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Leg 5: Fun in London, Part 2 02/28/2010

Posted by Jenn in Uncategorized.
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So! Onto day two of the proceedings in London. If you thought day 1 was good…day 2 rocks harder, I assure you. However, this post is also OBSCENELY LONG, so brace yourself. :P

Woke up early, largely due to the fact that there was a window right next to my face. Awesome. But it turned out to be for the best because I managed to get a shower in before most of the other hostel-dwellers were awake. And that really WAS awesome.

Went down to the breakfast room for a drink of water before jetting down to the extremely convenient laundry room where I briefly dried my towel, because a wet towel, even a rolled up one, in a backpack all day with the rest of your clothing and other belongings is a Very Bad Idea. So that turned out well for me also. Makings of a good day already.

The consensus from the day before was that Rachel and I would meet up at the Camden Road Tube Station at 10:00, and until I was actually ON the Tube, I had no reason to suspect that this would be a problem. It was only when I looked at my phone (bearing a missed call from Rachel) and heard the train announcement blaring something along the lines of “Camden Road Station is closed, we won’t be stopping there at this time, naner-naner-boo-boo” that I realized something was amiss. So I grumbled a bit under my breath and got off at the stop BEFORE Camden Road called Mornington Crescent and waited for Rachel to return my text. She’d gotten off at the PREVIOUS station, Euston, which was rather bigger than M.C. stop. However, I talked to the nice gentlemen at the train window and they assured me that the Camden Road Markets I sought were a mere 10 minute walk up the road. Not bad, not bad at all.

But it was right around this time that I realized that apparently weekends are London’s favorite times for closing EVERY SINGLE SUBWAY LINE AND STOP THAT COULD EVER BE USEFUL ALL AT THE SAME TIME. Something in the ball-park of eight of the Tube lines were either partially closed, had stops out, or were shut down completely. *le sigh* This was especially disappointing as most of these lines were the ones that would take us to Baker Street, which was where we intended to go later in that afternoon. Oh joy, improvisation! But soon after that, Rachel arrived at the station, and we both walked up the road to the Camden Road Markets, ironically arriving at right about 10:00am as originally planned. Yay for leaving early!

For those of you unfamiliar with Camden Market…this is tragic. No, really. Camden Market is one of the coolest outdoor markets I’ve ever been to, and I’ve been to my fair share of outdoor markets. It’s actually several markets sort of loosely linked with each other, but it was a jolly good time. Here are a couple of pictures from it (sans Otto, mostly, because it was PACKED and I couldn’t be bothered getting him in and out of my backpack all the time while there.)

Heh, Super Bowl.

Saw this restaurant and giggled. Therefore had to take a picture to share. This is for the football fans, lol.

Camden Market from the bridge.

So, what happened was that Rachel and I had wandered down a street where all of the shops seemed to specialize all in the same thing: smoking accessories, tourist paraphenalia, and body jewelry. This was not necessarily a bad thing, given my desire to procure tourist paraphenalia, but made me think that everyone had lied to me about Camden Market being home to all sorts of other really nifty things. So imagine my relief at getting to the bridge across the river and looking out over a ton of shops that seemed to have OTHER things. Oh yeah. ^_^! And it was kind of pretty to look at as well. I think this was the Camden Lock Market, but don't quote me on that.

Scooter seats at Camden Market.

So we get into the cool market across the river, and what is lined up all against the walls and serving as a seating and dining area for the multitude of food stalls in the area? Little scooter seats. They're seats that look like scooters. And you get a river view and everything! Pretty cool, eh?

Camden Market Stalls.

And here are some of the market stalls themselves. All sorts of stuff from clothes to jewelry to some of the most random stuff you can think of was all over this market, as well as the one across the street that we also visited (don't know what that other one was called, but it was mostly indoor, and I didn't get any pictures of it.)

Right, so the idea was to spend a “normal” amount of time in Camden…which we didn’t realize would end up being several hours. There was simply too much to look at! Anyway, we ended up spending about three hours looking around before wandering back to the Mornington Crescent stop around 1:30pm and asking the nice train man which would be the quickest way to Baker Street, after he caught us poring over a map of the Tube closures with very considerable consternation. He gestured out the door and said that the 27 bus would take us straight there…as we watched the 27 drive away. “That’s okay,” he said, “There’ll be another one along in a few minutes.”

So with that we abandoned the concept of switching Tube lines 90 times just to get to flippin’ Baker Street and decided to take the bus instead. A big, shiny, red double-decker bus. My day was really starting to rock now. ^_^!

Me taking an awkward self-shot in a red double decker bus.

Here's me doing an awkward self-shot inside of one of London's famous red double-decker buses. (Not that you can tell from this picture what color the bus is, lol.)

So we got off of the bus and saw THIS:

HOMG, Baker Street.

