Monthly Archives: December 2016

In Review: Music Of 2016 (10-1)

Thanks for tuning in again. Yesterday I counted down my #20-11 albums of the year. Let’s finish off that countdown and see who ended up at #1.

#10 – Emotion: Side B by Carly Rae Jepsenemotion-side-b

This is an album of B-Sides and yet she is still able to give some of the best pop tracks of the year. Released on the anniversary of the parent album Emotion: Side B became a refuge for me in a year where pop music hasn’t been as strong.

Usually a collection like this feels a bit disjointed, but this very much feels like an album in its own right. The thread of 1980s electro-pop and dancing as your heard breaks or soars (depending on the song) permeates every moment.

This album ended up being the ultimate gift to her fiercely loyal fan base. With it she has become the Canadian Robyn… and that is not a title that should be given lightly.

Top Tracks: Cry, The One, Higher

#9 – Familia by Sophie Ellis-Bextorfamilia

When Sophie Ellis-Bextor released Wanderlust a few years back I was struck by the extreme left turn in her music. Gone were the glorious electro-pop days of Trip The Light Fantastic and here we were down something a lot more nuanced.

With Familia she is still on this road and vocally I don’t think she has ever sounded better. Both this and Wanderlust have allowed us to see her as the artist she is rather than the singer.

Nothing on this album quite hits the heights of “Love Is A Camera”, but as an album this feels more cohesive and consistent. She still lets her electronic side out (after all she is still Sophie Ellis-Bextor), but she couples this with some more Latin influences as well as a whole mess of other touchstones. Despite being a fan for nearly 15 years I don’t think I have ever found her music as interesting as I do now.

Top Tracks: Death of Love, Crystallise, Come With Us

#8 – A Moon Shaped Pool by Radioheadmoon-shaped-pool

It took until May before I felt I had heard the first great album of 2016. I have been a real latecomer to the music of Radiohead, but the more I listen to them the more of a fan I find myself becoming.

Since, like with In Rainbows, I was able to listen to A Moon Shaped Pool without any preconceptions from music critics all the discoveries I made about this album felt profoundly my own.

I think it has been agreed that A Moon Shaped Pool is one of the more accessible albums in the Radiohead back catalogue and that may be why I like it so much. It’s dark and dreamy in a way where I think the title of the album feels eerily accurate. For a perfect listen I think you need a few fireflies, but that might just be me.

Top Tracks: Ful Stop, Burn the Witch, Daydreaming

#7 – Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Soundtrack by Crazy-Ex Girlfriend Castcrazy-ex-girlfriend

I don’t care if this feels like a cheat or not. Rachel Bloom and everyone else working on the Crazy Ex Girlfriend cast team are some of the most talented people working in television right now and it is just not getting the viewership it deserves.

I was listening and singing along to this soundtrack for about a month before I even started watching the show in September. I was sharing music videos and spreading the word of this amazing show based solely on YouTube playlists.

These songs aren’t just funny (some like ‘What’ll It Be’ and ‘Stupid Bitch’ actually make you want to cry). They are fantastically realised and performed of pastiche. The sources of inspiration have included the dream ballet from Oklahoma, 1980s hair rock, Shakira and the Dreamgirls soundtrack – and we are still part way through Season 2.

It’s on Netflix and the music can be found on YouTube and Spotify. spread the word!

Top Tracks: Feelin’ Kinda Naughty, I’m A Good Person, Greg’s Drinking Song

#6 Before The Dawn by Kate Bushbtd-rgb1

I cried when I was unable to get tickets to see Kate Bush live. The tickets sold out within 15 minutes and I had to watch as the 5-star reviews rolled in. Still there was consolation in knowing that a live album was going to eventually be released (sadly the DVD was scrapped).

Having a live album on this list isn’t too dissimilar to having a greatest hits, but it’s new arrangements and Kate Bush so sod it. This live album is amazing. I can only imagine what it would have been like to be there, but this will do.

What makes this more than a greatest hits album… is that it isn’t your typical greatest hits. If anything it’s a live realisation of the two concept halves of Hounds of Love and Aerial and that’s what catapulted this right to the top end of my year-end charts.

Top Tracks: Sunset, Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God), Lily

#5 – My Woman by Angel Olsenangel-olsen-my-woman

I missed the boat when Angel Olsen released Burn Your Fire For No Witness a few years back. So many people had that in their end of year list and I had not even heard of her. This year, with the release of My Woman I wanted to make sure I was there on the ground floor.

Like with Mitski’s album, this was a grower. The moment I finished the first playthrough I thought My Woman was okay, but I wanted to listen to it again straight away. So on some level I think it really must have struck me.

A few listens later and here it is at number 5 on my list, as well as placing high on many critics lists. Angel Olsen is still someone where I don’t know many people who listen to her, so whilst I am a bit late to the party it’s nice to feel like it’s still a select party.

Top Tracks: Shut Up Kiss Me, Sister, Heart Shaped Face

#4 Fantôme by Utada Hikarufantome

It has been a very long eight years since her last album, HEART STATION. Ever since I first discovered the wonders of JPop some 10-15 years ago she has been my unquestioned queen of the genre. For her to comeback with an album like this was more than I could have hoped for.

It’s very much a Utada Hikaru album and yet it is a real development from where she was before. Okay so I can’t understand what she is saying, but there is a greater confidence and maturity in what she has delivered. It is not the album made to appease fans after a long time and it’s not a throwback to what she used to be.

This might, in fact. be the best album she has done and I can only applaud her for that. Here’s hoping we get the next album in the near future.

Top Tracks: 桜流し, 道, 二時間だけのバカンス

#3 – case/lang/veirs by case/lang/veirscaselangveirs

A new release from Laura Veirs was always going to feature high on this list. Since coming across July Flame as a reviewer for a university news site I have been keeping a very close eye on her releases.

With this team up with kd lang and the amazing Neko Case there was only one way that this could go wrong: if one dominated the others. Thankfully that did not happen. Each singer has their fair share of leading tracks and then contribute backing vocals or other support on the remaining.

For a while it looked like this would have been my number one album of the year, but then second half of the year proved to be incredibly strong.

Top Tracks: Best Kept Secret, Greens of June, Blue Fires

#2 Blood Bitch by Jenny Hvala3923298497_10

I started making this list in November and have slowly watched Blood Bitch climbing up the ranks before popping a squat at number two. This is an album I have had a hard time recommending to people as the moment I say it is a Norwegian avant-grade pop concept album about vampires, menstruation and the moon… well you get the picture.

