Miscellaneous Rome

And lastly for Rome, a few shots that don’t fit into the other categories.

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The Spanish Steps

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Marcus Aurelius Pillar

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Elephant and Obelisk

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The Wedding Cake (or Typewriter or any of another half a dozen names)

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The Castel Saint Angeli and a couple of angels from the bridge approaching it.

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And lastly some interesting rooftops, taken from the Villa Borghese Grounds

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Next time will be moving onto the Vatican.

Fountains of Rome

As the title suggests ;p

This is the first Piazza we went to, Piazza del Popolo. Also where the Count of Monte Cristo and friends go to watch an execution.

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The fountain opposite the Pantheon

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Trevi fountain. It is indescribably huge and in a relatively tiny square. It’s amazing.

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This was near the Quirinale

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The Quattro Fontane

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The Moses Fountain.

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Fountain de Api

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Piazza Novana

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Including the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi

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At the other end of the Piazza Novana

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Comedy Store

If you are in Manchester any time and looking for a fun night out I would definitely recommend a trip to The Comedy Store. We’ve been twice now (see, it must be good, we went back) for family birthdays and have always had a really good evening.

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We went on a Saturday for the “Best In Stand-up’ night which meant we got a variety of 4 or 5 comedians including the MC which means if someone doesn’t tickle your funny bone there are plenty of others who will. Overall Chris and I have found that the standard of comedy is pretty high and always has me giggling. I particularly enjoy watching hecklers get ripped to shreds.

The theatre itself is two floored (although the bottom floor has been the only one open when we were there) and quite cosy but not claustrophobic. The smoke blowers and the ‘comedy store’ lights make for a cluby atmosphere which works well on a Saturday night. It is also a good place to people watch between shows as quite a variety of people come.

They do a 7pm and a 9:30pm slot so it makes a nice after dinner entertainment still leaving time to go out on the row of bars next to it. Just don’t fall in the canal outside!

You can make a real evening of it and even eat there, which is what we did both times and then went to the later show. With 2 courses for £14 in their downstairs restaurant or a selection of bar food upstairs there is some selection and I can vouch that the food in the restaurant is pretty good.

Wild Mushrooms in garlic and cream on toasted ciabatta

Wild Mushrooms in garlic and cream on toasted ciabatta

Thai Fishcakes with a chilli and coriander salsa

Thai Fishcakes with a chilli and coriander salsa

Chicken... I can't actually remember what kind >_<

Chicken… I can’t actually remember what kind >_<

Homemade Steak and Ale pie with chips, vegetables and gravy

Homemade Steak and Ale pie with chips, vegetables and gravy

Chicken again! My memory is awful.

Chicken again! My memory is awful.

Italian Meatballs in a plum tomato and basil sauce with garlic bread

Italian Meatballs in a plum tomato and basil sauce
with garlic bread

Red Thai Chicken Curry with rice and naan bread

Red Thai Chicken Curry with rice and naan bread

Chicken wrapped in Parma Ham stuffed with Mozarella with roasted new potatoes and garden peas.

Chicken wrapped in Parma Ham stuffed with Mozarella
with roasted new potatoes and garden peas.

I had the mushroom starter and the red Thai curry and both were delicious, although in fairness I love anything with mushrooms!

After dinner a member of staff escorts you to your seats for the show which is a nice touch, we have always had good and attentive service there.

If you do go to the comedy store one word of warning: Don’t sit in the front row!

The Hitchhikers’ Guide To The Galaxy…

…Live Radio Show!

This has been coming up on our calendar for a very long time. I saw this advertised last January and bought Chris tickets then. We are a very geeky couple and can already quote great swathes of the book by heart, it is one of the reasons we were originally going out. It also means that our friends tend to lose the thread of some conversations very quickly. It serves them right for not reading the right books.

Anyway, once I saw this was on in Manchester, and with most of the original cast from the radio show performing it, Chris and I had to go!

Chris was very excited!

It was strange watching a radio show, it was like a cross between a play and an expressive reading. They had a live band and a pair of guys at the side doing all the sound effects. The ‘Book’ also had a stage of his own from which to narrate. A comet-shaped screen provided the backgrounds for various spaceships and planets as well as the visual representation of the book.

The stage did not want to be photographed!

Since, sadly, the original voice of the book has passed away they have a different actor every few nights and the book for ours was Jon Culshaw. While it was evident he hadn’t gotten much practice his ad libing was highly entertaining so no one cared. It was obvious that the actors were all having a good time as well and still got along which is always good to see. There was a large portion of audience participation to simulate any crowd scenes, we also got to sing along!

The plot added yet another version to the Hitchhikers’ Mythos with part one being basically the same as Book one and part two being all the important parts of the rest. There was a lot of time saved by just alluding to jokes as opposed to doing the whole thing but since everyone already knows the joke just the reference is hilarious.

The props  were well done and fit well with overall feeling of the show. The new Marvin was adorable (I’m sure he’d hate that) and Colin was a lit up ball on the end of a stick, but very cute. The show also featured the most expressive umbrella I have ever seen as Agrajag.

