Being Alive in London

I somehow amassed a number of trips to the UK in the coming months, most of which are to and from London. I live a rough life, I know. The majority of these trips are to either meet or leave Chris since most of his flights are through London. The first of these trips was this past weekend. It was a quick trip, made shorter by the adventure we had getting there.

We learned a harsh lesson about EasyJet’s boarding policies. Our flight was delayed, so we arrived a little late. Chris was checking a bag because I’m trying to slowly send stuff home to make up for all the random crap I’ve accumulated here so far. Turns out, there is a hard stop to when they close check in and the gates for EasyJet that is connected to the scheduled rather than the actual time of departure. So even though we were two minutes late to the closure of the check-in gate (the difference of the tram we missed), we could not check our bags. This meant that we could either leave our bag at the airport and have it destroyed or book the earliest flight the next morning. Well, there was actually a third option of taking a taxi and dropping off the checked bag, but the flight was somehow undelayed enough for that to be impossible. It wasn’t a cheap lesson, but given everything was actually not as expensive as it could have been on most other airlines.

In any case, this didn’t cause us to realistically lose time in London, just sleep. We were staying at the Courtyard near the airport, so even after flying from Basel, checking into the hotel and taking a short nap, we left for the city around the same time we would have had we been there.

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This trip to London was focused around the West End and hanging out with one of Chris’s former coworkers who moved to London just a few months before we left for Basel. I know you will absolutely believe it when I say that I spent hours trying to figure out what we were going to see on the West End. Granted, most of the research occurred before we tacked on this recent trip and when the green light was for a show in April. I didn’t want to expend the effort to try to do Hamilton given that we have tickets for it in SF in August and wanted to generally try to avoid a show I know either had been or was going to be coming through SF at some point. That part was actually kind of hard because there was a handful of shows on the West End that I missed because I was in Switzerland when they stopped through SF, but I wanted to see something a little more special. And as much as I am always DTLM, I wanted to avoid a show I have seen a million times. What it came down to was Kit Harrington in True West or Patti LuPone in Company. And, well, as much as I like GoT, you can’t beat seeing a Broadway legend in a Sondheim show. Sorry.

In any case, the show was not until 2 pm, which meant that we had some time to walk around and eat a leisurely lunch. We got into Victoria Station and made our way towards the Thames. This included a brief stop to nerd out over Hamilton and a stop in front of the Westminster Cathedral.

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We made our way towards Westminster Abbey and walked around Parliament Square Garden, where I annoyed Chris by referring to statues of famous people by the actors who played them. I, personally, think it was a good use of the trivia knowledge that never helps us at actual trivia. It was ridiculously crowded, though. So. many. tour. groups.

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From there, we walked to the Thames (with some obligatory jokes about the time that we convinced Andrew that they had torn down Big Ben to build condos) and walked along the Thames for a while. We spent some time at an interesting memorial that people seemed to be ignoring in favor of taking glamour shots with the London Eye behind them.

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We had lunch reservations somewhat near the theater, so we made our way through Covent Gardens, where Chris rushed me past Jubilee Market so I wouldn’t spend any time at the market, and towards our restaurant. We ate at Savoir Faire, which specializes in affordable French food. It was pretty good. I was a big fan of the baked goat cheese caprese.

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Lunch didn’t take as much time as we expected, which gave us some time to explore London’s Chinatown. Given that Lunar New Year had just passed, the area was crowded and very festive. We learned later from Elizabeth that the bigger Lunar New Year celebrations were closer to Trafalgar Square, but it was still fun to walk around.

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After a brief stop for some boba, we got to the theater to see the show. I didn’t actually know too much about Company before seeing it, other than the fact that it’s Sondheim, there was a big gender swap in this production and that I could have hated the show and it would still have been worth it to see Patti LuPone sing “Ladies Who Lunch.” I completely forgot that “Being Alive” is the other big number of the show (hence the title of this post) and I recognized far more songs from the show than I expected. Still not sure where I’ve heard some of them. Traditionally, the show is about a commitment-phobic single man who is facing his 35th birthday party with all of his married / almost married friends. There are snapshots of his experiences with each of those couples and the weirdness of relationships. The gender swap of a woman facing the same things at 35 worked really well. I actually don’t know if I would have liked the show as much as I did in its original iteration. I did listen to some of the older cast recordings and there’s a certain additional layer to it in the version I saw. In any case, I loved the show and have been listening to music from it all week.

