Busy-ness Boats and Busted Buses in Bristol

Busy-ness Boats and Busted Buses in Bristol
Bristol, United Kingdom

Bristol, United Kingdom

A tasty hotel breakfast was a good way to start the day, and full of food and coffee we took a 15 minute walk to drop off a considerable amount of dirty laundry to get cleaned. We then hopped back on the hop on hop off bus, to travel around the the SS Great Britain. Of course this entailed learning more bout all the firsts in Bristol, the city that seemed to have invented everything, had the first of everything, and the best of everything, if you believe everything the tour guide on the bus says. Today we learnt it was a second-biggest city until 1800 when the boats grew to big to make it into the harbour. It was the first place to get bananas shipped in after World War 2. It’s zoo is the biggest zoo (outside a capital city in the UK)… yep, as it went on, the firsts & bests gained more and more conditions and disclaimers, to the point where something was called out for being the sixth-biggest something in somewhere.. but I was (clearly) losing track by that stage.

It was the SS Great Britain that made me want to come to Bristol in the first place. I watched a tv program years ago, ‘Seven Wonders of the Industrial World’ – which had an episode about one of its sister ships, the Great Eastern. This piqued my interest in the engineer that designed it, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who designed and built an amazing amount of things in Britain; Railways, tunnels, ships, bridges (including Bristol’s beautiful Clifton Suspension Bridge), pre-fab hospitals in the Crimea ware … ah, you can just search Wikipedia for the whole story.

So it was a really joy to see his handiwork up close – the boat is amazing, but so is the work that went into is rescue after sitting in the Falklands for 80 years, and its ongoing conservation and preservation is equally impressive. It sits in the dry-dock in which it was built about 140 years back, so it’s easy to get underneath and have a good look around, as well as go onboard and see cabins re-created to how they would have looked back in the day. I don’t think there was much of the original work left when it was brought back to Bristol.

A few surprises about the accommodation – even in the first class cabins the beds wouldn’t even have been two feet wide and would be lucky to be six feet long. I guess everyone was lot smaller back in the mid-1800s. The cheapest accommodation was a small bunk basically in a corridor – with shared access to a basin (incidentally. provided by the Thomas ******* company). There were only two baths on the whole ship, solely for the use of First Class passengers.

Once we’d had our fill of old boats, we hopped on the bus again, happily with much better weather so we were able to sit on the top. Which we did quite merrily until we suddenly stopped at the Bristol Old Vic theatre and the driver turned the engine off. A few minutes later our commentary guy said that the driver had noted a light on the dashboard so he thought it best to stop, and could we all please get off the bus. In other words the bus broke down. What they neglected to mention were the great clouds of smoke that were coming up out of the engine … I think the issue was a bit bigger than just a light on the dashboard.

Fortunately we were only 10 minutes walk away from where we were heading anyway, Cabot Circus, where there were plenty of shops. On the way we passed the very old St Nicholas Market, full of varied and interesting food vendors. Cabot Circus was nice (it had an Apple Shop, so it must be nice!), but we didn’t hang around too long before heading back to the hotel, then off to the laundry. As luck would have it there was a barber right across the road. You know you’ve been on a long holiday when you’ve had more than one haircut! I never knew it could take at least 20 minutes to just do a buzz cut – but I had the apprentice, poor guys, looked like it was his first day on the job … but he did a great job and he seemed chuffed when I said as much, so good luck to him.

Having sorted out the domestic duties, it was back to the hotel to drop the clothes off then head out again – this time about 15 minutes out of town to nearby cinema, who were screening the live charity performance of the Rocky Horror show that was taking place in London tonight. With special guest stars like Stephen Fry, former Spice Girl Emma Bunton, Anthony Stewart Head, Mel Giedroyc (from Great British Bake Off), and Rocky creator Richard o’Brien himself. So it was great fun, and very pleasing to see a lot of the audience calling out just like they do at the movies. Call me parochial, but I think Craig Maclachlan did a better Frank than the guy playing him tonight (sorry London!). Still, really enjoyed it.

