Monday, July 26, 2010

Love: It Never Dies (Except When It Does)

If you have been within earshot of me in the last several months you have probably heard me complaining about Love Never Dies and all its many faults (they are many). But ever since I found out we were coming to London, it has been on our to do list. Actually, the way I broke the job news to Mr. Graham was by saying "We should go see Love Never Dies. In LONDON."

I'm not going to list all my complaints here because I hate to be a broken record and rehash everything I've already said six times. I will just say that I think it tramples on the original in a way that is neither good nor necessary. In fact the whole thing is just ridiculous and unnecessary. Aside from all of those things, we just felt compelled to see it anyway. Those of you who know my Van Helsing love will not be surprised.

So tonight we saw it for ourselves. It was exciting to see the original cast of something, since I never had done. Luckily Madame Giry had toned down her accent so that I didn't hear horses neigh constantly. It was, in general, pretty much what I expected. There were some cool technical things, but overall I think it's just kind of underwhelming (and frustrating in its lack of logic and consistency).

Going into it there was only one song ("Til I Hear You Sing") that I was really looking forward to, since I have listened to it at least 20 times now. And he delivered! He delivered so well! If I had thought to bring pom poms, I would have waved them about spiritedly. And now I give it to you, in the form of a super dramatic music video on YouTube. It might be best if you just play it and not watch the video, for maximum enjoyment. Here is the Phantom, in his new incarnation, which is romantic and lovable and non-threatening (somewhere Joseph Buquet is protesting).

(Or you can watch this version, which is quite wretched in its drama.)

But then there wound up being another song that just kind of amazed me, this time the title track from Christine. I am not really into belty woman show tunes--those are the songs I always usually skip--and until now this song was no different. But by the time it was over, Mr. Graham and I were both sitting quite dumb founded. It's not the same watching it without the build up of the story and such, but you can watch her sing it live anyway. Just know that in person it was

(Or you can watch this version.)

So, when all was said and done, I decided that it was totally worth the pounds for those two songs. And...I would totally see it again for those two songs, sung by these two people. Otherwise I would rather just spend time with Gerard.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

In Which We Go to England: Part 2

We have now spent our first entire week in England, and we are feeling all settled in at last. We use the Tube like pros, hardly ever open the map and say things like "lift" and "surgical spirits." This week we didn't do as much sight seeing, primarily due to time constraints, but we did see some exciting things this weekend. Instead of doing a detailed summary (or saying I won't do a detailed summary and then do exactly that), here are three lists to sum up our life here at the moment--5 things we liked this week, 4 things we didn't care for and 3 things we're looking forward to in the coming week.

Five Things We Liked This Week:
  • The National Gallery. Oh, loveliness of lovelinesses! All of my life, I have only ever thought of the British Museum so when we saw this place during our visit to Trafalgar Square I was intrigued. We went on Saturday (after the British Museum decided to hate me and have their Egyptian collection closed for a few more days and their Roman collection closed INDEFINITELY) and it was heavenly! I saw not one, not two, but THREE Caravaggios! I had to limit myself to 12 postcards. We will definitely be returning, especially since we somehow missed the Botticelli. Also, it's free! England loves me.
  • St. Paul's Cathedral. This was a site of particular interest for Mr. Graham, and since we weren't able to see it last Sunday as we planned originally, we went on Friday night. It was just so BIG. We ate dinner on the stairs and fed the pigeons. We fed four and then more came along and I named them all: Henrietta, Piccadilly, Gustave, Ophelia, Bustopher and Jonesy. Afterward, we took a short walk over to the Millennium Bridge, featured in Half-Blood Prince, and clung on for dear life as we watched for Death Eaters. None came around so we continued on to take a look at the Globe Theater and all of its clever Shakespeare merchandise.
  • Regent's Park. It's so large and scenic. We walked through it about 4 times in a few days, since we had to get to the Underground station on the opposite side of it.

