Tag Archives: west end

From Tower of London to Aladdin

Saturday, Sept 17, 2016 – Day 4 of London

<–Previously, we were shaken, not stirred

So we were able to relax that previous night and have a bit of a sleep-in although not too much on the next day, as we had a private tour to the Tower of London with Context Tours at 9:30am. We did go back to Starbucks in the morning for a quick bite and happily there wasn’t any rain going on but there was still a lot of cool (60s) temps and cloudy skies. For us, that was quite okay as we just didn’t need anymore of the sweltering heat we’d been getting those first few days.

After finishing up breakfast and going back for a potty break, we finally started heading out and almost a bit behind schedule as I finally checked the route to get to the meeting point at Tower Hill Station and realized it would take 30 minutes to get there! Gotten very used to getting to where we needed to quickly and easily from our SoHo location, that’s for sure. Happily, we trotted over to the Tottenham Court Road station and got on over to Tower Hill pretty quickly, beating the guide.

We met our charming guide Ruth at the large sundial outside the station and that was where we began our personal tour of English history and its relation to the history found within the Tower. The sundial actually has a great summation of London history around the ring of it, so she introduced us to many of the high points, which are many, including William the Conqueror, the construction of the Tower that scared the Anglo-Saxons, the plague, the great fire, the wars, etc. By the end of the tour, we both had a newfound respect for what London has managed to survive and endure for the last 2000 years since its establishment by the Romans.

The tour took us from that sundial over to the site of the execution site where many of the beheadings occurred, and we also got some of the stories about notable ones, especially the nightmarish ones like the Duke of Monmouth. UGH. His execution took at least 8 attempts due to a dull blade and an inexperienced executioner. OOF.

Private Tour of the Tower of London

We then entered the tower and went to the Crown Jewels, which are just staggering. The 2 biggest diamonds are found there, one in the scepter, one in the crown. They’re glorious, along with the other enormous jewels found there.

The White Tower interior and now armory museum was our next stop, learning a lot about Henry VIII while also seeing the wonderful displays of armor for both man and horse. Also saw 2 off-duty (?) British Royal Guards wandering around on their break or something…heeyyyy. Got to also see one of the only preserved Norman cathedrals left in Europe that hadn’t been converted to a Gothic style. On the top floor, saw some of the torture devices that had been in place during those days, including foul things to stop “gossips”. Awful.

Outside, we were on the Tower Green and saw the site where the relatively few Royal Executions would take place, including those of Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard occurred (two of Henry VIII’s wives), Lady Jane Grey, and one fucking nightmarish one that required the axeman to chase the woman around the courtyard and attack her with an axe. It’s said there are ghosts there. No shit. We also saw the home of the Ravens, official birds of the Tower. There are always 6. It’s kind of awesome.

Finally on the outside of the Tower near the River, we looked at the Traitor’s Gate as well as the new skyline of London before saying goodbye to Ruth. She was a wonderful guide and delightfully full of knowledge. Before leaving, we had told her our plans to head to the Tate Modern, so she recommended that we visit the Borough Market, which was on the way fortunately.

Walking the Thames

We walked across Tower Bridge first to get to the South Bank of the river, then walked along the river bank towards the boring London Bridge, which is where you know you’re near the Market. It’s a great, big outdoor market with lots of stalls for meat, produce, alcohol, oils, etc. Very crazy on a Saturday afternoon, but fun to see. We found a restaurant, Elliot’s, right outside the market. Very hipster and pretty expensive (one beer cost 10 pounds here while at the pub the other night, it was under 10 pounds for 2 beers….so yeah), but it was still good. They served burgers with patties that were delicious, but obviously made of multiple cuts of meat mushed together. Regardless, it was quite delicious and much needed as a break.

We left our lunch place and walked back up towards the riverbank, past the Clink museum and the Archer pub, as well as the new Shakespeare’s Globe theater (saw it from the outside only), and on towards the Millennium Bridge, which is right outside the Tate Modern.

