Czech Olympic Swimming Team make Baywatch spoof video – Czechwatch

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Czech Olympic Team are well known for their sense of humour. You may remember how they wore low-cut blue Wellington Boots and held umbrellas during the opening ceremony in London 2012 as a poke at British weather.

The Czech Olympic swimming team have now made a spoof Baywatch video while in Rio – called Czechwatch. The video features Lucie Svěcená, Jan Micka, Barbora Seemanová, Pavel Janeček, Martina Moravčíková and Jana Závadová:

There should be a Gold Medal for best sense of humour – and maybe another for best-looking swimming team!

You can check the medal progress of the Czech Olympic Team here: https://www.rio2016.com/en/czech-republic

The Grumpy Mole Restaurant, Cheam, Surrey, England

Tags

, , , , ,

The Grumpy Mole, Cheam, is one of three Surrey-based gastro-pub-style restaurants; the others are in Tadworth and Brockham. We’d heard good things about this place and wanted to visit as an impromptu family outing. However, my Sister is vegan and the online menu didn’t show anything suitable – that’s not a criticism as they aren’t purporting to cater to vegans.

We called and asked what they could do. The waitress was really helpful and said that she would talk to the chef and call back. She actually called back and said that she hadn’t forgotten us, but that the evening chef was due to arrive at 5pm and she wanted to wait until she had spoke to him. Another call and a number of suitable options were offered – don’t actually ask me what as I’m not an expert on veganism!

To really put this place to the test we also took my 88-year old Mum along! I was almost tempted to pretend I had a nut allergy! Yes, I know this is serious for some people and feel free to comment on this if you have nothing else to do.

The place is on a winding road just outside Cheam Village. The most obvious sign was ‘The Inn on the Park’ but we spotted the smaller ‘Grumpy Mole’ sign. We wondered whether the larger sign was from the original pub days. However, I’ve since looked at the other two restaurants and see that they both use a similar ‘The Inn on the Green’. I think this dual-branding is a little confusing but maybe they have some marketing people who feel differently.

Grumpy Mole 01

Grumpy Mole 05

The single disabled parking space wasn’t really ideal. It was no wider than a standard parking space and there were bushes overhanging to the right. So we used a standard space that didn’t have an adjacent car parked.

There are two entrances to the restaurant; the main has a few steps and the side is wheelchair accessible.

Grumpy Mole 03 Grumpy Mole 02

There was a rear garden area with nice seating – it was a little too cold for an evening dinner and that was empty. But would make a good lunch venue.

Grumpy Mole 04

The interior was cosy and welcoming. We found the waitress who had been so helpful on the phone and were taken to our table.

Grumpy Mole 06 Grumpy Mole 08

There was some further discussion about vegan food and a starter of avocado and tomato (charged as a soup £5.95), plus side of olives was agreed, followed by a vegetarian stroganoff without cream.

My Mum had a large Malibu and lemonade £8.85 but there was too much lemonade and so she added another shot at £3.95 – obviously the secret to a long life.

A bottle of Sauvignon Blanc was £17.95 – I noticed that they had my favourite red Malbec on the menu but went with the majority vote.

I had scallops (4) at £8.95 and a Venison Wellington £16.95 – everything was delicious.

My Mum had some of the vegan starter, followed by Salmon £14.95, followed by a creme brûlée £6.95 and announced that all were lovely.

My sister enjoyed her stroganoff £13.95 despite my questions about how it could be called that if there wasn’t cream included.

Grumpy Mole 07

I had a glass of Laphroaig single malt whisky – good value at £3.95.

The waitresses were really helpful and dealt really well with our special requirements.

Total before gratuity was £107.10 which I think represented good value.

There was free wi-fi.

The toilets were clean and spacious. My only criticism would be that there was only a hand dryer and no paper towels available – after all it isn’t just a pub now.

The Grumpy Mole
Inn on the Park
Ewell Road
Cheam
Surrey
SM3 8AA
Tel: 0208 394 2000
Mail: CHEAM@THEGRUMPYMOLE.CO.UK

http://www.thegrumpymole.co.uk/

 

4500 Avios for £30 – enough for a one-way reward flight

Tags

, , , , ,

If you’re a member of the British Airways Executive Club or the Avios Travel Rewards program, then you can earn 4500 Avios for £30 – plus you’ll get 12 issues of the Sunday Times Travel Magazine.

4500 Avios is enough for a one-way reward flight within Europe – although you’ll likely need to pay £17 fees. But that’s still only £47 for a flight, for example, London to Prague, that would cost at least £70. Avios bookings also include a free luggage allowance.