HOMG, Baker Street.

And we knew we were in the right place. ^_^! We immediately set off in search of the Sherlock Holmes museum which, given our horrid sense of direction and the amount of times we seemed to get lost already that morning and the previous day, we found with relative ease. Since I took a CRAPTON of pictures here, I think I will start to let them speak for themselves from here on.

Here's the museum, as well as Miss Hudson's restaurant.

Here's the front of the museum, as well as Miss Hudson's Restaurant. (Note: not really a restaurant, as Rachel and I found out the hard way while searching for a place to eat lunch.)

The literary world's most famous address.

The literary world's most famous address, and bearing the name of its famous occupant.

Otto chills on the museum sign.

Here, Otto chills on the museum sign, which I was perfectly content to stick with until a couple of guys standing nearby (you can probably see them in the background of this picture) encouraged me to get his picture taken with the bobbie at the door of the museum.

Otto with the museum bobbie.

So I asked the nice door-bobbie and he said yes! So here's Otto with the museum's resident bobbie (or police officer) and if you'll look above both of them, you will note that, as the door to the house itself, it bears the famous address also.

The Sherlock Holmes sign.

The Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective sign. Awesome. ^_^!

Otto with the VR.

Otto poses with Sherlock's famously unique display of patriotism, the initials VR (which stand for Victoria Regina, or Queen Victoria) shot into the wall.

Now this was just too perfect.

Now THIS was just too perfect. ^_^

MORE perfection.

MORE perfection.

The violin.

Otto with the violin.

Desk of tools.

Otto and the desk of tools.

Doctor's bag.

Otto with the doctor's bag.

The desk.

Otto on the desk.

Bronze statue.

Otto on the bronze statue of Mister Holmes himself.

Jack the Ripper notice.

Otto with a wall-hanging of the Jack the Ripper notice for the Whitechapel area. Neat!

A Scandal in Bohemia (plus Otto).

So the way the museum is set up is this: The first floor has the main Holmes set up, what the rooms at Holmes' house at Baker Street must have actually resembled in Sir ACD's mind, but the floors above that are home to some rubber dummies reenacting some of Holmes' most famous cases. This is the big diorama they had set up for A Scandal in Bohemia.

Professor Moriarty.

Professor James Moriarty (plus Otto).

Holmes and Watson and Otto.

Holmes and Watson (and Otto).

Holmes, Watson, Otto and me.

Me with Holmes and Watson! (And that scary looking lady in the coffin behind me is related to the case of the Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax, if you were wondering.)

Otto and Holmes.

Otto and Holmes.

Rachel Watson and Jenn Holmes.

Rachel Watson and Jenn Holmes! *bwa ha ha ha ha ha*

Awkward self-shot of me as Holmes.

Another awkward self-shot, this time of me in Sherlock Holmes attire.

So, I really do think that the Sherlock Holmes museum speaks for itself in terms of awesome and, BONUS, admission was fairly cheap. So the museum tour concluded, and Rachel and I exited and realized something very important: we were starving. Sure, we’d had a bit of street food in Camden, but that was HOURS ago, practically breakfast. It was well past lunch time by this hour, and so we set off in search of a restaurant that was nearby that I’d been told about.

…and after a good fifteen minutes of searching, where my feet were positively screaming at me to stop, we said, “that’s it! we’re done!” and settled into the first likely looking eating establishment: The Globe. We (and by we, I mean I, for I can’t really speak for Rachel on this front) did not realize that The Globe is actually a fairly famous London pub, but upon reading that they had a Fish and Chips special going on, I was most definitely game. Eating fish and chips in a famous London pub? That’s like one of those things you can cross off of a list of “things to do before you die”. I don’t really have a list like that at this time, but if I did, I would feel fairly accomplished by this turn of events.

Fish and chips and Otto.

So here it was: Fish and chips, a pint of London ale, and Otto at The Globe in London. Awesome. And pretty tasty as well!

So we get out of The Globe, pleasantly stuffed and a bit buzzed from the novelty (and, also, the alcohol) of having a pint in the afternoon, we thought we would head over to Buckingham Palace and the associated sights in that area so as to play tourist some more. After all, it was nearly four in the afternoon by this time, and we were burning daylight. We look at the Tube map. It is incomprehensible how we are going to make it to Buckingham Palace without switching trains about fifty times, and we instead decide to take the bus. But a thought occurs: what do we do AFTER that?

The day before we had gone to see a movie in Leicester Square which, while cool, was not cool enough to do twice in one trip. And neither of us really wanted to go to a club or anything. So once the daylight was up…what would we do?

The answer came surprisingly easily, given the amount of posters and show booking places around the area and the fact that I was essentially living in the West End: we would go see a show.

