And the Paris blogging, it continues. Apologies if you don’t care about my holiday, but I want everyone to know how civilized and cultured I am.
So, yes, Day One was all about the Eiffel Tower and Day Two was Notre Dame, the Pantheon and Shakespeare & Co. Day Three was another geeky one, particularly if you’re into museums and red light districts.
Some people are geeks for prostitutes, right? Maybe geek isn’t the right word…
Anyway, we started with a ridiculously early morning (6:50am, to be precise, although I had been awake from 3am because of all the excitement, so I don’t think it really counts as an early morning. More like a super late night), and got to the Louvre before it even opened. The freakin’ Louvre. It is amazingly awesome to look at, the former palace is beautiful and the pyramids are iconic…although I’m not really sure whether or not I like them. It’s like the Eiffel Tower. You’re told it’s beautiful and you’ve seen it so much that you think you like it, but you don’t really know because, well, it’s Paris and it’s magical. That made more sense in my head.
First up, obligatory bee-line to the Mona Lisa, before the room gets swamped with Asian tourists and you can’t actually see anything. It’s nice to look at, but again you don’t know if you like it, or if it’s the Mona Lisa, so you just think you do. Italian Renaissance paintings aren’t really my thing (and there are really a whole lot of them), but the sheer scale of some of them are astounding. I couldn’t paint something like that with a lifetime to spare, and some of these artists were churning them out like Mills & Boons novels.
I mean, what’s a Mills & Boons novel? Urm, anyway.
After Mona Lisa admiring, we made the executive decision that our morning would be best spent focusing on the Ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian sections. You see, if you briefly glanced at everything in the Louvre, it would still take you 100 days (that’s like, four months, without a break), so you really do need a game plan. Game plan in hand, we got lost among the statues (Venus de Milo!), pottery, mummies, armour and oh, oh everything. It was history nerd heaven. The first room we were in took us an hour (it was about gladiators, the bestest and most gory part of ancient history), so we sort of made a little shove on for the rest of it to be out for lunch and off to our next adventure.
After pretending to be Tom Holland for a little while, we made the slog to Montmartre – where the French Can Can was born, and, perhaps, best known for being the area the Moulin Rouge is in. It’s a strange little place, I can tell you that much. It’s all sex shops and sleaze, and not in the nice fun way like Amsterdam. It feels dirty and dodgy and sort of icky.
Until you make the GIANT climb to the highest part of the city and see the Sacre Coeur, that is. It is a hike to get to, but it is worth every leg cramp and sob…the view is unbelievable.
The church itself is worth going in for a look, too. There was next to no queue when we got there right in the middle of the day – although you aren’t allowed to take any pictures inside, and you’re meant to maintain absolute silence while you’re walking around. I guess the guy who stands and shouts ‘NO PICTURES’ at people has a different set of rules, mind you. Ruins the moment a tad. It’s not as grand or ornamental as Notre Dame or the Pantheon, but again, the scale is astounded. And there are real life nuns, which totally adds to the experience.
Once you are out of the church, sit for a bit, and just look out. There are so many places to stand and look at Paris from a great height, but this view is a whole other thing. It’s just incredible. So pretty and crazy romantic. This area of Montmartre feels less tacky than the sex shop street, even when you take all the many, many souvenir shops into account. It’s quaint and lovely, and exactly how your brain pictures Paris when it’s left to its own devices. Cobbles and all.
Hard to think it was a whole week ago, I truly believe I left my head there, because I can’t quite get back into the swing of things back home! Maybe I should stop eating pain au chocolat and drinking Orangina, to be fair…
So, you know that song? Yeah, that one. Apparently, it has started some sort of strange nationwide craze for charity shops and bargain findings; a craze that I fully approve of. While every other retail store in Northern Ireland is closing (Lisburn have lost Dorothy Perkins, Evans, NV and The Sony Centre this month), it seems we will always have our thrift stores.
And Primark. We will always have Primark.
I thought, for this ON TIME (woo!) Sunday Review, I would tell you about my recent jaunt up the Lisburn Road. My logic in visiting this weird inbetween-Belfast-and-Lisburn-land was centered around the fact that very few of the shops around there seem to be shutting down, and it’s pretty damn fancy, so fancy people and students alike probably donate to the charity shops around there. And there’s a Starbucks, that was a massive factor, I won’t lie.
