Day 7: Saturday, November 21

A Day For Wandering

On weekends, breakfast at the Euro Hotel is served from 8:00-9:30 (as opposed to 7:30-9:00 through the week). I had a good, long, much-needed sleep (10½ hours!), showered and just made it into the dining room by 9:30 as the staff were clearing everything away. I enjoyed another excellent Euro brekkie.

It was a beautiful sunny morning. I thought it might be fun to see La Cage aux Folles with John Barrowman, so I headed off to Leicester Square to see if I could score tickets for either the 2:30 matinee or the 7:30 evening performance. The crowds at TKTS in Leicester Square were MASSIVE, so I went back to one of the other, less reputable, discount ticket places and stood in queue for a long time only to find out that, naturally, La Cage is sold out for some time. That’s OK. I suddenly had a free day, as there’s not really anything else I’m dying to see (I already had my ticket for Priscilla on Monday night, so who cares!).

I walked down Charing Cross Road to Trafalgar Square and took a few shots in the (rare) bright sunlight. From there I wandered over to The Haymarket to see what was playing at some of the theatres:

Her Majesty’s Theatre on The Haymarket (Phantom Of The Opera playing)
Breakfast at Tiffany’s at the Theatre Royal, The Haymarket

From the Haymarket I walked up to Piccadilly Circus and cashed the last of my traveller’s cheques (£100.00) – there was a 1% commission so I only received £98.00 in return. It’s very hard to find a chartered bank reasonably close which is open Saturdays.

I went next door to Fancy That of London and bought a bunch of souvenirs for the gang back home.

From there I took the Underground at Piccadilly Circus back to Russell Square and the hotel. I dropped off my stuff at the Euro and took some time to regroup. The weather was starting to seriously cloud over; rain was imminent.

I decided to seek out the famous Abbey Road zebra crossing and Abbey Road studios to get some shots:

… then check out The Beatles Store on Baker Street. Things didn’t quite turn out that way…

I caught the Circle line tube to Baker Street then tried to change onto the Jubilee line to depart at the St. John’s Wood station, near to Abbey Road, but the Jubilee line was closed for maintenance of some kind. As far as I knew, there was no other way to get there (I didn’t want to mess around with buses). I went to street level to see if I could walk it from Baker Street but the rain had started and the sky was very dark already (cold and windy too). Pity – it would have been a nice walk past beautiful Regent’s Park.

I decided to give it up and seek out The Beatles Store by winding my way down Baker Street (cue Gerry Rafferty here). [If you’d like to see a smokin’ version of Lisa Simpson performing the Baker Street sax solo, click here].

Passing down Marylebone Road:

… before hitting Baker Street, I eventually found The Beatles Store at 231 Baker Street after going in three wrong directions. This is it!!????? This is the world famous Beatles Store???… YIKES!….

Geez, good thing I’m not a big Beatles fan or else I would be seriously disappointed. What a dumpy little hole in the wall; the store was the size of a closet. Sadly, there was nothing Beatles-related here that couldn’t be found anywhere else in the world at a good corner store.

Feeling a tad let down by the Beatles store, I walked past The Sherlock Holmes Museum next door. I didn’t go in as I’m not really all that interested:

I crossed Baker Street and checked out the It’s Only Rock n’ Roll shop:

“It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll” at 230 Baker Street

Good grief!! Again – over-hyped, crowded, lousy displays, stuff you could find anywhere, etc. The place is smaller than a bathroom (and it’s 2-storeys!) and selection is incredibly limited… what a disappointment!

It was getting very dark by this point (and it was only 3:15 p.m.). I got back on the Circle line Underground at Baker Street, getting off at King’s Cross station. I stopped at Burger King for burger and fries (good healthy British cuisine once more), then returned to the Euro to rest, catch up on journal, have some quiet time for the next few hours.

[Side note: It’s unbelievable how early it gets dark here at this time of year, and consequently, how short the days are – it starts getting dark at about 3:30-3:45 and is pitch black by 4:30! Incredible. It doesn’t get light until 8:00-ish, so the days are very short indeed. It makes a day’s touring very rushed and limited during this time of season. Note to self: next time, come back earlier in year when days are longer.]

The weather poured rain for the remainder of the day.

I laid down to rest at about 5:30, and got up at 7:30 to seek out a place to eat even though I wasn’t really hungry. I vowed NOT to eat at the Valencia on Marchmont Street again (gag!), so I walked down Leigh Street looking for something cheap, quick, and not too noisy/pub-like, etc. I found the Norfolk Arms on Leigh Street but didn’t care for it, so I walked down Marchmont to have a look at other options – the Balfour (on the corner of Tavistock and Marchmont) is very nice and I’d have liked to try it but it was full (it’s a very small restaurant). From there I walked all the way around the block up Russell Street, across Euston, down to Mabledon Place, but found nothing promising. In desperation, I went into Mabel’s Tavern on Mabledon Avenue, and got myself a table, but no one would wait on me so I left [side note: not being used to English customs at the time, I later discovered that in British pubs the tradition is to go up to the bar yourself and order from there; wait service is not provided at the tables]. I went back to The Balfour Restaurant and was able to get a table for one after waiting for a while. I had their Penne Arrabiata which was absolutely delicious.

After dinner I returned to the Euro and started prepping for a night out at XXL. Leaving the Euro at about 10:15 p.m., I walked to King’s Cross, caught the southbound Northern line to London Bridge station, then walked to XXL (The Arches) at 53 Southwark Street. I got there early but starting dancin’ right away… what a place, and what incredibly fantastic music!!! Why can’t we have dance music like this in our North American clubs?????!!! There’s nothing like European House and Trance.

We play a mixture of cutting-edge, underground, sexy, diverse sounds as well as fun, forget-your-problems, hands-up-in-the-air anthems mixed by some of the world’s best DJ’s…

From XXL’s website

The hours passed as I danced… a lot, walked around and generally checked out the nightlife. I left XXL at about 3:15 a.m. or so. Mini-cabs were waiting outside The Arches so the staff got me one (best to be safe in a cab rather than on the street at that hour). I got home to the Euro Hotel at about 4:00 a.m. Exhausted, but what a great night! An awesome time was had again at XXL (could it be otherwise!?).

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