Tag Archives: travel

Hunting Game of Thrones filming locations in Mdina, Malta

I’ve just returned from Malta where I took a (very hot) trip to Mdina, a walled city which was the capital in ancient times. It’s a pretty amazing place to visit anyway for the gorgeous architecture and narrow winding streets – locals call it The Silent City which is incredibly suggestive of mystery and drama, but I was doubly excited because it was the film location for King’s Landing in season 1 of HBO’s Game of Thrones. As you can see from the pictures below, I managed to find the filming location of the main gate to King’s Landing (easy) and Petyr Baelish AKA Littlefinger’s brothel (trickier, you need to look for Piazza Mesquita which isn’t shown on the tourist maps).

Game of Thrones location Mdina

Screenshots from Game of Thrones are the property of HBO

Visiting the real life locations of the filming was incredible, and I think that the screenshots next to my photographs in the collage above really show the artistry of the set designers and artists who work on the production to adapt George R.R. Martin’s books for the screen. The changes they’ve made to the landscape are fairly minimal – the ground has been reddened and made to look dirtier and earthier, awnings of rustic fabrics have been draped over doorways and obvious modern features removed, but these subtle changes have such a profound effect when coupled with the presence of actors in costume on horseback. It really becomes a fantasy world. Not only is it a testament to the skills of everyone who worked on the production, but it speaks volumes about the beauty of Mdina. If you’re ever in Malta, I highly recommend a visit.

Alice in Wonderland Statue in Central Park

Central Park Alice in Wonderland Statue with ChildrenI love that the Alice in Wonderland Memorial Statue for Margarita Delacorte in Central Park is intended for children to play on, it’s incredibly charming, having been polished smooth by children’s hands since it arrived in the park in 1959, and you can understand why it’s such a popular landmark to photograph.

 

However, something that you never seem to see is the beautiful quotations around the base of the statue, which were perhaps my favourite thing about it:

Alice Twinkle twinkle Little Bat Alice Speak Roughly to your little boy Alice Twas Brillig Alice Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee Battle

I found the last one really moving, it’s the dedication from the husband of the woman who the statue is dedicated to. I wish I could find out a bit more about her, this is just so beautiful. The kind of memorial you’d want if you could choose.

Alice in Wonderland Central Park Dedication

 

Literature Spotting in Central Park

If you ever drop in on my Twitter account, you’ll know that I was in New York for work last week. Working with jet lag was… interesting, fun but very hard work concentrating. The upshot was that my hotel was very close to Central Park so I went wandering there in the afternoons after work and spent most of Saturday marching around from landmark to landmark, from The Mall to The Conservatory Water (via the zoo…). I loved Central Park and could wax lyrical about how amazing I thought it was for hours (pops up in so many books as well) but I won’t instead I will share with you some of the literary statues I managed to track down using a Central Park Map I printed before I went.

Central Park Alice in Wonderland Statue with Children

Alice in Wonderland Statue- Memorial to Margarita Delacorte

Central Park Hans Christian Andersen Statue

Hans Christian Andersen Statue

Central Park The Mall Burns

Robert Burns Statue on The Mall

Central Park The Mall Halleck

Fitz-Greene Halleck Statue on The Mall

Central Park The Mall Shakespeare

William Shakespeare Statue on The Mall

Central Park The Mall Scott

Walter Scott Statue on The Mall

I tried getting to The Shakespeare Garden and hunting down the Romeo and Juliet statue on the Saturday but unfortunately that whole area was fenced off for an Alicia Keys/Stevie Wonder concert that I didn’t have a ticket for… did I miss anything else?

Visit to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage

Ann Hathaway's Cottage

Ann Hathaway’s Cottage

My boyfriend and I took a detour past Anne Hathaway’s Cottage on the way home from a family event today. Run by The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, it’s the childhood home of Shakespeare’s wife and young William would have gone there when he went a wooing.

