Sep 20, 2009

Lost Diaries 12

Monday, July 18, 2005
London, England

Monday got off to a rather slow start, since Damon was still not feeling well. We ate an English breakfast and then went back to the room to call about theatre tickets. We were able to get tickets to Chicago, The Lion King, and Guys and Dolls. We were both really pumped about that. We stopped by the internet café first to email the moms and write the latest diary installment. That took a while. We finally set out to pick up our tickets at the various box offices. On the way, we also stopped at a drug store and got Damon some cough drops and Manexes…Kleenexes for men. They are bigger and stronger than your average Kleenex. We were able to pick up all the tickets except for the ones for the Lion King, and by that time it was about 14:30, so we grabbed some Subway and decided to hit the British Museum while we were near it. I had read in the guide book that they had a “Top 50” audio guide that took 90 minutes. I shot some video in the great hall while Damon got audio guides. Turns out the 90 minute “Top 50” is another Rick Steves myth. It was a 2 hour tour, but we got it anyway. Damon navigated, and I shot video, and we hit the last 5 exhibits right as they were closing the doors for the day. We saw some really neat things, including the Rosetta Stone, Ginger the mummy, and the man they found in the bog. Those were our favorites…the bodies. They still had hair and everything.

After the museum, we rushed back to the hotel to get ready for the play. Damon had seen in a newspaper on the tube that the UK premiere of The Fantastic Four (or as they say in France, Les Quatre Fantastiques) was that night at 7 in Leceister Square. He had been dying to see the movie, so he was even more excited at the prospect of seeing the 4 themselves. Our show did not start until 8, and it was close to the premiere, so we decided to stop by and see what we could see. It was a really cool atmosphere, people perched in trees like Zaccheus trying to get a peek at the action, fire shooting out of the theatre marquis…really something. But then it started to rain. I took shelter under a nearby awning, but Damon was a hardcore fan and stood in the rain with the camera under his shirt to try and get a peek at Jessica Alba. In the end, we both saw her and the 3 other fantastics, even though I only saw them from 300 yards. We left at 7:30 for our show.

Chicago was our first London show. We were both excited because we loved the movie and were interested to see how it would be staged. Brooke Shields was supposed to play Roxie, but she was out sick, so that was a disappointment. The show was good, but the set was very plain and the talent was not the greatest. This was a case of the movie ruining the play for us. We still enjoyed it, but I would say if Chicago visits a stage near you, save your money and get the DVD. We give it 2 stars.

After Chicago we were exhausted, so we grabbed some KFC near the hotel and crashed.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Tuesday morning I started feeling about like Damon. I woke up with a stuffy nose, sneezing and snotting all over the place, just like old times before my allergy shots. Lovely. I was determined that we would see sites, though, so we ate breakfast and boarded the tube for Shakespeare’s Globe. When we got to the stop, there was a bike shop there, so Damon of course had to go in and peruse the merchandise. He wants a rode bike so bad he can taste it. This may also be a good time to mention that our first 2 days in London had been HOT, but this morning since I wore shorts and a tank top, it turned freezing. After the bike shop, we made it to the Globe, in time for me to browse the museum for 30 minutes before our actor-led tour. Damon decided that he not only wanted to see the Globe, he wanted to see a play at the Globe, so he went to the box office to secure tickets. He came back in time for the tour which was short but informative. For example, since there were no fire regulations back then, they could cram as many people as possible into the theatre, and the pit for standing room often held 700-800 people. Fighting for a space was tough. There were no public restroom facilities, so during the 3 hour play if someone heard the call of nature they would very often answer it right where they were standing, rather than risk losing their spot. Now that is what I call hard up for some entertainment. This, you can imagine, caused a glorious stench to pervade the area, so people would bring oranges and eat them, then use the peeling to form a makeshift gas mask. The people rarely threw fruit at the actors, like you see in the movies, because they were so poor if they had any fruit they were going to eat it. Also, contrary to Shakespeare in Love the queen would never have come to the theatre, since all the theatres were located in rather dodgy areas. (Dodgy is one of our new British words…it means shady) The top floor of the theatre was frequented by prostitutes, known as the “Something Geese” (the something was a place name, but I can’t remember it). They would use the shows as a way to drum up business. To get “bitten by the geese” meant to catch one of their VD’s. They were actually condoned by the local bishop, who collected taxes from them and regulated their activity. Those guys will definitely not be up for the “Best Christian Example” Award. Anyway, Damon got us tickets for the 14:00 performance of Pericles. I was not really pumped, because I had planned on doing more site seeing, and Rick Steves said the plays could get boring at the Globe. Damon was trying to be a good husband, thinking that I would LOVE to see a play at the Globe, so we had a little miscommunication there. When the tour was over, we had about 2 hours to grab something to eat and be back, so we stopped in a little café where I ordered a hamburger and a hot chocolate to warm me up. As they were cooking the hamburger, I remembered about mad cow disease, and I got very nervous. I ate it anyway, though, and it was truly gross. The pattie was as big as my head, but very flat, and it did not look like beef to us. It was served on a strange bun, and the mustard was some kind of Dijon that tasted toxic to me. Damon had a chicken wrap that I don’t think was much better. So far I have suffered no ill effects, even though I am not sure what the mad cow symptoms are…

On the way back to the theatre, we passed the Clink…the original prison that lent its name to all others. I was dying to go inside, but Damon was nervous about renting seat cushions and a blanket, so we split up. I took the camera and explored the Clink, and he went to the theatre. The Clink was a big letdown. Rick Steves was right when he said that it was a series of rooms filled with paper mache gore but little information. I did not film much of anything. The neatest thing that they had was an iron boot that was used as a torture device. They would put your foot in the boot, pack wood chips around it, then fill it with water or oil. That way the wood chips would swell and crush your foot. Then they would light a fire under the boot and boil the stuff inside, so that your foot would fall off and leave you with a bloody stump that would soon catch various diseases inside the filthy Clink. Good stuff, huh?

I made it back to the theatre in time to use the WC and browse the gift shop before we settled in for Pericles. The play defied all of our expectations and cemented our opinion that Rick Steves is an idiot. It was three hours long, but there was not a boring minute. The actors were great, the story was exciting, and they did lots of rope tricks, where they would climb ropes, swing from them, and do somersaults and flips. It was wonderful. We agreed that it was our favorite non-musical play ever and we were glad we decided to attend. The atmosphere was great as well. The Globe is open air and the seats are just wooden benches, so it had a very casual and fun vibe. We give it 4 stars.

After the play, it was time to head back to the hotel and get ready for The Lion King. We had just enough time, and again stopped by a pharmacy to get medicine for me this time. When we got to the theatre and were directed to our seats, they were great. We were right in the center and on the first tier above the floor. About 5 minutes before the performance, some people came who were supposed to be in the same seats. After some confusion, and asking the ushers again, they told us they were wrong, we were supposed to be downstairs. So we rushed downstairs to sit down, were directed to the wrong seats AGAIN, and Damon basically had to almost knock down a girl usher who was not going to let us back out to get to our seats. They had given us bad info too many times, though, and we were determined to be sitting for the first song. We made it and it turned out to be the best seats that we have ever had in the history of our theatre going. We were in the center, 7 rows back from the stage on the floor. The first song was a parade of all the animals coming in to “The Circle of Life” and Damon could have touched the elephant. The costumes and staging were great, but the story was obviously a bit of a snoozer, since we already knew what happened. We give it 3 stars.

We were again exhausted after the performance, so we grabbed some Burger King and soon were back in the room for a nice rest. More later!

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