As I mentioned earlier, we made our way effortless from IOW to Waterloo. Keith & Michelle were waiting for us upon arrival. It was great to see them again. Keith & Michelle still both work in London and we headed off to Michelle's office to stow our bags until we could check into the hotel. Knowing that I am led by my stomach, they took us to lunch at the Seven Stars pub which sits behind the Royal Courts of Justice. The pub, which is over 400 years old, was full of incredible character. I was figuring on regular pub fare for lunch, but when my chicken club arrived looking like this:
I knew I was in for a treat. Besides the tarragon mayonnaise and the ciabatta, there was an entire chicken breast and leg! Oh, and I almost forgot. A pint of Adnams.
After lunch, we cabbed it over to the south bank, next to the London Eye. The Eye is the giant Ferris wheel and was built for London's millennium celebration. Apparently, it was one of the few projects actually completed by the millennium and one of the only ones that has actually been successful. Keith & Michelle booked us a DUKW tour which "launched" close to the base of the Eye. It is ironic that we came all the way to London for a DUKW tour when we have not even taken one at home. Of course boating down the Thames beats boating down the Great Miami River.
We had a really good guide and saw quite a bit of the city. Our launch point into the Thames was right next to MI-6, so it was interesting to see that building up close.
After the DUKW tour, we cabbed backed to Michelle's office and then to the Travel Lodge. We actually cabbed quite a bit. To me, there is nothing neater than the traditional London cab. With the girls sitting forward and the men backward, the five of us (the fifth one being my 200 lb suitcase) easily fit inside.
Our accommodations were convenient (we were on Drury Lane), clean and and priced right. Now everyone knows that we ended up going to Spamalot. Of course, I had no idea this was going to happen...I was told that we were just going to hit some pubs and then wander over to the west end. When on holiday in a different part of the world, I typically go whichever way the wind blows...as long as it blows by a pub.
Our first stop was at Vertigo 42. A wine bar, located on one of the taller buildings in London, that gives a breathtaking view of London and the Thames. We enjoyed drinks, very expensive almonds, and took in the magnificent panoramic view. We have been blessed with having the ultimate tour guides. Since both Keith & Michelle work in the city, their knowledge and understanding of the area was a godsend.
With Keith checking his watch for our "unplanned" evening, we jumped on a doubledecker bus to make our way west. Perched from up high, I watched in amazement as pubs had stacks of just off work businessmen and women five deep to the street. Everyone clutching a pint glass savoring the rarely seen and highly coveted sun that was peaking in through the buildings. It was a phenomenal sight.
As we arrived over in the west end, we rounded the corner of the Palace, where Spamalot was running. I was actually pretty awed because I have always been a huge Monty Python fan, loved Monty Python and the Holy Grail and had previously listened to part of the Spalmalot soundtrack. We walked into a pub across the street and grabbed a couple pints of Adnams and while there, they asked if I wanted to see Spamalot. I of course said, "Hell yes!", and the surprise was sprung. According to Zoe, "others" knew about this as well...but she doesn't remember who she told. They apparently were able to keep the secret.
It was about thirty minutes to show time so the four of us ate two packets of crisps, downed our drinks and headed into the theatre. It was a beautiful theatre, obviously over one hundred years old. In true form, we ordered our intermission drinks before heading to our seats. We sat in the stalls, fifth row, just off center stage. Great seats.
The show? What can I say? The performances and staging were spectacular. If you love Monty Python, you would absolutely love it. One member of the cast seemed to channel John Cleese. We laughed the entire way through. In fact, knowing how much Eric loves MP, I could hear him laughing too. BTW, Spamalot is coming to the Schuster in 2008, so let's make plans now.
After getting out of the show a little after 10, we walked towards Chinatown for dinner. By this time, we were all starving and I was beginning to imagine things since I had not sacrificed anything to my stomach. We settled on a corner place appropriately titled Gerrard's Corner Restaurant. When you are spoiled for choice on a menu and feel like you could eat a cow, ordering can be a bit of challenge.
The food was of course great and the service pretty good too. London, like any large city I suppose, does not sleep. New tables were being readied for guests at 1130 PM. Gerrard's stays open till 2 AM. Gerrard's was about as ethnic as you get. Upon walking downstairs, I about stumbled into the underground Chinese bar...complete with requisite karaoke. It was obvious serving an all Asian populace.
After dinner, we meandered our way back to the hotel. Although most pubs were closing...it was around midnight...nightclubs were still going strong.
It was a pretty amazing night and a wonderful birthday surprise. London is an amazing city and I most certainly enjoyed it today. Tomorrow, we will be off to Colchester...can't wait. Thanks Keith & Michelle!