Category: What I Did on My Summer Vacation

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Broadway Review

Denisa and I headed into New York City over the weekend to catch a performance of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. So I’m taking a break from my blogging break to pop in and give it a quick review.

For those of you who don’t know, this is a play (not a musical, though it involves a lot of non-sung music) that started in London and made its way over to the US about a year ago. It’s an official part of the Harry Potter universe, written in conjunction with JK Rowling herself, so it’s officially canon. It tells the story of Albus Severus Potter (Harry and Ginny’s younger son) as he heads off to Hogwarts. It’s a two part play, meaning it spans two entire plays. We watched Part One at 2pm (complete with an intermission), and then came back for Part Two at 7:30pm the same day.

We loved it. That said, I don’t think it’s for everyone. The biggest litmus test would be just how big a Harry Potter fan you are. If you know the books backward and forward, you’re likely a good fit. There are tons of references that might sail by a casual fan. You’re going to be with the show for five and a half hours of your Saturday. If that doesn’t fill you with excitement, it’s probably best to move on. But if you *are* a Harry Potter nut (many people attended dressed in robes, for example), then this is definitely for you.

(Assuming you can afford it. The cheapest seats that don’t have obstructed views are about $90/seat (after fees). And you need to buy a ticket for each part, so that means the cheapest seats are more like $175 total. Judging from the theater, I think you’d have a fine time in the lower balcony, but I probably wouldn’t have liked to be sitting in the upper balcony, where the seats are cheapest. You can go here to see pics from most areas of the theater. Denisa and I somehow managed to get tickets in the second row for what turns out is a very good price, but it was still more than I typically would have liked to spend. In the end, I justified it by reasoning the odds of this show going on tour is slim (due to how complex it is to stage), so it was pay the money to see it now, or don’t see it at all . . . But really, they were awesome seats. I could have reached out and slapped the actors, if I leaned forward. Not that I wanted to.)

Why would you want to see the production? It’s pretty elaborate, with amazing special effects. Fireballs. Magic. Flying. Dueling. You name it. The story is a more mature take on Harry Potter, delving into the realistic repercussions of what happened in the story. Sure, some of it is pure fan service, but you’re a Harry Potter aficionado, remember? That’s what you’re all about.

I thought the acting was fantastic, and while there were a few plot holes, I didn’t mind them too much, because they’re nothing that couldn’t have been solved with a bit of explanation, so I just assumed I didn’t have the complete explanation.

Note that the script has been published, but I for one would recommend against reading the script. I really enjoyed being taken along for the ride and learning the ins and outs of the plot as it unfolded. So much of the energy came from the performances, I fear the script would be quite dull in comparison.

In any case, we both loved it. A 9/10 for sure. Glad we went. Glad we spent the money. Glad we took the time. (The chance to stay in the city and have a tour of Queens from one of my illustrious agents was just icing on the cake.) If you’re in the neighborhood of NYC, definitely consider carving out some time for this production. If you have any specific questions, ask away. (Though I’ll avoid giving spoilers, because who wants that?)


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What I Did on My Summer Vacation: July 24 (Last One–with Pics!)

And so we come to the end of my summer vacation series for this year. It’s taken me long enough, I know. Sorry about the pauses in between posts. There’s just been too much else that I wanted to blog about.

On our final day in London, we binged on museums: the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum, to be specific. Free and fantastic. TRC in particular really liked the Natural History Museum. It’s a gorgeous old building, and they’ve done a great job converting it into a modern museum space. (Except for the dinosaur wing, which was way. too. crowded.) Here are some parting pics:

The Natural History Museum has this cool program, where you can go to the front desk and check out Explorer Kits for the kids. They come with backpacks loaded with activities, a helmet, and binoculars, and they were quite the hit with the kidlets.

Don’t be a dodo.

The room’s even more impressive in person.

One last explorer action shot.

