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Last day in London Sunday, 5 July 2009

Posted by Ian Cole in Europe 2009, The Ians on Tour.
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IanC 2258With time to spend before our evening flight back to Sydney we took a ride on the London Eye.

The Eye offers spectacular views over London from a central location by the County Hall, opposite the Houses of Parliament.

Though it was a busy Sunday we didn’t have to queue long to take our ride. The weather was quite crap though, threatening rain. At least it was cooler than it’s been for the past week or so.

After that we took a walk along the south bank to the Founders Arms, a pub right next to the river just near the Tate Modern, with views across to St Paul’s Cathedral. We always visit this pub when in London as it’s a great spot to sit and have a couple of pints.

And that, as they say, is that. Goodbye London, Farewell Europe.

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Benny Andersson Band (updated) Sunday, 5 July 2009

Posted by Ian Cole in Europe 2009, The Ians on Tour.
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BennyYesterday was the climax for the trip (for me) with the concert by the Benny Andersson Band in Hampstead Heath.

Sweden on Stage was a concert to celebrate as Sweden takes over the EU presidency. There were a few Swedish acts (and a couple of non-Swedish ones) performing from 2 pm before the main act in the evening.

The concert was amazing. Nothing fancy – just 15 “middle aged men” and one outstanding younger female vocalist on stage who obviously enjoy music and enjoy playing together.

The band played a wide assortment of music, from the traditional style Swedish music and big band sounds from the band’s CDs, evergreens, rock and roll, classical, and yes, three ABBA songs. For about two and a half hours without a break.

The crowd (and not just the ABBA fans up front) really got in to the music, and at times the ovations seemed to get to the band as well.

Benny looked so happy and you could tell he was really enjoying himself. This really is what he does best, making the music that he so obviously loves.

It was also a great day for catching up with old friends and meeting online friends for the first time. In no particular order nor probably inclusive of everyone, Jason, Sara and Paul, Paul, Dionne, Stella, Gary, Andre, Frank, Helga, Anita, Yulie, Jason and Barry, Alex, Marco, Sandra, Ingrid, Cliff, Ice, Nick, Kaarin, Damien, Paul, Terry and Martin and so many more.

In all, a truly wonderful day.

See more of my photos from the day on Facebook.
See also Benny Andersson Band in London – I was there… | icethesite

Another unexpected day Saturday, 4 July 2009

Posted by Ian Marks in Europe 2009, The Ians on Tour.
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Today was the Benny Andersen Band in Hampstead Heath.  I decided not to go, really not my cup of tea.  I’ll leave it to Ian C to talk about that.  So we had a late breakfast together and headed off in our seperate directions.

I went to Leicester Square to go to TKTS, the day of show discount ticket sellers.  Because I was only buying a single ticket I managed to pick up a 3rd row centre for The 39 Steps

Pride ParadeWhile walking around Leicester Square I realised that today was Pride London.  So I wandered along found a spot and watched some of the parade.  Lots of fun with a very strong political message.  But what would a gay parade be without lots of colour and loud music.

The show won both an Olivier Award and 2 Tonys and is one of the funniest things I have seen in years.  There is a cast of 4, 1 plays the central character and the other 3 play many other characters.  Very well done and a real riot.  I had a great night at the theatre.

One thing though, what is it with tourists that when they are in a foreign country common sense goes out the window.  There were huge problems tonight with what appeared to be overcrowding on tube stations.  But they were getting onto the platform and standing just at the platform entrance creating chaos.  The guy in the control room at Holborn station turned the volume up on the PA and started describing individual people on the platform and telling them to move away from the platform entrance.  I just shoved my way through and moved down the platform, got on the next train and got a seat!

Aren’t we supposed to be at a show? Friday, 3 July 2009

Posted by Ian Marks in Europe 2009, The Ians on Tour.
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Paul, Ian C and IceFriday was, at best, an odd sort of day.  More wandering and shopping in the morning before we went to have lunch with Marcus and Paul.  For the life of me I couldn’t remember who Marcus was despite the fact that I have met him before on a couple of occasions, me and my crap memory.  So when he walked in I exclaimed quite loudly “oh now I know who he is”.  Marcus was a little taken aback at my comment, sorry about that Marcus.  So we chatted for a while and then Marcus had to go back to work.