With the exception of the standout tracks listed below, this is an album where most songs cannot be played in isolation. They all bleed into each other and most tend to only make sense as part of a full playthrough (‘The Plague’ is one of these).

This is very much an album for the colder months, so makes a nice counterpoint to case/lang/veirs which dominated my early summer.

Top Tracks: The Great Undressing, Conceptual Romance, Secret Touch

#1 – 22, A Million by Bon Iver22-a-million

I don’t think anyone can be more surprised than me to have an album by a man top my list for the second year running (I’ve made these lists for the last 12 years and this is the second time that an album by a woman/women has not topped my list).

With the year that 2016 has been politically it feels like 22, A Million is exactly the sort of album you need to have to calm yourself down. Okay so it’s a glitchy folktronica album with song titles that upset the users of last.fm, but it’s beautifully honest.

You don’t always get what Justin Vernon (check) is singing amongst the samples and the distortions. The thing is that it all just adds to the beautiful atmosphere and has made this album incredibly repeatable whether you are walking the streets of London, playing Skyrim or simply working in the office. Just gorgeous.

Top tracks: 8 (circle), 666 ʇ, 10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄

In Review: Music Of 2016 (20-11)

For me, I don’t think there is any year that will be able to top 2015 when it comes to music. It was a year where the stars aligned and favourites like Bjork, Sufjan Stevens, Grimes, Joanna Newsom and Annie all released new music.

Looking back on my ordering (and considering how much I listened to 2015 music this year) Miguel’s and Holly Herndon’s albums probably should have been higher. Still, that’s just how the cookie crumbles when you make an end of year list – albums continue to find a new life.

This isn’t all to say that 2016 has been a musical car-wreck. The number or good/very good albums is very high. In fact I would say it was higher than last year,  it’s just that I had to go on a voyage of musical discovery. Some albums that I really liked weren’t able to crack the top 20.

So, like last year let’s see some albums that didn’t make my Top 20.

2016albums

Nothing too glaring in this group apart from Frank Ocean’s Blond. Still, I cannot believe how many albums I actually listened to this year. So without further ado let’s get started with the countdown.

#20 – Retribution by Tanya Tagaqmi0004122693-3fc3d8e0-676a-4126-bc52-85085439b7ad

This is arguably the most left field album I have enjoyed for a long time. Native Canadian throat-singing isn’t what I would expect to have in my rotation, but Tanya Tagaq’s music seems to transcend a lot of barriers.

The throat-singing is just how she decides to deliver her vocals. It’s no different to how some artists choose to rap, skat or beatbox. Once you can get over that, the throat-singing is evocative, beautiful and undeniably powerful.

Where most sing of love of people this album is about love of nature and her own Native Canadian peoples. A love that is angry at how the rest of the world acts towards both her race and her world.

Top Tracks: Aorta, Centre, Rape Me

#19 – Skeleton Tree by Nick Cave & The Bad Seedspackshot1-768x768

The award for the most difficult listen of 2016 is not even a contest. How, as a parent, can you reconcile the death of your child. If you are Nick Cave, whose music regularly looks on the darker side of life, you pour your pain into an album.

This is one of albums that is just so filled with pain and loss that I found it emotionally difficult to listen to. Those lack of plays are probably what is keeping it towards the bottom of this list. I have just not had the exposure let it rise any higher or find that many words to talk about it. Still, it’s one of those albums that just stays with you.

Top Tracks: Rings of Saturn, Distant Sky, Girl In Amber

 #18 – A Seat at the Table by Solangesolange

I only found out this year that it is a known thing for white people to touch a black person’s hair without their permission. I know this has little to do with the album, but as if I needed more reasons to be disappointed in my race. Just want to put that out there. Seriously, what the hell white people!

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. I can’t imagine it’s easy being a singer who is also Beyoncé’s sister. Solange has always been there plugging away in the background and has released some really good music. Yet, she was always in the shadow of her more famous sister.

I think with ‘a Seat the table’ she has finally been able to emerge and be respected as an artist in her own right. Where Beyoncé tackled personal empowerment demons, Solange is looking outwards to her community.

The only thing that let this album down were the spoken interludes. Never been a fan of those (although I have yet to find one to outdo some of Christina Aguilera’s from Bionic) and I think they disrupt the flow. I just want to get to ‘Cranes In The Sky’ as quickly as possible’.

Top Tracks: Cranes In The Sky, Don’t Touch My Hair, Mad

#17 – Blackstar by David Bowiedavid-bowie-blackstar

I guess I am bucking the trend by not having this in the upper echelons of my list. Then again this is my list of my favourite albums of the year and not necessarily what are the best. Also you cannot underestimate the power of this being the final album of a musical legend released just before he died.

This is, by no means, an accessible mainstream album. It wouldn’t be fitting as his final release if it was. I can imagine the opening 10 minute track putting a lot of people off to be perfectly honest as it moves between the many parts.

Listening to this knowing what we know now, it’s gives you pause at times knowing how aware he was of his own mortality when making this. Yet, he was able to translate all of that into an album that likely appear on best of lists for years to come.

Top Tracks: Blackstar, Lazarus, Girl Loves Me

#16 – The Bride by Bat For Lashesthe-bride

The Bride is very much an album of two halves, where if the second side was as strong as the first this would be far higher up the list.

To be fair, this album would have made #20 on the power of ‘In God’s House’ alone. It is one of the best songs I have heard all year and epitomises why I will always listen to new Bat For Lashes albums. It just happens that the rest of the album’s first half are also of absurdly high quality.

The thing is, the second half of the album actually needs to wind down. This, after all, is a concept album about a woman whose fiancé dies on her wedding day before they are to be married. The second half of the album is about her grief and her eventual realisation that she is going to be okay. It wouldn’t fit to have the big production numbers on that side as it wouldn’t fit her character of the bride.

Top Tracks: In God’s House, Joe’s Dream, Sunday Love

#15 Hopelessness by ANOHNIanohni

Listening to this at the end of 2016 actually makes it feel oddly prescient for how the rest of the year turned out. Austria’s election results have actually given us a positive end of the year. Still, it’s hard not to feel a sense of hopelessness and that exactly what Anohni is taking on.

She is a unique voice in music right now, not only is she one of the few well known transgender singers, but her songs sing of fear of what we are becoming as a species.

