Tag Archives: hamilton

The Best Christmas Gift I’ve Ever Received

Since Christmas is only a few weeks away, I thought I would write about the best Christmas gift I have ever received: Hamilton tickets! Last year, my boyfriend surprised me with tickets to the amazing musical in Chicago. Here’s my recap/review with as few Hamilton inside references as possible.

Our love affair with Hamilton started when we saw Lin-Manuel Miranda perform the opening number at the 2016 Grammys. I was mostly watching for Kendrick Lamar. Keith hates award shows so he was tuned out. Then they cut to the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York and from the very first beat, we were captivated. Keith downloaded and listened to the album on Spotify the following week and tried to get me to listen as well, but I was being my usual stubborn self whenever he would recommend things. Finally, during a particularly boring subway ride, I relented and agreed to listen to “My Shot”, which was super impressive, but it wasn’t until “The Schuyler Sisters” that I fell head over heels.

There have been so many articles that have showered well-deserved praise over the lyrics, the music, the characters, the story, the set design, the choreography, the cast, so I don’t have to do all that here. I simply want to share my experience seeing Hamilton live in the CIBC Theatre formerly the PrivateBank Theatre in Chicago.

We live in Toronto, Canada, so New York and Chicago were the two obvious choices to see Hamilton. According to Keith, Hamilton NYC tickets were still even more impossible to get so he decided on trying his luck with Chicago. He scored tickets but then had to exchange them when I booked my trip to the Philippines for my maternal grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary. We decided to make a trip out of it as well since I had never been to Chicago, plus I had family there. A week before we were supposed to go, my dad called from the Philippines with bad news. My paternal grandfather had just passed away. Luckily I was able to work it all out, make it home in time for the funeral and back in time for Chicago.

I remember feeling so hyped but also a bit nervous as we made our way to the room where it happens. I had listened to the cast recording so many times and I have stalked the original Broadway cast on social media and I built it up so much in my head that there was just no way it could ever deliver, right? I am happy to report that it met and even surpassed my highest expectations. Hamilton on stage is a masterpiece. Before I get into the specifics, I’ll start with general thoughts for those of you who know next to nothing about the musical.

I fully believe that Hamilton is a musical for everyone and how lucky are we to be alive right now. It’s for people who love musicals and those who can’t stand them. It’s for fans of hip-hop and history. It’s for the ones that can afford the hefty price tag and the ones that win the Hamilton lottery for two tickets at $10 each. The songs are catchy, the lyrics are clever and the story will suck you in and refuse to let go until the inevitable standing ovation. Most importantly, it’s a musical that reflects America’s diversity. Representation matters and by casting Hamilton with actors of colour, a powerful message is being sent. As I write this, the West End production just had its premiere and I am ecstatic that two out of the three Schuyler sisters are Filipino! Plus the fact that women play such a big part in the story is the cherry on top.

Going back to the Chicago production we saw, the cast was phenomenal. Every single one of them sang and acted their asses off. Miguel Cervantes was a great Hamilton, so sure of himself as the actual Hamilton most likely was. Our Burr was Gregory Treco and he absolutely slayed it. He commanded the stage every time he was on. King George was too funny. Since a few actors play two characters, it’s natural to compare their performances. Chris De’Sean Lee was a good Lafayette but a better Jefferson. The Sisters were awesome and my favourite was definitely Aubin Wise as Peggy/Maria.

As for the theatre, we found it super convenient to get to and it’s very pretty. We were sitting in the mezzanine – right circle, row J, seat 320 and 322. Even though we weren’t that close to the stage, we loved our seats because it allowed us to see the full genius of the choreography. I need to see it again because I’m sure I missed things.

For souvenirs, I had to get a Schuyler Sisters shirt and Keith got one with the Chicago flag on it, even though he’s from St. Louis and he hates the Cubs. That’s how much he enjoyed Hamilton Chicago.

Now I wouldn’t go so far as to recommend mortgaging your house to get tickets, but definitely if you have the chance to see any production of Hamilton, do not throw away your shot. I will forever be grateful to have had the opportunity to see it live and we’re already on the waiting list for when Hamilton comes to Toronto.

For more about our Chicago trip and my recommendations, check out my post on the Windy City.

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We’ll Always Have Paris

img_7479First Impressions

Keith and I were coming into Paris from very different standpoints. He doesn’t speak French and has never been before. He’s slightly intimidated by the city’s size and reputation. I, on the other hand, fluent French-speaker and second-time visitor, could not wait to be back in the city of lights. I adored my high school trip to Paris and I guess I did romanticize it a bit since I didn’t remember it smelling like pee so much the last time.

Accommodation

Our second Airbnb experience went just as well as the first. Check-in and check-out was a breeze. Luckily the heat wave did not follow us from Brussels to Paris so the lack of air conditioning wasn’t a problem. The six flights of stairs however were not fun. At least we had a view of the Eiffel Tower which made it worth it, in my opinion. The place was tiny though, unlike the apartment in Brussels. Everything, from the bed, the kitchen, the shower and the toilet was crammed together, not an inch of space was wasted. Located in the 10th arrondissement, we really enjoyed how close it was to Gare du Nord train station and several metro stops. Plus the neighbourhood which was near the Canal Saint-Martin was super charming.

