Sydney 2020 Day Four

February 14 – Friday

My last day in Sydney, and one of the many kind things the guy at reception did for me when he upgraded my room was ask me what time I was headed for the airport and extended my check out time till 12:00 for me.  So that meant I had half a day to enjoy the amazing room and do some last minute shopping.

I figured I had enough time to race to the Westfield Mall to check out Myers Lego department and then go up the Sydney Tower, the sun was shining so it was a great day for going up the tower.  The salesperson in Myers said the same thing about the Sydney Skyline set – it has been retired.

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My trip up the tower was probably the fastest “been there done that” sightseeing I’ve ever done.  I even asked the girl selling tickets how long it would take.  Crazy question I know but I needed to know if there was a long wait to get up there – there wasn’t.

I made it back to the hotel in time for one last look at the spectacular view, grab my bag and check out.

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Because it was so hot I contemplated getting a taxi to the airport, but then I had noticed a lot of taxis driving around with their windows open, so I didn’t like my chances of getting a taxi with air conditioning.  Plus if there was traffic I’d be quite stressed, so I caught the train which was fast and easy and nowhere near as hot as the one I caught from the airport.

I made it to the airport with plenty of time for several beers and shopping, but I think that should have been the other way round, because it was hot and I was thirsty so I drunk many beers quite quickly and then went shopping.  This of course made the purchase of the really expensive new Apple earpods with noise cancellation very very easy.  But I love them, and thank you to everyone who gave me birthday money – this is what you bought me.

Oh and as I passed through bag search, guess what I found… the Lego Sydney Skyline Architecture set, for about $20 cheaper (duty free) than what it would’ve been if they’d had it in any of the stores I went in to.

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The flight home was fun and I managed to finish off the movie I started watching on the way over – Judy, starring Renée Zellweger.  The flight even had wifi so I needed to take a picture of something so I could post it on Facebook (seemed like a good idea at the time), so this is the pic I posted.

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Getting my bag and going through customs etc was easy and a very kind friend was waiting outside to pick me up and take me home.

Sydney 2020 Day Two

February 12 – Wednesday

Very exciting morning, I went on a tour of the Sydney Opera House.  The tour was fun, educational and well worth taking the time to do – I loved it.

At the start of the tour you have to put on these headsets and receiving devices which was not a good look or a good feel and I said to the guide “do I really have to“.  He explained the device was so I could hear him talking no matter which way he was facing or how far away from him I got, which is perfect for someone like me who always straggles behind the pack, taking photos and looking at things just that little bit longer than everyone else.  After only a couple of minutes I was loving the headphones.

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We got to see inside several of the different theatres and learnt how all the different stages work and watched a video on the history of the Opera House.

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From there I went back to the hotel to enjoy my incredible room and view and then headed out to Bondi Junction on a bus.  The bus departed from a stop right across the road from the hotel so it was easy, with no wait time and I got to see a lot more of the real Sydney than if I’d caught the subway.

My reason for going out to Bondi was not for surfing (ha ha) but to find the Lego Shop and some hard to find Australian TV show DVDs in JB-Hifi.

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Interestingly the Sydney Lego Shop wasn’t any better than the one we have in Auckland and I was disappointed they no longer sold the Sydney Skyline architecture set, apparently it’s a retired set and I’d missed out.  I never really wanted it before now, because the Opera House in the set looks weird and there is a building I didn’t recognise.

 

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While there I found a great place for a very late lunch called Lobster Tail Seafood with a great view of the Sydney skyline from an outdoor deck.

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I did manage to find a couple of the DVDs on my list in JB-Hifi but I didn’t manage to find my way out of the 5 floor Westfield mall.  I had to consult a directory map touch screen several times.  Exit is not a search option, but Bus or Train is!

I’ve only just realised something!

The castle that proudly sits at the centre of Disneyland in California is NOT the same as the one that is in Walt Disney World in Florida or Tokyo Disneyland. It’s also not the same one as Lego used to create their model that I built at Xmas time.

The original castle in Disneyland California is known as the Sleeping Beauty Castle, here is a photo I took of it when I went there in 2012.

