Thursday, September 30, 2010

La Caille, Little America and Lion King

After spending a couple months in England we had grown so accustomed to weekend excursions, so when we came home, probably in an attempt to acclimate ourselves to regular life, we've had a couple of fun outings.  First, after the Beat Beethoven 5K, we had an afternoon visit to Park City where we did a little shopping and a little buying and tried some famous shakes from the legendary Granny's Drive-In in Heber.
It was nice, but the big plans happened the next weekend.

Three semi-unrelated short stories:

  • We went to a bridal show at the ultra-deluxe La Caille last summer, and they gave us a gift certificate good for $50 toward dinner on a future visit.  We put it off all winter and spring and said we would use it for an anniversary outing of some sort in the summer or fall.
  • The day we were married we stayed at Salt Lake City's Little America Hotel, and enjoyed the honeymoon package of chocolate-dipped strawberries, bubbly and a souvenir key engraved with our names and our wedding date.  Of course, as we flew to California early the next morning, we didn't have long to enjoy the amenities, atmosphere or area of the hotel, so we thought we should come back at a later date to spend a little more time and explore.
  • When I heard The Lion King was coming to Salt Lake City I decided it was time to finally see it, having read about it and seen pictures from it and listened to the recording a thousand times, so in the spring I bought two tickets for several months later (of course you have to buy tickets six months in advance...  but at least then when the time comes to see it you don't have to put up much cash).  Though Julie suspected that I had bought tickets, I didn't actually break the news until mid-August as an anniversary surprise.  She was really tipped off when I wasn't insisting that we see it in London, where it was heavily advertised.
Of course, we were in England for our actual anniversary, and we did have a really wonderful time in Windermere, but now we had all these other plans, some of which had practically already been paid for!  So we decided to celebrate our first anniversary again, locally this time.  Luckily the tickets I bought happened to be just days after we came back to town, but imagine our surprise when we learned the gift certificate had expired at the end of July!  I called and explained that we were out of the country but were really looking forward to visiting their ever so fine restaurant, and the fellow on the phone told me if we made a reservation for a day within the week he would approve our use of the almost two-months expired coupon (now THAT is customer service, and a good thing too, because we would have just gone elsewhere otherwise).  Everything was falling into place, and we even had a discounted rate for our two nights in Little America.

On Friday then, we packed up a honeymoon basket of treats and bubbly and headed up to La Caille in Sandy.  The help was distractingly scantily-clad, but the atmosphere was luxe and interesting and the food was delicious, though obviously a little overpriced.  (As I said, without such a hefty coupon, we both agreed we probably wouldn't have gone).  We felt like it was a little too fancy a place to take photos, but if you do get a chance to go there for whatever reason, even for an event or a bridal show, it really is a charming location.  We went to the hotel, and this time took advantage of the flat-screen TV, the balcony with north view and the indoor/outdoor pool.
On Saturday, after a little detective work, we bought lunch at our well-loved traveling Chinese restaurant, The Chow Truck, then did some shopping (Gateway, Sam's Club, and the infamous NPS), took an afternoon swim in the ground-level outdoor pool and then had another dinner at Meditrina, a small tapas restaurant on West Temple (again, with a coupon--we know how to eat out).  It was also quite delicious (though again, a little expensive), and good to eat tapas style and finally understand the joke in The IT Crowd about it.

Then it was time for our evening at the theatre!  After all these years, it was nice to finally be in the audience in front of The Lion King, but I'm afraid to say I wasn't blown away like I thought I would be.  (Mini-review:  It's a fantastic movie, and it fits together so nicely, but on stage it seems a little overwhelmed by its creativity and artistry and comes across as a little pretentious, like one Julie Taymor was showing off her puppetry/mixed-media expertise and aesthetic the whole time, while seemingly ignoring the sets and backgrounds.  The music seemed a little more disjointed in style, going from lush Hans Zimmer orchestrations to funky Lebo M African chants to ultra-pop/rock Elton John a little abruptly at times.)  I did like it, and was quite amazed with the opening of "Circle of Life," I just didn't love it like I thought I would.  It wasn't magical in the way some of the other Disney stage ventures have been.  The African vibe just isn't my thing, I guess.  We suspected it might have been a little more impressive in a larger, more permanent venue, like in New York or in London, where they would have the scope to really spread out and get the idea of the expanse of the setting.  Anyway, it was good to be in the theater again, and I am glad to check The Lion King off my list.

