Normally, I’d insist on showing absolutely every picture I took….but I realize that will take a lot of time and effort. So we’ll have to do a bit of editing, although I’m pretty sure it’ll still look as if I posted every picture I took. What can you do?
It has been a busy month or so, since last I posted, whether it was work or vacation. Work was especially intense and I can actually see a finish line for this engagement, if that can be believed. Probably shouldn’t jinx myself though, so I’ll leave it at that.
Sat, May 27, 2017: Starting Memorial Day Weekend with La La Land @ the Bowl
During Memorial Day weekend, Larry & I were heading out to New Jersey & NYC to spend the week with friends and family and to be able to attend our niece’s baby naming ceremony. But before we headed back, I had bought us tickets to the La La Land in Concert @ the Hollywood Bowl….and it was great and a wonderful way to kick off the Hollywood Bowl season. The kicker in this concert was that the orchestra would play the entire soundtrack while the movie played, and for this, they also included a jazz band, and there was a fantastic piano player who quite deftly played all the Sebastian music. Pretty great experience, and aided by fireworks that kicked in at various moments in the movie. Gotta love fireworks!
Sun, May 28: Flying to Newark
Happily, flying out of LAX in the middle of a long holiday weekend isn’t a complete shitshow, and even while you can’t ever escape traffic at the terminal, we were still able to get in and to the gate pretty easily. Pro-Tip: Get yourself Pre-Check. Everything is easier once that’s accomplished.
I liked these pictures I took right after take-off, looking back at Los Angeles and the area around Rancho Palos Verdes.
Ready to leave at LAX
Arrival at Newark
That first night, we got picked up by Fran & Joel and hung out at their place, eating some delicious New Jersey pizza. Then it was time to pass out and hope we could get some sleep.
Mon, May 29: A Day with Jon, Alyssa, Stacey & Rachel
Our first full day back was going to be spent with the Rausches as we never get to see them. Plus, the baby naming ceremony for Rachel was the following weekend and that was going to be a hectic, stressful day for them. So here, we could just relax and have a nice day. Which we totally did, as we hung out at their house for a while, chatting, having a few drinks, eating lunch, and getting to play with Stacey & Rachel. We then went to the local zoo! It may have been kind of dreary and rainy, but it was still fun. It was back to the house for some more Lego Batman movie watching and games directed by Stacey before we then went to a wonderful dinner with just Jon & Alyssa as Fran & Joel picked up babysitting duties. In other words, it was a really fun day.
Larry feeds Rachel
Joel & Stacey
Time for the Carousel!
Jon, Larry, and Stacey
I’m not the one who put that other sign above this one
They have a giraffe paddock at this zoo
Larry & Rachel continue bonding
Fun at the table
Yay for self-timers
Jon & Larry
Me & Alyssa
Me & Jon
Great pic of Larry & Alyssa
Tues, May 30 – Larry’s Birthday!
So this day was a day with Fran in NYC as well as us starting a temporary hotel stay in the city for a few days to be tourists and enjoy the old neighborhoods a bit. First on the agenda was heading to the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the UES, as hello, it’s awesome there. After Fran fearlessly navigated her way there – btw, the city seems to be a whole lot more crowded as lots of streets are under refurbishment? – we walked the few blocks to the Met and took in a few exhibits before heading to the roof. It’s got a spectacular view of Midtown framed by a tree-top view of Central Park. See for yourself!
Back in Larry’s old hood
Mom and son
Out front of the Met
We were NYers, once
Inside the Rei Kawakubo exhibit
Lots of art as fashion
Some you could see as wearable
Looking west to the UWS
There’s art up top too
432 Park is super tall – and was lost in clouds today
Mesmerizing Midtown – ever more tall buildings going up
You’re a very wealthy millionaire if you live there
Inside the Egyptian wing
hadn’t been here since we left NYC at the end of 2010
We then had lunch at the Atlantic Grill, which was the restaurant that Larry literally lived right above when he used to live on 76th St. When you’d walk up to his place, you’d walk right by the windows of the restaurant that faced his building’s little courtyard. So we were back! It’s a great seafood restaurant and was a very nice way to celebrate his birthday.
