May 22nd – 26th 2015
When we arrived at Heathrow my beloved husband proclaimed that he’d never take a plane again. We had a fabulous flight, very good sight, the plane could fly rather low (well, still *above* the clouds) but he does not enjoy flying at all and was near a panic attack when the plane took off smoothly from Düsseldorf. We had two seats by the aisle and my two neighbours were two guys going on weekend trip to London just like us. We chatted a bit while Ronny felt miserable and hoped for the flight to end quickly. Approach to London was spectacular! We (well, I, Ronny did not look outside the windows) could see the London Eye, the Shard and Houses of Parliament.
We had booked the so-called Oystercard for the Tube – for four days it is the cheapest way to travel. We had charged it with 25 pounds and literally spent the last penny on the train back to Heathrow. Our hotel was in Hammersmith and we had to change trains at Hammersmith Station – and I had to use the loo desperately. There was a public restroom in the station and it cost 50 pence. I had not any cash on me so I asked the supervising lady if I could use without payment as I was a tourist and that I had just arrive with no cash at hand. My desperation was palpable. She let me pass and I was one happy – and very relieved – tourist now.
We had found the hotel via London30 for cheap / favourable accomondation in London. London is f*** expensive and this site claims to have offers from 30 pounds/night. In the end our total bill was 250 pounds for all three nights and that can be considered a bargain. Plus, they promised free WiFi and English breakfast. Funny how times change: Last time (2007) I had used a map to find our hotel and now I used google maps to show us the fastest route. Our station was Goldhawk Road (zone 2) and I still do not know if the area was good, bad or mediocre but we quickly got used to the different way things looked (multi-national shops and restaurants). Acc to google the distance to our hotel was 0,4 miles – down the road, then right and somewhere there. Needless to say, google was right. We had not expected much for the money we paid but we were pleasantly surprised. The room was small with comfy beds, TV, hairdryer(!) and a new renovated bathroom. WiFi worked immediately. (First things first!)
The day went by quickly and we decided to go back to Hammersmith Station to grab some dinner and to search for the first venue of our trip: Eventim Apollo Theatre where we would spend “An Evening with Pacino“. Undecided what to eat for dinner we roamed the area a bit and discovered some nice little restaurants. We ended up in a pub style establishment called the Yardbird (and liked it immediately). People of all ages enjoyed their dinner or just a beer. We found a table in the centre, ordered beer (half-pint for me, one pint for the hubby) and burgers. Did I mention the Chocolate Fudge Cake for dessert? I swear there’s a heaven! What I enjoy about being in London again is that you are addressed as “Madame” or “Sir”. It gives me such a thrill. 🙂
Well, this Madame and Sir enjoyed the rest of the evening at the Apollo Theatre with Mr. Pacino. We had only been able to get tickets “stalls standing” and that was quite an unpleasant experience. The area was located near the bar and toilet and it felt like being at King’s Cross Station on Monday morning. It was a constant come and go and surely not very pleasant. Al Pacino was great! I just love his voice and although he’s already 75 years old, he’s still rather attractive and charismatic. The crowd cheered and applauded when he came on stage – the appreciation for this fine actor palpable. Between film clips he narrated the story of his life – on meeting Coppola, playing Scarface or how the famous „Whoo-yah“ from „Scent of the Woman“ was born. I have to admit that I enjoyed listening to his voice and seeing him intereact with the audience but in the end he is no real „entertainer“. People hung at his lips, no doubt, but he was rather quiet and no showman.
Saturday morning saw us exploring the area around St. Paul’s cathedral – enjoying a Doctor Who moment from „Death in Heaven“ and then we walked on the Millenium Bridge – enjoying a Harry Potter moment. Ronny took tons of photos of the impressive building, from all angles. Then we stumbled over a giant sheep sculpture, Shawn the sheep to be exact. We had heard about this special charity exhibit in London and we were quite excited to have discovered not one but three sculptures around St. Paul’s Cathedral. We escaped a little rain shower by enjoying a snack and a beer in a pub nearby. I have to admit that I really started to like this Southern fried chicken.
We left the area and took the Tube to Piccadilly Circus where we had coffee and cake in a little café. Well, this was only our second choice. At the first place we went we were told that they would not serve coffee and cake unless we had a meal before. So we left for the next one. We also found an HMV store – a little heaven on earth for both of us – and bought some goodies. The afternoon went by quickly and soon we found ourselves back on the Tube to go to Wembley Park for our main event this weekend: “The Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular” at Wembley Arena. We exited the Tube at Wembley Park and ended up in a crowd of football fans. Apparently there was an important final in the 2nd league or something. Football or soccer. Who cares? We had more important business to attend to. 🙂 Wembley Park hosts the world-famous Wembley Stadium (and, as Germans, we should probably burst out into tears remembering the „Wembley goal“ of 1966 but, again, this was just football) and the Wembley SSE Arena.
„Keep calm and call The Doctor!“ There was a young lad wearing a t-shirt and we instantly knew that we’d come to the right place. Wembley Arena is right next to the Stadium and if it weren’t for the signs showing the way, we could not have missed it. People were wearing scarves, fecces or bow ties – „Bow ties are cool!“ – and the place in front of the Arena quickly filled with fans and crazy people like us who had come all the way from all over the world to attend tonight’s „Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular“. We spotted little children in Doctor’s attire – including sonic screwdrivers. We also saw „Missy“ running around somewhere, totally bananas, if you ask me. It was simply f-a-n-t-a-s-t-i-c to see people of all ages at this event. It is indeed a family programme.
