Madame Tussaud’s London!

IMG_20170920_170804_515When my Dad was 12 he went to London with his family, and one of the places that he ended up visiting was London’s Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. He spoke so fondly of the experience that when we discovered that Tussaud’s had a location in Niagara Falls (named Louis Tussaud’s after the originals son), he insisted that we go while visiting the falls that summer.

I was 13 (I think) at the time of my visit and I LOVED it! It was the highlight of my visit, seeing how I got heat stroke at the actual falls. The Niagara version isn’t particularly large but does contain quite a few musicians, public figures, actors, movie characters and classic TV characters. For me my favorite area was the ‘hall of horror’ a selection of horror movie characters that includes Hannibal Lecter, classic Dracula, Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees and ended with a black light section of the classic ‘no TV and no beer makes Homer go crazy’.

When I decided to head to the UK, I knew that the original had to be on my list so I wasIMG_20170920_181229_089 beyond pleased to discover that Clink78 actually gets discounts for certain attractions around London for the people who stay there. For me the whole trip was actually only 31 pounds rather than the usual 50 that my ‘package’ should have been. Originally I had been set to go by myself but I was pretty pumped to discover that my New Zealand roommate was also going so we headed off together (making photo opportunities much easier).

Upon entrance the first place you get brought by the elevator to is the red carpet where you are greeted by classics Marilyn Munroe, Charlie Chaplin, and Audrey Hepburn. From there you encounter the more ‘modern’ famous celebrities and I couldn’t help but take selfies with Johnny Depp and Patrick Stewart.

IMG_20170920_204407_766When I was there the Chamber of Horrors that has so scared my Dad as a child was not open and has instead been replaced by ‘Alien: Escape’ in dedication to the new film Alien: Resurrection. I clutched the backpack of my Kiwi roommates backpack the entire time to avoid getting lost and from punching anyone (my reaction to being scared). The entire situation is a stimulus overload with screaming staff member staying in full character, flashing lights and. Even though I did really like it – I kind of wish I could have seen the original.

After catching your breath I headed over to see famous movie scenes including Katniss Everdeen, King Kong, E.T and the Terminator. This area was shockingly uncrowded so after snapping our pics we moved along to the less impressive Youtube star section which we pretty much bi-passed.

From there you see Sports, the super busy British Royal section where you can PAY to get a shot with the royals (or have a friend sneak a pic), cultural figures including Van Gogh IMG_20170920_204934_996and Madame Tussaud herself. Moving along you enter the set of ‘The Voice’ and get to witness all of the big names in music including One Direction, Elvis and The Beatles. Next up is political figures and I could not help but snap a sarcastic pic with current angry carrot, Trump.

Next was the less popular ‘How its Done’ section which focuses on how Madame Tussaud’s makes all of their amazing figures (all narrated by Beyonce). This area is pretty neat considering you get to see the OLDEST of the wax models,. After that you hop into a Black Cab and are whisked through a fully automated history lesson of London which covers all of the big historical events from the London Fires to the vibrancy of the 80’s. Getting out of the cabs is a bit of a pain since they NEVER STOP MOVING but hey it keeps you going to your next attraction.

IMG_20170920_205327_033The next section is super popular as it is the MARVEL section! While waiting in line for the Marvel: 4D Experience (included), we took pictures with Spider Man, Captain America and the Hulk. The experience itself is pretty cool with light water sprays, pokes to your back and shaking effects being added to your seats so that you really feel like you are in the, kind of hokey, Marvel movie.

Once you finish up with the movie you head off to the Star Wars section – this I where things kind of lost some luster for me. Since you are headed with ALL of the people who were in the movie with you, you kind of get shoved along – even if the museum is quieter like it was when I visited. That means that I wasn’t able to get a pic with my bae Darth Maul.

I did however grab snaps with Han Solo in the cantina, Chewie in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon and some Stormtroopers. The neat thing about this area is that they give you opportunities to get paid photos in movie settings such as with Yoda in the swamps of Dagobah and with Darth Vader. The workers also encourage you to do specific poses such as the Force Choke and feeling the force with Yoda making it a fun section.IMG_20170920_205429_983

Overall I really enjoyed myself! It is definitely way better done than the Niagara Falls one – particularly in the models themselves. In the Canadian one a lot of the figures look very fake and shiny BUT the ones in the London location are super detailed and look much more realistic. Would I go to the Canadian one again after experiencing this one – hell yeah, though I will likely be more critical of the quality of the figures!