When Walt Disney World was built they used the Cinderella Castle which is much taller and more spectacular and it is this castle which features in the Disney Logo and at the start of the Disney movies. When Tokyo Disneyland was built they copied the more spectacular Cinderella Castle as its centrepiece. Here’s a photo I took of it way back in 1985.

The Lego Disney Castle I built this Xmas is the Cinderella Castle.

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Apparently Walt Disney was inspired by the Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany while on holiday there before construction began of Disneyland and based the Sleeping Beauty Castle on it, it is also rumoured that the German castle was his inspiration for the Cinderella movie castle. They both have turrets with blue tops but to me the Sleeping Beauty castle has a closer resemblance to the German one.

There is also an urban myth that Disney have to pay Germany (or the owner of the castle) royalties – but I think it’s just that… an urban myth.

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London Day Twenty One

Saturday 22 April

My last full day in London, so I made the most of it by catching up with a friend I hadn’t seen yet and visiting the Lego Store one last time.

I expertly navigated my way to the Lego Store all by myself, catching a train and the Tube just like a real Londoner.

There was a queue to get in to the Lego Store but it moved quite quickly and there were friendly staff chatting to people in the queue to take their minds of the fact that we were all queuing to get in to a shop to spend money.

  

If you look closely you’ll see something I find mildly amusing… there is actually only one child in the queue to get in to this toy shop, everybody else is an adult!


It was a sad visit in a way, knowing this would probably be the last time I ever visited this shop, so I needed to make the most of it – but I couldn’t buy everything I really wanted because there is only so much Lego you can fit in one suitcase.  It was cool though that I managed to come here on my first and last day!

After that I was really hungry and couldn’t wait till I met up with my friend to eat, so I popped in to a pizza place in Leicester Square right next to the last place I ate at 30 years ago (Burger King) after my big farewell with the people I worked with.


From there I got myself to the Tate Britain where I met up with a friend who is a member so we got to eat in the members’ lounge like VIPs and attend the Hockney exhibition for free.


I hadn’t seen this friend for about 5 years so it was cool to have a catch up.  The gallery and exhibition were very cool.  We have a David Hockney print on the wall at work which I walk past every time I go to the kitchen for coffee (so that’s loads of times) so it was awesome to see the real thing.  We couldn’t take photos so here’s a couple of pics of the fab light display at the entrance.

  
And here I am feeling very happy observing some cool taxis – they’re not all black anymore, although most of them still are.

  

From there we walked past the parliament buildings to get in the massive queue for the London Eye, even tho we had a ticket for a specific time booking.

  
That turned into quite a drama.  There were millions of people all hanging out around the area where you queue for the Eye and we could hardly move and then suddenly we were all told to turn around and head back to the bridge and go around the back of the building due to an incident.  This was quite scary as we didn’t know what was happening and nobody wanted to move and we were all being pushed backwards.  I’m was also aware that this is the very place there was a terrorist attack a couple of weeks ago adding to the whole situation.


Eventually we made it to the massive queue of people waiting to get on to the London Eye.  Some people had tickets, some didn’t and nobody knew where to go or what to do and none of the staff would tell us what was going on.  So we waited… and waited… and waited and then suddenly the queue moved and then shrunk and then stopped again.  Turned out they had closed the London Eye for some unkown reason and we were handed a form to get a refund.  We looked up at the Eye and noticed it wasn’t moving and half the pods were empty and some people looked very stuck in a couple of the pods, so we guessed it broke down and were very glad we weren’t actually on it when it broke down.  Imagine suddenly needing to go to the loo and being stuck up there.


So we decided the best thing to do instead of going on the Eye was to get a bottle of wine and sit on the grass enjoying the sun and make the most of our short amount of catch up time together.


After all the wine was gone we walked along the Southbank towards where my friend had to catch her train home from.  That’s where I noticed there was a beach!!! Right in the middle of London!!!