Overall it was a great night out and a fantastic production. 10/10

Superlambanana City

Aka Liverpool.

I have lived in Manchester for 7 years now and Chris has lived in Bury and Manchester his whole life: neither of us has ever been to Liverpool. Shocking isn’t it? So we decided that, as we had a few days off this week, we would go. After all, it costs less than £10 return on the train and takes less than an hour to get there, we didn’t even have to set out early.

Having now been to Liverpool I definitely won’t let it be 7 years before I go again!

Liverpool is a beautiful city. As you step out of Lime Street Station you are immediately in an area of grand stone buildings with colonnades, surrounded by statues. In this area we went to the Walker Art Gallery which is definitely worth a visit. They are currently having a Matisse exhibition which I wanted to see and also have a stunning room of statuary.

After that we went for a walk down to the Mersey and went to the Museum of Liverpool. Not the best museum I’ve ever been in but still an interesting introduction to some of Liverpool’s history. It is also where we met the Superlambananas.

We were walking down the Mersey and saw these cats with bird tail things. I stood puzzling as to what they were while Chris cleverly found a sign. I didn’t believe him until I read it myself: Superlambanana. They’re brilliant. I know Manchester did a cow thing a few years back and I guess this is something similar. After we found the first one we started noticing them all over the place.

We didn’t go to any more museums after that choosing instead to visit the two Cathedrals. Unfortunately my camera ran out of battery before we got to the Catholic Cathedral which is a stunning modern building, roughly circular in shape with a beautiful crown on top but I did get some pictures of the Anglican Cathedral which, in addition to sitting proudly on a hill surveying the city, is truly gorgeous, has a very nice tea room and some of the most richly coloured stained glass I’ve seen. Unfortunately the glass colours just wouldn’t come out on my camera. I would also like to praise it for the extensive…well I hate to say graveyard as it felt more like a garden in which they had happened to bury dead people.

If you enjoy the churches and museums tour of places Liverpool is a fantastic city and I look forward to going back and seeing some more of it’s museums. If you don’t enjoy the c&m tour then Liverpool is pretty much City, England. The central malls were mostly generic and we struggled to find a nice place to have food that wasn’t a pub or somewhere we could go at home. I guess that’s the same wherever you go these days. None-the-less I recommend a visit.

Beauty And The Beast

Last Wednesday I treated myself to a ballet trip. I adore the ballet, particularly story based ballets. I have also seen ballets that were purely dance and music and found the dance both stunning and impressive, but I miss the expression and depth of feeling that story ballets have.

I have seen the Birmingham Royal Ballet several times before and have always enjoyed their performances. I don’t have any expertise in ballet but I have always found them to be excellent performers. I was particularly impressed with the gentleman who was playing the Beast, his dancing was very dramatic and passionate, he really brought the audience into his anguish and love, I felt huge sympathy for him.

This ballet was actually written by the people of the Birmingham ballet so the music and the choreography fit together perfectly. I thought the main female dancers, Belle and the fox-lady, were both very talented (I’m always envious of the grace of the dancers) and they had beautiful costumes.

I particularly liked Belle’s ball dress at the Beast’s castle and the costumes of the birds. The ball dresses in general were rag chic (if that’s a term, I like it anyways); multi-layered skirts made of slim, ragged ended pieces of cloth in a variety of colours with corset tops (with that skin coloured neck and sleeves they have to have to make sure they don’t fall down). The bird costumes were sheer skirts in the front with a puffy, multi-layered back which was a very effective tail.

The stage itself was also very dramatic with the different scenes opening and closing like an inside out book. The merchant’s house descended from the ceiling and there was also a forest scene which opened up to reveal the Beast’s garden, which opened to reveal the inside of the Beast’s castle. Most of the scene changes were done either by ‘servants’ moving furniture or dark clad minions moving it. The scenery was beautiful, particularly the very grand Beast’s castle. I thought that the dull mirror on the back wall really accentuated the  solo/duet dances. The castle also had floating candelabras, a chair that glided across the stage on it’s own and pitchers that filled glasses on their own, small touches that added that bit of magic and sparkle. The lightening in the castle was very dark, just picking out the dancers and small parts of the scenery which again added to the cursed feeling.

And at the end everything became light! The beast’s transformation into the Prince was cleverly done, somehow he was the Beast on the funeral bed and then, in one flourish of the shroud, he was in a completely different costume and his mask was gone! The other creatures turned humans came on from off stage and pulled down all the darker colours on the walls (and the lightening was upped) transforming the dark, oppressive castle into a palace of love and joy! Ta da! I love a happily-ever-after ending.

All pictures are from the Birmingham Royal Ballet site (since you can’t take pictures during the performance!):

Belle and the Prince

Belle and the Beast

Both of these pictures feature Nao Sakuma and Iain MacKay who were the dancers at the performance I saw.

And I tried to find one of the dress, even if it is different performers. If you can’t tell the colours are golds and pastel pinks. This picture is from the lowry page on the ballet:

Dress