Open the following page: https://thesundaytimestravel.subscribeonline.co.uk/Subscription/the-sunday-times-travel then ensure that you enter the following promo code: STTM0916

Sunday Times Travel Avios Offer

If you plan on sending the magazine to an address different to your billing address, choose ‘For someone else’.

You’ll be asked for your BA Executive Club details on the subsequent pages.

There doesn’t seem to be any limit on the number of subscriptions you can take – just don’t forget to cancel the subscription later.

London Luton Airport, United Kingdom – avoid flying in or out of this place

Tags

, ,

Luton Airport calls itself ‘London Luton Airport’ but it’s actually 34 miles from central London. The airport serves mostly budget and charter airlines such as Easy Jet, Wizz and Monarch.

I previously wrote about this poor excuse for an airport back in November 2014 – who knew that it could get so much worse?

Luton Airport is currently undergoing a £110 million transformation. They even have a website that celebrates the changes they are planning http://transforminglla.com/ And who knows, it may be much better in the future – it certainly can’t be any worse than it is now.

Dropping off at, or picking up from, the Airport is Terrible

The building work, lack of clear signage and restricted space in the drop-off area mean that there are cars queuing from the roundabout at the entrance to the airport. You could be waiting 30 minutes to get to the drop-off point, which then charges you £3 for 10 minutes. There are two entrances next to each other, the one on the left is £3 drop-off, the one on the right is £7 short stay – often drivers realise too late and then the whole queue stops as they try to reverse out and back to the drop-off line.
Top Tip: The best option is to use the free mid-stay car park and let your passengers walk 15 minutes to the airport.

Airport Security takes longer and the fast-track is now £5

Airport Security has been re-located downstairs. The lines are longer. The Fast Track, that used to be quite good is now quite slow and the price has gone up to £5 per person. There are also now only a couple of machines available from which purchase fast-track tickets.
Top Tip: Pre-book fast-track for £3 online here.

The Terminal is even more overcrowded than before.

With one of the large food and drink outlets closed and more flights departing, the terminal is overcrowded. There are long lines for the only table service restaurant, Frankie & Benny’s. There are two main toilets in the main terminal area, plus a few smaller versions dotted around near the gates. Most are pretty busy and grotty.
Top Tip:
For around £18 you can buy entry to the Business Lounge – but you’ll need to do this online. I found that www.executivelounges.com will let you book the same day – so if your flight is delayed, you could go online at the airport and book yourself a lounge pass.

Expect to wait over an hour to clear immigration/passport control on arrival

Passport control at Luton has always been a mess. They have some e-passport gates now, but even with these you could easily wait over an hour to clear immigration. The whole place is understaffed and the flight schedules mean that three flights often arrive all at once. Here are some pictures taken this week:

This is actually a line waiting to get to the passport control area.

This is actually a line waiting to get to the passport control area.

And this is what you find when you reach the front of that line

And this is what you find when you reach the front of that line

and then it's just more waiting

and then it’s just more waiting

It’s a complete disgrace.
Top Tip: Avoid flying into Luton. Just choose to fly in to another airport.

Some more tips for if you do have to fly out of Luton

There is a marks and spencer store landside but not airside. So if you want a decent sandwich, buy there before proceeding through security. You can also pick up some shopping there after you land and exit customs and immigration.

A sandwich in the airside Boots is only £1. Usually chicken mayonnaise or egg mayonnaise – but can’t be beaten for value.

Summa Cum Laude Restaurant, Vinohrady, Prague, Czech Republic

Tags

, , , , , , ,

The Latin term ‘Summa Cum Laude’ (with highest honor) is traditionally used by American Universities to indicate the highest level of distinction with which an academic degree was earned. This restaurant loosely translates this as ‘Eat with Honor’.

The interior design continues this theme, with wallpaper reflecting mathematics, chemistry and English Lit. degree-level chalkboards. At the rear of the restaurant is a well-ventilated open kitchen.

The whole layout is simple, modern, with good air-conditioning.

Summa Cum Laude

Now to the menu: I’ve walked past this place numerous times since it opened in May 2016 and also checked the menu a few times. I found the menu confused and it was difficult to work out what sort of restaurant this was trying to be – there seemed to be traditional American items mixed with dishes and flavours from around the World and not in the usual ‘fusion-food’ way. It was almost like looking at a mash up of several restaurant menus – for example, there are two variations of mashed potato available as sides, but I couldn’t spot a single menu item where I would order mash as a side.

One thing I did spot was Eggs Benedict at 145Kc and as that is my favourite breakfast I knew I’d have to try it.

