Reflections #11: Dark Tourism, Dining in the Jungle and Memorable London Tours

Dutch Girl in London sitting by Van Gogh blue plaque

On the last Sunday of the month I always look back on what I’ve been up to in the past weeks. What were my personal highlights? What films and series did I watch? What exhibitions did I visit and which countries did I travel to? Find the answers in my Reflections on July.

My only travels this month brought me to the jungle…

Although I truly enjoy travelling, I also appreciate being at home. So I quite enjoyed the fact that I didn’t need to go anywhere in July. Especially since the next months are already packed with various trips. However, I did manage to go the jungle this month. Just a quick visit for dinner.

How? Well, I visited the Rainforest Café in London! Ha ha, confused you there, didn’t I? When my bestie and her family came to London from the Netherlands, I figured this would be a great dining option for the kids.

Rainforest Café London

If you’re looking for a family-friendly restaurant in Central London, then this is a good option. However, considering its prime location in ‘Tourist Central’ (close to Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square) it’s also rather pricey. And don’t come here if you’re in need of some peace and quiet. Besides the noise of all the excited kids, they also have frequent simulations of tropical thunderstorms which are L O U D. Otherwise it’s a fun experience to eat dinner in a rainforest setting, surrounded by all sorts of tropical animals.

Dark tourism and my Singapore shopping malls survival guide

Regular readers should know by now I also write for my travel blog Done That Been There. After all, I try to mention it as much as I can here. It’s the only spam I allow on this website ha ha! In July I wrote two blog posts on there which are entirely available in both Dutch and English.

1. Dark tourism: a visit to an abandoned Dutch theme park

the abandoned Dutch theme park Land van Ooit

There’s nothing more creepy, yet simultaneously intriguing, like an abandoned theme park. Sometimes the reason for the derelict site is a natural or even nuclear disaster, serious accident or bankruptcy. The latter happened to the now abandoned theme park Land van Ooit (Land of Ever) in the Netherlands. I grew up just 15 minutes from there and visited it in its heyday. Recently I went back after a long time and stumbled upon the surreal scene you can see in the photos here: Abandoned theme park Land van Ooit: a visit to a Dutch ghost park.

2. Singapore shopping malls survival guide

Inside the luxurious shopping mall The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore

For this article I had to relive some traumatic experiences we had during our trip in Singapore early this year. When we got lost for hours in several of the humungous Singapore shopping malls. And based on these ‘adventures’ I wrote this survival guide, just so you might make it out safe and sound in case you visit.

I hope you understand this is exaggerated and should be taken with a ‘crumb of salt’ as we say in Dutch. However, I’m not exaggerating about the fact we got stuck in various shopping malls, hours at end. You can read all about our hilarious experiences here: Singapore Shopping Malls Survival Guide.

A day spent at Tate Britain

Hubby and I spent several hours at Tate Britain one day this month and ticked off several exhibitions off our list:

The first one was the blockbuster show on Dutch painter Van Gogh. However, if you’re thinking to go, you might want to reconsider. First of all, it’s extremely busy as it’s incredibly hyped up in the press.

Crowds at the Van Gogh exhibition in Tate Britain

And secondly, considering Van Gogh didn’t start painting till after he left Britain, there’s not much of his artworks in the exhibition. To me it felt more like Tate took the Van Gogh theme as an excuse to showcase other artworks they had sitting in their archive.

Although I always appreciate it when an exhibition provides a context for an artist’s sources of inspiration, it felt the possible British influences on Van Gogh’s works were a bit too forced in a way. For example, on display were books he ‘might have read’ while he was here to artworks and landscapes he ‘might have seen’. All in all, it just didn’t sit right with me. But I did see some of his sketches and beautiful drawings like the one below, I didn’t know about beforehand.

Two artworks by Van Gogh at Tate Britain

A far more interesting (and quieter) exhibition currently at Tate Britain is Frank Bowling‘s colourful and thoughtful paintings.

