Travel: Dublin, Ireland

I hadn’t visited Ireland for about eleven years, so when I went for a three day break it wasn’t surprising that I was, once again, blown away by both the city life, country life and incredible historical culture that Ireland prides itself on.

The city was the same, an eclectic mix of the new, fruitlessly trying to overpower the old; architecturally, artistically and as always with the modern society that inhabit the city centre. As an individual with a keen eye for the historical and the aesthetic, it was not hard for me to notice the constructive beauty of the place. As I have said in previous posts, all you have to do is look up. Low and behold, the pillars, the sculpting and mouldings on the walls of old pubs, the pubs themselves, the exposed tudoresque wooden beams, monuments celebrating figures throughout history, all dotted around the city to remind you of the age and authentic importance of this city.

On the first day I was there I visited the Brazen Head Inn, the oldest pub in Ireland. There, I had the best pint of Guinness I have ever drank, and also, ever poured.

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I have to say, I am not one for beer, let alone stout, let alone Guinness, but ‘when in Rome’ as they say, and when I was in Dublin, it was a must do. (Especially when prompted by the thought of snapping a great picture for Instagram.) The Guinness settled beautifully and I even got a certificate for ‘pulling the perfect pint’, which, in my home county, is something to brag about. Then, there was the taste; in my experience, beer is too tacky for my taste buds and stout is to heavy, but Guinness in Ireland is nothing like Guinness anywhere else I have tried it. It is, I have to say, like a meal in a pint glass, but the taste was subtle and creamy, and for someone who doesn’t enjoy beer, ale, stout, or anything of that sort, I really did enjoy it. I guess you could argue it was because of the atmosphere, or because of the novelty of it; no, I really did enjoy it, everything else that surrounded me just added to the experience.

The Irish people are amazing. I am all too familiar with chatty and engaging people; I am from Yorkshire after all, but there was a certain degree of enchantment with the people of Ireland, and trust me, it wasn’t the faeries working their mischief. They were thoroughly engaged with your stories as you were with theirs, and trust me, stories were never not told during my stay in Ireland, whether they were historical, imaginative or just a basic retelling of people’s lives; stories are integral to the Irish collective.

I was told many stories during my bus tour to the Cliffs of Moher, on the West Coast. Yes I sat on a bus for approximately twelve hours. Was it worth it? Always.

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My favourite memories of any trip always stem from the travel, as strange as it sounds, so the second day of my trip has to have been my favourite day. The people that host tours are so emphatically in love with their home land that their joy for the land only increases your joy at experiencing it as you journey with them. I was taught so much about the land, the history, the culture and the folklore that my entire perception of everything I saw changed. Farm land wasn’t just farm land; it was a place where peasants toiled building dry stone walls for the British and were never payed for doing so, they slaved away in the vain hope that this might bring an end to their poverty. A tree wasn’t just a tree; it was a faerie thorn, meaning an entire motorway had to be redirected around this tiny Hawthorn so as not to disrupt or aggravate the faeries. The Celtic language isn’t just an ancient language; it is an art, poetry even; for example the word ‘Keela’, or ‘Cadhla’ with the original spelling, translates to ‘something so beautiful it cannot be named’or ‘something so beautiful only poetry can capture it’.

The second night and third day were spent, once again, enjoying the buzz of the city. The museums, the art galleries, the food and the street life, the people and music in a wonderful pub called Cobblestone. I left Ireland as completely in love with the country as its own people are.

The land, the people, the music, everything I witnessed and learned in Ireland is testament to Cadhla. I was welcomed with open arms both figuratively and literally to Ireland. I find it is so wonderful to be able to travel and experience an old city such as Dublin and be wholly integrated into its rich and diversely artistic historical and cultural roots.

© Greta Alise Haley

 

Travel: Newcastle Upon Tyne, England

Ladies and Gentlemen, Newcastle Upon Tyne is more than just the ‘Geordie Shore’, in fact I cannot even bare calling it that. Newcastle is a vibrant and cultural city despite the tack constantly associated with it.

All you have to do when walking past its modern shops and community is look up to see the incredible history of the place. The Victorian architecture is a thing of beauty, with large windows and elegant designs. This should be your first realisation that there is a lot more to the city than its nightlife.