Mid afternoon on a Saturday, with outside temperatures around 29 degrees, the place was empty. I chose a seat by the air con outlet and it was really cool. The waiter was friendly and spoke English. I ordered a bottle of Pilsner Urquell 45Kc and Eggs Benedict with Smoked Salmon, not ham 145kc – something you often see referred to as Eggs Benedict Royale. It was probably the best Eggs Benedict I’ve had in Prague – even beating my usual choice, La Bottega Di Finestra where it costs 195kc.

The quality of the Eggs B made me think again about the chef and the menu – so I returned for dinner with my girlfriend that evening.

The wine list is a little expensive compared to the food prices. We chose a Chardonnay for 525kc – a make I recognised as retailing around 200kc. A carafe of tap water was 35kc. To be fair, the waiter was always there to refill our wine and water glasses.

To start we had ‘Asia de Cuba’ tacos with Peking Duck 95kc. This is the duck that typically arrives shredded with vegetables, pancakes and hoisin sauce – I sort of expected that the tacos would be soft and we’d be making them ourselves. They were actually hard-shell, which always fall apart on me after the first bite – but they tasted great.

Our main was a Marinated chicken tikka masala, mango and cucumber wrap 145kc. These wraps were also delicious – although again we were eating with our hands and I started to think about calling the cuisine ‘gourmet junk food’. But that would be unfair as the food quality was really good.

With 80s disco music, the US University references and the casual dining menu, we decided that the owner must be an American, in his 50s. We asked the waiter and to our surprise we found that the owners are Matteo De Carli and Lenka Hermanová – the Italian/Czech couple behind the well-reviewed Casa De Carli Italian restaurant in central Prague. Their history has been one of working around the world; Dublin, Dubai, New York – now the theme and the menu made a little more sense – although I still think it’s more confused than eclectic.

We enjoyed our visit and will definitely return – although I’d like it if there were; more menu items that required cutlery/silverware and more curry choices with meat – currently only vegetable curries available.

Apparently they also do a breakfast buffet for 125kc – I’m not sure of the times or whether it is just weekends.

The bathrooms were modern and clean. There is free Wi-Fi.

So if you’re looking for something different to eat in the Vinohrady area, or just can’t make up your mind what food you fancy – this place is worth a try.

http://summacumlaude.cz/

Belgická 26, 120 00 Praha 2

t +420 211 1333 129

eat@summacumlaude.cz

Monday – Friday
8.00 – 22.00
Saturday – Sunday
10.00 – 22.00

Splitsville Bowling, Walt Disney Word, Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA

Tags

, , , , ,

Splitsville is a large bowling alley that is part of Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney), part of Walt Disney World in Florida. Disney Springs is a large shopping and entertainment district that is currently free to enter and free to park.

Splitsville is a relative newcomer to Disney Springs – there wasn’t any bowling available in Downtown Disney. Like many of the places there, it isn’t a Disney operation, more a concession operating on the Disney property. I can see that Splitsville has seven other US locations, including Miami and Tampa.

Disney Springs is always busy and so I decided to try and book our bowling – after all how difficult could that be? The Splitsville website has a button for booking a lane. My local bowling alley in Europe has an online system, where you can choose a lane, time and duration – with availability shown. So I was disappointed to see this message:

Splitsville 01.jpg

Followed by an online reservation form. Some time later I received an email:

Thank you for your interest in Splitsville! Our Walk-In and Priority Bowling Rates are outlined below. Due to the large amount of reservations we have for this specific evening we cannot book a lane at 7 p.m. as all our lanes have already been purchased. We are more then willing to accomodate you before 4 p.m. on Tuesday the 15th or any other day this week:

WALK-IN RATES:

(Only valid on a first come first served basis.) Bowling time allotted is based upon number in bowling party, 4 people receive an hour and 15 minutes on the lane.

MONDAY-FRIDAY (Pricing includes shoe rental.)
OPEN-4PM: $15 per person
4PM-CLOSE: $20 per person

SATURDAY-SUNDAY (Pricing includes shoe rental.)
OPEN-CLOSE: $20 per person
EARLY BIRD BOWLING (Walk-in only):

EVERY DAY Open-12:30PM:
$12 for Adults/$8 for 9 & Under (Pricing includes shoe rental)

PRIORITY BOWLING:

*Priority bowling must be set up a minimum of 24 hours in advance.
Additional $10 per person, based on walk in rates and times shown above.

A couple of emails later and I realised that the only way to book was to accept the Priority Bowling rate for an additional $10 per person – making $30 per person. Well what a complete rip off that is! I would probably pay $10 to reserve a lane, but not per person. I’m also still amazed that what purports to be a modern bowling alley doesn’t have a modern reservation system to match.