Just listen to the disappointment in ‘Obama’, the anger in ‘4 Degrees’ and shade throwing in ‘Marrow’. Do I need to mention the perspective of ‘Drone Bomb Me’? A song about the sole survivor of a family destroyed in a drone strike who just wants to die. Anohni never provides an easy listen, but she always feels essential.

Top Tracks: 4 Degrees, Drone Bomb Me, I Don’t Love You Anymore

#14 – Puberty 2 by MitskiErika_12JKT EPS_r3

I found myself really missing new music from St Vincent this year. Her last two albums provided oddly beautiful bookends to my teaching career and rank amongst my favourite albums of all time.

This year I have been able to stave off the cravings thanks to Mitski, the methadone to the heroin that is Annie Clark. That is not to say that Mitski is not St Vincent clone. She treads similar lines and even has a remarkably similar voice, but is decidedly heavier with more punky outbursts. You also don’t have the same amazing acts of guitar.

Mitski also bears the distinction of being the first album I loved this year from a singer I had never listened to before. Something that is really becoming a running theme of 2016

Top Tracks: You Best American Girl, Crack Baby, Happy

#13 -The Weight of These Wings by Miranda Lambertlambert_wings

How many people remember that Miranda Lambert was a runner-up on a country music reality TV show? She has a claim to the throne of the queen of country music and managed to get there completely on merit.

With the exception of her first album, Miranda Lambert put has never delivered anything worth less than 4/5 and she continues her winning streak with The Weight of These Wings – a double album dealing with the dissolution of her marriage to Blake Shelton.

Unlike Shelton (whose album feels tacky in comparison), Lambert took her sweet time to create this album to put forward the side of the story she chose not to share with the press. A story of a cheated spouse who comes through it with power, dignity and grace.

She didn’t need to pull a Carrie Underwood and wreck Shelton’s car; she just had to release this album, drop the mic and walk away with her middle finger in the air.

Top Tracks: Pink Sunglasses, Smoking Jacket, For The Birds

#12 – Love You to Death by Tegan & Saralove-you-to-death

It’s rather unusual for Tegan & Sara to stay with one type of music too long. I guess they have been enjoying their time in the electro-pop world and feel they have more they can mine from it and producer Paul Epworth.

Not complaining here. I thought Heartthrob was an excellent (and better) album and the extra fans that it brought to their door can only be a good thing. They’re particular brand of pop, where they were able to have a hit pop song about being the secret love of a bisexual partner, means they have been helping with the increased positive visibility of LGBT musicians. Especially that first letter, which still feels woefully under represented in the pop world.

It would be nice for them to one day return to the worlds of The Con and So Jealous, but if this is the path they choose to walk… so be it.

Top Tracks: Boyfriend, White Knuckles, Stop Desire

#11 – Lemonade by Beyoncélemonade

I had never got the appeal of Beyoncé until Lemonade. Sure I liked the odd single, but I never found myself to get through a complete album without feeling a bit bored. Because of these past experiences, the weird fan reactions from Kanye West and because of some internet comments I saw that that said that white people shouldn’t be listening to this (which bristled me no end) I put off listening this album for months.

Eventually I capitulated and I fell in love. Dangerously In Love, I am… Sasha Fierce and Beyoncé were all unable to reach me, but Lemonade did. Maybe it’s because she is becoming this vanguard of black women and this message of empowerment (whilst still allowing vulnerability) plays a more central role in this album.

This album feels like she no longer has anything to prove and no longer needs to gain more fans. It’s the first time I have listened to her and felt she was being totally open and honest. You know what, I don’t care why. Lemonade is just a fantastic album.

Top Tracks: All Night, Freedom, Formation

The countdown will conclude tomorrow with #10-#1, which will also contain a Spotify Playlist of all the top tracks mentioned in these posts. If you have any predictions or thoughts on the countdown please comment below.

Level One – Super Mario Galaxy 2

List Item: Play 100 of the greatest computer games
Progress: 57/100Title: Super Mario Galaxy 2
Developer: Nintendo EAD Tokyo
Platform: Wii
Year: 2010
Position: #84

As someone with a recovering wrist injury this may not have been the best game to go for next. There are a lot of different wrist actions that you need to utilise when playing this game from shaking, flicking, pointing and tilting.

Being able to play this to the end with regular breaks has actually been a great way to monitor my recovery – in my final session I was playing for about 3 hours (mostly on the Yoshi section of the final level – I seriously hate that final section with the moving platforms and the lava monsters).

I know I probably should have gone for Resident Evil 4 or something a bit higher on the list, but I have been wanting to play this for YEARS. It was just my hub’s 1001 games blog that stopped me as we were meant to play it together. Whoops.

So Super Mario Galaxy 2 started out as an expansion/add-on to the original game, but because of so much content it was spun out into a game of its own. Aside from some new power ups and the addition of Yoshi (which is good for cuteness, but not as much for gameplay) this is pretty much the same game as Super Mario Galaxy.

What it’s missing though is the story. In the original Super Mario Galaxy the sub-plot of the lonely girl and the star was actually quite beautiful. In Super Mario Galaxy 2 the story is just the same Mario vs Bowser that we have had many times before. Usually that’s fine, but since this is a direct sequel it just felt like they could have continued the feels from the original game.

As a platformer goes it is hard to fault. The sheer wealth of imagination on display in this game is (excuse the pun) out of this world. The difficulty has, at least for me, been upped from the the first Galaxy game and the addition of the Spin Drill and Cloud power-ups are very welcome.

The only way I would say the difficulty has reduced is how it comes packaged with a how-to DVD. As I have been playing platformers for a while I never even thought of sticking this in and watching it. It’s an interesting idea, I guess, but this game isn’t rocket science like Crusader Kings II – now THAT is a game that could use instructional videos outside of fan made ones on YouTube.

I definitely enjoyed Super Mario Galaxy 2, but I think that being a sequel to one of (if not the) best platformer of all time is very difficult. I think the original was better – then again I played that 8 years ago.

Good Eatin’: Merluza a la Gallega

How weird it is that it is currently the summer solstice and I am writing a post for the end of the year. It’s not like I haven’t tried to engineer a catch-up by now posting five times (five!) a week. True, I took a posting break for Christmas… but this is really getting silly.

Who knows, it might be six posts a week soon!

