Friday, July 11, 2014

July 1st: Well, I Don't Like Spam!

After checking out Westminster Abbey, Mark led us to St James's Park. They had signs all over the place, which was really handy since we were really only cutting through the park to get to our next stop.

We did stop to enjoy the view, though. This was looking back toward the east. We crossed the bridge over the lake and followed the path out toward the Mall, which looked so much like the National Mall in DC (at least as far as tree-lined paths are concerned) that I'm thinking that's where the city planners for DC got the idea. As we walked west, a British lady told us we should hurry down to the end where there was a big crowd. We followed her suggestion and got to the crowd just in time to see...

...a marching band! They were still playing as they made their way down the road. If I'm reading the Wiki article correctly, I think this was the end of the changing of the guard. Either way, it was pretty neat to just happen to come across a marching band of guards making their way down the street. After the band passed by, we only had to walk a little bit to get to our next stop...

...Buckingham Palace! Which also has a traffic circle in front of it, which was fun to cross without getting run over.

We walked right up to the palace gate and were able to see one of the guards marching back and forth.

One of the palace gates. We wandered along the side of the palace for a little while (and maybe got a little lost), then eventually made our way a bit further west to Hyde Park.

It was nice to sit down for a few minutes...we had already done a LOT of walking. We took a few minutes to sit and enjoy the view before heading down a path to check out more of the park.

We walked over to the east edge of the Serpentine, which is a big lake that runs through the middle of the park. It was full of geese and swans; some people were feeding them. You could walk right up to the birds and they didn't care.

Looking back toward the Serpentine Bar and Kitchen. It was pretty crowded, so we didn't bother stopping. Instead, we walked out to the northeast corner of the park and turned right onto Oxford Street. Mark had read that this was one of the bigger shopping areas, and he was right...there were all sorts of cool stores! 

One of the best stores was Hamleys. It's a huuuuuge multi-story toy store with all sorts of awesome toys. There were all sorts of little display areas where employees were demonstrating some of the toys (and letting people play with them), and between the huge selection of toys and the huge selection of candy it was a fantastic madhouse. Among many other things they had a great selection of Playmobil and Lego sets, and even had Lego versions of the royal family. I especially liked the Queen.   :)

One of the bus stop signs near Hamleys was even made of Legos. We shopped for a little while longer (I managed to pick up some pretty sweet clothes in a couple cool stores, too), then we eventually made our way down through Piccadilly Circus and over to Trafalgar Square.

There were some neat statues here (I especially liked the blue rooster) and a lot of street artists. We looked around for a minute or two, then continued on to Covent Gardens before taking the Tube back to the hotel. It would have been nice to do a bit more sightseeing (or spend a bit more time at the things we did see), but we wanted to have a little time to relax before heading out for the most important part of the trip. We spent a little time relaxing in the room, then took the Tube to...

...the O2 Arena. It was time to see Monty Python live!! I had bought the tickets months ago and paid through the nose for nosebleed seats, but there was no way I wanted to miss the chance to be there on opening night to see them in person. We got there pretty early and found our seats with plenty of time to spare.

It seemed to take forever for everyone to be seated, but a few minutes after 7:30 a video of the Gumbies started playing on one of the screens off to the side to eventually tell us that there were only five minutes left til the show started.

And oh my, what a show!!

Everyone cheered like crazy when the five remaining Pythons (John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones, and Terry Gilliam) came out on stage. Carol Cleveland even made it back, too! I wasn't sure what to expect as far as what they'd be performing, but they didn't disappoint. They did way more skits than I expected, and covered almost every single one of my favorites! They even kicked off with a whole bunch of facts about llamas, complete with pictures, entirely in Spanish. Among other skits, they did Gumby flower arranging, penguin on the telly (including The Death of Mary, Queen of Scots), the four Yorkshiremen...

...the Penultimate Supper (one of my favorites - the fat one balances out the two skinny ones!), which turned into Every Sperm Is Sacred...

...and there's no way they could leave out the Lumberjack song!

There was also the Spanish Inquisition, complete with comfy chair, which turned into the Universe Song, with a special video appearance by Stephen Hawking.

They also brought back the parrot sketch, which turned into the cheese shop sketch. John Cleese and Michael Palin started cracking each other up at one point, and when Palin disappeared offstage for a moment in part of the sketch, Cleese made an offhand remark about the score of one of the World Cup games (to which Palin yelled, "Are you talking to the audience?!"). It was really fun to watch them having so much fun onstage together.

There were some spots where Graham Chapman (who died in 1989 and is my favorite Python) was sorely missed, like the "Christmas in Heaven" song, but they had a lot of video clips from the TV shows and some new Terry Gilliam stuff, too, which filled up the time between live skits nicely.

The 'spontaneous' encore (which wasn't spontaneous at all) at the end was an 'Always Look on the Bright Side of Life' singalong. It was so cool to be there for the show, and was definitely worth the short trip.  :)

After the show ended we started to make our way out of the O2 toward the Tube. Mark had been hoping to catch the end of the US/Belgium World Cup game in a pub, and we actually came across a sports bar in the O2 that just happened to have a couple seats open. We grabbed a couple ciders and watched the end of the game, and also discovered the downside to watching the game in England: everyone cheered for Belgium! The US wound up losing, so Mark and I made our way back to the hotel and passed out pretty fast. I think we made good use of our one full day in London!

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