Thursday, February 25, 2010

London Day 3

        On Monday afternoon, though it was very cold and foggy, we decided to go by bus to see some of the sights down by the Thames.  From Egerton Gardens, where we were staying, it was only a two block walk to the nearest bus stop. We got on the 14 bus and rode to Piccadilly Circus.  From there we walked to Covent Gardens, stopping to buy theater tickets for Thursday evening. (I’d hoped to see Jerusalem, a play that got lots of awards for its London run and will eventually make its way to Broadway next year, but the kids wanted to see Avenue Q so we got tickets for that.)  From there our plan was to get on the RV1 line that goes from Covent Gardens past the London Eye, the Globe Theater, the Millenium Bridge, the Tate, London Bridge, and the Tower Bridge to the Tower of London, getting on and off as time allowed to see the various things. 
         We went past the London Eye (which we planned to ride on the way back if the weather got less foggy) and headed first for the Globe Theater, which I wanted to see (and figured Becca might enjoy since she’d been in several Shakespeare plays at Purchase College).   In order to see the Globe, you have to go on a tour, ostensibly because they need to explain what you’re seeing.  We signed up for the next one that they told us would start in about 20 minutes, when the tour guide rang a bell.  In the meanwhile we were told to go through the exhibit hall.  Two minutes into the exhibit hall, however, the bell rang and a tour guide yelled for everyone to gather down on the main floor.  She wasn’t, however, starting the tour.  She just wanted everyone to watch the special presentation of how they dressed young men for the female parts of a play. I listened to a few minutes, but it was largely a waste of time, time that would have been better spent on looking at some of the exhibits upstairs.  About twenty minutes later, we were met by our tour guide and led up the stairs through the visitor center into the Globe itself. 
         Our tour guide was abysmal.  She spent a lot of time telling us that she was going to give us time to take photos from different angles rather than telling us much about the construction of this Globe replica.  She did tell us a little about the 1599 Globe but she had none of the “colorful stories” that were advertised in the brochure.  (I tried eavesdropping on a neighboring tour where the guide was telling such stories, but I could only pick up a little of what he was saying.)  We sat in the first level of the gallery in the open air theater getting colder and colder as she droned on about people standing in the pit to watch performances.  I would have liked to hear more about why they built the model we were standing as a circular theater rather than as an octagonal one (which is what I’d always heard that people think the shape of the original Globe Theater was) and what they’d learned from the bits of excavations they’ve been able to do at the original site.
         After she finished we were able to go out near the rectangular stage platform to take pictures.  Then we went upstairs to the second gallery level where we could sit to better see the “heavens” (the ceiling under the roof that covered the back part of the stage) and the trap door in it that allowed performers to descend from the heavens by rope and harness. The guide also pointed out the place from which the cannon that burned the Globe to the ground in 1613 would have been fired.  We glanced at it but, in truth, I was so cold that I just wanted to be inside or at least moving around again. 
       When we left the theater we decided to walk back along the Thames to the London Eye.  We headed first to the Millenium Bridge.  Then we continued past the Tate but as we got to the OxoTowers it started to spit rain and the fog got much worse.  We decided to stop for something to eat.  After that we headed out past the construction detours to find the RV1 bus again rather than walking any further. Once we got on it, we headed past the London Bridge and the Tower Bridge to the end of the line to see the Tower of London lit up in the dark. 

Thursday, February 18, 2010

London Days 1 and 2

After dropping our luggage in the flat in Egerton Gardens that we were renting (and giving Becca time to get onto the computer and IM her boyfriend), we headed out to Portobello Street Market for the first of two days of shopping. (Back to back shopping was necessitated by the fact that both of these markets are really only in true existence on weekends.) We walked to the So. Kensington tube stop (we’re about ½ way between it and the Knightsbridge stop) and made our way to Notting Hill Gate stop, which took longer than we expecte because the Circle line was down for the weekend.  We walked up into rainy winding Pembridge Road which was flooded with people shopping.  After a few blocks it was clear that Becca and Dan wanted to go much faster than Kathy and I did, so they took off to shop and we slowed down to people watch. To me the most interesting part of the experience was seeing a little of the area that had appeared in the Julia Roberts/ Hugh Grant film “Notting Hill” romantic comedy that came out about ten years ago. About an hour and a half later, we all met back at the local Starbucks, and headed to find some place for dinner.  The first several spots we tried to get in were filled so we ended up at Prince Albert’s Pub.  The food there—I had a vegetarian platter of falafel, fried zucchini, and fries—was pretty bad as were the various beers we tried.  Tired and jet lagged we headed back to the flat.
          On Sunday, Kathy, Becca and I went to Camden Markets.  (Dan had gone clubbing the night before with a friend from London and was spending the day with him.)  While the trip to Camden was longer, the market was much more interesting.  There were booths and booths of clothes, jewelry, food, and just about anything else that could be sold.  Becca developed her own style of haggling over prices (by telling a merchant that she only had a few pounds less than what he was asking to see if he’d take it for the item she was interested in). We ate lunch at “The Diner”, right around the corner from the section of the markets near the lock.  My Mexican breakfast burrito of eggs, black and pinto beans, and avocado could have used a little spice but it was much better than the previous night’s dinner.  And even though it was cold and rained off and on, the way the markets were set up made them much more enjoyable than the previous day’s shopping. (Not being as jet lagged probably helped as well.)