Day 4: Wednesday May 27th – We all got up, got ready, and headed to Sudbury Hill Station.
Took Piccadilly Line to Piccadilly Circus, had pastries and coffee at Whole Foods café.
Went back to “underground” to get tickets for the “over-ground” for tip outside the city.
After an hour plus train ride, we arrive at Hampton Court Palace, Henry VIII Summer cottage.
This “cottage” is immense and very beautiful – although a lot of not so beautiful things have happened there.
Lots and lots of pictures were taken. Generally, a very relaxing day.
Took the over-ground train back to central London (we had to run to catch this one).
We were treated to a very fine vegan restaurant by 2 friends that Brian and Alicia previously met in New Zealand (they were also at our first UK show: Jon and Jean, who we had some great conversations with.
After about 3 hours in the restaurant, we took a train to Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. Unfortunately, it was closed, but we got some very good night shots. We started experimenting with moving the camera around and got some very cool laser-like effects, such as my favorite one where I got it to look like Big Ben was destroying some “intruder” on the ground. We did get briefly separated – at night, in downtown London – but we found each other and made it back to the hotel safely.
Back at the hotel, since we were back a little earlier than other nights, we had a very good hang-out session where we viewed/updated/posted to Facebook and were sharing each other’s stories and posts – a very fun way to end the day.
Day 5: Thursday May 28th – We knew our friends and fans would be disappointed if we didn’t do this… and we wanted very much to do it too. So we trekked out again in the morning and headed to Abbey Road Studios to make the famous crossing. A lot of people were doing this and there was a lot of traffic. We found some people (who btw were from America) who took a couple of pictures of us with our cameras, repeating the famous Beatles crossing, and of course we returned the favor. Pictures were a little blurry, but we got the pose right!
Had a quick late breakfast around noon-time (pastry and coffee). Brian and I went to the local chain store while Alicia and Arielle insisted on Starbucks across the street.
Took a train or two down to central London back to Big Ben and Westminster Abbey.
The line to get inside the Abbey was way too long, so after some purchases at the gift shop, we walked over The Westminster Bridge to The London Eye, which is an enormous Ferris wheel where we could get a great view of London from up high.
We’re now running late for our 3rd show in the Clapham section of south-east London. So we took 2 rush-hour underground trains back to Sudbury Hill (in north-west London), quickly changed clothes, and headed out with our instruments and other equipment to get to the show. We had to take 2 underground and 1 over-ground train to get to this show.
At our first train change, Brian and I got through one door with our equipment while Arielle and Alicia were pushed towards the next train door (it was rush-hour). As the train doors closed, Brian and I were shocked to see Arielle outside the train that was about to pull away. But Alicia, with her super-Wag strength, forced the doors open and we all made it together to our next stop. Actually, from my angle, it looked like Arielle put her bongos between the closing doors to hold them open. But I was told it didn’t exactly happen that way (lol).
Rise 46 was a very nice place, very posh. The area we were scheduled to play was in the basement with old brick and set up like a cozy jazz club. Got set up, did a quick sound check and then walked around Clapham looking for a place to eat – ending up in a Subway. We had two of our visiting friends join us. It was a really nice area on a very nice evening.
Back to the club to do the show. 2 full sets for tonight. There was a very loud group there the whole time that didn’t seem to be paying attention, and it did get a little distracting. But, luckily, we had a group of our travelling supporters that helped us out. Once again, we pulled out the secret weapon of Squeeze’s “Up The Junction”, which won the crowd over. In fact, it was that song where many of the upstairs patrons came down to the basement to see who this excellent band was.
Talked briefly with a lot of impressed people but had to run to catch the last train out of Clapham and back to our home base in Harrow. It was very late when we got back to the hotel, so we pretty much just conked out and went to bed. Tomorrow, we’d have to make the most of what would be our last full day in England.
Day 6: Friday May 29th – Tower of London Day. Most mornings we’d have a quick “on-the-run” breakfast or even just grab some breakfast bars so we could get on with the sight-seeing portion of the day. On our last full day in London, I insisted on having a full sit-down breakfast. Of course, it takes time to find a place we can all agree on, with 3 in the group being vegan. After a couple of attempts, we found a local pub in Earl’s Court that was serving breakfast (which also had vegan dishes). The atmosphere had a very “English” feel, even though our cute waitress was from The Czech Republic. And the chilly, rainy weather this day completed the scene… I quite liked it. Btw, this was the only “traditional” English weather day of the trip as the weather was very nice most of our time here.
Took a train to The Tower of London, which was a large complex of “towers” from different time periods.
