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London, the West End, and a chap named Lee Mead

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Nov 30th, 2014, 12:29 PM
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London, the West End, and a chap named Lee Mead

I am always hesitant to write a trip report because my trips to London are not the usual. I have friends who live there and graciously extend hospitality for my stay - so I have no hotels to speak of. And I am not a foodie so, with rare exceptions, I usually eat on the go. Also my trips are heavy on the theatre and mostly revolve around one or two (or more) concerts by a singer/actor named Lee Mead.

Just FYI, Lee Mead won a 2007 BBC competition program by Andrew Lloyd Webber to find a young man to star in a revival of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in the West End. The program was shown in the US on BBC America - a year after the fact (Any Dream Will Do) - so I never saw Lee in Joseph, but I have seen him in several things since, such as Wicked, Legally Blonde, Panto, and quite a few concerts. This trip would take me to two concerts - one in High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire and the other in Clacton-on-Sea in Essex. Overnight stays, but an easy train ride from London for each.

However, I also do quite a lot of other things that may be of interest so I decided to write a trip report this time. So, if I haven't lost you yet, here it is.

I left on a Wednesday evening. I had booked my flight with Virgin Atlantic. I enjoy traveling VA because I feel there is a bit more room in the seat. This may or may not be true, but I have felt very comfortable on previous flights. (Also free booze, but that is a non-issue since I don't drink on the flight anyway.)

However, imagine my chagrin when I booked with VA and was issued a reservation with Delta!!!! Foreboding begins . . . Apparently, VA does not do the later evening flights from LAX and so partners with Delta to take them. Nice to know for future reference, although I must say, I have no complaints about this particular Delta flight.

Seats were two on the side instead of the sometimes three, so it was quite comfortable - for me anyway. Not so much for the very attractive British man sitting beside me who had legs much longer than mine. I always take half an ambien on the flight to the UK since it is an overnight flight and apparently I slept quite well (I have the uncomfortable feeling I may have been snoring). I awoke with only 1-1/2 hours left in the flight.

British customs are always so easy and I was at the arrivals area meeting my driver from justairports in no time at all. I had hit an ATM in the arrivals area (all terminals have them) and so had cash for the driver. An easy ride from the airport to my NW4 address and the total cost was £34 plus tip. I believe this is their flat rate for London. (http://www.justairports.com/)

First evening was spent resting and visiting with my friends. It always feels like home.

So Friday was my first full day. I was on my own this day and decided to do a London Walks (http://www.walks.com/) tour of Westminster Abbey. I had been to the Abbey my first trip several years ago and did the audio tour at that time. But I felt I needed to go again and decided to use London Walks - "The Secrets of Westminster Abbey" tour. Wow. More than I ever thought I wanted to know - but with humor. I love London Walks for this reason - they take their subject seriously but not solemnly, even when the subject is Westminster Abbey. Tour took about 2 hours, (which is usual for their tours) and cost £9 plus admission to the Abbey at a group discount rate. I did purchase a discount card (£2) since I knew I would be taking several tours this trip. The discount card is good for 30 days and saves £2 on each subsequent tour.

After a quick bite to eat, I headed to the Tower because I really wanted to see the poppies in the moat.

From their website (http://poppies.hrp.org.uk/):

"The major art installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red at the Tower of London, marked one hundred years since the first full day of Britain's involvement in the First World War. Created by artists Paul Cummins and Tom Piper, 888,246 ceramic poppies progressively filled the Tower's famous moat between 17 July and 11 November 2014. Each poppy represented a British military fatality during the war.

"The poppies encircled the iconic landmark, creating not only a spectacular display visible from all around the Tower but also a location for personal reflection. The scale of the installation was intended to reflect the magnitude of such an important centenary and create a powerful visual commemoration.

"All of the poppies that made up the installation were sold, raising millions of pounds which were shared equally amongst six service charities."


It was indeed spectacular and moving and very beautiful. It was also packed with people since it was mid afternoon on the Friday before Remembrance Sunday. Not the best timing, but the best I could do and at least I did see it.