At this point, Fran dropped us off over on the UWS as she headed back to New Jersey, and we then grabbed an Uber to take us to our hotel in Chelsea, the Hyatt House. It was a fairly new building with just a few rooms per floor as the building is quite narrow, and it didn’t seem very crowded. Also, it’s in a great location as you’re near Midtown but not quite in it, while also handy to a few subway lines. Anyway, after checking in and getting settled, we had a show to catch, as Fran had gotten us tickets to see “Kinky Boots” on Broadway. It’s a fun show about a British shoe company that is down on its luck until it realizes there’s a market for drag queen shoes. It’s an enjoyable, fun musical with some standout performances, notably by the main queen, Lola, as well as the young owner of the shoe factory, played here by the lead singer of Panic! at the Disco. A lot of catchy numbers made for a very fun show – definitely recommended.
Afterwards, we walked over to Hell’s Kitchen to grab a meal at one of our favorite places, Five Napkin Burger…so goood.
This was a fun day.We were able to sleep in a little bit (not much), as we had tickets to the London Film Museum’s exhibit “Bond in Motion” – a collection of Bond cars and vehicles from throughout the movies.Started at 10am, which was our window (although from having visited there now, I don’t think it was quite necessary to buy the tickets in advance; better safe than sorry).So we got a quick breakfast in at the nearby Starbucks, then walked over to the museum.Yeah, walked, as our hotel is so centrally located.Walked through the West End, seeing the theaters for Aladdin and Harry Potter on the way there.It was also raining slightly, which was about time as London is supposed to have some rain! It also was nice for it to be cool a little as it’s been pretty damn hot/warm here and in Paris!
Anyway, we got to the exhibit and it was absolutely amazing.Everything was laid out in a great fashion and there were so many important cars to the series present, from the Aston Martins, the Rolls Royces, Jaguars, etc.Quite amazing, and I took lots of pictures.Larry bought lots of cool things too, including the guide book.We also got a few shots with the life size Connery mannequin up front.Just spectacular the whole thing.Well worth coming to London for!!!!
So….let’s try to break these pictures down in some kind of order…first, getting to the London Film Museum via the route shown above:
A rainy start to our day in SoHo
The walk to the museum took us through the West End – and next to the show we’d see the next day
Rainy conditions won’t stop us from taking a pic
Didn’t make it to this sold-out show
Our destination – the Bond in Motion exhibit
The Foyer of the Exhibit:
Awaiting us in the lobby – a Sean Connery Bond mannequin
Pretty good likeness
There were great clips being shown throughout
Barnes, Hobie Barnes
Now we’re talking
MI:6 Mock-up from The World Is Not Enough:
The MI:6 mockup used when planning The World Is Not Enough’s opening scene
The part of the building where the boat launches from
You Only Live Twice:
The “Little Nellie” autogyro from You Only Live Twice
Little Nellie from below
The boxes that held Little Nellie in You Only Live Twice
Heading down into the main exhibit…
The main floor of what was shown was simply spectacular. Almost every vehicle you’d expect to see was there, seriously.
A View To A Kill:
We found the Rolls Royce from a View to a Kill – poor Tibbets
It’s actually Cubby Broccoli’s Rolls
Goldeneye / Goldfinger:
The Aston Martin DB5s shown here had a model version based off of the Goldfinger one, as well as a real car that was used in Goldeneye.
