I love this city. I can’t really explain why. Maybe it’s the buzz of big city life, which exist in big cities in Germany as well, I know. But it’s different in London. There is just so much to see and do. I had a looong list of things I wanted to see and do this time and only managed about half of it. Or maybe 2/3. Anyway, I have to get back. Sooner than later :-) Until then here is a report of my latest trip to London.
The weather was mostly really nice. Sunny and blue skies except for Monday, where the sky was rather cloudy. But it didn’t rain, at least not around where I was roaming that day. It was still pretty chilly in the mornings and evenings, but it was around 15-17 °C during the day and that’s not bad for an April vacation. I got to London without any problems on Thursday and reached my hotel around 2 pm. Checked in, unpacked and was off to Little Venice, from where I did a boat tour on the Regent’s Canal up to Camden Lock. Strolled around the lively and colorful Camden Markets for a while, before I went to the West End. Had some very good dinner at Wahaca and saw “Private Lives” with Kim Cattrall and Matthew MacFadyen at the Vaudeville Theatre afterwards. Great play, great performance and I really enjoyed watching it.
On Friday I went to the Natural History Museum, which is a really great museum. (Is there any not-great museum in this town?). I really loved the wide range of topics covered in this museum and that it’s all very educational without being boring. I have no idea if the Dinosaur exhibition really was worth waiting for over 30 minutes to get in, because I refrained from joining that queue. For Dinosaurs? No, thanks. I had bought a ticket for the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2009 exhibition and there were some incredibally wonderful pictures on display.
Afterwards I went back to Leicester Square and the tks booth, because I knew I wanted to see another play or musical. I thought about seeing a movie as well (or instead) but the movie tickets are exorbitantly expensive, at least in the West End, and I refuse to pay that amount of money for a movie ticket. I know that theatre is even more expensive, even if it’s discounted, but it’s the theatre, so the higher price is justified in my opinion.
So I bought my musical ticket and hurried off to the Embankment where I took part in one of the London Walks. I did the Harry Potter Walk last year and was not impressed. Some of the places we went had no real connection to the novels or movies or JK Rowling and the reasons we were given for visiting these places felt far-fetched to me.
That didn’t keep me from signing up for the Sherlock Holmes Walk this time. And it was worth it, because it was much better than the walk last year. Maybe because there were just more possible locations to visit, because most of Sherlock Holmes stories are situated in London. Even if these locations are just mentioned off-handedly, at least they are mentioned. We also visited some places which played a vital part in the success of the stories: location of the magazine’s offices, which published the stories in 19th century and such. I definitely enjoyed this literature-related walk this time.
In the late afternoon I went to see the musical “Avenue Q” and had such an amazing time. I didn’t know too much about it beforehand, just that it was a musical with puppets and that it was supposed to be hilariously funny. And it was! I couldn’t quite imagine how to get puppets onto a stage to interact with real actors. And it wasn’t really just the puppet that interacted, but the person operating the puppet as well in some way. You heard her/his voice and saw the facial expressions and all. But it still didn’t seem like two characters, but always this one (puppet). I really have a hard time explaining it.
Probably the funniest thing – at least to me – was, that you expect it to be family/children kind of play, because of the puppets, which are like the ones on Sesame Street. Hey, they’ve even got their own version of the “cookie monster” and “Ernie and Bert”, which are Nicky and Roy on Avenue Q. Roy indeed is a (closeted) gay, who is in love with his roommate Nicky, who doesn’t share the feelings, because he’s straight. Apart from homosexuality, there are a few other more adult topics, like racism, pornography and sex. So not really suited for children, but so so entertaining. And definitely unique in it’s whole set up.
Afterwards I had a nightly stroll along the Embankment and up till Westminster Abbey to take some pictures of the sights at night. Unfortunately one part of the Houses or Parliament is hid behind scaffolds and dark at the moment, which slightly ruins the whole picture at night.
Saturday I spent in Greenwich and I totally loved it there. It was beautiful sunny spring weather and thus there were a lot of tourists/visitors around as well, which sometimes made the rooms and squares a bit crowded. But it didn’t spoil my experience. At the Old Royal Naval College a new visitor centre “Discover Greenwich” has just recently opened with a lot of interesting displays and interactive stuff. The Old Royal Naval College itself is a beautiful complex of old buildings and courts, so I walked around there for a while.
