I woke up at 6 am on September 20, 2011 to find Ivan already awake. We checked out of the hostel at 7:35 am.
We walked to The Breakfast Club. Unfortunately, it wasn’t open yet. We walked around Soho and checked out the shops that were open.
Ivan and I went back to The Breakfast Club. Ivan ordered scrambled eggs with smoked salmon while I had a poached egg with avocado and chilies on toast.
We each enjoyed a smoothie as well. The food was so very tasty.
We walked around the store Pylones. They sell the cutest products like cuckoo clocks and pizza cutters. I was happy to find a Kidrobot store, but unfortunately it was closed.
It was time to watch a movie. We walked to Odeon in Leiceister Square. This is the theatre where movie premiers are held and also the BAFTA Awards. We sat inside the theatre to watch the movie Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. The movie was very, very slow and REALLY confusing. Gary Oldman is the main character. Don’t go see this movie… it’s boring and doesn’t make any sense. We walked out of the movie maybe about an hour and 10 minutes in.
Ivan wanted to use the internet. So, we walked to an internet café. I wanted to play SIms Social, but the computer didn’t have many plugins installed.
We took a walk to Embankment station. Soon, we’d be headed out on a walking tour. The tour guide wasn’t there yet since we were 10 minutes early. The tour meets on the side with the bridge. Our tour guide Stephanie arrived. She looked very British. Stephanie introduced herself and told us about the “Somewhere Else” London walking tour.
The group, which consisted of 20 people, walked over the bridge and started the tour. There was a lovely view of the London Eye, Big Ben and Houses of Parliament. Stephanie talked about the London Eye. There are 32 capsules that represent the 32 boroughs of London. She informed us that one of the capsules was missing. The reason behind it is that they’re replacing each capsules one by one. The capsules come by boat since they’re so big. The new capsules will have air-conditioning and wi-fi. Ivan thought the capsules would also have more seats and heating as well. She also told us that one of the capsules was painted orange. The London Eye was once painted red for Valentines Day. At that time, that red carriage could be rented out for £350 which would include a butler and dinner. It’s orange now which is sponsored by EDF Energy. It’s being used as a private carriage for different things like a wine capsule or afternoon tea.
Stephanie talked to us about the River Thames. In the 19th century, the river had untreated human waste in it. People would swim in it and contracted polio. There was an airborne miasma coming from the river which they believed made people get sick with cholera. In the summer of 1858, The Big Stink occurred. Metropolitan Board of Works kept rejecting proposals made by chief engineer Joseph Bazalgette because they thought it was too expensive. Finally in 1859, they accepted one of Joseph’s proposals since it had become a major problem. Joseph Bazalgette created 90 miles of sewer under the River Thames. It’s thanks to him that he created a river that inhabits many small varieties of fish and a river that’s safe enough to swim in, if you’re brave enough to go in the freezing water. We saw the memorial for Joseph Bazalgette located on Southbank.
Stephanie showed us a building where ITV makes tv programs. Many people were waiting around to take pictures or get autographs from famous stars. The group went further along to the National Theatre.
She said the style of the building is called brutalist. I thought she was joking, but she was serious. As you can see, it’s not a pretty building – but when it was built in 1976 it was quite modern. We took an elevator to the second floor. This was a great view for the residents of London in the 19th century to see across the River Thames. It was a nice view of the buildings on the Embankment side. Stephanie told us that the first hotel to have toilets in each room was The Savoy.
The group went back down in the elevator. Stephanie showed us the small beach that was created near the water. The residents of London in the 19th century worked hard. The sand was brought in, so they could enjoy the beach and the water.
We walked to an area called Gabriel’s Wharf.
This nice area is filled with shops, restaurants and bars. Coin Street Community Builders (CSCB) runs the area where they create co-operative homes, shops, restaurants, cafes and parks. We saw the homes nearby also run by CSCB which were quite lovely.
Next, we walked around Lambeth. This part of London in the 19th century was very industrial and filled with workers. We saw buildings that haven’t changed in many, many years. The Georgian style was quite dark and, in my opinion, depressing.
We walked along Windmill Walk. These dark brown buildings still have chimneys on top which are now used for ventilation.
Stephanie was a very funny guide and very knowledgeable. I think tour guides should be interesting and funny. It makes the tour even better.
In the 19th century, people bought home insurance. They would place a receipt on the house (I can’t remember the actual name of this plaque).
If there was a fire, the fire engine would come by.. if they saw this receipt, the fire would be put out immediately. If there was no receipt, they would just pass the house by.
We walked to the King’s Arms, an old pub that Stephanie recommended. It’s sad to know that 3 pubs close every week in England. We also passed by a cake shop called Konditor & Cook that Stephanie enjoys.
Our last stop was The Old Vic which is the oldest theatre in London.
Stephanie talked about how in the 19th century seating restrictions didn’t exist. People would pile into the theatres – with people holding on to the wall as their seat. Stephanie recommended the best fish and chips shop down the street called Masters Super Fish. We stopped by, but it was already closed.
Stephanie was a great guide! I could listen to her talk about any subject and it wouldn’t be boring. I wish my teachers back in school were as exciting.
Ivan and I walked around to try some dinner. We went to eat at Little Sicily. Ivan found a great deal on Toptable. Ivan and I shared bruschetta and pan fried mussels with a garlic sauce for our appetizers.
For the main courses, we got tuna and pasta with seabass. It was a very tasty meal.
It was time to head to the Shaftesbury Theatre. We were going to see the new musical Rock of Ages.
This is an American musical filled with many hit rock songs. Ivan thought it would be fun – he read a lot of good reviews. The simple set was a bar. The band played on a stage throughout the musical. The story was about a woman who heads to Hollywood to become an actress. She gets a job at The Bourbon Room. She immediately falls for a guy named Drew, who also works at The Bourbon Room, who’s an inspiring rock star. There’s another storyline where a German man wants to buy up the Sunset Strip to convert it into a shopping mall. The story was very lame. Ivan thought it was like a school play. The singing was average. The musical included 28 songs including Sister Christian, Cum on Feel the Noize/We’re Not Gonna Take It (reprise), Every Rose Has It’s Thorn, We Built This City, The Final Countdown, We Built This City, Hit Me With Your Best Shot and Don’t Stop Believin’. The hit songs and the pole dancers couldn’t even save this musical. I’d avoid this musical if I were you. It made me realize how amazing other musicals are like We Will Rock You, Billy Elliot and Priscilla Queen of the Desert.
Source: National Theatre photo