I woke up early, as I usually do, and met my Dad and his family for breakfast at 7.30 a.m.
Quite a decent breakfast too, I have to say. Several (most?) hotels don't include breakfast at all, and even though this wasn't extravagant at all, it was quite good enough! Toast, cereal, juice, boiled eggs and tea/coffee.
After breakfast we went out for a little while, I discovered it rained! *gasp* After the heatwave we had it was quite a surprise and I was a bit concerned about my plans as I had intended to go to London Zoo to be there when they opened at 10 ... not that much fun going to the zoo in the rain! It didn't rain a great deal, so I decided to go up to London Zoo and see what happened, hopefully the rain would subside a bit.
I walked to Bayswater Road and I even though I didn't get really wet, I did need a sweater and it wasn't the greatest weather. Took a bus and it takes a little while to get to the Zoo - and when I got there the rain had stopped! Yay!
I was early, I arrived there at 9, but it was kind of deliberate, as I had hoped I'd be able to explore Regent's Park and maybe Primrose Hill before the Zoo opened. I started at Primrose Hill, which at first didn't look very exciting. Mostly various paths with lots of grass (mostly dried out) and some trees ... but when I got to a map of the park I realized they had Viewing Point (and subconsciously I think I must have known this and that was why I wanted to check out Primrose Hill!), so I decided to go there.
It was actually quite steep, but boy what a view!! It was absolutely amazing - you are a fair bit north at Primrose Hill and high enough to see through London down to the Thames, with the amazing skyline, including The Shard and London Eye! Quite stunning!
(And since I got home I started watching The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, based on the books by Elizabeth George, and in one episode - have forgotten the name now, sorry - Thomas Lynley is sad and upset and actually sits on a bench at Primrose Hill, joined later by Havers. The coolest thing: the skyline didn't look the same! I guess the episode is old enough for there to be no Shard and no London Eye *lol*)
I tried to walk a bit in Regent's Park too, but it was kind of dull, I think I came in at the most boring place in the park, mostly a large road with some benches and that was it. I knew I had a lot of walking to do that day, so I ended up taking a bit of a rest at a bench for a while, waiting for the Zoo to open.
At 10 a.m. I started walking toward the London Zoo Entrance, but stumbled across a Fast Track Entry straight away, and since I had my London Pass I just went in there, they scanned my card and that was it! :)
Spent an incredible time at the Zoo - I do love watching animals but I feel something special about London Zoo actually.
Highlights this time was the tigers of course - I do love tigers and I didn't get to see them last time as they had been temporarily moved while they were building the new Tiger Territory. Well, now they were back, and the two adult beautiful stunning tigers, Jae Jae and Melati became parents on 3 February 2014, to three gorgeous tiger cubs, named Cinta, Nakal and Budi! :)
Unfortunately the tiger cubs were still shy and hid mostly in the bamboo bushes ... but I did see Jae Jae! :) There were to be a Tiger Talk and noon so I decided to catch that.
Walked around a lot, saw a lot! Saw kangaroos this time (not last time) which was really cool - and had the funniest experiences with monkeys. They have this special little monkey habitat with a few extra doors, where visitors actually walk in to the monkeys without any fences or bars or glass or anything. They're tiny monkeys of course, but it was still quite amazing. While I was walking around taking photos I suddenly heard a bit of commotion ahead of me.
When I got there it turned out one of the monkeys had stolen a lady's camera case and climbed up on a rope over the path, and sat up there playing with it. The keepers tried to get it down, no success, and the monkey was having a blast! Eventually another monkey saw how much fun he was having and came to play, but the first monkey didn't want to give up the camera case, after all: he found it!! :) They fought over it in the most amazing way, up on that rope - but in the end the camera case fell to the ground and was returned to the lady ... and the monkeys set off chasing each other! :) :)
Checked out the penguins for a while before heading back to Tiger Territory for the Tiger Talk. Yeah, right! Here's a hint, if you are thinking of joining that, at noon, on a Saturday, in the middle of summer: GET THERE EARLY! I could hardly get near the tiger habitat, not to mention the area where the Tiger Talk took place - it was absolutely crowded!!! I felt a bit bummed out about that, tigers are my thing - but there was nothing I could do.
Went for a little while longer and of course had to go to the Zoo shop. Saw THE most amazing tiger - I WANT IT ... but it was huge (no way it would fit in my luggage) ... and it cost £40 ... oops!! Bought a little tiger instead and I now have three ...
A rather large tiger, that I bought at London Zoo in 2012 - he is Jae Jae.
A middle-sized tiger, that I bought at Borås Zoo in 2013 - she is Melati.
And now, this gorgeous little tiger cub bought at London Zoo - he is Budi, the youngest of the cubs! :)
(Will have to take pictures and post when I get the time!!)
After London Zoo again came the time management problem! :) I figured I should get something to eat, and I wanted to do something more on the London Pass, as it was the last day, and I was going to see Phantom of the Opera that night, which meant I had to be at Her Majesty's Theatre at 7 p.m., at the latest, and I had to go back to the hotel and shower and change before that ...
Long story short ...