So we abandoned the bus and went over to the ticket kiosk, where a nice woman named Bernadette helped us look for a show. Ideally, we would have loved to see a musical, so we immediately asked about the big ones going on at the time, Oliver and Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Bust on both, unless we wanted to shell out 90 pounds each for Priscilla tickets. Nay, we said, and wandered back to the bus stop to ponder our next move. Buckingham Palace anyway? Meh. It didn’t seem so exciting anymore. Also, the buses we thought would take us there seemingly did not, and I think we were both pretty sick of getting turned around on confusing London streets at that point. So we looked through the brochure of all of the shows that Bernadette had given us and decided to give the show thing another go.

We headed back to the window to ask about Chicago. Another bust. Musicals were out, it seemed. So we put that notion aside and decided to look at the plays instead. I’d been seeing posters for Six Degrees of Separation (with Anthony Stewart Head!) at the Old Vic all over the place, so we looked at that one. We also found Waiting for Godot (starring Ian McKellan and Roger Rees) was playing right off of Piccadilly Circus. So we looked into getting tickets for some of these shows. Bernadette, bless her, checked the ticket availabilities on the phone for us and found some very surprising, very awesome news: there were two tickets left for Waiting for Godot that evening, and not only were they floor seats, they were a mere 28 pounds each, which is apparently unheard of.

Oh, did we buy those tickets up SO FAST. And so jubilant were Rachel and I at our apparent conquest of the London West End theater circuit that we took Bernadette’s picture with Otto in celebration. And here she is!

Bernadette with Otto.

Bernadette, our savior of the evening, with Otto.

By this time it was nearly 5:00pm, and the show started at 7:30pm, so we set about the task of getting back to Piccadilly Circus, doing some last minute souvenir shopping, checking that the Haymarket Theater had a coat-check while picking up our tickets, and generally killing some time until about 6:45 when we would be allowed in the theater. Having just inhaled a sizable portion of fish and chips only two or so hours earlier, we instead grazed at Pret a Manger (which is like the London Starbucks, it seems–they were everywhere).

They didn’t allow photographs from inside the auditorium, but I took some photos outside the theater before we went in. Here’s the one that turned out!

The Haymarket Theater in London.

The Haymarket Theater in London, with the big poster for Waiting for Godot outside of it.

So we went in and sat down, a mercy at that point, having been walking pretty well constantly for the past two days, and we waited for the play to start. The set was really great: it looked like the ruin of a building, all gray brick in the background and a warped floor with a bare tree growing out of it. Even the arch at the top (I think they must have built this part, because I can’t see them damaging the theater itself that badly simply for one performance) was all ripped up with bare boards and plaster hanging down. Very cool looking.

I’ve read Waiting for Godot before. I never really analyzed it, but I read it and thought it was pretty alright, as far as plays go. Perhaps even a little slow, though I understood the whole Theater of the Absurd and there being about as many readings of the play as were were people reading it. So I don’t know what I was expecting out of the play, but whatever it was, those expectations were exceeded.

The play was AWESOME. And I don’t mean that in like the modern parlance of awesome where everything ranging from a new car to a new pair of shoes is awesome. Everyone in it was just dead on and they brought the play to life in a way that was infinitely more satisfying than simply reading it (which I suppose is the point of theater anyway). So it was a great, GREAT performance, and I was blown away. I pretty much couldn’t clap loud enough when the curtain call came.

Afterwards, I was all set and ready to head out, but Rachel stopped me. Did you know that you can go around to the stage exit and wait for the actors to leave? Because I sure didn’t! But Rachel is a seasoned vet when it comes to finding actors at stage doors (having seen Les Mis several times and being a giant fan), and quickly asked the man at the front where the stage exit was. And we went back. And we waited.

And then Sir Ian McKellan, still wearing his stage makeup, popped out of the door. Holy. Crap.

I don’t think I managed to say much other than “the show was great” because I was definitely, definitely star-struck. Too star-struck to ask for a picture, more’s the pity, but he DID sign my playbill (he had played Gogo that evening). Very, very cool. And then he commenced to see people he knew and hold about a ten minute conversation with them two feet away from me. Very surreal situation. Anyway, it was a highlight of the evening to meet him.

Not long after, Roger Rees (Didi) came out the back and also signed playbills and the like. If you don’t recognize his name, you’ll definitely recognize some things he’s been in: he was the Sheriff of Rottingham in Robin Hood: Men in Tights, and he was Robin Colcord on Cheers. He was also excellent that evening, and signed me playbill as well. Oh, but Rachel and I were in it for the long-haul: we wanted to meet the whole cast. Granted, the “whole cast” was only about four people, but that didn’t stop us from waiting.

