Friday, October 7, 2016

'Funnest' Last Day of Vacation for Chriselle: Abbey Road Crossing, London Eye, Afternoon Tea and Seeing Kenneth Branagh in The Entertainer

Thursday, October 6, 2016

'Funnest' Last Day of Vacation for Chriselle: Abbey Road Crossing, London Eye, Afternoon Tea and Seeing Kenneth Branagh in The Entertainer

            It was Chriselle’s last day of vacation and she was delighted to have the opportunity to spend it in London. She decided to do all the things she had never done before—or mostly. After a rather leisurely start to the day, we had brekkie (croissants and peanut butter with salmon and dill cream cheese and decaff coffee). It was her idea that we should discover my new neighborhood of Ealing Broadway together and I thought it would be great to have her company as I scoured it.

      By 11.30 am after showers, we left the house and made our way past Morrison’s (my new local supermarket) to Broadway—which is basically the High Street. How thrilling to see a huge Marks and Spencer on the next block! We walked to the local branch of HSBC to get some money out of the ATM machine and then found a thrift shop from which Chriselle wished to purchase a paperback for her return flight home tomorrow. By 12.00 noon, we were at the Tube station and I was buying my monthly Travelcard. Much to my delight, I was served by an Anglo-Indian railway employee named Clayton who was delighted when I asked if he was an Anglo-Indian. He said that from my name he was about to ask if I was a Goan from Bombay! How cool was that! We had a lovely chat and then I was off with my new monthly Tube and bus pass.

Off to the Beatles’ Crossing at Abbey Road:

We took the Central Line to Bond Street from where we switched to the Jubilee Line as our destination was St. John’s Wood as Chriselle was keen to get her Abbey Road Beatles Crossing picture. Once at the subway, we walked down Grove End Road (I knew the area well as I had lived there on two occasions during previous stays in London at the home of my friend Raquel on Abbey Road). Chriselle had such a blast as she strode across the street in imitation of the Fab Four. There were a lot of other tourists around with the same idea but because the day was windy and it was uncomfortable to stride in the cold, most people got their snaps snappily. I took her picture while she strode across and then we had a passer-by get the two of us. It was a really fun way to start our day.

After I took a picture outside Neville Court, the building where I had stayed and that overlooked the crossing, we left. We took the Tube next to Westminster for the next item on our agenda.

Off to Ride the London Eye:

     At Westminster, Chriselle was enchanted to catch her first glimpse of Big Ben as we emerged from the Tube. As we were both peckish, we picked up samosas (veg and lamb ones) from a local Indian shop and munching those, we made our way across the bridge to arrive at the booking office for the London Eye. It was great fun to be part of the tourist energy in the city and to get into queues for tickets when the place was not quite as mobbed as it had been during the summer. In about ten minutes, we got our tickets (25 pounds each) and were directed towards a theater to watch a short 4 minute 4D film on London which was a fantastic experience for both of us.

            Less than a half hour later, we were in a pod in the London Eye and we thoroughly enjoyed our experience. The light was perfect—it was a very bright day with blue skies and fluffy clouds and a sun that popped in and out of them offering picture opportunities in varying light modes. Of course, we took a ton of pictures together of the city from varied angles. After waiting for years to ride the London Eye, I can say that it was certainly worth the cost and the wait. An hour later, we were back on terra firma again and striding off to our next location.

Afternoon Tea at the Welcomm Collection:

     Both Chriselle and I love tea and we both love the very British concept of Afternoon Tea. Having been to the Welcomm Collection which is a museum in Euston, about a month ago, I had discovered their Tea Room called The Welcomm Kitchen on the second floor. Afternoon Tea there is quite definitely the most reasonably priced in the entire city and I had resolved to take Chriselle there when she visited London.  

            Accordingly, we arrived there just before 3.00pm and ordered the Afternoon Tea for Two people which included the works: scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam, a selection of finger sandwiches (ham and cheese, smoked salmon, cucumber and cream cheese and egg salad) and a lovely array of tiny pastries). Chriselle chose the ginger and lemon tea while I had the elderflower and lemon tea and they were both superb. Sipping tea in a lovely quiet atmosphere was the perfect way to chat about our recent travels and our plans going forward. It was grand to have this down time—quality time that we do not often get to spend together. About two hours later, we were leaving the museum and getting into a bus opposite University College, London.

