Wednesday, July 16, 2014

the heat is on

I usually schedule some kind of walk through the city on the first day of class, but I've found in the past couple of years that the walking tour quickly turns into the walking dead; after about an hour of walking with a tour guide the black bird of jet lag settles in and everybody just seems to shuffle along and swig water bottles. So this year I thought I'd give the Fat Tire Bike Tour a shot. Wakey wakey!

I've done the Fat Tire a few times in Paris, and once in Versailles, and I love it. But I've never done it in London, and I wasn't sure how it was going to work. London seems busier, with less open air spaces. But it's possible that the London tour, in the end, was my favorite one of all.

First off, the weather was perfect. Perfect clouds, perfect degrees, perfect amount of humidity. When London wants to be good to you, she's really good to you. And she was today. Secondly, the guides were actually English, so the students didn't have to hear from another yammering American after having just come from class with me. Technically our guide, Greg, was South African. He was fantastic. Kept us moving, not too much exposition, laughed at our dumb jokes.

We rode through Kensington Gardens, saying hello to Will, Kate, George, and Victoria (deceased.) Then we moved into Hyde Park, and down under the Wellington Arch. I've been to Wellington Arch plenty of times, but I never knew what anything meant there. Now I do. It's kind of a cool little spot. We moved down through Buckingham Palace, where Greg told us a cool story about Queen Elizabeth ordering cigarettes for a man who broke into her bedroom and sat at the foot of her bed while she slept. Then we moved on, stopping at Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben (cool story there) down a little Edwardian alley way, and back up through Hyde Park, stopping finally at the Diana fountain.

We did have a brief sojourn in the park, where we got ice cream and water, and there was a special appearance by Little Sally and Clarence. This is meaningless for most of you, but for those of you who know these A true meeting of the minds. Greg was confused but patient.

After the tour ended, we sadly dismounted and rubbed our backsides. It was well worth it. Alex, Miles and I walked down Bayswater Road until we found the Duke of Kendal pub, where we stopped for a pint of Diet Coke and a bowl of pistachios. The Duke of Kendal is a small, corner street pub famous for sing alongs and Tony Blair, who lives around the corner. We didn't see him, and there wasn't any singing. But it was a beautiful, old fashioned, homey joint and we had a great chat. Alex is a pretty amazing musician, and we talked about his band, Salazar. It's super cool stuff. You can hear it here. 

We saw Miss Saigon tonight, that Schonberg and Boublil weeper about Vietnamese hookers with big dreams and American GI's with bigger vibratos. I've never seen the show, though I remember every MDT major at BYU singing something from it at some point during the 80's. This is an expensive new Cameron Mackintosh remounting of it, so it was fun to see and it certainly didn't disappoint. The helicopter flew in right on cue, and the heat was on in Saigon. Technically the show was stunning, though it's safe to say that I admired it more than I liked it. I didn't feel much emotion. But Eva Noblezada had an incredible voice and Jon Jon Briones stole the show with a really energetic and spooky "American Dream." And it gave us all a lot to talk about as we chattered afterwards under the lights of Piccadilly Circus.