  • Stability in our living quarters. It's a long story of the hows and whys this all happened, but on Monday we left our first hotel in Bayswater for a second hotel in Harrow, and then on Tuesday evening we left that hotel for a house where we will be staying for next few weeks. So now we're here, in a place with laundry facilities and a kitchen until we move for the last time to some apartments back down by Bayswater. It's so nice to finally feel a little settled.
  • The Camden Market. We hit this on Saturday morning, and while we weren't wild about the whole thing (the crowds, the stalls that all seemed the same, the long walk over and back), we did find a great fruit stand. 7 peaches for a pound! 3 mangoes for a pound! We loaded up and we loaded up for cheap. Also, Mr. Graham got a swell hat that I have no pictures of.
Four Things We Loved Less:
  • All the time spent in cabs. Up to Harrow and down from Harrow, and both times we had to direct the driver to our destinations (as we did for the other two drivers we have had). They have GPS, but I'm not so sure they know how to use it. Also, one of our drivers very nearly ran into a couple with their baby.
  • The batty woman in the Underground station. Picture, if you will, a 65-ish year old woman wearing a flimsy white miniskirt. With blue socks featuring the British flag under wedge sandals. And for the finale, a tank top (sans bra) with an open back with three little ties. I say we loved this less just because...because.
  • The weekend Underground closures! All of our most frequented lines seem to close on the weekend, which forces us to be much more creative with our travel plans.
  • On that note, after we leaving the National Gallery, we went over to Piccadilly to investigate theater tickets. We took the Tube from the Charing Cross station at Trafalgar Square over to Piccadilly Circus. Once there we walked a few blocks and found the ticket stand we were looking for...then looked up and saw the back of the National Gallery only a block away. Yes, as it turns out we could have walked behind the Gallery (easily done) and been right where we wanted to be. Maybe we should take that map out more often after all?
Three Things We're Looking Forward To:
  • Love Never Dies! It's going to be a delicious disaster! I can't wait.
  • Stonehenge on the weekend? That's the plan! If there's any possible way for Mr. Graham to lay down in the middle, he will surely do it.
  • No moving at all! Ah, sweet stability.
And that has been our week here. We are happy and excited that we still have so much time to see all the other sights we possibly can. Just this very afternoon we are heading back to Westminster to sit in on a service. So cheerio! Cheerio, dah-ling!*
*Name the movie.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

In Which We Go to England: Part 1

And thus begins the weekly London blog reports.

So, we have been here for several days now. Generally, things are going well. Our luggage arrived safe and sound, and so far we've navigated the city just fine, with only a few minor hiccups in transit. It took a while for it to sink in just where we were. In some ways, it still is, but more on that later.

There have been some things going on with work that have been quite frustrating, but I don't really want to go into them just now. Hopefully those things will be resolved soon and it will just be one of those stories you tell later and roll your eyes at. For now all of us (me, Mr. Graham and my coworker, Caity) are doing more face palming than eye rolling, but as I say, hopefully they will be resolved soon. The work itself (the card scanning) just started in earnest on Friday and it went fine. It's really cool to be working in such an old building with so much architectural character.

I don't really want this to be a detailed report of things we do every day, but here are some highlights, in chronological order:

On Wednesday, after finally settling in and brushing our teeth (huzzah) we had our first fish and chips (in a...Lebanese restaurant?), bought a map and then sat in our hotel for a long while looking at the map. Finally we went out and got Tube passes and immediately put them to use to visit this place:
It was basically deserted so there was no pressure to be hasty with pictures. At this point it began to feel a little more like we're in England. Ah, Harry Potter's homeland. Earlier that day I also saw a UK copy of Half-blood Prince with its hideous cover.

Thursday was another leisurely day, but in the early afternoon Caity and I took a wild cab ride over to the Society to meet with the staff and set up our equipment. When we were on our way out, who should we see but the Minister of Magic himself:
Can you tell it's Bill Nighy in the middle of that crowd? Celebrities of almost any caliber make me all fluttery inside, but he is definitely the most celebritous celebrity I have ever seen. I have been on an extra sharp lookout ever since for more.

