So we are back.
To say the least, it was an amazing trip.
The professional experience was so reaffirming and exciting. The show was beyond gratifying and in the week of meetings in London reinvigorated our excitement.
When I last blogged, it was Wednesday night after a tourist-packed day. We did something kinda ballsy (Be a Little Wild came to mind) that day. We had heard about a theatre south of the Thames that sounds basically like the London equivalent of The Vineyard here. Well, Dan and I were walking from the Tower of London to the Globe along the London Bridge, and when we crossed, we noticed a sign leading to this Vineyard-esque theatre. I needed the contact info for the artistiv director, so we went to the theatre to get info - figuring we would get it from teh box office and be on our merrry way.
Well, this theatre is connected to a restaurant, so we told the guy at the front that we wanted the Artistic Director's phone number. Well, said guy disappears into the offices, and the A.D. himself walks out. We were all shocked - I freaked out inside because we were not exactly planning on a meeting. And we were unprepared (ie, no packet on hand - though we had been carrying them all week). So the guy tells us to email him. He was clearly a tad unnerved, too.
So we head to the Globe and I am a wreck - did I do the right thing? Did I come across as obnoxious or unprofressional? I had mentioned the names of the people we had met with and how they had mentioned his name, but made it clear they were not REFERRING us to him (i am a bit oversensitive to this issue), so it took me a while to get over myself. Dan was very reassuring that we did the right thing. So we will send the A.D. a packet, though he said the theatre is committed for two seasons. Could have been a "don't call us, we'll call you moment." but either way, we did something bold, a sequel to the day before's journey to the Theatre Museum...
Dan and I sang Be With Me in front of the Globe Theatre and video recorded it.
I also sang a song from Yeomen of the Guard, my favorite Gilbert & Sullivan show, at the Tower of London, on video as well. Poor Dan had to listen to me sing Yeomen songs all day (I thought I was using my inside voice) - the show takes place at the Tower, so I was in G&S overdrive, especially after going to the Savoy Theatre the day before (where G&S presented their shows).
By the time we got to Big Ben on Wednesday night, we were beyond beat - and it was raining, so we took a few buses home (we later realized we only had to take one of them straight through, not transferring), but we did sleep in a bit on Thursday.
Thursday was a magical day and the perfect capping off of the two weeks.
We had a meeting at Cameron Mackintosh's company with a very nice and helpful man who had seen the show in Cardiff. He gave us a lot of great advice. And, um,
WE HAD A MEETING AT CAMERON MACKINTOSH'S OFFICE
which is gorgeous. We were int he conference room, sitting on a couch in the buttprints of famous people.
Dan and I separated for the day. He had an adventure at the Handel Museum with a garrulous shopkeeper, which postponed Dan;s trip to Fortnum & Mason. Dan also revisited Marble Arch, where he was almost arrested 20 years ago.
I went to the British Museum. Unbelievable. I did not have a lot of time, so I did the highlights, but I must have covered at least a mile of their purported 2.5 miles of gallery. When I was looking at the exhibition of French painters' sketches (some Seurat! and a whole room from an amazinfg Israeli artist whose last name eludes me - Avigdor is his first), my cell phone rang. It was someone else who had been in Cardiff, with whom we wanted to meet. She was unable to meet but we had a phone conversation. Again, helpful. AND expensive - I was on the cell for a while, not to mention I had to call her back after her intial call (I did not want to be the Ugly American on the cell phone while looking at the Seurat.
But I was unsure of the dialing code, since the caller ID on my phone confused me. So I may have spent half of my budget on wrong numbers...
After the British Museum, I went to St. James Park, walking and walking (Thursday was less exhausting than Wednesday, though I think I did the same amount of walking), to Buckingham Palace, down to Parliament/Big Ben/Westminster Abbey. Lots of pictures - and a gorgeous day for it (though the rainy night pictures turned out pretty well).
I went to Picadilly to Fortnum & Mason (I missed Dan by about two hours) to get some gifts (and a FREE CHOCOLATE TRUFFLE), then needed to get in touch with our friends who were also in London (one of the other Cardiff show writers, David Arthur, and his friend), so I went to their hotel. And as fate would have it, they were at the front desk getting change so they could call me. Talk about timing.
Speaking of timing, there was a panel Thursday night about festivals that the woman who did the Cardiff fest was on, along with all the people we emailed post-Cardiff. Alas, it was the same time as Billy Elliot, for which we got house seats.
Anyhoo, David and Pat and I walked to Leicester Square, and I went off to the Natl Portrait Gallery. I was able to see all of it (at least the free parts - which is more than half). I felt like the eyes on the portraits were going to follow me and that the busts would suddenly come to life. I was not blown away - then I was. A lot of the museums on this trip were like that. I should clarify" I felt in each one of them the OCD tendency to SEE IT ALL, but knew I couldn't. So I would ay to myself "I have seen enough," only to turn the corner and see something even more incredible. So at the Portrait Gallery, I felt like I was done, until I started with the Victorians and through to rest of the 20th Century. And I had an Ugly American moment when I said to myself "Wow, all these portraits are of British people." yeah, um DUH, Which nation is in the word National?
Time was waning before I needed to get to the theatre, but I wanted to see a shop that was in one of the guides, so I took the tube up to Oxford Circus, only to stay there for five minutes and take the Tubne down to Victoria Station near the theatre. The store was not my speed, and to make it worse, crossing the street took more time than the Tube ride. There have got to be more people in London than in New York - though they seem more civilized. Much more.
Got to the theatre with a bit of time for a snack (we had plans to go out with David and Pat for post-dinner). I had a pasty - a meat pie. Steak and Stilton.
Who am I? Did I have any vegetables in the last two weeks? I mean, other than peas and carrots?
The show was a mixed experience - it was very "British Music Hall" with very broad musical numbers. But, um, it's about coal miners in a strike and the boy who dared to be himself. When it was about the kid and his dancing (with a STUNNING second act sequence when he dances alongside his "older self") the show was amazing. Toward the end, when Billy is packing to go away, his Dad teaches him how to fold a shirt. I got weepy. Then totally lost it when the ghost of the kid's dead mother comes to say goodbye.
In fact, for some reason, my Mom was on my mind the whole two weeks. I would see something to buy for her as a gift, only to remember she is no longer with us. Especially when I went to "Hotel Chocolat" yesterday -- a store which sells, well, you guessed it.
Yesterday was ALL ABOUT SHOPPING.
I went to Portobello Road (yesterday was a lot of walking), as well as some other stores around Kensington, then Dan and I had our final - and most expensive meal - at The Orangery in Kensington Gardens.
Dan took the tube to the airport while I took the express train,.
And wehn I checked in and got through security, I beheld the wonder that is Terminal 3 at Heathrow. Anyone been? IT IS A HUGE TAX-FREE MALL where everything is less expensive than it is in the city (Fortnum & Mason included).
here is what happened earlier in the day:
We had to pay the hotel in cash. I had sent in a deposit of the amount which was half of what I would owe.
I had to withdraw some cash to pay the rest. And when I did, I was thinking of the $ amount, not the £ amount, so I ended up having 70 extra pounds.
I SPENT ALL OF IT at Heathrow. I did NOT want to lose money exchanging the pounds for dollars, so I shopped and spent about 140 bucks so i would not have to spend the 25 or so I would have lost in the exhange.
Good news is: more gifts for friends.
As I unpacked last night (this morning), I realized I did not buy anything for me.
And then it hit me. I bought myself an invaluable gift: the whole experience of going to Europe.