Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Lion King @ Bristol Hippodrome 2012

Just came back from watching The Lion King musical at Bristol Hippodrome...  Still in awe! :)

... to think that I nearly gave it a miss because I was down with a bad flu!  My son (who was not too keen) was supposed to take my place but at the eleventh hour, I decided to JUST DO IT.  Flu, fever, cough and all :P

How can I not go?  We bought the tickets, months ago in spring, to secure good seats.  Besides, it was going to be my last 'night out' with hubby and the daughter before they go back to Malaysia.  Huhuhu!  

Truth is, hubby yang beria-ia nak tengok.  The Lion King musical has been playing at the Lyceum Theatre in London since 1999.  13 tahun tu!  When we heard last year, that it would be embarking on its first-ever UK tour, starting with Bristol Hippodrome, hubby decided that we just had to see the show.  Tak tau bila pulak nak sampai Malaysia.  It was 'now or never'.

I wasn't too keen to see the show because I was skeptical:  how can you successfully turn an animation film - about ANIMALS - to stage? I balked when hubby went for the premier seats.  Seeing the horror on my face, the ticket attendant showed me the video of the musical, to assure me that hubby would indeed be paying a worthy price.  I had to agree at that point, that the show looked pretty impressive.  Yes, I was won over, but still... skeptical :).

In the cold windy night, we walked down from my school, where we parked our car, to Bristol Hippodrome.  Sebelum tu, singgah dulu school untuk solat dan jugak pulangkan buku library yg dah overdue...hehehe!  Sebelum masuk theatre, sempat pulak pekena ayam goreng kat kedai kebab sebelah tu :).   

As expected, the auditorium was packed to the brim.  Luckily it was not hot at all.  I remember bundling myself for the Phantom of the Opera musical at Her Majesty's Theatre in London last autumn, and ended up removing layers of clothing, lest I die of extreme heat! :P  In the hippodrome, I  kept my coat on throughout the show.

The place was a hive of activity as theatre ushers pedalled Lion King merchandises, parents minding their excited kiddies, people taking photos...  wait!  Ambik gambar?!   Boleh ka??  I looked around for stern-looking ushers that might be lurking behind my back, ready to pounce on me, at the mere sight of a smartphone... Ada ka??  Takdelah pulak... apa lagi... Klik! Klik!  :)

From where I was sitting, I had a good view of the stage.  The conductor had taken his place in front of the stage but I couldn't see his ensemble, except for two musicians perched in the box seats with their drums and percussion.  Signs of great music to come :)

The show started with that familiar yell from Rafiki, the mandrill:  "Nants' Ingonyama Bakithi Baba!!!"
(There comes a lion, father ... in Zulu).

... And animals started striding down the aisle to the rhythm of  "Circle of  Life".  Yep!  Elephants, giraffes, antelopes!  That caught the audience by surprise and the actors were rewarded with a round of thunderous applause.  My advice at this point:  If you want to be in the thick of things, get the stall seats near the aisle :). There's a reason why they cost a bomb! :)

From the start till the end, there was never a dull moment.  Really!  Superb acting (especially the actor who played Scar), humour and entertainment (especially the antics of Zazu, the three hyenas, and of course, Timon and Pumba), memorable songs (Circle of life, The Lion Sleeps Tonight, Hakuna Matata, He Lives In You, etc), great props, colourful costume and ingenious puppetry.  Credits should be given to multi-talented director, Julie Taymor, who also designed the costume, masks and puppets.

You can't compare Lion King with, say, Phantom of the Opera, because they are two distinct genres.  Phantom's strengths are its songs, storyline and special effects.  The strength of Lion King lies in the songs, costume and puppetry...  I love those actor-puppets!  One of my favourites were those men-giraffes!  The actors must have been very strong and agile in order to move about in those stilts!  My all-time favourites have got to be Zazu, the red-billed hornbill and Timon, that pesky meerkat.  Hats off to the respective actors!! :)

The African theme was evident in all aspects of the musical; my African friends would approve :).  However, there were some moments of  'Britishness' like when Zazu pleaded not to be sent back to Glasgow (I went like:  Did I hear that right? LOL!); and when Timon and Pumba started to 'riverdance' to scare the hyenas?  Hehehe!

The Lion King brought back fond memories when I was raising the children.  My son used to chant: "Wimoweh! Wimoweh!" when he was younger, and we would all end up singing along coz it was so catchy!   Even now, I still sing: "Hakuna Matata. *Timon and Tomato (instead of Pumba)" when preparing food in the kitchen :).  * Timon or timun is cucumber in Malay.

