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Posts in ‘Film, Art, Theatre, Music & Dance’

Las Fallas – Festival in Valencia

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            In March Valencia is home to one of Spain’s largest celebrations called the Falles, which is a traditional celebration commemorating Saint Joseph. The celebration lasts for 5 days and 5 nights, and is a perfect reason for a vacation. From March 15th-19th the streets and small neighborhoods of Valencia will be filled with people of all ages throwing fireworks and noisemakers into the streets to celebrate the culture and history of Valencia. Known to Spaniards as Las Fallas, there are 6 main events that make up the popular festival that cannot be missed! La Despertà and La Mascletà are events that occur in Valencia’s neighborhoods and are large displays of fireworks, firecrackers and musical celebration. La Despertà happens at 8:00 am but if you are not a morning person La Mascletà is the larger celebration at 2:00 pm.

La Plantà is an event that happens on the first day of Las Fallas and marks the start of the festival. Neighborhood leaders, also known as the Casal Faller, produce a structure known as a Falla, which is eventually burnt down at the end of the festival. A good way to see the Falla's and the neighborhoods is through a walking tour around the city. A walking tour will also show you where the fourth event of Las Fallas is, the L’Ofrena Floral, which is the floral offering given to Saint Mary by the Casal Fallas. This event occurs on March 17th and 18th and is a larger event than described because by the end of March 18th Saint Mary is beautifully covered in flowers and floral arrangements. 

If the firework displays at 8:00 am and 2:00 pm are not enough for you, Els Castells and La Nit del Foc, the night of fire, are nighttime fireworks displays at the old riverbed in Valencia. They occur on the first four nights of Las Falles and each display gets progressively grander. If your looking for something to do in between the multiple fireworks displays, bike and tapas tours are an excellent way to learn about the culture and history of Valencia.

All of these events and information will get you ready and excited for the final event of Falles, which is held around midnight on March 19th, La Cremà. The Falles that were constructed by each neighborhood are burnt in a huge bonfire to symbolize the end of winter and beginning of spring. This tradition started in the Middle Ages when artisans disposed of their winter wood by burning them to celebrate the spring equinox. This ritual evolved over the years into Las Fallas, which is now one of Spain’s largest celebrations. So hurry up & book your trip, celebrate the coming of spring with the people and community of Valencia. 

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Top 5 Reasons To Visit Belgium

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            Best known for it’s authentic beer, rich chocolate, and delightful waffles, Belgium’s food reputation over powers its historic character and diverse atmosphere. A destination filled with history, food, sightseeing, and relaxation, Belgium is one of Europe’s most unseen countries. If you are still contemplating on whether or not Belgium is for you, here are 5 reasons as to why Belgium is a must see European country.

1.     Notorious for it’s chocolates, waffles, and fries, Belgium has food that is easy to find in any other country but more authentic when found in Belgium. From unique fry toppings to flawless chocolate shops, the cultural food of Belgium is one of a kind.

2.     You might have tasted Belgian beer before in a country of your own, but nothing compares to an actual Belgian beer in Belgium! From strong beers that will knock you off your bar stool to over 400 different types of Beer at the Delirium bar, make sure you pace yourself when experiencing this part of the Belgian culture.

3.     Hidden in the shadows of Brussels, are the marvelous cities of Bruges and Ghent. Just a short train ride away from the countries capital, these two cities will astonish you with their medieval architecture and serene demeanor.

4.     Compared to Bruges and Ghent, Brussels is a modern city that not only is the capital of Belgium, but the European Union as well. However do not let its modernism fool you, Brussels has some medieval secrets of its own.

5.     Giving Berlin a bit of competition, Brussels’ nightlife has been emerging over the years. With many bars and restaurants open until 6 in the morning, you can find anything from tequila bars to seafood restaurants to put up camp for the night.

So before you plan your next trip to an overpopulated city or a remote island, think about the distinctive beers you can try in Brussels, the delectable chocolates in Bruges, the great waffles in Ghent, and the medieval secrets residing beneath your feet and book Belgium!

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Experiencing St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland

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Experiencing St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland

St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Saturday this year, giving you a great chance to get away for the weekend and experience an authentic St. Patrick’s Day, and other fantastic adventures that only Ireland has to offer.

1.) Cut Loose the Irish Way

The St. Patrick’s Day Festival:

The St. Patrick’s Day Fesitval is a great way to experience authentic Irish culture on such a special holiday. The festival takes place in Dublin and is known to last for around four days (this year it begins Friday March 16 and ends Monday March 19).

st-patricks-day-festival2

Some of the world’s best street performers and musicians can be found on Dublin’s streets during these four days. Also be on the look out for some great free concerts, with local and international bands, along with great theatre performances and even a Russian spectacular show.

