Thursday, July 10, 2008

Wednesday, June 11

We got up at 7:15 and I took my shower first. Unfortunately when getting out of the shower tub I slipped and fell (the floor of the tub was about 3 inches higher than the floor of the bathroom), bruising my right side and right arm. It shook me up because it was a hard fall but thankfully nothing was broken. Over the next couple of days, the bruises got worse and worse. This was three days later, at lunch in the Cotswolds:

Thankfully it was cool enough most of the time that I could wear a long sleeved sweater so it was covered.

Our intention was to be at the TKTS booth in Leicester Square by 9:30 (for half price theater tickets), and that’s about when we arrived. We'd stopped at a Pret a Manger, commonly referred to as Pret, on the way for breakfast. (It means "ready to eat" in French.) They're everywhere in London (literally--there are two at Trafalgar Square alone!), and they now have locations in New York City. It's basically a sandwich shop, and they also serve coffee and smoothies. Everything's pre-made, but they guarantee it's recently made, with fresh ingredients that haven't been shipped a gazillion miles or doused in chemicals or processed to oblivion. So you can feel good about this fast food. You just walk in and pick it up off the shelf--super quick, if you can decide what you want, because there are many enticing options. I had egg salad, the closest thing to breakfast without meat, and it was yummy--and under ₤3 ($6), so a bargain by London standards. This is a different Pret location, to give you an idea:

And here's part of the display at the Heathrow Pret:

While waiting in line at the ticket booth, we met a very nice Australian couple visiting London for a few days during their 6-week vacation around Europe. They said it took them 9 hours to fly from Brisbane to Singapore, then another 14 from Singapore to London. Yikes! Even though we chatted for a good 20 minutes, we never got their names, so Nicole and I decided they should be Bob and Suzanna. They left their teenagers at home and this was their trip of a lifetime, they said. At first they were going to get Billy Elliott tickets, but while standing in line Suzanna said she really wanted to see Hairspray (which was full price). We decided on Sound of Music. It was between that and Chicago, and SofM just seems more British. We paid about ₤30 ($60) per ticket...can you believe that’s half price??! But it was 8th row, so that was exciting. We checked on the map where our theater, the London Palladium, was located, and then headed for the Tube, towards Shakespeare's Globe.

Alas, I forgot my 2-for-1 voucher for the Globe in the hotel room, so we had to pay full price (₤10 each). The tour was ok. I’d read that tours were led by actors, but our guide was not. She was nice enough though. At first we weren’t allowed to take photos, because the cast was on stage in costume for a press stop to promote their latest production, Merry Wives of Windsor. But then they went on a tea break (!) so we could snap away. The theater itself seems relatively small, and it's hard to believe that 1500 people can fit inside. Even harder to believe was that they used to cram 3000! You can buy tickets these days for ₤15 if you want to sit on a bench, or only ₤5 if you can manage to stand for three hours. Not me! When the tour finished, we walked through the exhibition (costumes, models of the theater, etc.) and then popped over to the Tate Modern next door just for a peek. We went to the fourth floor espresso bar for the view, but alas, the balcony was closed. Even though I’m not a fan of modern art, I couldn’t enter a museum and leave without seeing at least one piece of art, so we walked through just a few rooms--which basically confirmed my “I don’t like modern art” opinion.

We walked across the Millennium Foot Bridge and noticed that the tide was out (the Thames is a tidal river) so we found some stairs down to the shore and did a bit of beachcombing. (This is a view of the beach from our river cruise the following day.)

I’d seen Rick Steves do it on his show about London. He said you can find these little tubes that used to be filled with tobacco. People would put them in their pipes, then when they were finished, they would throw the tube in the river. There were tons of them down there! There was also a lot of broken pottery. I don’t quite know how it all go there, or how old it is*, but it’s kind of cool to find. Nicole and I could have spent hours there, but we had to move on so we could stick to our schedule. My pockets were full of pottery shards as we made our way to lunch.

*After we got back from London, I did a little research, and found this blog post about the pottery in the Thames. Fascinating!!

Back up on the bank, we found a Salvation Army cafeteria that was surprisingly chic looking,

so we had some lunch. The baguette sandwich was kind of dry but they had some hot meals to choose from that would probably be better. We also had some "strong onion and cheese" potato chips (oh, don't get me started on the Brits and their weird chip flavors again!)

At St. Paul's, we bought our tickets (there were never any lines for the attractions--I guess June is a good time to go to London) and then started the tour Rick Steves has in his guidebook. It's interesting how one half of the cathedral lives up to architect Christopher Wren’s preferences (he valued simplicity), while the other half is completely Victorian and gaudy. You can actually see the line where they changed styles. I wish we could take photos! I did sneak a couple of covert ones, of course, with my itty bitty camera.

Taken while sitting up in the Whispering Gallery, at the base of the dome.

We climbed the stairs (150 if I recall) up to the Whispering Gallery, which was so cool, because it worked! They say that the dome of the cathedral is so perfectly shaped, the acoustics are such that you can stand on one side, and your friend can stand on the other, and you can whisper to each other and hear it. It’s kind of weird! Then we huffed and puffed up the next 120 or so stairs to the first observation level, which offered good views of surrounding London. We took lots of pics, caught our breath, and then climbed the last batch of steps (about another 120) to the very top. This time we decided to count, so we would know how much further we had to go. That helped a lot. The views at the very top were spectacular. Totally worth the climb.

(Following two pics courtesy of Nicole.)

You can't get a pic of this unless you climb to the top!!

Going back down--much easier!

We took the tube back to our hotel and got changed for dinner and the play.

We tubed to Oxford Circus and ate at a Garfunkel's. It's a chain restaurant and the food is reasonably priced, more or less. We shared chicken kebabs and a mushroom lasagna. Tasty enough. The play started at 7:30, and lasted until about 10. It's a beautiful theater.

Of course it was a musical, and the lead actress looked so much like Julie Andrews. All of the cast had good, strong voices, and although parts of the story seemed rushed, overall it was very enjoyable. I really liked all the nuns singing at the end. This solidified for me the desire to see an evensong (which we ended up doing two days later). The intermission was kind of interesting...they sell ice cream right in the theater, so you don't have to go into the lobby. We still did, though, to stretch our legs. After the play ended, we went back to our room and crashed. Not before planning out the next day, though.


  1. next time you guys should check out before you wait for the booth. That way there are no worries your show won't be there when you get to the booth!

    glad to hear you had a good time though

  2. I feel as if I was there..... oh wait, I was!!!