Wednesday, November 25, 2009

London & Taylor Swift.

We have had a busy few days! Monday started with us all making sure we had everything we needed. Because the children are in school, we were not able to take them with us, so they had to pack bags for their overnight stay with one of the neighbors. Briony left on a field trip with the school Tuesday so we left her taxi money so she could get all her gear to school. She’s away for three days on an eco challenge type school funded trip that only a few students were chosen for.

So, our taxi picked Nid and I up just after 9am Monday. We got to the train station very quickly, and had a bit of a wait until ours arrived. I was exhausted starting the day, which was unfortunate. Sunday my left foot and ankle swelled up for no reason, so in order to help it, I stayed off it all day, which mainly meant I napped. Because of that, I did not sleep well at all Sunday night, and so Monday morning was pretty hard on me. We were very grateful that we had reserved First Class seats, because the extra room was great. We had facing seats, across a little table, with no seats next to us on our side of the isle. We were served a hot beverage (coffee or tea) a newspaper, a water bottle (distilled or sparkling) and a cake (flapjack, fruit cake, cookie something or other). I chose a spiced gingerbread cake and it was lovely. Just a little something to take the edge off, since we’d already been up for hours and breakfast had been some time ago. We only had one stop on our journey to London, and that was in Market Harborough. It took us about an hour and twenty minutes to get to London.

The St. Pancras station is huge, but it was familiar (from our trip last October), which is always nice. We got day passes for the metro (called the Tube here) and took the Tube to Westminster. As soon as you step out of the station, you are standing 20 feet from Big Ben. Across the River Thames we could see the London Eye. We walked across Westminster Bridge and down by the London Eye. Nid rode it last year, and was not terribly impressed with it. Not liking heights particularly, I wasn’t terribly bothered to not go on it. It’s like a giant ferris wheel that never stops, and it takes an hour to go full circle. We had a bit of drizzle while we were walking there, but I still got some great shots of the Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. We went into a restaurant called Enough To Feed An Elephant, which had a London Underground theme. We each had a cheeseburger and chips. It was very good, and very filling. After that, I was already for a nap, but I think it was the heat of the building that did it to me. When we went back outside, the sun was out, and the rest of the day it was dry, but windy.

We walked along the river to the Jubilee Bridge (I think, it is the footbridge adjacent to Hungerford Bridge). We got our only (and tiny) look at the Gherkin through the tubing of the bridge. We made fun of a button in the elevator, that initially we thought said “press alarm button for 3 seconds of assistance” but it turns out it said “for 3 seconds for assistance.” It kept us entertained, anyway. We walked along Northumberland Avenue to Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square. We walked under the Admiralty Arch and down along The Mall to… Buckingham Palace. The flag was flying high, which meant the Queen was home. I was surprised to see that the guards are actually up at the building, not at the fence, like you see in movies. Because we all know that what you see in movies is just like real life. We sat for a few minutes at the Queen Victoria Memorial, and I took a picture of the marble, worn smooth where everyone sits on it, but rough and aged where behinds do not make contact. After a little break there, we walked through Green Park to the Green Park Tube Station.

We took the Tube to Kingsbury, which is where our friends Utpal and Sejal live. When we stepped out of the station, it was like we were transported back to Leicester. It looked just like it does around here, which is kind of cool. We were early, so Nid got a pint of Guinness at Hennesey’s, which was run by actual Irish folk (not like the majority of Irish pubs I’ve been to in the States – what a concept!). In fact, it was so traditional, that when he ordered his drink, the barkeep told him he’d bring it to him when it was ready. There is actually a “proper” way to pour a pint of Guinness, I saw it on a Discovery Channel special once. It should take 119.5 seconds to pour, and a few minutes to settle. Here’s a clip I found of what it looks like. It’s quite interesting, actually.  Guinness Settling.

It was a short walk from the pub to Utpal’s house through a quiet neighborhood of houses. Sejal was the only one home when we got there, and we sat and talked for quite a while before Utpal got home. Dinner was egg curry and rice and naan bread. I do love that bread! I wish I’d taken a picture of dinner, because it was just lovely. And I am also very grateful to Sejal, who left out the chili because I can’t handle spices.