Having said this, does not mean that this musical is only suitable for parents with children.  If you have enjoyed watching the Lion King films, you will love the musical, too.  The Lion King musical will be in Bristol till 17 November 2012.  It's next and final stop for 2012, is Manchester.  The troupe will continue their UK tour to Dublin and Birmingham, in 2013.

Verdict:  Don't be skeptical.  Just go and enjoy yourself! :)  Make sure you get STALL seats near the aisle as the scenes actually start from here a number of times.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Amsterdam 2012

The first time I heard about the Netherlands was during primary school?  The country was known as Holland, or "Belanda" in Malay.  I first learnt about the country not in Geography, but History.  The Dutch once ruled over some territories in the Malay Archipelago  in the 17th century, one being Malacca,  a state in present-day Malaysia.  Further reading from the Encyclopaedia Britannica (the wikipedia of the 20th century :)), introduced me to the country which was famous for its canals, windmills and clogs.  Learning about the Netherlands in Geography a few years later, I remembered being intrigue with the fact that a considerable part of the country was below sea level.  Just can't imagine how the land would look like...

Well, as fate would have it, I did reach the Netherlands many moons ago.  Remembering what I learnt in Geography class, I was scrutinizing the lands along the highways for any 'abnormalities'... hahaha!  Manalah nak nampak dengan mata kasar, kan??  Tanah di bawah aras laut... :P

After the stopovers in Den Haag and Lisse, we proceeded to Amsterdam.  I don't remember whether it was the satnav or the forever map @IPad which eventually led us to our hotel, but Alhamdulillah we safely reached our destination without much hassle.

Our budget accommodation

Our hotel, T.Inn Hotel, in Spuistraat, was right smack in the middle of the city.  I knew that the red light district was a few minutes walk away but I did not know that business had now spread beyond that area...  practically up to the hotel's doorstep and backyard... Ayoyo! 18 SX!! :P.   Walking out of the hotel and into the street, you practically have to keep a 'straight face'!  That aside, halal food was aplenty on this stretch, among them, a kebab take-away and an Indonesian eatery.  Depan pulak orang 'berniaga'.  

Dalam halal...

... ada haram :P

Our hotel was within walking distance to Dam Square, where the Royal Palace, the New Church, Madame Tussaud Wax Museum and the National Monument were situated.

the neo-classical Royal Palace

15th Century Gothic Niuewe Kerk

The National Monument

Madame Tussaud's Amsterdam

Giant clog in Dam Square

to be continued...

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Tulips in Keukenhof - Easter 2012

Dreary days are here to stay... (sigh).

Yup, it is officially autumn.  According to Google, the astronomical fall (autumn) began on Saturday, the 22nd of September and will end on Thursday, 20th December 2012.

Dah terasa kesejukan itu.  Tak lama lagi berbungkuslah aku :P.

Honestly, the season was a bit muddled this year?  I remembered a spell of hot weather at the beginning of the year, and everyone thought spring came early.  But it was not to be, coz temperature suddenly dipped in April, bringing in snow to the northern states.  Yeah... those were dreary days, too.  That was when we decided to cross the English Channel to find respite from the English weather.

Since the growth of flowers was stunted due to the mixed-up weather in England,  I was really looking forward to visiting the renown Keukenhof Tulip Garden, then.  Keukenhof, also known as the Garden of Europe, is the largest flower garden in the world.  It is situated in Lisse, a small town, southwest of Amsterdam.  This year, the garden opened from March 22 to May 20.  Yup, only 8 weeks! :).  However from 19-21 October 2012, the gates will open again  for the Flower Bulb Market , and entrance is free!! :)  Then, it closes for the year.  Next year,  the garden is set to open from March 21 to May 20, 2013.  The best time to view the tulips is in mid-April.  Kalau pergi awal sangat, bunga masih belum kembang.  So, siapa yang berhajat, take note of these dates, ya!

We were advised by a friend who had gone there, to buy ticket online to avoid wasting time getting in line.  So, I  bought the entrance tickets AND the parking tickets, online.  Melayanglah beberapa puluh Euros.
We were also advised to allocate a WHOLE DAY there.  Itu pun, katanya, macam tak cukup...
WHAT ?!!
Well, when we arrived at Keukenhof, it was already noon.  So, we wasted no time exploring the area.

The place was really HUGE.  We entered via the Extra Entrance and almost immediately, was greeted by a  sea of tulips.  I stopped dead in my tracks.  Aduhai... Never seen so many tulips in my life!!  Red, pink, yellow, white... simply breath-taking!  My head started to spin...

