The Crystal Maze Live Experience – Review

If you’re like me, crippling anxiety would have stopped you from playing the real life televised Crystal Maze in the 90s. But you can’t deny that we all REALLY wanted a go.

Fortunately for us, there’s a place in Manchester that provides the experience without the peril of making yourself look like a dick in front of a TV audience.

richard o brien*Harmonica sounds*

The Crystal Maze Live Experience is exactly what it says on the tin: from the theme music following you as you sprint (literally) between the four zones to the iconic “WILL YOU START THE FANS PLEASE” Crystal Dome moment. I won’t spoil anything, but there’s several classic games from the TV show, a video cameo from Richard O’ Brien and a big slide.

A BIG SLIDE. What’s not to love, I ask you.

Biggest non-surprise of the day: for all the time we spent screaming at the TV while watching competitors struggle with seemingly arbitrary tasks, it’s a lot harder than it looks in real life. Particularly when you’ve got a timer running and seven of your friends shouting instructions at you.

Level 14 judgeWe did OK though. Team Level 14 Judge!

My one disappointment was that you’re not guaranteed a commemorative crystal. There’s a Wheel of Fortune style game that gives you a chance to win a free one if you fill in a feedback form (I failed). If you’re feeling particularly flush, you can buy one from the shop on the way out, along with t shirts, jackets and other assorted merch.

At £41 it has a reasonably steep entry fee, but you can live with that and are in Manchester with a bunch of pals, The Crystal Maze Live Experience is ridiculously good fun. Shout out to “Santa”, our hilarious guide for the experience, who I’m pretty sure has never met a bunch of people more chaotic and injury prone than us.

Speaking of which – my one tip is “watch the doors”. They’re quite low and one of my friends took the skin off his head, which resulted in him having a big dorky plaster on for the group photo at the end. Nice one Dan.

crystal mazeVictory!

Macs on tour: a weekend adventure.

I’m back! Did you miss me?

I’m writing this sitting in Gatwick with a double gin. It’s doing marvellous things.

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The past weekend has been spent in England with my sister. While talking to her work colleagues she accidentally made me sound like my granny’s Labrador, who frequently ambles off into the woods and gets lost. One of her colleagues even offered to come and pick me up from the town centre and take me to the office in case I struggled.

Really, it only took four people in three countries and two continents to help me find the train I needed to be on. I don’t see why everyone is so concerned. And in my defence, Reading station is horribly lacking in information.

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Anyway, once I’d FINALLY managed to navigate the travel infrastructure of Berkshire and meet Megan, here’s some fun stuff we did:

  • Played with Alexa the Amazon Echo. After a couple of beers I realised that Alexa would play songs on request, which is frankly delightful. Unfortunately every single song we asked for was also playing on Andrew’s phone…in South Korea. At 7am. We only found out when he asked us to stop playing dinner jazz. Thank you Andrew for not playing something horrifying into my ears at 5am in retort.
  • We went to Camden Market and I was allowed to be smug since I managed to navigate back to the awesome burger place I went to last time from memory. Honest Burger, everyone. They do gluten free AND cute cocktails in tiny cups.
  • Drank warm spiced cider. Because it’s warm, it’s spiced and it’s cider.

me and megan

  • Went on a great beret hunt.
  • Sat in Zizzi between two kiddie birthday parties and had two other random children chasing each other round our table. Didn’t harpy scream at any of them.
  • Carried out some wedding planning. By that I mean we watched a lot Say Yes to the Dress and bought two magazines in M&S to read while we went to the pub.

wedding planning

On top of all this, I managed to tick off something I called out in my 2018 Challenges blog. Flew from Gatwick to Edinburgh on my own for the first time ever, which was stressful due to a) my tendency to panic and b) the fact that I really don’t like flying. It went more smoothly than I thought it would. I didn’t get lost, didn’t get swabbed, scanned, flagged or felt up at security (as I frequently do) had enough time for a gin before the flight. Even when we hit a tiny bit of turbulence just before we landed I managed to refrain from having a nervous breakdown in the arms of the poor lassie next to me.