Us with an Aston Martin DB5 – from Goldeneye, we think
It’s the same model of car that was also in Goldfinger, as you can see in the movie in the background
Another view of the Aston Martin DB5 as well as a model made for Skyfall
The Rolls Royce Phantom III from Goldfinger – what a car
Die Another Day:
Evil Zao’s Jaguar XKR from Die Another Day, with optional machine gun
Bond’s Aston Martin V12 Vanquish from Die Another Day
Larry with the fold-up jet from Octopussy’s opener
Octopussy’s Tuk-Tuk Taxi from the drive through India
The Living Daylights:
The Aston Martin V8 from The Living Daylights – note the cello and case in the background
The World Is Not Enough:
The BMW Z8 from The World Is Not Enough – this one wasn’t sliced in two
The model King helicopter from The World Is Not Enough with death blades
Quantum of Solace:
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service:
Tracy’s Mercury Cougar XR7 from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Another view of the Mercury from OHMSS
Diamonds Are Forever:
Diamonds Are Forever’s Spectre Bath-o-Sub that belonged to Blofeld
The Ford Mustang Mach I from Diamonds Are Forever
Honda ATC 90 belonging to White as Bond escapes in Diamonds Are Forever
Map Tokens for Diamonds Are Forever
The Spy Who Loved Me:
The submersible Lotus Esprit S1 from The Spy Who Loved Me
Very cool to see this
Clapper from Spectre
Inside the Cars from Spectre part of the exhibit
The gorgeous Aston Martin DB10 from Spectre
The Jaguar C-X75 that tries to catch Bond in Rome in Spectre
The Rolls Royce Wraith the picks Bond up in Africa in Spectre
Another view of the Jaguar
The Land Rover Defender that tries to escape Bond in the Alps in Spectre
Some promotional stills from the latest Bond movie, Spectre
For Your Eyes Only:
The Neptune 2-Man Sub from For Your Eyes Only
What remains of the Citroen 2CV from For Your Eyes Only
The Man With the Golden Gun:
The Man With the Golden Gun’s AMC Hornet X – not corkscrewing through the air at this moment
The really jacked up Aston Martin DBS from Casino Royale
It did a lot of rolls to look like that
Various Odds & Ends:
Pierce Brosnan’s Bond passport
And Daniel Craig’s Bond passport
The faked up IDs from Casino Royale – Stephanie Broadchest was really her spy name
Lots more motorcycles
Ken Adams’ signature – he’s the production designer behind so much of Bond
Props from Moonraker
The lounge down here was pretty nice and we enjoyed a cappuccino
Just saying – this was the best collection of James Bond cars you could ever hope to see.
The James Bond Walking Tour
But that wasn’t the end of our James Bond adventures today.So after the London Film Museum exhibition, we came back to the hotel to drop off the new goodies we’d just bought, then headed back out to Charing Cross Station as at 2pm, we were joining up for a James Bond Walking Tour!!!Holy crap, this is quite an amazing and somewhat grueling walk, as you walk a LOT.Starting at Charing Cross, you get some insight into how the underground sections were used quite frequently, especially for the chase scenes in Skyfall.
We then meandered through London to various locales that were used in Spectre and Skyfall before heading to the National Gallery Museum right near Trafalgar Square.Got a lot of backstory on the filming there as well as the use of art, especially in Skyfall.The use of the various paintings, combined with the accounts of Admiral Nelson in the battle of Trafalgar and how those were analogous to James Bond and M’s demise….holy shit, it was amazing.Then when in the National Gallery (didn’t know we’d be going in there!), we saw not only where Q and James Bond meet for the first time in Skyfall, but also the painting that James Bond notices in Dr. No, which at the time in the 60s had just been stolen. AWESome.
Heading to Charing Cross for our James Bond Walking Tour
You have to take this shot. It’s the law.
Making our way back into the West End
I’m everywhere – as is my name
The starting point for our Bond Walking Tour was the Charing Cross Underground station
In Charing Cross’ Tube Station & Outside Rules
Charing Cross Station was used a lot in Skyfall
although of course it will be changed for whatever the movie needs it to be
This staircase is featured in Skyfall
This upscale restaurant is where the team regroups before the final act in Spectre
Off to Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square was our next stop
and we were about to go into the National Gallery
Us in the Square
rude photobomb, dude
And Inside the National Portrait Gallery
This portrait is one of the items that Dr. No stole in Dr No
This Joseph Turner painting, The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up, holds meaning and was in Skyfall
The museum interior is beautiful
After leaving the museum, we walked through Trafalgar Square and over to the Admiralty Gate which faces Buckingham Palace. These were the scenes of other M:I6 locations in the movies, which was a lot of fun.The guide was just such a great source of knowledge and energy!
We then walked over through the Whitehall street area which is a huge place for Skyfall, passing 10 Downing Street too.After getting a great shot in the middle of the street that matches Bond’s chase of Silva down the street, we all then hopped on a red London Bus (which I’d been wanting to do!!! Score!) and rode the route down to a station right across the Thames from where the MI:6 building actually is and what you see in the movies.That was where the tour ended, and it was just a blast to have gone on it.Seriously.Amazing!!!