We decided to just turn up early one evening and see what happened. As it was there wasn’t much of a line and we were allocated Lane 1 pretty quickly.

The seating area was pretty comfortable and our server arrived quickly and took our drink orders. We didn’t order food although there was a full menu service that looked good quality and the area at our lane was suitable for eating. I’m sure Splitsville would like it if you simultaneously bowl and dine – but really why would you do that when you are paying $20 per person for lane time and could easily eat before or after?

A coke was $5.25 with free refills. I can’t remember how much a beer was.

There was an odd sign to remind bowlers not to overdo their ‘victory dance’. I guess they have to protect any kids from inappropriate gestures, but I’m not sure why pregnant women were included in the list:

Splitsville 03

There were plenty of balls available, all highly greased – so much so that they tended to slide, rather than roll, down the lane. The floor was also slippery from the grease and I nearly fell over on my first bowl. The pins reset really quickly which meant we could have more games.

Splitsville 02

Lane 1 is probably the worst lane if you don’t like spectators as it’s right by the window. There was usually a few random people watching our play.

Our hour and 15 minutes was almost up and we still had a few frames left. We were given an extra 10 minutes to finish our game which was great. That meant that our party of four played three full games.

So this was a pretty mixed experience. I’m not saying I’d never go again, but I wouldn’t rush back.

Splitsville Luxury Lanes
AT DISNEY SPRINGS™ WEST SIDE
1494 East Buena Vista DriveLake Buena Vista, Florida 32830

http://www.splitsvillelanes.com/location/orlando/

407.938.PINS (7467)

Miller’s Ale House, Kissimmee, Florida, USA

Tags

, , ,

Miller’s Ale House is a bar/restaurant chain. The first Miller’s Ale House opened in 1988 in Jupiter, FL and since expanded throughout Florida and beyond. There are now 72 restaurants in over ten states.

The one we visited had a large sports bar area, several pool tables and plenty of restaurant seating. I’m guessing they are all the same.

The place is pretty popular and when we arrived we were looking at a wait of maybe one hour. US restaurants tend not to encourage advance booking and maximise their table utilisation by expecting patrons to wait with electronic pagers.

The good news was that there were pool tables available and so we were able to play (without charge) until the pager called us. We were also able to order drinks, although weren’t able to transfer that cheque to our table.

Miller's Ale House Pool Table

A 20oz Guinness 20oz was US$5.95 and a bottle of Corona US$4.99.

Like most US chain restaurants, the place was busy and noisy.

The pager called us to our table. The food was pretty good. The aircon was a bit fierce.

An 8 oz Filet Mignon was US$19.99 plus 95c for a loaded baked potato and 95c for a side Caesar salad. A full rack of ribs US$17.99.

This isn’t a fine-dining experience but isn’t a bad place to visit as a group – but be prepared to drink a few beers and play a few games of pool before you eat.

http://www.millersalehouse.com/

8123 W Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, Kissimmee, FL 34747

407-238-4499

Gatorland, Orlando, Florida

Tags

, ,

I’ve been a regular visitor to Florida since the 80s. This year in March was the first time I’ve been to Gatorland. I guess I had an image of a cheesy, run-down sort of place, struggling to compete with the Disney, Universal and Sea World parks.

The standard Adult entry ticket is US$23.99 + 1.56 tax = 25.55. That ticket doesn’t entitle you to ride the train, zip line, eat/drink, feed the gators nor participate in the gator wrestling show. I found an offer on www.travelzoo.com that was US$49 for two people, with train, lunch voucher, gator chow voucher and wrestling voucher all included. That was the bargain that finally got me to Gatorland – and although things got off to a shaky start it was better than I expected.

Parking was free and only a short walk to the park entrance – contrast that with the US$20 parking fee that is charged by Universal. We’d arrived around lunchtime and so we took our two $10 lunch vouchers and looked for a place to eat. There was only one place called Pearl’s Smokehouse serving fast food from just three outdoor windows. The lines weren’t that long but people were hardly moving. We waited 30 minutes before arriving at the window and discovering the issue – each server was also responsible for preparing the food. The food was okay – nothing special. If you don’t have an all-inclusive deal like ours then I’d strongly recommend you eat before you go. Here’s a picture of Pearl’s Smokehouse:

Gator 01

Having spent almost 45 minutes surrounded by other visitors and their kids, we decided to head for the swamp walk – a quiet boarded walk through a typical Florida swamp and similar to some of our walks through the Everglades. It was pretty good and we started to calm down and enjoy Gatorland.