Thanks Mini Mac – see ya real soon!

see ya real soon

Here you leave today…

Florida! The obligatory holiday roundup, delayed due to the fact that I’ve spent quite a lot of time over the past few weeks wanting to leave the planet. I ended up leaving my job instead. Oy vey.

Before we start, shout out to Dan who came round a while ago and informed me, when conversation turned to this blog, that he “doesn’t care about the content, [he’s] here for the tone and the sarcasm”. Thank you Dan, I’m delighted to learn that I’m giving the fans what they want.

The rides

Last time I came to Florida I was ten and refused to go on anything that I thought might upset my fragile disposition. For this trip I decided that since I am now (allegedly) a grown up I should probably do theme park stuff, since I’d spent an entire month’s mortgage payment on the tickets.

This approach had mixed results.

It got me on Space Mountain, which I loved, in probably the biggest surprise of the trip given my jangly nerves and my preclusion to suffer from motion sickness. I went on it three times, entertaining Megan and Andrew with my “rollercoaster noises” all the way through. (A demonstration of these noises can be provided upon request.)

Then there was Expedition Everest.

It’s worth pointing out that Megan and Andrew actively conspired to get me to go on Expedition Everest. They knew if they explained it I’d refuse, but if I enjoyed it I wouldn’t be scared any more. Exposure therapy.

So they told me it was a higher up version of Thunder Mountain. “Sounds neato!” said I, skipping into the queue.

Reader, they lied to me.

I certainly don’t remember Thunder Mountain shooting off backwards in the dark and culminating in an 80ft drop. Once I realised I’d been had all bets were off and I spent the rest of the ride terrified, which culminated in this now-iconic photo.

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At least my dad appears to have found serenity throughout the experience, whereas I could barely walk when I got out of the ride vehicle. At least my family have stopped lying to me.

Circue Du Soleil

Prior to this trip I had no idea what Cirque du Soleil was. I assumed that it was ballet-type twirlings with ribbons and shit, and I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic.

As you all know I live to be proven wrong, and I was. Highlights included the clowns – who I could have watched for an hour and a half on their own – and the little Chinese girls who have more co-ordination and talent at about ten years old than I have ever had.

Honestly if you’re anywhere in the world and Cirque du Soleil are performing, go.

My Birthday

Remember when I said I was going to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios for my 26th birthday?

I was summoned to Hogwarts instead.

So off I went to Diagon Alley to get my school supplies, including robes (which I wore until I got unbearably warm) and a wand. Ollivander’s wand shop both looked and smelled exactly like I always imagined it would, although I was quite perturbed by the face that my family kept elbowing me in the back while we were waiting.

It made sense when I was duly summoned to perform wand choosing ceremony. It’s very cool – right down to the “I wonder…” line just before you get given YOUR wand, and then the wind starts and the lights go mental like they do in the movie and CHILLSSSSSSS. My mum cried.

The whole thing is very, very authentic – there’s a real Hogwarts Express steam train, a real Hogsmeade and a real Hogwarts castle containing my favourite ride in the whole of Florida, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. I didn’t know being swung around on a hydraulic arm could be so much fun.

Miscellaneous memorable moments

  • Telling Megan and Andrew that I’d give them $10 each if they could recreate the “lift” scene from Dirty Dancing in the pool. They didn’t, but it was hilarious to watch, particularly given Andrew nearly accidentally drowned my sister.
  • “Meats cheese millet” – the ultimate gluten free breakfast.
  • Chef Brandon in the Boathouse in Disney Springs, who promised me a gluten free Bundt cake that would change my life. It did, and when I confirmed this with the waiter Brandon was duly whisked back out so I could tell him in person. He sat with us at our table, told us how to make it ourselves and then gave me his business card so I could email him when I got home if I forgot anything or had any questions. I LOVE BRANDON. He’s the real MVP.
  • Watching the video of the Irish family trying to catch the bat in their kitchen at least once every single day and laughing until we cried every time.
  • Not dying on any of the flights (score!) and only bursting into strangled tears once when we hit turbulence. Apologies to the nice Australian man on the end of our row – I was the Scot who cried and needed to pee a lot.

I miss Disney World. Who wants to go back, and drink Le Fou’s brew in the sun and watch the fireworks?

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See Ya Real Soon.

The world of Yesterday, Tomorrow and Fantasy.