Next time on Backpacks and Broomsticks: Top 5 Things to do as a Harry Potter fan in London

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Crashing at Clink78

One of the great things about GWT is that it put you up for 5 nights in a Youth hostel. In IMG_20170917_183557_441the UK their choice of Youth Hostel is Clink78 an imposing Victorian building whose interior has been updated and revamped into a fun and quirky youth hostel. Big marble stairs made for a somewhat ungainly entrance for someone who just puked her guts out but man was I gobsmacked when I entered! The hostel combines classic Victorian architecture with fun colours to create a fun vibrant atmosphere. Let’s break things down a little more:

THE HOSTEL

Clink78 is one of 3 youth hostels under the Clink name which also includes Clink261, also in London, and ClinkNOORD in Amsterdam. Clink78 is actually the one that helped earn the chain it name due to the fact that the hostel is actually an old courthouse where criminals were tried right up until 1998, the most famous of whom were the band The Clash whose name has been used for the hostels bar (more on that later). Standing at a total of 5 floors, Clink78 can hold up to 500 travelers who range from backpackers, students on school trips to more money conscious business people!

ACCOMMODATION

The Clink offers a variety of room styles, each for a different price but all offering free bed lines (private accommodations come with a towel as well)IMG_20170918_184224_021

  • Cell Rooms: The most expensive option involves sleeping in one of the small refurbished cells either alone or with a partner (someone you know)
  • Private Rooms: Same price of the cell but with a tad more space and the option of either a shared or en-suite bathroom
  • Mixed Dorms: Bunk bed based rooms set up to hold either 4 or 14 guests
  • Girls Only Dorms: 4 to 12 girls can sleep in these women’s only dorms

I am in a mixed dorm and have had 2 Australian, 1 Indian, 2 German and a New Zealand roommate so far. The room itself is pretty simple with a sink and mirror for brushing your teeth and makeup as well as assigned lockers for storing valuables while you are out and about. The beds are bunk beds with privacy walls that offer a safe hideaway from your roommates. Mine is actually quite dark, so much so that my Aussie roommate nicknamed it my ‘Cave’.

As I am on the bottom bunk I have access to a grand total of 3 plugs, which I willingly share with my top bunk mate (who has none). The beds also feature an upper shelf to keep things and a light for nighttime reading – or seeing in the case of my cave.

FEATURES

Along with the expected showers and bathrooms, the Clink also has a laundry room and IMG_20170918_190120_980a self-serve kitchen where guests are welcome to whip themselves up some grub with their own groceries. One thing I have loved is the free breakfast that is open from 6 until 10 each morning and feature a wide variety of meal options including cereal, toast, fruit, yogurt and a wide variety of hot and cold drinks! It is pretty much an eat as much as you want kind of deal so it is not uncommon to see people with like eight slices of toast (especially for those trying to save money).

Two other popular rooms are The Dock and The Courtroom, both of which maintain their old designs but have been updated to suit the needs of a busy hostel. The Dock serves as a computer room and locker area where you can get great WI-fi access with your own laptop OR pay a small fee to use one of the clinks!

Of course one of the big draws of this hostel is the ClashBar in the basement (yes named after THAT Clash). Cheery and inviting, the bar offers a pool table, beer pong games and dancing as well as super cheap drinks! Every night they do a different type of activity such as Beer Pong on Wednesday and Throwback Thursdays. The Sunday that I was there they also chose to run a Harry Potter marathon with mixed results due to a broken DVD player and the marathon only consisting of 1 movie.

THE PEOPLE

The staff at the Clink are amazing! Friendly and obviously dedicated to their job, they are easy to talk to and each one wears a badge that states what languages they know so that there is (hopefully) always someone around who speaks your language.

As for the inhabitants of the Clink, well, they are a right hodge-podge of people ranging widely in age and nationality. When I first arrived I noted a lot of Germans including a group of what I assume to be Grade 12 students and 2 teacher on a field trip of sorts (fancy). Most of the single travelers seem to prefer to stay to themselves but I have been lucky enough to meet a hilarious Brit, cheery American, and artsy German who were all obviously egging for some sort of chat.

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FINAL THOUGHTS

Other than the TERRIBLE showers I have really enjoyed my time here at the Clink and based on my time here I would absolutely recommend it to any traveler on a budget, hell or ANY traveler really!