As a student and as a highly creative individual I have had the pleasure (for want of a better word) of experiencing both Newcastle’s day and night life and below I have detailed 10 things that you can do during the day. If, of course, you don’t become too highly affected by your nighttime activities to even stand the next day.

  1. Jesmond Dene  IMG_3305 Jesmond Dene is a large beautiful woodland area situated outside the city, near the residential are of Jesmond. All over England, places as beautiful as this are situated just outside cities, reminding us that we were not here first. Jesmond Dene has a petting zoo, an old mill, and ruins situated along its walkway. No matter what time of year you visit the Dene, its natural beauty is enchanting as you walk along the river and through the woods.
  2. Grey’s Monument                                                                                                                                   Grey’s Monument is a War Memorial situated in the centre of the city. Monument is an important part of history, it is situated at the top of the old Victorian streets and the bottom of Northumberland street; the main street in Newcastle. So it acts almost as a reference point for finding your way round the city. Not only is it an important historical site, but there are tours to the top of Monument where you can look over the layout of the city and check out the incredible view of the both modern and historical elements of Newcastle Upon Tyne.
  3. The Quayside                                                                                                                                             I cannot stress enough how wonderful this part of Newcastle is. If you venture down on a Sunday you will come across a vast array of street food vans, jewellery, clothes, home wear stalls, craft stalls, soap testing and other beauty stalls and now and again piercing and henna stalls. The food is to die for and just bumbling around with the locals looking at what is on offer on each stall whilst enjoying the River Tyne and its bridges is a wonderful hour or two spent. Followed up with a nice cocktail or coffee at one of the bars looking over the river, the old buildings and the sculptures dotted along the Quayside.
  4. Eldon Square or The Metrocentre                                                                                                I do not need to say much about Eldon Square or The Metrocentre, but if shopping is what you are after I recommend them both. They are packed to the brim with food, clothing, accessory, home wear and beauty stores. And a secret between you and me; there is always a sale going on in Newcastle.
  5. Grainger Markets                                                                                                                                    Grainger markets is a beautiful Victorian market area full of local and independent suppliers and traders. Fresh produce, cafes and a couple of old school clothes and tobacco units, Grainger market is a nostalgic experience that I highly recommend to anyone. There is even one of the original Marks & Spencers units in there where you can enjoy the old tiling of the original sign.
  6. Newcastle University  

                                                                                                                                                                  If you are in Newcastle you have to go see the University. Its diverse range of historical and modern buildings, its thursday markets, Northern Stage, its campus sculptures and also the art galleries are enough to entertain people for an hour or two, not to mention the eclectic student body who are always racing to lectures or running events outside the Student’s Union buidling.

  7. TynemouthIMG_2981  One of my favourite things to do on the weekend is go visit Tynemouth, a beautiful seaside town, just a couple of train stops away from the City Centre. You have probably felt that freezing sea breeze that comes roaring through the city centre, well, you may as well go see where it stems from. Enjoy a typical day by the sea side, grab some fish and chips, go sit either on the beach or up on the headland where the ruins of Tynemouth Castle are and enjoy the vast amount of seagulls that try steal your chips.
  8. Newcastle Castle                                                                                                                              Believe it or not, Newcastle has a castle, its all in the name, and you must see it! The Medieval fortification is haunting and architecturally pleasing. Once you have done all you want to down at the Quayside venture up the hill and spend a while exploring the castle; for a cheap entry fee of course. The castle often hosts special events such as movie nights or live performances so check on their website to see what’s on and buy a cheap ticket.
  9. Eat                                                                                                                                                            Whether you want a huge feast or a little snack; whether you are a meat eater, vegetarian, vegan, pescetarian, fruitarian, pollotarian, flexitarian or just plain fussy, every street has an amazing variety of restaurants, cafes and snackbars and offer food for all foodies. Just go for a walk and I guarantee you will find something that suits your stomach.
  10. Museums/ Art Galleries                                                                                                                    There are so many museums and art galleries dotted around Newcastle, and all of them small enough so you don’t have to spend hours trying to see every exhibition and every last installation in the gallery. The majority of them are all free too! So get walking and get enjoying some more art and history.

