Saturday, January 14, 2012

Week Two - West End Story

-- Do You Hear the People Sing? -- 

Won't you join me for a spot of tea?

Okay so somewhere in between this post and the last one, Andrew and Anthousa took a quick trip down to Paris for about four days - ah, Paris! - and very much enjoyed themselves. They brought home butter cookies. Yum!

In the second half of our time together, we upped the ante a bit on cultural experiences. First off, A&A met up with me after work on a Friday evening and we wandered over to the Buckingham Palace gift shop, about two blocks from my office. (I practically work for the Queen.)

We poked around in there and enjoyed all the royal wares, decorated especially festively for Christmas.

Texting David to coordinate our activities.
David was at a Christmas "lunch" with his friends from his programme, which was in fact a full-afternoon eating and visiting extravaganza. So the three of us made plans to have a bite to eat and then meet up with David for the evening's engagement.

On our way to dinner we couldn't help indulging in some stereotypical tourist fun.


We went for dinner at Nando's, which is a tasty chicken place that specializes in an Afro-Portuguese flavouring style called piri-piri. You can choose from one of four levels of hotness (culminating in "very hot"), and I typically stick to the bottom rung of the pyramid, but Andrew got an order of wings with the "very hot" designation, which I was quite impressed with.
Yum, I love Nando's
We enjoyed a bottle of wine and indulged in Nando's totally delicious carrot cake - you've got to love England where a carrot cake iced with cream cheese icing is served with a dollop of clotted cream. Dinner was also a nice chance for me to catch up with A&A on some more details of their big Asian trip, as well as their life in Australia for the past couple of years. It's great to reconnect with good friends - and we've had a lot to catch up on!

With dinner over, we made our way from London Victoria to the West End to meet up with David.


We had bought tickets way back in the planning stage for their visit, for the four of us to see Les Miserables!! I hadn't seen this musical since I was about twelve years old, when I saw it with my Dad in Toronto, I think for a Christmas present one year. David and Andrew had never seen it, though they both know the music fairly well. We enjoyed making our way to the theatre through the Picadilly area of London, so imposing and famous and iconic. I was rather pleased with my navigational skills, though we did start down the wrong street a little bit once we got out of the tube (there are like FIVE streets that converge right there... it's London.)

David heard us coming a mile away as Anthousa and I were busy doing our own rendition of "At the end of the day" as we made our way to the theatre - however we were quick to point out that this was the first time we'd been heard to sing the score of the musical since the tickets had been purchased, so the guys should have been thanking us, really.

No autographs, please.
You know you like my singing, stop teasing.
We found our seats and anticipation was high! We were waaaay back up in the nosebleed section but it didn't matter.




The production was excellent - we all really enjoyed it. The actor playing Jean Valjean was great - his rendition of "Bring him home" was unbelievable; what an emotional moment of theatre. We also all really liked the actor who played Javert - he was excellent. The only disappointment was the actress playing Eponine - although she is obviously a good singer with excellent technique, she had a very pop-like sound that jarred with the rest of the cast. Particularly in "On my own," she started doing that growly pop-diva thing on some notes and riffing on the melody!  Noooo.... we were dying a bit in the nosebleed section. Suffice it to say, we weren't quite so grieved as we might have been when she dies in the second act.

It's funny when you hear music you're so familiar with performed with a different accent. During "At the end of the day," they were singing about how "the righteous hurry pahst" and "the winter is coming on fahst."

We loved it, and despite a long trip home (the bus let us down and we had to bail and take the tube/train/bus instead) we were thrilled with our evening out!

-- Encore! --

The next day we were all recovering a little bit from end of master's degree/week of work/night out at the theatre/general exhaustion. Anthousa and I wandered over to Morrison's and got some ingredients, and came home and made (if I do say so) an awesome Saturday brunch. We had the whole spread - pancakes, fruit salad, bacon, sausages, scrambled eggs, coffee, orange juice, maple syrup, yogurt.  OMG - it was good.

We kept catching up on things and looking at A&A's trip pictures throughout the afternoon, then settled down on the couch to watch Home Alone (Christmas was coming, after all!) As the movie wrapped up, I whipped up a quick chicken curry dinner (thoroughly impressing my companions) and then Andrew, Anthousa and I got bundled up to go back out to London Victoria. Anthousa had scored us the last three cheap tickets to Wicked for that evening - OMG. Anthousa and Andrew had never seen it (though again, knew the music well) and I had seen it when David took me in Toronto when it was new. (I kind of can't believe it's five years old already!) 

Again, an awesome night out at the theatre. The production was great, especially the woman playing Elphaba. What a great, substantive role for a talented actress to play. Anthousa and I have a special place in our hearts for this musical, especially "What is this feeling?", because I used to play the music on the piano and we would sing together at my apartment on Chomedey in Montreal when we were first friends. I so loved sitting in a London theatre next to my friend, hearing this fabulous music live, and knowing we're still going strong as friends.


-- I Get By With a Little Help from my Friends --

The next day was another lay-low day. In the afternoon, David and I wanted to go to a Christmas carol service at All Hallows by the Tower. A&A decided to stay home and cook an epic batch of fajitas for our return. And epic they were.

The service at All Hallows was lovely - the sanctuary was beautifully decorated with boughs and lights and two big beautiful Christmas trees. David and I got a bit stuck with transit and just swooped in toward the end of "Once in Royal David's city" - too bad because this is, David says, his favourite Christmas carol. We got in the doors just as the children are waiting around all in white. Lyrically speaking.

At any rate, we still got to enjoy the service, and held our candles with the little paper wax guards and everything. (In England they let you have the lit candle the whole service. That's right, not just during "Silent Night.") Afterwards we enjoyed some mulled wine and a mince pie - the latter was a first for both of us. We said hello to Bertrand and wished him a Merry Christmas (I can't remember how much I've mentioned him on this blog - he is the vicar at All Hallows, and is from France originally - he's great.)

Now it really felt like Christmas!

--  A&A at the Antelope --

Then it was Monday all over again, and back to work for me. As the week went by in a blur, we began to prepare to send A&A on their way. We didn't want them to go without taking them to The Antelope, a gastropub in Tooting (our old stomping grounds) where we had gone with Chelsea and Chris when they were here.

The front part of the pub is a great comfy area with big chairs and group-sized tables, and the bar in the centre, and you can grab a pint and play a board game. In back of the pub is the restaurant, with dark wood tables and homey, nostalgic decor. There's also a games room where they broadcast football and rugby games.

I hurried in to Tooting from work and met the three of them there. David got me a cider and we all enjoyed a drink while asking each other questions from a pack of outdated Trivial Pursuit cards. Around 8:30 we moved in to the restaurant to have some dinner. They surprised us by telling us they were running out of most of the dishes on the menu, but we could have the lamb or the fish cakes. Alright then! We enjoyed an appetizer, and then the lamb and fish cakes were both wonderful. Andrew treated us to some more stories of his (mis)adventures on field work during his PhD studies.

Since they were flying out the next morning, we were conscious this was our last big outing together. We toasted David's and Andrew's success in their graduate studies, and wished each other luck with our various hopes for the coming year.


Safe travels Andrew and Anthousa - we'll see you again some time!

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