England: The Wyndham, SoHo, and Shakespeare

Hello chickadees! Thank you for your gracious understanding during my July break!

I was traveling for work, adjusting to some new duties in my job as well, and I’m currently rehearsing for a musical production of The Addams Family, so it’s been a busy hot-minute. Also, this Fall won’t be any slower than the Summer, but I hope not to have to take another break!

[Talking about this musical, I’m playing Morticia (*sqwee!), and one of her songs has been stuck in my head near constantly. I’ve been humming it around my apartment, at my desk, in the store… It’s interesting, the looks you get when you half-sing “Death is just around the corner” under your breath.]

Speaking of theatre, summer-time always makes me whimsical for shows. So, what better time to post up my experience with theatre abroad?!

*Que Danny Kaye in White Christmas:

“The Theatre, the Theatre, what’s happened to the Theatre?”

One of my dear friends from college put me on the watch for stars who moonlight on the London stage (shout out to Zoe!). You’re able to monitor upcoming shows with famous actors on the London Stage website. It’s seriously something I’d recommend checking out! Ian McKellan, Andrew Scott, and Jake Gyllenhaal are a just a few of the talented folk who’ve graced the London stage this last year.

For a personal example, and the start of this story-time adventure, while still in Ireland, I saw David Tennant, one of my all-time favorite actors of DoctorWho, was playing at the Wyndham.

Let me say, yaaassss.

Who doesn’t want to see David Tennant looking a little scruffy in the face, acting all loose and licentious?

I’d been itching to go to England, regardless, so Tennant’s performance just kind of kick-started my motivation.

That said, I definitely booked tickets for the plane and for the show on a whim. I didn’t plan for the trip really at all, and certainly not very well logistically, as it was only after I booked my tickets that I started looking for places to stay.

So, I suppose this month’s story is both a “look at how fun unplanned travel can be!” and also, a “please, don’t be like me!” post. Solo-travel deserves much more planning and care, if for no other reason than the sake of your personal safety.

Post-ticket-purchase, I ended up booking a room for three nights in Croydon, which is 20-minutes outside of London by rail, through Bookings.com (Most of my motivation to stay outside of the city came from the fact that I really wanted a room with a bathtub at a reasonable price… Prioritites man).

I was happy enough to be outside the city, though, and not in the middle of everything all the time. However, I should have paid a lot more attention to the times that the transportation services were operating…

Day One:

I landed in sunny, summer London, and was able to take a train to Croydon directly from the airport, through an inter-connected railway-station.

The showtime for Tennant’s performance was late evening, and I arrived at the hotel in the early/mid-afternoon, after walking 20-ish minutes from Croydon’s small rail station and through the town center.

Looking forward to a good tub-soaking, imagine my surprise that the room I was shown to did not have a tub, only a shower.

[This is a good example of a reason to double check your travel plans and be a little more intentional with details. One thing I’ve found with Bookings is that, though they’re generally great at seeking out deals, sometimes there’s a break-down in communication with the hotels/hostels they partner with.

They might advertise a room that the hotel has already booked out, or advertise a price that the establishment did not intend. I think that this is more on the fault of outside entities, rather than Bookings, but it’s still good to be aware of.]

Normally, I’m the sort of person that just deals with whatever is wrong.

If I get a dish I didn’t order at a restuarant? It’s fine. Did somebody hear my name incorrectly and now calls me anything but “Haley”? No biggie.

Buuut, since the entire point of my booking that hotel was its bathtub feature and I specifically booked a room that advertised a bathtub, I did the awkwaed thing and asked to be moved.

On the train back into London that evening, dressed for the occasion and properly settled into the hotel, I then realised that the rail ceased running about 45-minutes after the performance ended.

Eeeeeppp!

[This again points to the fact that happy-go-lucky travel works flawlessly only in the movies. So, really, and I cannot stress this enough, do not do as I have done! I went into the weekend with zero comprehension about how the transportation in London works… which was pretty much the worst lack of planning on my part, but it happened. There I was. ]

Winner, winner. Chicken dinner.