Being that it was a Saturday afternoon, it was pretty damn crowded at the museum. It was okay and understandable, so we did end up only exploring about 2 of the floors. I’m happy to have made it there finally as I’ve not made it there in any of my previous London vacations. There are a great variety of modern artists there, including a whole room of Rothko (these were those he had been commissioned to make for Seagram’s Four Seasons restaurant and reneged at the last minute – they were wonderful and RED); a few Mondrians (including those that looked a lot like what I expect him to look like); some Dali; and quite a few others. Larry & I were both tired from our morning tour though, and had enough. Note: the museum is not the most well-designed or welcoming. It’s actually kind of brutalist.. The exterior is terribly foreboding, and the interior is really not that much better. An interesting discovery, that’s for sure.

Happily, a latte at the museum cafe woke us up a bit, but we were done with the museum after our hour or so there. it’s one of those things you probably should spend a lot of time at, but that’s not what we had, nor the energy to do. I also tried to open a door at the cafe that had instructions on how to open it but was politely told not to open that door since it was cold outside by one of the staff. Of course I then see many others use and open that door. So we went out that way in proud defiance! Viva la France!!!

The way we took back to our hotel included crossing the Millennium Bridge (a pedestrian bridge that can be absolutely mobbed by people), seeing a happy anniversary party boat cross underneath playing the best wedding reception songs (including Dancing Queen!), before heading towards St. Paul’s Cathedral and it’s accompanying St. Paul’s tube station. It was then back to Tottenham Court Road station for us!

We then strolled back from the tube station through SoHo Park and a crazy amount of pigeons nearly killing us back to the hotel, where we just chilled for the next few hours as we were tired! It was actually very nice to do that. I don’t even really remember what we did to pass the time, but it was necessary. I think Larry took a bit of a disco nap.

Taking in the West End

But we weren’t done for the day though, as up next was a show in the West End, “Aladdin”!!!!!!

We headed over there a bit early, or so we thought, in order to collect our tickets, but yeah, even 40 minutes ahead of time, the theater was mobbed with people. We got our tickets, grabbed a drink, and enjoyed some time before the doors opened and we got our seats in the “Stalls” section, aka the Orchestra. We were a few rows back in Row U, but it was an amazing view nonetheless. The theater was absolutely packed. Aladdin, the Disney musical, only arrived in the West End back in June, so this is still a hot show, and rightly so. While waiting for the show to start, I realized that this was also the theater where Mamma Mia! Was playing when I saw it back in 2002. Crazy, right?

As for the musical? It’s absolutely phenomenal. I’ll give it to the actor who plays Aladdin – he has his work cut out for him to not be completely overshadowed by the performer who plays Genie. But he did amazingly, as did everyone. What was interesting was to see the inclusions made as it’s not an exact remake of the animated feature. First, Abu the monkey, Jasmine’s tiger, and Iago the Parrot are gone, replaced by actual human characters. Abu by 3 actual friends, the tiger by 3 attendants, and Iago by a guy. It’s pretty clever and not distracting. Aladdin’s 3 friends are awesome additions and the new songs are very good. The Genie though….just incredible. It’s the same actor who originated the rule in Broadway, and YAY! He’s amazing and has natural charisma for days. The show stopping number, by far, is “Friend Like Me” – oh my god, it’s just fantastic and my poor words don’t stand a chance doing it justice. The sets are sensational and do justice to the Cave of Wonders. After Act I was done, I immediately went out to the lobby and bought a program as it was just that good. Anyway, if you haven’t seen Aladdin, please do. It’s endlessly entertaining and reminds you why the movie was such a great success.

After the show, which was crazy as there’s quite a bit happening directly outside the theater in that part of the West End, we went to Ippudo in London. Larry was very excited and unfortunately got a bit disappointed as we got there around 10 and it closes at 11. That means there’s a lot not available, including alcohol (at least at first, happily they still got us drinks), appetizers (no gyoza for us!). Oh well, the ramen was pretty good, although I think I like Silver Lake Ramen better. Sometimes even Sapporo in Glendale is pretty good! I think I like thicker noodles better.

Honeymoon Picture Pages:

It was a Bond, James Bond Day

Friday, Sept 16, 2016 – Day 3 of London

<– Previously, we’d been bussed all around Southern England!

This was a fun day.  We were able to sleep in a little bit (not much), as we had tickets to the London Film Museum’s exhibit “Bond in Motion” – a collection of Bond cars and vehicles from throughout the movies.  Started at 10am, which was our window (although from having visited there now, I don’t think it was quite necessary to buy the tickets in advance; better safe than sorry).  So we got a quick breakfast in at the nearby Starbucks, then walked over to the museum.  Yeah, walked, as our hotel is so centrally located.  Walked through the West End, seeing the theaters for Aladdin and Harry Potter on the way there.  It was also raining slightly, which was about time as London is supposed to have some rain! It also was nice for it to be cool a little as it’s been pretty damn hot/warm here and in Paris!