As soon as we were finished dinner, Utpal drove us to Wembley Arena and dropped us off. It was only about a 10 minute ride, and I was grateful to not have to walk back to the Tube station and take that, though it was only one stop. We went in and the place was packed with little girls! There was a decent percentage of grown ups there as well, and not just with the little girls. I was disappointed in the number of pre-teens wearing make-up, however. This country has a very high teen pregnancy rate, often attributed to the fact that in years past, if a girl got pregnant the government would give her a house to live in. This has changed a bit in the past years, as apparently they are now moving single parents into hostels, and the rates have gone down slightly. Anyway, my theory on this epidemic is these *children* are not being properly raised. Girls the ages that I saw last night should not be wearing make-up. And I’m not talking lip gloss, I’m talking full on mascara, eye liner, and foundation. Little tramps in training, I think.

Okay, so on to the show. We stood in line at the merch booth and got Briony a t-shirt. I wanted to get her a bracelet, but they’d sold out by the time we got up there. While we were in line, the opening act came on. The crowd went wild. I’m still not sure why. His name was Justin Bieber, and he had to have been all of, I don’t know, 12? His hair was all “done” and brushed straight forward to his face. He hasn’t hit puberty yet, and his voice was all cracky and childlike. He had back up dancers break dancing behind him. It was all very Mickey Mouse Club in my opinion. The girls next to us kept screaming and Nid and I would just look at each other and laugh. His act was cut short, and his little DJ said it was due to technical difficulties. It turns out he broke his foot during his last song before the encore.

During a short intermission, during which music played through the sound system (including a Keith Urban song), we watched guys climb ladders to the lighting rigging. They pulled the ladders up after them and settled in for a night of lighting. In a day and age where computers run everything, I thought it was kind of cool that there were actual people running the spotlights. Later in the night I counted 4 more that had climbed up behind the curtains.

Shortly after they got settled, a video started playing on the two screens adjacent to the stage. The video featured various famous people, including Miley Cyrus, Faith Hill, Garth Brooks, among others describe what “Fearless” means to them. The question appeared to have been asked at different events they attended. It was kind an alright intro, as intros go. The last person describing Fearless was of course Taylor, the curtain rose, and she was atop a towering stage wearing a cheerleading outfit singing You Belong With Me. During the song, her dancers ripped off her outfit and below she was wearing a shimmery silver and black dress. I’m not good at remembering set lists, so I’m not going to bother with those minute details. After the second or third song she talked with the audience, said how she’d never forget how she sold out the Wembley Arena (I didn’t know this, very cool).

During the concert, she and her band were very interactive with the crowd. She prefaced some songs explaining a little about where they came from, what they meant to her. Her band seemed to be really having a good time, and they got involved in the costume changes as well. She wore eight outfits total: the cheerleading outfit, removed on stage to become a black/silver shimmery dress, a red sequined dress, a blue floral dress, a red renaissance dress removed on stage to become a white dress, a black patterned dress, and a black finale dress… For different songs, the band would change their outfits slightly as well, it was all very much a team activity. There were also dancers that came out during certain songs, dressed to match/coordinate with Taylor.

During one costume change, a video played called “Crimes of Passion” in which Taylor was the criminal, writing songs about people and “ruining” their lives. It ended with Tim McGraw, and she started performing in the back of the arena right among the crowd, on floor level for a few songs, then made her way to another location halfway up the floor. After performing there, she hugged *everyone* between there and the stage, and it took quite a while for her to make her way back. I thought it took a little longer than it needed to, as those of us not getting hugged couldn’t see a thing. Even the cameras were partially blocked there were so many people between Taylor and them.

At one point, Taylor and her violin player had a “drum off” competing for the guy, and huge oil drums were set up on stage and they banged away at them for quite a while, Taylor of course actually winning the guy in the end.

There was one other video clip that had Taylor being interviewed by a news anchor (I recognized her, but don’t know her name) about how she expects to have guys want to date her if she’s just going to write a song about her. Her answer they shouldn’t do bad things if they don’t want to be written about, and lead her into another song during which she actually threw an overstuffed chair from the upper level of her stage to the lower level.

