- The Digger Online
- Local News
- Movie Times
- Deals & Steals
- Community Events
Go to Admin » Appearance » Widgets » and move Gabfire Widget: Social into that MastheadOverlay zone
Part 4: Browsing at Harrods, Walking Through War, Jiving with the “Jersey Boys” & Dining at Cafe Rouge
The remainder of Ami’s and my Thursday afternoon was spent making our way to and enjoying Harrods, possibly the world’s most famous department store. (Opened for business in 1849 and moved to its current location, with its four+ acres on seven floors, in 1905). You know it’s a special place when the doormen look you over for backpacks (those must be checked in) and torn jeans (not allowed here, thank you). They turned away a group (6-10) of college-aged youths, just as we were entering.
We took the Tube from near the British Museum to Harrods, and maybe this is a good time to talk about public transportation in London. One of my guidebooks says that London is the best taxi city in Europe—cabs are everywhere, and their drivers must take an extensive test on London geography before earning a license. Also, that groups of four should usually go by taxi, rather than by Tube in terms of cost (except rush hour traffic by taxi can be slow; so, you need to take that into consideration). They also point out that tourists should never pay individual fares for Tube or buses, and when using the multi-ride passes, Tube rides are 1.90 Lb. or 2.50 Lb. depending on time of day, & that buses 1.30 Lb. per ride, but all bus routes do not run at night. (You can see a great deal by riding buses—many have enclosed upper decks, with lovely views— but since buses are slower, with many stops before arriving at your destination, they’re not my favorite, if you have a full day of sightseeing ahead of you and only a few days there.) Since London has the most expensive public transit in the world, tourists should always use a multi-ride pass (either Oyster or Travelcard). Both couples on this trip bought the Oyster cards on our first full day in London and added to them a couple of times.
Ami and I loved browsing in Harrods’ huge Food Halls with their costumed staff, Edwardian tiled walls, 3-dimensional ceilings and gorgeous food displays. (I saw blackberries there the size of plums!) I bought a small, beautifully packaged box of dried mango for friends here who have a very discriminating palate, and Ami bought a few items, too. Then we headed to a tea room overlooking the Food Halls, one of the nearly 30 eateries in this landmark, for a drink and good conversation. Next we walked to the center of the store where we rode the Egyptian Escalator, lined with lamps, sconces and balconies with themes of papyrus plants, pharaohs, and hieroglyphics, to the top where we viewed a huge pharaoh’s head. Quite a ride!
While we were doing that, Dave and Ken were enjoying the Imperial War Museum, which gets high ratings in all the guidebooks I’ve reviewed. (But Ami/I have had enough of war.) This museum covers mainly 20th century warfare— WWI biplanes, walking through trench warfare (including the smells of the trenches), Montgomery’s Africa campaign, the noise/stress experience of Londoners during the WWII Blitz during which 30,000 Londoners died, the Holocaust (rated one of the best exhibits in the world to tell that story), through the Cold War, Cuban Missile Crisis, Northern Ireland, wars in Iraq, and terrorism. The museum doesn’t glorify war, but tells the story of war and documents the social effects of war, as much as the technology involved in fighting it—a clock in the basement shows the continuing mount of war dead, now over 100 million.
Dave/Ken both loved it, & wished they’d had more time to explore there. And they’d hoped to stop at a pub after their experience at the War Museum, but didn’t have time. Ami/I had hoped to take a bus from Harrods back to our hotel neighborhood, since we weren’t all that far away, but the bus routes at the stop outside Harrods didn’t include any of ours, and since I was short on time because Dave and I had tickets for “Jersey Boys” that night, to which Ami and Ken had declined, we taxied back to our hotel.
Dave arrived shortly thereafter announcing, “We need to leave for the theater right away.” (As if I didn’t know that.) We were out the door in less than 8 minutes and walked to our Bayswater Tube station, and boarded. We had to transfer, but our trip was quite speedy, though the Tube was very crowded at that hour (between 5:45-6:20), and we alighted (the English use that word so often and so charmingly, I think) at Leicester Square and walked to a famous pub a few blocks away. Originally we’d planned to eat before the musical, but it was 6:30 when we arrived, so, we knew we’d have to settle for a quick drink and then walk to the nearby theatre.
I had photocopied maps out of my three guidebooks, depending on which ones I thought we’d need for a given day, and those were a godsend to Dave and I when we were on the ground without Ken and Ami, who had been to London 12 times before this. On the map we used this evening, I’d put an X on the pub location I wanted to visit, and an X on the Prince Edward Theatre, and I’d circled the street names we needed to navigate. It served us very well and by 6:30, we were outside the French House.
The French House, mentioned in two of my three guidebooks, gained its name during WWII when this was a meeting place for the French Resistance Forces. It was also frequented by the likes of Francis Bacon, Dylan Thomas, Peter O’Toole, and DeGaulle; so, I was anxious to eat or at least have a drink here. Thus, we entered the door where the French House sign was posted just a few inches above/to the left of the doorway, and while Dave went to the loo, I found a seat in the cellar-like room, two rooms over from the bar, ‘cause the bar had very loud music. Since, we didn’t think we had time to eat and get to our seats by 7:30, we opted for just a drink. When I mentioned the history of the French House to our waiter, he said he was sorry to burst my bubble, but the French House was next door, their entryway was not lined up with their sign. So, we had a drink in a pub next door to the French House—we’d try to eat there, after “Jersey Boys.” Our drink was in a neat, old, cellar-like room, nonetheless.
We found our way to the Prince Edward Theatre, and though I had some trouble “getting into” the very early scenes of “Jersey Boys,” the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, by the interval (in the states, we call it intermission), I was enjoying it, and by the end most of the audience (we among them) was standing and singing/clapping to the music. And by the way, the performers had the Jersey accent nailed quite nicely, I dare say!
When the theatre let out, we were ready to eat, and we stepped inside the French House and learned that all of the pubs must stop serving food at 10 p.m.; so, we walked on and eventually found the charming French Cafe Rouge, where we shared a few small plates, feeling very European again, and then took the Tube back to our neighborhood, arriving in our room just a few minutes past midnight.
We hadn’t experienced any rain on Thursday, but though we faithfully checked weather forecasts the first couple of days we were there, we quickly learned that 24-hr. forecasts for London are not reliable; so, we fell asleep not knowing what we’d wake up to weather-wise, and we still hadn’t visited Windsor Castle, the Queen’s main residence just west of London, which we were so hoping to do, and Friday was our last day in London …
By Patti Day-Miller