LondonOn the day before Christmas Eve Ruthie had kindly organised a day in London for us, including dinner and a show! Joining us on our London adventure were Ruth, Bridget and Katy, a friend of Ruth's from school. Katy was a blessing as she acted as our tour guide for the trip, and she was tall enough that we could keep an eye on her in the crowd! Actually, London was surprisingly uncrowded given that Christmas was moments away.
It was comforting to see a local using a map, and she'd even brought a guidebook with her so that we could swat up on the train. We caught the train from Bedford to St Pancras (missed the fast train by moments but I enjoyed the trip) and then the tube to St Paul's, our first stop, so that we could check out the cathedral. I love that it's in cheapside! Does this look like cheapside??
Not sure what these guys at the bottom did but it looks like they're in trouble!
From here on in my memory of the actual route we took gets a little muddy, partly because I was too busy looking at other stuff like phone boxes and taxis and bollards and architecture, and partly because I was totally and utterly lost the minute we stepped foot outside St Paul's station! London was big and maze like and confusing as anything but also so uniquely wonderful that I'd go back in a flash.
My obsession with phone boxes continues
I think maybe we took the Tube to Covent Garden. I was terribly confused by the lack of garden and spent a few hour surreptitiously looking out for it before I finally asked where it was! Seems it used to be a garden market. Now it is just plain trixie. I just loved being there, partly because it is featured in one of my favorite books but mostly because it was so alive and full of interesting shops and cobbled lane ways and good food smells. Speaking of good food, one of the big draw cards for hitting Covent Garden in the first place was so that I could stick my head into Neal's Yard Dairy (farm cheeses from the British Isles - who could resist such a byline!!), however this was the only time that being so close to Christmas bit me in the bum. The line to get into the cheese shop was ginormous, and since it was freezing I didn't want to subject our merry crew to standing around just so that I could wander in and sniff cheeses. Oh well, next time!
Neal's Yard Dairy cheese shop... And I bet it is totally worth the queue!
While in Covent Garden Katy managed to talk her way (with us close behind) into the Royal Opera House where we proceeded to the top floor tea house. We were not the best dresses people there, let me tell you, and apart from one overheard snide remark about wearing jeans we did ok. It was probably a little too cold to take our coffee and cake on the balcony but the view was worth it!
The view from the Oprea House. The markets are in the glass boxes in the middle. You can also see the Eye way out in the background.
From there we wandered through the market stalls, now selling handmade jewelery and such instead of fruit and veg, and perused some fancy dress shops mostly because they had good heating and we needed to stoke the internal fires a tad. We saw several human statues, including a gold man on a bicycle, a man dressed like a tree who spoke like a bird, and the head of a man in a dog carrier (his face was painted to look like a puppy and the rest of him was under the table that the carrier sat on). The best thing was seeing all the statues having their break and taking cups of tea together! I should have photographed them but memories of the Roman centurions at the Colluseum stopped me. Since the occasional top ups in the botiques weren't cutting it we decided to hit a classic British establishment, the pub, to warm our cockles and get some food in our bellies. Hot chips seemed to be the order of the day and boy were they good! Big, fat, hot and tatsy chips... not like the dry but greasy twiglike 'fries' that pass for chips in the US. I broke from the pack and ordered a small serve of whitebait and was awfully pleased with myself - they were delicious! (although much larger than their Aussie cousins)
From Covent Garden I think maybe we walked to Trafalgar Square, the heart of London, where we of course saw Nelson's Column and the lions but also the enormous Christmas tree that was a gift from Norway.
Trafalgar Square and the Norwegian Christmas tree
Pic of the impressive Admiralty Arch. I believe Buckingham Palace is away behind there, but we didn't drop in on the Queen.
I loved the buses too!
From Trafalgar we walked to Piccadilly Circus and the big TDK sign, which was quite surreal.
Our merry crew looking cold!
I assume this is the entrance to Piccadilly Station
We walked along the sweeping curve of Regent Street as the light was draining from the sky and suddenly the Christmas decorations were all around us and just gorgeous!
Stars on Regent Street
Giant floating snow-people
Liberty is a gorgeous old department store that we came upon at some point around here in our wanderings
After a little shopping (I just had to stop in a Ben Sherman - but the shirt I wanted was a horrible cut) we left this end of town and caught the tube to somewhere else that I forget but it had a short name, Bank maybe? We were heading to our finale of dinner and a show! Dinner was at a little Italian restaurant just near the theatre that Ruth and Katy had pre-organised, and it was a great choice. Seeing both antipasto (all meat) and spaghetti alla vongole on the menu was a definite plus for me!
After dinner (including a finaly of lemon sorbet and lemonchello!) we headed across the road to the Apollo Victoria theatre to see Wicked! And wicked it was. What a great show! I took a while to warm to it but once it got going it was just superb. Everything a good musical should be. I'd like to read the book now because the story was much more solid than I expected, but the sets and costumes were just brilliant! It's a shame you couldn't take pics after the curtain call but I guess I would have needed a much better camera to do it justice.