(These posts are arranged by impressions, not chronologically. Viewer discretion is advised)
Our hotel was full of quaint Europeanisms. You had to slot the keycard in a box near the door for the lights to work. The shower had two dials that I had to wake Misch up, then eventually call down to Reception, to interpret: one for water pressure, one for temperature. And of course the outlets had the wrong number of holes. But if you just wanted a cheap place to sleep and stow your things while you went out exploring the city, it was perfect. Best Western Victoria Palace: recommended.
We took a tour bus around London on the first day, to orient ourselves in the city and to spot things to revisit later. Our first tour guide was the wittiest. He told a joke that ended up rather unflattering toward Camilla Parker-Bowles, but it’s one of those great modular jokes that you can insert any names into*. Our second tour guide looked like a Saturday Night Live parody of herself: blonde and perky, but with eyes at perpetual saucer-width.
Our bus tour included a free walking tour of London later that evening. This was notionally a “ghost tour,” but ended up being a tour of our guide’s favorite pubs and noteworthy monuments near Trafalgar Square. We did find Pepys’ house, so I guess that’s historical.
We had a bigger Thursday planned, but lucked into some cheap groundling tickets at Shakespeare’s Globe for an afternoon matinee of Henry IV, Part 1. It was as good as you’d expect a production of H4P1 by Shakespearean actors in a London reproduction of Shakespeare’s most famous theater to be. Falstaff was hilarious, Prince Hal was brilliant and even the rival Prince Harry, or “Hotspur,” had a few comedic moments.
Museums visited: the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, the Tate Modern and the Imperial War Museum. The Tate Modern was my favorite, because you could take pictures in there and it wasn’t full of pictures of Jesus and the saints. The Imperial War Museum was also good: it had the tank Monty had commanded from in North Africa, a reproduction of “Little Boy,” and so much WW2 propaganda.
Misch and I also saw The Lion King on Friday at the Lyceum, in seats about seven rows back from the stage. It was pretty incredible. The best setpieces were the ones with dozens of puppets and banners onstage: chaotic pictures of movement and sound. I loved Scar the most: in addition to having all the best lines, he had the most complex mask. I can’t describe it with proper justice, but it suited his physicality perfectly. See it if you can.
Watching the U.S. vs Ghana game in the Shakespeare Pub (near Victoria Station) was lots of fun. When you watch a game in London, you increase the odds that you’ll run into some actual Ghanans. The bar was evenly split between U.S. supporters and Ghana supporters (or at least people who wanted the U.S. to lose). There was good-natured rivalry: groaning as the U.S. failed to capitalize, cheering when Donovan scored off a penalty kick, scowling when Gyan sank an overtime goal. “That was a good shot,” I told the African lady watching the game next to us, when Ghana went up in overtime. “Respect.”
Still have a few items left.
* [CELEB #1] is driving home when he accidentally runs over [CELEB #2]‘s dog. He gets out of the car, frantic, when suddenly a genie appears. “I can grant you one wish,” the genie says. “Please, bring this dog back to life!” [CELEB #1] pleads. “I’m sorry,” the genie says, “but I have no power over death. Ask me another wish.” “All right,” [CELEB #1] says, “can you make [CELEB #3] [skinnier / smarter / more attractive / soberer / quieter]?” The genie says, “Well, let’s have another look at that dog.”