Report from Stephanie O’Raw
Friday 6th February, midnight. Our double-decker coach departs Our Lady’s High School and we’re off to London! However our excitement soon turned to exhaustion a few hours into the journey and almost everyone was fast asleep.
In what really seemed like no time at all we had our last service station stop and were now keenly looking out for our first glimpse of a famous London landmark. The coach turned a corner and in front of us was Trafalgar Square. It now truly felt like we’d finally arrived in London! We then started to recognise many of the street names from the monopoly board, Park Lane, Oxford Street, Strand….
Our first stop was Covent Garden. At nine o’clock on a Saturday morning many vendors were setting up their stalls for a busy market day. We were intrigued by the old toy shop and a brilliant cake shop with cakes so colourful and perfect it was hard to tell if they were plastic or edible.
A short while later, after lunch, it was time to regroup and head to the “Queen’s Theatre” for our matinee performance of the longest running musical in the West End, Les Miserables. The show takes place during a revolution in France and has wonderful special effects, lighting and scenery but for some of the group it was a rather scary experience, not due to the realistic battle scenes recreated on stage, but because we were seated in the “God’s” and vertigo was kicking in. However, they soon recovered and after a wonderful performance we headed to an Italian restaurant, La Locanda, for dinner and then, as we were all completely shattered, we went straight to the Hotel Ibis and it was off to bed.
It really was a shock to our systems when the alarms went off at 7 o’clock on Sunday morning and bleary-eyed, we headed down to breakfast. Today, we were going to Madam Tussauds. On arrival, to our delight, we discovered there was a Big Brother Diary Room so we all piled in to sit on the chair and talk to Big Brother and receive one of his notorious tasks. We then had hours of fun posing with the life-like waxworks including Leonardo DiCaprio, Tiger Woods and Shrek. Next, we explored Madam Tussaud’s dungeon (not for the faint hearted like myself) which was a dark room emulating an old prison but there were live actors lurking behind every corner ready to jump out and terrify you. The only plus side of this part was they were preparing us for what we would experience on Monday in the London Dungeons!
After Madam Tussauds, we got back on the bus and made for Oxford Street. Everyone, particularly the girls, were really excited about this spot of retail therapy and driving down Oxford Street, enroute to our bus stop, to our great delight, we passed a huge Primark bigger than the Debenhams in Glasgow… Shopping Heaven!!!
At four o’clock, we all regrouped to compare bargains and walked down to the Hard Rock Café for dinner. The Hard Rock Café is decorated like an old American Diner with lots of Rock “n” Roll antiques hanging from the walls. We hungrily munched into our burgers and expressed our anticipation for the next activity, a night flight on the London Eye. As we boarded our pod we could see the Houses of Parliament lit up and tried in vain to spot Buckingham Palace. We also “spied” the MI5 building. The view down the River Thames was truly breathtaking.
Monday was our last day in London and a scary ordeal faced us in the form of the London Dungeons. This truly terrifying, but somewhat educational, tour takes you through London’s history including a “haircut” by Sweeny Todd, a trip through the wreckage of the Great Fire of London and the notorious murderer Jack the Ripper even makes a brief appearance. Thanks to Mr Millar being found “guilty as charged” in The London Dungeon’s courtroom, we were all sentenced to a trip to the torture chamber which ended with a backwards boat-ride to the east-end of London.
After the dungeons it was back to Oxford Street for some last minute shopping and then we headed to Pizza Hut for an all-you-could-eat feast. Our last stop was the “Apollo Victoria Theatre” for what truly was the highlight of our trip, a performance of the musical “Wicked”. This prequel to the Wizard of Oz had everyone cheering as flying monkeys, broomsticks and a spectacular bubble blowing swing flew across the stage before our eyes. The music was amazing and Elphaba’s (The “Wicked Witch of the West”) rendition of “Defying Gravity” is something many of us will never forget. We were all, even the boys, queuing up to buy the soundtrack at the interval. After a standing ovation, our time in London was almost over.
We went back to our hotel for the last time to pack up our stuff and get a, ahem “good night’s sleep” before getting back on the bus at nine o’clock the next morning to head back home to bonny Scotland.