London

This will be the index of postings to the Travelblogue that documents my visit to London and Cape Town. The nature of blogging results in the latest posting appearing first on screen, so that later events appear first. This Travelblogue index will list the postings in chronological order from leaving Vancouver to the termination of the trip, as a guide to your reading. Until the index is complete note that the story commences with this post.
 

Today’s day time highlight other than a great chacha and samba dance class was lunch with two aunts, Essie and Rosaline, who were my mother’s first cousins, at the courtyard restaurant at Winchester Mansions on Beach Road, Sea Point . I caught up on the details of offspring and marriages for my family tree. My genealogy work sort of got put on hold for the pastg few years but I am slowly getting back to it.

Being away for nearly a month, I was concerned about keeping up my level of fitness and not putting on weight – what with no gym, no dance classes, and having to try all the new and exciting restaurants in Cape Town . I was also concerned about withdrawal symptoms from my growing dance addiction. So being a trained researcher and all that, I used the Internet back in Vancouver , to find a dance instructor in Cape Town who taught international dancing. I found someone that sounded promising and gave Brin his cell phone number.

After a long walk on the white sand beach, occasionally letting tiny icy wavelets ripple over our bare feet, we met up with surfer dude and headed off to Jimmy’s Restaurant for an excellent lunch. I had grilled calamari and shrimp, and I confess – the chips/fries that were cooked to perfection. SA knows its chips!

Headed down for a leisurely breakfast (continental included in the room fee). The staff are from everywhere but England – Polish, Russian, Middle Eastern, African.- and very pleasant and efficient. Its not a bad breakfast and the coffee is vastly improved from the last time I stayed here. It’s buffet style. For an extra 6 pounds or so you can have the egg/bacon stuff but the buffet was more than adequate. They had a good plain low fat yogurt, excellent fruit salad than was not all just melons, good cheese selection, and really good croissants and breads.

It will be really interesting to see how the Vancouver Airport-downtown line alters passenger patterns. My transport here from downtown London to Heathrow was really smooth. Taxi arrived promptly at the hotel at the exact time it was ordered. The drive to Paddington took not much more than 16 minutes although the lady cabbie warned that the rain and the traffic may make it take longer.

London, UK: Timing is everything! Pass it on. For several reasons including airline bookings, the timing of my four day stopover in London ended up with me arriving on Saturday Tuesday. While perfect for New York where it would mean I could see a matinee and evening performance on Sunday, in London virtually all the theatres are dark on Sundays. From the hordes of people in and around Leicester Square and Covent Garden it seems a somewhat unbusinesslike way of doing things.

Having carefully observed the changing street names I made my way back to the hotel in a record 25 minutes. Part of the reason was that it was really cold and despite my hoodie, the wind made my head ache – like eating ice cream or drinking really cold water too fast!

Turns out that when they said 12 to 12 they actually meant noon to noon not midnight to midnight.

Woke at the very respectable hour of 8 am (maybe my jetlag plan is working) to the sound of wind driving rain against the window. My breakfast assignment was for 9:40 so I took my time getting dressed while working through the mechanics of signing up for wifi internet service from my room. The cost is horrendous but then London is extraordinarily expensive – more later about that! They charge 6 pounds an hour or 15 pounds for 24 hours but the 24 hours runs only from 12 to 12.

I decided to pick up some fruit and go back to the hotel before heading out to the show so called in at Sainsbury to pick up oranges and nuts - loading up on vitamin C and E. On my way I stopped at the Wyndham and picked up a ticket for The History Boys for Monday night.

I am impressed. We went into a holding pattern around Heathrow but still landed almost on time. For about ten minutes we circled around. I could see the green crazy patchwork of fields and hedges, like a jigsaw puzzle without any of the round protruding pieces. I had one of those pink fast track folders so went through immigration in about two minutes, my suitcase was out in about five minutes and I was heading down the ramp to catch the Heathrow express which takes you into London in 15 minutes. Cost about 29 pounds for a return ticket. – actually why am I impressed? - that’s about 62 dollars, not cheap.

