We’re on the Virgin train service from Glasgow Central to London Euston. 9.46 am Hubby has just been down to Coach C to the Virgin shop and arrived back with a cappuccino, a bacon roll and hot chips with tomato ketchup as we pass broad flat lands. A flock of black birds is feeding in the stubble of a newly harvested crop. Hubby rustles his packing exploring his loot and seems happy as a clam peering at the individual item to see how best to go about opening it. Salt is sprinkled as the announcement is made that we will soon be coming into Carlisle. I didn’t expect the landscape around here to be so flat. I was expecting to be more like the rolling countryside further north. Off in the distance I can see mountain peaks. I wonder if that’s the north of the Lake District.
Carlisle station looks interesting. There’s a big billboard advertising the historic quarter and posters and signs along the platform spruiking other sites in the nearby district such as Hadrian’s Wall. There are also flower displays and even an enclosed seating area with fake grass that help to soften the hard surfaces of the stone and glass.
A short way out of Carlisle the terrain heaves and bucks once more and the embankment rises to cradle the railway as we speed southward.
Beyond Penrith I’m surprised to find more signs of heather on the hills, the increasingly lumpy countryside demarked by low stone walls and the occasional stone ruin. Those walls are probably not that low when you’re not overlooking them from the train.
10.25 we are teased by glimpses of a rich green jewel. Stone is now hedges and the topographical composition is especially pleasing to the eye. Soon a reasonable sized town, civic pride displayed in consistent dark grey and white of the dwellings forming a pretty puddle of humanity in the low cradle in the dales.
|10.42 Passing time is marked by arrival at Lancaster|
11.10 we pass the residential areas of Wigan north of the white curved arcs around the local stadium, there is an extraordinary consistency of red Lego brick houses with grey chimneyed slate roofs. Where one or two would seem dour, the broad expanse of uniformity looks only picturesque. I glory in the appreciation of the local traditional style in the area. I am not at all in sympathy with anyone who craves some sort of ultra-modern minimalist experimentation on any blocks of remaining waste ground.
11.25 we stop at Warrington Bank Quays amidst some large factories, Unilever prominently logoed. Moving away we see that this is a pimple on an otherwise rural area peppered with smaller less obtrusive industrial activity.
I’m absorbed in the journal for a while, relieved to get another day completed. One of my favourite days of the whole trip so it’s good to get it on paper at last while memory is reasonably fresh. I glance up occasionally to note that development is increasing. 1pm and we can’t be far out from London Euston now. Hubby is reading on his phone and the train coach is fuller now, passengers having joined at stops along the way. People start to get themselves together and look a bit more restless. I guess we should be doing the same. I better put my shoe back on! My friend warned me not to bring new shoes. Stupid. Figured I might need the waterproof element of this pair. I should have brought both.
We arrive at London Euston at 1.10 PM and spend a little time while Hubby gets a voucher for his phone and then we make our way to the taxi rank. It’s not far to our little hotel at Kings Cross but we’ve got a lot of gear and we’re tired. I almost think twice when I see the long ramp to the head of the queue. It might be closer to just get the tube. Ah whatever.
A friendly chat with our taxi driver when we get to Argyle St. “Where are you off to next? Are you off on the Eurostar?” “No, Portsmouth.” “God why? It’s a dump!” “We want to see HMS Victory.” “Oh, that’s OK then” he gestures around. “And you’ll be used to it” he laughs. Well, we won’t be hitting Portsmouth with our expectations raised will we. Haha.
We check in at the Alhambra and find that we’ve got a room in the building across the street. We’re up on the 2nd floor so lots of stairs and no lift option or porterage is provided. All the up and down stairs and hills in Scotland pays off at this point. We couldn’t be bothered rushing around like mad things today. Instead we rest in our room so we’re not too tired tonight. Well actually it’s a while before I rest. I’m busy on the internet buying an extra piece of checked baggage and looking up luggage shops in the nearby area. My goodness, luggage is so expensive over here for precisely the same product. Armed with an option I defer the decision making and resolve to get a quick nap. We rise about 4.30 and prepare to head out. Hopefully it won’t take us too long to get over to the Globe. This visit to London is very short. Just three nights 2 and a bit days. We’re mainly ticking off some things that we need to do in the summer season then clearing off.
I’m glad we’ve decided to stay back at the Alhambra. We know our way around. I feel almost competent using the tube (brushes fingernails smugly on lapel). We line up to check if our Oyster cards we got in 2012 still work. They do and we’ve a reasonable amount of credit on them so we don’t bother topping up. I’m sad to see the line of windows for human service are not operating. What happened to the nice Sikh man who served us last time? I hope he’s still got a job.
Hubby’s officially in charge of transport logistics in London. He’s still got a live phone. I didn’t bother recharging mine for the week we have left so I can only receive calls. We’re on the black, Northern Line to London Bridge then we have a short walk. I don’t know how to express my feelings at being back in London. We had 9 nights here in the spring of 2012 and that was simply amazing. Now here we are back again. Against the odds. Taking the many London sights we’ve yet to do for granted. How quickly we start to take our presence here as a right fulfilled. I feel almost like a Londoner flashing my Oyster card about confidently. Ridiculous. We’ve barely scratched the surface.