Next time on Backpacks and Broomsticks: My trip to Madame Tussauds

 

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By Plane and by Train … Sort Of

Well I am officially in the UK and now that I have settled in a bit I have some posts coming up starting today!

I was truly amazed at just how fast I managed to make it through security and into the ‘waiting’ area for my actual flight. I think between arriving and actually getting into the area it only took about 2 ½ hours which I pretty damn impressive for Pearson! One of the biggest shocks though went to my Dad. I was expecting for him to turn into a sobbing mess but instead he only teared up a bit and made sure to keep me in his line of sight for as long as possible.

My flight itself was set to board at 8:10 BUT we had anticipated long lines but due to the fact that I checked in online we breezed through bag drop off and I even was able to get through security easy-peasy – they were super nice and I was very well-prepared as well so it all went fine.

Having never been on a plane before I wasn’t quite sure how my body was going to react and it end up that it reacted with nausea when I tried to play my DS, so now I know I don’t really have to pack it in my carry-on for my return flight. Other than that I drank some TERRIBLE tea, my fault for not asking for more milk, and attempted to sleep. Memo to me, get one of those neck pillows because man was that uncomfortable! It was also super cold so I need to dress warmer as I was literally shaking.

My arrival at Gatwick proved to be just as easy – though unfortunately it really didn’t remain that way. Unfortunately the instructions given to me by GWT proved to be insanely difficult to follow and the locals were not much better with each of them telling me a different platform and time. Flustered and definitely jet-lagged I made the executive decision to grab a taxi – even though it was kind of pricey.

The ride itself was pretty long and I wasn’t able to grab any sleep considering I was worried about doing so in a cab in a foreign so I just watched the villages go bad. Ends up that with stop and start London traffic I started feeling pretty gross and literally 2 minutes before arriving at the hostel I was SICK AS A DOG! Luckily I had a bag to be sick in and the cabbie was crazy understanding even joking that ‘I am not the first and I won’t be the last’.

Anywho, check in wasn’t until 2:30 so I went downstairs into the kitchen/dining area and just relaxed a bit until I was able to get my room. As soon as I got my room I was dead to the world and fell asleep. I slept for about 3 hours and then got up and went for a short walk for fresh air.  After my walk I felt peckish so I grabbed some food to bring back but I misjudged my stomach and was unable to eat much (luckily it wasn’t very expensive at all) and that only proved to depress me.

My exhaustion and nausea all added to my blue mood so I went back to my room in tears – unsure why I was crying but knowing that I was anyway. Then in walked my first roommate, a cheery Australian (who I will just call Roomie in these posts) who is also with GWT. She headed off for food while I relaxed a bit and met roomie 2 (I am in a 4 person room but I will talk about that more in my next post) who is an Indian guy who is here studying at a local University. Roomie had warned me that he was chatty but I was in for a shock when I realized just how chatty.

Needing to escape his non-stop prattle I ran into Roomie and promptly told her ‘you are right!’ before heading off to snap some photos of the hostel and then go back to my room to play some Mahjong on my laptop (very relaxing for me).

So that was my first day in London. Not the best but no shock when you consider I am a first-time traveler with a bad stomach.

Next time on Backpacks and Broomsticks: Welcome to the Clink!

 

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Packing Paranoia

Editing is something that always ends up happening while you are packing and for me this came about in me having to pack and repack my bag a few times. Even with my skills in packing stuff up, I realized that I had over packed and my suitcase was way to heavy for my little noodle arms.

So I went back to my original packing post and re-evaluated with my 4 main packing considerations: versatility, stay neutral, how often do I wear it and can be layered. After re-evaluating what I had packed I realized that where I failed was in my versatility sector.  To help me get my ducks back in order I headed over to Polyvore, a super neat little site that lets you sort through thousands of items to create outfits something that has been super helpful in figuring out the versatility of my items.

Ultimately I was able to cut down my tops from 12 down to 8 by eliminating my red bow top, flowy bat sweater,  black t-shirt and Slytherin sweater. I ended up discovering that both the Slytherin sweater and bat sweater cannot be paired up in enough outfits to make them worth being packed. I actually still have brought the t shirt though I changed to a burgundy one and added it into my ‘other’ clothing items. As for the red top, well, it got stained with hair dye while I was getting my hair done and I chose to leave it behind rather than fight with the stain.

Next up was my 8 bottoms which I easily cut down to 4. I never really figured out what to add for my 7th and 8th items so they were easy to cut. Next I cut the pants since (a) I hate pants and (b) the job I got over in England provides my work uniform which would have been the only reason I would have packed pants anyways. My last item I cut was the Umbrella cat skirt because no matter how much I love it, I cannot wear it with as many items plus it has a somewhat odd fit.