The Guinness Brewery & Storehouse:

Another great way to celebrate Ireland and its fantastic pub culture is to partake in the Guinness Brewery & Storehouse experience, home to Ireland’s most beloved beer- the Guinness Draught. The brewery, located in Dublin since 1759, is a key contributor to Guinness’s 2 billion dollar a year revenue. The tour includes several floors to experience the history behind Guinness, with even a glass pint-shaped atrium tribute to the Guinness “black stuff”. Tours of the brewery usually finish up at the Gravity Bar, a bar with a 360 degree panoramic view of Dublin situated atop the famed storehouse.

800px-guinness_storehouse

2.) Get Your Irish Knowledge On!

Although you may know the origin and story of St. Patrick’s Day, other cultural and historical tales from Ireland are important and interesting ways to enhance your trip. There are many castles, monuments and sites to be seen that hold signifigant value to the Irish people, but the Tomb of Newgrange is certainly one of the coolest.

The Tomb of Newgrange:

The Tomb of Newgrange is one of the oldest historical sites in the world, dating back before Stonehenge and even the pyramids of Giza. Although called a tomb, there’s still no official account for what the site was used for, although many believe it was connected with burial rituals and the Winter Solstice. What IS known about the historical structure is that it dates all the way back to the Neolithic period and is considered Ireland’s greatest national monument.

799px-newgrange1

The tomb resembles a giant mound with alternate layers of stones and grass to make up the outter structure of the building. The tomb has three small rooms, which all connect to the one main room. Rock slabs line the walls of the tomb, along with a slab centered in the middle of the room, which the bones of the deceased are believed to be laid. The Neolithic abstract art of carved swirls and shapes only add to the mysterious beauty of the tomb.

3.) Find the Beauty of Ireland

Part of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day is by embracing the Irish culture and the beauty of Ireland. No better place can this be achieved than Ireland’s coast, which offers several mesmerizing landmarks and sites that will surely enhance and enrich your trip. Beautiful hills, valleys and look out points scatter the 120 mile long route known as the Causeway Coastal. Although the route has many stops, the most famous of them defintely belongs to the Giant Causeway.

The Giant Causeway:

Located in Northern Ireland in Antrim County The Giant Causeway is the biggest tourist attraction in all of Ireland. The Giant Causeway is primarily known for its basalt stepping stones and 40,000 chimney stack columns which slowly descend into the sea, giving it the title of the fourth greatest natural wonder in the United Kingdom. The Causeway was created some 50 million years ago, when the Antrim coast was subjected to intense volcanic activity.

Many legends surround the Causeway, with the most popular focusing on the Irish warrior Finn McCool, who outwit and frightened his enemy Benandonner, who fled from McCool and destroyed the Causeway in his flight. The Giant Causeway can be seen as a jump off point for a truly exciting road trip all along Ireland’s coast, with many more memorable stops on the way.

giantscauseway1

The Glens of Antrim

The nine Glens of Atrim is more inland than the Giant Causeway, but is defintely worth the ride. The nine Glens of Atrim is named after the nine lords from the 13th century and is a prime example of beautiful green rolling hills and lush flowers that call Ireland home.

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Brrrrr-lin in the Winter

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Berlin is certainly one of the most beautiful cities to explore, but once winter hits, you might find that walking and bike tours are more fitting for the warmer months.  Don’t rule out winter as a time to visit, as Berlin’s charm is still visible, if not accentuated by freshly fallen snow, Christmas decorations, and multiple activities reminding you that wintertime isn’t just for hibernating.

Christmas Markets

With over 50 different Christmas markets spread over the large squares and smaller allys, Berlin really captures the spirit of the holiday season wherever you run into them.  And you won’t be running into the same products over and over again, each market seems to specialize in different areas offering you a wide variety of gifts, gadgets, and goodies to browse through.

christmas-market You can go to the Gendarmenmarkt which features not only local embroidery, woodwork, stonemasonry, and food, but also there are shows which include performances by acrobatics, jugglers, musicians, and artists.  Or if you’re looking for something more low-key (relatively speaking to the glitz and glamour that can take over these markets), you can try the international Market of the Continents which supports social and structural projects from around the world.  When the native, handmade products are purchased from these traders it goes to their community to help their development.  Even better, this market is held indoors so even the snow can’t stop you.

