At the Globe
Well, it was a late night last night! Our train from Cardiff to London arrived at the station at around 9:30 pm, and by the time we figured out the tube system, decided what tickets to get, bought them, took the two trains to the right stop, found our way to the hotel, and got checked in, it was…well, I’m not sure exactly, but after 11:00 for sure.
Checking in seemed like it was going to be a bit problematic, because our tour package voucher had vouchers for one hotel (the Imperial) but we were actually staying in another (the Royal National) because the Imperial was booked up and the tour company had to change our reservation. But it worked out ok, and we got our room.
Then we tried to use the wireless internet in the hotel lobby. So did a million other tourists. This hotel is tourist central…a whole bunch of tour groups, from several different tour companies, use the hotel, so it’s cram packed with tourists from all over the place, and even though it was midnight, every single chair in the lobby was full. In fact, the internet access was being used so much that it was basically nonfunctional. Pamela managed to get her stuff done, but because I was trying to upload pictures, it just wasn’t working for me. After about an hour, I gave up and went for a walk. Ended up in a small coffee shop down the block, where for the price of a hot chocolate, I got access to their wifi and managed to do my blog post and email. All this meant that I wasn’t in bed until about 1:00 AM…
Our local tube station. This has nothing to do with what I’m writing about, but I thought I needed a picture right about here to break things up a bit.
This morning, we checked out the continental breakfast, which was an adventure. We found doors into the restaurant area, entered, and were chased out. Apparently we had gone in the wrong way and had to use the other entrance. Which we couldn’t find. And then we did find it, went in, and found ourselves standing in exactly the same place we had been in five minutes ago. So that was perplexing.
Breakfast was mediocre at best. Cold toast, some juice and tea, and a selection of really bad breakfast cereal. We ate what we were willing to put down, and headed out with the intent of finding a patisserie or something to get a proper breakfast.
Our eventual destination was the reconstructed Globe Theatre, famous as the location of many of Shakespeare’s original performances. Tours only run until noon, so we had to get there in the morning. Along the way, we had some slight trouble with a closure on the tube line that we wanted to use, but we found a new route without missing a beat. What we didn’t find was any breakfast. Oh well.
The new Globe Theatre
It was a longer walk than we expected to the Globe, but we found it eventually!
The Globe is actually the third Globe Theatre on that location. The location itself is notable: it’s on the “far” side of the Thames, so in its day, it wouldn’t have been considered part of the city of London. Important, because the Puritan city fathers forbade theatre. So this Bankside district on the other side of the Thames sprung up. It had four theatres, as well as…other forms of entertainment. Anyway, the original Globe burned down in the Great Fire Of London. A second was built (without the previously-common wooden construction and thatched roof, no longer popular after the Fire), but that one was torn down by the aforementioned Puritan city fathers. The third one was built fairly recently…it opened in the early ’90s. It was made as authentic as possible: no power tools or modern construction techniques were used, the design incorporates as much as we known today about the original layout and design, and they even put on an authentic thatched roof — the only one in London today.
There’s a small and only-sort-of-interesting museum under the theatre, and we took a guided tour too. There were rehearsals going on for (really) a Nigerian theatre company’s version of A Winter’s Tale. In connection with the Olympics, the theatre is doing something quite ambition: performing all 37 (I think) of Shakespeare’s plays, in a six-week period (each play is only performed once), with each one done by a theatre company from a different country, in their native languages. They have electronic captioning boards that tell you what’s going on so that you can follow along.
From the Globe Exhibition (i.e. museum) under the theatre
In a way, we were lucky, because we actually got to sit in the theatre and watch a play being performed…it was a full dress rehearsal. It’s a neat theatre…open-air (with roofs over much of the stage and seating), and you’re very close to the stage and can really see and hear the action well. But it was in Nigerian, and union rules state that photography is forbidden while the actors are working, so we weren’t able to take any pictures of the inside of the theatre 😦
After that, we needed lunch. It was surprising difficult to find somewhere appealing to eat. Eventually we located a very busy restaurant/pub, where we were told it would be up to a 45-minute wait for food. We were hungry and tired and didn’t care, so down we sat. After we ate, we headed back to the hotel to regroup. We used a different tube line to get back, which allowed us to walk over a very nifty pedestrian bridge across the Thames called the Millennium Bridge.
Pamela on the Millennium Bridge
St. Paul’s Cathedral. We didn’t bother getting any closer than this.
This is where our day fell apart.
See, our plan was: go do a bit of shopping, go to the British Museum in the afternoon, get supper, meet our Contiki tour group at 6:30, and go to the London Eye.
Here’s what happened: we did a bit of shopping, got our hotel room keycards replaced when they both mysteriously stopped working, met our Contiki tour group a few minutes late when we realized the meeting was actually at 6:00, got supper, bought some groceries (milk for tonight, muffins for tomorrow), and crashed in the hotel. It’s 8:00 now and we’re both on our beds, shoes and socks off, window open, lights off, and we have no desire to do anything else tonight (including the recommended socializing with our tour group).
A view from the Millennium Bridge
We’re hot, and we’re tired, and we have an early morning tomorrow (the bus leaves at 6:45). We’ve both seen London before, and for both of us it’s sort of the jumping-off point of the trip, not a destination in itself. We’ve agreed that we’d rather skip some of the London stuff and be well-rested tomorrow than see everything and start the tour exhausted.
Another view of London from the Millennium Bridge
The shopping was kind of neat, though: we ended up on Oxford Circus, which seems to be almost the London equivalent of New York’s Fifth Avenue: lots of high-end and designer stores. I know London is supposed to be well-known for that, so it was nice to see. We ended up in a department store looking for Doctor Who toys: we got some Lego-compatible figurines! (Yeah, we’re both huge nerds.)
Some of our Doctor Who figurines
In a few minutes I’ll need to go find some wifi and finish putting this post up. But first, some random thoughts:
- The daily tube pass is a great deal for a day in London. For about £7, we could ride anywhere we wanted within zones 1 and 2 (Central London, where everything a tourist cares about is), all day (after 9:30 am). Mine mysteriously stopped working at the end of the day, but the customer assistance people just swipe their card and let you through the gate then.
- We did not expect a language barrier on this trip, but it’s happened! There are a lot of foreign/ESL people working in customer service jobs here, so we’ve had several occasions where we didn’t understand what we were being told!
- It’s hot! One headline I saw said that last night was the hottest night in London so far this year. I’m glad I packed some shorts…I almost didn’t, but the weather so far has been hot, humid, and sunny, with little or no breeze, and we’re both tiring really quickly.
- There are flags everywhere. We figure it must be related to the Olympics this year. The city is busy being very patriotic.
Flags in the courtyard of the Royal National hotel
Also, this is my kind of city: