London, My Final Stop 

I can’t believe that in just about 52 hours I’ll be touching down at John F. Kennedy Airport.  I fell as though I’ve been away for such a long time although 91 days isn’t that long.  However, right now I am very anxious to come home.  This is a combination of being home sick which is due in part because I know the journey is ending very soon and in the last couple of days my mind is focused on coming home.

However, that doesn’t mean I’ve been idle although I will admit I was really tired when I arrived here and it really took me about three days to recover from my whirlwind tour of Ireland, Scotland, and England  My two pairs of hiking boots are worn down and the left part of my ankle was quite sore.  I’m sure its a result of the worn down heels of the shoes.  Since I’ve been here for almost a whole week without having to tote around all my stuff that ankle is much better.  All I have to do is get to Philadelphia and the baggage problem goes away.

Well, what have I done this week you might ask.  On Tuesday, I shopped, purchased a weekly pass on the London Underground, and went to The Royal Albert Hall to purchase tickets for two Proms concerts.  On Wednesday, I went to Parliament to see about a tour.  I found out that tours are given on Saturday’s, but I could try and sit in the House Of Commons that day if I desired because Parliament was in session.  The guard suggested I come back after lunch because the gallery was full and they weren’t letting anyone else in.  So, I made a reservation for Saturday at 11:20 AM.

After doing that I walked over to Westminster Abby.  To say the grounds were mobbed would be an understatement.  Once I slowly worked my way through the crowd I was was hit with was to be museum sticker shock.  To go into the Abby cost 18 pound sterling or $30.00.  I was actually in the Abby for Evensong back in 2002.  I didn’t think it was worth $30.00 to not only brave the throngs of people.  Additionally, photographs are not allowed.

I then decided to take a water taxi up and down the Thames.  The taxi, if you can call it a taxi, had hop on/off privileges.  I got off at the Tower of London with the intent of seeing the castle and the Crown Jewels.  Once I walked to the castle grounds the crowd that was there made Westminster Abby seem empty in comparison.  When I checked out the cost of entering the castle it was 20 pounds sterling or $32.00.  Once again I thought it would be nice to see but at $32.00 to be pushed and shoved trying to see things didn’t appeal to me.  It never was a very high priority.  Finally, I walked back to Tower Bridge.  Although the bridge itself is free, if you want to visit the museum and climb the tower itself you have to shell out another $32.00.  I choose not to go to the museum or towner.  I could have spent $94.00 to see one church, one castle and one bridge museum.  It just didm’t feel like it would be a good experience for the expense.

I was feeling somewhat frustrated and tired but I then headed back to Parliament to see if I could get into the public gallery of the House Of Commons which I was actually interested in witnessing in person but alas, it was still full so I didn’t get to see the House Of Commons in action.  The sessions are broadcast live on the BBC.  Still, its not like being there.

Thursday, I went to Piccadilly Circus just to walk around and take it all in and also try to obtain a ticket for a play called “My Night With Reg”.  The reviews were excellent and decided I really wanted to see it.  However, according to their web site the play was completely sold out for the balance of its run.  So just on the chance that someone might have turned in their ticket, I figured why not try.  My luck was better since they had a few tickets that were indeed turned in so I was able to catch the afternoon matinee.  The ticket cost 25 pounds or $40.00, a deal for theatre these days.  Turns out tickets left the day of the performance or turned in tickets are sold at half price. The play was excellent.  I was really happy I choose this play and was even happier I was able to get a geed seat.

As soon as “My Night With Reg” was over, I also made my way to another theatre to try and get tickets for the London revival of one of my favorite musicals “The Pajama Game”.  The only seats I could find on the web were back in the balcony for 65 pounds or $105.00.  I did not want to spend $105.00 for a ticket that far away from the stage.  I strolled into the box office and began reciting the lyrics to one of the songs in the show.  They thought I was very festive and one of them said I should be in the cast.  I thought no I should not.  I wanted to attend either Friday evening or Saturday evening which was the final performance.  They told me to be at the box office at 10:00 AM sharp Saturday morning and they thought they would have a great seat for me for 25 pounds.  At this point I saw the one play I really wanted to see and had a ticket for 

