We had to rush back to the hotel after the cruise, because we were yet to check in and because we were booked for the evening show of The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre and wanted to look a little dressed-for-the-occasion. Yes, how very you don’t go to operas in Sydney and theatre in London in your sneakers of us. But really, I have been to Opera House in Sydney and felt grossly under-dressed. 😀 The husband bungled up on the timings (I am sticking to my story, dude!) and made me walk (all 300 metres) very fastly fastly in high heels making me seethe and grimace in equal measure (clue: not pretty) but we got there in time. Barely screeched in, you could say. The show, which was beyond awesome, made up for the shoe bites. Almost. I’m a sucker for live performances of all kinds, and if you are too, you shouldn’t miss this for anything.
Don’t wear high heels though – it’s oh-a-kay. We’d made a mental note of going to Hard Rock that night, which we do in most cities we visit. I wouldn’t miss it so I just swallowed self-respect for a while, took off my shoes and walked barefooted from the nearest tube station to Hard Rock. Yes, you can get horrified or laugh now.
Once there, I may or may not have had two very quick drinks to drown the pulsating pain in the balls of my feet. On the way back, I was more than happy to walk in my heels (the pain seemed to have evaporated, wonder how). But the husband said we’ll take a cab, thankyouverymuch (wonder why).
The next morning, I woke up in a state of panic. *Just two days to go, I haven’t shopped, I haven’t seen anything, you waste so much time, you made me walk in high heels for over 300 metres*. The only response I got was “Tower of London first?” and off we went. It looked like the weekend had only just begun for London, with many families out to picnic. Tower of London, however, is an unlikely spot to spend time picnicking, particularly so if you know the history. We were given a tour of the place by a hilarious beef-eater, and as gory as the various executions and beheadings and secrets at the tower must have been in its time, he actually made us laugh at them. I loved this tour, for the surreal quality of the life it describes and the matter-of-fact way the story is now told. IMHO, history is both the glorious past and all that was not graceful, but it was life as it was known – you are nobody to regret it but you can learn from it.
We also proceeded to see the Crown Jewels section here, and yes, we did see the Kohinoor diamond. Bright and breathtakingly beautiful. I bought a fridge magnet with a replica of it.. I will have the rock one way or umm, totally another. We caught the Royal Guards parade too here, and very magnificent and sure as those guards look, I can’t stop thinking how pointless and barbaric the job is, in today’s context.
Well. There’s also an Armouries section here, and if you’re into Transformers or Star Wars, you’d probably love it. We were short of time, so we just saw a few things. Like life-size portraits of the horses of various kings; all looked the same to me. A very quick lunch later, we were out of there.
We walked over to Tower Bridge, which too has an amazing story and is everything engineering should be about – an out of the box solution that combines brilliance and perseverance.
It was most fascinating to see the Engine Rooms here, and know about other such grand bridges of the world, trivia about the Thames and about the fauna around the area. This is definitely a place parents with kids aged 5-12 should take them.
Next on our agenda was Westminster Abbey- attempt 2. It didn’t work out again, because like us, there were a thousand people there. It being a weekend and their decision to let the wedding decorations stay up for a week didn’t help. And then, we decided to rush to Madame Tussauds’ museum, and long story short, they were also closing for the day. For every woman, there comes a time in every vacation when the sunk cost of doing something must be measured in what it has cost you in shopping time, and with everything your husband suggests, you hiss “This better be good!” I was doing this, when he suggested we go visit Buckingham Palace. So we took the tube and went to Buckingham Palace, which is grand and with the flags and lights still up for the wedding, looked pretty awesome.
But the best part of going there was walking through Green Park. If Mumbai had a tenth of the green environs of London, wouldn’t it so much better a place to live in? And by green environs, I don’t mean places where people go to make out 😐 Anyway, I was quite happy that we had *done* something, and still had some time on our hands.
So we decided to go see the Harrods store.