Shows and Ballets

Outside may be snowy, dark, and cold, but what better way to capture the spirit of the holidays than a show by a world-renowned ballet, soothing orchestra, or fantastical entertainment?

candlelight-dinner I’ll be the first to admit that anything with the word “palace” sparks my interest, and this experience wouldn’t fall short of any expectations.  Enjoying a sumptuous dinner by candlelight in the Charlottenburg Palace Orangery, followed by what feels like a personal performance from the Berlin Palace Orchestra couldn’t make me feel better about escaping the cold in the warm and cozy comforts of this palace.

stage-show The Friedrichstadt Palast Stage Show is another alternative, less emphasis on the romance and instead, a complete focus on putting the audience in awe.  It’s safe to say that goal is always accomplished at the state-of-the-art theater where the stage is a show in itself.  With the addition of talented dancers, acrobatics, singers, and musicians, you’re mind will be in disbelief at what is presented in front of you.  Just call it a Christmas miracle.

Who could forget the Nutcracker?  Follow the classic story of a young girl and her doll on a Christmas Eve adventure.  Music by the infamous Tchaikovsky, and performed by the internationally acclaimed Russian National Ballet, this is one show that is sure to put you in the Christmas spirit!

Pubs

berlin-pub Finally, there is no better way to warm up than having a drink at a local pub.  With authentic taverns and numerous choices of drinks at the cocktail lounges, live music and even rooftop gardens over looking the city, there is no shortage to your options.  Berlin is filled with a wide variety of relaxing pubs and lively clubs, but they all give you a taste of the nightlife culture.

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The Thames Festival

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tower-of-london_london_4107_5If you are around in London this weekend, make sure to visit the Mayor Thames Festival. This free (!) festival is London largest outdoor arts festival with all kinds of activities dotted around the river Thames. Every year the Thames Festival attracts 800.000 visitors.

The festival is accessible for all ages, the festival committee has commissioned new work: a mixture of music, dance and various forms of street arts.

Performances
Look out for performances by Dionne Bromfield (goddaughter of the late Amy Winehouse),  a variety of DJs on the Lady Luck Jive Stage, the BFI’s vintage mobile cinema and displays of Korean Taekwondo and Argentinean tango.
The Thames area is divided in four different zones spreading from Westminster Bridge (Zone 1) to Tower Bridge and beyond (Zone 4) Each Zone has its own colour and performances will be easier to find with the map that will be handed out during the weekend or which you can find on the official website.

St Katherine Docks will have its annual displays of vintage boats and retro fashion. Southwark Bridge will be closed to traffic and transformed into the Feast on the Bridge; it will home to the many foodstalls cooking up a treat. There will also be craft stalls whose helpful owners will encourage you and the kids to get stuck in yourselves. Last year, there was a home made flower-hat contest and children of all ages made their own corn-dolls.

Sunday evening the Illuminated Night Carnival will take place and brings together over 2000 dancers, drummers and masqueraders.  The Thames Festival will close with the traditional Fireworks Finale.

Tips:

  • Bring an umbrella on Sunday as rain is forecasted.
  • Check if there are any planned Tube closures on the Transport for London website.
  • Can’t make it to London this weekend: plan a Thames tour to discover the capital in your own time.

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Famous people vs. famous places

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Has your child gone to school this week and brought back friends with exotic names? Recently it seemed a trend among celebs to name their children after places, think David and Victoria’s son Brooklyn or Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger’s daughter Ireland, and Brad and Angie’s gorgeous Zahara. (Yes, we know the desert starts with an S – still.)
However recent these fashion-names may seem, we reckon there are more grown-ups who share their name with a place or city.  Did you know that Elizabeth ( in New Jersey), Helena ( Montana) and Charlotte (in North Carolina) are names of cities too? They say your name influences your personality so see if these celebrities have something in common with their name-sakes.

Victoria Beckham vs. Victoria (Australia)
victoria2Victoria Beckham, mother-of-four, former Spice Girl turned designer and married to one of the most eligible man in football. She once tongue in cheek said: “I like a man who can be a real friend, has a good sense of humor, a good pair of shoes and a healthy gold card.

Victoria is also the smallest, most densely populated state of Australia. Historically people travelled there to dig for gold and hoped for a fortune. Nowadays the state still has rugged landscape, scenic coastline but also modern thriving cities. Melbourne is the most popular and a tour will shows any visitor array of restaurants, culture and entertainment.

Florence and the Machine vs.
Florence (Italy)
florence2Florence Welsh is the front-woman of this Grammy nominated band with hits like Rabbit Heart and You’ve Got The Love.  Florence’s mother is a Harvard-educated professor of Renaissance studies.