Anyway, to the point. I had money burning a hole in my pocket, I Googled tips and tricks for thrifting (because I Google hints and tips for everything, like the sad little lady I am) and I had a bag for life. No 5p charge for me, not at all. Over the space of four hours and, like, twelve charity shops, I bought….*drum roll*…two books. Two books. I wanted bags and bags of marvellous, cheap and miraculous wonders, but no, it was not to be.
The second book was an encyclopedia of treasures from Ancient Rome; obviously highly essential. I had to spell check encyclopedia like, ten times there. That’s humiliating for an English graduate.
I think my expectations were too high. I won’t even pretend to be some sort of involved fashionista, because I dress like a hobo (or, if I make an effort, a fourteen year old goth), but I was sort of expecting to see, I don’t know, something? A battered old AC/DC t-shirt? Denim stuff? Anything that didn’t smell like moths?
I did see an £8 wedding dress, but I didn’t want to get it because, well. I’m not that mental. Or Miss. Havisham.
I digress, as I so frequently do, but the Lisburn Road has always been a favourite of mine. I would’ve liked to live there at some point during my student life, but I ran out of money and had to live with my parents for the majority of my undergraduate career. It’s a nice area to stroll around, plenty of food and coffee and bars and interesting shops (including that one that sells the giant expensive poofy formal dresses, and Arcadia, with all it’s joyful American candy) and before you know it, bam, you’re in Belfast. With more shops, and more bars.
I did have a point to make, but it’s completely gone. Go for a dander up the Lisburn Road. If you find something amazing in a charity shop, send me a picture, so I can be jealous and cling to my two bargain books.
So, you may or may not be aware that I am a girl. Of the female persuasion, if you will. Actually, that makes me sound like a lesbian, but I’m just trying to convey to you that I am a chick. Anyway, I can’t speak for all the other geeky lady folk out there, but from time to time, I do like to embrace my inner Barbie. I just like pink, is all. And glitter.
Only sometimes, mind you. Mostly, I like Batman and converse and cats.
With this in mind, here are some pink bits and bobs that I’ve seen around; don’t worry gentlemen, I’m sure you can pull off pink just as well as any lady. Smash the gender roles.
£4 in H&M! Such a bargain, and they still have them in the store in Belfast. They don’t appear to be on the website any more, but if you click the picture, there is an even cuter Iphone cover for under a fiver…it’s panda shaped! If, however, you are a crazy cat lady like myself, you can get something very similar on Amazon. I can personally recommend this one, because I went and ordered myself one when I needed cheering up recently. It has a little tail on the back, too! Bless.
Cute, yesyes? Spotted in H&M in Belfast (the Royal Avenue one, I think). I can’t remember the exact price, because it was a while ago and I was skint and didn’t want to look too closely, lest I get depressed.
Also, I’m not actually a fashion blogger, go look and find the price yourself. Leave me alone.
More Primark love now, in the form of Hello Kitty. The little slippers were £4, but when I went back after payday to buy a pair, they were nowhere to be found! Typical. The onesie is around £14, complete with Hello Kitty ears and bow.
I know I said earlier that this was a boy friendly blog…and I truly meant it. I would greatly like to see a picture of a man in that purple onesie. Not for any weird sexy reasons, just for a giggle. Honest.
Finally, another pink pick from Primark (Lisburn). I’m not entirely sure about this, because it doesn’t really make any sense, grammatically. I do so love a garment that lets everyone know that you’re smarter than them, though. It saves telling everyone you pass in the street, which is time consuming.
I think that’ll do nicely for girly moment, I am all pinked out. I might scrounge up the energy to do a ‘Feelin’ Blue’ for the male types out there…but only if you comment nice things.
My ego needs the boost.
I have a confession to make – this was meant to be written and posted last week, but then I got horribly ill. Like, horribly. With screaming and crying and A&E.