Beautifully lit up and congratulating the royal couple for the wedding in style, Harrods was HUGE but that’s not what is so astonishing. What is surprising is that in such a HUGE store, I couldn’t afford anything :D. I did get some chocolates and here’s the cruel joke: While billing those chocolates, the cashier made a mistake and for a moment, the payable amount that flashed on the tab was well, err, unpayable by me. I had this mental “Oh god, did I not read the price tag properly? How am I gonna pay now? How much is this bag worth, considering they accept in-kind payments? How far is the exit from this desk.. can I make a run for it?” thought train. But she just giggled and reversed the charges as soon as she noticed it herself. HARRODS, issued in public interest: don’t do this to hapless tourists. In other news, I’m reminded of how pale I must have looked to her when she giggled, every time I try and eat the bytheway awesome chocolate hazelnut spread I bought.
I recovered from this traumatic experience over some coffee (which makes me ask, WHEN is Starbucks coming to India? Just WHEN?).
By the time we got to the hotel, we were pretty exhausted (the incident at Harrods may or may not have something to do with it.) So we ordered room service. But the food must have been spiked, because the tiredness subsided a bit and we found enough energy to go to a nearby casino. The husband dabbles in a bit of Roulette and Baccarat, and I hang around watching people bet like they’re on acid, sometimes imagining their stories and sometimes just taking full advantage of the free drinks. That night, I think we won about 50-odd pounds, and went back happy.
The last day, I was more zen-like because you know, how you just give up on some things and wistfully think “okay, next time”. That. So we made good time that morning too, and headed straight to Madame Tussauds. This was my first Madame Tussauds’ museum visit. So naturally, I went bonkers. I have a photograph with most celebrities there, in let’s just say, interesting poses. I don’t know, so many celebrities that look but are not real and you can click pictures with them, this kinda thing is right up the alley for losers like me. In real life, I’d act all nonchalant and unperturbed in the presence of a real celebrity when I’m SO not. I know this is common of people from Dallhee, no need to remind me thankyou.
But I have a bone to pick with the museum guys, Y U MAKING BOLLYWOOD AND INDIAN POLITICAL LEGENDS SO HORRIBLE LOOKING. Case in point: Amitabh Bachchan and Indira Gandhi. Ewww! Oh, the Spirit of London ride and the Marvel 4D movie at the museum was quite fun too.
We had lunch planned with my cousins who study/ work there, and they decided to take us out for some pub food at Leicester Square. Much conversation and catching up happened, over some of the biggest burgers I have seen. And some awesome ice-cream .. yumm 🙂
Finally, the best part. Shopping. Actually, the choice was between Westminster attempt 3 and shopping. So the husband decided to drop me off to Oxford Circus because my choice was made and it wasn’t this place we had given more than enough bhaav already 😀 He, meanwhile, did want to try once again. Soon, he’d have realized his folly and returned to where I’m at, because the Abbey crowds were in no mood to let up. However, my shopping spree was to come to a cruel, abrupt end when we realized that all stores close at 6.30 and not 8.30 on weekends. So yes, I just bought some presents and bid adieu to what could have been the most satisfying event of the whole vacation 😀 Of course, I was pissed off and blamed everything from the poor time management and extra lenient labour laws in the UK that enable such bizarre weekend shopping hours! And I’ll have you know I’m not done yet.
Having packed in all we could, we decided to take it easy and went to the Odeon for Thor 3D. And at the risk of my orientation seeming otherwise, I’d say Natalie Portman is HOT and one of the few reasons I could get through the movie. We also had some awesomely delicious pasta at Italia Bella (or Bella Italia?) for dinner. Later, we hit a casino again and won again! 🙂 Not as much as the previous night, but around half as much anyway.
I was suffering vacation withdrawal symptoms throughout the movie and after. Does anyone feel that packing up on the last night is the single most sorrowful experience ever? All in all, it was the kind of vacation I like, where you pack the days and nights with as much as you can, and there’s a lot to see and experience. If anything, I’m planning to go there again. To see Westminster Abbey and to shop.
NOTE: Thanks for having read till the end. With this, I’ve fulfilled some promises, and acquired respect for people who go through the sorting-editing-watermarking pictures routine for more than 1 post per decade. Regular posts will resume soonly.