I took the bus from London Zoo to Camden Town (this really cool old man started talking to me at the bus stop, people in London are really talkative and friendly, very different from Sweden!!) - and that was a really cool place! Like a little town inside London almost - would be fun to go there and explore a bit more!
I changed buses there and took a bus to Trafalgar Square, as I figured I could make a short food stop at McDonald's near Charring Cross Station. Well, there was this huge festival going on at Trafalgar Square, meaning that a meal at McDonald's would have taken a LONG time.
I skipped that and took a bus to the Tower of London, and decided to go on the CityCruises, which is also included in the London Pass.
I hadn't planned things very well, but if I ever buy the London Pass again, this is definitely something I want to use more. You get a ticket called the Red Rover River Ticket or something like that, and it basically works as a HopOn-HopOff ticket for an entire day. So you can go between Greenwich Pier, Tower Pier and Westminster Pier as many times as you like for one day (and trust me, going form the Tower of London to Westminster on the Tames takes about 1/3 of the time it takes by bus!!!)!!
Well, for now I took the boat from Tower Pier to Westminster Pier and it was SO cool! Seeing everything from the Thames gave it an entirely different perspective and we had this really nice, sort of unofficial, guide telling us lots of wonderful facts. Unfortunately you tend to forget a lot of them, which is very sad ... but I enjoyed the tour immensely. We had a bit of luck to, when we got to Westminster. We were a few minutes early as we were going with the tide, and due to an unusually high tide, the water under Westminster Bridge was quite high. Normally the boat turns around at the east side of the bridge and docks, but we were lucky enough to go under Westminster Bridge and the turned the boat around just outside the Houses of Parliament - quite a stunning experience actually!! :)
I knew I really really should get something to eat at this point, since I hadn't eaten since breakfast, but since I had a hard time knowing travel times I did feel stressed out by the fact that I had to be at the theatre no later than 7 p.m. - so I took a bus ...that I thought was going all the way to Paddington (bus 159 on the bus map is said to go all the way to Paddington but I think they've changed it because all the 159s I've seen have ended at Marble Arch) - but had to change buses at Marble Arch.
I was really really tired when I got to the hotel, but didn't feel like I had a lot of time to relax so I took a shower and freshened up a bit, and then took a walk to Edgeware Road where I found a convenient McDonald's ... and had my first meal since breakfast - at 7.30 a.m. - at 5.30p.m. Yikes! Maybe not so great, but I guess I don't mind that mind when it's not all the time.
That gave me plenty of time, or so I thought. Turned out the buses was absolutely impossible, it took FOREVER to go even a few meters. In the end it took about one hour to go from Edgeware Road to Haymarket - that's insane!!!
I arrived at Her Majesty's Theatre at about 6.45 but they had already opened, and I collected my ticket at once.
So I'm going to start up my musical blog soon (would like to finish up with the London blog first though!), and details regarding the shows and the performers will end up there instead of here. However, if there is something special I would like to say about a show, I will add it here ... :)
The main reason I wanted to see Phantom of the Opera again was actually Gerónimo Rauch! I saw him in 2012 as Jean Valjean in Les Misérables and he was amazing - and in 2012 the Phantom-show wasn't that great. I was however a bit nervous that Rauch wasn't going to be there, after all, you never can be quite sure when you're booking so far in advance. I checked the board as soon as I stepped into the theatre and to my delight, Rauch was listed as the Phantom. And what can I say? If he was amazing as Jean Valjean he was absolutely brilliant as the Phantom!!
To me he embodied the character completely, and managed to not only portray him as an insane maniac (to me the character is SO much more complex!!) which was fantastic!! Truly my favourite Phantom EVER!!
At the end of the show, after the curtain call, Andy Hockley - who played Monsieur Firmin, stepped forward. He announced the annual football game between the casts of Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables, what's known as "Les Mis Vs Phantom" - it's been playing for a few years now, supporting charities, and Mr. Hockley told us that the game this year would be played in honour of one of its founders, Melanie Oakley-Dow, who tragically passed away last Christmas.
The game was taking place the following day, Sunday 3 August - and I was absolutely bummed about not having checked it out - it would have been THE most amazing thing to be able to attend it!! :)
However, Mr. Hockley continued to say that since he knew not everyone at the theatre would be able to go to the game, some of the cast had gone from the stage and were collecting voluntary donantions when we left the theatre. I think it was an amazing initiative and when we headed out I started going through my purse for some money to donate. When I got to the door, Martin Ball - who played Monsieur André - was standing there. I sort of came from the wrong direction but managed to push my way through a number of people and put my donation in his little bucket - and I got eye contact, a great smile and a friendly "Thank You!!" from him! :)
Things like that just makes my day! :)
I was a little bit worried about going back to the hotel on my own as it ended kind of late, around 10.20 p.m., but it turned out I didn't have to worry at all. What I hadn't thought about was the fact that in a great city like London, in the middle of summer, the streets are hardly deserted at half past ten on a Saturday! :) Also, I knew my Dad and his family were at the hotel IF something went wrong. There were some construction work going on so I had to walk to Picadilly Circus to take the bus, but it worked out great and I was back in my Tower Room at the hotel in no time! :)