Anyway, we got to the exhibit and it was absolutely amazing.  Everything was laid out in a great fashion and there were so many important cars to the series present, from the Aston Martins, the Rolls Royces, Jaguars, etc.  Quite amazing, and I took lots of pictures.  Larry bought lots of cool things too, including the guide book.  We also got a few shots with the life size Connery mannequin up front.  Just spectacular the whole thing.  Well worth coming to London for!!!! 

So….let’s try to break these pictures down in some kind of order…first, getting to the London Film Museum via the route shown above:

The Foyer of the Exhibit:

MI:6 Mock-up from The World Is Not Enough:

You Only Live Twice:

Heading down into the main exhibit…

Heading down into the main floor of the exhibit

The main floor of what was shown was simply spectacular.  Almost every vehicle you’d expect to see was there, seriously.

A View To A Kill:

Goldeneye / Goldfinger:

The Aston Martin DB5s shown here had a model version based off of the Goldfinger one, as well as a real car that was used in Goldeneye.

Die Another Day:

Octopussy:

The Living Daylights:

The World Is Not Enough:

Quantum of Solace:

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service:

Diamonds Are Forever:

The Spy Who Loved Me:

Spectre:

For Your Eyes Only:

The Man With the Golden Gun:

Casino Royale:

Various Odds & Ends:

Just saying – this was the best collection of James Bond cars you could ever hope to see.

The James Bond Walking Tour

But that wasn’t the end of our James Bond adventures today.  So after the London Film Museum exhibition, we came back to the hotel to drop off the new goodies we’d just bought, then headed back out to Charing Cross Station as at 2pm, we were joining up for a James Bond Walking Tour!!!  Holy crap, this is quite an amazing and somewhat grueling walk, as you walk a LOT.  Starting at Charing Cross, you get some insight into how the underground sections were used quite frequently, especially for the chase scenes in Skyfall. 

We then meandered through London to various locales that were used in Spectre and Skyfall before heading to the National Gallery Museum right near Trafalgar Square.  Got a lot of backstory on the filming there as well as the use of art, especially in Skyfall.  The use of the various paintings, combined with the accounts of Admiral Nelson in the battle of Trafalgar and how those were analogous to James Bond and M’s demise….holy shit, it was amazing.  Then when in the National Gallery (didn’t know we’d be going in there!), we saw not only where Q and James Bond meet for the first time in Skyfall, but also the painting that James Bond notices in Dr. No, which at the time in the 60s had just been stolen.   AWESome.

Heading to Charing Cross for our James Bond Walking Tour

In Charing Cross’ Tube Station & Outside Rules

Off to Trafalgar Square

And Inside the National Portrait Gallery

After leaving the museum, we walked through Trafalgar Square and over to the Admiralty Gate which faces Buckingham Palace.   These were the scenes of other M:I6 locations in the movies, which was a lot of fun.  The guide was just such a great source of knowledge and energy!   

We then walked over through the Whitehall street area which is a huge place for Skyfall, passing 10 Downing Street too.  After getting a great shot in the middle of the street that matches Bond’s chase of Silva down the street, we all then hopped on a red London Bus (which I’d been wanting to do!!! Score!) and rode the route down to a station right across the Thames from where the MI:6 building actually is and what you see in the movies.  That was where the tour ended, and it was just a blast to have gone on it.  Seriously.  Amazing!!!   

Through Trafalgar Square to the Admiralty Gate

Walking Around the Whitehall Area:

And then near 10 Downing Street, with some Action Shots:

The double-decker red bus took us down the Thames so we could get the across-the-river view of MI:6.  It was awesome.

MI6 along the Thames

The day wasn’t over yet!

We walked across the Vauxhall Bridge to the Tube station there, taking it back to the Westminster area as we had a Champagne Experience on the London Eye at 7.  But that wasn’t for a few hours, so we ended up finding a place called Slug & Lettuce to eat at, which was a bit of a more corporate looking place to eat.  It worked for us, although the food wasn’t anything special to write home about.  After that, we got checked in at the London Eye for the Champagne Experience, which was okay.  The time was good as the twilight was ending and the lights were coming on, and we got a glass of champagne and the host was very helpful with taking pictures of us.  It was a good time but we were definitely getting tired. 