List Item: Try half of the combined 1001 food booksFood item: Merluza a la Gallega

It has been an awfully long time since I had hake. Over two years in fact. Probably explains why I didn’t try and make it into one of the two dishes on the second list.

I have been tossing about the possibility of abandoning the second food list and just focusing on the original 1001 list. Then I make something like this and I remember why I included it in the first place.

For whatever reason hake is not a popular fish in the UK. I mean it’s like cod in taste and can be fished sustainably yet we choose to continue the exploitation of cod.

Still, it means that hake is cheap (for a fish) so I can make this Spanish dish. Those Spaniards love this fish, and I can see why. It’s subtle and slightly sweet which means it goes with a lot of different flavoirs – in this case paprika, garlic and the miscellaneous spices found in chorizo.

It’s a quick and easy one pot meal that can easily use other fish (like pollock or cod), but for the real thing go for the hake. Recipe here.

Progress: 905/933

XL Popcorn – La Maman et La Putain

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 577/1007
Title: La Maman et La Putain (The Mother and the Whore)
Director: Jean Eustache
Year: 1973
Country: France

When a sketch show does a bit on a stereotypical example of what a French film is you pretty much have a bitesize version of La Maman et La Putain. It is slow. It features people talking things that they think is high concept, but it actually shit. There is a lot of ennui and this (somehow) leads to a threeway.

At the centre of the films ‘sex triangle’ is the insufferable Alexandre. He is lethargic, he is incredibly chauvinistic and he is nowhere near as smart as he thinks he is. As a lead he is a dud, and the same can be said of his acting. And the acting of the others in this film. And the sound editing, which is so inconsistent that I started thinking back on my favourite bad movie Birdemic.

This entire film is steeped in dialogue that, to be honest, feels shallow to the point of being pointless. I have been able to watch a silent films of films that mostly involve sketching and they were so much more engaging than this was.

3 and a half hours that I am never going to get back, and since I am not fluent in French it wasn’t like I could grab Candy Crush to perk me up.

(✿◠‿◠) Anime!!! – Yuri!!! On Ice

List Item: Watch the 100 best anime TV series
Progress: 12/100yurioniceTitle: Yuri!!! On Ice
Episodes Aired: 12
Episodes Watched:
12
Year(s): 2016

What a ride that was. I know I usually have a 6 month gap, but this finale was such an online event that I wanted to get this post out pretty damned quickly.

Like many people who have been watching Yuri!!! On Ice, I was there desperately trying to access Crunchyroll to watch the finale as soon as it came out. Therefore I was one of the many people who caused Crunchyroll to devolve into technical difficulties. Whoops, but totally worth it.

I have been watching anime for years, but I don’t think I have come across a show that developed such a specific cult following as Yuri!!! On Ice. Maybe that is because this is the first time that I have been part of the conversation. I have been listening to the music, reading articles and wiped many teary eyes along with many other members of the online community.

Why has this anime struck such a chord? And why was this the anime that drove me to seek sanctuary with fellow followers of the show?

This is not your typical sports anime

Firstly, as far as I am aware, this is the first anime series that depicts the world of male figure skating. That alone makes this fairly unique, but what’s extra shocking is how accurate the makers of this anime have made this.

Sure, there are flouncy costumes and choreography that can come across as feminine. This show makes no bones about this. However, the sheer amount of mental and physical work that goes into their performances is depicted perfectly.

In fact, so much of this looks into how mental strength can effect the performance of the skaters. This is Yuri’s main professional roadblocks: the yips (to borrow a term from tennis). When we first meet him – Yuri is crying in the toilets having come bottom of the Grand Prix final event. He introduces himself as a ‘dime a dozen’ skater and it is this constant mental flagellation that holds him back.

Let’s take stock here – he was 6th in the world and the number 1 skater in Japan. He is by no means an average skater, it’s just that the echelon that he finds himself in are world and continental champions.

Not only does is this a sports anime that depicts Rocky style physical preparation, but it also goes into the mental rebuilding that Yuri has to go through with the help of his new coach.

Which leads us into…

Proper LGBTQ Visibilityvictoyuri

The phrase ‘It’s Canon!’ resonated around the fans when it was official that Yuri and his coach Victor were an item. So many of these shows will feature a cast of attractive men (or women in female-lead sports anime) and just rely on the fans to ship people like crazy.

What Yuri did was to actually allow it to properly develop and reach the point that, by the end of it, Victor and Yuri are engaged to be married. Also this happened in the finale, which left my eyes stinging through happy tears.

However, despite the fact that we have them embracing, holding hands, exchanging rings and engaging in displays of affection, the thing that makes Yuri and Victor all the more amazing is how natural it is. This relationship isn’t played for fan service, it just is. We see them build through their conversations, disagreements and tears to become this strong unit right at the end.

There is a whole moment where Victor, as coach, decides that he needs to shatter Yuri’s heart to help him with his skating. Victor, the lover, at this point didn’t understand Yuri enough to know how much this would backfire. We have a similar moment at the end of Episode 11 where Yuri makes certain assumptions about Victor’s ambitions to the point that they have a period of coolness between them.

Which leads me on to…

These Characters Feel Utterly Realplisetsky

We only spend a meaningful amount of time with three people. Yuri, Victor and Russian wunderkind Yuri Plisetsky. However, this is a world full of many individual competitors and somehow the makers of Yuri manage to make you feel that you more about some of this smaller characters in about 5 minutes than Bleach did with many many episodes.

One way that they managed to do this is with the excellent use of music. If you know even a little bit about figure skating then you will know that each skater is required to skate twice in a competition, each time to a different piece of music.

Thus, we are able to get so much information about these skaters from just their music, which doubles as their personal themes e.g. JJ thrives on fan attention and has way too much of an ego, Michele is very much in love with his *cough* sister and Minami is youthful and full to the brim with excitement. If you ask me Czech skater Emil has the best theme with the sci-fi sounding ‘Anastasis’, but I might be alone there.

We have limited interactions, but we quickly get to know their individual quirks and drives. Some, like Thai skater Phichit, get more fleshed out than others. However, I am hoping we get more information about the likes of Emil, Seung-Gil and Otabek when this gets into Season 2. Please let there be a Season 2.

That Animation!yurianimation

You cannot make a good figure skating series without outstanding animation, otherwise how the hell are you going to make the skating sequences beautiful to look at? So much of figure skating is based around the beauty and the presentation and, thankfully, Yuri!!! On Ice doesn’t fail to deliver on this.

