The "Whiz-ard" That Is Dr. Oz

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London Belongs to Me

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Well, actually it doesn’t, but it could belong to you if you buy the fabulous new book by first-time fiction author Jacquelyn Middleton.  I’m lucky enough to know the author and I got an advance copy of the book.  I do know Jackie, but that isn’t swaying this, my first review one little bit!

Confession time – I’ve only spent about 24 hours in London and this world traveller saw nothing, except Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum well before Brangelina’s statues were separated and the London Dungeon.  I never wanted to go back until I read this book, falling in love with the city, much like the book’s heroine Alex Sinclair.  Middleton’s (makes this feel more review-y) knowledge of the city is apparent in the rich descriptions of the various neighbourhoods.  It brings the reader into Alex’s world and makes you feel like you are seeing each place for the first time too.  It’s totally relatable for anyone that’s ever travelled or dreamed of relocating.

The book is not a hard read – in fact, it’s the perfect book to curl up on your “what will become of me couch” with your snuggie and a cup of tea (or at least that’s what I did every night).  The coolest part of the book, was that there were a few parts where I got frustrated, not getting some of the reference, but the, it was literally explained on the next page.   It’s almost like the author was reading my mind through length of the book.  This is female fiction for sure, but not predictable.  Some of the drama literally made me gasp (one part in particular – no spoilers, you have to read it).  It was refreshing to have a heroine that was an every-woman – totally relatable, not always sympathetic and slightly klutzy.

The supporting cast of characters was equally enjoyable.  Some eccentric, some snobby, some snivelling but all memorable.  There is nothing more impressive than someone who can write fiction – and this is very enjoyable fiction.  I probably started reading it because I knew the author, but I finished it quickly because it was that good.  It didn’t drag, there was nothing that could be cut and the heroine wasn’t cookie cutter.

“We’re all stories in the end.  Just make it a good one” – well Jackie, you did.

Pre-order ‘London Belongs to Me’ from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Waterstones, Foyles, Indigo, and Chapters!  Available October 14 from Kirkwall Books.

Learn more about London, the author and the writing process over the next few entries.

 

 

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Barcelona for Dummies and Type As Parte Tres

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A little Gaudi – Casa Mila

I screwed up – and I’m totally owning it.  I promised you the first 5 places in my top ten in the last entry and I only put 4.  I tried to edit it, but it only fixed my mistake here.  I’d say sue me, but some of you may take me up on it and I’m not paid to blog.  I’m giving you places 5-10 in this blog, promise and you are even getting a bonus Barcelona entry after I write a very exciting series on an up and coming Toronto based author!    Without further ado, here are the rest of my Barcelona faves!

5. Casa Milà- see above for photo!  This amazing piece of Gaudi architecture is a UNESCO World Heritage Site!  Before you get too excited, like I did, everything in Europe is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Even a Starbucks that I went into mostly for the free Wi-Fi qualified (just kidding).  But truly, there are a lot of underwhelming places that qualify for this distinction, but this isn’t one of them.  It’s one of the most creative pieces of architecture that I’ve ever seen.  It looks like it’s bones in motion, melted wax or all of the above.  My only regret is that I’ve been to Barcelona twice and have never gone in.

6.  Passeig de Gracia – I call this fancy street.  It houses a lot of the high end stores and the REALLY SUPER EXPENSIVE hotels that we can all only aspire too.  Staying walking distance from this elegant street made me feel like one of the hoity-toity’s.  The best part of this street though is not the shopping or the lovely restaurants, it’s the architecture.  The lovely Casa Milà is located here (I wasn’t cheating, it’s my favourite building so it got an entry of it’s own).  Gaudi’s Casa Batlló AKA my second favourite building is located here.  The roof looks like a dragon’s back and the facing has the mosaic tiles that Gaudi is known for.  As an aside, I felt really artsy writing that sentence.  If Gaudi isn’t your thing, which makes you a weirdo in my books, then Casa Amatller by Puig is right next store.  Each building on this street is a bit of a marvel.  Stroll it and enjoy one of the loveliest places in Barcelona.

7.  Las Ramblas (AKA La Rambla) – this isn’t just a lovely street to walk along, it also serves as the entry way to the Barri Gotic (the Gothic Quarter) and El Mercat (the Market that I wrote about).  The best part of Las Ramblas – it’s a pedestrian mall which means no pesky traffic to interrupt you.  The draw back is that it’s teeming with tourists.  That’s ok though – that’s what you are, so embrace and enjoy the crowds.  If you are looking for tacky souvenirs, this is the place for you.  It’s also a great place to stop and smell the flowers – literally.  There are flower vendors here with pretty sweet posies, so look around and enjoy them.  As busy as it is, it’s worth an hour or two, at least, of your time.  Look up at the buildings – they have the best little touches from Juliet balconies to the umbrellas that you see in my less than professional photo above.

