GREAT, GREAT BRITAIN: WEDNESDAY
Having It Our Way: Midway through our trip, Drew and I finally found a place that served the kind of breakfast we liked, a little chain restaurant with an Irish name. They had muffins and hash browns and scrambled eggs, pancakes that were really pancakes and glorious, glorious orange juice. Not only that, but it was also one of the cleanest, nicest places we saw all week. The two-tiered dining room was bright and funky, with a hip décor that would put Central Perk to shame. What’s more, there were computers with internet access and flat-panel TV screens on the walls that played videos from popular British artists. While we were there, we heard (and saw) “Come on Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners and “There’s No Other Way” by Blur, which, let’s face it, are two of the greatest songs ever. I was so happy we found this Mecca of American breakfast that I snapped this photo. See if you can spot Drew.
McDonald’s, I love you.
(Chitty x 2, Bang x 2) x 2: Even though I had witnessed the theatrical adventures of London’s favorite flying vehicle on my last trip, I ended up going again so that I could share the magic with Drew. Okay, so it didn’t hurt that the cast featured Jason Donovan and Stephen Gately and, as much as I hate to admit it, I do enjoy stunt casting involving cheesy, washed-up pop stars. (I don’t care what anyone says. Debbie Gibson is Eponine.) Because I wanted to recreate my previous experience as much as possible, we decided to attend a Wednesday matinee, which would definitely be full of rowdy grade school kids on field trips. Well, that’s where we were wrong. Instead, the first ten rows or so had been bought out by some senior citizens organization, and they were all full of gray-haired (and seemingly unimpressed) old ladies and gentlemen.
It was so bad that one performer even ad-libbed his disappointment the atypical crowd. At one point, one of the bad guys, who hates children, is supposed to look out into the audience and exclaim, “Oh, no! There are children everywhere!” But he found himself unable to sell the line, and instead what came out was something like, “Oh, no! There are children… well, somewhere! There must be some! Oh, look, there in the back!” Alas, the only wide-eyed little boy in my row was the one I came with, and even he was disappointed by the show.
Furthermore, I learned that the failed flying scene from the last time I saw the show was actually a failed rafting scene, and everything worked as it was supposed to this time. If my scanner weren’t broken, this is where I’d put a picture from a British magazine of Stephen Gately in his grotesque Childcatcher makeup, which bore the amusing caption, “Sorry girls, he’s gay.” Instead, here’s a picture of the marquee for the West End production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, starring Christian Slater, who clearly has no problem playing up the cuckoo angle:
Fun For the Whole Family: Later that night, we found out where all the kids were that day. Duh! They were on the Jack the Ripper tour! Given the horrific nature of the crimes, we were a little surprised to see parents who had brought their preteen tots along with them for this, but then again, as Bart said to Lisa, “If you don’t watch the violence, you’ll never get desensitized to it.” The tour was fascinating and informative, and it showed us a side of London we would never have visited otherwise. But the best part, hands down, was watching those tiny jaws hit the ground. If you can’t watch kids squealing with delight at a flying car, then the next best thing is to watch them wincing in horror as a tour guide recounts the disemboweling of a toothless, syphilitic prostitute in gruesome, intestine-splattered detail.
More Dining Adventures: I’m going to say it. Wednesday was our best day for dining of the entire trip. Not only did I enjoy the eggs and pancakes at the nicest McDonald’s I’d ever seen, but lunch and dinner were even better. For lunch, we ate at Wagamama. Wagamama is a chain of noodle shops that had been recommended to us by three different people before we left. We decided we’d definitely go there if we could find it. Well, that was easy enough. Wagamama is everywhere, and it’s easy to see why. It was cheap (relatively speaking, given the lousy exchange rate, of course), fun and tasty. It’s also one of London’s few (for now) smoke-free restaurants, which makes the communal (i.e., bench-style) seating much more tolerable. For dinner, we decided to try Indian food again, and this time we went the potluck route, stumbling randomly into a hole-in-the-wall place in Soho called the Golden Oven. It was so delicious, if I had my way, I would now insist on all ovens being made of precious metals. Drew agreed, proclaiming it the best Indian food he’d ever had.
Back the Bid: London is currently in the midst of a massive PR campaign to land the 2012 Summer Olympics. Posters like this one, featuring an athlete hurtling over Tower Bridge, were all over the city.
I kept expecting to see one with Tony Blair spiking a volleyball over the walls of Westminster Abbey, but alas, maybe he was too busy to pose.