London

   As you probably already know, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in London a few weeks ago.  Now, here's the full story.

   I woke up less than an hour before my shuttle driver knocked on my door to take me to the airport on Monday morning.  For the preceding four days leading up to my trip, I had been pretty much partying non-stop in celebration of Carnivale.  Carnivale is celebrated in the US as Mardi Gras, but it certainly is much crazier and more widespread of party over here.  People wear all sorts of crazy costumes and at first glance it seems more like a continuation of Halloween than a traditional party.  Long story short, I drank more beer and partied hardier in four days than my whole time in college.
   So, fast forwarding back to the first day of my trip, I crawled out of bed, threw some clothes into my suitcase, washed my face, and I was ready to go.  After getting into the shuttle bus, my condition quickly deteriorated as my body realized that I wasn't letting it rest after punishing it relentlessly.  Luckily, Doug taught me to always be prepared (he says that was the only thing he ever found useful about the Boy Scouts) and I downed some Pepto Bismol tablets that I had stashed away in my briefcase.  For the next hour or so, I slept with my head between my legs as the shuttle picked up a few others from work who also had various trips for the week.  By the time we got to the airport, I was feeling great again and ready to get out of Dodge.
   After checking into the hotel, I found an incredible little Italian restaurant in London and then saw the movie, "Something's Gotta Give."  I thought it was pretty nice to see a film without French or Dutch subtitles continually popping up on the screen.  However, the Brits have a strange habit of showing about twenty minutes of previews and commercials, then closing the curtains and bringing up the house lights.  One minute later, the curtains open, the lights go dark again and the film starts.  I guess they haven't figured out how to switch from the trailer reel to the feature reel like American theatres having been doing for eons.
   After the show, I made it over to Tottenham Court Road and snagged a ticket for that night's showing of the Queen-inspired rock musical, We Will Rock You.  I discovered that if you go alone to a show, you can end up with really good seats as there are always plenty of odd seats in good spots.  Of course, most people probably won't go to London alone.  Work didn't have anyone lined up for training in London that week, so there I was, a complete stranger alone in a foreign city.  Game on!
   We Will Rock You
was loud and extravagant, exactly what a London play for tourists should probably be.  I've never seen a musical with such high production values and special effects, although I thought the use of Queen's music wasn't executed very well. 
   Tuesday was my first day of class (that was why I was in London, of course), and it was a nice change of pace from my regular job.  The course covered the Sun Solaris Operating System and … ok, I won't put you to sleep, let's just say that it was informative but it was definitely a case of learning by fire hose with the amount of info that they tried to unleash in the four days of instruction.
   Anyway, enough about "official business," back to the fun!  I spent Tuesday night going on a Jack the Ripper tour walk, hosted by Donald Rumbelow, famed author of The Complete Jack the Ripper book.  He took my tour group through all of the locations of the murders.  It was very interesting to find out that one of the primary reasons that the police didn't catch him is b/c Jack kept switching back and forth between the areas of London that were then governed by two different police forces.  Basically, a spot in London that was considered as the Royals area had their own police force that refused to cooperate with the regular London police, and vice versa.  So, case data was never shared between the two agencies before it was too late.  Anyway, the majority of the murder sites are still there, and even the bar that Jack's hooker victims used to frequent is still open for business!
   I spent Wednesday night taking in The Phantom of the Opera.  Growing up, Doug always used to play the original Broadway recording for me, but we never saw the show in person.  Since I was in London, I was determined to finally see it.  The show was good (although no one can top the original cast of Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford), but my seat was a little too close.  I was in the front row, dead center, and it was annoying after a while to see the actor's microphones taped to their foreheads.  The first time I saw one of the microphones, I figured that one of the actors was trying to play an Indian character.  However, a 6'2 white guy with a gnarly mustache just can't play an Indian no matter how hard he tries.  I've never heard of taping microphones to one's forehead, but hey, this is London.   
   Speaking of which, I discovered that London hotels are a mixed bag.  I was in a fairly decent place, but would you believe that the room didn't have an alarm clock in it?  Heck, I've stayed in a rat hole in Barstow that at least had an alarm clock.  But I digress…
