Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thursday, July 23, 2010

Boats and Billy

After a restless night, we met Ed & Roxanne for breakfast where we giggled and made plans for the day. We are, indeed, going to take London’s version of the bateau mouche, a tour boat down the Thames as far as Greenwich which was our original port of departure. The concierge also gave us the paper work we will need to get our tickets for tonight’s show.

Cruising down the Thames will be interesting because yesterday we flew up the Thames. As we approached Heathrow airport, we followed the river past the Tower of London, Buckingham palace, Westminster Abbey, Parliament and the London Eye, a large Ferris wheel constructed for the Millennium. Our boat trip to Greenwich took us by all but the Palace. We were also able to spot St. Paul’s Cathedral through the crowd of buildings on the shore and passed under the new London Bridge [the original is in Lake Havasu, Arizona].

We started the trip on the top deck of the river boat but soon went under cover as the rain started. Even though we had our matching rain jackets, it was a prudent move. Once the rain let up, Ed went back on deck to take more pictures; Ed is the one who says that if he doesn’t have a picture of it, he wasn’t there. We were surprised to learn that we had to change boats at the Tower Bridge. The Tower Bridge is the one seen most often in pictures of London. In fact, it is so iconic that most people believe that it is London Bridge. Tower Bridge is adjacent to the Tower of London which is, in fact, a collection of buildings surrounded by battlements and not a tower at all. Remember – two countries divided by one language.

Although there had been no narration of the sights as we meandered from the Embankment dock where we started until we reached Tower Bridge, the driver of the boat from Tower Bridge to Greenwich was positively chatty, in a British sort of way. He pointed out a church and cemetery where the captain and some of the crew of the Mayflower were buried practically next to a pub with a replica of the ship on its weathervane. Mostly, though, we saw converted warehouses and “wharves” which were now expensive condos.

At Greenwich, we walked through [or past] the Old Royal Navy College campus and spent a little time in the National Maritime Museum, but it wasn’t all that interesting once we got there. What eventually became the Royal Naval College was originally designed by Sir Christopher Wren as Greenwich Hospital for veteran sailors. Before that the site was home to a palace in which both Henry VIII and Elizabeth I were born. We also walked past the Cutty Sark, a tea clipper built in 1869 but best known for the Scotch whiskey of the same name. Alas, she is under repairs [and under wraps], so we could not see anything.

Because of the intermittent showers, we opted to find a pub and get lunch. Armies and tourists travel on their stomachs. Indeed, we found The King’s Arms and three of us had jacket potatoes and Cokes whilst Ed had fish and chips and a Guiness. Perhaps next time, if there is one, we will walk through Greenwich Park and visit the observatory and stand on the Prime meridian.
After lunch we easily found our way back to the dock and took the express boat back to Embankment and then walked to our hotel. By then it was 3:30, nap and journal time. D called Marvin to let him know that we were meeting at 6:15 in the lobby to go to see Billy Elliott.

Perhaps The Thirty-Nine Steps would have been a better play to see because it seemed that all we did once we left the hotel was climb up or down steps. There were steps from the roadway to the entrance of the Tube station; several flights down to the platform [we picked the right one by sheer luck]; steps both up and down to exit the Tube station at Victoria and more steps, mostly up, to reach our seats in the Dress Circle which is fancy talk for first balcony. And at the end of the show, of course, we did all of it in reverse!

And we would do it all again for Billy Elliott was well worth the effort it took to get to the theater. The cast was marvelous; the dancing superb; and the story one to tug at the heart-strings. We had only two minor annoyances – we had trouble hearing and understanding some of the dialog because of the accents used and the theater was abnormally warm. We can only imagine how hot and tired the cast was, yet they performed with unimaginable energy even in the blockbuster finale/curtain call. We were exhausted from watching the show.

We had had no dinner before hand, so we schlepped back to the hotel [see above] and were able to get sandwiches and drinks in the lounge. We sat and made small talk with Ed & Roxanne now on familiar terms with Marvin & Barbara. To top it off, Marvin had a 50% off food coupon which we used.

Tomorrow, we leave the hotel for the Prinsendam and will actually sail from Tilbury on Saturday.


  1. Glad you all made it to London and safely. Also pleased you enjoyed Billy Elliott. There hasn't been too many musicals that had me in tears.....we too had a difficult time getting used to the northern british accents. I can't wait to see Billy in New York.

    Have a great cruise!

  2. "had a difficult time ... northern british accents"

    This is the problem we get with US gangster movies when they talk in drug jive. Good performances usually win through though despite language problems.