Wednesday, February 2, 2011

New adventures in Old London Town...

What was a very necessary trip back to the U.K. to renew visas, has turned into a great opportunity to see friends and family, and to get reacquainted with Old London Town.
Pelham Hotel London
We started our journey with an upgrade into United Business Class and the chance to try out their new flat beds, which made for a very pleasant transatlantic flight (the champagne helped too).
United Business Class
Staying at The Pelham Hotel in South Kensington it's easy to hop on and off the underground (even with weekend engineering work). And after a week back in London and the shock of not driving everywhere in your own personal space like in L.A., I'm slowly adjusting again to the packed commuter tubes and trains.
Big Ben Westminster
The first stop on my magical mystery tour, was London's SouthBank, with views of the London Eye (which still remains a spectacular sight) next to County Hall, but emerging from Westminster tube I was disappointed to see portions of the Houses of Parliament hidden under scaffolding.
London Eye and County HallThe London Eye
Returning after more than twelve months and with only another year or so until the 2012 Olympics, it feels to me that most of London is currently under construction, from the underground repairs to redevelopment of famous landmarks like Leicester Square.
London Film Museum banner
In order to escape the cold coming off the River Thames I popped into the London Film Museum at County Hall to take in the movie costumes and props on display.
Batman Begins Bat-SuitSuperman Returns costume
They currently have a fantastic exhibit featuring the Bat-Suit from Batman Begins and the iconic costume from Superman Returns, plus lots of other great movie memorabilia.
Fish and Chips London Bus SouthBank
Another day and venturing further along the SouthBank, to catch up with old workmates, it was interesting to see what shops and restaurants had opened and closed in recent months. Amongst all the foreign voices of the tourists along the river, there were also a few very British sights like this Fish & Chips London Bus that made me smile.
Jelly Baby Family sculptureJelly Baby Family Marble Arch
Speaking of interesting sights, there's currently a City of Sculpture Festival going on in London, and so if you get a chance be sure to check out some of these permanent and temporary works of art on the streets of the city. I love the new Jelly Bean Family, which really brightens up Marble Arch alongside the eye-catching (and slightly haunting) Horse Head sculpture on display there.
Horse Head sculpture Marble Arch
Horse Head sculpture Marble Arch
Venturing further down Park Lane there's also the wonderfully cheeky Vroom Vroom art installation outside The Dorchester Hotel, which I'm sure will put a smile on even the grumpiest cynic, especially on a gloomy day.
Vroom Vroom Lorenzo Quinn sculptureVroom Vroom sculpture
After spending the week enjoying favourite eateries and food that we've missed in California, it was time to celebrate a friend's birthday at the weekend with a quick visit to the Burlesque-inspired Circus bar in Covent Garden and an eventful meal afterwards.
Circus Bar LondonCircus Bar Covent Garden
On Sunday the sun started to come out and we got very excited. A quick cuppa at Soho House and a nice roast at The Winchester pub in Angel, Islington and then a lovely stroll in the winter sunshine was a great was to spend the afternoon.
Soho House tea
In the evening a friend treated us to some musical theatre tickets and a one-off show at The Garrick Theatre to celebrate Lance Horne's new album, with appearances (much to my surprise) by Graham Norton and Broadway luvvie Alan Cumming.
Garrick Theatre London
Lance Horne show program
In fact, coming back to London it's amazing how prevalent the West End's Theatreland is. Aside from the glittering awnings outside the theatres themselves, there's advertising everywhere for the shows, on the tubes, at stations, bus stops, hotels, bars - you name it. It seems even more concentrated and noticeable than New York.
Thriller Live musical London
It's also Chinese New Year so London's China Town looks extremely festive and busy this time of year.
China Town London
In fact you notice so much more walking the streets of London, compared to driving around L.A., so even though I moan terribly about how cold it is, it is nice to be reminded of the sights and sounds of my old stomping grounds.
Winter Sun Hyde Park
Tonight as a treat after all that rushing to and fro in London I'm off to the Palace Theatre to see Priscilla Queen of the Desert - The Musical, which is adapted from one of my all time favourite movies, so I can't wait.
Priscilla Queen of the Desert musical
Now if only the sun could come out so I could enjoy my last day in London...

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