Afterwards, I headed back to my friends for dinner and a relaxing evening.

More later - have to pick up hubs at Long Beach airport and it has just started raining - glory be! We do need the rain.
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Nov 30th, 2014, 03:15 PM
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Hi LCLABONITI,

"However, I also do quite a lot of other things [in London] that may be of interest so I decided to write a trip report this time." Glad you did. Interesting to hear what it's like being a tourist during the day and returning at night to your friends digs.

You were lucky to see the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red extravaganza at the Tower of London. Of course, when I was there last June, the project had not yet begun - but I did order a poppy and am looking forward to receiving it after the holidays.

Will follow along....
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Nov 30th, 2014, 05:09 PM
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Good to have you along, lateday. The poppies are individual and very beautiful.

And, shoot, I forgot that is not what happened. No relaxing evening as my friend J and her hubs actually met me at Charing Cross Station. We had dinner at Cafe Rouge right there near the station and then went down the Strand to the Adelphi Theatre to see "Made in Dagenham". This is the story of a group of women who went on strike for equal pay at a Ford plant in Dagenham back in the 60's. Believe it or not, it makes a pretty good musical. I really enjoyed it, although I was a bit embarrassed by the depiction of the Texans who road into town with the idea of whipping everyone into line. Probably pretty true, but embarrassing nonetheless.

So, on Saturday and my dear friend J took me to watch the Lord Mayor's Show. I had never heard of this but here is the info from the website http://lordmayorsshow.london/

"It begins with the ancient and justified caution of King John. He tried to win London’s support by allowing it to choose its own Mayor, but he insisted that immediately after election the Mayor must leave the safety of the City of London, travel upriver to distant Westminster and swear loyalty to the Crown.

"Over the centuries this inconvenient journey became one of London's favourite rituals. It moved from river barges to horseback and then into the magnificent State Coach, and around it grew a rowdy and joyful mediæval festival that became known as the Lord Mayor's Show.

"The ancient pageant is now bigger than ever. It is a London institution and hasn’t missed a year since Wellington’s funeral blocked the whole city in 1852. The modern procession is over three and a half miles long"


We decided to find a place across from the Royal Courts of Justice, which is where the Lord Mayor gets out of his golden coach and goes in to give his oath of loyalty. We never saw the mayor, but we did see floats representing the many guilds, lots of marching bands, and lots of marching military men, as well as beautiful horses and the golden coach. Pretty impressive. And something I would never have thought of doing if J hadn't suggested it. One of the benefits of staying with a friend.

Just a note, last year I happened to be in London during the annual London Open House when many of the buildings usually off limits are open to the public. It is hugely popular and greatly attended, so that we were only able to see one building, Lloyds of London, but it was absolutely fascinating. Again, something I would not have done without her suggestion.

After the Lord Mayor entered the Courts building, we took our leave and walked up the Strand to Covent Garden to meet another friend for lunch. After a leisurely lunch (there may have been a glass or two of wine consumed) we strolled the back streets of Covent Garden and into Soho, just chatting and looking around. We walked down to Charing Cross station where we took leave of our friend and walked to the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane to meet more friends and to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Charlie is not my favorite book or movie so I did not have great expectations. But my friends love it and I did want to see it. Well, I really loved it. Not as dark as the Johnny Depp movie but not as light as the Gene Wilder movie. Very well done and extremely well staged. Drury Lane is a huge theatre and they needed every bit of it for this production. And of course we had to have a Wonka bar at the interval.

A long and busy two days so we decided to have a fairly leisurely Sunday. Slept in a bit, J's hubs made us breakfast, and we went to the RAF museum, which is close to where J lives, since it was Remembrance Sunday. This is a wonderful museum - all sorts of planes and other flying machines beautifully displayed. Really fascinating and a lovely way to observe our own remembrance.

Back home for a lovely dinner and to watch a bit of TV. I have to say, I got a bit hooked on Strictly Come Dancing . . .
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Nov 30th, 2014, 09:30 PM
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LCBoniti: this is a fun report.

