Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan

I don't usually blog about my travels in detail but I received a bunch of questions about my recent trip to Universal Studios Japan's The Wizarding World of Harry Potter that I decided to just write about it here.

Some quick details: My friends and I stayed at a small hotel along both Osaka's Chuo and Sennichimae lines, which was just a quick ride to Universal City. We headed to the JR Osaka Loop Line's Nishi-Kujo stop, and then crossed to the JR Yumesaki platform heading to Sakurajima. Universal City is two stops away from Nishi-Kujo and the entrance to USJ is a few hundred meters outside the station.

Prior to going there, we had already discussed being at USJ by 8:00 AM. Unfortunately, we were still at Nishi-Kujo station by that time, so we knew we were running a little later than schedule. It turned out that the few minutes weren't a problem. We decided to purchase our tickets at Hotel Kintetsu Universal City, which is the nearest hotel to USJ and is on our way from the station. The ticket counter opened at exactly 8:30, but since we were third in line, we got our tickets right away.

We already had our tickets by the time we passed this arch.

I don't know how early the main ticket booth opened, but by the time we got to there, there were already lines at the counter (but all moving quickly). But no, those were not the long queues you should be wary of. Everyone else was now queued up by the gates, waiting for them to open. There's a special line for guests who can enter earlier; just be sure to find the correct lines. We were there on a Thursday and though the website said that the park opened at 10:00 on that day, we were let in by around 9:15 (9:00 for the special pass holders).

Once the gates opened, there was a mad dash to the Harry Potter area, located near the lakeside (turn right after Main Street or just follow the crowd). From reading a few early blog entries AND USJ's official site, we all knew that there were timed tickets to the Wizarding World attraction. So when everyone started running, we ran for it as well. My friends and I got separated at this point and I belatedly realized that we had not discussed where to meet once this happened. I just kept running to the area and looking for a kiosk or ticket machine with a long line.

There was none I could see.

At this point, I had stopped to catch my breath and was now just walking along Forbidden Forest. I was still in a hurry wondering: (1) where my friends were, and (2) where the ticket machine was.

Past the Whomping Willow, still no queue.

Already inside Hogsmeade, still no queue. (Also, you don't think I took these photos while I was running, right?)

More alarmingly, still no sign of my friends. People were running deeper into Hogsmeade and towards Hogwarts Castle, so I decided to ask one of the attendants around.
Me: (in English) Is there a ticket for this area? (Because hey, everyone said there was!)
Attendant: (looking surprised by the question) No, no ticket. (Maybe she was thinking, What the hell are you doing here if you don't have a ticket?)
Me: (thinking, hmmm maybe she didn't understand me. Time to bring out my laughable Japanese) Uh... koko... kippu... arimasu ka?
Attendant: (in English) This area, no tickets.

Twilight Zone. Okay, no tickets. I'm not going to question the fates. I was already in, right? (But why were people still running?)

Just follow the signs!

I thanked her and jogged to the castle anyway, since I saw people heading there. That's when I foundnd the longest queue I've seen so far. And finally, my friends were there! We lined up and soon realized that the queue was for the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride and a trip through Hogwarts Castle. I didn't want to go on the ride, so I went through the separate entrance for those who just want to go on the Castle Walk. You get to walk through the same thing that the ride-goers go through before the Forbidden Journey starts, but since there are less of us in our lane, we weren't rushed by the attendants.




Once we were through with the Castle Walk, we decided to explore the rest of Hogsmeade. From butterbeer to robes to owl posts to wand selection, there was a surprise waiting at every corner.





We did not expect the long line at Honeydukes so we decided on lunch at Three Broomsticks first. The meal is more expensive than usual, but I thought the serving size was just right and the interiors made it feel like you were really there.


Details are everything!

Finally, when we got to Honeydukes, we made a beeline for the chocolate frogs and peppermint toads...

only to find out that there are small kiosks outside that sell the more popular items like the frogs and the every-flavored beans.

But then again, who would pass up the chance to enter Honeydukes, right?

So the timed entry tickets? Not yet applicable for early park-goers, it seems. I think it depends on how many people are in the attraction before any sort of timed entry applies. If you're there when the main gates open, I suspect that you could still enter the Wizarding World without running from the main gate. But please note that we were there on a Thursday in the fall, which could have been part of the off-peak season. I don't know how applicable these tips are if you're heading there around the holidays. The golden rule is still the earlier, the better, which is also a good way to avoid the crowds. The timed entry tickets seem to take effect later on, maybe when the attraction is at full capacity or maybe an hour or so in the day. In any case, when we left, we already saw that the area had been closed off and attendants would look for the guests' timed entry tickets before allowing them into the Harry Potter world.