We are talking about animation so fluid that there are times where it looks like you are viewing a show that has used rotoscoping. Not only that, but the use of camera angles and shot placement is unlike something I have ever seen in an animated show.

It shows that a proper choreographer was involved in the designing of these short and free programs since they have been able to point out the best angles for jumps, step sequences and spins. You can say the same of the scenes at the end of Episode 10 where certain characters get drunk and end up pole dancing.

There is not a moment that goes by in this anime that is not gorgeous to look at, but it really is those skating sequences where this show shines.

southpark

In summation. As a gay man who watched a lot of ice skating on TV as a kid, this is the first time I have watched a show where I feel that I am the perfect target audience. By the sounds of the voices online I am not the only person who feels that way. I mean, this is a show that has been able to trade Easter Eggs with South Park (just look at the Cartman style get-up that we saw in the finale).

There is something deeply special about this show and whilst some are not happy about the way the finale left things open – I thought it was the perfect way to end the show.

See you on the next level Yuri!!! On Ice.

The Great EU Quest: Lithuania – Vilnius Museums

Whilst I have always tried to pick up on some of the history of a country/city during a holiday I don’t think I have been as immersed in a country’s past as I have been in Lithuania. Maybe it is because today (June 15th) was another anniversary for them.

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It was because of this anniversary that the Museum of Genocide Victims (housed in the old KGB building) was free to enter. In Lithuania it appears that museums like this wave the entrance fee since it is a day that people should probably be educated on what happened on this day. I can’t imagine attractions like the Cabinet War Rooms of London doing something similar on the anniversary of the end of World War Two.

The anniversary in question was 76 years since Lithuania lost their independence to the Soviet Union and the process of integrating them as a Socialist State was begun. Walking through the museum and seeing all the faces of Lithuanians that had been executed firstly by the invading Nazi Germans and then the Stalinist forces was sobering.

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The museum is incredibly well put together and for the few Euros that is would normally cost you to enter it is well worth it. As interesting as the historical parts are it is the prison in the cellar that delivers the biggest punch. Especially the execution chamber as it is a plain room with bullet holes in the wall, a small drain for washing the blood from the floor and a small chute to deliver bodies up to ground level for disposing in a mass grave in the local forest.

Considering the number of citizens from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia that were deported to the arse end of the Soviet Union for slave labour (something I never knew happened until visiting this country) I really can understand why the Ukrainian entry won Eurovision this year. That song would strike a chord with any community that had to deal with forced deportation at the hand of the Soviet government (and this includes native Russians too).

We needed a bit of a lift after that museum (where it is quite easy to lose a few hours). So instead of heading straight to the next one we stopped off for come cake in one of the many coffee shops on Pilies Street. We had great cake (especially the chocolate royal) and for the first time we’ve been in Lithuania we met a rather surly waitress (reminded me of home).
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Once we left the coffee shop what did we see? Only a large procession of Hare Krishnas! Not exactly the first thing I would have expected to see in Vilnius, but this does appear to be a nation that wears their religion (and their hope) on their sleeves. From what we have seen this city is incredibly tolerant of their population whether they be Roman Catholic, Russian Orthodox, Jewish or even Hare Krishna. There was no laughing or pointing at this parade like there would be in London.

Another thing about Lithuania that really struck me was the amount and variation in their crafts. From what we later saw in the museum this is a nation of artisans. The majority of the crafts that appear to be going are the production of wooden crosses (which you will see pretty much everywhere in Lithuania whether you be walking along a road, through a forest or in a city).

However, there are so many other things like pottery, glassware, amber and wooden carvings of religious and non-religious imagery. If I had a way to transport all the things that I liked I would behave bought a lot of things, being practical I just bought a small mug with fish on for hub as a souvenir.

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After putting on a freshly bought Lithuania t-shirt in a pitch black bathroom (I couldn’t find the light switch) it was time to venture around their national museum.

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The first two rooms on the ground floor is a real mishmash of things which includes two items of Roman pottery and a random Egyptian sarcophagus. The best parts of this museum are the parts that focus on Lithuanian culture. Apparently you couldn’t find a decent portrait painter in 1700s Lithuania, but being a country of craftsmen you could find amazing toys like this wind-powered masterpiece.

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The section of the museum on local folk art (focused on religious iconography) was illuminating. We were laughing at some of the really bad items on display, but then watched a short film on the importance of cross making to Lithuanians. So important that people would be making loads of these during Soviet occupation under the cover of darkness. These wouldn’t all be professional craftsmen, most of these people were regular farmers who sought to protect their homestead.

Well, that shut us up. For a little while. Some were still incredibly odd.  Following this was another moving exhibition on the mass deportation of Lithuanians. Maybe if they want to win Eurovision next year they should enters a song called ‘1941’. For me the worst piece of information in this exhibit was that there were deportation quotas. That if the deportation officers couldn’t find the family of “political enemies” on the list then they would just seize a random family to make up numbers. Where are the reparations for this?

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It was still before five so we went into our third and final museum of the day: Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania. This is clearly one of the newer museums, or at least very recently renovated, since you can still smell how freshly cut the wooden doors are.

Whilst the other two museums taught about the more recent history here it was all about the history of early Lithuania. The curious story of the politically motivated canonisation of St Casimir (Lithuania’s patron saint), how Lithuania used to extend all the way down to present-day Ukraine through Belarus and just how many royal houses in Europe (including the British Stuarts) ended up with blood ties to the Lithuanian line.

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It would have been nice to spend more time here, but there was some presidential function going on so there was security on our tail to make sure we were out of the museum by 10 minutes before closing. Still, we got a potted history that I am going to try and follow up on when I get back to the UK.

For dinner it was Bunte Gans, a German restaurant near the Gate of Dawn. We reserved a table here on our first night in Vilnius and 4 nights later she was able to call us by name without checking the book. She was possibly the nicest waitress I have had in any restaurant anywhere and there was no way (other than a very large tip) for us to thank her on places like TripAdvisor.

List Item: Try half of the combined 1001 food booksFood item: Carp

For starters it was deep fried carp strips with a chilli sauce. I have never had carp before, but I swear you can almost taste the freshness of the water it was swimming in. It’s not too fishy and almost a generic white fish taste mixed in with generic flatfish. It’s very nice though and hope to try some fillet of carp in the future.

