06 July 2015

10 Things Around Arundel (That I wish I had Done)

Life has gotten a little bit hectic in the last several months. Every time I try to take my foot off the gas pedal it seems like something else crops up that requires more attention. Finding any sort of balance hasn't been easy and unwinding on "days off" is next to impossible.

But yesterday Clifford and I woke up, put on some clothes that weren't related to slouching, gymming, or working, opened the English Heritage Guidebook, picked a place, and went for it. Totally out of character for me, but I'm so glad I did it.

Being away from my desk and any reminders of training was a good thing for me. While Clifford and I still spoke about Taekwondo (hard not to when it's a source of income) it wasn't to the same sort of urgency or forethought of events to come. It was definitely more reflective in nature and the drive gave us a chance to get on the same page about some immediate projects and events coming up.

Our first stop was just outside of Chichester, Boxgrove Priory, an old church where only a fraction of the original building was still standing and in use. The actual English Heritage bit were the ruins of the guest house just to the north of the church.

Just let me take a selfie...
After taking a nosy around the graveyard to see if we could find the oldest one (it's a morbid hobby, I know), we went inside the church. It always fascinates me that these churches, with old artwork, decor, and treasures, are always nestled in quiet little villages across the countryside.

Around the corner was Arundel and with our church fix, Clifford and I had to get our castle fix, and what better castle than Arundel Castle? OMG, it was huge!

View from the keep... but there's more
that I couldn't get in one photo.
While Arundel Castle isn't part of English Heritage it was mentioned on their map. And we got a discount on the entrance price (Boom!) so we treated ourselves with the "Gold Plus" ticket to get up to see the Arundel Castle Keep as well as the bedrooms that are still in use today. In fact, they were used the previous weekend as nieces and nephews of the Duke and Duchess had visited. Unfortunately, no pictures could be taken on the inside of the Castle, but you'll have to take my word on it that it's an amazing place, especially the library. I could live in that library.

In true form to the way Clifford and I tavel, we only find out what would be amazing to do once we get to a new place. We always come out with "Oh, we should do this the next time we're here." as if that's a good way to force ourselves to plan for the next day trip.

This has yet to happen, but if I had had another couple days to spend in Arundel, these are the things I would have done:

1. Give myself plenty of time to look around Arundel Castle

As we started out from home only at noon, made a stop at Boxgrove Priory, Clifford and I only had about 90 minutes to look around Arundel Castle. The castle is seriously that massive that we never got to the gardens (which are actually a major attraction) and had to skim through the rooms that we had access to see. Had we wanted to visit Arundel Castle properly, I'd say we would have needed at least double the time we had given ourselves.

2. Visit the Arundel Cathedral.

This, coupled with a visit to the Castle would give anyone a well rounded history lesson. It's also a prominent feature of Arundel and it's part of the view from Arundel Castle. I was in awe standing in Boxgrove Priory so I can't imagine how amazing it would be to stand in the Cathedral.

3. Visit the Arundel Museum

The museum is right across from the Castle's entrance and would have been a handy little stop if Clifford and I had stayed more than just an afternoon (there's only so much history you can take in a day). The museum looked pretty cool from the outside, and according to it's website the museum goes as far back as Pre-Roman times. Which means they talk about the Roman influence in the area before they can get to the Norman Conquest. And we all know how much I enjoy the Roman stuff.

4. Stay in one of the cute B&B's in the area

Where you stay overnight for a trip can make or break a travelling experience. And while a bed and a shower will do in most cases, a B&B has the opportunity to make the experience memorable. Arundel has a lot of character and to stay in one of the B&Bs there would put you in the heart of it all.

5. Take a walking tour around Arundel.

While we enjoy visiting the typical, touristy areas of any place, it's only the locals that can tell you about the trivia and the little nooks of an area. And why not get a little exercise while you're learning about the local history.

6. Taken an Arun River tour.

Saturday was such a lovely, sunny day that this would have been perfect to enjoy the local landscape and a perfect way to chill for a couple of hours. Preferably with a cold cider.

7. Take a dip in the Arundel Lido

On days off I'm aware that not many people like to exercise or do any unnecessary fitness. But swimming in an outdoor pool on a sunny day hardly seems like work. Just an easy way to work on an even tan. Ah, Medicine Hat summertime nostalgia.

