Archive for June, 2008

Weekly Reading and a Dose of Wicked

This past week has been quite a lot of fun. On Saturday night we went to see Wicked, which was quite a lot of fun, especially since the audience got really into it — there were girls there in green face paint and a lot of the crowd gave a standing ovation at the end. It was really interesting to see how they turned the book into the musical, though I read it quite a few years ago and don’t remember everything, so there were still a few surprises. The ending was also different from what I remembered. The show also had some great effects, including a huge dragon puppet over the stage and lots of flying/floating.

Today I had a nice morning at Tuttle Club/Social Media Cafe, where I got to catch up with some of the usual crowd as well as meet some new people. I only wish I had been been able to get there earlier or stay a bit later. I hadn’t been in a few weeks, and I really missed it. I hope I get to make it the next few weeks before we leave town.

My Londonist posts for the week:

I’m also still doing lots of work over at Workology, so if you consider yourself a Workologist — someone who works freelance or has their own business — please come join the discussion. The site is growing quickly and there are a lot of new conversations and job opportunities on the site.

From Roman Baths to High Fashion (or not)

Though it seems like we were in Bath many many moons ago, it’s only been about three weeks since Evan, his parents and I journeyed Westward through the countryside to spend a day exploring Roman baths, checking out a fashion museum and walking along some rather impressive crescents.

Roman baths
The Roman Baths

The Roman baths were definitely the highlight of my trip — the complex was bigger than I anticipated, we actually tasted the hot spring water (which was a bit gross), and we got to listen to a ridiculously over-narrated audio guide, which delved into rather long and semi-salacious stories of imaginary bathers like the rich aristocrat Octavio and the widow Flavia hanging out together by the bath.

Roman Baths - Hot Spring
Check out that steam!

We also got to check out some of the inner workings of the complex. Here we can see the naturally hot water flowing down into other channels.

Roman Baths
The wishing well bath

And there was a fun, glittery room towards the end of our tour, which had a sort of funny video display of men walking around the baths, chatting about their days and drying off. There were some slight technical glitches, though — you can see that the projector wasn’t exactly showing us the most interesting display here.

Fashion museum interactive exhibit
The belle of the ball?

Then there was the fashion museum. I had higher hopes from this well-reviewed museum. Some exhibits, like the one on Victorian clothing, were interesting. Others were a little less interesting. My favorite part was the interactive element — we got to try on a corset and crinoline. I couldn’t find one that fit — the medium ones were already being tried on, so I was left first to struggle with one I couldn’t get anywhere near closing and the one in the picture, which left me swimming. It wasn’t exactly authentic either — it had laces up the back, but plastic clasps like a life jacket on the front.

You can more photos from the day on Flickr.

A Brand that Would Never Fly in the US…

crips

Though Crips may just be a cutesy way to say “crisps,” and I find their bizarre package design with animal heads stuck on humans intriguing, the first thing the brand name conjures up in my mind is gang warfare. It’s also a derogatory term for disabled people. I did think the baked wheat-potato crisps were a nice, light alternative to potato chips, but I just can’t imagine any store in the U.S. carrying these snacks from Derbyshire.

A Day of Frustrating Visa Troubles

For our big summer trip, the only visa we need to get in advance is the one for India. And as luck would have it, the High Commission in London has just in the past week changed their system to an outsourced company to help alleviate the long lines and disorder that would typically accompany a visa-purveying trip.

Evan and I got our papers all ready over the weekend. We had our photos, our passports, our references and our supporting documents. We were short a paper clip, so I stopped by the Hilton on my way to the bus stop and asked at the front desk — they were happy to hand one over (thank you very much!). I got to the visa office just minutes after it opened at 8:30 and stood in a short line outside in the morning drizzle. When I got inside, I was instructed to take a number, then go wait. It was no different than being at the DMV.

I had a book with me — thank goodness, since I waited an hour and a half — and when I got up to the counter, I was told that I could get my tourist visa but Evan couldn’t. Now Evan certainly doesn’t have any reason to be denied a simple tourist visa, so what could be the problem? He doesn’t have a UK visa. Since our stay here is less than 6 months, he only has a work permit, which is good through July 4, 2008. I got a visa because it was the easiest way for me to go.

Now why should this matter? I’m not quite sure. We’re both here legally, we’re not returning to the UK after our trip and we’ll be leaving the country before Evan’s visa expires. But apparently his non-visa status strips him of his right to getting a visa to a foreign country he would otherwise be allowed to travel to.

It’s not like we have anywhere else to get the visa. The U.S. India visa site tells us we need to apply for a visa wherever we currently are — we shouldn’t be shipping passports overseas. The agent’s suggestion: Get our visas from Cairo. And while spending part of our short stay in Egypt in a visa queue sounds ever so appealing, we’re not guaranteed we’ll get it there, either. It will take at least 3-4 business days to process, which would be cutting it awfully close when we only have a week in the city.

Fittingly, when Evan emailed the Cairo High Commission, they told him it would probably be easier to apply in the UK, so we’re just being sent around in circles.

So now we’re debating whether to keep our itinerary and try to get visas from Cairo or to change our plans and head to Cyprus, Turkey, Israel or some other location instead. Maybe this is our sign that we shouldn’t be heading to Mumbai during monsoon season.

Britishism: Acid Drops

Evan spied these candies at the Kew Gardens gift shop and ran over to us making a joke about dropping acid, of course. The Brits we were with started laughing and said, “Until right now, we’d never thought of it in that way”!

Walking in the Trees at Kew

Kew Treetop WalkwayKew treetop walkway

Last weekend, we went to check out the Treetop Walkway at Kew Gardens on its opening day. The line to climb the stairs snaked down a pathway, but it moved pretty quickly, and we were soon up in the trees on the sinewy metal structure.

Though it was a shorter pathway than I anticipated, I really enjoyed being up in the trees, feeling the structure sway with the wind and getting to enjoy the great views of the Temperate House and other Kew Gardens sites.

kew treetop walkway

Not everyone was as thrilled to be up in the trees, though. For those with any discomfort with heights, the walkway made them a bit queasy, and there were quite a few people clutching on to the railings or their partners and waiting eagerly to get down.

The biggest thing I would change about the walkway would be to add an additional entry/exit point, since there was only one — a single staircase only big enough for people to go single file each way, which caused quite a backlog on the narrow walkway. There was a lift right across from the stairs, but it wasn’t ready to be used yet.

We also went to check out the other summertime special tree exhibit, the Rhizotron, which was supposed to teach about root systems. We were unimpressed. It was really directed toward little children, with a cute mosaic, a few metal roots on the walls of the tunnel and some cartoony bugs. It seemed like an afterthought compared to the treetop walkway.

Check out more photos of the walkway on Flickr. And check out all the photos from day as well.