There you have it, ten incredible things to do to make sure you enjoy the full experience of Newcastle Upon Tyne. Of course if you are going to go out, by all means do, but my only warning is beware the trebles.

© Greta Alise Haley

Travel: Amsterdam, Netherlands.

After a third holiday to Amsterdam, I can say that I have successfully explored the entirety of the city centre. The last time I travelled was in February, and although the weather was cold I still managed to cruise around the main city centre and see the main tourist sites; the Royal Artis Zoo, Vondelpark, Amsterdam Dungeons, the Canal’s and much more. This time I got to enjoy a different part of the city centre.

My partner and I stayed near Oosterpark and experienced a totally different half of the city. Many people travel to Amsterdam for two things; The Red Light District and Marijuana. Whilst these two things are inherent to the city, there are sights and places beyond the nearest Coffeeshop and much more exciting, for me and I’m sure other people, than seeing the Red Light District or spending your entire time in a coffeeshop;

  •  I experienced walking around a much more residential area than the centre. The buildings were all incredible towering terraced houses with interiors that would make a modern architect squeal with delight. And any prospective homeowner strive for the money to recreate the open and sophisticated living space.
  • The streets were lined with tall, flowering trees and much like the city centre, adorned with the cycling citizens powering to, and from work.
  • I explored the streets, shops and market places in De Pijp. A place filled with street food, vintage stores, modern health cafe’s and individually owned clothes stores.
  • I wandered through art history at Rijksmuseum. I went forward through art’s history as I went up through the four floors of the museum, seeing the vast changes and adaptations in canvas, technique and content.
  • I wandered around Vondelpark again, but this time, I got to see what the park is really like in the spring and summer months of the year. Although the park was packed and bubbling, there was still plenty of space for more people to sit in the sun, or take their kids to play hockey and have a picnic with. And, there were dozens of tourists and citizens on bikes, people out running or even roller skating around the park in retro Adidas gear.
  • I spent more time finding new routes to take around the canals that would lead to different parts of the centre that I hadn’t yet seen or enjoyed.

Life in Amsterdam is unlike any other city life, and I have lived in many cities around the globe. The people are incredible, never have I felt more accepted and less judged, never have a found a city more keenly adapted to modern life and ideals and not worrying about the next changes it might make as we move through the decades. Whether you travel for a weekend, a week or for longer, I recommend Amsterdam to anyone and everyone. I cannot wait to explore the rest of Holland.

© Greta Alise Haley

Into The Woods – Rob Marshall

Into The Woods (2014)

Director: Rob Marshall

Cast: Anna Kendrick, Meryl Streep, Chris Pine, James Cordon, Johnny Depp and Christine Baranksi.

Synopsis: A kingdom where all fairy tales exist as counter-narratives. The main narrative regards a baker and his wife who have been given a task by a witch so that they can reverse the curse she placed on their family. The counter narratives involve Cinderella, Jack (from Jack and the Beanstalk), Rapunzel and Little Red Riding Hood.

Review: 

Personally, I am a lover of theatre, and more so, musical theatre. So when I heard another musical and theatrical movie regarding classic fairy tales and fables was to be released, I was naturally excited. But, unfortunately I was left quite in an awkward state of what I like to call ‘The Neutral Zone’. ‘The Neutral Zone’ is a state I diagnose myself with when a film doesn’t do much, it involves just a nice, procrastinating film that you use to waste your time; generally the film is one you watch once and know you will not buy on dvd or ever watch again.