8. The beach/waterfront – confession time, this is from November 2011.  I didn’t have a chance to go this time around.  I loved the waterfront.  The statues were fun – who doesn’t love a smiling lobster?  The scenery was great and the Mediterranean was a little rough so if you closed your eyes, the sounds made you feel like you were at an all-inclusive.  I couldn’t keep them closed for long though – too many things to trip over.  If we have more than two days to spend, I really, really recommend spending some time here.

9. Barri Gòtic AKA The Gothic Quarter is also a favourite.  Seriously, I loved every place on this list equally, but in different ways.  You need time in The Gothic Quarter – time to get lost, time to wander and time to appreciate the gargoyles.  Every little street leads into a square.  You’ll find City Hall in one of these squares.  Another street will lead you to the Jewish Quarter and another to the Barcelona Cathedral.  Before your eyes roll and you say ANOTHER CHURCH, this is also worth a look.  For one thing, it’s Gothic and who doesn’t love a cuddly little gargoyle.  For another, it’s spectacular outside and in.  C’mon, just put it on your list of must dos.  My favourite time to walk this area is at night.  It just lends itself to that eerie, spooky vibe that night time brings.  Watch out for pick pockets in this area – where there are tourists, there are thieves.  We were warned all over Barcelona to keep an eye on our purses and wallets, so be smart and only bring the necessities.

10.  Fundació Joan Miró – really just an art gallery with a lot of Miró’s art.  I’m including this on my list so you’ll think I’m cultured.  And also because the statue in front reminded me of Disney’s Wall-E.  Tell me I’m wrong….go ahead. The paintings aren’t my thing, but the fact that they are hung in the middle of the room with no walls – genius.  I saw this during my 2011 trip.  It was fun saying to my friend “I could totally paint this” and listening to her each time say – “But you didn’t”.  That’s always been my issue with modern art – I’m not talented in the least, but I feel like I could totally splat over a page and tell people it represents passion and progress and get $50million out of the deal.  I’d also get those pretentious people nodding their heads with a very serious look on their faces as I reveal a new project – a blank canvas that represents the smallness of life and how life is…a blank canvas.  If you are into modern art – it’s worth a look.  Give yourself an hour here, tops.

 

 

 

 


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Barcelona for Dummies and Type A’s La Segunda Parte

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You already know that I love Barcelona, but I wanted to share my top ten things to do in this bella ciudad (that’s beautiful city to those of you who don’t hablo español).  It’s hard to narrow it down to just ten places, but for you, my lovely readers, I’m making the sacrifice.  Here are your first four – in no particular order:

  1. Sagrada Familia AKA Scared Family – I know, I know, it’s another church you say to yourself.  If you’ve been to Europe, you’ll see your fair share.  No offence to my Catholic readers – you have some fabulous architectural marvels, it just gets a little church-y when you go from city to city.  Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia is different though – it’s a building still under construction for one thing estimated to be complete in 2026.  For another, it’s Gaudi people!  That means unusual architecture and overall amazingness and yes, that’s a word, or if it’s not, it should be.  I could go on and on, but I’m going to let the pics speak for themselves.  Just a hint – pre-book your tickets, or if you can, get a guide, they’ll give you details that you would never know just visiting it on your own.  Don’t skip the museum at the end.  It’s pretty cool.  If your wondering, it’s a Basilica, not a Cathedral – there is nary an Archbishop in site at this modern marvel.

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2. Park Guell – Yup – more Gaudi.  If you are a regular reader, you will already have read a bit about my obsession with this place.  I missed it my first time which makes me a dummy.  It’s one of the most unique places that I’ve ever visited – if you ready my previous entry, you’ll see some of the fab pics from PG.  Gaudi thought of everything.  Even the benches are ergonomic.  There is plenty to see, and you don’t want to rush.  Give yourself at least 2 hours to walk through it if you can.  You won’t be disappointed.  You’ll see structures that look like the underside of an elephant, a gigantic lizard, gargoyles and more in the world’s best park.  You have to pay to get in, but it’s worth it.

3. The Mercat – You’ll find this at Las Ramblas  – another must do.  Apparently this market is very touristy and a lot of locals have moved on to greener pastures but it’s still worth a look.  Let’s face it, if you are paying to stay in a hotel, you are a tourist.  You can be pretentious and sniff that if locals don’t go, you shouldn’t either, but you aren’t Spanish and neither am I.  Go and enjoy.  The produce looks amazing.  If you are an animal lover, be aware, there are a lot of butchers in the market, and you will see things that you may not want to.  Let’s just say, ham is very popular here.  If you are ironic, and like the song fish heads – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKDtUzRIG6I – you will see those too, and that song will be in your head ALL DAY LONG.

4. Plaza de España is one of those GINORMOUS European complexes that makes you feel small and insignificant.  If you already feel that way, and haven’t been to the Plaza de España then perhaps some of Dr. Phil’s sound advice is in order.  This is just a really beautiful photo opportunity.  It provides you with a great view of the Venetian Towers, an old bull fighting arena which is now a shopping centre – YAY to Barcelona for getting rid of that blood sport and is a great place to catch transit if you need it.  You don’t need a lot of time there, unless you just want to sit and people watch.

I’ll finish the list in my next entry.  Until then, adios amigos and amigas!