Tuesday, July 9, 2013

London trip: Day 1 (July 4), continued

After we dropped our bags off and giggled at the motorcycle with the piece of paper for a license plate, we left for our adventures that afternoon.

The main purpose of this trip was to see the David Bowie exhibit at the Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum. It has been a very popular exhibit and sometimes the tickets sell out. On Thursday afternoon, we were able to purchase tickets for entry on Friday evening, when the museum had late opening hours. It's not a bad idea to either pre-purchase tickets before one's trip or buy them several days before while on the ground for popular events; it would be very disappointing to travel all that way to see something special and then be turned away because of the crowds!
That's SOME pig, Harrod's!

We then walked down to Harrod's, which is a famous luxury department store and the biggest in Europe, just down the road. I've spent a lot of time in London when I was studying abroad in college, and I've been to the store several times, but it's always nice to make a stop and enjoy the opulence and the diversity of fine products, from department store offerings to restaurants and delis with gourmet food.

Ceiling tile in Harrod's

We were oohing and ahhing a bit too much over the fine deli selections and realized we were hungry so it was off to dinner. I suggested one of my favorite restaurants from my study abroad time in London: Chiquito, in Leicester Square (pronounced "Lester"). It's a TexMex restaurant. After having German "Mexican" food with Pakistani spices, I was excited to move onto the British version, which at least tastes closer to the American take on Mexican food (if any of that makes sense!).

The food there was good, as I had remembered it; I ordered some enchiladas, with two filled with a bean mix (beans that were whole) and one with pulled BBQ pork. Neither filling is super authentic, but it tasted really good, including the pulled pork. Normally I don't eat meat, but once in a while I'll eat pork, and this was quite delicious, with full flavor and roasted perfectly. C. ordered something with chorizo and said that it was good as well, and the chorizo actually tasted like chorizo. I know that may sound strange, but we've found that how we know something to taste in the US doesn't necessarily taste the same in other countries. She even had some corn on the cob! It's so refreshing to see corn ON the cob and not IN weird places (that I feel it doesn't belong), such as on top of pizza or on a lettuce salad, as the Germans do it.

My enchiladas even had flags to mark the way!

The only downside to our dinner was that the service was quite bad. It seemed that our waiter kept changing and everyone was confused. My friend received the incorrect drink and the waiter had to take it back and get her the correct one. Waiters tried to bring us the wrong food and when we asked for a refill on the water (oh, glorious, free tap water!), it never came so we had to ask again. Service had never been bad like this when I came here in my college days, so I wonder if they had mostly new staff. We heard diners at another table also comment that the food was good but the service was bad. It didn't ruin the meal by any means, but it was a bit of a mess.

After dinner, we decided to take in a show. We saw Monty Python's Spamalot, which is a derivative of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, at the Playhouse Theater. The play was very amusing, and was a condensed version of the movie and included some songs from other Monty Python movies. The actors even ad libbed a bit; the Knights Who Say Ni stopped saying Ni and started singing the Star Spangled Banner instead at one point. The audience joined in and, judging by how many people knew the song, there must have been a good number of Americans in the crowd. We were all wished a happy fourth of July and then the play continued. 

The Playhouse Theater, built in 1882, was quite crazy. We bought our tickets for 25 pounds in the "nosebleed" section, the upper circle. However, I think it would have been more accurately called the "feel like you're going to fall to your death" section! Maybe that's a bit dramatic, but the seating was extremely steep and narrow. The rows of seating were so narrow that I'm not sure how easy it would have been to climb over people to get to one's seat; C and I actually went to the empty row behind where we were sitting and climbed over the seats to get in. Our knees were almost touching the heads of the people in front of us. I can't even imagine how women in their big hoop skirts of the 1800s would have been able to get to their seats (though the seating has probably changed over the century, I would assume). When we first sat down, I had to fight some feelings of vertigo; the seats are so steep that it felt as if I were leaning over a ledge and looking down. When I got home, I read reviews and saw that other sections weren't so bad. I just wouldn't recommend the upper circle. Anyone afraid of heights or not as physically able would find it difficult to get around there. Also, it was quite hot and there was very little to no air circulation, even though it hadn't been a hot day.

We made it through the play, laughing all the way. I commented that it was a bit ironic that we celebrated our country's independence by visiting the country from which it gained the independence. It was definitely a funny and delicious evening, and walking to the Tube stop was a good way to cool off after sitting in the hot theater.

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