Greetings and Salutations. And sorry to be MIA over the past few days – it’s been a very busy time and all that.
The last time you’d heard from me, we had just attended a performance of Funny Girl, at the Menier Chocolate Factory, which was a real treat. If you’re planning a trip to London in the spring (and beyond), you can get tickets to see the production, which is transferring to the Savoy Theatre in March. Ticket sales are quite brisk, I’ve been told.
CULTURE TIP: Purchase Tickets to Funny Girl
Otherwise, our trip to London last week was a raving success. We had a blast and, rather than talking about it too much, I thought I’d share some photos with you to give you the flavor of the trip – you’ll get the idea.
On our 1st full day in London, we took afternoon tea at The Georgian at Harrod’s. The place was all gussied up for the holidays, of course.
World famous Harrods
It’s the Georgian for your afternoon tea.
AAC CPA anticipates his afternoon tea
Rose Tea made with actual Roses!!
And all of the tea goodies.
CUISINE TIP: Take Tea at Harrods
Our first show in London was Terence Ratigan’s 1948 comedy, Harlequinade, starring and co-directed (with Rob Ashford) by Kenneth Branagh, preceded by Ratigan’s 1968 one-woman monologue, All On Her Own, starring Zoë Wanamaker. This double-bill is part of an ambitious six production season that the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company is presenting at the Garrick Theatre and is currently playing in rep with A Winter’s Tale, again starring Branagh alongside Judi Dench. The season culminates next summer and fall with Branagh taking on the touchstone role of Archie Rice in John Osborne’s The Entertainer. Needless to say, I already have my tickets for that one!
AAC CPA does Harlequinade at the Garrick
CULTURE TIP: Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company
Following the performance, we had supper at one of our favorite London restaurants, the venerable J. Sheekey which serves, arguably, the best fish in town.
AAC CPA had the fish and chips – enough for many
CUISINE TIP: J. Sheekey
Next day – typically cloudy but unusually mild for December – we were walking around our hood and snapped this pic of the Shard, where the Shangri-La is located:
Following the Funny Girl matinee, we had dinner at another of our favorite London establishments, Hawksmoor, which is where you go for beef and great cocktails. There are several locations and we ate at the one just off Picadilly in Air Street:
Each Hawksmoor has its own distinct design and this one is Deco:
Fab Deco Chandelier
AAC CPA anticipates his cocktail and dinner
The grub is really good here, too. In addition to amazing beef, this Hawksmoor has lots of fish on the menu. We shared the scallop appetizer:
Great presentation, right?
CUISINE TIP: Hawksmoor Air Street
We took an after dinner stroll and saw some fab sights on Picadilly:
Fortnum & Mason all tarted up for the holidays
Next day, we woke up to a brilliantly sunny day. Look at the view from our room:
Note the shadow of the Shard to the right of St. Paul’s
After breakfast at the hotel – by the way, a great deal when booking through the AmEx FHR program, because your breakfast is included – we checked out the lobby men’s room:
A (Bath)Room with a View
The Shangri-La thinks of EVERYTHING!!
And, if you want a thrill, take note of how the hotel keeps its windows clean:
This photo was taken on the 35th floor, kids!
What trip to London would be complete without a visit to Covent Garden:
That afternoon, we experienced our first Panto, a holiday tradition in which drag plays a prominent role and lots of audience participation is encouraged (and expected). Today’s Panto was Cinderella at the Lyric Hammersmith.
AAC CPA does Panto!
The Panto show curtain
Following the Panto, we rushed back to the hotel to change for the evening performance of Guys and Dolls at the Savoy Theatre where, last Spring, we had seen Imelda Staunton’s star turn as Madame Rose in Gypsy.
Doesn’t this photo remind you of a publicity still from the film?
AAC CPA studies the Hot Box Cuties
Opening image of the set
Needless to say, the show was aces. It’s such a great musical, definitely one of the 10 best of all time. Even when the show ground to a halt in the last few minutes – technical difficulties, they said – the audience was totally enthralled by the show, roaring its approval at the end.
On our way out – no pix, please, we’re British! – we noticed, sitting directly behind us, Jim Carter (Carson on Downton Abbey, and a former Big Jule himself) and his celebrated wife, the aforementioned Imelda Staunton. I couldn’t help myself and, in a very un-British-like manner, told them how much we’d enjoyed their performances and thanked them. They looked a bit startled (I guess that my outburst just isn’t done) but thanked me very graciously.