Then the ever fabulous Ice (Dominic) texts Ian C to see if we’re still at the pub.  So Ice joined us and we continued chatting and drinking until we had drunk too much to make the show so continued carrying on.  So the evening continued on, drinking and chatting away until it was decided to change pubs.  So while Paul and his friend Tom went off to take care of some business, Ice took Ian and I to get the best kebab in London.  Sorry to say I was less than impressed, nothing like a kebab in Australia and that is what I really felt like.  So off we trotted to the other pub for some more chatting and drinking.

Despite missing the show the night was a lot of fun all round.  It really is sometimes the unexpected that makes it worthwhile!

Cardiff Friday, 3 July 2009

Posted by Ian Marks in Europe 2009, The Ians on Tour.
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Getting a little behind in the posts, so this is a couple of days late.

On Wednesday we actually managed to haul our butts out of bed early enough to make our train to Cardiff.  A slow trip at first out of London but finally we picked up a bit of speed and eventually arrived in Cardiff.

Cardiff was exactly as I remembered it, a little dirty and a city of two parts.  The city centre of Cardiff is exactly the same as most city centres, people rushing about doing stuff and others just hanging around.  We checked out around the place and then headed for Cardiff Bay.  The difference between the two areas is incredulous.  Yes Cardiff Bay is a planned area from what was the old docks but the whole feel of the place is different.  And it hasn’t just been done for the tourists as the Welsh National Assembly is located in Cardiff Bay.

Cardiff Bay’s big claim to faim is that it is where the series Torchwood is based.  We saw the huge water feature thing in the middle that is the fictitious base of Torchwood and the door that is the entrance to Ianto’s Tourist Information office.  It was all a bit nerdy but fun.

The Doctors TardusWe also visited the Doctor Who exhibition.  Some props from the show including costumes.  It could have been a lot bigger than it was and some of the displays weren’t working as they should have been.  But it was very interesting and always fun to imerse yourself in a bit of fun.

We then wandered around Cardiff Bay for a while and there was this cute little green boat that was doing a trip out to the barrage.  It turns out that Cardiff has a tide movement of 14 metres so they built what turned out to be a lock for boats to pass through.

So we wandered around a bit more, a few more beers and then headed for the train.  The first class lounge was unfortunately closed and we had to hang around the platform before our train arrived.  An uneventful trip back to London.  We headed to the underground to get back to Holborn and the terrible heat in the station had not reduced – I really do feel for the people of London in those hot tunnels.

Hairspray Thursday, 2 July 2009

Posted by Ian Marks in Europe 2009, The Ians on Tour.
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Thursday in London for us was a bit of a hang around day, just a bit of shopping and wandering around the streets of London.  We did post some stuff home and there was a very helpful man at the post office who made sure we used the most appropriate service.  The frightening thing was we posted just short of 20kgs in 2 boxes and we’ve still got lots of stuff to carry with us… looks like excess luggage for us!

That night it was time for Hairspray the Musical.  Another swealtering theatre with no air con but the show was amazing.  Michael Ball as Edna Turnblatt was wonderful.  The cast worked hard in the very hot conditions and I did notice in act II that a lot of the make-up was wearing off in the sweaty conditions.  At one point when Edna and Wilbur Turnblatt were singing Timeless to Me there was a point when Edna said “oh its too hot for this” and they both got a bad case of the giggles.  But we both loved the show, just sit back and enjoy the fun type of show.

Memo to London: Air Conditioning Thursday, 2 July 2009

Posted by Ian Marks in Europe 2009, The Ians on Tour.
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I understand that most of the year it is cool but this has been the hottest week in three years.  You will notice that I said 3 years not 30, it does get hot and very uncomfortable.  The number of shops, restaurants etc that do not have air conditioning is staggering.  When it is 30 degrees doing anything is difficult and going into a business where the air is so thick with humidity tends to turn you off.  So please, consider getting some air con and think of this poor fat tourist from Sydney.

Lunch at Harrods Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Posted by Ian Cole in Europe 2009, The Ians on Tour.
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Diana and DodiToday we went to Harrods and had lunch at the Rotiserie counter in the Food Halls. I had half chicken, Ian had half duck, with baked root vegetables. Accompanied by Harrods’ Lager. Dessert followed at Moretti’s gelato counter.

