Last week I traveled on business, in and of itself, not an unusual thing. But last week was international travel and I was able to piggy back a work trip with a personal trip. Three days in Germany (for work) then four days in London (play time). It was a well-earned and long overdue trip.
The trip started with dinner with a former colleague. We had a magnificent meal at a local pub. Several glasses of wine, rich food, some tea and a chocolate pot which was to die for. There is something comforting about a quiet dinner with a good friend, sharing gossip, laughing about the inanities of life and just generally enjoying each other’s company. It was the perfect start to a fabulous weekend.
Thursday dawned bright and early and I was off to explore. I promise I only planned to spend about an hour in the National Gallery, really, just an hour. Then somehow I found myself staring at impressionist paintings and four hours were gone. Does this happen to other people? I am awed by the DaVinci cartoon. It takes my breath away every single time. Not to mention Cezanne and Rubens and oh that’s how I got lost for four hours. Anyhoo, I had to scoot along and didn’t get to spend as much time at the National Theatre as I would have liked but still got to do the backstage tour which was spectacular and I highly recommend. A few special souvenirs later and I was off.
Then it was back to the hotel, a quick freshen and back onto the tube to meet someone who has become a dear friend online. Liz is spectacular in every single way. She is who I want to be when I grow up. We were meeting early in hopes of catching the star of the play before. We met at the tube station in Richmond, walked to pick up our tickets then camped out in a pub with adult beverages to wait for our prey. We were successful in our plans and were able to spend a few minutes with said actress before the performance. Then off we went for a lovely dinner before the show. (The play was Each His Own Wilderness by Doris Lessing. While the play was meh, Clare Holman was breathtaking.)
It’s always interesting meeting someone you know online in person. Sometimes it is a let down after the rush of conversation via electronic means. This was not the case with Liz. She was even more spectacular in person and I look forward to many more adventures together. Next time I plan on spending vastly more time with her. On the plus side, she loves the theatre as much as I do. She would probably see 4 plays in 3 days with me.
When I returned to my hotel, one of my dearest friends was waiting for me. She moved to the UK in November. And while we have regular skype chats being in person is always better. After an excessively long hug, where I almost peed on myself, we sat down to start what became a weekend long chat about nothing and everything. It’s comforting to have those people you can tell anything and they don’t judge, simply listen. There is no agenda to the conversation nor is there really a point. It is very stream of consciousness. Plus we don’t even have to speak to get the point across. We did have a lovely conversation about oral sex on the tube. Fairly certain we brightened one man’s day with that one.
Amy had to work on Friday and I had the city to wander. I might have done some stalking but I won’t say of whom only that I was successful beyond my wildest dreams and there are no active restraining orders so it’s all good. I also went to the Churchill War Rooms which I loved. Covent Garden to try, unsuccessfully, to get a program for a play starting next week (a girl can dream). I found a delightful cheese shop where I purchased this amazing hunk of cheese which became my afternoon snack. Then I tried a red velvet milkshake (which I don’t recommend). According to my Fitbit I walked 20K steps on Friday. And I took the tube between destinations.
Friday night found me fangirling once again. Gypsy at The Savoy with the incomparable Imelda Staunton. It is a MUST SEE. She is brilliant and hands down my FAVE Mama Rose EVER. To add to that I got to meet both The General and Jim Carter (her husband) after the show. I spent about 5 minutes chatting with them. With him it was about why I wanted his autograph, my lack of accent considering where I am from, and general chit chat. He called me love and I managed not to pass out. With her I chatted about why I preferred her to Patti Lupone. The answer is because while La Lupone is magnificent she is a hammer. Imelda played the role with much more nuance and as a result lifted the entire production to a new level. They were both lovely and gracious and down to earth.
I spent the rest of the evening floating about on cloud nine. I touched Jim Carson and was touched by The General (and I do mean physically). In fangirl world, it was heaven. It is a testament to our friendship that Amy didn’t whip out the butterfly net and have me committed. I suspect it was because I knew how to get to the good Chinese place with the crispy duck.
Saturday found us doing some retail therapy and serious eating. Portobello Road, Harrod’s (officially my happy place), Selfridge’s, Fortnum & Mason and at least 10 other places. We had lunch at Harrod’s, tea at the Mandarin and dinner at Dinings. The first two I highly recommend the third, not so much. All in we walked 22K steps (not nearly enough to walk off tea (and the 4 glasses of champagne). On the plus side I discovered Assam Second Flush tea and I am in LOVE.
Sunday found me on a plane headed home. I managed not to cry as Amy & I parted at the airport – I was a big girl and did it in the airport after I cleared security. I will admit to a bit more retail therapy in the airport (T3 is amazing). But not as much as Amy who bought an amazing Burberry bag which she has promised to leave to me if she dies first.
As happy as I was to see my boys when I got home a small part of me wanted to stay in England. It is the only place I would ever expat. One day (probably after I smother the hubs in his sleep) I might move there. Amy & I can be roomies. It will be all very the L Word without the sex, not that we have anything against it we just think we would giggle through it and that is not sexy at all.
If you happen to find yourself in London this summer make a point of seeing Gypsy. It was amazing. If you go to Portobello Road go bloody early to avoid the crazy crowds. Make sure you have tea somewhere spectacular. If you choose the Mandarin ask for Eduardo. He’s cute as a bug and so very charming. The best crispy duck is in Chinatown just around the corner from the W Hotel – no I don’t know the name and yes I have been there 4 times. Make a point of going to the National Theatre. It is well worth it and the productions are very reasonable. Plus over the next 8 months some really big names will be on stage (oh what I wouldn’t give to see Dame Judi on the stage).
Good friends, good fun, and memories to last a lifetime. And – absolutely no selfies (but that’s a story for another day).