Sunday, 26 February 2012

A Visit to London is Not Complete Without...

Well guys and galls, time for a proper post at last. This is mainly because I had such a good week last week that I couldn't make do with just the summary of my progress on my 101 in 1001 challenge.

As some of you already know, I had to go to London for a course last week, which as thrilling as it was, was nowhere near as good as the stuff I got up to 'out of hours', so I'm sure you won't mind if I skip the course contents and cut straight to the fun stuff.

I arrived at Gatwick around midday on Sunday, complete with a reasonably sized shopping list, with a plan to meet up with Mr M at London Bridge station to walk to the Ibis near Aldgate East. Unfortunately Mr M got delayed on his train into Waterloo, and so I had to find my own way to the hotel. Those who know me well would have been worried that I may not find it, and would instead end up in Scotland or something equally random - map reading and directions are really not my forte. So I figured the safest thing to do would be to get the tube to Aldgate East, and sensibly bought a ticket as soon as I arrived at the station. However, I had not realised that due to weekend engineering works, various areas of the tube are shut down each weekend - this weekend being the stations that I needed to use, and so, armed with a print of the Google map I had to walk to the hotel. I would like to say that I proved everyone wrong and went directly to the hotel, but that would be a lie... however, I only went a little bit too far, so it wasn't too bad :o)

Mr M arrived not too far behind me, complete with my Beachbody and Moleskine purchases, which I was desperate to open, but figured that getting to Paperchase on Tottenham Court Road was more important. An hour and a half after arriving there I had a good haul of stationery and accessories - inserts, stickers and dividers for my Filofaxes, family calendar (Charlie & Lola, complete with lots of stickers), reward charts, notepad, bookmarks (to be butchered for use as Filofax today markers), origami papers (ha ha ha - you should see the first attempts with those), fridge magnets, magnetic bookmarks for the boys, sticky notes, magnetic list pad.

Paperchase haul - so pretty!!!
Once Mr M had managed to drag me out of the store we headed to Leicester Square to check out where the ticket place was, but had no joy working out when it was open so decided to check out later to find theatre tickets (I was on a mission to complete one of my 101 in 1001 challenges by going to two West End shows), and concentrate our energies on getting out of the cold and finding somewhere warm to eat. As far as places to eat goes the Angus Steakhouse was very good, but warm? No, I was still rather cold as the air-con seemed to be aimed directly at me - but the food was great (steak with sweet potato sticks and seasonal greens - delicious). Obviously there was no way I was going to be doing my Kenpo workout that evening so I decided to do it in the morning and have my rest day a day early (although the morning workouts turned out not to be such a good idea later in the week by which point I had very little sleep thanks to all the sirens going near the hotel... after living in quiet places for a long time I found I was constantly being woken up, and when I was asleep I was so tense that by the end of the week the back of my left shoulder was totally knackered...I digress).

Then it was back to the hotel to see my other purchases - my 10 Minute Trainer by Mr fitness himself, Tony Horton - it arrived with a recipe book, a resistance band (which is better than any of the 3 in the pack I bought from the sports shop), and even includes workout cards so you can workout when you are away from home and have no access to the DVDs.

The Moleskines I had ordered are all great, and although I didn't have any idea what I would use them all for, I am already using the Star Wars one to prep for blog posts (including this one) - I love it. The poster is fab, and the stickers that come in the others are pretty cool (especially the Peanuts ones). I love the fact that Marcus (age 4) saw the Moleskines stacked as above (ie, with Darth Vader and the Star Wars title totally hidden from view), and immediately identified it as Star wars - how does he do that...?  
10 Minute Trainer & Moleskine mini stack

Large black standard lined notebook, Recipe journal, Star Wars
large lined notebook, Peanuts small lined notebook

Moleskines, poster and stickers
 After purchases and stationery lusting had been completed (at least for one day), it was time to sort out tickets for a couple of shows. We Will Rock You and Rock of Ages were immediately decided as the official "have to see" shows, but after a little persuasion Mr M made me see that I really should fit in another, and so Wicked was added to the list.

We decided to go for the show and meal deals for Rock of Ages and We Will Rock You, so figured we should split them up so opted for Monday and Wednesday respectively, and then Wicked on Tuesday. If I'd known then what I know now we would have gone for different days, but you live and learn.

So Monday evening saw us heading to Kitchen Italia (arriving half an hour later than planned), and the food was good, service was excellent and the "quick meals" really are quick. Perfect for when you are running late and need to eat before going to a show. Despite being half an hour late, we were still finished and at the Shaftesbury Theatre on time for collecting our Rock of Ages tickets, which gave us an hour before the show started. We had tickets not too far back, in the Grand Circle which was fine by us, but when we got back to go into the show we were told that the Grand Circle was closed that evening and we were being upgraded and so we were given tickets for row C in the Royal Circle instead - fabulous seat for such a low price, needless to say we were very happy with the great view.

The pre-show atmosphere was great. Rock music playing, guys and gals selling beer and water dancing   around, special 'lighters' being handed out ready for those special moments and there was no curtain hiding the stage, so you could see the whole set and get in the mood before it started. I had also picked up a programme before we went in which was as you would expect a programme to be, full of photos and bios of the cast, pictures from the show and the set lists - really good.

The two cast members who headline the show according to the posters were not there that night - Justin Lee Collins (holiday) and Shane Ward (ill), so the understudies stepped up to take on their duties, and therefore other people stepped up to cover their parts, and they really did themselves proud. If you hadn't been expecting to see JLC or Shane, then you would have had no idea that the understudies were on. I have seen someone bitching and whining on the Rock of Ages page on Facebook that JLC and Shane weren't there, but JLC had booked the time off (a whole 3 days - how outrageous) and Shane was ill - the person said that the understudies were incredible, so why whinge? I don't get it...