It feels like such an indulgence, but the food is just so good. We had lunch at the Seafood counter a few years ago and just had to do it again.

Harrods is like no other store in the world. Others try to be like it but none of them compare.  It’s truly one of a kind. Anything you could possibly imagine, and so much that you probably couldn’t, you can get there.

Pictured is the memorial to Diana, PoW and Dodi al Fayed, son of Harrods’ owner. Originally this was placed in a window on the street, but it caused traffic accidents. You can see why. Now it’s in the lower ground floor at the bottom of the stunning Egyptian excalators and a tourist attraction.

Tonight we’re having dinner with Gerry and Andrew. It’s still too fucking hot.

Aren’t we faaaaaaabulous? Monday, 29 June 2009

Posted by Ian Cole in Europe 2009, The Ians on Tour.
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PriscillaWe’re just back in from seeing Priscilla, Queen of the Desert – The Musical. It’s the fourth time we’ve seen the show, having seen it in Sydney twice and Melbourne.

It’s interesting to see the development of the show since the first time we saw it a month of so after the world premiere.

Tonight a few of the Australian references are gone (the “I still call Australia home” kid was replaced by Tinky Winky; the Monte Carlo was a Ginger Nut biscuit), and some parts have been tweaked, trimmed, or added (there is now a Kylie medley where before there was just ‘Confide in Me’).

One ABBA reference has been inserted: when the Aboriginal tracker comes across the broken down bus, there was a line “let’s put the ABBA back in aboriginal!”  As I wrote elsewhere a couple of years ago, all the ABBA references from the movie have been removed or replaced by Kylie.

Jason Donovan was great in the role of Tick/Mitzi, though at times he seemed to be concentrating hard when he had to sing and dance at the same time. Oliver Thornton as Adam/Felicia was a lot more Guy Pearce from the movie than the actor who had played the role in Australia, especially in the arms and chest (if you know what I mean!).

And of course Tony Sheldon, the only import from the Australian cast, was just faaaaaaaab as Bernadette. The role fits him like a glove. Or should that be fits him like a frock?

Today we visited the Cabinet War Rooms and Churchill Museum at Whitehall. A fascinating look into WWII history, some of which is exactly as it was left when the lights were turned off and the doors locked on August 16 1945.

Then we took a walk through St James’s Park to Buckingham Palace. You just can’t go to London without taking a stroll to Buck Pal.

Afterwards a trip to HMV on Oxford Street. Another one of those things you have to do in London. Didn’t go too mad on the “4 for £20” specials for a change, though we did pick up a few CDs, DVDs and books.

Dinner in Old Compton Street before the show gave us two interesting stories: the prissy French queen who walked in, sat down, and asked for the air conditioning to be turned off because it was bothering him, and the Eastern European slapper in the skimpy dress who wrapped herself in her pashmina because she was cold. It was 30 fucking degrees outside (at 6 pm) and not that much cooler inside, despite the air con.

Has anyone seen Godot? Sunday, 28 June 2009

Posted by Ian Marks in Europe 2009, The Ians on Tour.
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Today started fairly quietly as it was time for me to watch the omnibus of Coronation Street.  So many characters I don’t know and story lines that have moved way on but who cares, I got to watch my favourite soapie on english TV.  It is a bit sad I know but who cares what others think!

Waiting for Godot - Theatre Royal HaymarketThis afternoon it was off to the Theatre Royal Haymarket to see Waiting for Godot.  I’m not a Beckett fan but this cast was such a dream cast we could not help but see it:  Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Simon Callow and Ronald Pickup.  It was one of the most amazing plays I have ever seen.  Because of the friendship between McKellen and Stewart, playing the roles of the friends Estragon and Vladimir was very easy between them.  It was so beautiful to watch and I had no idea the play was so witty.  Of course having such heavy weights in the cast means that the work is superb.  I cannot rave enough about it, I’m sure I missed the sub-text of the play but I don’t care it was a thing of beauty to watch.

So we wandered away from the theatre afterwards, had some dinner and decided to have an early night.  Our theatre visits have begun and set a very high benchmark for the rest.