The outside of the Natural History Museum

Space explorers

Last bus ride

Quite possibly TRC’s favorite part of the trip. Riding a double decker bus was WAY high on his priority list.

What I Did on My Summer Vacation: July 23–Pictures from Big Ben, Hampton Court, and More

July 23rd, we went back to the streets for more fun and exciting London experiences. (Note: at the time, there was no rioting in London, so we didn’t see anything like that.) Up on the docket for the day? Seeing Big Ben, checking out Westminster Abbey, and heading out to Hampton Court Palace.

Things didn’t go quite as planned–at least not at first. I’d budgeted two and a half hours for Big Ben and Westminster. Due to an unforeseen delay, we only had an hour. When we got there, we discovered every other tourist in London had decided to visit those same places that day. The whole area was elbow to elbow *packed* with people. The kids were complaining, I had to carry DC again (which aggravated my already sore back), and the line to get into Westminster Abbey was at least 45 minutes long, which meant that by the time we paid our $50 to get in, we’d have all of 15 minutes to see the place.

We didn’t go in. This was pretty disappointing for me–Westminster had been really high on my Things I Want to See in London list, but such is life. I’ve technically seen it before (Junior year of high school), so I just did my best to get over it. I’m way too cheap to pay $50 for 15 minutes of packed crowds.

Now somewhat dubious about our day, we headed out to Hampton Court Palace, where things got much better, I’m happy to say. They’ve really done good things at that place–there are free tours all over the place, the kids can dress up in costumes, there’s a hedge maze (which TRC loved), beautiful gardens–all around a great time. (Check pics below for more comments.)

We ended the day by getting some fish and chips, or as I prefer to call it, hamburgers and more fries than you could choke a horse with. (They take their chips very seriously in London, or at least they did where we bought them.) (I also discovered there that Fanta has aspartame in it. For those of you who don’t know, I’m allergic to aspartame: it gives me horrendous migraines. I only drank a bit before I found out, but the rest of the trip, I was really nervous I was going to get a bad migraine. Blech.)

Anyway–it turned out to be another successful day. Yes, my back hurt even more than the day before, but what’s a bit of pain in the face of adventure? On with the pictures:

Since when did they build a giant ferris wheel across from Big Ben? Not my favorite design choice, but apparently it’s done very well for itself.

TRC’s first official trip picture that he snapped. He did a pretty darn good job.

At Hampton Court Palace, TRC and DC resumed their plans to make a successful acorn selling business. I’m still not sure exactly how this is supposed to work, but TRC has it all figured out.

Hampton Court Palace: Not too shabby, for a summer home.

I was looking for interior decoration ideas. Too much?

The king’s throne. I don’t know about you, but Henry VIII can keep his wives and his throne. I’ll take running water and a flush toilet, and we’ll call it even.

DC shows off her outfit and a palace hall.

TRC was our guide on the hedge maze. He’s an expert.

Made it there with only one wrong turn. Go TRC!

Denisa’s true views of herself come out at last:   🙂

What I Did on My Summer Vacation: July 22–London Calling

Look at this–I actually have a chance to post some more updates on what I did while I was in Europe. And more pictures, folks! We left Slovakia on July 21, and it wasn’t exactly the easiest trip to London.

