Sunday, May 28, 2000
Today was our last full day in England. We got up and had the car packed by 8 a.m. We had to be back in London to have the car turned in by 12:15 or we would have to pay an extra day's rental. After a quick breakfast we were on the road by 8:20. With only a little trouble we soon found ourselves heading south on the M1. This is a major 3 lane road and I was going 75 to 80 mph most of the way. We did have to make two quick stops - once for gas and once for the toilets.
We passed a nuclear power plant that had 8 cooling towers. Later, we passed another nuclear cooling tower. The amazing thing about this is that we were on an elevated expressway passing less than five feet from the tower. In a country that is so paranoid about terrorism this seemed to provide a marvelous place for someone to try to cause a nuclear accident.
Being Sunday and a holiday weekend there was relatively little traffic. Back in London we somehow found ourselves in Hyde Park, but soon found the way that we should go. We pulled into National Car Rental at 12:10 - with 5 minutes to spare. We quickly piled the luggage on the curb. A man gave me a white slip and said to give it to a clerk inside. Inside there were 20 people in a line that didn't appear to be moving. I waiting for 30 minutes and only two people had been helped. Finally, another man came in and said, "Oh, if you have a white slip you can leave." Let me just say I wasn't impressed in the slightest with the service from National Car Rental.
I hailed a taxi waiting at a hotel down the block and we were soon on our way back to Bayswater Inn (taxi cost £9). I had made reservations to stay here our last night thinking that this would be easiest. Actually it did prove to be very convenient even though we paid $160 for a third-rate room. Our room wasn't ready yet so we stored our luggage and went looking for a place to eat lunch and buy a few last souvenirs.
We ate lunch at Halal, which I think was an Egyptian restaurant. Pat had chicken nuggets, chips, and salad, Alan had a hamburger and chips, and I had a shis-ka-bob platter. The food was very good. As we were eating there was a sudden downpour. By the time we were done with lunch the sun had reappeared.
Across the street we stopped in a small store where I bought several tins of tea. Back at the hotel our room was ready. This time our room was located on the third floor with a view out the front of the hotel. The room was no nicer than the one we had previously but at least it wasn't in the basement.
Tonight we had tickets to see Hamlet at The Globe. This was the premiere of the play. I had purchased tickets at the last minute before leaving home but had not told Pat or Alan. That way, if we found that we wouldn't be back in London in time I would only be out $20. I realized that we might have found something else to do on this last day in England. But seeing that we would be in London I had let them know the night before that we had tickets.
The play started at 6:30 that night. We rested for an hour at the hotel before heading to the tube at 4:00. It took about an hour to get to the theater. I wanted to get there early to guarantee that we got to be against the stage in the groundling section. There was already a long line of people hoping to purchase returns. As I picked-up our tickets at Will Call I heard that the show was completely sold out for the next several days.
Once again we found ourselves at the front of the line to enter the theater. After waiting about 45 minutes inside the building the courtyard was open and we were allowed to wait at the doors to the actual theater for another 45 minutes. During this time I started talking with a young lady from Minnesota who had been in England the previous 6 weeks studying theater as part of her college education.
It also started to rain as we waited in line. Fortunately, Pat had brought along some plastic panchos that we had gotten when we had gone on the "Maid-of-the-Mist" in Niagara Falls. You could also buy a pancho at the globe for about £2. These panchos were very handy as it continued raining for about half the play.
When the actual theater was opened, we quickly rushed inside and were able to secure a position against the stage in the very center. This was important as the play was 4 hours long and this allowed us to lean against the stage. I felt sorry for the people standing behind me who had to look over my 6'2" frame, but not sorry enough to swap places with them.
I have never enjoyed Shakespeare more than I did this night. The production of Hamlet was nothing short of amazing. I was at first slightly disappointed by the actor who played Hamlet. But as the play progressed, I was soon overwhelmed by his performance. At the point where Hamlet states "Do you see yonder cloud that's almost in shape of a camel?" The sky itself cooperated by providing a large white cloud just above the theater.
If you are in London during the summer, do not hesitate to see any production at the Globe. And be adventurous and purchase a groundling ticket. Just get there early and get next to the stage. You will never have a better time.
After the play we were all tired so we rested for 15 minutes or so in the main building before walking back to the tube. We finally got back to our hotel around 11:00 that night.