The story line wasn’t  particularly thrilling and it also wasn’t the most boring story line I have come across. The acting was incredible and comic but at the same time the characters and their singing (dare I say it as a thespian) became a bit tedious. Please forgive me if you enjoyed this movie but I was left in ‘The Neutral Zone’ both during, and after watching this film. The actors and their skills were probably the only thing I can say that kept me determined to finish the movie. The cast consisted of actors I adore and who’s many films and characters have forced me to watch their roles numerous times. I mean come on, when you have Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp and James Cordon in a movie you think you are in for a real treat don’t you? And don’t get me wrong I was in for the genius, indulgent, comedic and tragic feast that talent like theirs supplies. Meryl Streep, like the classy, amazing actress that she is provides a weirdly, funny performance as the witch who cursed the bakers house because his father stole from her garden and she lost her ‘beauty’ because of his thieving. Her role is enlightening also, because she brings a maternal and protective element to the classic ‘witch’ role through her character’s relationship with Rapunzel. Johnny Depp (who was unfortunately only in the film for a short period of time) starred as the wolf. He never fails to bring a character to life with his vivacious and ingenious approach to any role thrown his way. And James Cordon, who doesn’t love James Cordon and the way he can make you laugh so hard you grow abs and then crush you so completely you cry.

But, the rest was a bit of a bore.

Just when you think the story has ended and everyone lives ‘happily ever after’, another giant has to come and interrupt your short moment of innocent procrastination and force you to watch another half an hour of a seemingly never-ending story line. If I am honest, this is a film I won’t be watching again and won’t be having on my shelf at home. It’s such a shame as there have been so many incredible adaptations of fairy tales and they have all been thrilling transformations of old stories. They had the right cinematic techniques and special effects and the most amazing actors, but the story line seemed to exist as if it was travelling along a plateau and had no major peaks or lows along the way, except that which the actors provided emotionally.

“Stay a child, while you can be a child.” – Witch (Meryl Streep).

© Greta Alise Haley

The Breakfast Club – John Hughes

The Breakfast Club (1985)

Director: John Hughes.

Cast: Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy.

Synopsis: “A brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal.” Five kids from different social groups get detention on a saturday and are instructed to write an essay on ‘who they think they are.’ Although who the audience see the kids as, and what the teacher sees the kids as, are two totally different perspectives.

Review:

So, here is how I am going to start my blog. With a review of a movie (which for some unknown reason, I only recently just watched) which to the majority of people, is an all time CLASSIC.

I am always skeptical when it comes to 80’s movies, but The Breakfast Club, like many other 80’s classics, hits you right in the humanity. The use of stereotypes and the breaking down of those stereotypes is a classic move, but underlying this ‘breaking down’ of a stereotype, also brings to the screen some really important messages. And messages like these, although old, should never be ignored.

First. Let me set the scene. Five kids. Different Social Groups. One Saturday. Detention. What more can say? What could go wrong? Nothing. Nothing goes wrong. And that’s the beauty of it. Sure, there is trouble and arguments and A LOT of crying (both actors and audiences) and laughing. But, nothing goes wrong. Everything goes right. They come together, and by the end of the movie they are all friends or even in relationships. Yep, it sounds like a classic, cheesy 80’s movie where everyone is happy by the end of the film. No. Although you don’t see it, the kids still have to go home to the awful, abusive, ignorant, argumentative, bossy, controlling and unreliable people they call ‘family’. The kids all battle it out with each other, but inevitably, they are all connected by how ‘unsatisfying’ their home life is.

What I love about this movie:

  • How ‘human’ it is. And by human, I mean the organic, natural way we act every single day and don’t even acknowledge what we are doing. The way the kids undermine each others feelings and confessions, the pressure of school and home life, weird quirks and actions that people do when they go into a world of their own, the retaliations and the decisions they have to make… It all mimics the way humans function perfectly.
  • The acting is incredible! The timing and the emotions produced by the (then) young actors is immense. It’s so impressive. I was laughing out loud and sobbing my heart out by how raw the performance was. (Side note to this, there is a bit of screaming and crying from the characters but they are kids so bare their tantrums and random outbursts in mind)
  • The crudeness of children. Honestly, from the weed to the swearing to the kissing, the characters in the film are the true definition of what kids/ teenagers/ young adults are.
  • The pathetic insults. I mean, they are so bad they are actually funny.

Basically, what I am saying is you NEED to watch this movie. Every line of dialogue in there could be taken and printed in a pretty font and become a manifesto. I will leave you with this quote, its the quote that starts the movie and sums it up perfectly.

“… And these children
that you spit on
as they try to change their worlds
are immune to your consultations.
They’re quite aware
of what they’re going through…” – David Bowie

                                                                                                                                           © Greta Alise Haley