Last weekend, we finally got to go see both parts of "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child", the "Harry Potter" play that will be discussed so much this weekend when it opens to the public. Tickets for the pre-shows were on sale at discounted prices at the end of October last year, and I managed to get tickets despite waiting hours to successfully book. As mentioned, the play officially opens to the public on the 30th of July, but the first couple of months have been testing out the dialog and tweaks in front of a live audience with discounted tickets. With only a week to go until official opening day, the play must be nearly complete as to what will be shown. 

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If watching the play at the weekend days, both parts can be enjoyed back-to-back (with an hour and a half for dinner.) The play can also be seen during the week on two consecutive nights or two different nights, but the cast cannot be guaranteed to be the same. The fact that the play is in two parts may put off some people, but I think fans of the books/films will still make the effort to see it.

I actually did not feel that it would live up to the books or films, but I was proven wrong. It's a brilliant story set in the future for the life of Harry Potter and his friends. Now, I am not allowed to say much or spoil the show, so spoilers cannot be found here. I will simply say that it's brilliant, and the little "magic" bits used in the show are real treats and filled me with awe. For those who do want to know more about it but have been unlucky with getting tickets, the script will be released at the weekend.

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As mentioned previously, this was a whole day affair. We decided to make the most of it, so we headed over to Regent Street for the summer party in the hopes to get free ice cream, but they were setting up and we would have had to wait an hour (by which time, we'd have had to be in the theatre). We had breakfast at Balan's Soho Society around the corner from the theatre. The French toast really hit the spot. I have not had French toast since living in the states.

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After we saw the first play, we had just over an hour and a half to kill. We decided to go to Chinatown (just south of Palace Theatre) to eat Chinese at (what I consider) one of the best Chinese restaurants in Chinatown. Even numerous people of this origin love the place (and it's been a discussion with another friend of mine), so it must be good. They do cater for those with more Chinese tastes as well as the Anglo-Chinese tastes.

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The place in question is Imperial China. We received so much food that we could not eat it all as the main portions are large. The bloke had the chilli beef, and I had the spicy chicken. I cannot remember the names of the dishes. We also shared noodles and beansprouts. 

Imperial China is located on Lisle Street, and if you look inside the door and at the back, you will see a little red bridge and some Chinese lanterns. The rest of the restaurant is behind this. There are huge goldfish in the little pond underneath this bridge, and that's a nice touch.

Balan's Soho Societ is located on Old Compton Street.

Have you been to see 'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child' yet? If so, leave your comments here. 

At the end of last month, I booked us a table for afternoon tea at Crazy Bear in Beaconsfield. I had seen good reviews, and I liked the 1920s art deco theme of the main room, so I decided to give it a try. Sometimes, I find a lovely venue and have a fantastic experience; other times, I don't. I have to say that the review of this is the latter type of experience. I am writing about it anyway because I think that it's important to keep my posts genuine and based on my own experience. I was not paid to visit. I paid for two afternoon teas, booked two months in advance, and this is my experience.

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Crazy Bear is a brand of hotel-resort with a handful of locations in London, Oxford, and Beaconsfield (just west outside of London). I visited the Beaconsfield location, which was only about a thirty minute drive from where I live and in a beautiful town that I'd not visited before. There's not much parking but we parked down the hill outside of town, and it was only a couple of minutes to walk to the hotel.

Impressions are made upon entering and the interaction of people you see and meet. Upon entering, the place felt chaotic. A lot of well-dressed people were wandering in and out of the hotel. The atmosphere and visitors and staff seemed a little pretentious. It actually felt like a place where you'd see WAGS (wifes and girlfriends of footballers) and fake people who may or may not be from a stereotypical Essex. We were not greeted. We had to ask where to go.

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Okay, second mistake after the lack of greeting. The staff member led us downstairs into a dark room that is the Thai restaurant in the evening. Low ceilings and only one other lonely couple were seated down here, and the atmosphere felt horrible and out of the way. Not only that, but I'd particularly booked a space in the nice room upstairs. This is why I had to wait two months. After finding the staff member to discuss, we were finally seated upstairs. Also note that during our visit, not all seats were taken. Half of the room was empty.

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Leather couches, silver tables and chandeliers, and exotic animals adorned the space around us. The exotic animals (which included zebra, giraffe, parrots, black bear, and antelope) on the walls were real and not replicas, and I have to say I'm not a big fan of taxidermy or putting these on display because there's been too many stories recently where wealthy people go on safari and hunt animals for sport. I know none of these exotic animals are endangered, but I've personally never liked seeing taxidermy. Despite the animal heads (for moral reasons), I cannot fault the interior design.

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There were also parrots and a black bear with a beautiful chandelier and skylights.