Examining the Auto-Icon of Jeremy Bentham at UCL:

            Since our bus stop was just outside UCL, I took Chriselle inside the main campus of University College, London, to show her one of the most curious sights in the city—the auto-icon of economist Jeremy Bentham. As most folks know, he was the 1ate 18th-early 19th century economist who propounded the theory of Utilitarianism that advocated ‘The greatest happiness of the greatest number’. Well-connected with UCL, he was one of the Trustees and greatest patrons of the college. In his will, he stipulated that his body should be embalmed and preserved in the premises of the college. Hence, his body is seated on a chair clothed in a casual outfit and gazing at generations of students that have gone through the portals. At one time, students had vandalized the case, taken off his head and played football with it. The head is now stored in a safe and a wax head had been placed on his body in the side corridor.

            Chriselle was absolutely dumbstruck by what she saw and upon hearing the story, she wanted to leave right away. She found the entire story “way too creepy”—just as I had done the first time I had seen it.  Hence, we did not spend too much time there, but hopped into the first 29 bus that trundled along to take us to Trafalgar Square.

Off to see Museum Highlights:     

            We still had time to kill before the final item on our agenda—the Big Surprise I had in store! Since we were at Trafalgar Square, it was a no-brainer to jump into the National Portrait Gallery so that Chriselle could see some of the newer portraits—she was keen to see Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. Sadly, there was a special Picasso exhibition on and so the portraits had been squirreled away. However, she did see the new one of the Duchess of Cambridge by Paul Emsley—which, like so many folks, she thought was terrible for it made her look so aged and so grey. We also looked at a few other portraits before moving on next door.

            In the National Gallery, I showed Chriselle some of my special canvasses—the entire room devoted to Carlo Crivelli, for example, in the Sainsbury section; my very favorite painting in the museum (Courtyard of a House in Delft by Pieter de Hooch); Van Dyck’s equestrian portrait of Charles I; the Wilton Diptych; The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein.  By this stage, we were both tired and decided to go somewhere to rest.

Hot Chocolate at Amorina:

            Chriselle had never tasted hot chocolate from Amorina—one of my favorite things to do in Manhattan is to get hot chocolate from there. She got a Caramel one and I got an Aztec-studded with cinnamon and chilli. Since it was a cold night, we were both grateful for the pick-me-up and about an hour later, we made our way towards the big surprise.

Seeing Kenneth Branagh in The Entertainer at the West End:

    By this time, since we were hovering around the West End, Chriselle guessed that the surprise had something to do with a play—however, she did not know which one. When we walked just a few steps ahead and entered the Garrick Theater at a little past 7.00 pm, to see Kenneth Branagh take the lead role in John Osborne’s The Entertainer, her joy knew no bounds as Osborne is one of her favorite playwrights and Branagh is one of her favorite actors. Suffice it so say that we spent an absolutely fabulous evening in the theater especially after I discovered that two other well-known actors were also in the play: Greta Sachhi who has been a permanent fixture in several films by Merchant-Ivory and Sophie McSheara who played Daisy in Downton Abbey. They took the two female leads in the play and they did a fine job—although McSheara’s voice is much too thin for such a powerful role. Overall, we had such a great time together.
     When the play ended, we actually stood at the Stage Door hoping to catch a glimpse of Branagh and perhaps get him to autograph our Playbill for us. But we were informed that he had left by another door. Our disappointment was assuaged, however, by the appearance of McSheara who obliged us quite readily and posed for oictures with us. It really was one of the highlights of Chriselle's evening. She informed her that I was a big fan of Downton Abbey and had recognized her from the TV series.

On the Tube Back Home to Ealing:

            I was keen to see how long it would take me to get home to Ealing from the West End and how crowded the train would be by the time we came to the last stop as I would likely be going to the theater on my own and was afraid of being the only one on the train at that late hour. As it turned out, I need not have worried. The trains were packed and at least 1/3 full by the time we reached Ealing Broadway. In fact, the area outside the Tube station was buzzing although it was almost 11.00 pm and my spirits soared. Since my flat is just across the Tube station, I need not worry at all about getting home after dark as I had done when I lived at Bethnal Green. It is great that I had Chriselle to accompany me during this experiment and that I had her company while I broke into my new digs.

     By the time we fell asleep for our second night in my new home, I was convinced that I had made the right decision in moving. I was certain I would adore my new home and neighborhood and to get to know it really well as the weeks passed by.

    Until tomorrow, cheerio…   


1 comment:

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Rochelle - thank goodness you've moved safely and had that lovely day with Chriselle getting to know your new area ... and satisfying a few goals of Chriselle while she was in London, and then your wonderful fun and thoughtful present for your daughter ... lovely to think about - cheers Hilary