I’m going to Florida with my family next month! Have I told you yet? If not, buckle up: I’m about to get really annoying for the next four weeks.

My sister – who has been at least once a year since 2014 and for whom the word “obsessed” is putting it lightly – doesn’t believe I’m excited, despite the fact that I’ve spent the past three years bawling whenever she’s shown me her photos. When we booked the flights a full twelve months ago she nearly battered me with a spade because I “wasn’t excited enough”.

She spends a lot of time watching review videos, POV videos, Vlogs and stuff. She wants me to do this too, so we can be excited together. I refuse. To quote River Song: spoilers.

I’m not unconvinced Megan moved to England earlier this year to avoid throttling me out of frustration.

So, because I’m pretty sure she won’t let me onto the plane unless I stop saying “I don’t know, everything” whenever she asks me what I’m most excited about, I’ve dug deep into my surface level knowledge of Disney World and picked the five things that have me at MAXIMUM HYPE.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

I turn 26 right in the middle of the trip. 26 is a horrible number. It’s on the wrong side of 25 and dangerously close to MY LATE TWENTIES. I will no longer fit into the 18-25 age bracket.

Obviously the way I’m going to counter this is by regressing into my ten year old self and bawling my eyes out in a Harry Potter theme park for the day. If my family don’t think I’m going to embarrass them all by running around in Ravenclaw robes with a wand and an owl under my arm then they don’t know me at all. I’M NOT SORRY.

Disney BoardWalk

I’m finding it difficult to look at the entire BoardWalk and not just shout YAAAAAAS whenever I see it. In an ideal world I’d be here most evenings. It looks AMAZING. Arcades, food, a great big lake with boats and a bar that sells eight different varieties of margarita? When can I move in?

I hope there’s mini golf. We love mini golf.

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The Magic Kingdom

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This was my first response when Megan asked me what I was MOST excited about. (I hope I’m more excited than she is in that photo.) She said “yeah, but what about it?”

Like…what do you mean, “what about it”? EXISTING THERE.

But I continue to aggravate her with vague answers, so I looked at the map as much as I could and still be spoiler free and picked the highlights.

  • Main Street, U.S.A. – they do a song and dance when the park opens and then you get to walk right up the middle to the statue of Disney holding Mickey’s hand and Cinderella Castle? SISTER HOLD ME I’M CRYING ALREADY.
  • Thunder Mountain – I HATED rollercoasters or anything vaguely scary as a child. I’m not overly enamoured with them as a bigger child, but I remember crying and freaking out on the walk up to Thunder Mountain – yes, the tamest coaster in all the land – so I’m going to on this one to prove a point.
  • The Peter Pan ride – this was my absolute favourite when I went last time because it was so pretty and chill.
  • Fantastic show – I might be cheating with this because I can’t remember if it’s in the Magic Kingdom or not but whatever, I cry every time Megan plays clips of it and I’m going to cry when we’re there. No regrets.

Epcot

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Epcot is the park that I liked the least when I was there last time. In hindsight I was probably too young to actually appreciate it since it looks cool af now. There’s Future World and fireworks and stuff, but let’s get real: hello World Showcases.

I like food and I like atmosphere. I’m very keen to inhale lots of both. There’s also a Drinking Around The World challenge, which is where you have to have a drink at each of the eleven World Showcase country pavilions in one day, sounds right up my avenue. Will I be able to walk out of the park afterwards? Who knows. I’m not sure if there’s a prize for managing it, but by the time I get there I doubt I’ll care.

Also the Epcot International FOOD AND WINE Festival is on while we’re there and y’know.

these are a fwe of my favourite things

The Disney water parks

For someone who spends so much time indoors and is paler than Casper, nothing makes me happier than brightly coloured alcohol and sun. I’m literally going to drink cocktails and spin through shades of brown faster than a Dulux mixing machine. I’m not one for flumes or being dumped into pools because I’m hopeless and I will drown, so really the rides don’t matter here and Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon are equally going to do it for me. Mainly because they’ve both got those things where you sit in the middle of a rubber ring and float round a river.

Those things are awesome.

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There you go Megan. Happy trip planning. It’s going to be awesome and I hope we’re as stylish this year as we were in 2002.

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