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And silver chintz was everywhere, including the acrobat below which doubled as a candle-holder.

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We received our champagne first. It tasted a bit warm, unfortunately. It was served out of a bucket with other champagnes, and I assume that there was ice in the bucket, but the champagne tasted room temperature. Champagne doesn't taste very good to me unless it's ice-cold.

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We then received our teas while we waited and waited for our sandwiches due to dietery requirements. Eventually, were then told that they were too busy to cater for our requirements. When I say eventually, this was over thirty minutes of waiting. I'd informed them well in advance (two months ago) when I had booked, and I'd informed them of the requirements so that they could prepare in advance. They failed to do so.

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Our tea was not too bad, and it was presented well.

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We ate our scones, which came with clotted cream and strawberry jam. These did not taste fresh.

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Last up were the pastries. We received different flavours, including a mango and cheesecake, a lemon meringue, fruit tart, cupcake, fruit cake, and carrot cake. The cupcake was too sweet and rich, and the carrot cake and fruit cake was too dry, so most of these were left behind. The others did taste good.

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After waiting so long for the staff to return, we got more annoyed. I needed my tea refilled with hot water, but that never happened. Then, we waited for the bill, and that never happened. I had paid up front, so we decided to just leave. On the way out, no one stopped us or wished us well, even though we walked by a number of staff.

I cannot recommend this venue because the staff were not interested and not helpful, and we did not feel like our custom was wanted. The food and drink was not great, and they would not cater to our needs, which were explained at the time of booking. Overall, I did not care for the pretentious atmosphere of the place either. I will not be returning to Crazy Bear venues.

Magnum Pleasure Store 2016

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Last year, I went to the Magnum Pleasure Store summer pop-up at Covent Garden (covered here). I enjoyed it so much that when I saw that they were returning to London with a new pop-up this summer, I knew that I had to go. This year's new pop-up is near Bond Street tube stop on South Molton Street. I was really lucky to arrive before the doors closed early for a special meeting on the day I arrived, and there were queues as usual.

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This year, they are meant to be doing double-dipped (two layers of chocolate) ice creams, but the machine was broken. It costs 4.50 for the standard ice cream with choice of chocolate and three toppings and 6.50 for the double-dipped. I had to get the standard because the machine was broken.

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Visitors can choose up to three toppings, and I was able to choose a little more of one other topping because I had the black lava sea salt as one topping, and they only want to give a little bit of this to to keep the nice flavour. In addition to the sea salt, I had pistachio (my favourite), cinnamon almonds (I love cinnamon), and the silver balls. All of these are put into a tin to mix up.

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The ice cream was dipped in front of me in the chocolate of my choice. (Milk, white, and dark chocolate were on offer.) I had the dark chocolate. After dipping, the ice cream was covered in the toppings.

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It was then drizzled with chocolate of your choice again before being topped with either a white chocolate or milk chocolate 'M' (Magnum) logo.

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Due to lack of seating, I took mine outside to eat. Unfortunately, I discovered a hair half the way through eating it. (I think the hair was in the toppings as I notice they don't cover them.) This put me off eating the rest of it, and I threw about half of the ice cream away.

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In addition to the pop-up, Magnum are sponsoring a fashion show as part of the 'Summer Streets' event, which takes place on a pedestrianised Regent Street throughout July. During the event, free double-dipped ice creams will be handed out, and visitors are encouraged to make their own.

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The ice cream was not as good as I remembered it before, and finding the hair did make me feel sick and put me off. If this doesn't put you off, the Magnum Pleasure Store will be open until September 16. It is open from 11:00-9:00 from Mondays to Saturdays and open from 12:00-6:00 on Sundays.

The Serpentine Pavilion 2016

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Every summer, the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park builds a new Pavilion in the grounds to highlight architectural design and art. Last year, we had the colourful Pavilion with the light reflecting/refracting to create different shapes and colours. This year, it's more about form and less about colour. This year's Serpentine Pavilion was built by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, head of BIG, who have worked on Google's new headquarters. This year, the Pavilion has been nicknamed 'unzipped wall' as it looks like the structure is zipped up partially. Inside, its atmosphere resembles a cavern. The inspiration was to use basic components to create a structure. It stands 14 metres high.

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I took a quick look inside and had a drink at the cafe, which serves light snacks, coffees, and fruit juices. The range was not as extensive as last year's, which contained afternoon teas and ice creams and a range of food from Fortnum and Mason. In that sense, it was a little bit of a disappointment. However, there were plenty of seats when compared with last year.

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The structure is made from fiberglass boxes, which appear to be the same size and shape. These are stacked on top of each other to create an illusion, and it is a real treat to look up once you are inside.