After that it was the traditional drive back to the hotel and get lost routine… there’s a closed street that the GPS is determine we need to travel down, so getting back to the hotel is always a bit of an adventure. But we got there eventually. Bristol city is a bit like Sydney, in so far as it doesn’t have any idea how to stay up late. So when we ventured out at around 10:00 for dinner, most restaurant kitchens were already closed, but hey, the kebab food truck was still open, so, job done!

It was a bit of a big day – another big one planned tomorrow. As the young folks say … let’s do this!

Bucketing down in Bristol

Bucketing down in Bristol
Bristol, United Kingdom

Bristol, United Kingdom

A long day, but not too much to write about. We left Brighton in the morning, after checking the GPS to see how it would take us to Bristol. I was spectacle at first that the quickest way was to drive most of the way to London, hang a left, then go west.

I’m very happy to report that there was much less traffic compared to the London-Brighton trip, or even the Brighton-Southampton one. The rain was unrelenting for the first half of the trip, really heavy in parts and all the trucks kicking up even more water made it a bit unpleasant at times. We stopped at the ‘Services’ near Reading (i.e the servo) but found it was bit of a grand affair, more than the BP on the way up the central coast at home. There was a mini Marks & Spencers, Costa coffee, Burger King, a few other food shops, a newsagent, even a small section with poker machines. I even filled the car up, though all our driving so far had only used half a tank of fuel. It’s true what they say about Diesel manual cars being surprisingly efficient. I guess a puny 1.4 litre engine (even though it’s turbocharged) helps too.

After filling the tank the car said we had a range of about 650 miles which is impressive. It also encourages you to drive as efficiently as possible by telling you when you should shift up / down a gear. There’s about a million other things the screen in the middle of the dashboard can too but I haven’t played with all the options just yet. And after all this time I’ve still only stalled it once – and that was on the first day on a ramp in the carpark in Brighton. Let’s see if I can maintain that record though 🙂

Eventually we reached Bristol, and following a few trips around the block looking for the hotel (even with the help of GPS), we arrived safe and sound. Like all old cities it wasn’t made for cars, and sometimes it seems street names are a bit of an afterthought, but we got there eventually. The hotel is nice – huge, and the room is comfortable (but no fridge, as seems to be the modern hotel trend).

To get a feel for the town we hopped on to a hop-on/hop-off tourist bus, and for a nice change it had a real proper human doing the commentary. On the downside the rain had returned, so sitting on the open upper deck wasn’t gonna happen. Still, in a 75 minute bus ride we learnt a lot about Bristol – a city of ‘firsts’ and ‘mosts’, it would seem.
It’s been a flourishing city since the 1400s, though was established well before – major changes were made in 1247 when ‘broad quay’ was dug out to allow larger boats in.
It had the largest tram network until a major bridge was bombed in WW2, severing all the power cables, after which the tram network was never restored. It had street lighting a year before London, and also the first parking meters, and gave birth to the firs test tube baby. Cary Grant was born here (no he wasn’t the first test tube baby!). Aardman Animation (home of Wallace and Gromit) lives here. It has the second largest tide in the world – 40 feet. We saw the river at low tide, and it was practically drained. This is also where the saying ship shape and Bristol fashion’ comes from. At low tide, most ships would end up leaning over 45 degrees to rest on their hulls – to all ships had to be well built and in good ship shape to handle the pressure of lying on their hull when the tide went out. Also, all good had to be fixed down so they wouldn’t shift as the boat leant over (good needed to be stowed in the Bristol fashion).

On the bus tour we were also able to glimpse Brunel’s marvellous SS Great Britain, and the beautiful Clifton Suspension Bridge. We also saw a piece of Banksy artwork on the wall of a building, and the requisite Lovely Old Buildings – including some apparently built in the unique ‘Byzantine Bristol’ style.

