May 122011

Day 19 (May 9, 2011)

Itinerary: Buy discount tickets at the tkts booth for a show tonight, visit the Doctor Who Experience at Olympia, see the Tower Bridge open for a large ship, eat Thai for dinner, go see Billy Elliot

I stayed up too last last night trying to catch up on the travel journal and then this morning Mark woke up early and typed up the last 2 days. So this morning we were all caught up! Amazing! I can actually type up today’s experiences tonight. Thanks, Mark, for your help.

So after all this work, we got a slow start to the morning. Luckily after our grocery store visit, we had breakfast in the room consisting of muffins and peaches. This turned out to be our only meal until dinner, but that’s later on. Our first stop once we got moving was at the discount tkts booth similar to the discount tkts booth in Time Square. Here you can pick up half price tickets for broadway shows going on tonight. We opted to see Billy Elliot since it originated here rather than one of the more long-running classic broadway hits. Also, we did pass up Shrek, the musical, and Legally Blonde, the musical, as well. Maybe next time…. We were able to get our half price tickets for the 4th row from the front.

Satisfied, we headed off to the Olympia Exhibition Center to visit the Doctor Who Experience. This really was our main attraction for London. For the uninitiated who might be reading, Doctor Who is a long-running tv series dating back to the 60’s. In 2005, a new Doctor Who show started up again and we’ve been watching every episode.

We had a bit of a confusing experience using the Tube to get to the right place, but eventually with the aid of Google Maps on Mark’s phone, we found it. The Experience was awesome! We both had a great time and spent several hours here, much more than the suggested 90 minutes. There was no need for advance tickets as we were the only ones there for a large chuck of it. First, we passed through a series of rooms that put us inside of an episode of Doctor Who. With Matt Smith, the eleventh Doctor leading the way, we got to stand inside the Tardis, operate some controls. We fought off several Daleks, and passed through a dark and foggy wood full of the weeping angels. We finished with a 3D experience inside the pandorica saving the Doctor so he could save the world….again. Though the staff tried to wait for more people to arrive, we ended up going through the experience on our own.

After we saved the world, we entered the free-flowing part of the exhibit. We saw costumes from all the Doctor Who companions from the current season. Both Mark and I think Rose was the best companion. We got to see costumes from all the Doctors as well starting with the first Doctor from the 60s. We went inside the Tardis from the 9th and 10th Doctors. This was really cool. Definitely an experience. Finally, we walked through the monster section where a model of all the various monsters/aliens from all the episodes were on display. Most interesting was the progression of Daleks from the 60s to today. They really haven’t changed much. The Cybermen, though, have changed a lot from the 60s version to today.

With the power of video screens located through the whole event, we learned that this whole experience was built over 2 years!! And of course there was so much more. I don’t want to give it all away. If you are a Doctor Who fan, this is definitely worth the trip. =)

We purchased some Lego figurines and Tardis at the store. We also tried to get tshirts, but all they had in stock was XL and no more shirts until Friday. Dude, this is the second time I’ve tried to buy a cool London shirt and been denied. Yesterday the Texas Embassy only had small shirts and nothing for me to buy. So, needless to say, I’m very disappointed. =( Boo.

Next stop was the Tower Bridge, usually known as the London Bridge, and a major London icon. We arrived in time to see the 5:30 raising and lowering of the bridge to let a large ship through. Ships need to schedule in advance when they need the bridge to open and then all the times are posted online.

Oh and did I mention that today was an absolutely gorgeous, sunny day. The clouds today are classic, puffy, cumulus clouds and my photos look like I photoshopped in a fake sky. We sat outside in the grass before we had to high-tail it back to eat dinner and make it to the showing of Billy Elliot. On the way back, we were interested to see them need to close Victoria Underground station due to over-crowding. They actually close the gates and didn’t let anyone else in until it cleared out. Wow.

Billy Elliot was a very cute play that I would see again. There are a lot of kids in the production, as the main character is a 12-year old boy of course. There was one adorable 4 or 5 year old that stole all our smiles as well. The actor who played Billy was excellent and deserved the standing ovation we all gave him. He sang, he danced, and he did it all with great style. Awesome show and seats so close to the stage that we felt the need to back up as we were almost underneat the actors. Victoria Palace was a small theater, but had the classic feel of a Phantom of the Opera type theater. During intermission, we were surprised to see the vendors selling ice cream and soda in the aisles.

Today was another day that didn’t feel too touristy, but we had an absolutely great time. We are already planning to catch several more shows and theater performances before we leave London. Tonight we are booking tickets for Shakespeare’s Globe to see Hamlet, a performance of Wicked, and also another turn at improv with The Comedy Store guys. We might not get to all the London must-see sights, but we sure are having a great time here.

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