It may have had something to do with all the wine we drunk relatively quickly but on that walk in the sunshine – everything looked sparkly and stunning and we decided we shouldn’t wait five more years before we had another catch up, and as we met each other originally in Japan back in the 90s we made a pact to meet again in five years time in KOBE!!!

  
With that very exciting and happy warm fuzzy thought we said goodbye and I headed home.

London Day Seventeen

Tuesday 18 April

This morning we set off to see the Millennium Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral (where Princess Diana got married).

I’ve wanted to see this bridge ever since it featured in a Harry Potter movie.  Seeing St Paul’s standing out in the sunshine looking massive was a very impressive sight.

  
On the way to the bridge we walked past The Globe (Shakespeare’s famous old theatre).

St Paul’s was beautiful and I even climbed hundreds of stairs to go up to the Whispering Gallery in the hope of taking some spectacular photos, but you’re not allowed.  I don’t understand that – at Notre Dame you could go wild taking photos of absolutely everything, but not here, plus it was quite expensive to just go inside £18.  However… if Princess Diana did have a choice over where she got married I can see why she chose there.


After that we caught a bus to the Southbank Centre so I could see a Lego exhibition by Nathan Sawaya, a very famous builder who is commissioned to create works all over the world – I even have one of his books, that’s how famous he is LOL.  We had the whole bus to ourselves so we could sit upstairs and right up front giving me a great view of the old city and many beautiful famous buildings.

  
The exhibition was way bigger and better than I imagined and I think I nearly wore out my poor old camera.

              

After that we had lunch by the river where I contemplated my next move.  I was keen to do a river cruise out to the Barrier but I’d missed the last boat that would take me that far, so I decided to do that tomorrow and go shopping on Oxford St instead.  I had a great time wandering through all the big name stores, I ended up buying a few shirts, a DVD box set of a TV show you can’t get in NZ and I’ve waited ages for it to come out (well since November at least), plus a CD.  After all that shopping I needed to rest for a bit and had a drink in the top floor cafe of Selfridges.

        
After that I walked all the way to the end of Oxford St for a quick look at Marble Arch.


Then I walked all the way back to the Bond St station and headed for home. On the way I got to see Selfridges all beautifully lit up.

London Day Six – LEGOLAND

Friday 7 April

Today we went to Legoland, something I have wanted to tick off my bucket list for a very long time.  


It was a lot bigger than I imagined but very very cool.  Because the Lego Batman movie is the big thing at the moment there was loads of stuff connected to the movie and you could even get your photo taken with him.

There was a little roller coaster which looked like fun and even tho I had said I wouldn’t go on any rides made for kids, I really did feel like a big kid again and so it seemed the right thing to do.


My favourite part was Miniland.


    
Clever Lego creations everywhere and plenty of cool rides for kids and really beautiful gardens everywhere.

            

We even went on a log flume type ride that travelled through many different fairy tales.

      
And just when my poor tortured friends thought we could finally go home I found a roller coaster that we had to queue up for.  At least I hoped it would be a roller coaster, it wasn’t possible to see from outside the castle facade but there was a big queue so we joined it and hoped it would be worth it – it was.

Near the entrance to Legoland there was a whole gallery of busts of famous people.

  
Near the exit was a whole area dedicated to Star Wars which had many amazing creations from the various movies and a shop for me to buy Luke’s Landspeeder.

London Day Four

Wednesday 5 April

Today was the day I got to return to the Lego Store to get my portrait made out of Lego.  When we went in to the store yesterday I discovered you can’t just rock on up to the Mosaic Maker and get your picture taken, you actually have to book on line and the earliest appointment I could get was the next day at 5:15, so I said to the nice lady who made the booking “oh well such a shame… I’ll have to come back tomorrow and do more shopping”.

So that meant we could do a bunch of things during the day but we had to be at the Lego Store at 5:15!

First adventure was on a couple of Tube trains to get to Knightsbridge for a luxurious shopping spree in the Harrods Department Store.  We spent several lovely hours being overwhelmed by the amazingly fabulous merchandise and displays.  The food department was incredible and I just wanted to take photos of everything but somehow I knew that would be tacky and probably not allowed.  The main reason for making the trip to Harrods was so I could see the model of Harrods made out of Lego situated in the toy department, it was not disappointing and in fact it was bigger than I expected – and how often does that happen in real life!