Dinner was a quick dash across a rain-soaked beach to the ‘Za Za Bazaar’. I didn’t think I’d ever see a buffet that would outdo the Bellagio at Vegas… but this was much bigger, and dare I say, better too. It had I think six whole buffets – dessert (most important), Salad, Asian, European, Tex-Mex, and Indian – so nobody would be at a loss to find something to eat. Most impressive – and surprisingly it was all delicious. After that it was another dash back to the hotel.
Hopefully the weather will be a bit better tomorrow for the adventures ahead – let’s see!

Last day in Brighton

Last day in Brighton
Brighton, United Kingdom

Brighton, United Kingdom

Last day in brighton

One hallmark of our stay in Brighton has been a slowing down of the pace – once again we didn’t head out til after midday.

No big adventure today, we first ventured down to the Marina as it looked like a pretty big place full of shops and things to see. That didn’t quite end up being the case – but the marina itself was chock full of boats, and the white cliffs stretching out behind us were pretty – even though we’re nowhere near Dover. We did wander into ASDA though – half Coles, half Costco, and lots of good value, not that we bought anything really. We did however take a tip from one of Perry’s ex colleagues, and have lunch at Pizza Express – a bit pizza chain. Delicious especially the ‘dough balls’, little bits of cooked pizza dough, excellent with garlic butter.

The rest of the Marina shopping district was quite dead, so we moved on and visited the aquarium, the oldest in Britain I believe, established in 1872. Upon walking in we were greeted by this amazing vaulted ceiling lit up in rainbows down its whole length, I guess that’s very Brighton. It was interesting, especially the enormous sea turtles they had in the ocean take. Beautiful!

It was a very grey and windy day, which had turned to rain by the time we exited the aquarium. So we just dashed back to Morrison’s again to pick up a few things for tea. Hotdogs aren’t easy to find! But when we did find them, they were german, and delicious, worth seeking out. And of course a very easy dinner so that’s a bonus. Then it was back to the car for a short drive home.

One other thing I’v learnt about driving in the UK as opposed to Sydney – everyone is a hell of lot more cooperative. I had to turn right across a busy road and figured I’ve be waiting there for ages. But within seconds someone stopped, flashed their light tons say ‘go ahead’ and I’d quick turned across both lanes of traffic – very nice to see the art of road manners hasn’t been completely forgotten.

It’s our last day in Brighton, and it’s been a pretty sedate part of the holiday, I guess it’s good to take a moment from all the rushing around to just sit and relax a bit, that’s a it part what a holiday is meant to be about, after all. Tomorrow we have a long drive out to Bristol. Expect me to whining about traffic again in tomorrow’s entry 🙂

Bikes, Busses and ChockyWockyDooDah

Bikes, Busses and ChockyWockyDooDah
Brighton, United Kingdom

Brighton, United Kingdom

We had another lazy late start to the day, venturing outdoors just a bit before lunchtime, to wander around and see what Brighton has to offer. This ended up not being the best idea – let me tell you a bit about parking in Brighton. There’s not a lot of it – so for visitors like us, we need to fill out a visitor parking voucher every day and put it on the dashboard. If you don’t put the days voucher on the dashboard by 9AM, then you are effectively parking there without permission and a liable to be fined.

Unfortunately we found this out just after 9AM when we looked out the window and saw the tell-tale envelope under the windscreen wiper … yup, welcome to Brighton, here’s your parking fine. It was for the princely sum of £50 – but if you pay within 14 days then its only half-price. So, only a £25 tax for not having our eye on the ball. Could be worse, could’ve been Sydney prices! But still, lesson learnt.

We walked in to town (it’d probably take half an hour to drive the 5 minute walk). First funny thing to note – there’s a pub called “The Jury’s Out”. Two doors down is another pub. It’s name? “The Verdict”. There were motorbikes (and motorbike riders) all over the place. Everywhere. Perry did a bit of research and found they’re on a massive big ride that started in Germany, officially ended at Ace’s Cafe in London, but then continues on to Brighton. Must be a hell of a two-wheeled trip. But Im glad we arrived in Brighton on the Saturday not the Sunday, else I can’t imagine what the traffic must have been like with thousands of motorbikes added to the throng of cars on the road.