We bought the official tour programme containing the usual information about the characters, the composer and orchestra. The playlist looked like this:
A good man?
Wherever, whenever (Anywhere in time and space?)
Doctor’s theme / Song of freedom
Last Christmas Suite
All the strange, strange creatures
The Impossible Girl
The Pandorica Suite
Fifty – This is Gallifrey
Death in Heaven Suite
Doctor Who Theme
Although our tickets had been a bargain our seats were really good with a good view on the stage from the bird’s perspective. However, not high enough for a Cyberman… but more about that later.
The stage housed seats and instruments of the orchestra – and the TARDIS! Big screens displayed the Doctor Who logo and there was a constant sort of humming in the air.
The BBC National Orchestra of Wales (plus choir), conducted by Ben Foster (so cute!), began with the question of all questions: Am I a good man? – from the latest series of Doctor Who with Peter Capaldi. This theme fitted perfectly to describe the new Doctor and concluded with the clip from „Flatline“ and the Doctor’s daring speech to the Boneless:
„I tried to talk. I want you to remember that. I tried to reach out, I tried to understand you but I think that you understand us perfectly. And I think you just don’t care. And I don’t know whether you are here to invade, infiltrate or just replace us. I don’t suppose it really matters now. You are monsters. That is the role you seem determined to play. So it seems I must play mine. The man that stops the monsters. I’m sending you back to your own dimension. Who knows? Some of you may even survive the trip. And if you do, remember this – you are not welcome here. This planet is protected. I am the Doctor.“
Please excuse me a moment while I go shivering in a corner…
I was rather surprised that the concert had so many pieces from the latest series but it was most definitely no disadvantage. For the first time actually I really noticed the music of series 8 and the individual themes and scenes. Each piece of music was accompanied by clips from various episodes throughout the decades. Spontaneous applause broke loose for each Doctor and it was really difficult to tell who was the most loved one. The vote on the companions, however, was rather clear. All hell broke loose when our very own Donna of London, Donna Noble of Chiswick, was shown on the screen!
The fifth Doctor, Peter Davison, hosted the show and he always found fond words for the music to come. In his opening speech he mentioned the troubles they had faced the previous day when suddenly the whole area had to be evacuated due to an unexploded bomb from WWII that had been discovered nearby. Peter also joked constantly about his successor as the Doctor, Colin Baker, who was supposed to be on „standby“ with a taxi waiting in front of his house in case, we, the audience would dismiss Peter as host. Quite affectionately, he also joked around with conductor Ben Foster (so cute!) and asked what on earth his job was. After all those years conducting the orchestra the musicians should all know by now what they were doing.
By the way, the announcer in the arena spoke in a Dalek voice. Take your seats, you are all now under Dalek control. Obey! Obey or you will be e-x-t-e-r-m-i-n-a-t-e-d… It was hilarious!
Speaking of the Daleks, just as promised, several monsters and aliens appeared on stage and in the audience. The Ood, Cybermen, the Foretold from Mummy on the Orient-Express (in space) or the Silurians roamed through the aisles, threatening and entertaining the guests. One Cyberman even came up to our area and stood sentinel over us. Most of the applause and appreciation were awarded to the Daleks, of course. Ben Foster (so cute!) fled from his conductor’s stand and Peter Davison walked in with a cup of tea – only to be stopped by a Dalek. He was quite wise not to reveal his identity… We also spotted some vampire ladies of Venice.
The show ended after 2 hours with an encore of Vale Decem and the Doctor Who Theme. Vale Decem had clips of all regenerations of all Doctors and the Doctor Who Theme was just the icing on a cake. The audience roared, cheered and applauded.
„I don’t want to go.“ (The End of Time)
Breakfast was toast, eggs, jam and tea. We were in London after all!
The thing about London is: When you visit the first time, you want to see all the famous sights like Buckingham Palace, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey. Monuments and buildings you hear about in school and, later on, which are frequently on the news for one reason or another. However, when you visit more often, you do the real fun stuff. We decided to go on a boat tour on the river Thames – because, yes, we did not have anything better („Comtraya!“ – and whoever gets the reference will get a … pat on the shoulder or something) to do.
We took the Tube to Westminster and arrived on the hour to hear Big Ben going wild. See, this is the difference to what I said above: No matter how often you’ve been to London, when Big Ben starts, you backpedal for a moment and just listen to the famous chimes. It’s a must do. And when you’re in the right mood, it’ll give you goosebumps for sure.
As we had plenty of time and nothing else planned for the day, we went for the Greenwich Tour. It’s a two-hour roundtrip from Westminster to Greenwich pier and back. It was a bit cold and windy but be honest: There just has to be such gray weather in London to feel welcome. Sunshine is boring. Boring! Anyway, we enjoyed our boat tour. To view many of the sights from the riverside is quite extraordinary. We shipped by the impressive Tower of London, then *below* Tower Bridge. The captain proved himself as an entertaining tour guide and besides the obvious information about the sights, he had quite some cute little stories to tell. Just like ol’ pirates do. Savy?
We had a delicious meal at Zizzi’s (Greenwich Pier), an Italian place with fantastic pizza and even better dessert! Again, it gave me a thrill when the waiter treated us as „Sir“ and „Madame“. He even addressed my hubby for all „important“ things, a bit macho like, but still very, very pleasant. We enjoyed our meal and the good service very much. In fact, we just had to take a picture of the fig cake.
Later that afternoon we took the boat back to Westminster – and our short weekend trip to London slowly came to an end. Until next time, of course.