Heading Back to the London Eye Area

The Champagne Experience on the London Eye at Sunset

We’d been on our feet most of the day, but that didn’t stop us from walking back to see what’s what.  We crossed the Golden Jubilee Bridge and then meandered through the West End and SoHo again, finding Chinatown this time as well as the gay bar area.  

Oh yeah, also found a gelato place that made the coolest rose formation of ice cream in a cone for you.  It was delightful, and Delicious.

Nighttime

That was an action-packed day, to say the least.

Honeymoon Picture Pages:

Day 8: London & West End

(2014 Note:  These pages are transfers from my original site so I can better view the many pictures I have from that trip and so it’s searchable within WordPress Search. Here’s a link to the original page!)

Day8London – Part Two! As you may recall from the first page of this little travel journal, when we had initially planned this trip, there were lots of incarnations of the itinerary. The trip was always supposed to end back here in London, but there were all various cities that we had planned to also go to. As it turned out though, happily, we only went to Paris and London. Thank God. So before our flight back to the U.S., we had one more day of London, and I think we managed to get a lot of touristy stuff in before our flight the next morning.

day8_sights

Susan was not getting up this morning. That had been decreed the night before, so Jeff and I made plans to enjoy the morning and also plan for the evening, as we decided to see the musical Chicago while here. London has the wonderful TKTS booth like in NYC, where you can pick up tickets to shows for basically half-off, but only for showings that same day/evening. Jeff and I took the tube into the West End area where the tkts booth was, waited in line for about an hour, and finally got 3 tickets to see Chicago that evening. Don’t think that meant we were heading back to the hotel though, as there were other objectives to accomplish!

First: Jeff was bound and determined to find the Coat of Arms museum we had heard about on the Thames River Cruise we had gone on during London – Part One. We had all heard the tour guide motion towards a building that was by a bridge and describe the Coat of Arms museum, a place in which you could go in and find out your ancestry’s coat of arms. That did sound cool, but for Jeff, it became a MUST SEE. Well, after leaving the West End and a necessary cup of coffee (it was actually kind of cold when we got back to London), we began our Snipe Walk around the downtown part of the city near the Thames. We walked all around the area we thought the guide had gestured too, walking out onto bridges to see if we could recreate the view….but all to no avail. I think I had bet Jeff he wouldn’t find it, but I was certainly willing to indulge him in his quest, as I really didn’t have much else to do! Yet we didn’t find it – or actually, once we got back to the states, it turns out we actually did find it, we just didn’t realize it. After we gave up on the quest, we found a cool little bar/restaurant that went underground to refresh. We jumped back on the Tube after lunch and I convinced Jeff to ride on the Central Loop with me, as I was going to go to….

King’s Cross Train Station! Yep – I wanted to go see the legendary entrance to the station where the Hogwarts Express leaves London on its way to Hogwarts (from Harry Potter, duh). It’s kind of a necessary pilgrimage to make if you’re a Harry Potter fan. Jeff wanted to head back to the hotel to meet back up with Susan, but I convinced him that since it was a loop, he could just go the long way! He did that, and I got off at King’s Cross station while he went back to the Hotel Byron to wake Susan up. We planned to reconvene at Harrod’s Department Store later in the afternoon. So I made the pilgrimage, took the requisite pictures at Platform 9 3/4 (that’s pretty cool that the train station actually did that), then decided since I was here, to take Rick Steves’ advice and see the British Library. It is home to one of the first printed Guttenberg bibles as well as some of the oldest versions of the Bible, period. It has a ton of illuminated manuscripts, the Magna Carta, original Beatles lyrics, and a ton of fascinating historical documents. Very cool!