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After the show, we rushed back through Chinatown to meet up with Chris’s former coworker for dinner at Dishoom. Along the way, we passed by an Agatha Christie memorial and the pub that we ate at during the beginning of our backpacking trip 11 years ago where some strange man tried to convince us that he was the richest man in London.

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We got to Dishoom, which is a pretty trendy Indian restaurant, where there was a looooong line. We waited in line for about an hour, something that wasn’t so bad because they bring you chai tea in line. We ordered a ton of food and it was all delicious, but it was fun to catch up and share stories of our respective ex-pat experiences.

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Given the 4:30 am wakeup call, we were exhausted by the end of dinner, so we caught the tube to Victoria Station and made our way back to the hotel. Chris and I both had morning flights the next morning. Mine was earlier, but we left around the same time because Chris had to get from Gatwick to Heathrow. I made it through security surprisingly fast, which gave me time for my obligatory airport stop at Wagamama.

So, that was our pretty short London weekend. Despite the rocky start and the fact that Chris abandoned me, it was a good weekend. Tomorrow, I meet everyone in Edinburgh, something I’ve been preparing for by bingeing Outlander.

Zürich and Miss Saigon

I decided that I needed a calmer weekend after several weeks of back to back travel, so I went for a weekend at home. Well, mostly at home. Saturday was full of errands and the Basel Christmas market (tried the fondue in a baguette) and Sunday was a trip to Zürich.

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This wasn’t just any trip to Zürich, though. I was in town to watch Miss Saigon. It’s one of my favorite musicals. I was almost crushed to know that I was missing the show’s stop through San Francisco, but then I found out that it was going to be in Zürich. In case you care at all, I just re-did my top 10 list for musicals and I’m watching number one on my list as I write.

In any case, I left a little early to explore Zürich, which I realize I have not actually spent any time in since getting here (airport trips don’t count). I had no plan in mind, really, and had just enough time to explore the city a little and maybe grab a quick lunch somewhere. There were small Christmas stalls everywhere (as one days), so I ended up getting hot mead right outside of the Münster and hanging out there for a little while.

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I walked along the street until I hit the one of the bigger markets in front of the opera house. This one was very food-centric and there were a lot of international food stands. I even saw a ramen stand that I would have considered eating at had I not seen the most beautiful two street tacos I’ve seen in a while.

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I didn’t actually have much time left before I had to head to the theater, so I walked along Lake Zürich for a little before jumping on the trams to the theater.

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I made it to the theater with some time to spare, which gave me enough time to find the merch table and my seat (which was pretty good, I must say). The show was fantastic. Horribly sad and emotionally draining, but fantastic. The sets were incredible (the helicopter flew!!!). One minor downside was that the people sitting next time me who were talking, giggling and checking Instagram during one of the most powerful scenes of the musical. For those of you who haven’t seen this musical or listened to the cast recording hundreds of times like I have, the first act closes with the main character singing to her young son about how she’d give her life if that meant that her son could have the life that she wants for him to the backdrop of refugees boarding a boat to escape the country. Milennials, amirite? Otherwise, the show was perfect, but I was missing my theater-going crew from back home.

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By the time I was out of the musical, it had started raining, which killed my plan of walking around the city a little before leaving. The show kind of exhausts you anyway, so I decided to just walk around the big Christmas market at the train station for a little bit. Between the intense crowds and the killer headache I developed right before the show started, I very quickly decided it was better to get onto an earlier train and make soup for dinner instead.

So, that was my day in Zürich. I’ll be back there, though. At the very least, Chris and I need to make it to the FIFA museum. Which, by the way, is my other announcement. Now that they’ve announced the group stage dates, Chris and I got tickets to see the USWNT in the World Cup in Paris next year. I’m super stoked about it. Talk about bucket list.

Anyway, that’s it for my short post.

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