Progress: 904/933

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For the main it was weißwurst with sauerkraut and potatoes fried with onion and bacon. I could bring myself to eat these the proper way by sucking the meat from the skin. Doing something SO phallic in public made me feel a bit too self aware.

We worked out at the end of the meal that all our food, train and bus tickets, museum entries and opera tickets cost just under 150€ for five nights. That’s without being too careful of money. It’s insane when you think about it.

When we left the restaurant the waitress came up to and asked “same time tomorrow?” to which we mournfully replied that We were travelling back to England in the morning.

“See you next year then, yes?” I hope so. It would be wonderful to be back for the Christmas markets in 2017. I can not overstate how amazing this country has been and how hard it is to leave.

Thank you Lithuania. It’s been great.

The Great EU Quest: Lithuania – Trakai

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One of the big problems of writing this so far in advance of posting is that things tend to lose their timeliness. At the time for writing this in my hotel room it is June 14th 2016. For Brits this date means nothing, but for Lithuanians today marked the 75th anniversary of the first mass deportation of their citizens to Siberia by Soviet invaders. We only really took note of it because of a concert in the cathedral square where Lithuanian flags were on show alongside Ukrainian and EU flags.

On this day 35,000 people were sent to their death. This is 10% of all Lithuanian civilian casualties and 50% of the civilian casualties suffered by Britain and her colonies in the whole of World War Two.

We, as Brits, have no idea what things like this feels like. In fact, we must be one of the very few nations in Europe who do not have natives alive that know what it is like to be occupied by invading forces. All I know is that this country finds new ways to move me.

Anyway, back to less preachy blog content.

When I was looking into what to visit on this trip to Lithuania there were two definite things that I wanted to hit up: the Hill of Crosses and the Island Castle of Trakai. Thanks to the cheap and reliable transport system in Lithuania we were able to make today’s return bus trip between Vilnius and Trakai for just over 3€. I swear I pay this much for a one-way trip within Zone 1 on the London Underground.

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As if I didn’t need convincing about Lithuania being 30% forest, the bus station of Trakai is on a fucking lake. In fact the bulk of the town of Trakai is on a peninsular and surrounded by water and forest.

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It’s a bit of a walk from the bus stop to the bridge connecting the castle to the mainland. The signs say 1900m, but I swear it was a fair bit longer. Maybe that was because instead of taking the direct route we made a right turn so we could follow the waterline. Worth it for the views. Okay, it isn’t Bled (then again what else is) but the sheer amount of sky and the clearness of the lake still have to give you pause.

List item: Visit 100 of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist
Progress: 56/100 IMG_1508Sight: Trakai Castle
Location: Trakai, Lithuania
Position: #463

That first view that you get of the Trakai Island Castle is special. It just feels like one of those impossible structures and it is so incredibly red. Turns out it is red because the original castle was pretty much destroyed after an invasion and then general falling into disrepair. The majority of what we see now is because of extensive renovation and reconstruction conducted in a joint effort by Lithuania and the Kremlin. The reconstruction was effectively finished in the mid-1980s.

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Yes there is a disconnect between then vibrant red bricks and the original grey stonework, but they have done an axing job of revitalising this castle. It raises the question of whether this is still Trakai Island Castle or if it is a modern construction. For me, I think that whatever helps the Lithuanian people is good with me. Since this castle is such a point of national pride and has helped generate income for the area then it can’t be a bad thing.

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After venturing around the castle we partook in some kibinai (a fist sized Cornish pasty like pastry filled with lightly spiced meat) at one of the restaurants sitting on the edge of the lake. We managed to get ourselves a perfect view of the castle and just wiled away a few hours before making our way back to Vilnius.

List Item: Try half of the combined 1001 food booksIMG_3379Food item: Borscht

For dinner we headed to Bernelių Užeiga, a Lithuanian cuisine place next to the Opera House as recommended by the Vilnius In Your Pocket guide.

I have having serious issues with any menu that showcases Lithuanian cuisine. Like when I was Japan (especially that ramen place in Kyoto), I just want to eat everything on the menu. Having a food list on the blog actually becomes quite help there.

Cold beetroot and cream soup (aka borscht) it was and it was lovely. I think that was more down to the very generous dollops of cream in the soup rather than the beetroot itself. I can really see myself having this for dinner on a war summer day where I have no interest in going anywhere near a hot appliance. Not entirely sure about the roast potatoes given as a side dish… I just dipped them in the soup. Maybe this was a faux pas, but I don’t think anyone noticed.

IMG_3380Food item: Pike

There are two fish from the list that I have been trying to find from the food list whilst in Lithuania: carp and pike. Neither of these are fish that we tend to eat in the UK (not sure why as they can certainly be found in our waterways) but I know that pike at the very least is eaten in the Baltics (carp is more a polish thing, but I live in hope).

In this dish the pike fillet was fried and served with pickled carrot and beetroot, mashed potato and some kind of cream sauce with peas. I am not the biggest fan of pickled beetroot, but the pike itself went down a treat. It’s a bit like haddock, but there is this richer taste that I can’t  quite put my finger on. It might be the sort of taste you get with carnivorous fish as I recall having grouper when I went to Australia. I’d definitely eat is fish if I saw it on a menu in the UK.

Another advantage to eating pike? They are horrible fish known to eat ducklings. I have had some form of revenge on behalf of the lost ducklings.

Progress: 903/933

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A slice of honey cake later (delicious!) and we were on our way to Cathedral Square for some of the event in Cathedral Square before calling it a night.

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One more full day in Lithuania. Really should have done a full week here, but alas it was not to be.

The Great EU Quest: Lithuania – Šiauliai

According to the Lonely Planet list there are two main sights to see in Lithuania. This is in comparison to neighbouring countries Latvia and Belarus, which have nothing in the book. Honestly, it is thanks to this book that I chose to go to Lithuania instead of fellow Baltic nation Estonia.

Today I chose to visit the first of these, which is 10km of the Lithuanian city of Šiauliai. Being based in Vilnius this means a literal cross country trip of over 200km. Whilst I know the bus would have been cheaper, there is something to be said for a country where return tickets for a 2½ hour trip are 18€. Putting that in perspective, in order to make a similar length trip from London to Cardiff for work can cost well over £150 depending on the time of day. Have I said how much I am loving the prices in this country?

