Eurotrip 2014, Part 11: Rock ‘n’ Roll Pilgrimages and a West‑End Vampire

Flash Forward: Battersea Power Station

July 7, 2014: It was my first day back in London after spending three days in Scotland and I was still recovering from lack of sleep, so I got a late start after allowing myself to sleep in. I didn’t have any excursions scheduled during the day (just a play I had tickets for in the evening), so my plan was to take it easy, meandering about the city and taking a couple of pilgrimages to iconic rock locations.

First on the list was Abbey Road, site of the famous Beatles album cover of the same name. I took the subway to the closest station and made my way to Abbey Road Studios.

Pilgrimage Accomplished

The crosswalk is actually in a busy intersection with no traffic light, so I tried to respect motorists by crossing as quickly as possible, but many people were quite a bit less courteous, stepping in front of cars and spending long periods of time setting up their photos. The locals are used to this, so they’re patient in allowing people to cross and take their photos, but when people linger in the middle of the road to take multiple shots and exaggerated poses, then the motorists understandably start to get irritated.

Abbey Road Crossing

I wasn’t about to hold up traffic by asking someone to take a photo of me as I crossed, but I was still able to get footage of my crossing via the web cam trained on the crosswalk. All you have to do is go to the Abbey Road Studios web site and grab the shots of your crossing, and if you time it right, your friends and family back home can actually watch your crossing live via the video feed. Here is a shot from the web cam:

That’s me looking up at the camera.

I then headed back to the subway station, and as you can see from the photo below, a nearby shop knows how to capitalize on Beatlemania.

A Day in the Life of a local coffee shop.

My next destination was the Battersea Power Station. If you are a Pink Floyd fan, this is the building featured on the cover of their Animals album. I made my way down to the Thames and walked along the bank for about 30 minutes before realizing that I had turned in the wrong direction, so I was forced to backtrack. Here are some photos from that stretch.

Looking Across the Thames
Another Thames shot.
The Tate Britain Art Museum

By the time I began to see the station it had started to rain—because you can’t walk for an hour in London without encountering rain—at least I couldn’t. 🙂

I was surprised at how massive the station is; it completely dominates the landscape of that portion of the Thames. Here are a couple of photos (I liked these better than my attempts at recreating the actual album cover, and I’m pretty sure the album photo was shot from the other side of the river anyway).

Battersea Power Station
The Battersea (sans flying pig)

I thought about checking out the Tour de France, which was wrapping up its London leg today, but decided I didn’t feel like braving the crowds, so I settled for snapping this photo of a biker who may or may not have been part of the race.

Race straggler or casual biker?

I then made my way back toward the center of the city and ducked out of the rain into an Italian restaurant for an early dinner. Inside they had the end of the Tour de France on television, so I sat and watched that with a glass of prosecco and a ravioli dinner. I don’t remember much about the dinner itself, so it couldn’t have been great, but it wasn’t bad, either.

After dinner, with the rain still beating down, I decided to just head back to my apartment and get ready for my evening trip to the West End, where I would be seeing a play called Let the Right One In, an adaptation of an excellent Swedish vampire film. I had bought the tickets online ahead of time for something like ten pounds—shocking that you can see a show in London for a fraction of what it would cost on Broadway, or maybe I was just lucky with that particular show.

While getting ready for the evening I watched some TV—an interesting aspect of TV in Britain is that American television shows seem to be played at a faster speed. Perhaps it has something to do with British television broadcasting at a different frame rate, but the effect was that every cast member of The Big Bang Theory sounded as if they had just inhaled helium. Thus, I can’t help wondering if everyone in England is under the impression that Americans talk like chipmunks. 😉

Instead of riding the subway to the theater district I decided to take the long walk from my apartment and enjoy the newly emerged sun. I did not bring my camera with me since I wasn’t sure what the theater rules were regarding cameras, so there are no photos from my walk through some interesting neighborhoods.

Along the way I stumbled across a hotel that serves afternoon tea. To this point I had not had a proper British afternoon tea and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to remedy that. For my tea I chose an excellent Earl Grey, which was served with savory sandwiches, tasty sweets, and delicious fresh-baked scones with clotted cream (also known as Devonshire cream). The low-quality cell phone photo below does not do the spread justice.

Tea Time

Needless to say, I am now a huge fan of British-style afternoon tea—I had always been a big tea drinker, but the Brits take it to a whole different level. Now, whenever I go on a trip here in the States, I keep my eyes peeled for a place serving afternoon tea.

Unfortunately, I had to kind of rush through my tea because the show would be starting soon, so I finished up and made my way to the theater. The Apollo is a nice, historic building, lending the play some additional atmosphere.

The Apollo

All of the seats in the theater appear to be good. Here was my view of the stage:

Set of Let the Right One In

During the first act, the person behind me kept kicking my chair while a couple sitting directly in front of me kept making out (or snogging, to use a British term) throughout the entire show like hormonal teenagers in a movie theater, so after intermission I moved to a relatively empty section where I could watch the second act in peace.

As for the show itself, the play was outstanding, really well-conceived, and every bit as affecting as the film. The overall tone was sufficiently eerie, the performances were great, and the music and choreography during transition scenes was stunning. All in all, I was glad I decided to spend one of my evenings in London at the theater.

After the show I walked around Picadilly Circus, which is very cool when it is all lit up at night (I would return later in the week with my fast prime lens to take some night photos). I then headed back to the apartment. In the morning I would be venturing outside London on a trip to the Cotswolds.

View more of my photos from London.

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