It was a fabulous show with the character of Lonny played wonderfully by Simon Lipkin, with Jamie Muscato filling the roll of Franz remarkably, standing in for Sandy Moffatt (who moved up to cover the role of Stacee Jaxx as vacated for the evening by Shane Ward). Grant Anthony in the role of Dennis (JLC replacement) also did a sterling job.

You can't help but fall for Drew, played by Oliver Tompsett, fabulous looks and a stunning voice. And Natalie Andreou's outstanding performance of Sherrie was amazing.
Rock of Ages!!! It truly does rock!!!
I was so hyped after the show I wanted to go back and see it again immediately, and still had energy to fit in a workout when I got back to the hotel :o)

Tuesday after the course I ran into House of Fraser opposite and managed to buy a whole outfit very quickly (quite a feat for me - miss anti-shopper), finishing in time to meet up with my friend James to head over to Victoria for a swift one and a catch up and meet up with Mr M (who very kindly took the bags back to the hotel).

Next stop - Wicked at the Apollo. We were sat to the far left, but quite close to the front so had a good view of most areas of the stage. There was no pre-show atmosphere, but as it wasn't a rock musical we hadn't expected anything else. The show was very good, but I do wish I'd seen it before Rock of Ages.

I always love going to shows, and usually want to see them again almost immediately, but I just didn't get as drawn into this one, despite the fact that it was a really good show. I'm glad I didn't take my boys to see it though as I think they would have found the monkeys a bit disturbing, and as for the wizard? OMG, the huge golden head scared me!!!

Wednesday took us to another meal and show package, and Kitchen Italia again, which as we new the turnaround is quick, meant we didn't have to rush to get there and had time to sneak into the Filofax shop in the next street (Neal Street for all you FF fans) for a quick look. I got to see the Temperleys in the flesh and even touched them!!!

I'm not keen on the Affair (lacey thing) from the outside, but inside it is beautiful, and the inserts are even more luxurious than anything FF would ever design. I wish they would listen to what we want *sigh* 

The Guinea on the other hand feels absolutely gorgeous, but I'm not completely sold on the large zip (designers everywhere seem to be putting these bad boys anywhere at the moment, and I'm not sure it's always appropriate). the reasoning behind this baby is that it can be used all day and night (using it as a clutch with a purpose in the evenings). It is very stylish, but the £400 price tag seems a bit excessive.

However, it is still cheaper (and more practical) than many designer handbags and as 1 of my 101 things in 1001 days is to buy a designer handbag, then maybe I should have paid more attention to this baby, especially as the FF website doesn't have any pics of the interior :o)

Anyway, enough FF speak (?) - although Mr M did say that it was a proper geek-fest in the shop with me and the owner. She is great and even gave me a refill for my FF pen that I don't use as it's rubbish, and having put the refill in, I have to say, it is now a lovely pen to write with, as well as being very pretty :o)

My beautiful Filofax pen, which now works :o)
 After another good meal at Kitchen Italia it was time to head off to the Dominion for We Will Rock You and picked up tickets for more good seats (row E in the stalls). We were quite surprised after Rock of Ages to find that the theatre seemed a bit sterile and had nothing to get you in the mood for what is undoubtedly one of the most successful West End shows. I bought a programme on the way in and was disappointed to find that although it contained the usual cast bios, set list etc, there were no photos at all from the show itself, so nothing that is going to bring back memories of the show when you look at it in future, however, on the way out Mr M spotted that there had been 2 types of programme, so maybe I just picked the wrong one.

The show itself was very well done, with fabulous sets and brilliant use of TV screens. All the cast were brilliant, the show was fabulous and I would go to see it again, but for me there could only be one winner this week... Rock of Ages totally floats my boat.

I spent Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday morning umming and ah-ing whether I should get tickets to go back on the Thursday night - why the dilemma? Like missing the opportunity of seeing it again was ever an option...

I was meeting up with my little sister on the Thursday evening so dragged her along with us (stopping on the way at the Detroit bar which does excellent chips and a wicked Moscow Mule - I know, I know, but it's not like I do it all the time).

We didn't book through this time although we had done really well with seats that we had booked from there previously as, looking at the Rock of Ages website, the available seats options at the lower end were not looking good. So I did what any sensible girl does when given the opportunity, booked tickets in the 3rd row in the stalls (Mr M appreciated the view even more this time - those are very short skirts).

JLC and Shane Ward were both in the show this time round, and I was so pleased to see JLC perform, he was great. Everyone else was back in their usual roles (with the exception of Natalie Andreou, there was someone else playing Sherrie, but as I didn't buy the programme that night I don't know who it was). There were more 'lighters', Stacee's thong almost landed on Mr M's head, we got Rock of Ages 'money' as thrown by Joey Primo, and lots of glitter foil stuff as shot out by JLC - and that stuff gets everywhere. I got back to the hotel knowing I was going to be emptying it out of my bra, and found it stuck to my collar bone and my back too, all gone - or so I thought, until I undid my jeans and discovered that it was in there as well as down the back of my pants.

As much as I loved the show on the Monday, I loved it even more on the Thursday although I preferred Natalie Andreou's performance as Sherrie.

Simon Lipkin as Lonny is a legend!!! Nun chucks!!! Hooray for Boobies!!!

Show memorablilia
 So my list of things that no visit to London is complete without:
                                  Shows  Rock of Ages



  1. That is one hell of an action packed week but sounds like it was a fab one! We are checking our Rock of Ages now!!!!


  2. Rock of Ages is unmissable. I can't recommend it enough!!! If I have to go for more training in London I will definitely be seeing this again :o)