Trip Start Dec 16, 2007
Trip End Feb 24, 2008

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

... even though the sound of it is something quite atrocious / if you say it loud enough you'll always sound precocious / supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
Now that I've gotten that out of my system I can continue with this entry.

Belinda was so laden with bags full of purchases from Esprit that we had to return to the hotel after shopping. Due to our late start lunch was not required so we headed out on the Tube to London Bridge, where one can find the London Dungeons. Unfortunately for us the Dungeons, an interactive, themed walk through attraction, were closing at 5pm so we were too late to enter.

Our back up plan was to ride the London Eye so another Tube trip was in order. By the time we got to the Eye it was well and truly dark, the giant wheel glowing blue over the Thames. I used my public transport Oyster Card to get 2 for 1 tickets so it only cost 15 for the 2 of us. The "flight" took around 30 mins and tested Belinda's fear of heights, which she did conquer to better appreciate the nighttime panorama.

Back on the ground it was a short Tube ride from Waterloo to the station near our next theatre. A wrong turn out of the station chewed up our time before the show (we're doing London without a map!) but when we did find the theatre we had time for sandwiches at a coffee shop before the show.

Mary Poppins was a sell-out, it took ages for the crowds to move through the large theatre. We both thoroughly enjoyed the performance, which was more closely based on the book than the Walt Disney interpretation, but all the great songs were in it. Like the other Disney show in London, The Lion King, the stage was amazingly complex and intricate, helping to achieve some unbelievable illusions. Mary even pulled a hat stand and mirror from her fully mobile bag and flew out over the audience at the end!

A nice sleep through a rainy night brought us to this morning. Although we had set an early alarm delays getting out of bed meant that we didn't get to London's Euston Station until 9:30. We had to queue to use the machines to retrieve our tickets, only after which we realised that it was very close to our train's departure time at 9:40.

In the circumstances it was necessary to run to the platform, allowing us to hop on board just before they closed the doors. First Class service on the Virgin Trains Pendolino trip to Birmingham was nice. The seats were comfy, the complementary choice of breakfast and drinks were served promptly and we were whisked along at 200km/h while tilting into corners. All of this was at a great discount rate thanks to advance purchase single way saver fares from the Virgin website. Unfortunately the service arrived some 15 minutes late due to track works.

Once in Birmingham we walked around the city to get a feel before exploring the High St and of course its shops. I ended up with the seasons 1&2 of the New Captain Scarlet DVD box set and Belinda ended up taking us to Krispy Kreme Donuts. Such a bad food experience is not possible at home so Belinda gets very excited every time she sees a store. Because we had to wait to be served by the somewhat incompetent staff we were given fresh, hot donuts off the production line free in addition to the 1 each that we ordered.

Believe it or not we had managed to fit a show into our Birmingham visit, the pantomime Aladdin featuring John Barrowman of Torchwood and Doctor Who fame. Panto is a weird thing and this show was no exception; racism, sexism, a drag queen, rip-offs of pop songs and Daleks! There was also digital 3D projection sequences and John Barrowman stole the show with his improv and attention seeking antics.

Our stay had been designed to time in well with the panto so it was straight back to the station at the end of the show to hop aboard our return train to London. The service ran on time but alas we had to deal with the raggle of a full 2nd class section.

Things were always going to be tight upon our return to London. Belinda wanted to change before our next show, in an hour, so we rushed on foot back to the hotel. As we rushed we noticed that King's Cross Tube station was being evacuated! When we did return from the hotel, hoping to take the Victoria Line from King's Cross to Victoria the station was still closed. With only 25 minutes until the show's starting time things were looking grim.

A number 73 bus pulled up to the station's bus stop at that moment so we seized the chance, taking the bus that was terminating at Victoria. It took us some 45 minutes on that bus, stopping and slowly rolling through London to get to our destination. On the trip we saw Euston and Tottenham Court Road stations also being evacuated and still have no idea why.

We did finally make it to the Apollo Victoria Theatre and the evening's performance of Wicked some 20 minutes into the show. Despite this setback we did pick up the show relatively well and went on to enjoy it. The songwriting and singing were the best so far but I personally feel that Mary Poppins and Avenue Q were more fun. This production was a large and expensive affair as well, but again Mary Poppins was better in terms of stage designs and effects, making it my favourite show of the trip.

The Tube was up and running at the conclusion of the show but the Victoria Line was still down so we had to take a round-about way to get home. It's now the following morning and I'm touching up these 2 London entries on the internet terminal in the hotel's lobby before we take the Eurostar and Thalys back to Cologne. Hopefully we'll get some wireless internet there.
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