The rest of that day we spent seeing some of the standard sights: Buckingham Palace (where the Queen was at home), Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, the houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey (we have to go back to go inside) and the Tower of London. A lot of buildings here have been covered for construction/cleaning/etc., including part of the houses of Parliament and the Tower. I suppose preparations for the Olympics are to blame there.
On Friday, Caity and I spent the day at work, then spent some time in a massive H&M store that even had a maternity and kids section. I just got some hair flowers, but I'm sure I'll be back there sometime. The rest of the night was pretty mellow. Mr. Graham and I traveled far and wide to get some delicious foods we'd seen in Victoria station, and then picked up a bunch of English candies at the nearby Tesco. We came home to find a new episode of The IT Crowd on tv and laughed and laughed and have been quoting it since ("super mah-rio"). We only have 7 channels, and two of them are the same so we got quite lucky.

Saturday we spent a lot of the day down at the Tower of London (which we only saw from the outside on Thursday). We thought it was kind of pricey to get in, but we didn't realize how much there was to see and I think we spent like 5 hours in there. There were so many old, old, old things that it blew my mind a bit. Am I secretly a history nerd? Mayhap. Sadly the main tower was half covered for construction. I say "main tower" because there were so many towers involved in the structure. Our favorite to talk about is the Bloody Tower because we can refer to it with such gusto.

Other things we have done are: eaten pasties from two different shops (my favorite has been the stilton and steak), wandered through the maze of Harrod's (meh), and eaten cheese on toast for breakfast in the hotel. And how could I forget the remnant of the Roman wall we saw? It's ROMAN (and so old and glorious).

I guess this is getting kind of long, but I am going to keep going a little longer anyway. A little while ago I started to get a little nervous about this trip because I was so afraid that England could never live up to the ideal in my head, but I so badly wanted to love it no matter what. That said, I was prepared to not love London because I know Dickens's London is not London now and I couldn't expect that. And it's true, I am not desperately in love with London, not as a whole anyway. I love lots of the sites we've seen, but it's really just reaffirming to me that I am not Live in the Big City person. I am a Visit the Big City and Live a Little Further Away person. I love the unique cultural opportunities in big cities, but I don't care for the constant bustle and shops hold only so much interest for me. Don't get me wrong, I am happy to be here, and there are still so many things in London that I'm eagerly anticipating, but I'm also very excited to get out of London in the following weekends to see the countryside and smaller towns.

On a similar note, all of us have been surprised by just how many non-English people we see every day. Some of that, surely, is due to it being tourist season, but also I guess London is just more international than any of us expected. A few nights ago on the news they had a story about how people are feeling that London is becoming a separate entity from the rest of England and that is now making more sense to me.

Anyway. It's a big, exciting city with so many things to see, and so much history to be seen firsthand at last. But for now, take a look at our first pasties in England:

Thursday, July 08, 2010

I Believe the Term is "Cheerio"

As I mentioned in my last post, there have been some big things happening around here lately. Mr. Graham got a sweet new job, we went to Disneyland and we got some babies--baby tomato plants, that is. But the latest and greatest thing, which is surely going to be The Thing of our 2010, is that next Tuesday we are heading to the airport and relocating to here:

You know, London.

It all started a few months ago when at work they announced that they'd made a sale for some on-site work for the Society of Antiquaries in London. They went on to say that in the coming weeks they'd be posting the job and we would all be free to apply for it. At which point I began to mentally drool. Here is the thing: since I was a wee girl, my cultural diet has included a lot of British, and I've spent many years pining for moors and Bath and accents. Hence the drooling.

Anyway, nothing was said about the job for so long that I thought perhaps the contract fell through, but finally, last month the job was finally posted. I wrote a cover letter, polished my resume and applied. The interview came and went, and I went through alternating phases of cockiness and dread. But lo and behold, the good news came in and I somehow kept it to myself all afternoon until I could spring it on Mr. Graham at home.

They wound up hiring two people, and the other girl going is one who was hired the same time as me so I know her and she's cool (phew). The job itself is simple--we're scanning thousands of cards from the library's old school catalog. Mr. Graham will work away at his job and we'll spend the evenings and weekends exploring the towns.

My plan at the moment is to blog at least semi-regularly while we're there so you can hear all about the fun times. I won't make promises but I will at least make the goal!

I've been trying to collect recommendations for sights to see, but I've also been trying to collect any tips on things to do and not to do--as in things that will make me look stupid or things that will help me avoid pickpockets. So, bloggy friends, if you've been to the UK (or Paris...or Disneyland Paris...), do you have any insights for me?