I then spent almost three hours at the Royal Observatory, where I watched a show in the planetarium and did an extended tour with a very informative audio guide in the Time Galleries and the astronomers lodgings. I have to admit I still haven’t quite understood how this whole navigation thing really works and how planets and stars help and why time is so important in all of this. But it was a fascinating and extensive exhibition nonetheless. It was so strange to see and more importantly hear the speaking clock at the end of the exhibition. I almost forgot that there once was (and obviously in most countries still is) a phone number you could call if you want get the the correct time.
I did not stand on the prime meridian, because there was such a long waiting line and I already did that once when I was in London 15+ years ago. It didn’t really feel that special back then either ;-)
I went to the National Maritim Museum afterwards, which is another highly informative museum. But I guess my brain was already flooded with too much impressions from before, so I couldn’t quite process all the information and images of all the maritim stuff. The museum closed about an hour after I got there anyway. My plan actually had been to visit the Dockland Museum on that day as well, but as I had just spent so much time in the Time Galleries I ran out of time :-). So I’ll visit the Dockland Musuem the next time I’m in London.
On Sunday morning, with well rested feet, I climbed the 310 steps inside the Monument, and later walked along the Thames to the Tower. I have a thing for medieval castles and was so tempted to enter this one again. But I didn’t, because I have been there two years ago and tickets are quite expensive. I walked a few steps further and visited the Tower Bridge Exhibition instead. And it was yet another treat. The view from the walkways is fascinating, because it’s different from the ones you get on top of St. Paul’s for instance. It is once again a very informative exhibition about the bridge and how it came to be and there also was a very interesting exhibition about other extraordinary bridges all around the world. Definitely worth a visit!
After lunch at Butler’s Wharf I went to get yet another view from another top. I guess Sunday was the day of the views from the top :-) I went up the tower of Westminster Cathedral, which is a catholic church near Victoria station and has a unique view on Westminster from the west. The church itself was beautiful and unique as well, it had lots of mosaic and almost looked more like a mosque from the outside. Quite different fom Westminster Abbey. My plan originally had been to visit Chelsea Physics Garden as well, but I was already so so tired again, that I postponed that for another trip and went back to the hotel to rest a bit.
In the evening I went to see the Comedy Store Players at the Comedy Store and I had such an incredibly amazing time. These guys are just so so funny and brilliant at improvising comedy. And the audience wasn’t bad that night either and we had quite a few very good suggestions. One of mine was picked up and lead to a scene of two hilariously funny Shakespearean flight attendents.
On Monday morning I went to Kensington Palace to see the “Enchanted Palace”. There is a huge renovation going on at the Palace at the moment, so parts of the palace are closed and there is a special art/designer inspired exhibition (the “Enchanted Palace”) instead. I was actually looking forward to that, but I have to say that this was probably the only disappointment of the whole trip. It wasn’t really bad or boring, but there really were just a few rooms open to the public, much less than I expected. I walked through the whole thing in 45 minutes and I certainly didn’t rush it. Entrance fee was almost £14 ( = 16 EUR / $21) and that’s a lot of money for 45 minute visit.
I spent some time walking through Kensington Gardens afterwards and finally managed to visit Harrods (for the first time in my life, I have to say). I also finally – on this trip – had lunch at Masala Zone and I very much regretted that I didn’t find the time to go there on some occasion on the days before. I discovered this wonderful chain of restaurants with delicious indian food last year and vowed to visit it again more than once this time. I only managed it this once though and once again I completely loved it. The food was so so delicious and it was so much for one person and all in all for a great and fair price. I was totally stuffed when I left around 2 PM and I honestly didn’t feel hungry until Tuesday morning. And I definitely didn’t eat anything until then. I couldn’t, because I probably would have burst.
I knew I couldn’t spent another afternoon / evening walking around, so after a short visit to Covent Garden, I choose to buy a discounted ticket for one of the shows that evening and spend the rest of the afternoon in a comfy armchair at Starbucks. I choose “Mrs Warren’s Profession” as that night’s entertainment, because tickets were available for a reasonable price, it sounded interesting enough and I didn’t feel like seeing one of the classic musicals like “Les Miserables”, “Grease” or “Hairspray”. It’s a Bernard Shaw play about the hypocrisy of the late 19th century and it was quite entertaining, even though the ending surprised me. It was unexepectedly open. But I felt entertained enough throughout the evening and I had a comfy seat to sit in and my feets could rest and that’s all that mattered :-)
And with that 4.5 wonderful days in London came to an end. Time did fly for sure and there are still so many things I need to do, when I get back to this wonderful city again in the (very) near future
What a great trip! Mook and I want to do a big European trip sometime in the next 5 years–Ill have to get some tips from you!
Europe definitely is worth a trip and I’d be more than happy to provide some tips then…