Tuesday, 17 June 2008

London things

My Christmas present from Mum and Dad in Australia was a voucher for Tea at the Ritz, a London institution since the early 1900s when the Ritz opened. In fact, it's so popular that they run 5 sittings a day, and you still have to book months in advance. So our time finally rolled around a few weeks ago.

Coincidentally I'd managed to get cheap tickets for Spamalot on the same day. As most of you know, I am a Monty Python fan of old, and I was swayed by the rave reviews the show has been getting. So one sunny Saturday we boarded the Central Line, The Boyfriend cursing his tie and jacket (the Ritz enforces a dress code), and set off to Covent Garden.

Sadly, we didn't really enjoy Spamalot. TV's Alan Dale was starring as King Arthur, and while I'm sure he pulls in the Neighbours and The O.C. fans, he was a hesitant singer and a weak dancer. The chief attraction for me had been the promise of new (to me) Python material, but anything not in the movie fell strangely flat, and everything from the movie didn't turn out to be as funny when not being delivered by Eric Idle or Graham Chapman. Plus there was this borderline offensive (and not at humorous) closet homosexuality story about Sir Lancelot which really stomped on my optimism for the show. Does anyone really find "gay men all dance like Peter Allen and wear pink" jokes funny anymore?

I didn't manage to get a photo of The Boyfriend actually sleeping as photography wasn't permitted inside, but rest assured, he did sleep, and for quite a long time. There is one blurry shot on flickr of the Knights who say 'Ni' which I took covertly, just to record the experience.

In fairness, it has been playing for years, and part of the problem was the claustrophobic staging and distinct lack of enthusiasm permeating from the cast... some of whom probably have to do this 8 or 9 times a week for jetlagged tourists for not very much money. Anyway, it wasn't all bad, and now we've done the West End show thing.

We then had a few hours to kill before Ritz time, so strolled down through Covent Garden, past Chinatown, and into Piccadilly. Waterstone's (a huge UK bookseller) has a bar on the fifth and top floor, which just peeks above the roofs of the Piccadilly buildings, so it's London's version of a good view. We decided to fill in some time by having one of their famous cocktails. I went for a martini, which I've never managed to try before. As you probably know the taste can be best described as medicinal but I'll probably keep trying because they look so cool.

With some more time to kill we checked out Fortnum and Mason, and the windows of the Jermyn Street suit shops, and then wandered down to Green Park. This is The Boyfriend in Green Park.

Despite his expression I think he actually enjoyed the afternoon. Buckingham Palace is on the far side of the park, and we couldn't really wander so close to the Palace without having a look, so look we did. There didn't seem to be much going on but perhaps the Queen also enjoys a martini indoors late on a Saturday afternoon.

Finally it was time for Tea, and so we entered the beautiful Palm Court and took our seats. The service was outstanding and the room was amazing, but that all paled in comparison to the food. I had thought Tea would involve tea, and perhaps some small to eat. We were overwhelmed by the three-tiered tray of dainty sandwiches (including cucumber, of course), scones, and some of the most delicious pastries I've ever eaten. The scones, with strawberry jam and clotted cream, were so good we couldn't stop eating them, despite being stuffed. And of course, my Earl Grey tea in its silver teapot was perfect. (The Boyfriend had coffee.)

So thanks very much Mum and Dad, it was a special experience. I couldn't get many photos as photography was (again) not allowed, but I did break the rules and take a few, mostly from inside my handbag.

There are also some new shots up of our wander down to Chiswick House Gardens a few weeks ago, and some more new shots in the Around London set (because I can't resist all the summer flowers around at the moment).

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