One more night in our lovely hotel room, and the next morning we were back home.
 Look!  It's Big Ben!  Sort of.
 So there are a couple of our weekend excursions.  The weekends since and in the future include a lot of wedding receptions, General Conference and who knows, maybe even grabbing a redbox and a carton of ice cream and staying in.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Beat Beethoven 2010

A few weeks ago a big group of us ran Pleasant Grove's annual Beat Beethoven 5K.  (The idea is to run the race in less time than it takes to play Beethoven's 5th Symphony, roughly 32 minutes.)  There were some early grumblings in the ranks about a higher participation cost this year, but after some savvy PR work by Melody, they actually offered a group rate without a shirt for a much lower cost, though Julie and I opted to pay full price to get the shirts, which were pretty nice this year.  Dad, Amber, Cami, Melody, Jonny (and Gabe and Julia), Julie and I had a good time and everyone beat Beethoven.  Dad's running speed is increasing at an alarming rate, Amber is getting right back into the swing of things, Cami is doing better than ever, and of course no one can touch the Rejholecs (but watch out when the race directors try to pronounce their names to collect their awards), Julie always shows a remarkable final burst of speed in the last stage of the race, and I did better than last year (21:16, 5th place in my age group--which I still think is too broad, 20-29--and 13th overall).

Notice Beethoven himself in the background.

It was great fun, and I'm glad everyone was able to participate.  There are quite a few 5Ks coming up in the fall, so we look forward to those.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Ye Olde Englande, Week 8: A Lot of Goodbyes

So just about two weeks ago, we finally packed up our things for the last time, and left our last London dwelling place and headed to the airport.  Unfortunately the last few days were marked by noteworthy head-colds, first me over the weekend, and then The Wife for a couple days after just as I was getting better.  It put a sort of damper on our final plans, but we still managed to see a few new museums and a kind of boring 3D IMAX movie.  Highlights also included climbing approximately 528 stairs to the top of St. Paul's Cathedral (and an equal number of steps down).  We couldn't quite figure out the Whispering Gallery, but the view from the top of the dome was glorious.  Exploring St. Paul's may even have been in my top 3 activities of the entire trip.
 But-but-but...  The song!  It said!

We had a quick look at Notting Hill Carnival, but saw nothing really for us there, and the next day we stood for two-plus hours in the yard at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre to see an actual Shakespearean play, The Comedy of Errors.  It was another high point, it just felt like a scene out of Shakespeare in Love.
 The theatre!!!
Oh, the drama!
Tickets to the standing-only Yard area were only 5 pounds!  Of course then we had to deal with some vulgar German teeny-boppers who chatted the whole time, but I guess that's what happens sometimes when you stand in the commoners' section.

After Julie's last day of wrapping up her work in perfect time, we had one last dinner out with co-worker Caity and saw Abbey Road (which, to my great surprise, was within easy walking distance from our previous residence).
 Love:  All you need is it.

Then we had some issues with online check-in for our flight the next morning.  Evidently when they switched our connecting flight back in July from Chicago to Denver, they canceled my returning flight.  So, with the stress of packing and making sure our bags weren't too heavy, wondering if I was actually going to get on the flight, we felt ready to go home, but still were always aware in the back of our minds that we were actually leaving the UK.  It didn't take long at check-in for them to sort out the mix-up with my ticket, and they even managed to get us seats next to each other for both flights.  I read a lot of Tolkien and Julie read a little Rowling, and after a day and a night of time-traveling, we said hello to the mountains of Salt Lake City (after a minor security kerfuffle at O'Hare...  bleh), had no trouble getting through customs, and just like that, we were on the other side of this London experience.

Also, since we didn't actually take a single picture of all four of us when Kent and Eliza were in town, here's one that Eliza sent me taken on her camera from our ill-fated, but ultimately successful outing to The Phantom of the Opera:

Great friends, great times!

I'm sure Julie is planning to write a little blogpost wrapping up the experience too, but here ends my "weekly" report.  It was amazing!  Thanks, Julie's work!  (Even though they never did get us the paperwork we needed to leave the country...  Disneyland Paris, one day we will visit you!  I promise!)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tangled Update

I do have one last England post to make, but in the meantime, here's the latest Tangled trailer. I'm liking it better the more I see of it, but I still just wish it were 2D. My 9th grade concept drawings are spinning in my head!

