Travel in the time of Covid has been an adventure in and of itself. Flying over seas in a mostly empty plane and being locked in a hotel room for a 12 day quarantine made it all the more interesting. I was in the UK for work and had planned on staying in London for a few days, but the universe had other plans.
Even though London and the UK were emerging from lockdown, the country wasn’t necessarily open to foreign travelers. I had to cancel my plans and leave as soon as my work was done. Until, the flights home kept getting cancelled. In the end, I had about 4 hours in London the night before my flight.
I mapped out a route from Leicester Square down to St. Paul’s and set out to see as much as I could see.
To celebrate the 350th anniversary of Leicester Square, a series of statues depicting famous movie scenes were in stalled. If you aren’t looking for them, you may actually miss them.
A short distance from Leicester Square is where you can find Cecil Court. This hidden thoroughfare in London is the home to some of the most unique bookstores. Second-Hand books, Antiquarian books, even the residence of an 8 year old Mozart can be found on this narrow street. I didn’t get a chance to explore as most of the shops closed early or had yet to open from the lockdown.
Winter in Europe is a beautiful and magical time of the year. A dusting of snow covers the narrow streets as people scurry about preparing for the holiday. The city of Hamburg, Germany was one of the most wonderful Yuletide celebrations that I had seen. The city is home to over 30 different Christmas Markets where one can shop for unique gifts, enjoy homemade treats and have a warm mug of Gluhwein in a specially decorated mug. You pay a small deposit that gets returned if you give it back or you can choose to keep it.
The largest of the Christmas Markets is in the City Hall Square. The ornate Rathaus serves as a backdrop for rows and rows of holiday booths and carnival rides for the children.
You can find everything from hand carved Nativities, decorated gingerbread cookies, handmade Kissing Balls and miniature replicas of the city’s famous buildings. The shops are laid out on different “streets”, Handwerskgasse for homemade crafts, Naschgasse for sweets and Spielzeugggasse for children’s toys.
Santa Claus is well represented in Germany at Christmastime. In most of Germany, Der Weinachtsmann is Father Christmas or Santa. He didn’t appear in Germany until the 1800’s but that doesn’t make him less important to the season. The Jolly Old Elf makes an appearance over the heads of the market goers on his reindeer driven sleigh.
There are other Christmas Markets throughout the city and it’s impossible to see them all.
One of my favorite parts of any film studio is the backlot. The Warner Bros. Studio saw many classic films produced in their backlot. From Spiderman to Annie, used the famous Hennessy Street set.
Originally called Tenement Street, it was renamed Hennessy Street after Art Director Dale Hennessy. Hennessy was the Art Director for John Huston’s movie “Annie”. He redesigned Tenement Street to represent Annie’s New York city and the Orphanage where she lived.
If you saw the Movie “Gremlins” then you may recognize these steps down to the basement store where Hoyt Axton buys his son Gizmo. Unfortunately, the magical shop doesn’t exist at the bottom of the stairs.
The many fire escapes set the scene for Tobey Maguire’s and Kirsten Dunst’s upside kiss in “Spiderman” and Prince’s “Purple Rain” cover.
Around the corner from Hennessy Street you may see Hazzard County from “The Dukes Of Hazzard” where the Bo and Luke Duke would raise cain.
Even the Tanner Family from “Full House” have a house on the backlot. If you expect to find Uncle Jessie or Kimmy Gibbler hanging out on the front steps you will disappointed. It was only used once for a photo shoot and never appeared in the original series or the new version “Fuller House”. Even star Candace Cameron featured the fake Tanner House on her own Instagram.
There’s so much more to explore at The Warner Bros. Studio. For more information on tours check out this link below.
Did you ever wonder where TV shows and Movies get all of the “Stuff” to make their sets look real? One of the stops on the Warner Bros. Studio Tour takes you through The Prop Department.
If you need a library full of leather bound books or a creepy skull, look no further. Propsmasters and Set Decorators comb through the stacks and stacks of things you never thought you needed. You can even rent the Samurai armor from “Inception” or President Bartlett’s desk from “The West Wing”. Keep your eyes open, because you never know what you might spy.
You can check out some of the items for rental at the link below.
When you hear the name, Louisville, you think about bourbon, the Kentucky Derby, Muhammad Ali and the Louisville Slugger. The largest city in Kentucky, Louisville is home to over one and a quarter million people. Known as the “Gateway to the South” and “The Derby City”, Louisville has something for everyone.
Some of the most unique architecture can be found in Louisville. Old Louisville is home to some fascinating mansions.
Downtown has art galleries and public sculpture on every corner.
And don’t forget the racehorses…
When you walk around Louisville, be sure to checkout the wonderful painted horses. Each one is unique and has it’s own story. Begun as a civic pride initiative in 2004. More horses were added in 2005 and 2015.
No trip to Tallin, Estonia is complete without a visit to the Danish King’s Garden. Watching over the medieval walled garden are statues of faceless monks, Ambrosius, Bartholomeus and Claudius. The legend goes, that during a losing battle, the monks prayed for divine intervention on behalf of the Danish King. Out of the sky fell a large flag, which became the national flag of Denmark.
Estonia is also considered one of the most haunted places in Europe. The King’s Garden is said to be haunted by a monk, perhaps a former executioner having a change of heart.
Walking around Helsinki, dodging the rain and sleet, I happened upon this really cool building. The Pohjola Insurance Company building is decorated with forest animals and monsters from the tales of the Kalevala. The Kalevala is studied in schools and well known by boys and girls across Finland. Kullervo is an orphan boy in search of a real family. In his journey he finds his real family, who he thought were slaughtered, but accidentally sleeps with his sister. When he finds out her identity he kills himself on his own sword. Not quite a happy ending.
Pohjola is the mythical land of Finnish literature. Kalevela, the Land of the North is eternally winter and ruled by an evil witch.
In another tale, Louhi, The Mistress of Pohjola, sends a bear to wreak havoc on Kalevala’s cattle. The hero, Väinämöinen kills the bear and they hold a feast. The bear is treated as a welcome guest, and the feast is in his honor. Väinämöinen sings of the birth of the bear, friend and brother to man, born upon the shoulders of Otava, the Big Dipper. Pohjola is where many believe that the roots of the world tree are. This could account for all of the trees and squirrels across the building’s front. More broadly the word refers to any northerly direction. Given its mythological namesake, it’s no surprise that the Pohjola Insurance company agreed to decorate their building with statues of monsters, fools and animals.
Geirangerfjord in Norway often appears on lists of the most spectacular places on the earth. Created over several ice ages, the glaciers dug out the deep fjords and the towering mountains. Geirangerfjord is home to several well-known waterfalls. ‘De Syv Søstre’ (the seven sisters) dance playfully down the mountain while the ‘Friaren’ (the suitor) is said to be wooing the Seven Sisters across the way. Fairytales explain that the shape of the mountains is due to trolls. When the creatures are hit by sunlight, it’s said that they turn to stone. Could that be a face staring at us on the mountainside? The tallest of the Seven Sisters tops out at an impressive 820 feet. Be sure to visit later in the Spring when the winter snow and ice are melting to get the best views.
The “S” shaped fjord is almost 10 miles long and a mile wide. The waters of the fjords are as deep as the Grand Canyon. Boat tours, kayaking and hiking are all great ways to see the beautiful scenery.
Perched high on the mountainside next to the Seven Sisters is the abandoned Knivsflå farm. It was ordered abandoned by the authorities in 189 due to the threat of landslides. It still stands today despite the threat of avalanches.