Here are some pictures:

Then we continued to wander around the main lake. There were hundreds of aligators, plus various types of bird and nests.

Here are some pictures:

Walking along the boardwalk there were some huge bugs flying around. Here’s a video:

Here’s some more video, this time of alligators:

We took the train ride around the park and it was worth doing as we saw parts of the park that are inaccessible on foot.

We walked past the alligator wrestling. It wasn’t a great show and seemed to consist of people sitting on a muzzle-bound, tail-less alligator while photos were taken.

We then picked up our free cup of gator chow – which was actually cut up pieces of hot-dog sausage. The gators weren’t so interested, but there was a giant bird that couldn’t get enough of them:

Gator 25

We didn’t pay extra for the zip line.

I’m guessing we visited for at least three hours and we enjoyed our visit – well apart from the wait for the food.

I probably wouldn’t rush back but I’m glad we went. If you plan to visit, look out for deals on Travelzoo, Groupon or maybe a leaflet in your hotel.

Gatorland
14501 S. Orange Blossom Trail
Orlando, FL 32837

Phone: (407) 855-5496 or (800) 393-5297

customerservice@gatorland.com

Leu Gardens, Orlando, Florida, USA

Tags

, , , , , ,

Harry P. Leu Gardens and the historical home were donated to the City of Orlando in 1961 by Mr. Harry P. Leu and his wife, Mary Jane.

The gardens are beautiful and immaculately presented. On our visit, there was an exhibition of giant bug sculptures, by artist David Rogers. Even though the exhibition has finished, I’d still recommend a visit if you find yourself in the Orlando area.

I’ll leave the pictures, which I’ve deliberately left full-size and not set to slideshow,  to describe these great gardens.

Leu Gardens is open 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. every day, closed December 25. Last admission is at 4:30 p.m.

Admission is only US$10 but I’d recommend that you purchase a membership for $40 (individual) or $50 (Household) as that gives you entry to American Horticultural Society partners including over 280 gardens, arboreta and conservatories nationwide (full list available at www.ahs.org/rap)

www.leugardens.org/

Harry P. Leu Gardens | 1920 North Forest Avenue | Orlando, FL | 407.246.2620

We’re Going Back 2015 – 30th Anniversary of Back to the Future Celebrations, Los Angeles, USA

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

26th September update: I’ve edited the part about the tribute movie as I’ve been informed that this wasn’t produced for nor funded by the WGB team. Also see Video Bob’s comment (click to open top right) clarifying his involvement. Thanks.

My Son and I are huge fans of the Back to the Future movie trilogy and we wanted to do something for the 30th anniversary on October 21st 2015. Fans will know that isn’t the anniversary of the movie release, but the date that Marty McFly arrives in the future in BTTF2.

We’d missed out on a previous celebration in 2010 – organised by a group of fans via the http://www.weregoingback.com/ (WGB) website. So when we discovered they were organising a five-day event for 2015 we decided to book. We signed up for email news and purchased as soon as advance tickets were available. Tickets were expensive $800 per person – and that price went up to $880 after the advance tickets were sold. Individual day tickets were also available at between $200 and £300.

You’re probably wondering why it’s taken almost eight months for me to write about this experience. The main reason? It could have been better and I didn’t want to write about the problems until the emotions of the organisers and attendees had time to settle down. The organisers were pretty stressed out and I believe that they tried to do a good job – but they seemed to have this joint view that their time and energy sacrifice meant that any criticism should be vigorously rejected. Equally, the attending fans tended to worship the organisers and most posts were of the “thank you for the best time of my entire life” format. That’s not to say that we didn’t have a good time – we really did. And it was certainly much better than the Secret Cinema event in London (review here). However, with the number of attendees multiplied by the ticket cost, we are talking a serious amount of money and I think this could have been better spent.

We flew to Los Angeles on Virgin Atlantic (review here). The first two nights we stayed in the Wyndham in Costa Mesa (review here) as we had tickets to see Luke Bryan on October 18th (review here). Then we moved to a great AirBnB in Burbank (review here).

Free coach transport: WGB ticket holders were entitled to free coach transport from one of three nominated hotels to all of the WGB events. We drove as we were in an apartment in Burbank. Those who stayed in the most-expensive of the three hotels (Loews Hotel in Hollywood) did benefit from direct and regular access to the organisers who were staying there.

Wristbands: For each day, we were given a different colour wristband, with three tear-off tags. The tags were for food, an event, such as hoverboarding and maybe something else – it wasn’t clear if we should be expecting anything or not. Wristband distribution was originally only available at the Loews Hotel on Tuesday evening – we couldn’t make that and another WGB ticketholder kindly picked them up for us. Apparently the distribution was a mess that evening with people waiting hours for their bands.

