Our last stop on our trip is the the city of London. We have four full days and we tried to pack it full of sight seeing as well as seeing some shows at the theater. We’ve been to London briefly in the past but this trip I was looking forward to exploring London.
We started our week by hopping on a bus and heading towards the TKTS booth in Leicester square. TKTS sells tickets for various theater productions. We picked up tickets for Wicked and for Kinky Boots. We grabbed some lunch and then walked to Westminster Abbey.
Westminster was very cool to see. It’s been the center of so much ceremony over the years. It’s very ornate, even when compared to other churches and cathedrals.
After visiting Westminster, we headed back to the hotel for a break before heading out to see our first musical, Wicked.We had heard good reviews about this show, but for whatever reason, we haven’t had a chance to see it the couple of times it’s made it to Calgary. It was pretty good. The performances were good the story was ok. Essentially the Wizard of Oz told from the perspective of the wicked witch of the west.
We grabbed a pastry for dinner after the show and headed back to the hotel via the underground.
Tuesday was a bit of an odd day. The plan for the day didn’t work out as we had hoped. We purchased advance tickets to the London Eye, the big ferris wheel on the south bank of the river Thames. We hopped on our bus and made our way through the brutal London traffic to the London Eye.
The London Eye was intended to be temporary to celebrate the millennium. It turned out to be very popular and so it’s been kept on. It’s become the most popular paid tourist attraction in the U.K. The sky was clear and as a result, the view from the pods was quite spectacular. It provides a great view of the core of London including Big Ben and the parliament buildings. It’s not cheap, but a neat way to see the city.
We strolled down the bank of the river, our ultimate destination was Shakespeare’s Globe Theater which was about 2 km along the river. After stopping for a bite to eat, we made it to the Globe only to find out that the tour of the theater that we wanted to take was only offered in the morning and that there were matinee performance in the theater. We were more interested in the tour so we decided to put this off for a bit and head to Saint Paul’s Cathedral.
We walked over the millennium bridge towards St. Paul’s, only to find out that it wouldn’t be open to the public until 2:00 (it was 1:00 when we got there). So we opted to wait and join the queue to enter the church when it opened. We had an option of a live guide or listening to a recording. The live guide was great. She had a lot of passion about the church and provided lots of interesting information taking us to a couple of areas where other tourists weren’t allowed to go. It’s a spectacular space designed by Christopher Wren designed to replace a wooden church that burned during the Great Fire of London of 1666. After the tour we had the chance to explore on our own and opted to head up the 259 steps to the dome. There is a walkway around the dome. It’s very high and if you’re not good with heights, I wouldn’t recommend it. It is very spectacular though and worth the trip up.
We wanted to have one memorable dinner in London and upon the recommendation from Andrew and Amanda, we headed to Balthazar, they visited the New York version of this restaurant and had good reviews of the London version. The walk from St. Paul’s was only 2 km so we headed off for an early(ish) dinner. We arrived at 4:30 to be told we could order from a small afternoon menu or wait until 5:00 for the main dinner menu (as the kitchen was changing over). We had some wine and a bit of bread and waited for the dinner service to start. I’m very glad we did. It was the best meal of our trip. Deanna started with Escargot and I had some garlic prawns. For her main dish, Deanna had Lobster spaghetti and I had the Rib Eye. It was one of the best steaks I’ve had in a long time. Cooked perfectly and served with fries and a side of spinach. The space is inspired by French bistro style with high ceilings, red leather and brass fixtures. It’s worth a visit if you find yourself in London.
The restaurant was very close to Covent Garden which used to be a fruit and vegetable market. Now it’s just a covered shopping area. We didn’t stay long and hopped on an underground train, back to our hotel.
We started the day with a 4 km walk through Hyde park from our hotel to Buckingham Palace to watch the Changing of the Guard. We joined a few thousand of our closest friends to watch the pomp and circumstance. If there is one thing the British know how to do is pageantry. It was really interesting to watch.
We grabbed a bite to eat and then headed to the British Museum. Museums aren’t really Deanna’s thing so she opted to hang out in the cafe while I wandered about. This is a massive museum. It has collections from all over the world. A person could literally spend days/weeks wandering about looking at collections.
Our second musical that we purchased tickets for was Kinky Boots. This was a musical that we we didn’t know much about other than it was based on a true story and had some of the songs written by Cyndi Lauper. The sets were great, the music very well done and the performances were fantastic. It was funny. We would recommend it.
Today is our last full day in London. We decided to pick up tickets for one more night at the theater and decided to pick up tickets for the Book for Mormon. We really didn’t know anything about it, other than it is very popular. From the theater, we walked to the Globe in time to take one of the tours. I knew that the theater wasn’t original but I didn’t realize how ‘new’ the reconstruction was. This reconstruction opened in 1994 about 230 meters from the original site. The tours run every 30 minutes and are lead by enthusiastic guides. Prior to the tour, we made our way through an exhibition space that details some of the history of the theater, the area and of course lots of information related to Shakespeare himself. The tour was lead by a very enthusiastic guide who likely is an actor of some sort. He took us through the space and spoke about the history. It’s an active theater and would probably be a fantastic venue to see a live production of something. Another time perhaps.
We walked around a bit in the afternoon, got a waffle and took it easy. We had a generic meal at Garfunkel’s a chain restaurant. The food was fine, nothing spectacular.
We headed to the theater and settled in for one of the strangest shows we’ve ever seen. The Book of Mormon. It was profane, funny, poked fun at many religions (but most specifically the Mormon) ethnic groups etc. It was good, but very odd and we left feeling not sure what we just saw.
And with that, our trip comes to a close. I’ll write one more post with a few summary thoughts in a day or two.