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The different angles of the boxes also give a sense of movement, as you can see in the photographs below.

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I examined the structure from the different angles.

Although one can walk around the structure, it is not as memorable and there's less to explore. Last year's was a hit because there was a lot to explore and interact with. I remember seeing children running around the structure and in an outside walkway that wrapped around it. I did see children this year, but interaction was not encouraged with this. This structure is meant to be looked at from a distance and close up and to examine the different angles, but it is less interactive and more about viewing.

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There are also four summer houses to explore nearby, but I did not see these or know about them when I visited the Pavilion.

Have you been to visit the Serpentine Pavilion this summer? The Serpentine Pavilion will only be around for a limited time. It is free to visit, and it will close on October 9. It is open from 10:00 in the morning and closes at 6:00 in the evening.

'Star Wars' Celebration 2016

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Last weekend, I spent a long day at "Star Wars Celebration Europe". Readers of my blog may remember that I'm a fan of "Star Wars" and went to the "Secret Cinema" presents "The Empire Strikes Back" last year along the "Star Wars" theme. This year, the science fiction event was held in London at the Excel centre and covered a large area. Actually, there was no way that I could see everything because the day also involved waiting around in queues for a lot of the time. There were queues to see the props from "Rogue One", "The Force Awakens", gaming, virtual reality, the panels, and even the shop itself.

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I did go to see the props from "Rogue One" (which will be released at the end of this year) at the end of the day where there wasn't a queue to get in. I also participated in the "Trials of Tatooine" virtual reality, which was really amazing. Headphones and glasses and a device that looks like a remote control are given to you, and the next thing you know, you're on the desert planet of Tatooine. You get to meet and interact with R2-D2, see the Millennium Falcon, and deflect laser shots back at stormtroopers with your lightsabre. It was surreal.

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The cosplay was also amazing, and I saw a lot of great costumes like the ones above of characters from "Star Wars Rebels". 

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They even had a full-sized TIE fighter and a small AT-AT walker.

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The above are props from "The Force Awakens".

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I didn't think I'd ever be able to catch a glimpse of Mark Hamill (my favourite character and crush Luke Skywalker), but I was so lucky. At the end of the day, I ran into one of the rooms to get some merchandise and he was right in front of me, talking to an audience that had gathered around. In the shot above, he was discussing the deleted original scene (which never made the final cut) in "A New Hope" where he meets up with his childhood friends Biggs (who does make it to the Rebel Alliance) and Cammie, and he shows a photograph of the characters.

Overall, that was the icing on the cake and nothing could top it. It was a really good day.

London Bubble Waffles @ Nosteagia

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One of London's most Instagram-able foods is the bubble waffle from Nosteagia. Nosteagia started as a company selling bubble tea and Asian sweets in London on Brick Lane. The company combine English and Asian food, which is then served in an innovative manner. The bubble waffles are created in a waffle maker with a mould that cooks the batter into puffy air-filled waffles. These are then combined with cream and toppings. There are many flavours to choose from.

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I decided to try one for myself a few weeks ago. Their permanent location is at Shoreditch High Street at PUMP, which is a former petrol station lot but is now home to a dozen street food vendors with a selection of different foods from all over the world.

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I had spent awhile walking around Shoreditch, so a bubble waffle was on order. I had to wait around for fifteen minutes for them to finish getting ready for the day. (Even though it was noon, the vendors at PUMP don't open until about 12:30 on a Saturday as they are getting ready for the day.) They are open until 9:00 in the evening, and the evening is probably when they do most of their business.

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I watched as the batter was poured into the waffle maker and then removed a couple of minutes later. (The one in the photograph above had a little too long, and they cooked another one without asking.)

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Flavours include peanut butter and CocoPops cereal, marshmallow and chocolate, green tea and Oreo cookies, banana and Nutella, strawberry and cream, coconut, M&Ms and chocolate, and cookie. I opted for the Cookie Monster variety, which contained Nutella, cream, cookie pieces, and chocolate sauce.

The dessert was really delicious and filling, but it's not quite as rich/heavy as it looks here. It's perfect after a light meal or if a pick-me-up is needed.

Last year on the Saturday before Easter Sunday, the bloke and I headed out to Brimham Rocks. Everyone else had the same idea, and the rocks were busy with families enjoying themselves and participating in an Easter Egg hunt. This would have been an amazing place to run around if I was a kid again; this would have been right up my street. I could not help to feel a little jealous of all of the children enjoying such a wonderful place with large rocks to hide amongst and climb on/around.

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We spent a long weekend around Harrogate, and I previously posted my visit to Harrogate, afternoon tea at Betty's Tea Rooms, Mother Shipton's Petrifying Well, Knaresborough, and Knaresborough Castle.