I loved reading about The Lord Mayor's Show, and also about Made in Dagenham. I've seen the film, mostly because it starred Sally Hawkins. I don't know Lee Mead, but I'm guessing you like him as much as I like Sally Hawkins.

Following.
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Dec 1st, 2014, 08:25 AM
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I too thought Salky Hawkins was excellent in the film version of Made in Dagenham, looking forward to seeing her in "Paddington."

LC, really enjoying your trip report.
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Dec 1st, 2014, 09:08 AM
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Thank you. I'll have to check out the film for sure.

Monday was another day on my own. I had a leisurely morning and left home about 10am, headed for Fortnum and Mason.

I am not a shopper on my trips to London. I rarely bring anything home more than a book for my grandkids. I always buy them books because they love books and there are a lot of children’s books in the UK that are not well-known here. That makes them a hit with their classmates when they bring the books to share at school.

But I had read janisj’s trip report and her comments about “the box” at F&M so I thought this was a good excuse to actually get some Christmas shopping done. In case you didn’t read it, F&M will ship a box of purchases for a flat rate of £30 – no matter how much you put into the box, as long as it fits. And it is quite a large box.

Just a note about London transportation. I take a bus from J’s house to the underground station and then London is at my feet – anywhere I want to go. I love the underground. I don’t use buses much on my own (except this particular one), but when J is with me, we do at times take a bus. But the underground is miraculous – I love it. I always use an Oyster simply because I never know for sure exactly how often or how far I will go. This trip, I used it more than usual – about £60 for all trips over a nearly 2 week period. But I had over £20 left on the Oyster from a previous trip so only had to top it once. There are less expensive options so be sure and check it out. http://www.tfl.gov.uk/travel-informa...siting-london/

I won’t bore you with my shopping. Suffice to say, it was a bit addicting. I passed Waterstone’s bookstore before I even got to F&M and spent a good amount of time (and money) in there. Small gifts, though, and a couple of books for the grandkids. F&M was just amazing. Just amazing. I will only mention that I purchased small jars of honey from different parts of the UK and some lovely biscuits in tins. These have already been given to family members – the rest is still a surprise so I won’t say anything in case they read this.

That afternoon, I decided to do another London Walks tour, this one in the neighborhood of Bloomsbury called Literary Bloomsbury & The Old Museum Quarter. (note: The website schedule shows this tour on Tuesday, but the winter schedule is a bit different and it was on Monday in November.) This tour was really amazing - #2 of the trip (Westminster was #3, which means the best is yet to come )

Terrific information, including that Oliver Cromwell’s real body may actually be buried in Queen’s Park, a substitute having been desecrated post-mortem. I told the guide perhaps it would be found eventually as Richard III’s had been and he suggested looking for an “O” somewhere as Richard’s body had been found under the “R” at the Leicester car park. Hilarious. But this was just one of the many hilarious, thought-provoking, and fascinating bits of information gleaned from this walk.

Another note about London Walks. Generally they are not strenuous, but they are fast walkers. Wear comfortable shoes. Also, it was lovely that on each tour we had UK (usually London) residents along, and a variety of international tourists.

This evening I really did head back to J’s for dinner and a relaxing evening in. We would have an extremely busy next few days so resting up was in order.
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Dec 1st, 2014, 09:25 AM
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<>

He not only has a fabulous singing voice, but he filled that loin cloth well [swoon]. He is currently playing nurse Lofty in the BBC medical soap Casualty.
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Dec 1st, 2014, 09:29 AM
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So I hear, anicecupoftea

Sorry to drag this out but I am trying to remember what exactly I did on Tuesday - the penalty for waiting to do a trip report.

I know I did something amazing . . .
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Dec 1st, 2014, 09:54 AM
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Hi again CLABONITI,

"We decided to find a place across from the Royal Courts of Justice, which is where the Lord Mayor gets out of his golden coach and goes in to give his oath of loyalty. We never saw the mayor, but we did see floats representing the many guilds, lots of marching bands, and lots of marching military men, as well as beautiful horses and the golden coach. Pretty impressive."