Packed, downstairs, and chatting to my neighbours while waiting for the cab at 3 pm, I was feeling much more relaxed than my usual bleary-eyed 6 am-to-the-airport-self. The flights to Europe usually seem to be late afternoon so theoretically one should sleep for the nine hours and arrive refreshed and happy, thinking how wonderful the trip was, and book again with the airline for your next trip. Ah, but what about those of us who don’t sleep easily on planes?

As my once excellent memory now needs regular tune-ups and then still does not work too well, I found that checking some information from my last blog of travel to London and France came in quite helpful. I decided it was worth making a few notes for future travel.

It is a few days before I leave to visit London and Cape Town. This trip I decided to be very organized- no frantic packing at the last minute. So I made my list, checked it twice- and began to implement. First thing was to sort out travel arrangements to my hotel in London, and next to check out what shows are on in the West End.

Of course, just as I have begun to feel comfortable moving around in my “hood”, it is time to leave. Some thoughts on departing from London today.

Of the major English Romantic poets I generally prefer the work of John Keats to that of Percy Shelley- but not when it comes to hairdryers. Think about it. When you are impatiently trying to brush and comb your wet hair into some semblance of dryness and order, what would you prefer?

LONDON: England: The difficulty I had with Shakespeare's "Antony and Cleopatra" when I first studied it about five years ago was not resolved when I saw a Vancouver production that same year, and today's production at the Shakespeare Globe Theatre in fact exacerbated the problem.

LONDON: England: I chose to end my too brief sojourn in London's West End Theatreland with a musical, "Avenue Q" and what a great choice. From the moment the high energy music jolted the audience to silence and the first song began I knew this was going to be a fun evening. When the first question raised in song is "what do you with a B.A. in English?" and the inhabitants, new and old, of Avenue Q agree of that "it sucks to be me" you know that nothing is sacred and no one will be spared in this irreverent fast paced show.

With nothing special planned till this evening when I go to see “A Voyage round my Father at the Wyndham’s Theatre, some more sightseeing was in order. With a limited amount of time, I thought I would take a tour and see where I wanted to spend my last free day in London tomorrow.

The first English class I took when I went back to do my BA at UBC five years ago was a six-credit evening course on Shakespeare. So naturally one of the to-dos on my list for London was to see the recreated Globe Theatre. I decided to catch a Wednesday matinee of Antony and Cleopatra, one of the twelve plays and numerous poems I actually studied for my class.

LONDON: England: Voyage round my Father" is an autobiographical play by John Mortimer, English barrister turned prolific novelist and playwright, and probably best known for the books and TV series "Rumpole of the Bailey". I really did not know what to expect but was interested to see that the audience was significantly different in age from that at the two previous productions that I saw.

I pass bookstore after bookstore and theatre after theatre as I roam around the West End . My kind of place. I restrain myself from getting carried away buying books. I have one small suitcase for checked luggage and my back pack for my lap top. This is not a trip for acquiring things - except new experiences. At the Crime and Mystery Bookstore on Charing Cross Road however, discipline breaks down and I leave the store with a signed copy of the latest Dick Francis novel. Not even in paperback – poor bulging suitcase.

In that strange unpredictable mix of physiological traits that our genes produce for everyone there are positives and negatives. In my case my hair resolutely refuses to do the usual ageing thing and go grey or white. Instead it sends out tiny silver threads every now and again so in certain lighting it looks as though I have very subtle highlights. Saved me a fortune in hairdresser bills. That’s a positive.

I am writing this from my compact, and mercifully cool, hotel room in Soho.

The high in London today is 28 C and I have done a lot of moving around dragging my “light” luggage. Since my natural habitat is probably somewhere close to Antarctica or maybe Siberia, I find the air conditioning most welcome.