After my little side trips there, I then headed to Harrods, which I had never been inside before. As you may or may not know, it is basically the world’s largest and most ridiculous department store. It’s quite unreal, and also huge huge huge. It was at this point I realized, I have no idea how I’m going to find Susan and Jeff inside here. I didn’t have a cell phone with me, so that option wasn’t there. So after walking around a bit and looking for Jeff or Susan (or their clothes), I decided to camp out at the Pizza place within, figuring they’d look for me somewhere where there is food. I had taken off my red jacket but then realized, you know, I’ve been wearing this damn thing the whole trip, and it kind of sticks out, and right now, that is a good thing. So I ate my $25 pizza slices (seriously – the Pound kills the Dollar in the exchange rate) and waited…and sure enough, they found me! We then wandered around the store for a little while longer, before finally heading back to the hotel to change and then head out to see Chicago!

So we took the tube into the West End, London’s version of New York’s Broadway, basically. Our seats weren’t the best (basically the back of the balcony section…oh well, what can you expect for really cheap day-of seats!?), but it was still fun to see the show. It is quite different than the movie, in terms of what you’d expect for Set Design and Staging. It’s quite a minimal production – the songs still rock, but I had envisioned that the movie version had lifted the theatrical productions of the songs …. I was wrong. Regardless, it was still a great experience.

We wandered a bit around the West End before finally succumbing to exhaustion and the need to go get some rest at the hotel, as our flight left the next morning. And that next day we promptly checked out in the morning, took the Tube to Victoria station, where we took the Heathrow Express shuttle train back to the airport and made our way back to the states!

It was an exhausting, yet very fun trip, that’s for sure! Obviously, it made an impression as I can still pretty much remember it vividly even almost a year and a half later. Europe with friends is an awesome thing to do, and highly recommended to all of you!!!

April 3 & 4, 2007: One Last Day in London and Heading Home to the US!

Me at Piccadilly Circus (like Times Square, but not)
Me at Piccadilly Circus (like Times Square, but not)03-Apr-2007 11:12, Canon Canon PowerShot SD900, 2.8, 7.7mm, 0.005 sec
Jeff there too
Jeff there too03-Apr-2007 11:13, Canon Canon PowerShot SD900, 2.8, 7.7mm, 0.006 sec
A cool Coat of Arms collection - the only ones we'd see...
A cool Coat of Arms collection - the only ones we'd see...03-Apr-2007 11:19, Canon Canon PowerShot SD900, 4.0, 15.599mm, 0.005 sec
 
A funny and Obvious sign
A funny and Obvious sign03-Apr-2007 13:11, Canon Canon PowerShot SD900, 2.8, 7.7mm, 0.017 sec
The bar we ate at after our Snipe Hunt for the Coat of Arms museum
The bar we ate at after our Snipe Hunt for the Coat of Arms museum03-Apr-2007 14:09, Canon Canon PowerShot SD900, 2.8, 7.7mm, 0.02 sec, ISO 141
It's Platform 9 3/4! Hogwarts, here I come!
It's Platform 9 3/4! Hogwarts, here I come!03-Apr-2007 14:52, Canon Canon PowerShot SD900, 2.8, 7.7mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 141
 
A side view, with tourists!
A side view, with tourists!03-Apr-2007 14:52, Canon Canon PowerShot SD900, 2.8, 7.7mm, 0.02 sec, ISO 141
A closer view
A closer view03-Apr-2007 14:53, Canon Canon PowerShot SD900, 4.0, 15.599mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 315
But let's be honest, here's the money shot
But let's be honest, here's the money shot03-Apr-2007 14:53, Canon Canon PowerShot SD900, 2.8, 7.7mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 145
 
King's Cross Station
King's Cross Station03-Apr-2007 14:54, Canon Canon PowerShot SD900, 2.8, 7.7mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 315
I don't remember what this is, but it's pretty
I don't remember what this is, but it's pretty03-Apr-2007 14:57, Canon Canon PowerShot SD900, 2.8, 7.7mm, 0.002 sec
My going-out to a a West End show look
My going-out to a a West End show look06-Apr-2007 00:28, Canon Canon PowerShot SD900, 2.8, 7.7mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 141
 
A very pretty Carousel in the West End that we saw after seeing Chicago
A very pretty Carousel in the West End that we saw after seeing Chicago03-Apr-2007 23:33, Canon Canon PowerShot SD900, 2.8, 7.7mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 400
03-Apr-2007 23:33, Canon Canon PowerShot SD900, 2.8, 7.7mm, 0.25 sec, ISO 800
03-Apr-2007 23:33, Canon Canon PowerShot SD900, 2.8, 7.7mm, 0.167 sec, ISO 800