Ignoring my transportation dilemma for the moment, and in keeping my extravagant treat-yo-self mood of the trip, I dined at a fantastic local pub, right around the corner of the Wyndham.

Literally, it was the best baked chicken I have ever had a privilege to dine on. And normally, I’m not really a huge baked chicken fan, but wowza! Sooo, good.

Full and fully-satisfied, I traipsed over to the theatre, ordered a pre-show drink in the lounge, and fan-girled my way up to my balcony seat.

Honestly, the show was everything I could have hoped for.

It was truly, truly, truly fantastic.

A casual fan-girl, containing her excitement.

The entirety of the show was electric, intruiging, and senscious.

Better minds than mine have reviewed the play, if you’ve not heard of it before and are curious about its nature and plot. Instead of floundering to describe the performance, in this case, I leave it to the professionals:

If Don Juan doesn’t know when to stop, I don’t know where to begin in describing Patrick Marber’s play and this fantastic, entertaining and unflagging production, which he directs. It opens with a blast of Mozart’s Don Giovanni – the music reminding us that hell is greedy, ready to swallow rascals alive. […] right from the start there is a buzz, a sense that we are in safely unsafe hands.

Roll over Mozart – rock is taking over. This is contemporary Soho (classily designed by Anna Fleischle, dominated by Soho Square’s statue of Charles II). By the time we meet David Tennant’s Don Juan (now known as DJ), looking cadaverous, languid and unshaven – a picture of dissolution in his designer suit – we have already learned from his disloyal servant Stan (of whom more in a moment) that his master would “do it with anything… even a hole in the ozone layer”.

Kate Kellaway, The Guardian

If I were pressed to describe how I felt about the performance in a sentence, my response would simply be, “David Tennant is the master.”

What a lovely night at the theater, right? No worries. Nothing went wrong.

Only, I still had to catch the rail back to my little hotel.

David Tennant was going to be making an appearance outside of the West End, and I really, really, really wanted to see him. So, I wasted precious minutes, waiting with everyone else at the back stage-door just to see him walk out and smile at fans and sign stuff and take pictures.

The only time I have ever stood with the fan-girling crowd.

He was nowhere near me, so I should’ve just left, but I couldn’t, because he was right there!

After standing there for about 15-minutes longer than I should have, I had to lightly jog (and by jog I do mean run) in heels to the rail station to catch the last train of the night.

And I mean literally run. I barely made it onto that train. We’re talking the horn had already blared as I was running down the platform toward the open cars and I was jumping inside literal seconds before the doors shut.

…It was a hot minute. But, I made it. My heels made it. There were no twisted ankles, and aren’t we all thankful?

Day two:

My ideal for day two was walking around the more historic parts of London. Maybe go to Big Ben, go into Westminster Abbey, pop into a free museum or two, go to Trafalgar Square or go see the Thames. So really, just go full-on tourist.

Well, goal accomplished. I did all of it:

I went to some lovely art museums; I went to the Churchill War Rooms Museum; I fan-girled over the entoomed and memorilized authors in Westminster Abbey.

And, I also geeked out as a very big literature fan, and I went to the Sherlock Holmes pub in London. Talk about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle-Central. Sherlock Holmes was everywhere! And it was fabulous!

However, I’m a pretty fast mover when I’m by myself sometimes, and I didn’t really want to hang out in one place too long, just because it felt kind of awkward being there by myself.

So, on a whim, I decided to see what else was showing in London that afternoon. To my surprise, there was a lot of stuff.

[You can find a lot of last-minute deals on tickets through websites like London Theatre Direct!]

I ended up going to one of my most beloved shows, “The Phantom of the Opera.”

It was well worth it. I paid about £40 for a last minute ticket (normally around £100/seat for that seating section), had a quick drink in the bar while waiting for the House to open, and very happily sat through two-and-a-half hours of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s music. I have zero regrets.

Trolling across the Thames for more theatre.

After the performance ended, I thought, “why not just go full show mode? Why not just make this a ‘theatre’ weekend?”

So, I promptly Googled my way across the Thames toward the Globe theatre.

Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet was showing that evening.