After humiliating myself, we strolled over to The Ivy, which is our favorite London haunt. As I reported when we were there earlier this year, the place had a makeover last spring and looks terrific, but the service and congeniality of the place remain unchanged.
The one and only Ivy
AAC CPA anticipates his Americano whilst perusing the menu
CUISINE TIP: The Ivy
Next day – Christmas Eve – was another double-header, starting with Jim Broadbent starring as Scrooge in A Christmas Carol at the Noël Coward Theatre. Dickens’ story was adapted by Patrick Barlow (whose 4-actor adaptation of The 39 Steps played for years and years both in London and in New York) and was designed by Tom Pye and directed by Phelim McDermott. We initially wanted to see the show for Jim Broadbent, a fave actor of ours’ since the 1999 Mike Leigh film, Topsy Turvy, in which Broadbent played W.S. Gilbert. As it turned out, we found the production imaginative, enchanting and surprisingly moving. I guess that Dickens knew what his was doing.
Marquee at the Noël Coward Theatre
AAC CPA does Dickens
A Christmas Carol show curtain
And, by the way, can I just put in a word about the London theatre-going audience and, in particular, the kids? We saw two matinees in which the audience was literally filled with children (as young as 4 or 5, I’d say). They were amazing! Respectful, attentive, and really into the experience. Dare I say that I prefer them to most of the audiences to be found on Broadway these day? OK, come and get me for that last remark.
Another rush back to the hotel to change for our Christmas Eve festivities. And look what we found in our room upon our return:
Our very own tree. AAC CPA thought it might be edible. It wasn’t.
That evening, we had a brand-new London experience, and long overdue! We attended the last performance of Carols By Candlelight at the famed Royal Albert Hall. This concert is an annual event and completely fills the 5,200 seat venue. It was a real thrill for us to be there.
World famous Royal Albert Hall with a full moon overhead
AAC CPA checks out the program pre-concert
The Mozart Festival Orchestra and Chorus in performance
For all you film buffs, AAC CPA has a Doris Day moment
We had a great time at the concert, although there was too much audience participation for my taste. I didn’t realize that we were expected to sing traditional carols!! Standing, no less, and I’d already had a long day. (Bah, humbug, you say?) And added to all that, most of the carols were sung to different tunes than their American counterparts. Who knew??
CULTURE TIP: Royal Albert Hall
After the concert, we had another magical view of the full moon over London:
Merry Christmas, everyone!! Friday – our last full day in London – and did you know that the entire city shuts down?? We had thought we might go to a movie, or ride around, or something. Uh-uh!! No dice (as they’re currently saying at the Savoy Theatre). Fortunately for us, we were staying in a beautiful hotel with gorgeous views, so we didn’t mind hanging around our digs and relaxing after seeing 6 shows in the previous 4 days.
As we subsequently found out, Uber was available for getting around – whew!! We had decided to have our farewell dinner at another of our favorite London hotels, the Corinthia, and Uber got us there and back. Not only that, but Uber turned out to be cheaper than taking a cab (if we could have gotten one)!
The gorgeous Corinthia Hotel in Whitehall Place
We started our evening at the Corinthia’s Bassoon Bar, one of our favorite watering holes in London.
AAC CPA chooses his cocktail from the iPad menu
We moved from the Bassoon to the Northall for our dinner. It’s a beautiful room and the food was delicious.
My starter: Beef Tartare and it was yummy!
AAC CPA strolls through the Corinthia lobby after dinner
Ubering our way back to the Shangri-La from the Corinthia and look at what we saw:
By the way, did I mention that we ate on the early side so that we could get back to the hotel in time for – wait for it – the series finale of Downton Abbey? Yes, gentle readers, we had already seen all of season 6, save for the final holiday episode. How lucky are we? No spoilers here. Just know that we’ve seen it all, and mum’s the word.
Opening Downton Abbey credits – for the very last time
All good things must come to an end and, on Saturday morning, we got into a taxi and made our way to Heathrow, where our BA flight was waiting to return us back home (and to reality).
AAC CPA hanging out in the Concorde Room prior to boarding our flight
And settling in for the 8-hour flight home (with Mimosa)
Here’s our lunch menu:
I opted for the fillet of veal, which was pretty good:
And then, several hours later, it was time for afternoon tea, British-style:
Post-script: The flight landed a few minutes early but, due to some unexplained issue involving attaching the jetway to the plane, we were delayed for about 40 minutes!!
An imperfect end to a just-about-perfect trip.
Happy New Year, everyone!!
PS. Next week, we’re off to Buenos Aires and then, via Crystal Symphony, we’re sailing to Antarctica. More to follow!