If you haven’t been, it’s definitely worth a visit. Your ticket allows you entry to the house and gardens for the year, and if you lived locally then it would be worth going back frequently for the gardens alone, we arrived in the middle of the Sweet Pea Festival, which was beautiful but they have seasonal events throughout the year. There’s currently an exhibition of the language of flowers which talks about how Shakespeare used the hidden meaning of flowers in the play, though this seemed to be very much aimed at a school age audience (eg. when they talked about Ophelia handing out flowers to King Claudius’ court they didn’t mention that the rue Ophelia keeps for herself may be as an abortifacient as she is pregnant with Hamlet’s child).

I was especially excited to see the bed which may or may not be the second best bed that Shakespeare left to his wife in his will (as re-imagined in one of my favourite poems by Carol Ann Duffy) though apparently the teasel heads are used to discourage visitors from sitting on the bed rather than for any symbolic meaning, as related in this amusing video.

Shakespeare's Second Best Bed?

Shakespeare’s Second Best Bed?

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Penny ground with first half of sonnet 116...

Penny ground with first half of sonnet 116…

... and the second half of sonnet 116

… and the second half of sonnet 116

 

Magical Books Exhibition at Bodleian Library Oxford

My exhibition leaflet

My exhibition leaflet

Yesterday afternoon I took a detour while shopping in Oxford to drop into The Bodleian Library’s exhibition of Magical Books. As with any Bodleian library exhibition, this did not disappoint. It was so exciting to see hand written manuscripts, art work and artefacts that some of my favourite writers created or were inspired by.

Along with the usual suspects like C.S. Lewis, JRR Tolkein and Philip Pullman who you would expect to see at an Oxford based exhibition of fantasy literature, there were some real gems that I hadn’t expected to see like medieval manuscripts on divination, the Rawlinson necromantic manuscript and, my personal favourite, the plates which inspired Alan Garner’s The Owl Service.

We read The Owl Service when I started secondary school and I can remember how I used to get told off for reading ahead in lessons when we were meant to be reading along with the class. It’s the first time I’d really appreciated that a story was updating and twisting an ancient myth into something new and modern (even though the book was at least 30 years old by the time I read it). I think that this is where my love of fairy tale and myth inspired novels has come from so it was really nice to be able to trace out the flower owls like Alison did in the story.

Unfortunately, I’m not able to share any pictures from the exhibition here, but the lovely people at the Bodleian have made the entire exhibition available online for anyone who wasn’t able to make it to Oxford to see it.

Ten Weeks in Africa by J.M. Shaw

Ten Weeks in Africa- What would you sacrifice to do the right thing?

Ten Weeks in Africa- What would you sacrifice to do the right thing?

When Ed Caine, an NGO  worker employed by the Global Justice Alliance moves his wife and young child to Africa to improve living conditions in the Makera slum, he genuinely believes he can make a difference, but in ten short weeks his ideals are shattered. Despite the assistance of Beatrice Kamunda and her father Joseph Kamunda, a senior government official known for his principled stance against corruption, he finds himself stonewalled as funds are siphoned off by the government. As Ed and his friends try struggle to save their project, they begin to realise that they a powerful enemy is behind the land grab. As political tensions seethe pushing the country to the brink of civil war, Ed and Beatrice begin to understand that much more than the survival of the project is at stake.

For anyone who remembers the outcry that arose when it was revealed that millions of pounds of Western Aid (including funds from Live Aid) was used by rebel leaders to buy arms, Ten Weeks in Africa by JM Shaw is an interesting read. It is well written with a fast paced and engaging story, but more than this it poses some interesting questions about Western interference in Africa. Through careful characterisation and plotting, Shaw creates a brilliant tension which gives birth to a pointed question: does financial aid from rich countries exacerbate the problems it is intended to solve?

Though I am interested in politics and global justice, I can’t make any claims to be an expert, so I did some research about what the experts actually thought about it and the consensus seems to be that it is a well-researched, accurate representation of the concerns of people working in this area. For more information I recommend this article by Peter Gill for The Guardian and this article by Charles Moore for The Telegraph.