And waiting. The rest of the cast was a bit slower getting out the door than the first two had been. But it was all worth the wait when Matthew Kelly, who played Pozzo, came out. Don’t get me wrong, it was absolutely spiffy to have met Ian McKellan and Roger Rees, but they had that aura like they were tired and in a hurry to get out of there, though they were very polite. Not so with Mr. Kelly. He was just pleased as punch to be there, and was joking and laughing with everyone as he signed the playbills. I told him I adored the play and he shot back, “You’re lovely,” which I’m pretty sure Rachel giggled at (though I could be wrong–Rachel, did you laugh? Because I did, lol.)

Matthew Kelly is mostly famous in the UK for being a television announcer, most notably for Stars in their Eyes, a show where people dress up and perform as their favorite singers, but was also in the BBC’s Bleak House miniseries. Otherwise, he’s done largely stage work, so I don’t know if that will help you out any. :P

But since the crowd had thinned by that time (Sir Ian having driven off by then) and he seemed like he wasn’t in a huge hurry, I turned to him and told him I had a rather strange request. He quickly cracked a joke and I pulled out Otto, whom he quickly mocked (but in the fun way). I told him my roommate made him for me and he retorted, “Your roommate must HATE you.” (Again, all of this in a joking manner–he was very nice!) But he seemed willing enough to hold Otto in the photo, provided I was in there with him. And here’s the result!

Matthew Kelly with Otto and me.

Here's Matthew Kelly around the back of the Haymarket Theater, holding Otto directly in front of my face as Rachel snapped a photo. ^_^!

And afterwards he insisted that we take a proper photo, since he’d held an octopus in front of my face in the first one, so here’s the second one. (Although, I admit, you can probably see my face better in the first one–I was getting a hug in the second one and kind of turned away from the camera a bit, lol.)

Matthew Kelly, Otto and me.

Here we are again!

So he headed off down the street a bit and we waited for the last member of the cast, Ronald Pickup (Lucky), to come out. He wasn’t much longer, but he also seemed pretty tired and eager to be off, so after signing the playbills, he departed. Ronald Pickup is most famous for his parts in British television shows and TV movies I’ve largely never heard of, but I liked the fact that his first role EVER on TV was in an episode of Doctor Who in 1964.

Success! The whole playbill signed, with the exception of The Boy, who pretty much just left quietly without much fuss. We waved goodbye to Matthew Kelly (who was just down the way talking on the phone, presumably to his ride home?) as we left, and we uttered fangirly squeals of delight for having thought to go to a show this evening. Psh-haw on Buckingham Palace, said we. We just met Ian friggin’ McKellan. AWESOME! And just so you can see the awesome for yourself, here’s the playbill!

The playbill for Waiting for Godot.

Here's Otto with the signed playbill from Waiting for Godot. (Yes, I took this photo later, but it makes sense to put it here anyway.)

And here’s a close-up of the awesome:

The signed playbill.

Otto with the playbill. *squee*

But by the time we’d finished stalking the actors it was coming up on 11:00pm, and I had an early plane to catch back to Belfast. It was time to say goodbye again, it seemed. So before Rachel headed back to Kensington, we decided that an awkward smooshy-face self-shot was in order.

Rachel and me.

Aaaaaaaaand here it is, the awkward smooshy-face self-shot. It would probably have turned out better in a more well-lit area, not by the edge of a Tube exit, and had my hair not been behaving badly by that point in the evening, but I still like that it exists. ^_^!

So after all of that was said and done, we said goodbye, and I headed back to my hostel to turn in for the night.

Which I most definitely WOULD have done, if the same night club promoter I ran into my first night here hadn’t bumped into me. Moe, his name was (I don’t think I mentioned him in the first post, but he helped me find the hostel the first night, as long as I would go to a night club sometime while I was there…which I didn’t). He was kind enough to give me directions on the first night, and now that he ran into me again was fully intent on getting me to a night club for a drink so he could get a commission. *le sigh* So I let myself be directed to a sports bar, where I had an obligatory pint, watched women’s curling, and then headed back to my hostel by about 1am. So Moe, wherever you are, thanks for letting me catch up on the Olympics a bit, but I will never forgive you for getting me stuck with the 5 pound door entry fee. Seriously folks, I am too freakin’ nice for my own good, I tell ya. :P

Anywho, that’s about the extent of cool things that happened to me in London! The next day was largely devoted to me getting up early to dance the dance of the lengthy-transportation-shuffle back to Belfast and then back to Coleraine where I promptly collapsed and fell asleep after unpacking my bags. It was probably one of THE coolest trips I’ve ever taken. Aww yeah.

So, in conclusion, London = flippin’ awesome. Would love to go back sometime…heck, would like to live there, if that wasn’t a statistical improbability. It was flat-out groovy. So yeah. ^_^! Tune in for my next post, where I play catch-up for the last week or so because I’ve been so lazy updating on the London weekend via blog. Later!

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