08:00 Wednesday October 21st 2015: Universal Studios

There were crowds of WGB ticketholders – more than we’d imaged and certainly enough to fill a cinema – plenty of Martys and Docs in various costumes. We boarded two sets of Universal tour trams and headed off to the Hill Valley Courthouse filming location (part of the Universal Studios backlot).

There was plenty of time to wander around the Hill Valley square – certainly if you were on the first tram. There was even a wedding on the steps of the Courthouse. Sadly there wasn’t a DeLorean to be seen and that would have been a nice touch. There was the restored ‘A’ DeLorean mounted on a plinth that was visible from the tram – but we weren’t able to stop and view it.

Back on the tour trams, which did the entire Universal tour before we were deposited back at the theme park, with fast-pass front of line tickets and two $12 food vouchers. We were told to meet at a Universal cinema/movie theatre at 16:00.

Apparently there was a Goodyear blimp flying over Universal Studios with a ‘We’re Going Back’ display – but nobody told us to look out for it.

We took our seats in the cinema. There were many people with questions about the forthcoming events as there hadn’t really been much communication. For example, we still expected to be visiting a museum to view the restored ‘A’ DeLorean but that had been cancelled. Some guy called ‘Video Bob’ stood at the front and tried to answer questions, but he clearly wasn’t one of the organisers, just one of their sidekicks who enjoyed the attention.

The first short movie we watched was the premier of a spoof fan BTTF tribute produced by the WGB team. This featured Tyler Dunivan, a Marty McFly impersonator who was also employed as the ‘house Marty’ for the duration of the WGB events. The movie was professionally produced by Ricky Dean Logan (Data in Biff’s BTTF2 gang) and part of it had been filmed on location at Universal Studios. You can watch the movie here:

It’s pretty good isn’t it? I don’t know how it was funded but it apparently wasn’t from the WGB Budget. So thanks to Ricky for premiering the movie to us.

We were then treated to a screening of BTTF2. As we left the theatre the organisers were handing out copies of a limited edition copy of the ‘Gang Jailed’ version of USA Today. There was a bit of scrum, which would have been unnecessary had someone just walked the rows of the theatre handing out copies.

Here are some pictures from Day 1:

There was clearly some value to being a WGB ticketholder; access to the Hill Valley Courthouse, access to Universal studios park with fast-pass tickets, food vouchers, the movie screening and the USA today newspaper.

Thursday October 22nd 2015: Hoverboarding Hill Valley

A town called Filmore, an hour’s drive from Hollywood had been re-created as Hill Valley and a couple of cranes were set up with wires and hoverboards. Many of the shops had been partially set up to look like those from Back to the Future. There were some screen-used vehicles. A DeLorean had been placed on the railway tracks and people could pay for rides. It was a good atmosphere there, with plenty of people in costume. As a regular town, the place was open to all visitors, not just WGB ticketholders.

The cinema was showing a documentary called ‘Back in Time’ which we stood in line for and gave up on after 40 minutes wait. Those who did see the documentary were also given a series of Hill Valley mock-up newspapers. Again there was a scrum and not everyone received a full set – something that could have been managed with the wristband tags. We ended up having to purchase a set on the last day.

Video Bob had a BTTF DeLorean parked on one side of the railway track – we tried to take a picture but he asked for $5. Update to this: It turns out that the $5 collection was organised by Oliver and Terry Hollar who were raising money for TeamFox – Bob didn’t receive any money. We would have been happy to donate $5 had we known.

Lunch and dinner were pretty poor fast-food offerings, with long lines waiting. We tended to just give up and visit a local restaurant.

We discovered that USA Today had printed a ‘Youth Jailed’ version for general sale. So we left Filmore/Hill Valley for a while and did a tour of local gas stations, trying to find copies. This would have been a perfect item that could have been exchanged for a wristband tab.

The lines for hoverboarding were long all day. I waited until late and then had my ride – see the video below.

In the evening a makeshift cinema screen was set up on the lawn in front of the ‘courthouse’ together with rows of foldaway plastic chairs. A repeat of the WGB tribute movie was screened followed by BTTF3. Sadly the picture and sound quality wasn’t very good and so we left before the movie finished.

We enjoyed the day but for us, the only benefit of holding a WGB ticket was the Hoverboarding – everything else (well apart from the food) was available to anyone who happened to be in the town of Filmore. We didn’t feel especially valued or looked after by the WGB team – although the guys running the Hoverboarding were great.