I did learn something new about Taylor. She plays the piano, as well as the guitar. She played it for the whole of You’re Not Sorry, and then did a cover song on it as well of Justin Timberlake’s What Goes Around. During that part of the performance I also learned why she’s not concerned about wearing those little tiny dresses on stage. She appeared to be wearing a flesh covered pair of bike shorts underneath, which I noticed while she was “dancing” sitting on the piano bench facing the audience while up on the top part of her stage.

The show was theatrical, but not over the top so. And Taylor has the energy to maintain a full action show. The crowd certainly loved her. She got a standing ovation (though really, most everyone was standing anyway) that lasted (according to reports) six minutes. And this wasn’t at the end of the show, this was smack in the middle. It was pretty awesome, and you could tell she was overwhelmed and grateful.

Having been to a lot of concerts in Virginia and the surround states, I have to say that I was impressed by the venue. It was well laid out, with plenty of staff around to help. There were tons of bathrooms, which lead to virtually no lines), and the traffic cleared very quickly. Also, Taylor rocked. She was a great performer, a great entertainer, and an all around good person. I can’t imagine anyone walked away from that show last night disappointed.

Here’s what London is saying about last night’s show.

After the show, we were picked back up and after a few minutes chatting, were ready for bed. I think I fell asleep the second my head hit the pillow. It had been a wonderful day, but a long one, and not having slept the night before, I was ready for this day to end.

We had every intention of getting up Tuesday morning to say goodbye to our gracious guests, but they leave for work at 7am, and though alarms were set, we just didn’t get out of bed until 8:30. Because we thought it was a possibility, we had already said goodbye the night before, thankfully. We had a quick breakfast and headed back to the Tube station. It was drizzling again, but when we got back to the city (40 minute ride) it was clear. We got off at Baker Street, which is where we caught our open top tour bus ride last year. We walked along Baker Street (where the fictional Sherlock Holmes lived) to Oxford Street, one of “the” shopping districts here. I took in the window displays of Selfridges, which is a huge four story, two city blocks store. The window displays were bizarre, and quite frankly, did not make me want to go in to see what the fuss was all about. We walked up Oxford Street to the Bond Street Station and took the Tube to Westminster and transferred to the Circle Line and continued on back to St. Pancras. We ventured outside to find a cheaper place to eat, and had a burger and fries at a really nice little place right across the street from the station.

We got back to the boarding area just before they opened the gates, which was good because there were only a handful of seats and they were all taken. Our car was nearly at the end of the train, so it was a long walk, but oh so nice to finally get to our seats (First Class again) and sit. I slept the whole way, I think, which was well needed. We caught a taxi home and Nid was great and helped me put our things away. We’d only taken a back pack each, so it wasn’t much, but I hate the putting away part after you get home from a trip. He also ran me a really really hot bath. He really is the best husband ever! I started copying my pictures immediately from my camera, and it said it was going to take an hour, so I left it while I went to soak away the travel, as it was still an hour before Cale was due home from school.

Well, that’s the story of our trip to London. It was a really great time, and I am so glad that my foot held up for the duration. It’s hardly swollen at all now (still not sure why it was in the first place). All the emails and news we missed is caught up on and we’ve just had dinner (pizza, a treat for all of us).

All the photos will be published on my Pictures Site tonight.


david said...

Dang Jenny, what a wonderful read! I love to read your blogs as you put me "in the moment"! A great picture of Big Ben and there is so much history there. Dinner sounded great and it was nice of your friends to put you all up for the night. Your concert review was awesome and I'm sure you all had a blast! Malorie and I also loved the theatrics of the show when we saw Taylor here in Kentucky. I loved the fact that you wasn't much on the exact set list but you knew exactly what her costume changes were and when she did them! LOL Thanks a million and keep the great blogs coming!! :)

Jenny said...

Thanks David, it really means a lot to me.

Jamie said...

Wow. That's one of the most comprehensive reviews of a Taylor show I've ever read. Good job!

Jenny said...

Thanks Jamie! Glad you stopped by, and thanks for leaving a comment :)

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