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