 

Books, Baguettes & Bedbugs by Jeremy Mercer

A colleague in work had to go to Paris for a conference recently and was asking for suggestions of things to do in her free time. I mentioned that she should visit Shakespeare & Co. which is across the river from Notre Dame Cathedral.

I visited Paris a few times on school trips, and remember seeing the books lined up on tables outside the shop. But being on a school trip, we were quickly bustled to the Cathedral and I never had a chance to go inside. I’ve been planning to save up for a weekend trip to Paris, to visit the store and see the sights, for a long time now.

Overhearing this, another colleague offered to lend me her copy of Books, Baguettes & Bedbugs by Jeremy Mercer, a Canadian writer who fled to Paris after receiving a death threat from a thief he’d upset by revealing his name in a true crime novel. Almost penniless he took refuge at Shakespeare & Company, then run by the remarkable George Whitman, who allowed writers, poets and artists to stay in his shop free of charge while they worked on their projects and got back on their feet. In a world obsessed with money, George managed to distance himself from the drive to acquire, using his cash to feed and home relative strangers. The maxim of his store being, “Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise

The book is a portrait of a remarkable bookshop, its remarkable inhabitants, but most of all of the remarkable man who ran it. A great read which really does make you think. I read sections of it aloud to my boyfriend (who hates being read to) and even he was interested in the philosophy of the shop. My favourite quote from the book (except the one that compares self publishing to using prostitutes in unfavourable terms):

From wikipedia- sadly I can’t properly reference the Flickr account it came from as the wiki link is dead. Let me know if this is your image!

“’People all tell me that they work too much, that they need to make more money,’ George told me. ‘What’s the point? Why not live on as little as possible and then spend your time with your family or reading Tolstoy or running a bookstore? It doesn’t make any sense.’” Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs Jeremy Mercer

Mrs Harris Goes to Moscow- Paul Gallico

What happens when Ada Harris, an interfering cockney char lady with a heart of gold, finds out that her employer is hopelessly in love with a Russian girl he has been parted from? An adventure of course! When the old lady heads to Moscow on a package tour with her trusty friend Mrs Butterfield there are run ins with the KGB, meetings with ambassadors from both nations and a cameo appearance from Prince Philip. But can Mrs Harris save the day and make sure that love conquers all?

I really enjoyed this short-but-sweet, old-fashioned romp of a novel from Paul Gallico, acclaimed author of The Snow Goose. I hadn’t realised that I’d heard of his Mrs Harris series (of which this is the fourth and final book) before buying this book which I picked up as pot luck because I loved the cover of the re-editioned Bloomsbury copy. It was only upon reading the book I realised that I had actually seen a ballet adaptation of the first novel, Mrs Harris Goes to Paris, on television years and years ago. Weird, huh?

If you’re going on holiday to Moscow, and want a holiday read set in Russia but can’t face the length of any of the Russian classics, I think this would make a great light read.

Holiday Reading, Ericeira, Portugal

I was lucky to have a long weekend in Portugal for my friends’ wedding recently. Reading on holidays is simple- slather on a high factor suncream (and if you have a free tissue flap on your foot, whack on a sock to prevent scars burning…), some sunglasses and a hat. Find a suitable spot and a cold drink and proceed with reading. If you fancy making blog readers jealous, take photos of your scenic location.

Reading at the Villa

Boyfriend hiding from camera

Taken while lying on beach reading.

Sherlock, I salute you

“What do you say to a ramble through London?” The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

 

 

Well Sherlock, after the day I’ve had, I’m afraid I’ll have to give that one a miss. I can handle the tube fine, I can manage to find my way to all of the tourist traps because they are sign posted. But when it comes to finding a hidden office down a series of side streets then I have to admit I struggle.

Sherlock Holmes however, did not. He is meant to have known the city like the back of his hand, to the extent that he would practise finding the quickest route between any two given points in London.

I like to think that this was made easier by the city being much smaller then. And these things are easier when you’re a fictional character.