Friday, I toured the Knightsbridge section of the city.  Let me say this about Knightsbridge  There is a whole lot of money there.  I’ve never seen so many Roll Royces’s Bentleys  and every exotic sports car you could think of.  In that neighborhood  driving a BMW, Audi or Mercedes  is like a Ford or Chevrolet in my neighborhood.  I walked into Harrods took a quick look around and looked at myself in my polypropylene with all kinds of pulls in it from being hand washed and decided I should leave.  If I had known I was in such an exclusive part of London I would have at least worn a shirt over my tee shirt.  That night I went to my first boutique theatre to see a new British film based of a true story about a group of gays and lesbians who raised a whole lot of money for striking miners in Wales during the year long miner’s strike in 1984-85.  I liked it.  I ‘m not sure what I think of this boutique theatre concept.  The screening room is small, (only 60 seats) and when you get there the place is marketed as watching a first run movie in the comfort of your home.  That experience set me back $25.00 and I still had to sit through 15 minutes of commercials even before the previews.  I don’t know, there is something missing for me in this type of experience.  The seats didn't even recline and there was no place to put your drink (I didn’t purchase one) which I though was strange. Still , I enjoyed the film a lot.  I only went to this particular because it was close.  I had no idea before they showed my the seating chart and asked me to pick out my seat that this was a boutique movie theatre.

Yesterday I was at the Shaftesbury Theatre at 10:00 AM and was able to purchase a seat dead center 5 rows from the stage for $40.00. They knew who I was, and knew I really wanted to see this musical when I walked up to the box office and said “The pajama game is the game I’m in and I’m proud to be in the pajama game.  I can hardly wait to wake and get to work at eight, nothing’s quite the same as the pajama game”.

Then I took two tube line to get to Westminster and then took my tour of Parliament.  A very, very interesting two hours, even though you were not allowed to take any photographs.  It’s quite a place and I recommend the tour to anyone who visits.  They only allow so many people in at any one time so I never felt crushed.  I took the audio tour which was excellent.  

Of course last night I went to the final performance of “The Pajama Game”.  The production was good to very good, but not great.  They cut out the overture and one of the songs.  Plus the orchestra was comprised to just ten musicians and no strings.  The dance numbers were just terrific however, and the singing was very good.  But how can anyone compare to John Raitt’s beautiful baritone.  Sorry, I don’t think anyone else can give those songs the treatment they deserve, or maybe I’ve listened to that original cast album too many times.  Anyway I still had a good time as I was really happy to see a show I’ve wanted to see for a very long time.  I remember my grandmother telling me how much she liked the show when she saw it in its original production back in 1954 when I was all of ten years old.  Did she know something I didn’t know at the time?  That thought just occurred to me.  Guess I’ll never know the answer to that.

Today I got up early to go to the Royal Museum to see an exhibit of Dennis Hopper’s photographs.  Yes, I’m talking about the recently departed film star.  I had read some place that he was an accomplished photographer but I’ve never seen any of his work so I was anxious to see this exhibit of 400 of his photographs.  I made my reservation on line because that is the only way you can see the exhibit without being a member.  When I arrived at the museum and took out my e-ticket that was on my iPhone, I realized that my ticket is for tomorrow the 15th.  My plan was to see the exhibit today, and see St. Paul’s Cathedral tomorrow.  So now I’ll do both tomorrow before doing laundry for the last time, throwing worn out stuff away and packing for my return trip on Tuesday which will be really long.

There are two things I wanted to do in London at the beginning of this trip that I did not do.  One was to take a day trip to Oxford to see Oxford University and to visit some of the places where the PBS Masterpiece Mystery series “Inspector Lewis” takes place.  The other was a trip to Highclere Castle, which is the castle where "Downton Abby" takes place.  I just did not have the energy to take two, two hour round trip day trips from London.  I’m a little disappointed now as I write this but not to much.  First, I visited Cambridge which, I suspect, is most likely a lot like Oxford and if Oxford is anything like the colleges that make up Cambridge University, I would be, as a tourist, from seeing very much of the individual college campuses.  I think that had something to do with it.  Highclere Castle is supposed to quite beautiful but I’ve seen a lot of beautiful castles on this trip so I think the combination of my exhaustion and the fact that I’ve seen beautiful castles made the decision easier.

I will try my hardest to get the London photo’s published before I leave for home. © Louis M. Skypala 2014