Last to get edited were my dresses – in this case I had to edit down from 6 and I ended up with 4. The black lace, graveyard and 3/4 sleeve dress all remained but I replaced the polka dot dress with a tight black dress that I forgot I had. I also chose to remove the blue dress and maxi dress since they don’t look as good with sweater AND they take up a whack of space.

Other items that got cut include my long black boots, due to space, and my Tarot card book since I can read all of the info easily online.

fashion

My final UK packing list!

Ultimately I am pretty content with the items that I will be leaving the country with, even if I do know that that I will likely end up picking up more items while I am over in the UK and, as my Mom said, I will likely end up having to buy a new suitcase just to get my stuff home again.

 

Next time on Backpacks and Broomsticks: By plane and then by air, on my way to London!

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Carrying on about a Carry-On

Today is the day! I am officially flying out of Toronto Pearson International Airport on my way to Gatwick Airport. From there I will be taking the train to King Cross where my hostel, Clink78 is! It has been a great week, nice and busy which helped make it go faster. Yesterday was crazy with me having to pack and repack 4 times!

Anywho with today being the last day I am in Canada it means that I had to finish the last bit of my packing – my dreaded carry-on! Trying to decide on what to pack in my damn

bag has been a nightmare and you can bet that if it wasn’t for the joys of Pinterest I

would still be trying to pack my damn bag.

So here is what I chose to pack in my carry on bag (going from left to right):

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  • Birth Control Medication
  • Bag of Toiletries
    • Medicated Skin Cream
    • Skin Cream
    • Toothbrush
    • Toothpaste
    • Deodorant
    • Shampoo
    • Bodywash
    • Conditioner
  • Bag of DS Games
  • DS Charger, Phone Charger,
  • Melatonin
  • Non-sleepy Graval
  • Notebook
  • Snack Mix – dry fruit
  • The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
  • Brush
  • Sertraline
  • Laptop and mouse
  • MP3

Definitely the hardest part about packing a carry on bag is trying to figure out what can and cannot LEGALLY go into your bag. My biggest piece of advice when it comes to this would be to make sure you read over the What Can I Bring section of the CATSA website and when in serious doubt just don’t bring it.

For me the hardest part was figuring out what I can bring as far as food – luckily a lot of companies make travel approved snack mixtures. On a negative though, finding a snack pack without nuts is like finding a needle in a haystack. Thankfully Walmart proved to be a success and I found a Tropical Dried fruit mix which includes Papaya, Banana chips, apricots and more – all completely plane approved.

Items that I want fast access to are all in my purse, due to the fact that it is easier to open and close for pulling stuff out quickly. So included in my purse are the following items:

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  • DS
  • Passport
  • Sunglasses
  • EpiPen
  • Important paperwork
  • Boarding Pass
  • Train Ticket
  • Visa Acceptance Letter
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • British Pounds
  • Lucky Stone – this particular stone is meant to promote confidence
  • Keychain
  • Bag of hard candies – to help with ear pressure
  • Wallet
  • Coin Purse

With everything all packed all I have left is to wait for it to be time for me to leave … and pray that my luggage isn’t over since my bathroom scale decided to go the way of the Dodo. My Dad, stepmom and sister are all coming to say goodbye before I head out of my amazing adventure so I am really hoping that I don’t bawl my eyes out – though I suspect I may cry a bit.

Next time on Backpacks and Broomsticks: The perils of packing!

 

 

 

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The Countdown Begins

As of Monday I will officially be 4 days away from my trip to the UK – 5 if you include Friday as a day which I probably should considering my flight is at. With 5 more days to go you can bet that I have stuff that needs to get done and people that need to be seen! It is definitely going to be a great week – and an expensive one but great.

Monday

So on Monday I am going out for dinner with one of my best chums Miriam. We have been friends since Grade 9 and try to get together at least once a month – something we tend to fail at. Miriam works in a hospital while I have been in retail so both of our schedules have been somewhat wacky to say the least.

Before we officially meet up I will also be doing some last minute shopping. Aka I am picking up the dreaded work pants, a new top with some colour to it and maybe a few pairs of undies from La Senza.

Tuesday

This is likely going to be my busiest day. At 10:30 I have a doctor’s appointment to make sure that my medication is all taken care of for me going away. I am not quite sure how this whole process is going to work so I may be making a post on how medication works for traveling.

