Thursday, May 5, 2011

Audition for London Street Theater

Double-decker bus in London, England

"Straight on, a hundred meters . . . you can't miss it."

Covent Garden Station

Covent Garden is straight out of a movie set—
(if you can remember My Fair Lady and Oliver.)

Statues that come to life for tuppence . . .

(It takes a pound these days.)

Artwork, jewelry . . .

. . . antiques, books . . .

. . . quirky guys in sequins,

. . . and potatoes in their jackets.

This guy attracted an audience. He walked around on his ladder for a while and then started juggling—swords! Balancing on the rungs, he tossed three long knives in the air, catching them by their handles. (He clanked them on the ladder so we knew they were real.) The crowd cheered him on, and he started to strip! First his jacket, then his shirt, and then, with a flourish, his kilt!
Luckily he was not a true Scot—he had a little something under his kilt. A bright turquoise speedo.

Downstairs, this girl just started singing opera.
No introduction, no microphone, no accompaniment,
just confidence.

Jet-lag hit and our hotel was ready.
Down a short street, right around the corner, was our fabulous home for the week.

The Strand Palace Hotel is a 4-star hotel and though our room was small, it was lovely. It had a luxurious bed, big modern bathroom with a good shower, and a fabulous price for such a perfect location. $250 a night was a great deal, especially compared to the Savoy Hotel directly across the street, which was $600-$800 a night.

My advice for London on a budget: stay in a hoppin' neighborhood in the best hotel you can find under $300. The cheaper hotels ($150-$200) are usually (not always) a distance away from the action in town. The beds are hard, rooms and bathrooms small and old. The younger you are, the more these places (without lifts) will appeal. We now opt for creature comforts: elevators, extra pillows, a table or desk to write at and decent light bulbs. Some more tips:

Hotel restaurants are often highly expensive and, unless breakfast is included, it could cost as much as your room! Walk outside and in any direction you'll find a Pret a Manger within a block or two. They have fabulous breakfasts, fresh-squeezed juices, hot porridge, warm croissants, lots of butter and homemade jam, muffins, fruit, yogurt, etc. for $5-$8. Better food at cheaper cost. Pub grub (fish and chips or sausage and mash) is delicious for lunch or dinner and just as traditional as high tea someplace fancier.

Take the tube or the bus to save on taxi fare (cabs are an expensive option) and enjoy the street theater 24/7, everywhere you go.

You might be jigging for joy after a
chocolate waffle and I bet they'd let you join the group.

Avoid the juggling stripper, though.
Those swords could do serious damage if you are a true Scots man.
(Then you could sing the high soprano with the Opera girl.)

True high culture on the Streets of London!


Kathy C. said...

FUN!!! I wanna go. :) I lived in England when I was a little girl, and I look forward to the day when I can go back for a visit....someday! :) Thank you for the tips...especially the last one, LOLOL. :)

Christie said...

Sounds so FUN. I would kill for a week in London right about now...

Lisa Cannon said...

I'm Mark Cannon's wife. We were just in London in March and we stayed right in Covent Garden. We stayed at the Waldorf on the Aldwych. I wandered through Covent Garden every day. I loved London and your post. I want to go back! I loved it there! Made me homesick!

marta said...

that looks like serious entertainment! what a circus, with the dude in the speedo?!! i loved the gold statue actor. did you yell mannequin"?!

hope to go to london someday. maybe you'll be our tour guides.

Diane said...

Thank you for bringing it all to life for me. I've never been there, and now I know at least one place I'd like to see!

I look forward to reading more.

VickiC said...

Oh, you make me want to go back. I remember standing in the same places, viewing the same events about three years ago.

But there are two things in London I am not crazy about. The Tube is scary (saw a baby stroller get stuck in the door of the car as the signal to move was given). Too,potties are scarce. Where the heck do people pee in London!!?? My uncle later explained you just go into any pub and use the loo. Shoulda figured with all that beer.

Grandma Cebe said...

I can see that if I ever get back to London that I need to spend some time around the Covnent Garden tube station. Some how I missed that on a trip several years ago.

Your hotel sounds perfect. I've gone the B&B route in Scotland, and rented a flat in London and an apartment in Paris. Comparable to a good hotel price wise, but with more space and the ability to fix a few meals. There are a couple of websites that I've used and haven't been disappointed in the accommodations. Another advantage about renting a flat is that they were available by 9 or 10 AM. It was nice to be able to get settled early after the overnight flight.

I agree on using the tube/subways. But did use a taxi once in London when the tube line we needed had a mechanical problem. We had theater tickets and needed to get to our flat to change etc. The cabbie gave us some great tips on places to eat near the theater.

Looking forward to the rest of your posts on your travels. Makes me want to get up and go.

Heidi said...

Jac & I loved Pret in London, too. Quick easy, no guessing if it would be good. It's a great cheap find. When we went to NYC we were excited to see them there too!