We emerge from the station and walk down past the Borough Market with a flash of recognition and sparked memory. Past Neal’s Yard Dairy when we turn the corner into Park Street. There’s a long development that looks like housing. I imagine living there and shopping at the market as part of a normal routine that goes back to time immemorial.
The streets are adorned with baskets of blooming geraniums. Everywhere the baskets of flowering plants. It’s lovely and I cannot imagine the size of the industry for suppliers of these things. It must be huge.
When we reach Bankside and the Anchor pub, there’s a large and thriving Rowan tree covered in berries. The Rowan Tree and its protective properties are something I associate with Scotland and I wonder about its range. It’s in a beautiful spot that has a lot of outdoor tables and a buzzing happy atmosphere. You could do a lot worse than sit here with some friends on a beautiful afternoon like today.
We round the corner and we’ve arrived at Shakespeare’s Globe. The Swan is in a beautifully complex building with heritage features. The newer covered theatre space is next door and I wonder when all this was built and whether it’s completely new. It’s beautifully done either way. It takes us a few minutes to wander around and sus out the various entry points but pretty soon we’re in the building. The gift shop is hard to resist but time is getting short and Hubby hurries me along. We walk up the stairs to the Swan to claim our dinner reservation. We’ve got seats by the window and this time I take the one with the outdoor view of the Thames and across to the dome of St Pauls.
We mull over the menu which features dishes inspired by the foods available in the era of the performance spaces here. Hubby’s sadly predictable with his choice of soup of the day again. This time it’s roast capsicum and tomato soup. I can’t say I’m overly thrilled at the description but I decide to try the Pressed salt beef with pickles. The soup is nice, but I win!
Main course: Well. We do the unthinkable and both order the same main - the Pear Tree Marsh Farm pork belly, herbed barley, kale, jus. Pork belly is great done well, but it can seem flabby and pretty average if the skin isn’t nice and crisp. This is a nice meal but it’s suffering from the flabby syndrome. We tie, but there’s no achievement underlying it.
Desserts: Both were great. Hubby reverted to his most usual strategy and opts for the chocolate which tonight is Chocolate and coffee marquise, milk puree. It was equally obvious what I will choose: Plum cake, cinnamon cream. I win again. I take the crown tonight. It has to happen sometimes.
We settle the bill and take the lifts downstairs, shallow breathing with wrinkled face because there’s a really horrible sewerage stink in it at the moment. There’s a queue to get in but we have plenty of time so we spend a little time in the gift shop and Hubby buys a T-shirt. He’s in need of a change. We buy a program too forgetting that we had pre-paid for one. Oh well, we’ll have one each. I have my online booking and that gets me in but it’s not enough to claim my cushions and extra program. For that I need to go and get vouchers from the box office. I leave Hubby in the queue and race of to do that. I’m not gone long but the queue has moved quickly. Hubby has handed me the wrong piece of paper and I’m ticketless. He’s realised and waiting for me at the entrance door. I rush over, claim cushions and program and we’re in walking through the natural oak corridor around to our section and finding our seats. Wow! What a fabulous space! They have said no photos until interval. I’m figuring they have to mean during the production and it hasn’t started yet so I take a couple of quick shots while the light is still bright.
Tonight’s show is Measure for Measure and neither of us have seen this play before. They start out with plenty of action down on the groundling floor. Mistress Overdone the brothel keeper and her bawd, Pompey are working the crowd with the girls seeking clients. Musicians prowl the stage playing their period instruments. The atmosphere is electric. Patrons are laughing and looking a bit nervous. Now and again a working girl and her target disappear into the little rooms and the rooms rock about. It’s all great fun and safely away from predation here in the gallery we can relax and enjoy the antics.
So far the seats next to us are vacant and eventually a lady comes up behind and climbs over the rail to sit next to me. She’s flipping crazy. It would be so easy to overbalance and there’s not far to the edge and a long fall down onto hard surfaces. Her other half is even later and there’s a shuffle as we get out to let them in.
The show romps along. We sit on our coats because there’s nowhere else for them. The seats are narrow and we perch really and lean on the front railing enjoying the farce. Hubby is chuckling away. He’s loving it. This is an absolutely fantastic experience. Eventually the interval comes. This is to London what the Tattoo is to Edinburgh I comment. I am SO glad we did this. I am sure that seeing something in this complex is going to be a feature of all future trips to London. It’s totally fantastic. The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse is a candle lit Regency venue. That wasn’t open when we were here in 2012 that’s got to be a must next time.The show concludes with thunderous applause and the crowd files out in a very exuberant and cheerful mood walking down along bankside on a beautiful mild night. It’s nearly ten thirty so we don’t muck about getting home. This time we take a slightly different route past the Golden Hind to get back to London Bridge station. Easy peasy quick ride on the tube. We pause at Kings Cross to put a bit more money on our Oysters so we’ve got ample for the rest of our time without worrying then it’s a short walk up Argyle Street and we just go to sleep. I’ve managed to pick up a sore throat. We’re so close to the end of the trip, I’m happy to just go with it more now there is less risk of forgetting critical stuff before we get home and can catch up, journalling is deferred.