Royal Opera House et al.

Friday, November 12‚ÄîIt was gloomy and rainy when we got up about 8:00‚Äîa typically English day. We put on clothes and went down to the basement of the hotel for breakfast. It was packed and we had to wait a little in order to get a seat to eat. After the wait, the food wasn’t worth the wait–it has not improved in the least since we were here in 2003. I had some sort of gross oatmeail-ish dry cereal, and a piece of white toast with marmalade. I think we’ll look elsewhere for breakfast for the rest of the trip.

We came back to the room, showered and dressed and left for the day. It was chilly, spitting rain and pretty breezy. We went to the British Library for an excellent exhibition about the connection between writers and gardening. It went through the whole history of literature with various “themes”: “Paradise Lost”, “Paradise Regained”, “Imaginary Gardens”, etc. Very imaginative exhibition. We also stopped in their excellent bookstore.

By the time we finished at the library, the sun had come out, although it was still chilly. We walked down through Bloomsbury to Covent Garden and got tickets for the 12:30 backstage tour. We had a little time, so we walked through the Covent Garden market and to their gift shop. The tour itself was very interesting and we had an excellnt guide, who talked a lot about the history of the Royal Opera company, the Royal Ballet (which originated as the Sadlers Wells Ballet) and the Covent Garden theater itself. The whole theater was closed for two years in the late nineties for a total renovation. Everything from behind the stage proscenium was demolished and rebuilt from the ground up, so there is a totally new backstage area, with set shops, costome, wig and milinery shops, rehearsal studios, etc. It is a maze backstage. We were lucky enough–because it doesn’t always happen–to get to go into the auditorium itself. They were in a break during a stage rehearsal for the ballet. Then we got a full backstage look. The stage machinery that moves the scenery from the set-up area to the main stage is quite remarkable. The entire area is on a movable grid, so the whole floor of the stage can move into place.

We finished with the tour about 2:00 and went for lunch at a French bistro across the street from the perfumers Penhaligons, which was one ot the places on my list. We both had excellent French onion soup. We then went across the street and I bought some new perfume. The scent I’ve been using since we were here last time (Castile) is currently out of stock being repackaged, so I bought another “flavor” called Endymion.

It rained off and on for the rest of the afternoon–it would come and go with drizzle–never a total downpour. We walked to Trafalgar Square and to the Scottish tourism office (George and Daniel Haynes have taken it into their minds that we should spend Christmas 2005 in Edinburgh.) I bought a woolen scarf and wool blanket to give as gifts at Christmas. We eventually got the Underground back to the hotel about 5:30. It is pretty much dark by shortly after 4:00 here. We both just relaxed for a while and had brief naps.

Later we walked back to Soho for dinner at Balans, a gay place where we had eaten last time with Dan. I had sausages and mashed potatoes–real pub food, but of a higher quality than eating it in a pub. We then walked up and down Old Compton Street for a while until we just decided to head back to the hotel. We had been walking all day and our feet were tired and it was cold. Time to call it a day.