  • Drive from her mom’s cottage to Trencin: 30 minutes
  • Train to Bratislava main train station: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Bus trolley from train station to bus station: 20 minutes (through pouring rain)
  • Bus from bus station to Vienna airport: 1 hour
  • Wait in airport: 3 hours
  • Plane to London: 2 hours and change
  • Train from Gatwick to Croydon: 20 minutes or so
  • Get picked up from Croydon train station and driven to the nice family we were staying with: 20 minutes
Umm . . . yeah. We weren’t all exactly chipper and happy by the time we were through with all that. But we made it in one piece, and after collapsing for a bit, even had the energy to go to an Authentic British Pub, which had awesome food.
But this isn’t about July 21. This is about July 22, where we took the fam to the Tower of London and the British Museum. The verdict? Cool on both counts. TRC wasn’t too crazy about the museum at first, mainly because he discovered that most Greek and Roman statues are pretty naked, and he felt like they all really ought to put some clothes on. Then he found the mummies, and he was happy after that. The Tower, on the other hand, was a hit right from the start. It helped that they had a torture chamber–increased the cool factor significantly in a 7 year old’s mind. Though he did wonder why so many people kept getting their heads chopped off.
Overall, it was a great day. Very busy, and my back felt like I’d spent a few hours in the torture chamber by the time we were done, but the way I figure, you don’t go to London to kick back and read a good book all day. You go to experience every last ounce of it you have time for.
Mission successful. More to come when I talk about July 23. In the meantime, how about some family pictures?
The Tower of London and Tower Bridge (taken from London Bridge. People get Tower Bridge and London Bridge confused a lot, apparently)

Sort of describes how I felt by the end of the day:

TRC at the Tower

 The kids at the Tower

Requisite picture of a funny looking guardsman. You have to sign a contract when you enter England that says you agree to taking at least one of these.

Fam in front of Tower Bridge

Paddington Bear got lost.

You can take kids halfway around the world. They still think playgrounds are more fun than anything else you found for them to do that day. 🙂

What I Did on My Summer Vacation: July 19–In Search of the Seven Dwarves

Capricious Summer [VHS]When last we met, I was in Banska Stiavnica. We stayed the night there in a nice little place that was done up in traditional Slovak style. The food (which I sadly can’t let you taste) was incredible. They had this poppy seed dessert which was fantastic. Slovaks do a lot more with poppy seeds than we do here. They buy them in huge quantities and then grind them up to make fillings for pastries and strudels and stuff like that. It’s got an interesting taste that I haven’t had anywhere else. Tasty tasty. Here’s a couple of pics:

Anyway, we headed off to a mine that dates back some 700 or 800 years. Finding it wasn’t the easiest thing we’ve done. There are some mines that run under Stiavnica, but they’re fairly touristy and newish (done in the past few hundred years, that is). I wanted something more . . . authentic. a place where you could actually imagine creepy crawly beasts from folklore lurking around the corners. In one of the guide books in Slovak, we found it.

It’s a mine that’s slowly being converted into a museum, but they’re still working toward that goal. In the meantime, they have it open for private, small groups. Appointment only. There’s no sign to say what it is. From the outside, it looks like two normal houses in a village close to Banska Stiavnica. There’s a small entrance to the mine in the yard of one of the houses:

I can’t imagine a more authentic mine from the middle ages. They gave us hard hats and some portable lights, and there were maybe 7 lights total in the mine, but other than that, the place hadn’t been changed at all. No railings. No warning signs. Slick floors. Rocks falling on people’s heads. It felt like the mine in Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, except real. The tour was all in Slovak. Thankfully, I married a translator. It was really one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen–and I’ve got some claustrophobia in me. Toward the end of that tour (two hours down below, in corridors two feet wide in places and maybe three or four feet tall), I was very ready to be done with authenticity. Great experience for a future book . . .

I’m 6’2″. This is how tall the passages were in some stretches. Those beams are authentically o-l-d.

Medieval miners would use the rubble from their excavations to support the mine as they went, building these elaborate arched passage ways. Pretty cool. And no mortar in them at all. It was all done with weight.

We went and did some gold panning afterward. We didn’t get anything.

After the mine, we headed to the old castle. It dates back to the 1200s, when it was converted from a cathedral to a castle. The tour guide there was quite possibly the most boring woman on the face of this planet. At least the runner up. But it was full of original details, including a dungeon that still had the original manacles: (I’m not sure how old the rack is. Very, at least.)

Overall, the trip to Banska Stiavnica was a resounding success. Just what I’d been looking for on the trip. If you ever get a chance, you should totally visit.

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