Friday, December 30th, London

Laundry?; pretty nice shower here in my bathroom; Waitrose & Boots; where else do I want to go while here in London?; by Tube over to Leicester Square again; lunch at Chandos; National Gallery; National Portrait Gallery; hanging out in the Café in the Crypt; Handel's "Messiah"; the Rodolfus Choir's Christmas concert; by Tube back to Gloucester Road

Best Western the Cromwell



It's now about 12:20 AM and I only got home from my day out around half an hour ago. I took very few pictures today and almost none of them were indoors.

I did wake up early enough to get my dirty laundry downstairs to the reception desk by 7:30 this morning but only because I had set my alarm clock. Unfortunately I received a call from reception much later this morning, after they had called to see when the laundry service was coming to pick up today's washing. No one had told the hotel's reception staff that the laundry is closed until Tuesday, January 3rd. I guess I'll just wear my clean jeans instead of my black slacks for New Year's Eve, not that anyone will notice or even care.

This morning was about settling in and trying to get some more rest. After I dropped my clothes off I went downstairs for a nice breakfast of porridge, scrambled eggs, yogurt, and the kind of hash browns we know as potato cakes back home. I planned on going back to bed after I took my clothes downstairs and had breakfast so I decided to take a shower and put on clean clothes later. Besides, that let me sleep in just a bit longer. I did indeed go back to bed until about 10 AM but not back to sleep. I read a bit and watched something streaming via wifi instead.

My bathroom has a walk in shower stall, which I really like. It also has an OK amount of places to put stuff, both counter wise and in the shower. The shower has both an overhead shower, which I discovered during my most recent stay at the Grand Hotel Malher in Paris makes it somewhat difficult to rinse myself off completely since my body is not in a straight line, and a separate handheld shower head. When I went downstairs a bit later I thought I'd better let the reception staff know that the overhead shower head was also spraying wildly to the sides, including out the entrance to the shower stall. The wild spray was kind of amusing but not very efficient.

After I got dressed I headed across the street to the Waitrose, where I picked up a couple of small boxes of cookies and the smallest bottle they had of rum and brandy each. I then stopped off at the Boots to pick up some café latte Slimfast to have around in my room in case I skip breakfast. In fact, because I had to eat dinner about 5 PM before my 6:30 concert I'm having one of the Slimfasts right now, with a shot of brandy in it which is surprisingly tasty.

After I got back to my room I spent the next hour and a half or so doing a little more sorting out where I really want to go while I'm here in London. My cabby and I had talked about the Christmas pantos I'd been to while in Dublin and the ones he and his family had been to here, and I thought I'd check and see if there were any still going on and if I could get a ticket to one. I was surprised to see that there are indeed several still running, as well as several that finished already, and was able to get a ticket for it.

I knew before I left home that Hampton Court Palace was still supposed to be offering their winter events so I booked a ticket for that as well.

I also knew that Kew Gardens is only open evenings this time of year for their holiday events but when I checked they are all sold out for the last two days, January 1st and 2nd.

I went through my lists of what I want to see and where I want to go while here in London this time, and made a final list of what I really, really want to see and where I really, really want to go, and then sorted that by area.

My first event this evening wasn't until 6:30 PM so I didn't want to get downtown too early. I decided I'd just go to the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery.

I left here about 12:30 to head across the street to the Gloucester Road Tube station to take the Piccadilly line back over to Leicester Square, the nearest station to Trafalgar Square, the National Galleries, and St Martin in the Fields. When I got to Trafalgar Square I was ready for lunch and thought I'd try the Chandos again. (I still can't find their own website or a listing on the one for Samuel Smith, the parent brewery, but here's one from another source. I found a small table near the door and ordered a pint of cider and asked for a menu, and the guy had already poured my pint before he told me they don't usually serve food downstairs. I told him I was sorry but I couldn't carry my pint upstairs because I had my walking stick due to knee problems, and he very kindly said they'd bring whatever I ordered to my table down on the ground floor. I had one of their very nice meat pies, and of course left a good tip when I left.

I didn't enjoy the galleries as much as I have in the past because they were both damned crowded, which is why I took almost no pictures inside. I know I didn't give either place the attention they deserve, or even the attention I usually give them, but I spent as much time in each of them as I could stand the crowds. I'll probably go back, some morning when I can get there shortly after they open.