   Oops, I forgot to mention that I coin checked a bunch of American Air Force C-130 pilots and crew before seeing Phantom.  In the military, everyone carries a special coin from their unit or a unit that is special to them.  If you whip out said coin in a bar, all the other military there have to do the same thing and the guys that don't have their coin have to buy you a beer.  Of course, this is always a risky maneuver, as if everyone has their coin, the stunt backfires and you end up having to buy EVERY ONE of them beer.  Well, I was in a Pub before the show trying to get a quick dinner, and I could tell by the way these guys and gals talked at a table across from me that they were US military.  So, I just threw my coin on their table and called them out.  One of the pilots quickly remarked that I picked the wrong group to do this with, as in he thought that they all had their coins.  Well, El Captain didn't know his folks very well that day and the free beer was mine for the drinking.  Hardy, har, har.
   THURSDAY - Now the part that most of you have been waiting for - how I met Alyson Hannigan and how we were subsequently married by a Jewish rabbi in a house full of circus clowns from Utah.  Ok, so I made the last part of that sentence up, but here's the story once and for all.  I read a few months ago that Alyson would be starring in a stage version of When Harry Met Sally.  Before my London trip, I was looking for info on this play, but I couldn't find anything.  Nevertheless, when I was leaving Phantom of the Opera the previous evening, I happened to look across the street and see the theatre that it was playing in.  So, pulling my one person needs a ticket scam again, I worked out a good seat and saw the show.  Luke Perry also stars in this production that I have decided as being the funniest play that I've ever seen.  The show is being dogged by critics, but I highly endorse it.  I can't say enough about how cool it was to see two Hollywood actors performing live right in front of you.  Anyway, after the show, feeling a little balsy, I asked an usher if Luke or Aly ever signed autographs after the show.  He said that they did sometimes, but that I'd have to hurry around back to catch them before they leave.  I hauled tail to the back of theatre and found about a dozen like-minded people all anxiously waiting for the stars to come out.  I must say that I felt bad for the other actors in the play that came out of the back exit to no fanfare whatsoever, but that's the price you pay when you're in a star-studded play.  
   After a few minutes, Luke came out and signed some autographs and took some pictures with various fans.  I wasn't too interested in getting a picture with him, which worked out well b/c his cell phone went off and he said he had to take this call and leave.  A few more minutes later, Alyson finally came out, and man is she hot in person!  Anyway, extending my Stretch Armstrong-class arm through the rush of fans, I asked her to sign my program and then added on that I would love to get a picture with her as well.  She looked at me and said, "Sure."  So, we got the picture snapped and I instantly became the envy of fanboys and fangirls everywhere.  After that, I just left.  I wish I could say that we made out and now she's my love slave, but really there were too many people around to talk to her, so she didn't get to know what a hot superstud I am.  ; )  I'm sure they'll be a next time though as the play goes on through May and I'll probably make it out to London before then. 
   Coming off the heels of getting a picture with Alyson, Friday rolled on in with a small surprise.  I was the bigger winner of the school's weekly drawing.  Yes, that's right, I was a winner!   A new car or a new boat you ask?  HELL NO!  I just got an umbrella that looks like it can double as a police baton. 
   On the last day, there's always an optional test, and our instructor was very proud that my class decided to skip the lunchtime review session and instead go to the pub and have a pint before the exam.  He really thought that we were the coolest class that he ever instructed because of this little stunt.  Well, the pint worked well, as I found out last week that I passed the exam.  What can I say?  It's good to be King!
   That night, I ended up eating at TGI Friday's.  Hey, can you blame a guy that hasn't had American sit-down restaurant food in months?  I only mention Fridays because my waitress gave me the best service that I've ever had at a restaurant, anywhere!  Oh, and did I fail to mention that they were extremely busy as well?  I think I should mention that this occurrence was especially poignant for me as finding any sort of American-class service at a restaurant in Belgium is a complete effort in futility.  You'd have better luck finding Osama and his mama than getting your Belgian waiter to come to the table to give you a refill, take your order, or even give you your bill.  In Belgium, if you give your waiter the "I want something look," even if it's followed by arm motions, he/she/it just thinks that you're checking them out or saying hello. 
   Well, this just about wraps up my story.  I spent Saturday hitting the various landmarks that you can see in the attached pictures.  As evidenced by my desire to write such a long email about the trip, I thought that London rocked the balls off a Swiss cat.  Before I quit, I should make mention of the London Underground (their subway system).  The tube was a great way to get around the city and I really wish more American cities had a setup like that. 
   All in all, I can't recommend visiting there enough.            

- King of Belgium

P.M.S.- If you want to check out the world's coolest movie collectables store, go to Forbidden Planet located on 71-75 New Oxford Street

 


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