We bought tickets to the hop-on hop-off bus to get a quick tour around the town and see the sights, also with a commentary where we learnt a bit about Brighton and its history. Including some important facts, for example New Street was formerly known as Upper Back Passage 🙂

We walked around ‘The Lanes’, the twisty little streets chock full of independent retailers, including ChockyWockyDooDah, whose show we have been watching on telly for years. It was very cool to see their incredible chocolate creations up close and personal. Luckily they also sold stuff that was less than hundreds of pounds – so we enjoyed a box of big ChockyWockyDooDah freckles. Yum!

Not far from the busker (who this time unfortunately wasn’t singing Smiths songs), we saw an artist doing to most incredible and finely detailed pencil drawings – so we had to have a picture of Meerkats to take home.

We when wandering around the retail district, we finally saw our first pound shop – where everything costs a pound. Yep, it’s England’s two-dollar shop, but it had surprisingly good deals and a wide range of stock, including cold drinks, milk, and meat.

Wandering on, we got up close and personal with the Royal Pavilion …and a whole lot of scaffolding. So no glamorous photos of the front of it as it’s lost in a sea of wood and metal. Reminds me of the first time I went to London and Nelson’s column couldn’t be seen for the same reason. Still, it’s a pretty remarkable confection, a lasting symbol of how perhaps Prince George didn’t quite responsibly manage his access to the public purse. Or… has history proved that wrong, considering the amount of tourism it may well have generated ever since the pavilion was sold to the city.

It had been overcast all day and by about 4 there were a few spots of rain, so we decided to pop into Morrison’s again to get some things for dinner, and retired back to the flat. Lovely and comfortable as this flat is, it sure is a good walk uphill from the seaside, so once you’ve put the work in to get there, it’s a good idea ago stay put. Well, except to go out to the car at 8PM to change the parking voucher over, lest we cop another fine tomorrow.

Tomorrow is a bit of adventure, a big drive out to visit Southampton, and (yay) another show.

Bye Bye London, hello traffic! (Oh, and Brighton)

Bye Bye London, hello traffic! (Oh, and Brighton)
Brighton, United Kingdom

Brighton, United Kingdom

We had to be up and at ’em this morning after an almost restful 6 hour post-Shakespeare sleep – it was time to move on, and leave London behind.

Somehow we managed to squish everything into our dangerously-overflowing suitcases and still check out on time. Rather than enjoy lugging said suitcases around the tube, we just jumped in a black cab to go to Waterloo station, to collect the rental car that will be out companion for the rest of the UK leg of the trip.

They were a bit excited at the rental place, and we were pretty lucky – we were given a brand new car, the first one of these they had ever received. So we walk out the back to see we have been blessed with, a Fiat 500 X. It’s a dinky little Fiat 500 that has been given a load of steroids and two extra doors. Being a manual, and a diesel manual at that, I wasn’t sure how I was going to go – but I got it off to a start with nary a hitch and before you know it, bam there I am in the think of (almost) central London traffic. Eek! The cheap GPS we bought lives up to its price by taking forever to recover when I pretty much instantly missed one of the turns it told me to take. Thank goodness Perry was there with the map on his phone to help me out. We only had a bit of a minor detour before getting back on track.

Ah, London traffic, what can I say. There’s a lot, and then there’s some more. I didn’t even get into third gear for the first 30 minutes. It’s got me stuffed why most people actually choose to drive a manual here when you spend almost all of your time stuck or moving at 1 or 2 miles per hours. The other thing that has me confused a few times is the way lanes disappear and reappear with basically no notice. Am I merging? Are we splitting? Anyone’s guess sometimes, really. Still, I didn’t manage to hit anyone so I guess thats alright, and I should be extremely grateful for the leg workout due to the number of times we had to stop / start / stop / start … I think we covered about 10 miles in the first hour … I wasn’t quite prepared for how slow the traffic was.