By then it was only 3:30 or 4 PM and I knew St Martin wouldn't open until 6 for the concert. I didn't feel like having another pint somewhere or even wandering around the neighborhood so I thought I'd try the Café in the Crypt again. I was able to find a free small table and claimed it. I was a little closer to the doors to the outside than I would have preferred but I was wearing a sweatshirt and my heavier insulated vest, so I was OK. I had a very lovely hot mulled wine and small but tasty mince pie and hung out and read on the Kindle app on my non-US Samsung smart phone until its alarm went off at 5. I decided that instead of going somewhere else to eat before the concert, I'd just stay where I was. I grabbed my camera, left my walking stick and cap on the table to keep claim on it, and had a pretty good pre-made sandwich and a very good bowl of cream of cauliflower soup for dinner.

My seat for the first concert was on the aisle one row behind where I was last night. This was a performance of Handel's "Messiah" by the Brandenburg Festival Chorus and the Brandenburg Sinfonia. This and the concert immediately after it marked the opening of the Brandenburg Choral Festival of London, an absolutely huge endeavor running from now until May with several programs I'd love to go to if I lived here.

I'm not sure how long I've loved the "Messiah" or where I was first exposed to it. I do know that the first time I ever sang the "Hallelujah chorus" was when I was singing in the choir at First Presbyterian back in Portland with my friends from Lincoln high school. (Unlike with "Joy to the world", although I can still just hit the tenor part I don't remember all of it.) Once, when I was taking a class on the Old Testament prophets as an undergraduate religion major at the University of Puget Sound, I opened my segment on "Second Isaiah" I opened by playing "Comfort ye, my people". And at least once I participated in the "sing your own Messiah" there in Portland as well. When I was living with my brother Michael in Seattle while going to Library School at the University of Washington I took Michael to a performance. He'd never heard the full work before and his main comments were he hadn't realized it was quite so long or so churchy, which are actually rather valid comments. After all, the entire text is pretty much straight out of the "King James Version". I still love it anyway, and usually listen to it sometime during the holidays.

Tonight's performance was excellent. The orchestra, chorus, and four soloists were very good. And it didn't hurt that the soprano and alto soloists were lovely young women with lovely voices. One thing that I really enjoyed was that some of the women in the chorus were split up and were off to the sides of the main part of the rest of the choir to spread the sound out further.

When we came back from the break halfway through the program, the conductor told us that they hoped we'd stand for the "Hallelujah chorus", and would sing along if we wanted to, and they'd put out sheet music with the words for it in each pew. In the pause before the piece itself, about fifty members of the choir for the next performance came in and lined up down the center aisle and joined in. It was lovely.

The "Messiah" finished up about 8:30 PM, and the next concert wasn't until 9:30. I was pretty sure I'd heard that the house wouldn't open again until 9 so I headed back downstairs to the Café in the Crypt where I had another hot mulled wine and small, tasty mince pie. I of course stopped off to use the men's room before going back upstairs shortly after 9. They must have reopened earlier than I expected because when I got there, the place was already very crowded (open, unassigned seating this time). I had to sit towards the back and behind the huge pulpit/lectern thingy which rather blocked the view.

The second and last performance of the evening was the Rodolfus Choir, mispelled as Rodolphus in the concert program) doing five Christmas choral pieces I'd never heard of before, three of them by composers I hadn't heard of before, followed by Benjamin Britten's "A ceremony of carols". It was all very lovely and very well done.

I had thought about taking a cab back here to the hotel, since I was pretty tired and my knees hurt more than usual, but I didn't see an unoccupied one all the way back to Leicester Square Tube station so I caught the Piccadilly line back here instead. The first train that came was so damn full I waited for the next one so I could find a seat, which I was able to do but that ride also became uncomfortably crowded as well after that.

It's now almost 2 AM, and I'd better get to bed before I crash. I was planning on getting up early enough for breakfast but maybe I'll kill the alarm when it goes off, have one of my Slimfasts, and go back to bed. I have another concert at St M in the F tomorrow at 3:30 PM, the operatic extravaganza, and then I need to be over at the London Bridge City pier not much past 8:30 PM for boarding for the New Year's Eve party boat cruise to see the fireworks. I'll of course have dinner somewhere along the way.

I'm pretty sure the Tube is running late tomorrow night but need to double check how to get from the London Bridge Tube station back here. I think I'll also re-download the two apps to summon/request a cab here in town (Hailo and Gett) as well, just to be safe.

And so goodnight.

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