Florence in Italy calls itself the birthplace of the Renaissance. Its entire city centre is acknowledged as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Famous sites are the Galleria dell’ Academia and the Uffizi Gallery where a multitude of Renaissance paintings and sculptures are displayed.

Paris Hilton vs. Paris (France)paris2
Paris Hilton is great-granddaughter of Conrad Hilton of the Hilton hotel chain. Fashionista, reality tv star and business woman, this lady might have inherited wealth, in June this year Variety dubbed the heiress The Billion Dollar Entrepreneur with more than 4.1 million Twitter followers and nose for what products consumers want.

Paris France, is a classy classic city: the city of love has always been a home for fashionistas. What is not to love about Paris. From Montmartre, Versailles and the Louvre, the capital city of France offers a plethora of culture and entertainment.Treat yourselves with dinner during lovely cruise on the Seine and afterwards enjoy some cheeky entertainment with tickets for The Moulin Rouge.

Orlando Bloom vs Orlando (US)orlando2
Orlando Bloom rolled straight from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama into one of the biggest cinematic trilogies: playing Legolas in the Lord of The Rings. Since then the actor’s been in hot demand and took on another trilogy this time as Will Turner in Disney’s Pirates of the Carribean.

The city Orlando is situated in central Florida and the fifth largest city of the state.  It’s almost synonym with the theme parks that are build here: Walt Disney World® Resort, Universal Orlando® Resort, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. These parks ensure children will have the time of their lives in the sunny state but it can all add up, so find a good deal and get the best Orlando tickets.

Photo credits Flickr: Victoria- Friskytuna/Mark Sombillo; Florence- JessicaSarahS/ Kevin Poh; Paris- Alex CD/Moyan Brenn; Orlando Schneewante/LOT

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Venice Film Festival

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George ClooneyYesterday George Clooney’s political thriller The Ides of March, which he directed and starred in with Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour-Hoffmann and Evan Rachel Wood, opened the 68th edition of the Venice Film Festival.

The film festival lasts until 10th of September and will screen small productions as well as bigger Hollywood contenders. Venice Film Festival has shortlisted 22 international films to compete for the Golden Lion.

Among the nominees are The Ides of March, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by Thomas Alfredson with Gary Oldman, Colin Firth and Tom Hardy; and Shame by Steve McQueen, with Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan.

However the critics’ favourite seems to be A Dangerous Method by David Cronenberg starring Michael Fassbender (again) Keira Knightly, Viggo Mortenson and Vincent Cassell, about a young Carl Young, his mentor Sigmund Freud and the woman who came between them.

One film that will most probably not be winning is Madonna’s directorial effort W.E. about the relationship of King Edward VIII and American divorcee Wallis Simpson. The reviews of Madonna’s W.E. have been less than favourable, despite W.E. being backed by movie-mogul Harvey Weinstein.

Last year’s winner was Somewhere, directed by Sofia Coppola, daughter of Francis. Stephen Dorff plays the indifferent Hollywood star who suddenly gets saddled with his estranged daughter played by Elle Fanning. Elle is one to watch, only 13 and recently showed her talent in Stephen Spielberg’s Super 8. We became fans.

Venice Film Festival obviously has a fabulous and glamorous setting for all the filmstars to show off their best frocks and talk about their films. The city streets of water make that they all have to arrive by speedboat – It’s the only way dahlin’- and they all have to be assisted onto shore by their lackeys.

Alas, we can not offer you lackeys but we have plenty of tours in Venice, if you are planning to visit the wonderful city of Venice

Photocredit: Flickr Nico Genin

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Review: Woman In Black

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3301_3301_encorewib100x150In an effort to beat the hype when the film-version with Daniel Ratcliff comes out next year, we visited The Woman in Black on the London West End. Warned that it was the scariest play on the West End, we entered the Fortune Theatre with beating heart…

The first person to take the stage is Arthur Kipps (Patrick Drury) he’s trying to tell us about his experience as a young lawyer attending to the affairs of Mrs Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House.  When he saw a young woman in black at both the funeral and at the empty house, he tried to find out who she is.

The Set Up
We can’t hear Kipps clearly, as he is told by a booming voice from the back (first fright!). The voice is the Actor’s (Anthony Eden) who Kipps has hired to help him recite the story. After it’s become clear that reading the story would take too long, they decide to play out the story. This much to the reluctance of Kipps: he only wants to exorcise a ghost from the past by finally telling his family and friends about it. Still The Actor persists: he will be taking on the part of young Kipps and Kipps all the other parts.

This and other theatrical concepts are set up in the first half of the show: the use of sound to set the scene is explained and Kipps is told to use imagination when speaking about a dog or a horse and cart. This comical exchange ensures relieved laughs when the aforementioned situations arise in the much darker second half.

There is a bit of explicit foreshadowing in the first half, perhaps it benefits the less regular theatre-goers or even less experienced ghost story reader; for the rest of the audience it feels a bit like spoon-feeding.

Tension
The tension is built throughout, sometimes artificially broken like with clanging of buckets that the Actor trips over. Nevertheless it makes you realise you are at the edge of your seat. The sounds in The Woman in Black are heightened to fright – what the young Kipps witnesses outside the house is truly ear piercing.

The visual effects are effective; a opening door, an abandoned rocking chair, it plays with what the audience cannot see. The Woman In Black is simple and old-fashioned: it’s been on stage for the last 23 years, it’s not hi-tech Ghost the musical. (On that note, simplicity needs to be careful: a left open curtain takes away the illusion. You’d expect a ghost to go through the curtain and so make sure it falls back behind you.)

The End
Simplicity adds to the charm of The Woman in Black, just being a ghost story re-enacted by two men… or is it?  The tension heightens to climax as the lines of the “real story” and the “enacted story” are blurred; but when it’s finally explained who the woman in black is, the foreshadowing of the first half takes a bit of the end’s horrific realisation.

Our theatre blog is currently under construction - check soon on www.justlondontheatrebreaks.com/blog

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Elvis Presley’s Graceland

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BE048005It’s been 34 years after Elvis Presley’s death but fans still hold candlelight vigils at the gates of his Graceland mansion to remember The King.

Elvis was born 1935, in Tupelo Mississippi to his parents Vernon and Gladys Presley. His twin-brother Jesse was still born and Elvis would remain an only child. In 1954 he signed up with Sun Records in Memphis, a label owned by Sam Phillips and deemed the birthplace of rock ‘n’roll. Self-taught producer Philips has a knack for spotting talent: he’d also sign the likes of Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis. A picture of the four jamming in 1956 would later be printed as “The Million Dollar Quartet.” The unique event has recently inspired a jukebox musical Million Dollar Quartet that was sold out on Broadway and a hit in the London West End.

A mere two years after his first recording Elvis had transferred to the bigger label RCA and was on his way to become a world-star. He sold over a billion records, earned 14 Grammy nominations and acted in 33 movies.

In 1967, after an eight year courtship, Elvis Presley married Priscilla Beaulieu. Exactly nine months later their daughter Lisa Marie was born. Elvis and Priscilla in Germany when he drafted for the US Army. Remarkably this would be the only time Elvis would travel outside of the USA, despite his worldwide success.

elvis_graceland

On the eve of the 34th of anniversary of her father’s death Lisa Marie released a statement, in which she announced a new exhibition at Graceland in Spring 2012 “Elvis Through His Daughter’s Eyes”.

Elvis might have left the building but his legacy still lives on.

Discover the undisputed birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll and visit Graceland and other Memphis music attractions with an audiotour and discount.

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The Edinburgh Fringe Festival

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fringe The summer exodus to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival continues: the cobbled streets are filled with people handing out flyers for their plays, next to groups performing songs from their shows. The atmosphere, despite the inevitable rain – it’s Scotland after all, is electrifying and exciting.

This year we did the Edinburgh festival experience in one day, commuting from Glasgow. The last train is around midnight: an extra service thanks to the fringe. Word of warning: if you have not already sorted out your accommodation you might be in trouble. The hotel prices are extortionate around this time of year and you’d really be best off finding new love for a distant family member who lives close or join the celebrations in the evenings with all the performers and find yourself a local buddy. (That’s a joke, mother.)

For all you people who are still planning to heading up North, a few tips:

1. Be nice to all the people ‘flyering’: they are just promoting their shows. They have worked hard and often put a lot of their own money into it.
2. Pick up an offical Fringe magazine, which contains all the shows and has a very useful map in the front. You can get one from the Box Office on the High Street, which is open from 9am to 9pm.
3. Book tickets online to avoid disappointment, but still be prepared to queue when you pick them up. So leave yourself enough time to get to a show!
4. During down time, climb the stairs of Calton Hill, just a ten-minute walk from Waverly train station. The view from the top is fantastic: you can overlook the bustling city streets and see the gorgeous landscape surrounding the city.edinburgh-castle
5. Embrace being a tourist and visit the famous Edinburgh Castle (open daily 9.30-5pm; adults £12; child £6).

Should you have time to go sight-seeing, book an Edinburgh tour where you can hop on and hop off, and get the most of your time in Scotland. Enjoy!

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