Thanks for the excellent description of the Lord Mayor's show. I believe it takes place each November when the new Lord Mayor is sworn in for his one year term. The process of being elected to this office is quite convoluted. Suffice it to say, it is quite an honor.

The Lord Mayor's official residence is MANSION HOUSE, in the heart of the City, which I toured last summer - it is only open to the public on (most) Tuesday afternoons at 2 o'clock. Check website first. Our guide gave us a complete explanation of the election process. For those who might wonder, the Lord Mayor (one year term only) is not to confused with the Mayor of London, elected by the populace for a four year term. Presently the inimitable Boris Johnson.

http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/about...s/default.aspx

Enjoyed your jaunt through Fortnum & Mason, and your London walk. I never tire of reading what others do in London. Hope to return some day....
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Dec 1st, 2014, 01:26 PM
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Ha! I figured it out. I just got my days mixed up. Monday was an all late morning-afternoon shopping day and the Bloomsbury walking tour was on Tuesday, as the London Walks schedule indicates. Sorry for the confusion. You can tell I haven't done this for a while.

So, Tuesday, after the walking tour, I met J and another good friend, A , at Charing Cross station. We walked down the Strand to Zizzi’s for an Italian dinner, wine, and a good catch-up. After dinner we headed to the Aldwych Theatre for Dance Til Dawn, starring Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace – two professional ballroom dancers who had been very popular on Strictly and now have adapted their dance to a stage show.

I had no idea what to expect. It was excellent. Most of the story is told through dance with one character as a narrator and a “background” singer and live orchestra for the music. It was different and really good, especially if you love dance, which I do. The finale is a hot Argentine tango, which this pair is known for. Our tickets included a Q&A after, which was very funny and very enjoyable.

Back to J’s that evening – tomorrow we would finally see Lee Mead!!!!
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Dec 1st, 2014, 01:38 PM
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What a fun trip report!

You might want to look at Air New Zealand for your next trip to London. They fly LAX>LHR - nice amount of leg room, decent food, free wine, good entertainment choices if you can't sleep, etc.

Lee Ann
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Dec 1st, 2014, 03:40 PM
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I have flown Air New Zealand before, Lee Ann, and it was actually the best flight I have ever had. I do go for the cheapest, however, and Virgin Atlantic was cheapest this time.
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Dec 1st, 2014, 05:40 PM
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So, as I said, I am a huge Lee Mead fan - in fact, we call ourselves Meadaholics. Lee is the reason I have made so many very good friends in the UK, some closer than others. But part of the fun of going to a concert is catching up with so many that I haven't seen in ages. Just lovely.

This particular concert was at the Wycombe Swan Theatre in High Wycombe - a very easy train ride from Marylebone station. (This station is where they filmed the train sequences in "A Hard Days Night" - just FYI) We left early afternoon and arrived in plenty of time to check into a Travelodge and meet at the theatre for a bite to eat with friends, one of whom had come from the Netherlands.

The concert was absolutely fabulous - Lee was in perfect voice. He had as guests Keith Jack, who was runner up in the Any Dream Will Do competition, and Amanda Henderson, who is his co-star on Casualty. She has a beautiful voice and did a duet with Lee of "As Long As You're Mine" from Wicked, as well as singing a couple of solos. Of course, Lee was the main attraction and it was lovely to chat with him at the stage door after the performance.

If anyone would like more information about the concert (and the next one in Clacton), you can find lots of reviews and photos on the fansite www.lee-mead.co.uk.

So we spent the night at the Travelodge and, after breakfast the next morning, headed back to London. It was now Thursday and J and I had tickets that evening for Our Town at the Almeida Theatre in Islington.

