Boxing Day in London (Trip Day Two)

Boxing Day, a true English tradition brings the legendary sales with tens of thousands of people mobbing every store, most notably Harrods. So, of course, we avoided most of those places.

We woke up to a dreary, wet, cold, day and went to our usual breakfast place only to find that their cook had done a no-show for work and so it was coffee and a croissant. We beat a hasty retreat to the tube station where we purchased our seven day, two zone tube pass. It’s now approaching £30 for one of those beasts.

Our first order of business for the day was the London Eye, and the weather was clearing so we were hopeful. Due to the fact it was Boxing Day, they opened 30 minutes late only to come out and tell everyone who was queued up that it was broken and to come back “later” and they hoped it would be fixed, and of course “we’re sorry for any inconvenience.” After that we were scheduled for Greenwich Foot Tunnel but due to Karen’s knee that has been cancelled for this trip, so instead we walked around Westminster Abbey. As I’ve said before, I still find it horribly inappropriate to have a coffee shop and gift stand on top of someone’s grave.

We then hopped the tube, went to Covent Garden and found the Patisserie Valerie there and had a proper breakfast — at least I did, Karen having lunch instead. We walked to the London Transport Museum, but it was, as expected closed. We popped back on the tube and went to Holborn for the John Soane museum whose website indicated they were open, but the sign up front said they were closed for most of the week. Since we were there, we walked towards the British Museum, but it was, as we suspected, closed. We then swung by Forbidden Planet, the most awesome sci-fi bookshop on the planet, but it was closed. We then continued on to Foyle’s bookshop which was open and spent time perusing, though I didn’t buy anything. Really. I don’t care if you don’t believe me.

We then went to Berwick Street, at the recommendation of John. Indeed, as many of the shops are mom-and-pop variety, most had signs indicating they were closed for the entire week. A few were open and I perused all the ones that were open. Then we decided to take our chances on Oxford Street, which was a tragic error. We popped into HMV to grab some more music, and ran into the nearest tube station (Oxford Circus). John, I spent £80 on CDs and it’s pretty much your fault. I hate you. Thanks for the recommendation.

After a short stop at the hotel, we walked the 1/3 mile to Sainsbury’s which had a sign yesterday indicating they would be open Boxing Day, and indeed the Sainsbury Express we saw earlier was open. We arrived, the parking lot was full of carts, so it was a good sign until we got to the door which had a sign on it saying they were open until 6pm, our watches showed 330pm, and there were others who were also irate. Apparently the closed early and a number of people were in the car park muttering discontentedly, though not as much as the lady with the pram who was furious. Back to the hotel we went, for a rest.

Watched the news about the attempted destruction of a Northwest flight as it landed in DTW. If someone put me on a plane to Detroit, I’d probably try to kill myself too. Seriously, though, it’s put a spanner in the works for our return trip as all flights to the USA have extended check-in, so we’ll have to leave at the ass-crack of dawn to LHR for ‘extra security’ — if that means a body cavity search, there’s going to be an incident, let me tell you. I’m glad it all worked out okay. We left the room at 430, took the tube to Piccadilly Circus, walked to the theatre, picked up the tickets to tonight’s play The Misanthrope, which is the second hottest ticket in town behind Billy Elliot. After that, we went to dinner at Pizza Express, a restaurant that is a chain but quite serviceable.  Not nearly as good as my last few trips here. Not sure if it was an off-night or it’s slipped. The service was good but the food’s slipped. Our starter wasn’t as good and neither of our mains were as good as last time either. The dessert, however, was awesome: Banoffee Pie with coffee gelato; I never had it before, but it was bloody fantastic. I’m in love.

We walked around Leicester Square and environs to kill an hour until play time. We saw an advert for the film Nowhere Boy and have decided to try it if we can get tickets for Sunday night. It’s a story about the boyhood of John Lennon. We saw Pirate Radio (Boat That Rocked) is out on DVD here already but isn’t available in the states yet, nor has a date been announced. Sadly, UK DVDs can’t be played here in the USA. (Okay, I can play PAL DVD without a problem on both my Mac and my Pioneer LD/DVD combo-player, but the region encoding is a bit tricky, so I opted not to buy it.)

Finally, off to the theatre. I learn that this play is the theatrical premiere of Keira Knightly, she of Pirates of the Caribbean fame. She’s hot, but unnervingly thin. And while she tries her hardest, I am sad to report she is the weakest link. She doesn’t act as well as the rest of the cast. It’s her that’s off.  She will say five or six words, throw in a random pause for no good reason, and then continue. While it’s only one thing it was maddening. The rest of the play was really good, though I personally didn’t care for the ending. Damian Lewis does a fine job as does Tim McMullen, Chuk Iwuji, and Kelly Price. It’s a quick paced two hours including interval and curtain call, and you won’t be bored. There are some laughs, the random self-referential jab, and it’s a good time for all. Even if the cow behind you keeps chewing her ice and rattling her cup to the consternation of everyone around. After that instead of popping back on the tube at Piccadilly Circus we walked to Green Park tube to get a stretch before we headed back to the hotel. We popped into Tesco Metro for some crisps (chips) and water, and I got the ‘grilled steak’ flavour because when you’re here, you have got to try their weird flavours, though I cannot bring myself to try ‘prawn cocktail’ as a crisp flavour. Yuck.

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