It's pretty interesting to me that they still haven't shown any inkling of the Menken-penned musical aspect of this film so far. Kind of interesting to see the marketing spin they're putting on it. I still have to ask... is it Thanksgiving yet?...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ye Olde Englande, Week 7: A Lot of Last-Week Sight-Seeing

We were amazed at the start of last week to realize that we were down to single-digit numbers of days before we left London for home.  Time has been going fast, but we're making the most of our time here.  Julie has done a wonderful job of summarizing all of the events of this past week, but I'm going to share one highlight here, which incidentally revolves again around the theatre.

As much as I love musical theater, there are a lot of sort of standard shows that I still just haven't seen for whatever reason.  Sometimes it's just because, while I really like the show and/or the music, it's just sort of trendy at the time, and I'm not willing to stand in line for hours or pay hundreds of dollars or travel thousands of miles just to see it.  So, when I discovered Wicked was playing here, I figured it would be the perfect time to see it in a permanent venue (as opposed to a touring production), and probably at much less cost and time commitment than if it were to come back through Salt Lake City.  I found a really good deal on tickets online for a day that was perfect, and took great comfort in knowing that, rain or shine, the show would go on.  Sure enough, it was raining as we walked into the beautifully-decorated and green-lit lobby of the Apollo Victoria Theatre.
Though I have long loved the music and the Oz origin story concept, I was fully prepared to find Wicked satisfactory at best, as most contemporary shows are a lot of hype and, ultimately, fluff.  Well, Wicked was a little fluffy in parts, but I also found it thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish!  Julie, who isn't quite as into any and all musicals as I am, endured this very poppy, perky musical like a champ, and we agreed that its spectacle and flash of effects and design make Phantom and Les Mis look even more dated than we had already determined.  I'm not going to gush ad nauseam about the show, but I will say the following:

•  The cast was excellent, and I think Rachel Tucker should have been the featured actress for Elphaba on the recording.  She had me asking myself, "Idina who now?"  (Fiyero struggled in parts and his voice even cracked in the love duet.  Wups.)

•  For some reason seeing it with an English cast made it seem a little more authentic.

•  The orchestra and chorus were spot-on (and much more in tune than on the recording).

•  The expected and oft-hyped effects delivered, and the unexpected effects were great illusions.  I liked the dragon puppetry and Glinda traveling by bubble.

But the funniest part about the whole affair was the process of getting the tickets.  So I bought them online, like I said, but due to a few negative reviews about the ticket company, I was a little anxious we would have legit tickets, so I was already a little on edge as we approached the booth in Piccadilly Circus to retrieve them.  It should also be stated that I forgot to take note of my booking reference number beforehand, but I had ID aplenty.  We walked up to the desk and the ever-not-so-cheerful girl behind the desk (who we had encountered before in looking for tickets to other shows) was her usual irritated self.  She asked for my reference number, I explained I didn't have it, and then she asked for my ID.  What followed was a series of her snottily asking me for further forms of ID (just showing it would never do, I had to take it out of my wallet and hand it to her), and signing a receipt confirming that I had picked up the tickets.  She compared my signature to my two or three forms of ID in hand, then asked me to sign again (and compared again).  She asked if I had another form of ID with that signature on it, and I showed her that I have my old BYU student ID, even my bloomin' Social Security Card (which has an even older signature).  I mean, I could even have shown her my temple recommend if that would have satisfied her!  I told her I don't know what else I could show her, I have four or five or six forms of ID here and I'm obviously me, and my signature is what it is, and really, who signs their name the same way every single time??  Also, I think my signature is actually pretty consistent.  When I showed the slightest bit of resistance she finally relented and gave us the tickets, citing as her reasoning for such intense scrutiny the fact that I might have a twin who is trying to pick up the tickets.


Yes, really.

So, (as Julie said) just in case my Wicked-loving evil twin happened to be trying to swipe my tickets before I had a chance to collect them, she was being especially picky about verifying my identity.  I guess I should thank her.  Like she said, if evil-Drew were to beat me to picking up the tickets, I might have been quite upset and she would have been "the first to hear about it."  Though really, if I did have a twin, I think it would be rather convenient to be able to send him ahead with my wallet to pick things up for me.  If only.

So the tickets were fine, and the view was awesome, and the show was great.

The wicked.  Evidently no one mourns them.