Yes, I said Our Town. An American actor/director, David Cromer, was invited to reproduce his very spartan production of Our Town in London, using UK actors for all roles except the Stage Manager, which he played. His thought is that the theme of the story is a universal one - which it is. However, I was very curious to see how this quintessentially American play would come across in London. I was blown away. The variety of accents and ethnicity of the actors really contributed to the message of the play. Apparently not everyone thought so as the British woman sitting next to us said it was the worst thing she had ever seen, but she was in the minority. Everyone else seemed to respond to it very well and J enjoyed it very much. Here's a review that pretty much sums it up: http://www.timeout.com/london/theatre/our-town-4

I had never been to the Islington area of London before. It reminded me of the East Village of New York - very youthful, with many trendy restaurants and bars. Before the play, we ate at a French restaurant nearby on Upper Street called "La Petite Auberge". I had a delicious sea bass and J had chicken Provençal that she enjoyed very much. And wine, of course. (There you have my one and only food review.)
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Dec 1st, 2014, 07:48 PM
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Had to read your trip report because I also watched Any Dream Will Do, mainly because John Barrowman was a judge. I am a huge Dr. Who/Torchwood fan. Of course, I got hooked on it immediately! I was rooting for Lee from the beginning because he definitely was the most handsome and had such a great voice!

I have tried to follow his career via his website and would love to see one of his concerts or theater performances. I read that he married one of the judges from ADWD (Denise van Outen) and they had a daughter before splitting up.

In September, we were in Vienna and had BBC Entertainment channel at our hotel and Casualty was one of the programs I began watching. I couldn't believe it when I saw Lee! I almost didn't recognize him because he looked heavier than when I last saw him on ADWD. But he is still adorable.

So I am truly enjoying reading your trip report.
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Dec 2nd, 2014, 08:47 AM
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bettyk, love your remarks. Sadly, the people who do his official website (www.leemead.co.uk) are not always up to speed. You can actually get more current information on his career from the website I listed above, www.lee-mead.co.uk or from his Facebook page, which is administered by his musical agents, Eclipse Artists https://www.facebook.com/OfficiallyLeeMead

As for his weight, he had gotten very, very thin when he was in Wicked and Legally Blonde. He's now a much better weight and certainly does not look heavy in person. Maybe it's true, TV adds 10 pounds.

And he is probably one of the nicest people you will ever meet - very humble and very gracious to his fans. Just a lovely person. Also gorgeous.

Everyday life has gotten in the way, but I will try to finish this report this evening. Thanks to everyone who is following along.
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Dec 2nd, 2014, 10:22 AM
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And if you had watched a bit more TV that evening after Strictly, you would have caught Lee Mead in Casualty. As anicecupoftea points out <>

Nice trip report, it's always fun to read something a bit different.
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Dec 2nd, 2014, 10:45 AM
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Oh, believe me, I watched Lee in Casualty.
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Dec 2nd, 2014, 11:49 AM
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Posting to find and read later today . . . But just a note - your links don't work. That trailing "" gets one every time. I finally broke flanner of the habit - now its your turn

Don't know why people think they need ( ) around url's anyway.

Here are the correct links:

www.justairports.com
www.walks.com
www.poppies.hrp.org.uk
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Dec 2nd, 2014, 12:36 PM
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well, I'm not usually enamoured of the celebrity culture, but I remembered Lee Mead from the prog [my excuse is that i have to watch some of these things in order to bod with my DD] and I was rather taken with him at the time, though not to the extent you were, LCB, and I was very glad when he won, so it's been fun reading your TR.

It's nice to know that his career has prospered - i had no idea that he's in Casualty.

Thanks too for the description of the Lord's Mayor's Show. Despite having worked in the Temple [the enclave of barristers just across the road from the Royal Courts on Fleet street] for getting on for 20 years, I never went. [Some barristers get very involved in the City - one was recently Lord Mayor, I think but most of us scuttle off home to the suburbs, or in my case, to Kent]. thanks for letting me know what i missed.

As you are clearly up for the less touristy things to do, the Temple is also a lovely place to visit [though not so great in November] with gorgeous gardens in the summer. You can also have lunch in Middle Temple Hall if you book in [a fellow fodorite did this at my suggestion, and loved it] here's the link for next time:

http://www.middletemple.org.uk/venue...lunch-in-hall/
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Dec 2nd, 2014, 12:47 PM
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Thank you, janisj - no more ()!!!

And thanks for the info, annhig. I remember the trip report you refer to. One of these trips needs to be in summer - I seem to usually hit fall and winter seasons.
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