I am aware that being based in Vilnius Old Town can give you a blinkered idea of what the average Lithuanian lives in. If every city was like Vilnius Old Town we would be living in a Disney movie sans dead parents (unless you’re Princess Aurora or Rapunzel, because why not).IMG_1483
Over the course of the train trip I was amazed at just how green Lithuania is. I mean sure there is the occasional lumber yard or factory as you get closer to the cities, but most of the trip is made up of farmland, forests or meadows. In many ways it makes this train trip very much like travelling through England. I guess I was expecting some example of harsh Soviet architecture as that is what movies from the 1980s thought us.

Now, if you are going to Šiauliai in order to visit the Hill of Crosses and you do NOT go with a guided group you pretty much have to fend for yourself. There are no real indications at the train station about where you need to go and, since the buses are hourly, you probably want to find the bus station sharpish.

We ended up stalking a few tourists as they walked on a dirt track on the side of a major road in order to make our way to the bus station. We probably could have used GPS to find our way… but that kept telling us to cross at weird junction points.

Actually, short note about Lithuanians that I have noticed: they are good and courteous drivers. Most of the crossings I have observed in Vilnius and Šiauliai are without lights and at no point have we had any people drive through it whilst we are standing there. In fact, some of the time they have seen us starting to meander in that direction and they start slowing down just in case. Italian and Egyptian drivers – please can you take note of this.

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78 cents later and we were at the bus stop for the Hill of Crosses. It’s a 2km walk from the bus stop and you have to back on yourself to find the turning point. It’s a lovely walk that just goes to show how much in the middle of nowhere this place actually is. The first sign that you are almost there is that rather than just a panorama of green there is a mass of brown and orange that is sparkling and shimmering in the distance.

List item: Visit 100 of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist
Progress: 55/100
Sight: Hill of Crosses
Location: Jurgaičiai, Lithuania
Position: #387

The Hill of Crosses is one of those places that just feels distinctly Lithuanian. It’s the ultimate symbol of their humanity and their resilience despite constantly being destroyed or taken over. The hill (according to a nearby plaque) currently has over 200,000 crosses planted in it. Many of them are the small wooden ones that you can buy on your way in, but so many of them are completely unique.

Thanks to the Soviet Union’s move to destroy this most of the older crosses are no longer present. In fact, with the exception of one that could possibly have been from 1945 the vast majority are from the last 20 years. The newest I saw was only 10 days old – I may have shed a tear over that as the cross’s design looked like it could have been for a young child.

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Now I am not religious, but I could not help but feel moved by this site. To find the adjectives for it is difficult. I keep wanting to use phrases such as “bonkers, but beautiful” which don’t probably illustrate the sheer amount of respect I had for this place. It’s like a symbol for all the good there is in humanity.

Whilst this is a predominantly catholic site there were crosses from Protestants and Russian Orthodox faiths as well one or two Stars of David from Jewish citizens of Lithuania. People have travelled from all over Europe to leave crosses here, as have Christians from Korea, Canada, China and the USA.

With all this traveling and awe inspiration we both completely forgot about lunch. It also helps that we’re both in the throes of trying to lose weight and so were able to last most of the day on breakfast alone. By 4 I was a bit peckish so we went into the Rimi hypermarket attached to the bus terminal.

I swear that I have yet to visit a super/hypermarket in another country and think it is worse than the UK. In the deli section of a UK supermarket you probably get three types of ham and you have examples of this from more than one company. In Rimi they actually give space to a counter filled with cooked Silesian sausages, pork knuckle and a whole manner of deliciousness. The bread looks and smells amazing, also the sheer variety available puts British supermarkets to shame.

I know it is weird, but as a foodie I just have to see  the places abroad where people buy their food. It works against me as the sights and smells just depress me further when I have to turn off holiday mode and return to the UK. If a place like Rimi opened up in my home town there would be no question of where I did my grocery shopping, so long Tesco, bye bye Morrison’s, up yours Asda. Alas and alack.

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By the time we were back in Vilnius it was just after 8 and dinner was very much required. Since we were tired and feeling a bit lazy we went around the corner to the restaurant we visited on the first night. Instead of yet another Zeppelin I ordered what I thought would be pancakes wrapped around meat, but they turned out to be potato pancakes, which means this is the third night ins row with essentially the same meal.

We also ordered something that we thought would be breaded and deep fried spicey cheese… but it turned out to be this large lump of curd cheese with a thick layer of pepper on it. I felt so bad and embarrassed at neither of us liking it that I may have cut off half a chunk, wrapped it in tissue and stuffed it in my pocket. Now I have moist cheese pockets and my jacket has to dry out. If you saw the waiter you’d know why I did it. He’s basically the sweet shopkeeper from Frozen brought to life!

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At least mum’s meal of grandmother style mushroom soup in a bread bowl came out looking good.

List Item: Try half of the combined 1001 food books
IMG_3377Food item: Honey Cake

Speaking of good. We shared an order of honey cake for dessert (lovely Frozen waiter guy had to halved and served on two plates for us) and I was surprised at how nice it was. Honestly I was something a bit more saturated with honey or cloyingly sweet like baklava, but this was the right amount of density. They also chose to pair it with a strawberry coulis and that is a choice I am very happy with.

Progress: 901/933

Off to Trakai tomorrow. Halfway through this trip to Lithuania already. How has this happened!?

The Great EU Quest: Lithuania – Vilnius Old Town

Since this is just how things work out when booking time off, today was the first of two full days that we spent in Vilnius itself. It has to be noted that if you mainly wish to explore the old town (which is rather large for an old town) and the immediate surroundings there is no need for public transport. I was very close to buying a Vilnius Card to try and remove the hassle from public transport… but there really is no need to do so.

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Despite the classical surroundings of churches and beautifully stuccoed buildings it is hard to escape the feeling that Vilnius is a very young city. When you are in the fringes you will see a lot of murals, some of which take up the whole wall of a building. Of course when I saw this picture of Putin and Trump sharing a disgustingly wet kiss I knew that I would have to post this online.

It is also difficult to deny that there is still an underlying cultural scuffle between the Vilnusians who have completely rejected anything Russian (minus religion) and those who are able to accept it, albeit in smaller doses.

Then again, this is a city that recently celebrated 1000 years since being founded and has been invaded and occupied on numerous occasions. Russians, Poles, Napoleon, Germans and Swedes have all taken turns in making this city their own. It is therefore completely understandable that this country has a tremendous sense of national pride for their, still newly found, independence.