Tulipa Kaufmanniana "Show winner"

Tulipa Kaufmanniana "Johann Strauss"

Tulipa Kaufmanniana "Heart's Delight"
"Hah!!  Apa tunggu lagi?! Ambik... jangan tak ambik... " 
Terhenti lamunan bila ku dikejutkan oleh suara sumbang seseorang... 

As if I needed prodding! :P

Me and hubs amongst the "Darwin Hybrid Apeldoorn Elite".  Ngee!!

Jeej and Jon

Amirul catwalking down the tulip 'runway'

My favourite pink tulips - "Pink Impression" (darker pink) and "Esther"

It was madness!!  I snapped the tulips in multiple positions possible! Hehehe!  

bottom-up, lateral view... Tulipa Kaufmanniana Show Winner

Top-down view ... Esther tulips

Wide angle.  Well, sort of :P

Close-up... Maureen Double Tulip

Uncle Tom Double Tulip 

Tulips themselves consist of different categories.  They are different, in terms of blooming time and shapes.   Among those I managed to snap were the Kaufmannania, Darwin Hybrid, Single Late and Double late.  There were other types of flowers too, in Keukenhoff...


White Grape Hyacinth


Flora and fauna appealed to the senses...

The lake near the Wilhelmina pavillion...  I remembered eating some really delicious chocolate and cream donuts at a bustling cafe there.  Yummy! :)

Captured at the spur of a moment :)

There was even a mini petting farm!  My daughter was quite taken by a goat there!  Hehehe!

The place itself was big and well laid out.  Credits should go to the gardeners who did an excellent job in maintaining the garden.

The Lakeside

The windmill

One of the water feature 

A garden feature

Giant clogs

The Orange-Nassau Pavilion
had a flower exhibition when we were there

At the William Alexander Pavilion

The bulb field

Sadly, we did not manage to cover all Keukenhof.  I would have loved to explore the nooks and cranies, but    circumstances did not allow me.  My boys became bored and restless, and kept asking me when they could go to the hotel.  My man was groaning LOUDLY over aching feet, lack of sleep and exhaustion, from non-stop driving the previous night.  Yeah, boys will be boys... :P

Mama:  Come on now! Pretend to be happy! :)
I would really love to visit the place again! (I always say this wherever I go!:)).  If I had to do it all over again I would definitely:
1)  come early in the morning so I could 'take time to smell the flowers' (the Hyacinths were fragrant!)
2)  visit all the pavilions, resting on the benches when I get tired
3)  take the boat tour through the bulb fields
4)  ride on a bike through the bulb-growing region
5)  Leave all whiners at home... hehehe! :)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Weston-Super-Mare 2012: Sand Sculptures & Red Arrows

Who would be mad enough to go to the beach on a hot summer's day during Ramadhan?

Yup!  I was the mad woman, guilty of dragging the whole family to watch the Grande Pier Air Show at Weston-Super-Mare on the fourth day of fasting, in the not-so-distant past.  (Yeah, yeah, 'blast from the past' blog post :P)

Weston-Super-Mare is a coastal town near Bristol.  Besides the pier, it's beach is a favourite among locals.  Well, of course the beach could not match those in Terengganu or even Port Dickson, but people came to soak up the sun, anyway.

On that particular day, people came in droves to watch the air show.  Although there were 4 shows scheduled, I had come to specifically watch the Red Arrows perform.  The Red Arrows of Britain's Royal Air Force (RAF) is one of the world's premier aerobatic team.  I knew about them when my dad posted on Facebook, pictures of their performance at last year's Bristol Balloon's Festival (yet another impending post :P).  As I missed that act, I just had to see this one.

Since we came an hour early, we decided to go see the sand sculptures on the beach.  Ingatkan free.  Rupa2nya kena bayor.  Should have known by now that nothing is free :P.  Anyway, I really marvelled at the professionally sculpted sand structures.  Wish there were more, though, to substantiate the ticket price that we paid :).  For those who want to see the sand sculptures, you can still go as the exhibition will only end in September.  

from this compacted sand ...

to this...

Sonic the hedgehog, Amirul and Mario :)

The queen and I :)
BTW my chair is real :P

Amirul among sand Olympians

The Red Arrows appeared on the sky around 2.00 pm.  Ramai sungguh orang ambik gambar dan video termasuklah saya... :D.  See the pix below...

The Red Arrows - close-up 

The show took about 20 minutes or so.  There were other air performances after the Red Arrows, but we decided to call it a day.  Puasa lah katakan... :).