Through Trafalgar Square to the Admiralty Gate
Bond exits this way in Skyfall
One of the lions in Trafalgar Square
Nelson, a little bit clearer
We’re outside what has been used as a facade for MI6 in certain movies
Looking towards Buckingham Palace
This is Admiralty Arch – and has been used in various establishing shots throughout the series
Walking Around the Whitehall Area:
Here we are in Whitehall
which is very much a government-focused area
More movie magic – this is NOT an actual Underground exit like it was in Skyfall
Royal Tank Regiment Memorial Statue
Who’s driving that?
Can’t remember what this exterior was used as
Oh – that’s the rooftop from the end of Skyfall
They’re the Horse Guards
And then near 10 Downing Street, with some Action Shots:
This is 10 Downing Street, where the Prime Minister lives
so now we’re in the middle of the street
and it’s where Bond is running after Silva through London in Skyfall
and so of course, we had to recreate the pose
I’m totally running here
The double-decker red bus took us down the Thames so we could get the across-the-river view of MI:6. It was awesome.
MI6 along the Thames
We got to ride a double-decker bus to the next location!
So exciting – I’d wanted to ride one
Our destination was across the Thames from the MI6 building
It’s obviously been made famous in the Brosnan and Craig Bonds, up until Spectre that is
Those apartments are insane looking
Levene, Larry Levene
Our tour group got a workout that day – they were so much fun
That loft up top was used in Get Him to the Greek
I coudl totally enjoy that living space
After the tour, we were on our own to get back
ooo, the Shard from a great distance
Such a striking building – want to visit it one day
Closer to MI6
You can see we’re a bit of a ways away from the main tourist part of London
Look at these places – kind of over the top
On the Vauxhall Bridge as we get closer to the other side of the Thames
The day wasn’t over yet!
We walked across the Vauxhall Bridge to the Tube station there, taking it back to the Westminster area as we had a Champagne Experience on the London Eye at 7.But that wasn’t for a few hours, so we ended up finding a place called Slug & Lettuce to eat at, which was a bit of a more corporate looking place to eat.It worked for us, although the food wasn’t anything special to write home about.After that, we got checked in at the London Eye for the Champagne Experience, which was okay.The time was good as the twilight was ending and the lights were coming on, and we got a glass of champagne and the host was very helpful with taking pictures of us.It was a good time but we were definitely getting tired.
Heading Back to the London Eye Area
After a brief tube ride north, we were back at the Westminster area
And the London Eye was our next destination
I like this picture
We had time to kill and were hungry – and there’s not a lot of places to eat in this area
ooooo, dramatic shot of the London Eye
The Champagne Experience on the London Eye at Sunset
About to board our Champagne Experience pod
Looking towards Charing Cross Station
The London Eye has a spectacular perspective of London
We were enjoying the time, but it was a bit packed in there
The Charing Cross Station and Golden Jubilee bridges
Pretty cool shot of Parliament and us
Parliament, Big Ben
You can see in the distance on the Thames where the MI6 area is where we just were
The walkie-talkie building
Inside our Champagne pod
We’d been on our feet most of the day, but that didn’t stop us from walking back to see what’s what.We crossed the Golden Jubilee Bridge and then meandered through the West End and SoHo again, finding Chinatown this time as well as the gay bar area.
Oh yeah, also found a gelato place that made the coolest rose formation of ice cream in a cone for you.It was delightful, and Delicious.
The Aquarium all lit up
London Eye – RED
Big Ben looks cool at night
Closer to the Jubilee Bridges
Charing Cross all dramatic like
Up on the Jubile Bridge
Oh yeah – we had a gorgeous presentation for our gelato that night
then walked through Chinatown, which is right next to the West End and SoHo
We had scheduled to go on a day-trip of visiting Windsor Castle, Bath, and Stonehenge. These aren’t near each other, so there’s a lot of driving between each location. The fun started immediately in just getting to the departure point. When I’d done this with Susan and Jeff before, we went over to a nearby hotel for a pickup and got dropped off at the Victoria Coach Station. This time, we got our selves there, which involves going to Victoria Underground Station at Victoria Train Station, but then having to walk outside that Train Station in order to go to the Coach Station. And once you’re outside, the signs get a bit confusing. Anyway, we chose luckily and got to the Coach station in time….to see everyone and their mother was also going on tours. Whatever, we got there, got on a coach, and were on our way eventually.