That all aside, I had a lovely weekend, having spent a good deal of it (all day Friday, before the crippling plague struck me down) dandering around Belfast, eating and drinking. First up was a very lovely lunch in The Kitchen Bar, which is a real favourite of mine because the food is just so very good. And not overly expensive, like some places in and around Victoria Square tend to be. Unfortunately, on this particular visit I was not a happy bunny. While the food was fairly incredible, the staff were…well, they were meh. I get that it was busy and all, but I felt like they were looking rid of me, which sort of puts me off visiting again, obviously. I think there’s been a change in the staff or something? Don’t let me put you off, but be prepared to be in and out in twenty minutes, with someone wiping down your table before you’ve even left it.
That’s what she said?
On to the important part. After lunch and a decent wander around Victoria Square (the dome never fails to amuse me, although my boyfriend is less enthusiastic about acting like a tourist), we stumbled gloriously into Alley Cat for an afternoon of drinks and giggles.
Alley Cat is very new on my radar, I went a few weeks ago for a friend’s birthday and had to stay sober (hangovers are best avoided when working with kids the next morning). I had to go back though – they have cocktails. IN TEAPOTS. Who doesn’t want to drink alcohol out of a teacup, poured from a freakin’ teapot?
In the interest of science, we felt it was only fair to try one of each flavour. I have listed the resulting league table, listing said cocktails in order of preference.
1. American Pie – tastes like cinnamon, which tastes like Christmas.
2. Cool Beans – pure sweetness and fizz.
3. London Tart – blackcurrant and lemon. Gin-based, sort of tastes like strong cordial.
4. Storm In A Teapot – Essentially, lime & rum & coke. Well nice.
5. Jacklope – SO MUCH STRAWBERRY.
The decor of the bar is awesome – giant paintings of Christian Bale (circa American Psycho), Blondie posters and kitty cats all over the place. Regardless of what my charming boy has to say, IT IS NOT A LESBIAN BAR! A few cat posters does not a lady bar make. Although one of the walls does have ‘Don’t just look at it, eat it’ sprayed across it…but that can be read a few ways, really.
The bar does food too, which I have yet to try, but after staring at other people eating their lunch/dinner (we were there for a while…), I would definitely go back to try a (slightly pricey) burger. A little while ago, I heard less than good things about their service, but hopefully that was just growing pains, because I saw no problems on either of my visits.
I only have two tiny problems with the place. When we first arrived, the reception was frosty and the atmosphere was non-existent – but this was rapidly remedied as more afternoon drinkers arrived, and when we found the Jenga and Connect 4. No really. Highlight of my life.
Secondly…now, don’t laugh…the toilet doors say ‘Pussy Cats’ and ‘Tom Cats’, and it took me a little while to figure out which one I am. I did tell you not to laugh.
All in all, well worth a visit. Get there early to claim a sofa and a board game.
I am showering you with blogs today! April showers. See what I did there? It’s April now.
Lisburn has been really disappointing recently as far as magical geeky shopping is concerned – I suppose it doesn’t help that all the shops are closing. I’ve seen a few wee bits and bobs I would rather like, though. I thought you might like them too, although I’m not convinced all of them are geeky enough to warrant blog coverage. Still, they’re nice, you might like them. Bear with me.
The pictures are giant, to make my blog look nice and colourful. And to make you think this is longer than it looks, because I am crafty that way. First up, this framed poster. It’s both adorable and geeky, because it references Twitter. Geeks like Twitter, almost as most as C-list celebrities and comedians do. I only meant to take a picture of the one poster, but I seem to have caught a second, equally adorable one in the bottom right. It’s mean and sarcastic.
I like it.
These works of art were in TK Maxx (Lisburn). They’re probably not there anymore, but there’s usually a great variety of every-changing oddities in that place, so it’s always worth a look.
And we come, inevitably, to Primark. This time last year you couldn’t move in Primark without walking into something with a Bat-symbol on it. However, the times have changed, and Batman isn’t ‘trendy’ anymore. It’s okay, Bruce. I still love you. While ‘geek-chic’ is finally over (don’t get me wrong, it was handy, but there’s nothing I hate more than a chav or a skank with a Superman t-shirt), there are still a few precious gems to be found. The picture above (another Twitter reference, obviously) is from a pair of girly pants. Adorable.
Boys, zone out for a moment. Thank you. Ladies, have you noticed that Primark have changed their pant sizings? You can now either get them in ‘too small’ or ‘too big’. I do not like this, not one little bit.