Here are some pictures from Day 2:

Friday October 23rd 2015: Locations Tour

We were given the list of locations that the tour buses would visit. We’d actually toured these a few years before as the locations are publicly available. We basically sped ahead of the WGB buses and arrived at most locations early. The locations visited and WGB itinerary were as follows:

  • Griffith Park @ 9:00 am (Tunnel & Start Line) – 2700 N Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, CA
  • Gamble House @ 10:30 – 11:30 am – 4 Westmoreland Pl, Pasadena, CA 91103
  • Bushnell Ave @ 12:00 – 1:00 pm – 1761 Bushnell Ave South Pasadena, CA 91030
  • Lunch @ Burger King @ 1:30 – 2:30 pm – 545 N Victory Blvd, Burbank, CA 91502
  • Whittier High @ 4:00 – 5:30 pm – 12417 Philadelphia St, Whittier, CA 90601
  • McFly Block Party @ 7:00 – 10:00 pm – 9303 Roslyndale Ave Los Angeles, CA 91331

There was some confusion at the first location as the buses weren’t supposed to stop there. Some did, some didn’t. The Gamble House (Doc Brown’s 1955 house) was so much better. The owner of the screen-used Doc Brown car was there with the car – a 1948 Packard Custom Eight Victoria. A few BTTF DeLoreans arrived. There was a scene recreation that was done really well – here’s the video:

And here are some pictures:

Then we moved on to Bushnell Ave, the location for 1955 McFly, Baines, Biff’s garage and “You want your ball? Go get it, Haha.” house. The residents of the street were really friendly. There was some lying in the street, a BTTF DeLorean drive by and plenty of fun with the Doc’s and Marty’s.

Next was lunch at the Burger King – although there had been a kitchen fire and so lunch was actually outside with burgers sent by a nearby Burger King. The burgers didn’t travel too well. The line was pretty long and burger distribution slow. Video Bob escorted the house Marty and Lorraine to the front of the line and then addressed the crowd – we still weren’t sure if he was an official part of WGB.

We drove (maybe an hour) to Whittier High (Hill Valley High) and arrived well ahead of the buses. The school was open and we were able to wander around without anyone asking who we were, although I did ask someone who I thought was a teacher but turned out to Jeffery Wiseman(!) – who portrayed George McFly in BTTFII and BTTFIII, after Crispin Glover refused to return due to salary disputes.

The house Marty and Jennifer arrived and rehearsed a movie re-creation scene, which I was able to video:

And then when the bus crowds arrived, I took a video from inside the school:

Everyone was able to wander the school and grounds – plenty of recognisable locations. Claudia Wells (BTTF1 Jennifer) arrived and was surrounded by Jennifers. Here are some photos:

I think the buses took everyone direct to the McFly block party. We went back to our apartment for a rest and to change.

Roslyndale Ave. had been blocked at both ends for the block party. A replica of the Lyon Estates gates had been set up at one end of the street. There were some more poor fast-food trucks, although the lines didn’t seem so long this time.

We saw Donald Fullilove who played Goldie Wilson in BTTF1. Apparently there was a re-creation of ‘Roads where we’re going we don’t need roads’ but lack of communication meant that we were in line at the food trucks and missed it. A makeshift cinema screen had been resurrected to show BTTF1.

Here are a couple of photos:

Again, we enjoyed the day but, again, the only benefit of holding a WGB ticket was the food – anyone could have visited the locations at the same time and joined the block party.

Saturday October 24th 2015: Enchantment Under the Sea Party

There was a screening of the Outatime documentary and a movie prop auction in the morning but we didn’t bother attending.

The evening event commenced at 6pm, held in the Hollywood United Methodist Church (the original filming location).

A photographer took pictures of arriving guests. Inside, the place looked very much like the Enchantment Under the Sea dance. Several stars from the movie were in attendance; Lea Thompson (Lorraine), Claudia Wells (Jennifer), Jeffery Wiseman (George) and Harry Waters, Jr. (Marvin Berry). If you wanted an autograph or a photo then you had to pay. Lea Thompson was $50, the rest $25.

On stage were the WGB house band ‘The Flux Capacitors’ which was disappointing as they tended to just play 80s music. The place was extremely hot, only a couple of fans were set up by open doors to cool the air. Free bottled water was available – no alcohol as the venue is a church. There wasn’t any information as to what would happen during the evening and when.

The WGB attendees really embraced the experience, re-creating the “Oh, and one more thing, if you guys ever have kids and one of them, when he’s eight years old, accidentally sets fire to the living room rug – go easy on him.” scene. I especially liked a George McFly lookalike who had the voice and dance style exactly right. Below a really short video of him dancing.