Traffics just a fact of life, and eventually we got through it, only a freeway where I could eventually use all of the 6 available gears, up to 70 mph (about 110 km/h). It was good to finally give the left foot a bit of a rest. The car itself has performed admirably, and I soon discovered something I was very thankful for – hill-start assist. It hold the car after you take the door off the brake, when doing a hill start. The handbrake is electric, so it wouldn’t really work for hill starts, so thank goodness the car generally helps us novices who haven’t driven a manual car in a couple of years.

Approaching Brighton, the traffic of course came back, but not to worry because hey, it means we were at Brighton! We saw the Brighton Pier in the distance, and before you know it we were driving on the road alongside it. We sought out a parking area near ‘The Lanes’ shopping streets, and noticed a bit of a queue. When we finally reached the boomlet and ticket machine it became clear what was going on. The carpark was full, so it was only letting one car in as soon as another car left. So after a good long wait, it was time to get in and try and find that one remaining spot that had become free. I found one, which was of course stolen by a dick in a Lexus – no surprise there. But only 30 seconds later someone left right next to us so lo and behold, parking!

But enough about the boring detail of our exciting trip through a car park – what about Brighton? First impressions are of old world charm, perhaps a little faded, but charm nonetheless. One thing that became clear very quickly is it’s no secret what town St Kilda in Melbourne was modelled from. Apart from the lack of trams, at times it looks very similar along the waterfront. Except of course the beach is all pebbles and not sand. To my Australian eye, it sure is unusual, but of course it doesn’t stop people getting down there and basking in whats left of the sun. The pier itself was full of amusements, seagulls, strong breezes, and spectacular views back to the Brighton waterfront. We only had a brief wander around the pier as it was time to get to our accommodation – we had to wait a little bit for the person with the keys to get home.

The only bad thing I can say about our accommodation is its on the third floor and its all stars – which is only a right pain in the **** when you have a ridiculously heavy suitcase … yep I needed a break after the second floor before I could tackle the next flight of stairs. Its a nice little one bedroom flat we rented via AirBNB – the loungeroom and bedroom look out to the water and the Pier, which is a nice bonus. As its someone’s home, it has all the creature comforts, such as a washing machine, and a proper-sized fridge – some of things you just don’t get in the hotels. So many thanks for Kevin for letting us stay in his place, while he’s off in his own holiday.

The other bonus of having a proper kitchen is that we had our first non-restaurant meal in almost a month. Down to the local Morrisons, we bought a cooked chock and some salad and wraps – made a really nice change to eat in after a long and tiring day. I was also thrilled to hear, as we walked down an alley, a great busker singing his very cheery rendition of The Smiths’ “Heaven knows I’m miserable now”. Ah, this is how you really know you’re in England!

Dinner was lovely, and the night was spent in front of the telly – but that was about all we had energy for after a night of little sleep and a big (ish) drive. Let’s see what tomorrow will bring!

The big last day in London

The big last day in London
London, United Kingdom

London, United Kingdom

Better late then never – here;s what happened yesterday.
One good thing about holidays – some days, having a sleep in is no big deal. Today was one of those days, had a goodly sleep in, and didn’t wander outdoors until brunch. Today, for our last day in London (darn) we got out of London for the Harry Potter Studio Tour. Switching from the underground to a proper train at Euston, heading out was just like leaving Central station and travelling west. I wouldn’t be surprised if if it was built by or at least designed by the same people coz I could’ve sworn we went past Redfern station at one point.