Getting Around

img_7370The Paris metro system is a modern marvel. There are so many lines that it doesn’t matter where in the city you end up, there is always a station nearby that connects to somewhere you’re going. I’m convinced that even if you don’t speak French, you will be able to figure it out. If you don’t want to take advantage of the metro for some unknown reason, then walking is the next best thing. The streets of Paris were super easy to navigate, I found. Keith said I looked like I had lived there all my life with the way I zipped around all over the city. The highlight of our transit experience was riding the driver-less metro train.

Attractions

We had reconciled with the idea that it would be impossible to see all or even most of Paris in three days. We also had two of our friends who were there at the same time and had to adjust our itineraries accordingly. Our first day there, we just walked around our neighbourhood, passed Porte Saint-Denis and had dinner near Les Halles.

img_7389On the second day, a Monday, we explored the Canal Saint-Martin in the morning, where there was more locals around than tourists. Then in the afternoon, we walked from our apartment to Notre Dame, passing City Hall on the way. Avoiding the line to go in, we opted to just walk around and stay in the surrounding park. We crossed the Seine to get to the Latin Quarter, stopping by several bookshops like Shakespeare & Co. and Album Comics. I really enjoyed this neighbourhood and I loved just walking along the river. We caught a glimpse of the Sorbonne and then crossed a bridge again to find ourselves on Ile Saint-Louis. I wish we could’ve stayed a little longer on the island since I felt like I could pass a day just getting lost in the streets but we were trying to get to Place de la Bastille. Funny anecdote, once there, our friend asked if that was all there is. I had to remind him that the Bastille was torn down. He was unimpressed that only an obelisk stood in the middle of the square where the prison once stood.

Our last full day in Paris, a Tuesday, was spent hitting the big tourist spots: Trocadéro, Eiffel Tower, Champ de Mars, Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Élysées. A memory that’s so vivid in my mind from my first trip to Paris was exiting the Trocadéro subway station and rounding the corner to be hit by the view of the Eiffel Tower. Recreating that moment with Keith was very special. Then on our way to the Arc de Triomphe, we passed by the Place des États-Unis, which Keith appreciated, being American.

After getting some shopping done at the Champs-Élysées, we said goodbye to our friends for a little bit, since I had planned a surprise excursion for Keith. We discovered the musical Hamilton earlier this year and we have been obsessed. A key figure in the musical and in history in general is the Marquis de Lafayette. Thanks to a little research, I found out that he was buried in Picpus Cemetery, the larger and one of only two private cemeteries in Paris. Lafayette is known as the Hero of Two Worlds after being involved in both the American and French revolutions, which is why an American flag is permitted to fly above his grave at all times and he is buried in American soil that he brought back from his visit to the US. Aside from Lafayette’s tomb, it also has two mass graves of the victims executed by guillotine during the Reign of Terror. The cemetery itself is very peaceful and secluded. While we were there, we didn’t encounter anyone else. It was the only time during our entire trip that Keith and I found ourselves completely alone in public. If you’re looking to visit a site that’s off the beaten path, this would be my recommendation.IMG_7547.jpg

Food Recommendations

IMG_7349.jpgA friend of ours from university gave us an extensive list of restaurant recommendations and I cannot thank her enough for them. For the best brunch, go to Holybelly which was super close to our apartment. It gets very busy though and we had to wait awhile but it was all worth it, especially since we were celebrating a friend’s birthday. Everything from Du Pain et des Idées was phenomenal. But my favourite meal of the entire trip has to be the pizza at Pink Flamingo. I didn’t believe it when people told me to eat pizza while in Paris but there’s something about it that makes it so good. Plus Pink Flamingo has amazing flavour combinations: I got the paella one. All of these restaurants are around the Canal Saint-Martin, which has got to be my favourite discovery during my second time in Paris.

IMG_7577.jpgWe also had crepes near the Champs-Élysées and of course got some macarons from Ladurée. Plus one night we hit up one of the grocery stores near us for some charcuterie and cheese to go with our baguette from Du Pain et des Idées. The cheese we got had cumin in it which was amazing.

Souvenirs

If you’re brave enough to try and fly macarons back, then by all means. I was not and instead opted to buy French soaps to give out as gifts instead. For myself, I also brought back a Longchamp bag since they were way cheaper to buy there than back in Canada.

Final Thoughts

img_7583While we didn’t go to the Louvre or visit Montmartre, I think we took full advantage of our short trip to Paris. It is one of my favourite cities in the world and I could see myself living there. I love the Parisian way of living, taking the time to enjoy everything from an espresso to an expensive meal. I didn’t mind the holier-than-thou attitude we sometimes got in but Keith wasn’t having it. He attempted to order a coffee in French and was met with a blank stare. So Keith liked it the least out of all the cities we visited but on our last night, when we had an impromptu meet-up with two more of our friends who just happened to be there too and sat outside a café drinking and laughing the night away, I knew Paris was finally growing on him.

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