Frank Bowling exhibition at Tate Britain

Frank Bowling exhibition at Tate Britain

And after all that art…

We went to see our friends of the Dutch National Ballet Junior Company at the Royal Opera House in London. Hubby had written the music for one of the pieces that night, the highly entertaining and interactive dance performance Fingers in the Air, by choreographer Juanjo Arques.

Dutch National Ballet Junior Company at the Royal Opera House

A visit to The Tide, London’s newest leisure destination

July also saw the festive opening of London’s newest urban destination of Greenwich Peninsula. The Turning Tides Festival was filled with music, wellness events, talks, installations and more, spread over two weekends.

The Tide walkway at Greenwich Peninsula

Hubby was also part of this opening weekend and had made a soundtrack for The Tide, an elevated walkway along the Thames. You can listen to the soundtrack for free on Spotify here: Undercurrent by Scanner.

The Tide walkway has been designed by the same architects of New York’s High Line and along the route you can find meditation spots, Damien Hirst sculptures, trees and captivating views of the Thames of course. If you want to find out more about it, head over to my article The Tide Is High and It’s Coming For You – Welcome to Greenwich Peninsula.

Listening to hubby's sound installation for The Tide

Listening to hubby’s sound installation for The Tide

In July I wrote the following blog posts on Dutch Girl in London

Screenshots of blog posts written on Dutch Girl in London in July

  • The Dutch Girl Tales #16: Nog even over Vaderdag: In the July edition of my monthly Dutch blog post I wrote about my sweet father as a belated Father’s Day present. It’s a very personal and also moving story which brought tears to many. If you could use a good cry but can’t read Dutch, you might want to drop the URL in Google Translate.
  • 5 Books About London I Love: London is a city that is full of surprises and here’s five books that offer up different ways of seeing the metropolis. From the islands that people live on, to moving stories from a different generation.
  • My 10 Favourite Dutch Sayings Featuring Food: Following last year’s popular blog post with some hilarious Dutch sayings about animals, I wrote a similar post but this time chose sayings about food.

My first London tour with visually impaired participants

The school holidays are peak season for my London walking tours and I’ve welcomed some lovely groups already this summer. However, the most memorable tour this summer would be the group of visually impaired youngsters who visited from Belgian with their school supervisors. This turned out to be their first trip abroad, so I did feel some pressure to make this a pleasurable and fun experience for them.

I was a bit nervous beforehand, but that was so unnecessary as they were one of the most fun and attentive groups I’ve ever had on my tours. I received a grateful email from the school afterwards and I’m so happy I made a small contribution to their London experience.

What I’ve been up to for the rest of July? Mostly bingewatching my ass off!

Looking at my monthly reviews, I notice I hardly watch films anymore. Instead my lists are mostly filled with various series.

I guess hubby and I have been hit by the bingewatch virus big time!

How come? I guess partly because they make more high-quality series nowadays. But also technology plays a big part in this. I mean, you can download several episodes within a few minutes on your phone and just watch it offline anytime it suits you!

At the moment we’re in the middle of the seventh, and final, season of Orange Is the New Black. So far it’s all rather grim, but I guess it reflects the harsh reality of prison life. I’m hoping for a happy end for most of the main characters, but doubt that will happen.

Below you see a list of the films and series I’ve seen this month. I’ve marked my recommendations with a *.

Series

  • *Big Little Lies SE01
  • *Chernobyl
  • *Dead to Me SE01
  • What We Do in the Shadows SE01
    (Based on the film which I reviewed here: What We Do in the Shadows.)
  • What If SE01
  • *Stranger Things SE03
    The best viewed series on Netflix and I totally understand why! The latest season is much darker than the previous ones, but there’s plenty of room for humour and romance.

New in the cinema

  • Midsommar
    I’m not a great horror fan (anymore), but wanted to see this one in the cinema because our friend The Haxan Cloak did the music for it. Fortunately for me, Ari Aster’s second film (Hereditary was his first) wasn’t scary at all. Why the critics keep saying his films are terrifying is quite beyond me to be honest.
  • *Toy Story 4
    I enjoyed this latest instalment in the Toy Story series more than I expected. Guaranteed fun for young ánd old!
Revisited in the cinema

  • Jaws (1975)
    This year marks its 44th birthday which seems to be an odd number for a special screening. But since I wanted to rewatch it for a while now, I figured there wouldn’t be a better place to see it than in the cinema. In my opinion the special effects still looked great. I didn’t think the shark looked clunky or silly. I had more problems with the slow-moving pace of the second part of the film which could’ve been at least 20 minutes shorter.
  • *The Matrix (1999)
    I was 20 when this philosophical science-fiction first came out 20 years ago, ooph…
    I was absolutely blown away by it at the time. Even now, it still looks good, the pace and story still work and most of the music too, only scenes with ‘club music’ feel dated. On the whole, it actually made me want to rewatch the rest of the trilogy. 

Films (re)watched at home

  • *Adrift
  • *Black Panther
  • *Hot Fuzz
  • *Shaun of the Dead

So far my personal highlights of this last month.
Tell me, what have you been up to in July?
Best, Zarina xx

3 thoughts on “Reflections #11: Dark Tourism, Dining in the Jungle and Memorable London Tours

  1. Esther van den Bergh

    As always a busy month! Good to hear your tour with visually impaired participants went so well!
    Shame about the Van Gogh exhibition. A bit far fetched it seems to me, to do it like this.
    Is it often that there are like 3 different exhibitions in the Tate that are interesting and which you can go and see on one day? Isn’t it exhausting? So much impressions at once?
    My month was mostly dominated by the very, very hot weather. With temperatures up to 40* C it was really very exhausting for me. Above 25* C I prefer not to go outside anymore, above 30* C I can only sit on the couch. And now even 40*C!!! Unbearable for me. So happy with the temperature now!
    Also I had a stomach lining infection all of a sudden, couldn’t eat for 1,5 days and only light food for a few days afterwards. I don’t think I ever had such pain in my stomach before, even one simple sip of water felt like my stomach was burning up. I was fortunate it cleared quickly after my GP prescribed some medication. I actually hardly ever have stomach issues so this was a nasty surprise.
    The week after, I had my Canta breaking down on me on the road, for the first time in the 8 years I am driving it, outside Hoofddorp, in the middle of nowhere. It took 3 hours sitting in the Canta, in the rain, before I was picked up and brought home, with some help of a nice occupant of one of the few houses along this road. I always make sure my phone is charged, I always carry water with me and when I make a longer trip (which was the case) I also always bring something to eat. And I was so glad I did! Had to cancel some appointments for it took a whole week before I got it back. Waaijenberg checked everything and found some more problems. Hopefully I can drive around again without any troubles!
    All of a sudden I was made aware (again) how immobile I am without the Canta, it is really hard to always have to ask others to pick you up or bring you somewhere. It is such a blessing to go to places independently! This was another one for the ‘grote avonturenboek’! 🙂
    Also a wonderful visit to the contemporary art garden of De Fundatie, a little bit outside of Zwolle. Had a great day with afterwards a visit to the old city center of Deventer. I had never been there and was driven around in my wheelchair. Beautiful city center, very old and really wel preserved and restored. A great dinner at a Turkish/Kurdish restaurant and the drive home not over the highway but a ‘green route’. Fantastic day, and again one thing I can take of my bucket list.
    Liefs xx

    1. Dutch Girl in London

      Wow, you’ve had quite a ‘bewogen’ month! I think I missed your stomach problems, glad it only lasted for a few days as it sounds so painful! Any idea what caused this?
      Yes, both Tate Modern and Tate Britain are massive museums and tend to have several temporary exhibitions at the same time. Usually two would be bigger and then also some smaller ones. Yes, it can get exhausting, but London is exhausting as it is anyway so you get used to it 😉
      I think I saw on FB that your Canta has been fixed again so I’m hoping you’re out and about again.
      Veel liefs! xx

      1. Esther van den Bergh

        A stomach lining infection can have several causes: among others alcoholism, Crohn’s disease, the use of certain medication or a bacteria. Since the first three do not apply in my case it had to be a bacteria. How and when I was infected, no idea!
        Indeed my Canta 🚗 is home again, it was gone for a whole week but I have already made some trips again! 😀

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