I wasn’t too sure what to expect at the studio tour, but it was really really impressive. Seeing sets and props from he movie was good, but learning about the amount of care, skill and dare I say love that went into making those movies was just incredible. Some examples that spring to mind:

  • In Ollivanders and shop, there were 17,000 individual wand boxes, all of which were hand-labelled. Then there were all burnt when the shop was destroyed in the final film.
  • All of the hundreds of oil paintings were genuine oil paintings, created by classically train artist, then ‘aged’ to look hundreds of years older.
  • The triple-decker ‘Knight Bus’ was cobbled together out of three old London double-deckers. It was weighed down with an extra 4 tons of weight at the bottom to stop it tipping over, as it was a fully working bus that they drove around the streets of London.

So in short it really good to learn a little about how the movies were made, and of course it was great to see the sets and a massive array of props that were used in the movie. We hung around there for a good three hours before making our way back. (I posted all the photos yesterday, so don’t have any new ones to add in today from Harry Potter)

That wasn’t the end of the day though, far from it. Time for dinner and a power-nap, because tonight was the night to swap the recent entertainment for the ancient – and see a Shakespeare play at The Globe Theatre, the re-creation of the theatre that Shakespeare had built back in 1599.

We found out way to the theatre, arriving at 11:30pm – and I was pretty surprised to see that by midnight, the whole place was packed to the gills. We were in the ‘posh seats’ up above… but they were anything but posh. The seat was a wooden bench not even a foot deep, with 6 of us squished into a space probably best for 4. We splashed out on an extravagance – spending £1 each on a small cushion. Could be much worse of course – the ‘groundlings’ have to stand on the ground, in the open air, and if it rains … bad luck. But did any of it matter? Not at all. It was an incredible experience to be in the theatre, and imagining how it could have been some 400 years earlier. Suddenly I remembered some of what my high school English teacher would tell about the Globe and the plays – how they catered to all audiences. Bawdy jokes for the groundlings, and higher concepts for those ‘up above’.

I’m no Shakespeare expert, all I know of Much Ado About Nothing is that its one of the comedies, so hopefully not as dry as the histories or the tragedies. Pretty much from the get-go I was surprised and impressed, as the play opened with a beautiful musical number, performed by the cast, who all seem to be quite accomplished musicians as well as actors.

I haven’t gone back and read the play yet, but of all the Shakespeare’s Ive seen, this was certainly the most accessible. The language was easily understood – usually it takes me a goo 15-20 minutes to ‘tune in’ to the language, the iambic pentameter, all that stuff. But this one all made sense right from the start. And it was so funny – the actor playing Benedict was just hilarious, the whole cast were great, keeping the play moving along at a good pace, even though it’s a very straightforward story stretched over two and a half hours. But in short it was much more entertaining than I expected, easy to understand and easy to follow the story, and an amazing amount of angry supplied from the cast to the audience, and in return from the audience to the cast. It was easy to forget that by the end of the play it was almost 3:00 in the morning.

After the plays triumphant conclusion came the next bit … how the hell are we going to get home? The tube wasn’t running at this hour, so we just had to start walking and hope for the best that we’d find a taxi before the whole 40 minute walk home. Luckily we found one after bout 15 minutes, so made it back to the hotel with no dramas.

So just in case I haven’t gushed enough about it yet – it was awesome! Not just worthy historical activity, but a damn funny comedy to boot, in an incredible environment. Loved it!

This meant getting to bed at about 4:00AM, which was always going to make the next day interesting.

But as far as London goes, that was it, our time there has come to a close. What an incredible city – it’s stuff built on top of other stuff, a feeling which pervades almost the whole place. From the tube stations, to Camden markets, to hotels made from terraces joined together, to streets that seem to start and stop randomly for no good reason … it’s an agglomeration of centuries on top of centuries on top of centuries, and I loved every last bit of it.

A heap of photos from the Harry Potter Studio Tour

A heap of photos from the Harry Potter Studio Tour
London, United Kingdom

London, United Kingdom

Ill have the whole write-up of today available some time later – but for now here’s a stack of photos from the (awesome!) Harry Potter Studio Tour.

Later tonight we’re seeing a production at Shakespeare’s Globe, at midnight. Should be fun – but need to have a bit of a power nap first I reckon.

One day, two shows. Just how it should be.