After my doctor’s appointment I am booting back into my own area for a hair appointment to get my mane re-dyed. I let my hair fade out while I was saving up but now that I am leaving it is time to re-dye my hair black which is my usual colour (usual not natural).

Wednesday

I am heading for Walmart. Fun fact, I HATE Walmart usually it is always so crowded and kids are noisy and BLEAH! But luckily I am going DURING a work day so it will be quieter while I hunt down my travel toiletries and hopefully a pair of cheap black flats. I also need to go to the Bank and deposit a check sent to me by my aunt and to pick up some British pounds so that I have some mula for when I arrive.

Afterwards my family is going to the Mandarin for dinner! My Dad really wanted for us all to go out as a family for dinner and after some consideration we opted to go for the Mandarin since there is food for everyone there and we always have a great time. Fun fact, I am actually very careful at buffet style restaurant since I have a finicky stomach. For me I do a plate of cold food (salad and the like),

Thursday

Mainly Thursday is going to be a packing sort of day as I suspect that it may take me awhile to go through my list and check it twice (I am now Santa Claus). The only deviation to this packing day will be me heading out to the Bulk Barn to pick up the goodies I need to make my in-flight snack pack!

Friday

This is zero hour. I assume I will be doing some re-packing and a lot of cat cuddling since she is going to be the one I will be missing the most (I can’t talk to her on Skype like my family). Likely some crying because I know I will miss everyone, plus I am a total crybaby. I also know that I will be posting my last blog post while in Canada on the topic of what I am going to be packing in my

Friday is definitely going to be a maze of emotions. Some nerves, a little sadness and a LOT of excitement. I suspect my Dad and sister will have the biggest reactions with my sister preparing to miss me and my Dad being well, a Dad.

Long story short this is going to be a great week with ups and downs and an underlying feeling of pure excitement

Next time on Backpacks and Broomsticks: How to handle medication while traveling

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Oh the places I want to go

The first thing that everyone started asking me as soon as I said that I was going to the UK has been what do I most want to do when I get there – promptly followed by a list of things THEY would do if they were in my position. In fact I ended up with so many suggestions that rather than doing a top 5 list I have decided to do a top 10 list!

10.) Live the high life with High TeaHigh Tea fall 1

This seemed like one of those ‘well duh’ sort of decisions since it is so quintessentially British.

9.) Marvel at a Christmas Market

Though some towns in Ontario have Christmas markets, I have yet to actually go to one and I hear that the ones in the UK and Europe are gorgeous. In particular small towns have really perfect markets.

8.) Tour the Tower of London

This is another ‘duh’ sort of addition to the list. It is the perfect destination for any fan of history – or creepy stuff for that matter.

7.) Saunter over to Stonehengetower-of-london

As someone who is heavily into Pagan religions this is another site that is a cannot miss for me – even if it is always inundated by tourists.

6. Partake in a photo at Platform 9 3/4

Gotta love a free photo opportunity for us blogging types. May have to give the Gryffindor scarf a miss though – considering I am a Slytherin myself.

5.) Gamble about the Graveyards

I actually come by my fondness for graveyards honestly as both my Dad and Mom enjoy them. My Dad loves the history and my Mom enjoys the serenity. Regardless I have a feeling that this is going to be something I do a lot of.

4.) Visit the Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities

I actually found this idea while researching a list of less common things to do while in London and knew right away that this HAD to be added to my list.

3.) Cavort in Camden Market

Considered a MUST by any more gothically inclined traveler, Camden Market is said to be a must see London location! I have a feeling that may have to be a day trip once I have viktor-wynd-museum-5saved up a bit since apparently this market is full of goodies!

2.) Get spooked while searching for Ghosts

J’aime le ghosty. That is not proper French but it is TRUE! I have always been a ghost addict so that is totally on my to-do list! I haven’t quite decided what I am going to do just yet to fulfill this idea but it … will … HAPPEN!

1.) Go to the Warner Bros Harry Potter Tour in London

This was something I decided that I HAD to do almost immediately and even though I know it is going to be pricey I have decided to make it my 26th birthday present. I am hoping to find some local nerd friends (gotta love social networking) who will be willing to go with me!

Of course this list may change a little bit once I am there, especially since it will be dependent on my ease of movement.

Next time on Backpacks and Broomsticks: The last week countdown – aka what I have planned for my last week in Canada

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