I’m not a Londoner, I’m not even a southerner. I’m a Salopian (that’s someone from Shropshire for those not in the know) and have been an expat for a pretty long time. So I can be forgiven for having got totally overexcited about a trip to London last summer!
We were back in the UK for a party to celebrate my southern OH’s parents Golden Wedding anniversary. Held in a great hotel in Swindon (can hugely recommend the De Vere if anyone is passing or looking for a venue in Swindon?), the party went brilliantly. We got there early to help decorate the room and drink scrummy coffee (yes, the De Vere in Swindon has its own heavenly branch of Starbucks inside!) and then I hovered downstairs to meet and greet guests and show them to the bar. Funny when you think that it wasn’t my family and I didn’t really know many of them then – I don’t think I inadvertently invited any uninvited strangers up the stairs but you never know!
Ready for the guests!
The staff in the hotel were amazingly helpful, the family super welcoming to me and the happy couple had a great day, as did we! The OH did a super speech and his Dad entertained us also with his words and a cine film taken on their wedding day.
We raced back to the OH’s family home in Surrey that night to make sure that our flag waving arms were in the right place for the Olympic Cycle Road Race (Women) heading through the village the next morning. After a quick trip to everyone’s favourite supermarket (every little helps) to stock up on flags and inflatable hands, we donned waterproofs and baggsied our places in the village. The atmosphere was tremendously jolly with neighbours all lining the streets to get the best view. There were no barriers where we were and so we stood right on the grass verge.
The first signs that the cyclists were on their way came from the helicopters hovering over head. And then came the police, security and Olympic support cars racing through the village. Never have I seen policemen having such a jolly time! On their motorcycles they sped through, high fiving my brother in law, hand slapping the crowds, waving and one even “borrowed” a lady’s umbrella and held it over his bike for a while!
The cyclists sped through in a compact group, one managing to spray my mother in law with a nearly empty bottle as she threw it into the crowd (the cyclist, not the MIL!). And then they were gone! We watched the rest of the race from the safety of the sitting room which seemed like a plan considering the pouring rain outside, met up with some very good friends in the afternoon and whiled away a few hours watching their kids at a soft play centre and before we knew it another day was gone.
To celebrate the in laws Golden anniversary, we bought us and them tickets to Billy Elliott in London for the next night. As I mentioned, I’m not from the south and have not visited London much so I was up for the full pre-theatre sightseeing works! My unusually patient OH agreed to come with me (I think his Mother threatened him) and we spent a fantastic day walking along the South Bank, visiting the Tate Modern, riding a red tour bus and even managed to fit in a quick mini river cruise!
Tower Bridge decked up with Olympic rings
I’m not completely convinced by my ability to appreciate modern art (especially when you can’t tell whether the exhibit is under construction or if that’s the art) but I was in heaven on the tour bus and boat. We saw everything that I wanted to see. I could have easily spent another day there (and a lot more money going on the wheel, visiting the Tower and so many more places I would love to have gone) but time was precious and we had a date with the in laws at Rubens Restaurant for pre-theatre dinner.
It goes without saying that Billy Elliott was out of this world. We all sat there fidget free while they entertained us with comedy, drama, song and incredible dance moves. I particularly liked the scene where Billy danced with his older shadow. Blew me away! I was so tired when we got home but had the best time. I’m so envious that the in laws have London on their doorstep (only half an hour by train) and vowed to visit the Capital again next time we go to stay.
The Diamond Jubilee and Olympic fever created such a buzz and, although the streets were surprisingly quiet, the spirit of London was overflowing. It was oozing with patriotism, goaded by vast numbers of displays selling London and GB paraphernalia (I did leave some for everyone else but not much). Everyone seemed proud to be a Londoner, even British – something we haven’t seen for such a long time.
Our fantastic summer day as tourists in London made the decision to visit again this New Year particularly easy. However, we were on a mission to shop on this occasion, rather than sightsee. Another quick train trip into Waterloo and an underground ride up to Charing Cross left us in the ideal location to start on operation “Fill the OH’s Wardrobe for 2013″. (I hadn’t been very well over Christmas so my shopping mojo had disappeared temporarily – I was quite good at carrying his bags though!) After a cup of my favourite coffee for sustenance, we headed up to Oxford Street and he was able to visit an enormous branch of his new favourite store, Primark! We explored a few other London favourites (including a fantastic Nespresso shop on Regents Street and The Apple Store) before meeting up with the in laws for a pre theatre feast at Little Sicily in Rupert Street.
The highlight of my day, and our festive period, was War Horse. Wow. If you can get to London to see it, please do. It was an incredible show. The New London Theatre on Drury Lane is small (and very warm!) and so whatever tickets you buy, you’re never too far from the circular stage. The horses are in fact puppets, controlled by three puppeteers. When they first appeared on the stage, I confess to a moment of disillusion when I thought I would never get into the play and believe that Joey was really a horse while I could see the puppeteers but within seconds I was memorised. The very talented singers on stage narrated the story brilliantly. There is hardly any scenery that is not created by the puppeteers themselves apart from a projected scene on the back wall and, as with all good plays, moments of comedy are provided by a puppet goose – yes, you read that correctly. Who’d have thought it.
So, despite a bit of illness, a lot of trailing after him through the shops and some mighty cold temperatures, my love affair with London (and particularly, let’s face it, the outstanding selection of theatre productions) continues.
Visit London? Yes please!