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Des Moines, Iowa


Europe Trip - Day 10

Geoff Wood

Our hostel wasn't far from the Abbey Road studios in the northwest part of Central London so we made that our first stop on the way downtown. It was several blocks from the Tube station and we were just following some directions that we read at the hostel so we weren't sure if we were really going to find the landmark or not. We did finally make it but didn't really know we when in the right place until we saw another tourist in the middle of the street taking a picture of an intersection (big clue). He didn't appear to speak english but brought his guidebook up to us and asked us to confirm.

Immediately after snapping the above picture of the famous intersection featured on the album cover, our camera batter died. We decided to head back to the Tube and shoot over to Leicester Square.

I should note that I've never really been to a musical. My folks took us all to Cats when it was in touring at the 5 Seasons Center in Cedar Rapids but I don't remember much and I'm pretty sure I didn't like it. Hope is a big RENT fan and had seen it a couple times on tour. Neither of us had seen an actual "stage production" in its permanent home. A had always assumed that I didn't particularly like musicals until a couple years ago when RENT came out on DVD. At about the same time our friend, Ryan, loaned us the RENT music and I dug it. We planned on seeing it a couple times last year but neither one worked out. So, when prepping for our trip I really wanted to make a point of seeing at production in London's West End(1) and my first choice was WICKED(2) . Leicester Square is known for having half priced musical ticket shops and we got in line a few minutes before one opened. We were able to grab 8th row tickets on the floor to a production of WICKED that afternoon. Good deal.

In the meantime (since we were without "cases") we walked down to Westminster Abbey to try again. We were admitted shortly before the 11 AM which was the next scheduled Virger Tour. These lay assistants give an indepth tour of the building and really explain alot of what it is that is around you. I don't think it's possible to really feel like you've seen Westminster Abbey without this tour. They allow you to sit in the seats reserved for commonwealth heads of state(3) (I sat in Australia's), go behind the ropes in various places (including an error with tombs and effigies of several monarchs including Edward Longshanks, of Braveheart frame most recently, and Edward the Confessor, who died in 1066 AD), as well as have the history and most famous graves and memorials in the building (of which exist 600 and 3000 within the building respectively).

After Westminister Abbey we walked the whole of Victoria Street (for the second time in a week) to get to the Apollo Victoria Theatre, near Victoria station, where our WICKED matinee would be performed.

The show was excellent and would be hard to describe in text. I have no musical abilities (despite several attempts) and I'm always impressed by those who do - and these were some of the best musican/peformers in the world.

We didn't have long to mess around after the show because we wanted to patronise the Big Bus Company for one last walking tour: the haunted pub crawl. We took the tube and then ran on foot to Trafalgar Square to catch the tour in time. This tour took us by several London landmarks and through many different pubs that are all rumored to have ghosts sightings.

The first stop was at the Sherlock Holmes pub, a bar actually featured in some of the Holmes' books. There was another group no a pub crawl there, too. This group was the famous Westminister School's(4) class of 1997 ten year reunion. In what must be the coolest class reunion I've ever heard of, the group was dressed as Monopoly peices (battleship, thimble, etc) and was visiting one pub on each "street" on the board (in order) in the London version of Monopoly. The Sherlock Holmes Pub was probably the equivilient of Mediterranian or Baltic.

The pub crawl finished at a larger pub where most of the group hung around for drinks and dinner. Our tour guide, Phil, was not too shy about letting us know that we could buy him a pint if we wanted to tip for the tour. Several of us took him up on the offer and we sat and talked with him for several hours.

After most other people had left, we asked the "what is your passion?" question of Phil and he said that it was history and particularly how people retell history (the whole "whomever tells history has the power" belief) and has some particularly interesting insights. We also discussed his recent backpacking trip across Australia and how when he pays off his debt from that he plans to do a similar one across the United States. We also discussed the Sepember 11th and London Tube bombing tragedies and our personal reactions to them.

After dinner he walked us to the Tube station we shared a train car until our routes went different ways.

(1)The British equivilent of Broadway (2) I figure the more modern the musical the less it will feel like 5th grade music class and the better the chance that I'll like it. (3)But not the Queen's (4)Famous Westminster School grads are A.A. Milne, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Eminem's pal Dido