Sorry. Back on track now.
I am aware this is not remotely ‘geeky’ (unless you are passionate and enthusiastic about ice-cream…which come to think of it, everyone should be), but so cute! And it smells like summer and sugar and everything nice. I’m just so glad that winter finally appears to be ending, that I am suddenly attracted to everything yellow and shiny.
Like a magpie, but with candles.
Okay okay, so again, maybe not super-geeky, but who doesn’t love a nice pug? Look at that face. I am mad about cushions, but my boyfriend doesn’t see the point of them.
Maybe he’ll read this and realise that I’m rather upset we don’t have more snuggley lovely cushions on our sad, cold sofas? Maybe? Hello?
And finally (still in Primark, by the way), there is this thing. It’s a shower glove? Face cloth pocket? I don’t really see the point of these things at all, but mostly they’re for children, so I don’t really think about it. I think this one goes under the name ‘wash mitt’. Good to know. Anyway, it’s only £1 and has Spiderman on it, so it must be worth owning.
So, that’s your lot. Mini-findings. I intend to have a good hunt around Belfast at some point this week, as places get their Spring/Summer stock in around now, so there could be a Batman themed stationary set that I’ve never seen before. How exciting!
That was only a little bit of sarcasm. I really like stationary.
Not even a Monday review, it’s freaking Tuesday and I am only getting around to this now. Oh, gentle, devoted readers, I am sorry. I am a but a weak willed little lady…and the chocolate eggs, they call to me. I spent my Easter weekend eating all my mother’s food (she dreads my visits, I bet), and talking to kids about Indonesian shadow puppets and Inuits.
No, really. I have a cool job, did I mention?
ANYWAY. The Sunday Review. The very, very late Sunday review.
In the past few weeks, I’ve reviewed books, movies, comics…all very serious, proper things. Wonderfully geeky and marvellous things. This week, I thought I might try and remind myself that this is a blog for those of us based (stuck) in the Northern Ireland area, and get a little bit ‘Norn Iron’ specific.
If you’re not from Northern Ireland, I apologise…but also, you should visit sometime, because it’s occasionally pretty and nice to look at.
While my own little home town mall is slowly closing down and turning into a…ghost mall (that’s definitely a thing) and Castlecourt has neglected to modernize since the mid-eighties, Victoria Square, in my opinion, is going from strength to strength. There is no other shopping centre in Northern Ireland that I take quite so much pleasure in dandering around, but most importantly, it’s the shopping centre that puts the most effort into drawing the people in and keeping them there. And not just children! Last week, there was a petting zoo! WITH A LLAMA.
On second thoughts, that might have been for children, but I enjoyed it more than they ever could have.
Moving on. The stores in Victoria Square have something that nowhere else really does (Lisburn, in particular); they have variety. If you need a quirky, fancy, thoughtful, funny gift for someone – this is the place to go. And oh, the subtle geekeries that domed paradise has to offer. Like…
Such lovely things. And such lovely shops! If you REALLY want a fancy day of shopping, it’s fun to dress up real nice and stroll around House Of Fraser or Ted Baker and pretend you can afford things…
I never do that.
p.s. If you aren’t terrified of heights, climbing to the top of the Square and squinting at things from the Dome is must. As in, YOU MUST.
I am a huge fan of finding geeky things in places in which you may not expect to find geeky things. Like Tesco or a cat boot sale. I was wandering around Toys ‘R’ Us rather recently, and was pretty darn impressed with some of the toys that are out there for tiny children to gnaw on. They are the geeks of the future after all, and it is our responsibility to leadeth them in the ways of the force/Star Fleet protocol/One Ring.
We should also instill in them an idiot proof zombie apocalypse plan, because if it doesn’t happen in our lifetime, it’s sure as hell going to happen in theirs.
Click for hilarious captions/insights.
I have to admit, out of all the many hundreds of geeky toys for kids, the Lego has always been my favourite; I think it always will be. Video games and light-up-singing-wonder-dolls are fairly amazing, yes, but there is no joy in childhood like building something vaguely resembling a spaceship all by yourself. And then hurling it at walls and siblings until you get a good wreckage to start all over again with.
Many happy childhood memories. Although there is no pain like standing on a Lego brick in your bare feet.