8. Do the Arundel Ghost experience

'Cause everyone loves a good ghost story. I mean, Clifford even asked one of the Arundel Castle staff if they castle was haunted. Really.

9. Visted a few more Arundel tea rooms and pubs

For our afternoon meal, Clifford and I ate at The Bay Tree. We passed by a number of other places because we weren't sure if they had had outdoor seating. I'm glad we took a chance at The Bay Tree as they had a lovely little back garden bit where I could sit in the sun for the whole meal. The staff were lovely and my salad was a proper salad with chicken.

To be able to stay for a few days I'm sure Clifford and I would have stumbled onto a few more restaurants, tea rooms, and pubs. And I'm sure we could have found one that served gluten free tea cakes and biscuits.

10. Do an Arundel Brewery Tour

On our walk back to the car park, after all the shops had closed and a good most of the people had cleared away, either back to their homes or hotels, or into various pubs for meals, we came across the Arundel Brewery Shop.

Even though I can't drink beer, Clifford and I love a good brewery tour. By now, details of breweries aren't that interesting, however it is a chance to meet some new people, have a drink, and buy various beer lovers some independently crafted beer.

By various beer lovers, I'm pretty sure I'm just referring to Daniel.

Despite our short time in Arundel, I can definitely see myself returning there or thereabouts. The place had such a nice atmosphere, not unlike Windsor. It's like both places are quintessentially English in their own way. From what I've experienced of the place so far I would definitely recommend it if travelling down along the coast. I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that more of this good weather will continue!

30 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: Z is for Zero Dark Thirty

Movie: Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Overall Rating: 4 / 5

General Impression: Really excellent watch.

The story is about the decade long man hunt for Osama Bin Laden. I really hate to watch any scenes to do with torture, but I'm not kidding myself in that what was presented in the movie had already been softened significantly. I'm also not naive to the fact that torture happens all the time by all governments, but that doesn't mean I want to watch it necessarily. Or that it adds to the plot or characters development.

While it did add to the plot in this movie, I still wasn't keen on watching it.

There was a strong cast to support the plot and I was held in suspense a lot. And of course, watching a strong female lead always gets support from me.

29 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: Y is for The Yards

Movie: The Yards (2000)

Overall Rating: 2 / 5

General Impression: Take it or leave it.

With a cast that included Mark Wahlberg, Jaoquin Phoenix, and Charlize Theron you'd think it would be a spectacular movie. Instead it was a boring movie about a gangster family and a man failing to start over on the straight and narrow after his prison release.

Definitely not as exciting as the trailer makes it out to be.

28 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: X ... There is no reputable movie...

Movie: Vampire Academy (2014)

Overall Rating: 4.5 / 5

General Impression: When is the sequel coming out??? (I don't say that often...)

X-men: Days of Future Past wasn't released to theaters when I started my movie watching for the A to Z Challenge so I had to come up with a contingency plan for the letter X. X is not a reputable letter when it comes to movies so I've decided to fill it with a movie that I watched that stood out. Vampire Academy was it.

And OMG, I loved this movie so much. I didn't know what to expect but it was funny, fantastical, and had vampires. I did some digging on the movie, because I didn't remember any marketing related to it, and found out it was based on a series written by Richelle Mead of the same title. I also found out that the movie was a box office flop... and no sequel will be made.

This was sad news for me because while really outrageously set in "high school" I found the movie to be quirky and funny, have a bit of romance, some pretty decent fight scenes, and the plot was engaging enough to follow. Because there was a cast of characters it was really hard to get to know them all properly, but the movie did a good job of portraying them. I loved Zoey Duetch as Rose, and I think I enjoy Zoey Duetch anyway: there aren't too many actresses with a comedic quirk like her.

Given all of this, I don't understand how this franchise didn't take off and Twilight did. Vampire Academy (from the single movie I saw; I will get to reading the books later) had a much more interesting plot and characters, and portrayed young women in a much stronger and realistic light.

Has anyone read both Vampire Academy and Twilight series? Any thoughts? Any other teenage vampire/urban fantasy recommendations?

27 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: W is for Warriors

Movie: Warrior (2011)

Overall Rating: 5 / 5

General Impression: Fantastic!

So, not a typical martial arts movie. More like a sports drama if I had to call it anything, just the sport happens to be MMA and some great fight scenes that happen along the way.