Nothing seemed to be happening and so we popped across the road to the Loews for a beer and cool down. Of course, we then missed a Marty impersonator perform the Johnny B Goode scene.

Dinner was a variety of delivery pizzas left on tables in the hall.

A couple took to the stage and the guy proposed. That meant we were lucky enough to see a repeat of Earth Angel performed by Harry Waters, Jr. Here’s a video of that:

Here are some photos from the evening:

The event ended soon after around 10pm.

This event was definitely one where a WGB ticket was required. The single night ticket was $300 so I’d guess the organisers has over $100,000 at their disposal. The biggest expenses were the venue hire, the band, the photographer and the pizza – actors were making their fee from autographs. Imagine if you had over $100k to plan a wedding and contrast that with what was provided and then it doesn’t look like very good value.

Sunday October 25th 2015: Twin Pines Mall

Twin/Lone Pine(s) Mall is actually Puente Hills Mall, 1560 S Azusa Ave, City of Industry, CA 91748. The WGB itinerary was as follows:

Coach Buses Load 8:30 – 9:00 am
Departs Hotels @ 9:00 am
Discussion Panels @ 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Lunch @ Noon – 1:00 pm
Proclamation & Dinner @ 6:30 – 7:30 pm
Flux Capacitors warm up crowd @ 7:30 – 8:00 pm
Screening of Part 1 @ 8:00 – 10:00 pm

The discussion panel schedule was as follows:

10:00 am – Michael Scheffe / Kevin Pike – DeLorean design / build
1:00 pm – Artie Schmidt / Harry Keramidas – Editing
1:45 pm – Rick Carter / John Bell – 2015 – CANCELLED
2:30 pm – David DeVos – The Ride
3:15 pm – Michael Klastorin – Publicity and BTTF Ultimate Visual Guide
4:00 pm – Dennis Sands (scoring mixer), Mike Matessino (soundtrack producer) — Music
4:45 pm – Dean Cundey – Cinematography – PENDING SCHEDULE

The only panel of interest to us was the ‘DeLorean design / build’ but it’s quite a drive from Burbank to Puente Hills Mall and so we decided to skip the daytime activities. I heard from those who attended, that the WGB lunch vouchers weren’t accepted by the mall outlets and everyone had to buy their own lunch.

We arrived early evening to find crowds already in attendance. Most WGB ticketholders had been at the mall all day. A Twin Pines Mall sign was set up in exactly the right position. A replica of Doc Brown’s Truck was there with photo opportunities for both WGB attendees and the general public. Food was the usual food-truck experience.

Here are some photos:

A re-creation of the Libyan chase was staged. It was a pity that they didn’t re-create the iconic DeLorean emerging from the back of the truck scene. There wasn’t any special viewing position for WGB ticketholders.

Chairs were set out ready for a screening of BTTF1 – albeit on the same make-shift movie screen that had been used on previous days. Again, there wasn’t any control over the seating, with anyone able to sit and watch.

There was a really bad attempt at a Skype call to Christopher Lloyd, who was in a hotel room on the East Coast. Connection issues meant that he was barely visible or audible. This despite what seemed like a satellite van parked nearby to provide a connection. I had a 4G connection on my phone and was able to make a Skype video call home without any problems.

Everyone enjoyed the screening of BTTF1 and WGB2015 came to a close.

Obviously it was our choice not to attend the discussion panels, where a WGB wristband was required. For the evening event it made no difference at all if you had a wristband or not.

Conclusion

I’m really glad we chose to attend WGB2015. There were some great moments – many of them provided by the fans who attended. I’m sure there was a lot of work that went into the organisation, but this could have been so much better, particularly communication.

Would I consider it good value? Probably not. The event was always touted as non-profit, ‘by the fans for the fans’ event, with any surplus going to the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. There was a lot of money available from tickets and I’m sure everyone was disappointed that some of this wasn’t spent on a personal appearance by MJF and/or Christopher Lloyd.

I’ve yet to see anything related to a donation to the MFJ Foundation. Ideally, I’d like to see a set of accounts published that show where the money was spent. Please be assured that I’m not accusing the organisers of any dishonesty.

Would I go again? Well yes, but this time I’d only purchase a ticket if there was a guarantee of a personal appearance by MJF and/or Christopher Lloyd. Without that, I might be tempted if there was an event that promised to be well organised and exclusive to ticket holders only – such as a visit to the otherwise inaccessible Twin Pines Ranch. Otherwise, I’d just roll up at the publicly accessible events and join in for free.

A semi-official video of the entire event that I found on YouTube:

Makes you wonder what I’m complaining about when you watch that eh?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 73 other followers