One benefit of having a husband reluctant to fully engage with retirement is that he still goes ‘to meetings’ and often these are in London. So, having only small expenses to pay (my travel costs and hotel breakfast) this is a cost-efficient way to enjoy a visit. Early July offered such an opportunity and we planned a very busy 48 hours, as it turned out we were perhaps too keen although dry sunny weather helped.
Our first excursion was to the Prince Edward Theatre to see ‘Aladdin – the Musical’. The story line was that of the 1990s Disney movie rather than the original tale of wizardry and treachery so very suitable for family viewing. As with the movie the Genie is the star of the show – witty and expressive (similar to Robin Williams in 1992, I have not seen the latest remake with Will Smith in the role). The production is very spectacular with seamless scene changes and vibrant coloured costumes. Unfortunately, in the second half, there was a technical ‘glitch’ which delayed the production for 20 minutes. This was a shame as it spoilt the atmosphere in the theatre. Once re-started everything worked perfectly although the audience rushed off once it had finished so there were no curtain calls for the cast, which I think they deserved.
Leaving the theatre at 10.30 (much later than anticipated) – too late for dinner but in need of something before bed – we had only walked a short distance when we came to to ‘Il Cucciolo’. It stays open until 11.30pm so we dived in for a plate of pasta and a glass of Italian wine – a lovely end to the day.
The next day we had booked a guided walk and as it did not start until 1.30pm at Temple Tube station near the Thames we decided to go there late morning and wander along the river.
But first, early lunch at Somerset House. When the weather is good the courtyard is a very relaxed setting to watch the world go by (or in this case watch numerous toddlers chase the pigeons whilst my husband wondered how long it took for the birds to tire of the pursuit).
The guided walk was named ‘Hidden London Walking Tour’. As it was so interesting it seemed to flash by in 5 minutes – actually it lasted approx. 1.5 hours but felt like 5 minutes – I have written a separate article (http://perpetually49.com/a-guided-tour-of-hidden-london/ ).
Although there are occasional steps the route taken was easy to navigate. Gavin, our guide was entertaining, enthusiastic and very informed and this contributed to the success of the trip. Although I have visited London numerous times when working – and walked in the area between meetings etc so much of what he showed us was new to me. I now wonder how often I actually looked where I was going!
Having no firm plans as to what we would do with the rest of the day – and there were many options – we decided to go to Wimbledon and join the queue. We both have played tennis and do follow the sport, especially the Slams, so felt this was an opportunity not to miss. Whilst my husband had visited Wimbledon in previous years, and will always mention his great aunt Ethel Thomson Larcombe who win the 1912 Ladies singles competition, it was my first visit since childhood (and that school visit was outside of the season).
As expected the queue was long – very long – and we were happy to settle on the grass and enjoy an ice cream. When it was our turn to move (after 2 hours) and commence the walk through the waiting area, along the path and to the entry gate we had not realised that there were only 6 matches in action – 3 of which were on the Show courts and therefore not accessible to us. The 3 remaining matches were mostly in their final set, the ‘Resale’ office was closed and ‘Henman Hill’ was already over-crowded so the prospect of watching any tennis was minuscule.
Even though we had waited patiently for all that time, if we had been informed of this, we would have left rather than pay £18.00 per head to walk around a crowded arena, be crushed on the steps near ‘the Hill’ and then find the Museum was closed. I understand that due to the good weather and that many matches not being taken to a ‘final set’ everything was on schedule but still, I feel we should have been informed at the gate. The one thing of cheer – as there were so many empty seats on Court 2 we were allowed in to watch a mixed doubles match nearing its end. So, I was able to see Heather Watson and her partner win and what a lovely person she is, smiling and engaging with the spectators.
The completion of play on the centre court coincided with the end of play on Court 2 so we then had to join the thousands heading to the Tube station. This was pleasanter than it could have been – slow steady progress, held at the station entrance until safe to enter the platform, trains appearing every 5 minutes. A constant stream of precision and patience. Transport for London (TfL) at their best.
Our final day was spent attending the RHS Flower Festival at Hampton Court Palace, one of my favourite historical sites although we did not have time to visit the Palace itself.
The festival is very popular although due to the amount of space I never felt crushed by the crowd, helped by the day being sunny, dry and not too hot. There were many gardens that we already know of – ‘Back to Nature’ co-designed by the Duchess of Cambridge and the Springwatch Garden.
There were workshops and presentations on a variety of gardening topics. We sat in on a couple which offered a chance to be in the shade and were interesting even to such a non-gardener as myself. The gardens and displays, as you would imagine, were beautiful and my photos do not do them justice. We walked over 11 Kilometres so the train journey back into the city was a welcome rest.
Then it was time to collect our luggage and head ‘up north’.