Ah, how could I ever forget the joys of the Holiday Inn Kensington Forum hotel. The set of 2 thin, teeny tiny towels that are divided between the bathroom and the closet, the crunchy toilet paper, the 2 twin beds pushed together to form a queen (hard to snuggle in the middle if you’re afraid of falling into the abyss) and, as Joe and I conversed, “How was the water pressure during your shower” “What pressure?” At least our 15″ television works this year (last year it didn’t and it took them 2 days to fix it, at which time the maintenance guy asked us what we did to the TV). But it’s a tourist/airline employee hotel and they have guaranteed business so I guess that’s why they make no attempts to make anything better. It’s also part of our package, and I guess they’re getting a good rate for us to come here at least 2 years in a row (maybe more, before we were involved? I dunno) so it’s not like we had a choice. But compared to the Marriott that we stayed in Leeds, WOW, what a decrease in quality!

We went to the local Pret A Manger for breakfast and it was just “meh” – the food was still good but the place was more rushed – I guess we has gotten spoiled by the ones in Leeds. We’ll try the local Starbucks tomorrow.

We made a quick stop at the local Waitrose (supermarket) and picked up a Banoffee Pie. We had a refrigerator in the room so it would keep for a day or two.

Back to the hotel to drop off our stuff, then downstairs  the lobby to meet up with some of the others who were going on the walking tour: Carol, Steve, Barb, Darlene and Matt.

Matt & Darlene on the Tube

We took the Piccadilly line with the intention of exiting at the Green Park station. There weren’t enough empty seats for us, plus it was only a small handful of stops so we all stood, holding onto the handholds. I’m not tall enough to reach the overhead handholds (not even in Japan, where I’m just very short, not very, very short) so I was holding a vertical rail for support. Unfortunately,  my balance wasn’t quite right so when the train started, I started falling/pivoting to the rear…smack dab into the man behind me. Oops! I apologized and he said it was fine but I was still very embarrassed and it was enough to be teased about by my so-called friends until we got out of the train, LOL!

The London Walks walking tour had a 10:45am meeting time, “At the Green Park station.” Well OK but there are 4 exits from the station…which one? We picked the one that was closest to the park. No one else was there but we were a little early so we hung out and waited. Someone somehow heard that the tour stared across the street, so we went back into the station, under the rails and back up (easier/safer than crossing the street) and waited there for a while.  Still no one else, so someone decided to ask a different tour operator where the walking tour was. I’m not sure what she was told, but suddenly a bunch of people were going onto corner #3 (of 4), and telling the rest of us to come with them. We decided to go back to where we came from, since that was the only station entrance that was actually Green Park and when we got there, lo and behold, so was the res of our party AND the tour guide.

The tour cost £20 each for a 2-hour tour (ours was actually closer to 2.5 hours) and our tour guide was a very funny man named Tom Hooper, who was actually a lawyer by profession. His bio said, “Tom, an MBE, recovering barrister, Fellow of the Royal Geography Society, travel writer, and Chairman of the European Federation of Tourist Guides, has a lawyer’s ready wit and a noted ability to entertain an audience, let alone a judge and jury.” He gave a good dose past history and today and was an excellent guide.

Tom, our tour guide

We walked across the park at a very brisk pace, stopping occasionally so Tom could mention a bit of information and/or tell a funny/interesting story about what we were about to see, and eventually worked our way to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. We actually saw the incoming and outgoing guards marching to and from the Palace and not the actual changing, but having seen the actual changing once or twice in the past, I think we got the better deal.

Next up was a visit Westminster Abbey, which again, stared with a long walk intermixed with stories. Joe and I had been to Westminster Abbey before but that’s OK…it’s a cathedral so I love it, LOL! Our tour was broken into 2 smaller groups where Tom led one group (which included us) and another tour guide named Fedra took control of the other. We walked through the cathedral (sorry, no pictures allowed inside!) and Tom told us stories about the various people who were (and were not) buried inside, why people are interred in specific places, etc. Very interesting stuff…MUCH moreso than the dry “Tourist Info” audios you can rent when you visit the cathedral on your own.

