Today we woke up at 7:15am (first Steve, then Joe, then Sharon) since we had tickets for the London Eye at 10:00am and needed time to get there.

We grabbed a quick breakfast (me just coffee…the guys got drinks and pastry/baked good sort of things) at the coffee shop outside our train station. We caught a train to Westminster station walked out of the Underground and there was Big Ben. This was a somewhat big deal for Joe and I since, when we had gone on our lousy bus tour of London in 1996, we didn’t stop to see Big Ben…we just drove by it and the driver just said, “there it is, on the right” (Joe didn’t get a chance to see it at all, because he was on the left side of the bus). So we took a couple of pictures of Big Ben, then continued our short walk to the British Airways London Eye.


Big Ben


The London Eye

We had bought tickets for the attraction on the web, weeks ago, so we could avoid the long line for tickets (and get a 10% discount). It worked like a charm. There was just a short, 5-minute line (and bag check…just like the US, just about EVERYTHING had a bag check, a metal detector or both) to get onto cars. Each car held about 20 people and the ride was about 30 minutes long, with good views of Parliament, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, the River Thames, etc.


Buckingham Palace (middle of the picture, just above the park/gardens)


The River Thames, with St. Paul’s dome in the upper right corner of the picture


Parliament and Big Ben

I got a good photo opportunity with some Asian people who were another car (except for the floor, the cars are 100% clear) and got them to pose for me in a very “Sharonesque” pose (as it turned out, we bumped into them again, a few blocks away from the London Eye and, after another “Sharonesque” picture, we had a brief conversation, where I found out they were from Macau.).

After the ride was over we went into the gift shop (nothing that great) and continued on our way.

Westminster Abbey was our next stop…something that I had been looking forward to, but the guys not so much.


Front of Westminster


Back of Westminster

You couldn’t take pictures inside Westminster Abbey, but I discovered that this site (the Abbey’s official website) has 360-degree views of some of the various rooms in the cathedral.

I got talked out of going on the 90-minute guided tour and the 60-minute audio tour and we just walked around with our map of who is buried and/or memorialized where. Honestly, between that and seeing the architecture and stained glass, that was “good enough” for me (and probably mondo overload for the guys, who left me for the snack shop, about 15 minutes in, hehehe). When I caught up with the guys, Steve said he was going to go do some things on his own and he’d meet us at the theater tonight.

Joe and I decided to get something to eat so as we made our way to the nearest train station, we stopped at a sandwich store called Pret A Manger, which is a chain that caters to the “all natural, no additives or preservatives” crowd. I had a chicken sandwich on whole grain bread (perfect for me, as I’ve been trying to increase my intake of whole grains anyway), with peppers, pine nuts, light mayo and watercress. Joe had a chicken club and we shared a small banana cake. Very nice quick meal…apparently there’s one in NYC as well; wish we had that chain in Orlando.

We took the St. James station to our exit at Earl’s Court. Joe walked to the hotel while I went to the post office (across the street from the train station) and bought some postcard stamps. Met Joe at the hotel and we took a nap from 1:30 to 2:45. Feeling more refreshed, we went to the laundromat, since it was our designated laundry day.


Suds Launderette


Foreground: washers. Background: dryers

We were done with our laundry by 4:30 or so and, once bringing our stuff back to the room, we went back out to have dinner and see our show. Problem was that when we got to the station, the train was already in the station and the doors were open, so I ran to catch it…and the doors closed behind me, leaving Joe on the platform. The look on his face was as scared and confused as I thought mine was and at the same time we both said, “Next Stop!” (I would get off at the next stop and wait for him on the next train). Fortunately, someone else wound up making the doors open so he made it into the same train as me. Whew!

We got off at Leicester Square (we used that station a LOT) and walked around for the local Dress Circle (official West End show memorabilia. They have one in NY, for Broadway, too). Finally found it and made some purchases, then walked around until we found a restaurant for dinner. It was Italian and called Bertorelli Trattoria Pizzeria and Bar. VERY good food.

We met up with Steve in front of the Prince Edward Theatre, where Mary Poppins was playing and got our seats. How we wound up with G 13, 14 and 15 (7th row, about 4 or 5 seats off-center) is beyond me, when the show is popular and we only bought the tickets in July is beyond me…but they were great seats! (to be beaten only by our Avenue Q seats last night….4th row, dead center, but I had ordered those back in April, 2 months before previews even started).


The Prince Edward Theatre from one angle


And another angle. I had NOTHING to do with that guy’s “Sharonesque” face, but it sure did make me laugh when I saw it!

Mary Poppins was a very good show. Not great, IMHO but definitely very good. I think I’m a little “spoiled” by the movie and the CD soundtrack, both of which I have experienced a LOT (perhaps to the point of ad nauseum? [grin]) in my lifetime. And the differences just kept hitting me the wrong way…scenes weren’t as I “remember” them, songs were orchestrated differently, some newly-introduced characters that perhaps had been in the book but not the movie, etc. I liked the 2nd act much better than the 1st act and thoroughly enjoyed the performances, the sets, the choreography, the special effects, etc. I think I’m just “too” familiar with the original Disney version, is all…and I rarely like, if you will, “remakes” as much as the “originals.”

Made it back to the hotel and the guys are packing while I finish this up. But now I’m finished (grin). Again, pictures tomorrow or the next day, when I have a little more spare time (yeah right. Spare time).

Tomorrow…Goodbye UK, hello Chunnel and Disneyland Paris!

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