I don't really know how to talk about the movie in a good way without spoiling the whole plot but I will try: the plot does center around one family of a dad and his two estranged sons. The whole story gets set into motion when a chance to win a lot of money comes around and both brothers, unbeknownst to each other, start training towards achieving the same prize.

The characters and story have surprising depth considering it's an MMA sports drama. Every character was well cast and I almost didn't recognize Tom Hardy. Those traps... And he busted out an American accent, which is better than a lot of other UK to US actors have managed to achieve.

Definitely worth a watch!

25 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: V is for Veronica Guerrin

Movie: Veronica Guerrin (2003)

Overall Rating: 4.5 / 5

General Impression: Such a powerful movie.

I don't just love this movie because Cate Blanchett manages to master yet another accent for another powerful story. It's such a heartbreaking story of the conditions of Ireland in the 90's and one woman who refuses to be intimidated by the task at hand. The ending isn't happy or sad: change does happen but only after the death of Vernoica.

Don't think that was a spoiler. The movie is based on a true story, the actual Veronica Guerrin and if you would Google the name you would quickly find out she is, tragically, dead.

Definitely worth a watch, and make sure you have a box of tissues handy.

24 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: U is for Under Siege

Movie: Under Siege  (1992)

Overall Rating: 1 / 5

General Impression: I don't even know...

Starring Steven Seagal... Need I say more?

23 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: T is for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Movie: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Overall Rating: 4 / 5

General Impression: Loved it!

As far as reboots of a franchise go, this isn't the best, but it's up there. And funny that two awesome reboots happened with the Michael Bay and Megan Fox team (after they managed to put their strife behind them...).

The turtle brothers were well voice casted, and I liked that the different personalities were maintained with the reboot. Even if a little exaggerated at times. The haphazard costuming of each brother kind of accentuated each personality but I was most pleased to see April O'Neil's signature jacket kept in the movie but also get a realistic update.

Say what you will about Megan Fox, I think she was well cast in this movie. I also liked the increased depth of character and plot points she was given: a struggling journalist instead of an already successful one. It was nice to see Whoopi Goldberg as well the lady boss, but the character Vern Fenwick annoyed me. He had no real purpose but to pursue April and be her shoulder to cry on. Which would have been fine if the story had left him at that, instead there was forced chemistry between them when it was clear April just wanted to be one of the guys and hang out with the turtle brothers.

Can't say I blame her.

The CGI was amazing, even though some of the fight sequences were contrived. Of course, they're teenage MUTANT and NINJA turtles so you would expect a bit of outrageous stunts. But definitely worth watching if you were a fan of the FIRST Ninja Turtles movie... You know which one I'm talking about:

22 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: S is for Star Trek: Into Darkness

Movie: Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)

Overall Rating: 4 / 5

General Impression: It's Star Trek, what do you think I'm going to say?

I wouldn't say Star Trek fell victim to the Sequel's Curse, but the movie did have moments of boring. I know sometimes you have to slow down in order to set up a plot point, especially if the motives of the characters are going to be believable.

While all the main cast of protagonists and the antagonist, Khan (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) were all superb in their acting and the portrayal of their characters, the one that really annoyed me was Dr Carol Marcus (played by Alice Eve). I'm not sure what it was: the portrayal of her motives? The actress itself? The questionable underwear scene? The fact that she didn't really add to the plot or anyone's character development? The she wasn't really an interesting female character (in fact she pales in comparison to Uhura's caracter)?

Overall though, it was a solid sequel to the series reboot and worthwhile watching.

21 April 2015

A to Z Challenge: R is for Rocky

Movie: Rocky (1976)

Overall Rating: 5 / 5

General Impression: Fantastic movie.

Even though the movie is nearly 40 years old it's fantastic and I'm sure it took the cinematic world by surprise (and by storm?). It has everything a good story needs: good plot, good characters, romance, action, and a happy ending.

I only found out later than Sylvester Stallone had also written the script and this surprised me as well. Up to the point of watching this movie I had only seen Stallone act in movies that made him look simplistic, if not stupid, and knowing that he as an actor, writer, producer, director, etc could be so much more.

This is one of the few "classic" movies that I've watched and that actually lives up to the hype of being amazing. If you haven't watched it, you definitely need to.