If you plan on going to USJ, make this attraction your first stop. The place is beautiful. Not everyone gets the chance to walk through the pages of a beloved story and this experience just made Harry Potter come alive for me. I didn't regret a single minute.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

The Kitchen When It Sizzles Blog Tour + Giveaway



Title: The Kitchen When It Sizzles
Author: Chrissie Peria
Date of Publication: August 16, 2014

About the Book:
Olivia Nadal is an almost perfect girl with an almost perfect life. She has stunning good looks, an exciting job that pays well, men lining up to date her, and a homey little condo she calls her own. The only thing keeping her from perfection is her utter inability to cook.

Enter Nate Olivarez, a hotshot chef who's filling in for Olivia's cooking instructor. Sparks fly when they meet, but a fling with the visiting hottie is the last thing Olivia needs. But as things keep heating up in the kitchen, she can't help but wonder. Can things work out between her and Nate? Or is the sizzle all set to fizzle?

You can purchase the book through any of the following links:
Amazon
Smashwords
The Book Depsitory

Today, we've asked Chrissie herself to talk more about her latest novella. Little did we know that after she released her indie novella All's Fair in Blog and War last year, she would take on a steamier piece!

What prompted you to write a more mature story?
The Kitchen When It Sizzles started as a short story for Mina Esguerra's #steamyreads writing class. It was outside of my comfort zone, but it sounded like a fun challenge to take on, so I signed up. Then the 5,000 word short story exploded and the next thing I knew, I had a full novella. I find it funny that the short story ended up longer than my first book which was intentionally written as a novella. I lay the blame on Nate and his food.

Do you have pegs for your characters?
Yes! Olivia is a compendium of a lot of the AEs I've worked with during the advertising days. Miss Julia is a bit of Julia Child and a lot of Nora Daza (a woman who mesmerized my generation with her cooking show). And Nate---Nate is Adam Levine in chef's whites. Or rather, out of them. I am a fangirl, hear me roar.

How different was your writing process for The Kitchen When It Sizzles compared to writing your first novella?
The main difference between writing The Kitchen When It Sizzles and All's Fair in Blog and War was not having a deadline, other than my self-imposed ones. I allowed myself a little more leeway with editing Kitchen Sizzles. I had time to do more rewrites. And coming from my first novella, I learned to be less attached and more ruthless when it came to revising, trashing whole chapters without batting an eyelash. Whole characters, even. But I'm happy with how it turned out.

What should readers expect from your third book?
I have a couple of projects simmering in the backburner, so I'm not quite sure what will come out next. I'm heavily leaning towards another sweet contemporary romance, but a YA project and a steamy story are struggling to convince me otherwise. They all have romance angles though, so the one thing sure in the third book will be a whole lot of kilig. I hope everyone looks forward to it!

About the Author:
When not obsessing over fictional people doing fictional things, Chrissie obsesses about food: the eating, the cooking, and the procuring of it.

An advertising copywriter in her past life, she now spends most of her time writing, taking photos, cooking, and babysitting a tiny human and a curly-haired dog. She still plays with dolls and she thinks that bacon is the answer. Her first book, All's Fair in Blog and War, is a finalist in the 2014 Filipino Readers' Choice Awards.

Contact Info:
• Blog: http://www.chrissieperia.com
• Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/peria.chrissie
• Twitter: http://twitter.com/chrissieperia
• Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/chrissieperia

Now show her some love by joining in this awesome giveaway! You can get a chance to win the following prizes, which I bet are all Nate-approved.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Weekend Prompt | Sept 27-28


After watching Rurouni Kenshin The Legend Ends and all the trip-planning that my friend Liv and I have been doing, I've noticed how many things and tidbits about Kyoto interest me. There's a place in particular that I want to visit but... never mind. We'll see how it works out when I post this week's fic. Happy weekend everyone!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Weekend Prompt #3 | The Lucky


The Lucky

When the phone rang, we thought we were the lucky ones.

Mother was already insisting that we pack even before the call was over. Carl and I both decided it was futile to bring our usual stuff, the ones that accompanied in sun and shadow, the ones that could still bring traces of the fallout with us. So we dug inside our deepest closets for old clothes and unearthed memories, a life interrupted. I reached for the yellowed albums and the pictures that hung on our walls.