Also, the volume of EU flags that you see being displayed the town centre is almost akin to what I saw in Luxembourg. Their inclusion in the European Union and NATO within early 2004 (after just over adecade of independence) must have been the ultimate act of of recognition for this small Baltic nation, something that looks like is still deeply felt.

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We started our day of exploration at Vilnius Cathedral – one of those places that has borne the brunt of Soviet ire. Stalin had this Catholic cathedral turned into a garage for army vehicles. The three statues on top were torn down and destroyed (replaced by replicas in 1996). It is mainly thanks to the number of paintings inside and the unique neoclassical building style that this building was turned into an art gallery before being fully reinstated as a cathedral.

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When we first arrived there was a mass on (it was Sunday after all) so we had to make a return visit later in the day. It really did feel like an art gallery inside of a church with wealth of paintings on the walls. The real highlight was the baroque chapel of St Casimir. At the time it cost 0.5 millions gold pieces to produce! There are elaborate frescoes and marble work all over the chapel… to this Saint who devoted his (25 years of) life to charity work.

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In the cathedral square itself (which is huge) there is a slab known as a miracle stone. Here you turn 360 degrees and make a wish… but it won’t come true if you tell people the exact location (so hard cheese readers, I want my wish). The stone marks the end of a chain of people 2 million long that stretched from Vilnius to Tallinn via Riga in the late 1980s as an act of Baltic solidarity. Yet another poignant reminder of the recent past.

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After the cathedral we moseyed on up to the Gendimo Tower. It stands on a hill looking overlooking all of the old town and is a great place to snag some pictures. It is also one of those places that you can see from most locations in the Old Town, the Lithuanian flag proudly flying in the cold June breeze. The walk up isn’t too steep, but very cobbly. This is why we opted to pay the 1€ for the funicular railway down. Also, that was fun.

It was lunchtime and instead of opting for something too heavy we sought out some coffee and cake. Unfortunately a lot of people had the same idea, so a lot of places were full. We managed to get a table in Soprano and, yes, I had ice cream for lunch. It was basically a deconstructed banana split and it was gorgeous.

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A brief rainstorm later and we did some more church hopping. The first was the gothic St Anne’s church. The outside is a feels compact and yet imposing with its deep red brickwork. The arrangement of the bricks really make this church stand out – to the point that when I first saw this from the tower I really wanted to find out what this structure was.

The inside of St Anne’s was equally beautiful, just in a very different way. Ornate carvings depicting the stations of the cross and the incredibly detailed altar called to mind the Neumunster church in Luxembourg.

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The final Catholic Church we visited on the day was St Casimir’s, a church dedicated to Lithuania’s patron saint (conveniently located opposite our hotel). It’s massive on the outside with a large crown donning one of the spires. Inside it is a masterpiece of marble. I know I have been to visit enough churches that I should no longer be stunned, but the variety of marbles and the quantity of it that must have been used to construct the columns… well it boggles the mind.

On our old town walk I was able to get my first glimpse at the inside of some Russian Orthodox churches. In all three of them I was presented with the same question: where do worshippers go during a service? As far as I could see there were no seats, meaning that it’s either a standing or a sit on the floor affair.

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Also, the sheer number of pictures (or should I say icons) felt incredibly oppressive; something that is the complete opposite of the lovely outsides. The weirdest thing I saw on this day came in the Russian Orthodox St Nicholas church. For whatever reason they had placed colour changing LED crosses above three of the more prominent icons. It was like visiting that one person on the street who goes a bit too far with their Christmas decorations,

With opera tickets for 7 o’clock we needed to get in an early dinner. I had already clocked the TripAdvisor recommended restaurant Forto Dvaras during our earlier walk so that’s where we headed. Now, seeing how Lithuanians tend not to be clock watchers when it comes to food, but eat when they are hungry (oh wise people of Lithuania) we were presented with a restaurant that had massive fluctuations between 5 and 6:30. It weren’t from packed to nearly empty to people having to be turned away.

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Once at the Forto Dvaras it was actually hard to pick what to have, so I went for another variation of the Zeppelin dumplings. This time they were fried and presented with a sour cream and crackling sauce. I was in heaven. I had a try of the Gypsy Steak meal too, which was a pork steak baked in the oven with pickles and sauces. Have I found my culinary homeland? Only a family tree will prove otherwise!

List Item: Try half of the combined 1001 food booksIMG_3361Food item: Baumkuchen

I came to Lithuania with one piece of food to find: and here it is in all its glory. The waitress was kind enough to let us know that one portion was big enough for two… and by gum she was right. It was a lot harder than I expected, having the consistency of a harder and less buttery shortbread. Having watched videos of how this was made (because in the week leading up to this trip to Lithuania I became mildly obsessed with the concept of tree cake) I was definitely not disappointed. Maybe one day I’ll learn how to make this.

Oh and the whole meal came to less than 20€. What is this pricing here!

Progress: 900/933

It was opera time. So we made a flying visit to the famous statues of the three muses outside the national drama theatre before heading straight to the opera house.

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
Progress: 4/501Title: Manon
Composer: Jules Massenet
Nationality: French
Year:
 1884

Manon is actually my second opera, but when I went to see La Traviata it was with school and in English. Therefore, I think it is fair to say that, 10 years later, this was my first real trip to the opera.

For 18€ apiece we had seats in the fourth row of the stalls, slightly left from centre. As in, nearly perfect seats with a complete view. The staggering of the rows helps with this, but we also only had older women in front of us so there was nothing we couldn’t see.

Whilst this opera was in the original French there were subtitles above the stage in both Lithuanian and English. Not Russian, not Polish, but English. Thank you again Vilnius for being so accommodating.

As for the opera itself, well it was 4 hours that just flew by. We were prepared to duck out at an intermission and just head back to the hotel. Nope. Utterly transfixed.

Everything in this production felt world class and like something that would have £100 of shown in the UK. The slightly modern stage production, which at one stage had Manon being lowered whilst clasping a bunch of balloons, worked brilliantly. Some of the more modern costume choices for the background women felt a little jarring at first, but in the world of opera you can get away with a lot before it feels out of place.

Despite being a famous opera of its genre all of the music was new to me. It was a fantastic score though and brought to life by two stunning leads as Manon and Chevalier. The woman playing Manon was particularly fantastic having to go from manic pixie dream girl to desperation in a heartbeat.

Where I liked Swan Lake I loved Manon. I honestly wonder if this trip to the  Vilnius Opera House has started something.

List item: See an opera
Status: Completed