I got into photo mode. Somewhere along our free-roaming tour, I became separated from the other 3.
A new rule was made to “keep an eye on Don so we don’t lose him”.
A late lunch at a very nice vegan restaurant. We then had to rush back to the hotel during rush hour and rush back out right away with our instruments and other equipment in tow (still during rush hour) to make it to our last gig of the trip. This one was the furthest from our hotel yet.
On our way to Cool Cats Café! We had to take 2 undergrounds and an over-ground train again for this gig. And this time, it was Alicia’s turn to almost get separated from the group. We weren’t 100% sure of the correct train, so when the train pulled in, she looked at the map. We thought she was right behind us when the doors were about to close and we see her running for the train. At this point, I used my Wag power to hold the doors open… OK, it didn’t exactly happen that way, but she did make it onto the train with us.
Off at the last train stop and asked “Siri” for walking directions to Cool Cats. She had us walking in circles for a while before we were guided through some housing projects and other interesting sites. The walk took over a half hour, but we made it to the gig on time. Cool Cats Café was a cozy little place with some great food. And I confirmed with the manager of the place that it was named after the famous Squeeze song.
There was a very talented jazz duo playing before us. We had a great response during our hour-long set, but had to quickly pack up and get back to the train station the second the show was over. Luckily, we had 3 great friends – Dawn, Andy, and Zoe – who were at just about every show this week (Dawn was at every show). Andy offered to take us and our equipment to the train station. There were tears from Dawn and Zoe (and even some from the band too) as we parted for the last time and drove off into the night. We made it to the last over-ground train in time. Now just 2 more trains and we’d be back at home base.
Underground train # 1, no problem. Now on our way to our main train, we had to walk through a very long tunnel – probably about a half a mile. As we could see the sign for our train a short distance away, a voice came over the intercom that said “the last Piccadilly Line train to Uxbridge will be leaving in 2 minutes”. We and about 30 other people started racing to the train. As we ran down the steps and turned a corner to get to our stop, we see that last train pulling away. What were we going to do now? We might have been stuck in Central London for the rest of the night! Luckily, we noticed there was another Piccadilly Line train coming in a few minutes. But this one was going to Heathrow Airport. But since now we were pros at the London Underground Service, we knew that we could get off at the Acton Town stop and possibly catch one last train to take us back to Sudbury Hill. Well, our gamble paid off and there was one last train. After our fun-filled travel adventure, we got back to the hotel to do some preliminary packing for our trip back to the States – which would be in less than 12 hours.
Day 7: The Trip Home – It was hard to believe that our trip would soon be over. We did so much in such a short period of time. And the best part about it was to be able to share the experience with great friends. But there were still even more experiences to come today.
Once we were packed up, we still had some errands to run.
We needed to drop off the rented instruments and decided to have breakfast at that vegan take out place that we ate at before our first gig the previous Sunday.
We got the hotel manager to allow us to leave our luggage at the hotel until 1PM (normally, check out time is 11AM).
Everything went according to schedule when we once again had a minor transportation issue. We didn’t think that the Underground would be crowded on a Saturday… but it was. There were so many people that we couldn’t fit on the train that would take us back to the hotel on time. We had to catch the next train that wouldn’t be coming for 20 minutes. When we pulled into our stop at Sudbury Hill, it was 1:10PM! Not only did we overstay our hotel time, but we had a car arriving to take us to the airport at 1:15PM – and I still wasn’t totally packed. So we ran as fast as we could from the station to the hotel. I ran up to the room. Arielle followed me to take the room key to Brian who was in the lobby to smooth things out with the manager, and I think Alicia saw how silly we looked running through the crowded street and just walked. But everything turned out fine and we were on our way to Heathrow Airport.
Everything went smoothly at the airport, through the check-in, and through security. Then we got the news that the plane would be delayed an hour or more. At one point I wandered off. When the plane came up on the board that it would be departing and I wasn’t there, Brian went to look for me. When I got back, I had to then go look for him – so now we were once again running late for the plane. And so we ran… we ran so far away (lol). It was about a 20 minute “run” to the gate. But we made it. My seat was not together with Arielle, Brian, and Alicia, but I did get to listen to the new Noel Gallagher and Carole King’s classic “Tapestry” albums as well as watch 2 very good movies on the plane: “The Imitation Game” and “Whiplash”.
Plane landed. We went through Customs. Jake was waiting outside and informed me that my registration sticker was expired. I drove us all home and the trip was over. What a great experience that was – so great that we decided to do it again next year. Until then…
I have no official ending, because I didn’t want it to end. So I hope you enjoyed this “short” story.