London, United Kingdom
Today started nice and early, a there was much to do. After a few weeks travelling together, it was time for 5 of our party to break off and head for horizons news.
They’re all off to Paris, so we accompanied them all the to lovely King’s Cross St. Pancras station so they could catch the Eurostar to their new destination.
It was a bit of a change for us too – a change of hotel. So we also had to check out of the shoebox, but luckily they were happy to store our bags for a while, everyone else had to drag theirs down the street and take them on the tube. I wasn’t sure how much fun that was going to be for them, manhandling bit suitcases down stairs and escalators to squeeze on to the tube during peak hour … but when we got there, there was hardly anyone on the train at all so it was a very straightforward trip. At the King’s Cross end it was all very straightforward, looking like it was built with suitcase-lugging passengers in mind as there were no steps involved. With breakfast done and dusted it was time to say our goodbyes … and suddenly it was just the two of us. We took a quick wander around the station to take in the sights, including the statue of poet John Betjeman, who was almost single-handedly responsible for saving the station when it was in danger of being demolished in the sixties.
With just the two of us, a whole train network stretching out before us, and sufficiently-charged Oyster cards … what to do? On a whim we chose Hyde Park Corner station. Good choice! The sun was shining, the paths were shaded and the trees were green. Actually, pretty much everything here is relentlessly, gloriously, unapologetically green.
Within a minute of stepping out of the tube station, we heard the clip-clop of horses hooves … and right in front us is a contingent of the Blues and Royals regiment, on horseback. (Yep I had to google it to find that out…)
We had a great wander up and down Hyde Park – I gotta say it’s great fun watching the big swans coming in to land on the Serpentine – how they manage to turn big skid into a graceful landing is beyond me, but graceful it definitely is. And of course the little buggers refused to do it on cue so I could video it. Luckily plenty of other people have – this video has a bonus near-miss and ensuing argument: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4nki3lW3mY
I could’ve watched the swans, and the ducks, and all the other birds, for ages. In fact, we did – putting a cafe at the waters edge was a brilliant idea, and a good time for a coffee. We walked on, up and over the (lovely, of course) bridge into Kensington gardens. Plenty to see (including squirrels), and a just a nice refreshing walk in the open air with not-quite-too-hot sunshine as well. Just lovely.
At the end of Kensington garden we look through hedge and did a bit of a double-take as we could just make our dozens and dozens of tiny headstones in the garden of one of the small buildings in the Gardens… Fortunately (in a way) we were able to see that it was just for pets (unless somone’s child was a ‘loving companion of 7 years’ called Bijou!).
After viewing the loving ‘Italian Gardens’ – built by Albert just because he fancied Victoria, now there’s one hell of a present, we pressed on, found the nearest tube station (Lancaster Gate) and made our way back our original hotel so we could retrieve our bags, and move on.
We took our bags for a nice walk down the road for a few minutes, down to Leicester Square to our new hotel. Things got off to an excellent start when the fellow at reception suggested that we may be a bit cramped in the room we had booked (clearly he had no idea about the hotel we’d just come from!), so voila, free room upgrade! And what a room it is – almost embarrassingly spacious compared to the last one, it’s wonderful, directly overlooking M&M world with a bit of a view down Leicester Square. Luckily it has extremely effective double-glazing as it’s a noisy end of town, with construction on one side, buskers on the other, and people everywhere else – but you can’t hear a peep inside.
Tonight’s show was Kinky Boots – it was amazing! It was interesting to see how much it had changed compared to the broadway version we saw in 2013. Some parts had been cut, some songs had been lengthened and changed … pretty much all for the better, I enjoyed this version a bit more than the broadway one. Just like last time, there was a full-theatre standing ovation, and again just like last time, Cyndi Lauper was rumoured to be in the house, but I didn’t see her anywhere. Anyway, so glad we had the chance to see the show again.
Post-show dinner was at another branch of Muriel’s – and just as delicious as last night’s meal.
So, Phase 2 of our London adventure is off to a promising start!