"Leave them," she snapped. "We don't have a second to lose."

We were ready in ten minutes, in slightly new hazmat suits, huddled in the dark living room and mentally counting down the minutes. Mother had already locked each door behind us. We heard the rumbling of a large truck, we ran outside. The house was in a sorry state, with aluminum foil on the windows and broken plumbing, but it had been ours and that was all that mattered to me.

Carl left his guitar on the porch. I ran after my brother, fingers reaching towards the truck that would take us to safety. What we didn't know was that it was already inside, racing through our bloodstream, counting down each precious minute of our borrowed breaths.

---

Copyright 2014
C.Mariano
Sept 23, 2014

NOTE: This prompt came from a college friend.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Weekend Prompt | Sept 20-21

Last week was a really busy week for me, which was why I was a few days behind with posting. Hoping to get some work in this weekend. But if you're not as busy as I am, please check out the 35th Manila International Book Fair at the SMX Convention Center, Mall of Asia. I visited it during opening day with my students and came home with eight books (three for me), three magazines, and a treatise on textile conservation.

Also, I was chatting with an old friend when he mentioned #weekendprompt. His, but then I thought, why not mine? I think prompts should come from everywhere. Plus it seemed like a good one, especially in this weather.


Let's hope your weekend's better. Stay safe and dry, everyone!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Weekend Prompt #2 | Noticed


Noticed

Masayuki keeps the end of his tie in his left pocket; keeping it company is the list of complaints that he has about Kashima. He takes great care not to let her see it--not that he has any difficulty expressing his displeasure at nearly everything she does.

#5. She flirts with every girl in sight.
Thankfully not Sakura or Seo, but maybe it's more to their credit than Kashima's. It grates on him daily, this ability of hers to make a girl swoon or send her into excited fits. If he liked a girl (not that he did, mind you) he thinks that he'll be more straightforward about it. None of these flirtatious gestures or honeyed lines. Those are just too much like the plays he puts on, a pretense for an audience, someone else's words on his lips. He'll be different. He'll just tell her directly: 'I like you. Will you go out with me?' Yep. Sounds right. He does not care for swooning.

#7. She never pays attention.
Someone once told him that Kashima was his favorite headache, but that's giving her too much credit. Masayuki has had it with the reprimands. Some days he admires her carefree ways but on most, he finds that she is too much for him to handle. She doesn't listen anyway. Maybe directness is a virtue, but only in all things not involving Kashima.

#10. Her legs are too long.
Masayuki can blame his own build--too short, always too short--but this is Kashima's list and he'd rather take it out on her. Her legs make catching up with her a logistical nightmare. She'll already be halfway across campus by the time he pauses for breath. Her legs were slim and shapely but dug into the ground with the power of an athlete, kicking up dust with every elegant stride, and he's chasing, always chasing.

#14. She does not mind inconveniencing him.
Like now. Her head on his lap is heavy and she's rolling around as if trying to find the best position. He stiffens when the back of her head brushes too close to him, but then she is rolling again, this time too close to the edge of the seat that he wants to reach out and pull her back. She is thoughtless and inconsiderate in most things, and not even his arm across her shoulders--dragging her to rehearsals, pulling her back from a throng of adoring fans, or keeping her from falling while a King Game is going on--is enough to anchor her to him.

#20. Her legs are too long.
Her skirt is hiked up above her knees, and Masayuki tries not to look. Instead he closes his eyes and imagines himself elsewhere; older, maybe, or more sophisticated, and this time when he tells a girl, 'I like you. Will you go out with me?' she does not say a word. Instead she lifts one creamy leg off the bed, her skirt gliding across her thighs, waiting for him to notice her.

---

Copyright 2014
C.Mariano
Sept 18, 2014

NOTE: This was written in response to a Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun prompt.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Weekend Prompt | Sept 13-14

I love anime and one of my latest faves is Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun. Here's an interesting article to help explain my obsession.

Curiously, I'm more drawn to a minor pairing than the mine one, and it turns out I'm not the only one. This couple topped a recent poll as the readers' favorite pairing. I like how deceptively simple their relationship seems on the surface (she's the playboy school prince; he's her club senior and clearly fed up with her antics). But watch a bit more and you see their careful dance around each other, despite their blunt words and harsh actions.

So here's my latest prompt, the official art that accompanied the poll. This will be my last anime-related prompt/fic for this month (though to be fair, the first prompt wasn't anime-related at all, just the resulting fic), I promise:

Yup, my mind went there.