Friday, April 3, 2015

We're off to London

Originally we’d intended to have 3 days in Yorkshire and another 3 further down near Cambridge, but with a neat little cottage available in Thirsk it made more sense to spend some significant time in the one place. That left us with a reasonable drive down to Luton, where, on the advice of my fellow Fodorites, we decided to drop the car off rather than risk driving in London.

Farewell to Thirsk
We started on the M1 but the stakes were too high for us. The speed limit is 70mph but I think that’s just the starting limit! We were doing 75 and everything sped by us, including little minis who passed us , weaving in and out of lanes as if we were standing still. It was like a high powered dodgem derby and when we could we slipped sideways to a quieter pace

A mid morning stop in Nottingham gave us a chance to check out Robin Hood territory. Nottingham is an interesting mixture of beautiful old  architecture and a building boom somewhere in the middle of the 20th C where they’ve just decided to erect a lot of ugly brick boxes ( like some areas in Melbourne). There was a big fire burning somewhere downtown so traffic was at a snail’s pace. We took the opposite direction out of town and ended up on the road to Peterborough. This Peterborough is not a sleepy little sea side town like ours. It is big and busy so we pushed on looking for a smaller place to stop for a late lunch. We left the highway twice into towns about the size of Mortlake, looking for a café. No luck! Where do these people go for coffee?

Robin Hood (and photo bomber)

Low blood sugar does not make for happy travelers so in the interest of driver safety we finally relented and stopped at a Maccas. This was the worst McDonalds I have ever eaten in (and this is  lofty (un)praise because with 3 kids spread over 30 years I’ve spent time in quite a few). The bonus was that Taine picked up a Monopoly sheet so he can track our progress in London. He wasn’t impressed to learn we’re staying in the pale blue in Euston Road. ‘Mum, that’s only one step up from Old Kent Road!’

In Luton we did a quick recon of the car drop off and train station to plan our escape for the morning.  We had red wine and the last of the duty free Monkey Shoulder for dinner.

The train from Luton to London was brilliant. In under 40 minutes we were at St Pancras and our hotel , which is right across the road, was kind enough to let us check in early. We wasted no time picking up our Oyster cards and hopped on an Underground train from King’s Cross to Leicester Square in search of cheap theatre tickets. I’m sure there are hints for negotiating the myriad of ticket booths and choices (please pass them on if you have some). Unfortunately, Easter and mid term break isn’t the most likely time to score really cheap seats but we got a bargain price for Wicked.

Taine spied the M & M shop, four levels of chocolatey goodness and every bit as crowded as the one we visited in Times Square ,then we grabbed a coffee and people watched for an hour while we drank in the fact that we really are in London.

Back in Euston we wandered around the area to orient ourselves with possible eateries, delis etc. There’s nothing like getting off the main roads to get a feel for the local area. Two blocks back from Euston Rd and you can see why the real estate rates lowly on the Monopoly board. We passed a couple of schools and snooped through the (very high security) fences. It was after school care time. Fascinating to listen to the different accents and watch the different games the kids were playing.

After a mandatory rest time and a bath, we set off to the Victoria Apollo theatre for Wicked. An Easter service in progress at Westminster Cathedral was a quiet and reflective break from the peak hour holiday traffic raging amongst the building and road works at Victoria Station and a cup of noodles at Itsu provided a pre show dinner. I hope this fast food franchise takes off in Aus; it was delicious and full of vegetable goodness.

The Apollo is a lovely old theatre. We were way up in the clouds at the back but with an unrestricted view, made even better by sitting behind small children. I saw Wicked in Melbourne a few years ago but it was the first viewing for Geoff and Taine and having just done The Wizard of Oz as our school show, Taine was able to ‘get’ all the cross script subtleties.

It’s such a wonderful story, we were feeling quite uplifted by the end. Best still, it was only a 10 minute trip back to the hotel, a far cry from the 3 hours plus that it usually takes us to get home from a stage show.

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