, twisting and shouting,
you know the drill.
I think the only real requirement for this show is that you like to have fun.
All in all, it was a fantastic evening filled with amazing music, 
& you can't really ask for much more than that.
I can always appreciate a nod to the greatest group in the history of just about everything,
so I will, of course, be back again.

Let It Be plays at the Garrick Theatre until 27 September 2015.
Show times vary, but stick around Monday-Saturday 7:30PM with Thursday & Saturday matinees 3PM, but check the website to be sure of your date.

The Beatles Suite at the Waldorf Hilton can also be booked until April 30th.


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