Our Travel blog
Today we have a rare treat; a night in a London hotel, a birthday present from one of Ray's children and his girlfriend. We booked tonight because it coincides with a concert we are attending at The Royal Festival Hall and Ray is at a meeting tomorrow in the city.
We said our farewells to Alison's parents and thanked them for their hospitality. They've been particularly attentive this time as they are trying to boost their rating on Trip Adviser since our last visit. We settled on 4.7 this time. Thus we hope they are not disappointed but it still gives them something to aim for when we visit again; we'd hate for them to get complacent.
Having parked Mavis for the night we headed to the station. We needed to get a new Two-Together railcard. This should have been simple but for reasons best known to themselves Cambridge Station have elected to site their photo-booth on the platform. For a while I struggled with the existential conundrum of getting a photo for the railcard to enable me to get the ticket that would allow me to get onto the platform to get to the photo booth to enable me to get the photo I needed to get the railcard to get the ticket to get onto the platform...etc. Fortunately Alison is more direct and chatted amiably to the Transport Policeman, explaining that we needed new photos for a replacement rail card because her name has changed and anyway the ones we have make us look like a Crimewatch photofit. Mine certainly looked like I was featured on America's Most Wanted. Happily I look a bit less like a serial killer in the new one.
We arrived at the hotel in London's Docklands 90 minutes before the 3pm check in. The lady on the desk couldn't have been more helpful; she stored our bags, upgraded our room to one with a bath (gratis) and directed us to a nearby Italian restaurant armed with a blank hotel key card to secure a 10% discount. We knew it was a handy arrangement twixt hotel and restaurant but it worked for us; the food was delicious and reasonably priced, especially for London, and the service attentive. We waddled back to the hotel to a large room with crisp white sheets on a king size bed and a bath that we took turns to soak in.
We headed into the city centre and made our way to The Royal Festival Hall, which appears to have been renamed The South Bank Centre, along with all the other theatres and recital rooms that make up this concrete jungle on the banks of the Thames. It was built in 1951 for the Festival of Britain and according to their website it's the largest single run arts centre in the world. I'm not completely sure whether this is an achievement to be proud of or not. It reminds me of cricket commentators who proclaim meaningless statistics like "That's only the 3rd time a medium paced bowler has delivered an off spinner on a Wednesday at Trent Bridge from the sewage works end against the wind since Bertie Fudge-Trollop in 1431. That reminds me, Mrs Verity Panty has sent us a chocolate cake, and very fine it is too." And so on and so forth.
So, back to the South Bank Centre. It took us a while to find our way in, since the ground floor of The Festival Hall is given over to a variety of brash chain restaurants. Eventually we followed some grim stairs up a dank passageway between neon eateries and found our way in. This was only a temporary victory as inside its vast lobby things got seriously confusing. It may be my age (I'm excusing Alison who is tender in years you understand), but why is it so difficult to navigate a concert hall whose one function is to usher you seamlessly to your seats? We eventually found the booth to pick up our tickets and were directed to a lift that was full with three people. Why install a lift so small for a building that seats 2500 people? We opted to walk up to level 6, and found ourselves on the 'yellow' side - according to our tickets we should have been on the 'blue' side. This appeared to be their one concession to navigation as it divides the auditorium down the middle so you enter via the colour that matches the side your seats are in. Well, we did, but most people seemed as confused as us - maybe that says something about I Am Kloots core audience?
Finding our way we then had to wait for a break between songs to enter, where The Plumdores were well into their bluesy support set. If you like three piece rootsy bluesy rock n' roll you'll probably like them. Guy Garvey from Elbow came on to join in while Alison went in search of water and a rest from the rather harsh sound.
I Am Kloot suffered no such sound problems and were joined onstage by the brass and strings of the Millennium Ensemble for a rendition of their Mercury award nominated Sky at Night album plus rousing encores. A fabulous evening made all the better by the warm glow we felt in having thwarted the South Bank Centre's attempts to confuddle us.
Thank you for stopping by and reading our blog. If you don’t know who we are, what we are doing and you're wondering what this is all about you can read up on our project here.