Departure from Victoria Coach Station:
Our gate at Victoria Coach Station
Ready for our first leg of the day
The first stop, after an hour or so of driving and listening to our charming English tour guide (who looked a little like David Attenborough) tell us about London and the upcoming Windsor Castle, was the city of Windsor.
There was a nice walk from the bus parking to the gates of the castle, after which we were on our own.Alas, they ran out of audio guides a few people before us, so we were on our own for that, which was okay.We did first wander around and then caught the Changing of the Guard, which is a lot like the big one by Buckingham.Although that’s quite a bit bigger methinks.After some time in the sun, and listening to the band play some of Adele’s greatest hits (no joke), we walked into the St. George Chapel, which has a couple of cool burials within, including Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, along with Queen Elizabeth II’s mother and father. Continue reading Touring the English Countryside (Stonehenge!)→
That next day, we did get to sleep in a bit.Not all day though, as we did want to do some stuff before heading off to our excursion at Versailles at 1pm.So we went to a cafe for breakfast across from the Notre Dame which ended up being our low point for food, as the service was awful and my omelette was the runniest thing I’d ever seen.Ah well, can’t all be winners.
After that, we walked back to the area by our hotel to find a bakery – happily there was one and we could get some croissants.We took the croissants back to the hotel’s little patio area, and got some cafe creme from the hotel.Nice way to spend the morning, and made things a bit better.
Morning in Paris
After some more relaxing at the hotel, we took the Metro over to Ecole Militaire, which was near our meeting point for the Versailles tour.We did take a walking detour from the Metro stop to walk through the Champ de Mars in order to get some good views of the Eiffel Tower during the day. It was also really effing hot that day too, so while it was a beautiful day, it was still really hot.Continue reading A Day at Versailles and a Night on the Seine→
So we weren’t able to sleep in too much as I had booked us on a champagne day trip in Reims, which is located smack dab in the middle of Champagne Country. But first we had to get to Reims on our own as the tour wasn’t a Paris-based one. Hence we were going to get our first experience with the SNCF trains, but even before that we had to get to Gare de L’est by taking the subway. After we got to the train station, we had enough time to grab a quick croissant at a vendor as we knew there was going to be lots of champagne ahead of us that day and it’s wise to not drink on an empty stomach. Larry even did the ordering and used the advice of adding ‘si vous plais’ when doing so, as it drastically helps in getting the French to be nice. The train ride there was very comfortable, as I had booked us in first class, and very smooth and VERY fast. Reims is quite a ways from Paris but via that train, it’s only 45 minutes. I love European trains.
Getting to Reims
I wanted to use this map to help give you a sense of how far away we were from Paris. By car, it takes nearly 1 3/4 hours, but our high speed train made quick work of that in 45 minutes. Nice!
Visiting our first champagne facility: G.H. Mumms
In Reims, we found our meeting point at the tourism office and after waiting in the line there briefly, I looked back to see that our minivan group was waiting and we didn’t need to wait in the line. Our seats were up in the front as we were the last to arrive and it was a crazy wide Mercedes minivan. Our host was a cute French/Brazilian guy who was not only our driver but also the tour guide for the day. We got a quick drive-through tour of the city of Reims first, before heading to the Mumms factory in the city. While waiting outside the facility for our tour to begin, we all got to meet each other. There were 3 couples in addition to us, making a total of 8 people.
Once inside Mumms, we first watched a movie of their history, but after that, we then started walking throughout the vast complex that exists underground. We learned about the various grapes used, the various bottle sizes, and just quite a bit of how champagne is made. Some of the things I remember, others not, but that link is helpful. Deeper underground, we got quite a cool tour of the workings, including walking around the huge underground city that is filled with endless rows of bottles and bottles. We got to really see in practice the part of the process in which bottles of champagne are kept stored at various inverted angles. Continue reading Visiting the Champagne Country + Moulin Rouge!→