They’d already sold out for tickets, but they also had a stand-by line where people without tickets could wait for tickets from people who didn’t show. The tickets would only cost a fiver…

So, like plebeian I am, I waited in line for around an hour to get a ticket (which I did!), and then proudly took myself into the famous pit area and stood for a few more hours during a weirdly fantastic, very modern rendition of Romeo & Juliet.

Afterward, I treated myself to things I (strictly speaking) did not need in the Globe’s gift store and sprinted for the train again.

Since I’d already done it once, why break habbit. Am I right?

Day Three:

*There will be no memes for Day Three, because this is a serious section, actually. Refer to my lack of travel planning.

So, there was really not a “Day Three” in London. There was, however, “The Very Early Morning Struggle to Get Home.”

This is where we all need to sit down and pat my head and tell me that I’m pretty. This is where we all thank God that I’m alive and nothing serious happened. This is where the reckoning for my bad planning happened.

So, I booked a 7:00am flight back to Cork from one of London’s outlying airports.

The issue was, which I also did not put together until the morning that I needed to leave, the rail service which brought me out to Croydon, did not start running from Croydon to that airport until sometime around 6:30am… which was much too late for me to catch my flight.

So, bleary-eyed and panicked, and definitely not functioning with all faculties, I was trying to fix this at about 4:00am – which was right about when I needed to leave.

I finally found a bus service that could take me as far as Victoria Station, which had a rail running to my airport every 15-minutes.

The buses were about a 10-minute walk from my hotel (or at least that’s what Google suggested). So, I figured I could just walk it.

[I say I wasn’t functioning on full faculties, because:

  1. I didn’t think about the fact that walking alone in an unfamiliar place, in the dark, was unwise.
  2. It did not once occur to me to call a cab or an Uber, which would have solved my problem neatly.

It was only after briskly walking out of my hotel toward where I thought the busses were that it dawned on me that traveling alone, in the greater London area, at 4:00am to an area I’d never been was not ideal.

Trying not to get panicked, but definitely feeling my foolishness, I hustled along the sidewalk, half praying under my breath.

Well, as I walked along, this car pulled over to the side of the street. Major red flag. Major walk faster. Hustle better, honey, and get ready to run… I legitimately feared for my safety for a hot minute, but on gut instinct (and since I had just been praying for some kind of miracle to get me out of walking around in the dark and get me where I needed to be on time), I paused long enough to understand what the driver was saying.

And I’m super grateful I did.

It turned out to be an Uber driver (who was also on a call at the time). He and his passengers (three delightfully tipsy ladies had seen me walking) and were worried for my safety in that area.. Which was kind and also not reassuring at all.

The ladies explained that they had asked the driver to pull over and then offered to detour their treck home in order to see me safely where I needed to be. They wouldn’t even let me pay for the miles.

Talk about a major red flag moment turned into a major praise Jesus moment.

A true “faith in humanity” restored moment.

And, yes, that is the most stupid moment of travel I’ve ever had, especially on my own, and it could have gone so badly. But, really, thank God for decent human beings who are moved to concern for their fellow-man and are willing to help out perfect strangers.

[On that same serious note, to all solo-travelers: plan better!

Do not do what I did. I can’t explain the panic that went through my body when the Uber car first pulled over. I thought any number of terrible things were about to happen.

If you’re solo traveling, educate yourself about the area you’re staying in, before you book anything. Check into transportation modes and times of operation before committing yourself to something. And, definitely, pay attention to your surroundings!]

Sunrise-salut to London, safe and sound on my flight back to Cork.

To end on a high note, though, I learned my lesson, and all of the solo-travel I’ve done since has been planned out and well thought through.

So, if you’re not sure what you’re doing traveling by yourself, it does get easier to plan the more you do. I’ve never, with the exception of that early morning juant, felt unsafe while travling on my own. So, learn from my example, and plan the transportation portions of your travel, at the very least.

If you are solo-traveling, or thinking about it, and aren’t sure what you need to consider, I recommend you check out Solo Traveler World’s blog on safety tips for single travellers!

So, thanks again for reading, guys! As always, if you’re planning a trip to this area and have questions, I’m happy to give out some advice on what, in my experience, were the best places to hit-up!

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