    
While having lunch across the road from Harrods the sun came out and we decided to make the most of it and take a trip up The Shard for an incredible view of London.  Somehow we timed it perfectly for the next lift and there were no queues or waiting times.


    

After The Shard we got the Tube to the Lego Store in time for my 5:15 appointment with the Mosaic Maker.


Here’s my box coming out of the machine, very exciting.

And here’s the finished product. Well it’s the instructions I still have to make it once I get home.  The further away from the image you get the more it starts to actually look like me.

Feeling quite pleased with myself, Michelle and I looked for a place to have dinner in Leicester Square.  We found a cool looking place called Steak & Co where you received your steak on a hot plate so you could cook it yourself.  As anyone who knows me would realise at this point it was a terrible idea – I don’t cook – but Michelle assured me it was the best way to make sure I got it exactly how I like it – and it was!  What an awesome dinner experience.


From there it was a beautiful evening stroll past the National Gallery, then to Downing St to say hi to the Priminister and see Big Ben lit up at night. 

  
  

London Day Three

Tuesday 4 April

Today’s main mission was to go to the brand new Lego Shop in Leicester Square, but we ended up doing sooooo much more.  It was a totally awesome day and there were many moments of nostalgia from when I lived here back in 87/88.

First we caught the train to Waterloo Station, which reminded me a lot of the Westend Girls video, but maybe all big London stations look like that.

  
From there we strolled along The Strand in search of coffee and a Vodafone store.  Apparently we couldn’t go to just any old coffee shop so luckily it wasn’t too long before we found one called Pret A Manger.

          
After coffee we found a Vodafone store where the very helpful man sorted my phone and we were off again.

Yes at long last I made it to a real Lego store.  Luckily there was no queue (there were queuing barriers but not needed at that time, many other times I walked past there and there was always a queue).  The Lego store was amazingly cool.

                            

After that we went for a walk to Picadilly Circus to see my old work, which closed down long ago, but the building is still there.

      

After that we were hungry so we headed back to Leicester Square to find somewhere to eat.  We ended up at Little Italy.  After eating Michelle went to some tea place and I headed towards M&M world via the old Hippodrome where I used to go clubbing, but now it’s a casino.


M&M world, close to Easter in the school ideas was not the best time to go – it was crazy busy, packed, unbearably hot and not really all that great.  It was four floors of mayhem.

            

We met up outside M&M World and then headed to Trafalgar Square and another Pret A Manger to wait for Michael.

    
We all caught a bus to Regent St so I could soak up the atmosphere of the incredible experience that is a real Apple Store.

    

Next was Hamleys toy store with a very awesome Lego department on the top floor and an amazing Star Wars section in the basement.

      

Next we went to the Penhaligans rather exclusive fragrance boutique to get some Juniper Sling. 

From there we found a nice theatre pub to have a drink in (I think it was the Garrick).

After a drink we walked down to the Embankment so I could see the lights, crossed the Thames to have dinner in an Italian place and headed home.

Xmas Holidays 2016

As I’m going away in April on a big trip to London I need to stay home these holidays and just chill out.

Highlights of these holidays:

  • Xmas Eve at a friend’s place for dinner with the “gang” and seeing my friend Michelle who lives in the UK who is home for Xmas, I hadn’t seen her since February 2015.
  • Xmas Day spent at my brother’s house with all the family.
  • Watching a DVD I bought all about Lego “LEGO Brickumentary“, it’s a movie length documentary explaining way more than I’ve ever known before.  It even had a chapter on famous adults who are big fans of Lego such as Ed Sheeran.

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  • Spending New Year’s Day out in the country.

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  • Visiting the Museum and the Art Gallery in one day.

  • Hanging out in Takapuna with one of my best friends who lives in the UK, but is home for the holidays.

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  • Spending lots of time in my backyard drinking far too many beers.

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  • and building Wall-E.

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