I explored Brimham Rocks for a couple of hours, enjoying the views from some of the rocks and climbing my way around/between others. The rocks cover a large area of ground, and there is a small museum and shop on location that explains how the stones were formed. It also explained that the rocks were visited during the Victorian days and people from Harrogate would come to Brimham Rocks for the day as an excursion. It was marketed to resemble the landscape of far-away lands, such as America.

Photographs from my visit to Brimham Rocks can be seen below.

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Have you ever been to Brimham Rocks?

Knaresborough is a town in Yorkshire located near Harrogate and on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales. Knaresborough is built around a limestone gorge (complete with the River Nidd at the bottom of the gorge). The recognisable viaduct, a railway bridge, is built on the banks of the gorge over the river. Stunning views can be enjoyed from the stairs to the top where the old town is and from the castle. Mother Shipton's Cave and Petrifying Well (the first recorded tourist attraction) is located in Knaresborough, and it's also home to Knaresborough Castle. I visited both attractions, starting in the morning with Mother Shipton's and finishing the afternoon off at Knaresborough Castle.

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The town of Knaresborough has a High Street and a market square, and it has one of the oldest chemist shops in the UK. Historic buildings are also located along the river. St. John's Parish Church is one of these. Visitors can also hire/rent a rowboat on the river.

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Another one of the historical buildings along the river is The Old Manor House. The Old Manor House was a hunting lodge built for King John in the early 1200s around an old oak tree. Oliver Cromwell would have come here to sign some documents after Royalists were defeated nearby. Over 400 years ago, King James I had a mulberry planted inside the courtyard, and it still grows and flowers each year.

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The Nidd Gorge is the lowland where the river runs through Knaresborough. The sandstone and limestone rock was carved out by the river over 16,000 years ago. 'Nidd' is probably the Celtic word for 'hidden' or 'covered' as the river disappears underground further upstream. Knaresborough was settled very early, and it was mentioned in the 1086 Doomsday Book. 

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Mills were built on the river to pump water to the town, create paper, and to create textiles in the industrial age.

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The viaduct is the most famous symbol of the town today. It was built in the mid-1800s. The bridge constructed just before had actually collapsed into the river just before its opening. 

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Further along the river are a set of stairs that ascend to the top of the gorge where the main streets of Knaresborough are located. The stairs go past Knaresborough Castle, and the views on the way up and from the castle are amazing.

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After reaching the top, we had a wander through the town to browse a few shops and the Market Square. 

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We also had lunch. Before visiting the town, I looked online for a few recommendations. One of the recommendations was McQueen's cafe, located on the High Street toward the station. The cafe do cooked meals and lunches with soup and sandwich, and they do pastries and coffees too. I opted for the soup and sandwich, which was really yummy. The bloke had a steak pie with mashed peas and chips. I also had a scone (which came with butter, as I assume they prefer that 'up north'), and this was also tasty.

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I found Knaresborough to be a charming village, and it's packed with things to do and see.

'Lip Love' is a monthly beauty subscription bag from environmentally-conscious brand 'So Susan'. The subscription contains four or five items. July's came with four items with the theme 'I love summer days', and the front of the bag has a quotation from Henry James: "Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language." The products that I received are listed below. 

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Creamsicle in 'Acerola' by Trifle Cosmetics: This is a bright purple-red shade of lip and cheek stain. The stain can be layered to achieve a brighter colour. I've previously tried another colour in the Creamsicle range.

Neopolitan Palette by Jelly Pong Pong: This brand's packaging is very cute, and I love the shades in this eye shadow palette (pictured below) that range from gold to bronze-brown to dark brown. All three shades are very easy to wear and can be combined to highlight the eyes.

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Moisturizing Foundation by So Susan: This sun-protecting foundation is a bold move to include in a make-up subscription bag, particularly as there's no questions about skin tone when you subscribe. Luckily, the colour goes on thinly, so it's not too noticable as it isn't the correct shade for my pale skin. I use this as a base and then add my normal foundation on top.

Blush&Glow in 'Rose Rust' by So Susan: This salmon-coloured powder adds a little bit of blush to give cheeks and skin a subtle glow.

This month's bag was a little bit of hit and miss for me. What did you think? 

Spanish artist Peijac created his first installation in London a few weeks ago with "Downside Up" off of Bethnal Green Road. The artist's first solo show takes place in London at the end of this month, and these pieces give an introduction to the artist's style with using familiar objects to communicate a message. "Downside Up" features familiar shoes tied at the laces and hanging from lamp posts. Instead of the shoes hanging, they are suspended into the air by the laces.

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To see more from the artist, visit his Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/pejac.es/

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