Earlier this year I learned that Ewan McGregor would be in a West End revival of Guys and Dolls. Being a fan of both the Scottish actor and popular musicals, I decided we had to see a performance. So in May we booked the major components of a long weekend trip: the easyJet flight; the easyHotel room and the theatre tickets.
See also our photo album of this trip
In order to maximize our short break, we took the first flight out of Amsterdam to London Luton (departure at 8:35am). Transport to the airport via bicycle and train was smooth, as was the check-in, bag-check, and passport control at Schiphol. The flight was on time on arrival. After picking up our bags we headed for the easyBus stop outside the airport. The bus also left on time and we arrived in central London a bit ahead of schedule. A journey from Baker Street on the tube brought us within walking distance of the easyHotel in Kensington. We arrived at around 11am. The tiny room was not ready yet, but luckily we were able to leave our bags there for the day.
We walked from the hotel to Hyde Park. The weather was fine, cold but clear with a bright blue sky. We walked by the Serpentine and saw lots of pigeons, swans, seagulls and Canadian geese. We even spotted a few squirrels, mostly being chased by enthusiastic loose dogs. Lots of people were out enjoying the fine day. In a good mood but with cold noses we arrived at Hard Rock Cafe; near Hyde Park Corner. We warmed up and enjoyed a typically large HRC meal.
We took a bus to our next stop, the Museum of London. We spent a few hours exploring the exhibits. This is a super museum with lots of great models and interesting information on the development of London. I don’t know why we didn’t visit there before.
We stopped for a hot chocolate at Starbuck’s before wandering through some shopping areas on our way to the Piccadilly Theatre. We picked up our tickets for Guys and Dolls at the will-call booth and milled around outside while we waited for the auditorium to open. Our seats were a bit farther away than we had realized when booking, so we were happy to rent a pair of binoculars for a better view of the action during some scenes. It was a great show with an enthusiastic, talented cast and impressive set design; we both enjoyed it a lot.
After the show we waited around the stage door area with a few other fans, hoping to meet Ewan and Jane Krakowski, despite the apologetic message posted on the gate indicating the cast would not stop for autographs (due to the tragic events of 7 July). After about 30 minutes a security guard informed us that Ewan and Jane had already left the building, so we dispersed to the nearby Garfunkel’s for a late dinner. We both ordered Chicken Kiev. It was 10 minutes to 11pm and we were informed that our order would take 20* minutes to prepare, and that the restaurant would close promptly at 11:30, no exceptions. We agreed to these terms and fidgeted around until the food arrived. You might know that Chicken Kiev is a chicken breast stuffed with a magmatically hot butter sauce. When the plates were dropped in front of us we chopped up the Kievs to let them cool as quickly as possible, so we could eat them without burning our mouths. While we frantically cut up our food, a raucous party of four was seated next to us. As we wolfed down our meals, they placed an order for drinks and dessert. And as we moaned, overstuffed in our chairs, waiting for our bill, their food arrived – at 11:29pm. And when we hightailed it out of the restaurant at 11:30 as we had been informed was required, the party of four was just starting to tuck into their desserts. What the — ?!?!?
We took the tube back to the hotel and dropped into bed, which was no mean feat, considering the bed touched the walls on four sides (yes, four sides. I told you it was a tiny room).
* Arthur heard the waiter say 30 minutes; I heard 20. The food arrived exactly 25 minutes after we ordered, so we’re not sure who heard it correctly.
We got up, showered, knocked into each other multiple times getting dressed, and headed for the nearby Sainsbury’s grocery store. We got a few provisions for breakfast (blueberry muffins and chocolate milk, your traditional English breakfast) and the rest of the day (candy, chips and soda). We also picked up some grocery items for home (cereal, Pop Tarts and bagels) and gifts for family. We brought it all back to the hotel and ate our breakfast on the bed (it was either there or in the toilet). Then we took the tube to Leicester Square, where we queued for half-price evening theatre tkts. We got 10th row stalls seats for another musical, High Society.
After a quick bite at a cafe, we headed for the British Museum. Here we explored the South Asia rooms on the ground floor, particularly the collection of Indian religious artifacts. Vewy vewy intewesting.