One day, two shows. Just how it should be.
London, United Kingdom

London, United Kingdom

thursday Hard to believe its already our second-last day in London.  After a it of a late start we headed up to Selfridges on Oxford St to check out it’s much-hyped Christmas Store.  I don’t know that it lives up to the hyped, but it did have some lovely things.  We did buy one red bauble that will hopefully survive the trip home.  The shop itself is beautiful – flanked by columns outside, and even some inside, it’s like someone took David Jones and turned up the poshness by a few more levels.  Very nice, if you’re into that kind of thing. Today we had a matinee – all due to a minor booking mishap months ago thanks to your-truly.  The show we saw was Billy Elliot.  I’d been it in Sydney many years ago, but can’t see I remembered too much about it.  One thing that surprised me about the show was how overtly political it was – being set in the time of the miners’ strike I guess its not too much of a surprise.  I think the Australian version of the show must have toned this element down quite  lot.  Also toned down for Australia I think was the amount of swearing, particularly from the kids.  It was hilarious, but not gratuitous.   Less welcome were a couple of (anti) gay jokes – but being set in the 80s I guess it’s all part of the territory.   The show was a very long 3 hours … there was a whole somewhat bizarre set piece of giant dancing clothes, all to support one of the minor characters who enjoys cross-dressing.  It seemed out of place amongst the gritty reality of the the rest of the show, I’m just not sure why it was there.  But overall it was still a good show.  Being a matinee I don’t think they had their best Billy on board, but he did a much better job than I ever could, so can’t complain. I learnt a bit more theatre trivia today, too.  For almost every performance we’ve seen, at some point the Safety Curtain would come down (usually at interval) – and always very clearly and ostetntaiously marked as the Safety Curtain.  The purpose of the safety curtain is to prevent a fire on stage from carrying into the rest of the theatre.  I guess this made more sense in the days when theatre stages were lit by candles or gas.  The very first one was installed in 1794 – which I think is pretty forward-thinking to have such a focus on safety well over 200 years ago.  Most theatres have a requirement (or maybe more just a tradition these days) to show the safety curtain to assure the audience it is functional – which is why it’s usually shown at intermission. Happily after the show we had a chance for a quick catch-up with one of Perry’s former workmates who has moved back to the UK.  Unfortunately we didn’t have too long to chat because it was time for another show.  Two in one day, why not. Yesterday on a whim Perry bought tickets for another performance of The Book of Mormon – yep its definitely worth seeing again, so why not 🙂  This time around there were a few cast changes – one of the main characters (Elder Cunningham) was being played by the expected actor, not the understudy.  But to be honest, I think the understudy we saw the other day was much better suited to the role.   There was also an understudy tonight, for Elder McKinley – and one of his best friends was sitting next to us, which was cool.  He did an excellent job – and as for his friend, she did an excellent job of applauding him.  It was great to see the show again – we were right on the edge but three rows from the front, which actually gave a very different feel to the performance from closer to the middle like we were last week.  The sound was actually better, and it was great to be able to also clearly hear the audience reaction this time as well.   Loved seeing the show again, even if it had only been a week since we’d seen it.   A Ben & Jerry Fudge Sundae was a suitable follow up to a delicious dinner of chinese dumplings … so then it was time to waddle back to the hotel, get out the laptop and start typing.  Finally, it’s time to stop typing – but I will, of course, carry on tomorrow.

