Seeing the London sights
Trip Start Aug 15, 2006
29Trip End Sep 19, 2006
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She then sends me downtown on the bus as she has some errands to attend to. I am officially a tourist again, clutching my A-Z map book and Lonely Planet London guide in one hand and my video and regular cameras in the other. Alighting at Piccadilly Circus, I wander down Charing Cross Road to Trafalgar Square, past St. James park and the Horseguards and Whitehall, where the War Offices are located.
I was hoping for a glimpse at 10 Downing Street but it is all locked up from the public these days so you can only peer through the bars.
Then it is along to Big Ben (where, with good timing, the bells chime upon my arrival) and the adjoining Parliament Buildings. London really is one historical monument after another, particularly this area. Unfortunately, but maybe predictably, it has been drizzling on and off all day. I have the bright idea of nipping into a pub to watch the cricket on telly, but then I remember that the game is being played in London, so would have just been watching more rain.
So I stroll along the South bank of the Thames for a couple of hours, past the London Eye, the Tate Modern Museum and Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.
I stop inside the Globe and fortunately there is a matinee showing of 'A Comedy of Errors', so I buy what is called a 'groundling' ticket, which means standing room only. The theatre was built in 1599, burned down in 1613 and rebuilt straight away (presumably by different people). Then some puritans decided theatre was evil so they closed it down and it was restored/rebuilt in its present location.
The theatre is open-topped, apart from the stage and the seated parts. It is circular in shape with three levels of galleries directly on top of each other. The stage is decorated grandly for Romeo & Juliet performances probably, and there is a slight Italian feel to it, for the numerous Italian-located plays. Today's production is "A Comedy of Errors". The story is basically one of mistaken identity, featuring two twins with the same name and their slaves, whoe are also twins with the same name. Confusing? Try understanding it when everything is in 16th century Shakespearean dialogue.
The show is actually excellent and easy to follow. The acting is top-notch and very funny. The play is essentially a farce and, as such, has plenty of slapstick violence complete with accompanying sound effects from the orchestra hidden away on the balcony. I leave at intermission only because I am feeling tired due to jetlag and i feel I have had a good sense for the atmosphere, etc. Also, it is already 3pm and I have a lot of London to see. I cross the Blackfriars bridge, which takes me back to the North side.
In Starbucks I ask the girl for "a small coffee, please". She gives me a slightly puzzled look and says "I'm sorry sir, we don't have that kind of coffee". At first I figure it is some kind of ironic Starbucks humour, suggesting that I would have to order a "tall mocho-choca decaf latte" or something so I smile but then I realise she is serious. She says "we don't have mango coffee, only mango juice". Somehow my New Zealand accent, tinged now as it probably is with some Canadian, yet ironically always mistaken as English in Canada, has made "small" sound like "coffee".
Unperturbed, I continue on my merry way. With the intention of picking up a small gift for Miffy to say thank you for her hospitality, I catch a passing bus up to Oxford St, the main shopping drag. Even though it is mid-afternoon on a Thursday, the streets and shops are jam-packed. Strangely for a country that thrives on order, pedestrians don't really seem to stick to one side of the pavement here. You'd think they would naturally veer to the left, as that is the side they drive on, but if anything the slight majority were on the right. Not a big deal.
My plan is to get a small but fancy food hamper from one of these big department stores, such as Selfridges or Harrod's, but none of them really had anything like that. Selfridges did have the world's most expensive sandwich, an 85 pound (currency pound, not weight pound, but this computer doesn't have a pound sign) behemoth containing all sorts of delicacies like truffles, caviar and so on but I wasn't quite that hungry so I settled for a 2 pound chicken wrap from Marks & Spencer. In the end I picked up a little gift set from the Body Shop featuring various creams and gels.