We left the British Museum at about 3pm and walked to Sir John Soane?s Museum. We paid a short visit here; we first visited the museum a couple of years ago and it was nice to see the cluttered, fascinating museum again, even briefly.
With some time still to kill before the evening’s entertainment, we stopped at a pub where we each had a pint in a cosy upstairs seating area and played Sudoko puzzles printed on the back of the coasters.
We meandered down shopping streets towards the Shaftesbury Theatre, looking around for a nice Indian place to eat. Despite the fact that about half of the restaurants in London seem to be Indian, we had a lot of trouble to find a restaurant. Finally we spotted Mela, where we enjoyed the pre-theatre menu. I had Gurdaspuri Whitebait (“Whitebait marinated in crushed garlic and whole red chilies, thinly batter fried”) as an appetizer, Murg Tikka Makhanwala (“Chicken Tikka cooked in creamy tomato sauce”) as a main course, and Kulfi Falooda (“Indian ice cream served with sweetened cornflour vermicelli”) for dessert. Arthur had Dosai Ki Kathi (“Teasing chicken tikka masala rolled in rice flour pancake served with fresh coconut sauce”) as an appetizer, a vegetarian main course, and ice cream for dessert.
At the Shaftesbury we took our seats in time for the 7:30 curtain. The show was pretty good. The set was not very inventive but the cast was enthusiastic and the Cole Porter numbers were mostly entertaining. A few were a bit too slow for our taste, but overall we enjoyed the show.
Afterwards we sat at a nearby O’Neill’s pub and had a pint before getting kicked out at closing time, 11:30pm. We took the tube back to the hotel and again carefully collapsed into bed.
We woke up at about 8am and packed our bags. When we were ready we checked out of the hotel and proceeded to take the tube to Baker Street. The first order of business was to find somewhere to leave our luggage, because the easyHotel does not offer this service. I thought I read online that the Marylebone train station had a left luggage facility, so we walked from the Baker Street tube to Marylebone Station. On the way we located the easyBus coach stop where we would find our ride back to Luton Airport later in the day. Unfortunately there was in fact no place for us to leave our luggage at Marylebone. We were advised by a ticket clerk that the nearest left luggage facility was at Paddington Station. Back on the tube. We arrived a Paddington and discovered to our great dismay that it cost ?5.50 per bag to leave luggage at the station. This was a bit over our budget (we would have liked to leave three bags) so we decided to press on, bags in tow.
We went to the Natural History Museum. First we checked our bags (?8 for two). In the Life Galleries we had a look at birds, fossils and mammals. We also had a look at the Darwin Centre, where a live event was taking place (also via Internet). It was a presentation on the creation of diamonds, coinciding with the Diamonds exhibit at the museum. We stayed for a few minutes to watch this.
It was getting a bit late so we decided to have something to eat before it was time to head back for the bus stop. We wandered around a long time before finally stumbling in the Knightsbridge area (close to Harrod’s) where we sat down at Tattersall’s Tavern. We each had a pie with chips and a pint of beer. Yummy! Dessert was a hot piece of blueberry cheesecake (strange) with ice cream.
After picking up our bags again at the museum, we found a bus to take us across town to the easyBus stop back on Gloucester Place, between Baker Street and Marylebone Station. A bus came early and we got on. Some people had to be left behind; we learned from the driver that traffic was a nightmare with a crash on the motorway and he was running over an hour behind. We should have gotten the 3:50 bus, but instead we got the 2:10 bus which left at 3:40. We took a detour through the countryside and ended up arriving at Luton in about an hour. We were pretty impressed with the easyBus service and will certainly use it again.
Luton Airport has gone through quite a transformation since the last time we visited, and we were pleased with the changes made to the departures lounge. There were a few nice restaurants to choose from and plenty of seating by numerous monitors. We had a snack before our plane boarded. Again the flight was on time and smooth. We could pick up our luggage at Schiphol quickly, hopped on a train and finally biked home in the cold. We got home at about 10:45pm, not too shabby!