Our group broke up when the tour was over…Carol, Darlene, Barb and Steve had a show to go to, so Joe, Matt and I walked to the White Swan, the pub where Matt worked (and lived) for 6 months, 20+ years ago (he really did live there, in an apartment in the attic above the pub). It was a cute little place; a typical 200-year-old pub. We bought lunch there (I got Italian chicken and Joe and Matt both got some sorts of meat pies) and it was yummy!

Matt wanted to go on a tour of the Royal Albert Hall and I had a “shopping list” of sorts so we next walked to RAH. It was a pretty long walk after a tube stop, all to find out that they were having a “conference” at the RAH that day so there were no tours, PLUS the gift shop was closed. Sigh. We weren’t going to be available on Saturday or Sunday so we’re hoping for Monday. Fingers crossed!

We walked back to the hotel (there’s a LOT of walking in this country!) around 5pm and our room still not made – The Holiday Inn Kensington Forum strikes again! We bought tickets to Sweet Charity online (they’re not at TKTS because they’re still in previews) and decided to take a short nap, planning to tell the front desk about the room not being made up when we left.

We woke up 6pm and were out the door by 6:30, stopping at the front desk on our way out. The woman apologized and said they would get to it right away. Meanwhile, as we were talking to her, John ambled up to us so we talked to him for a bit too…hi, how are you, what did you do today, etc.  We also got confirmation of when/where we were to meet for tomorrow’s rehearsal. Joe still hadn’t gotten his performance shirt (which, as it turned out, John, not Caroline had) so John suggested we go up to his room and he would give it to us.  He also gave us Matt’s and Darlene’s shirts and info pack, since we had mentioned we were going to see Matt at Sweet Charity (he had tickets too) and he and Darlene were rooming together.

Back downstairs, got a bag from the gift shop for the shirts/info pack and away we went to see Sweet Charity. It was a good show – very fun, and we enjoyed it. The performers’ American accents weren’t bad, either!

When the show was done, we went to Tokyo Diner, which is a small hole-in-the-wall place Joe and I have gone to for 3 of our 4 visits to England. The food is really good and, for West End, very cheap. Matt seemed to enjoy it too.

We took the Underground back to the hotel. However we stepped onto the train late, which resulted in me almost getting squished in the closing doors. Matt “saved my life” and pulled them open, but since my body was the only “big” (I use the term loosely) force keeping them open at the time, they closed after that, so we left Matt behind at the station. No worries though…he knew how to get back.

Back to the hotel and it looked like some of the Sing Live UK people had started to arrive, as they were hanging out in the lobby with Marge and Darlene (maybe others too, but they weren’t there at the time). I saw Laraine (and thanked her once again for fixing my shirt!), Steve, a few singers with familiar faces, and Linda. With quick hellos and goodbyes, a very tired Joe and I went upstairs.

We had been taking bets if our room would be made up or not, after telling them at 6:30pm. Joe said he thought the room wouldn’t be made but but we would have clean towels. I said it would be an “all or nothing” situation. Unfortunately, I won – they hadn’t stepped foot in the room. So I went downstairs and told the desk clerk that they hadn’t done our room, even when we told them at 6:30pm that it hadn’t been done. “Did you have your do not disturb sign up?” No, we hadn’t – we took it down when we had left for the day. She apologized. I told her I didn’t want anyone coming up to clean it now (it was 12:15am) but I would like some clean towels. She said they would send some right now. I said I would wait and they could give them to me there (I had no intention of going upstairs and sitting and waiting until -or IF – they decided to bring up the towels, and having to go back down again to re-ask). She called “whoever” and he said he would bring the to the room. I said I would rather he give them to me there. While I waited, I asked why the internet access was so slow – it acted as if it was split too many ways so during “prime time,” when everyone else was in the hotel and using it, it went much, MUCH slower than at midnight, when many people were asleep. She said she was sorry, but no one had complained about that in quite a while and they thought it was rather fast (insert image of Littlebit banging head on wall here). 5 minutes later, I had 2 full sets of towels. Oh wait, not full – no washcloths. Then I remembered that last year washcloths were at a premium at that hotel. But since I had stashed away our extras from this morning, I didn’t say anything.

The Holiday Inn Kensington Forum – If you ever have a choice, DON’T EVER STAY THERE!!!

I went back upstairs and went to bed. Sigh.