Saturday, July 16, 2011

Long Weekend in London – Saturday

The Floral Hall of the Royal Opera House

Image via Wikipedia

After our early morning call at 5.47 (the hotel’s fire klaxon went off!), we couldn’t get back off to sleep afterwards, so we were up earlier than planned. The highlight of the day is going to be our visit to the Royal Opera House to see Madame Madama Butterfly at the Royal Opera House.We haven’t been to the ROH for years and we’re looking forward to seeing how they’ve spruced up the interior after spending zillions of pounds on it.

Various signage around the hotel suggested that we avoided 8 until 9.30 for breakfast, as it was going to be very busy, but when we looked-in around 9.15, it was less busy than yesterday – it seemed to have worked and kept away the masses and therefore left it free for us to pick a table of our choice by the window.

We ate heartily (it really IS good food here) and made plans for the rest of the day. The girls decided to go shopping, whilst Ralph and I decided to look around The London Aquarium.

Looking out the window, we could see that the promised rain had arrived – and it was to stay that way for most of the day – in bucket loads - until around 5pm.

The queue for the Aquarium was long AND confusing in equal measure – and being outside for part of it didn’t help much as it was now raining hard. Once inside, we were relieved of almost £20 each (plus £4.99 for a programme) before being pointed in the direction of the fishes.

Actually, it was a really good experience. Ann and I had been there many years ago, but this time, the whole event seemed much bigger. It took us around an hour to get round, so maybe nearly £25 quid wasn’t so bad – this is London after all!

When we came out the other end leading to McDonald’s, the area was heaving – mainly because the rain outside was now torrential and people were seeking refuge inside. To make matters worse, McDonald’s had apparently run out of seats and its customers were now sitting down on the floor, making it quite challenging for everyone else to get around.

We exited as soon as possible as it was getting quite claustrophobic, heading next door to Zen for a coffee and nutritious bag of crisps. Ahh, much better – a comfy leather sofa.

Various texts from the girls indicated that they were enjoying their shopping experience in Peter Jones!

After our short pit-stop, we decided to grab a cab and head to HMV in Oxford Street. Ralph picked up the new CD - 21 - by Adele, but I couldn’t make up my mind what to get, so returned with nothing.

By now the girls were back at the hotel, and after the short cab ride back and a short snooze, we got ready for tonight’s big event. The Opera wouldn’t be the Opera without a pre-theatre nibble, so we’d already booked Les Deux Salons on William IV Street nearby.

I think we must have had the only taxi-driver in London who hadn’t heard of the street – but he got us there eventually. The restaurant was, as the name suggests, French in theme, and once seated, looking around you, really did think you were in France. It had a really nice atmosphere and perhaps, more importantly, the food was fantastic. In spite of getting there for 6pm and only having the pre-theatre menu, it was a bit of a rush to the Royal Opera House. We arrived with about two minutes to spare!

’Curtain up’ just after 7.30, and although it took me a while to get into it (An American buys a wife in Japan and sings in Italian!, buggers off, leaving his new wife, marries someone else, having given wifey 1 a child - but doesn’t know it - when wifey 1 finds out about his adultery, she kills herself) – phew! what a storyline... and what performances... fantastic!

At half-time, we headed for the Bar. The ‘old’ Bar area has now been replaced, as part of the ROH redevelopment - and so had the traditional ‘scrum’ that was always a feature of the experience - the eating and drinking area was now a light, airy and very spacious multi-level environment. A definite improvement!

The dying breath of the Butterfly was just before 10.25, and the audience went wild with their applause – well deserved. We left together with everyone else and hit the streets. Grabbing a taxi was always going to be a challenge, so we walked for a bit, away from the crowds, and were soon on board, bound for the Hotel.

On arriving, we decided to re-visit Cucine, the Italian restaurant opposite, for a final bit of nosebag.

11.45. Another late night – and our final day here – but time for bed.

It’s been great to be in London again – and good to celebrate Ann’s 50th in part, with our first visit to the Opera courtesy of the friends and neighbours’ Opera fund Birthday gift. Two more visits planned later in the year!

Checking out around 11 tomorrow, then Brunch at St Pancras – home by 4pm.