Camden (part 2), The Zoo and the Mousetrap

Camden (part 2), The Zoo and the Mousetrap
London, United Kingdom

London, United Kingdom

Where were we? Yesterday, having just cruised in Jason the boat, from Little Venice up to Camden Lock market. We walked up to one of the canal bridges with a great view over the lock – it was really interesting watching the boats be raised and lowered to continue on their journey. Not the quickest way to get around town, though I surprised to find the canals really only stopped being used for freight as late as the 1950s.
In the market, at first, I was a bit surprised as it looked small. But soon we discovered an entryway to another part, and then another part, and another and another … it’s an incredible little maze of market stalls – covered, open-air, clothes, knick-knacks, antiques, food … man, the food! An incredible array of sights and smells (and free samples everywhere!), it’s clearly pretty competitive path. We eventually settled on some Indian roti – freshly cooked naan while-you-wait with delicious chicken fillings, it was delicious, fresh, cooked right in front of you as you watch. Fantastic.
The whole place was really pumping, a great market vibe, there was just something really cool about it. Lunch was followed up by Poffertjes (again cooked fresh in front of us) drowned in Nutella then covered in strawberries. Gotta be happy with that!

On the way to Camden Lock market we passed the London Zoo – so we found another canal boat that would take us there. We arrived, saw the money enclosure, I turned my camera o not take a shot and … guess who hadn’t charged their camera battery. Yep, as soon as we got to the zoo, it went dead. Bummer, but only have myself to blame. At least I still had my phone, and Perry still had his camera.

The Zoo was great – we probably covered half of it, but it was great to get in amongst the Lemurs in their enclosure, of always good to see Meerkats, the penguins were great fun, and I even learnt something – I never know about the Okapi until I saw one. We caught another canal boat from the zoo, back to Little Venice, having thoroughly enjoyed a morning and afternoon that very much exceeded my expectations. Top tip for all travellers to London – take a boat to Camden Lock market. Loved it!!

The show this evening was The Mousetrap – the Agatha Christie play that has been running continuously since 1952. The theatre, St. Martins, was yet another lovely old building, I was particularly taken with the very polite signs requesting you to use the ashtrays due to the floorings being easily damaged 🙂 I expected the play to be somewhat dry, stuffy, and possibly a bit boring. Two out of three ain’t bad – yes it was a little dry, and charmingly stuffy (if that’s even possible) – but boring? No – I really enjoyed it. It wasn’t an overly sophisticated story – all the drama is created purely by withholding information fro the audience, but I guess isn’t that how most murder mysteries are done? But it was clever the way that just enough suspicion was hung upon each character to keep us guessing until the big reveal. At the end of the play we were all request not to share the secret – I promise I will keep the secret intact. The play has had hundreds of actors over its 63 years – but one of the first was Richard Attenborough. Even the Queen has seen it – back in 2002. There’s even one original cast member – the radio announcer on the ‘wireless’ is still the original recording used from the very first production. The actor is long gone, but his voice lives on.

We sure crammed a lot in to the day, even managed to get a bit of sunburn at the zoo and Camden. All in all, a brilliant day!

Camden (Part 1)

Camden (Part 1)
London, United Kingdom

London, United Kingdom

Today it was time for a visit to what’s regarded as a bit of a “London secret” – there’s still a network of canals that run from London all they way to at least Manchester. I think it was the primary way to move freight until the railways took over in the 1800’s. So we hopped on the tube to Warwick Avenue, to find Jason, our boat. The hot tip for “Jason’s Trip”: since we pre-booked, we were allowed on first, so we’re able to sit right up front.

The canal where Jason is moored is a lovely and radiant shade of … Green. Totally carpeted in Duckweed. It looks a bit strange to see boats glide by as if they’re scooting along on astroturf instead of water.

Jason the boat is 109 years old – instead of having an engine, he used to be horse drawn, which must have been a real bugger for the horse towing a wood and cast iron boat that was about 21 metres long. Apparently horses didn’t have good life expectancy back in the days, it’s hardly surprising. At a few points along the canal you can see where the rope from horse to boat has actually worn large grooves in iron bridge and tunnel supports. Being 21 metres long, if you need to turn the boat around you have to find a “winding hole” (as in blowing wind not winding up a clock) that you can turn around in, and there’s only one every few miles. It’s like a grander and more dramatic version of missing your exit on the freeway. It was a really interesting little cruise and a great way to see a part of London I knew very little of beforehand.

But you know what? It’s late and I’m tired, so Im going to continue this one tomorrow. Goodnight!