Rolling With Trains

Back in London and it’s time for more sightseeing commencing with an afternoon walkabout at the Victoria and Albert Museum; a vast and eclectic collection of artifacts from across the globe.

The next day Ned and I took the Tube to the Olympic Park. Getting there’s easy enough right now. In two weeks it’s going to be another matter as London is anticipating up to 1 million extra people a day in the city for the games. With economic payback in mind, the Brits have constructed a new shopping mall which we had to navigate to get to park entrance. It turns out you can’t currently enter the park unless you have credentials. Lacking these, the nice security guards invite us to view the outside of the stadium from the top floor of a John Lewis department store. So, we made our way up to the viewing area which is curiously filled with 2012 London Games souvenirs. I did my part to help London pay for the games.

This is as close as you get to the Olympic Stadium right now. View from the John Lewis department store.

We’re not done sightseeing yet! The following day Ned and I took advantage of a break in the weather and boarded a River Thames cruise. We were accompanied by 150 of our closest tourist friends for the leisurely six mile float from city center east to Greenwich. Along the way we passed by the replica of the Globe Theatre, the current London Bridge, The Shard, the HMS Belfast, and Tower Bridge. We also passed by more high-end river view condos than one can shake an umbrella at followed by the massive organized crime district, a.k.a. the new financial district.

Greenwich was a nice break from the hubbub and sirens of London. We made our way to a friendly pub for lunch and then went off to the Royal Naval College and its Painted Hall and Chapel, followed by a look around at the National Maritime Museum. However, we were denied our day’s goal; the Royal Observatory was closed. As you may know, the Observatory is the home of Greenwich Mean Time and the Prime Meridian Line and thus, the Observatory controls the very fabric of time and the space-time continuum. I don’t know what happens to time when it’s closed. I have to deduce that time simply stops. Oh well… A quick walk by the Cutty Sark and we were on the boat for the cruise back to London in the rain. Our sunny weather break had come to an end, but we made the most of it!

The largest poster in the world, or so we were told, on our River Thames Cruise.

Back to business: It’s time to head west to play gigs at Bath and Liverpool. For no good reason, we stayed up a wee bit late Thursday night and were a wee bit groggy Friday morning. No matter… we can sleep on the train, right? Ned and I boarded the train to Bristol at Waterloo Station, Platform 17, right on time. Our stop at Bath Spa clearly listed on the reader board. As the train rolled away from the platform, the kind voice on the intercom states the train will terminate at Reading, 40 minutes west of London. Hmmm…. That’s not what the reader board indicated. No worries. At Reading, the reader board says the train to Bristol leaves at 10:57 on Platform 7. No worries. At 10:55 we boarded our train. As the train rolled away from the platform, the kind voice on the intercom states the train will terminate at some hamlet down a spur and return to Reading. What the…? We had no choice but to go along for the ride, there and back. Safely back at Reading, we learned that it pays to examine the reader boards more carefully. Just because a train is at the appointed platform two minutes before departure DOES NOT imply it’s your train! No worries. We waited an hour and got on the next train to Bristol. The kind voice in the intercom confirms this. Two minutes into the ride the ticket man stopped by and we handed him our ticket cards. Our tickets are no longer valid. We have two choices: buy relatively expensive tickets on the spot or get off at the next stop and ask to have our tickets revalidated. Off the train we go. Ned pleads our case but to no avail. With new tickets in hand, we boarded the 2:12 train to Bristol and arrive at Bath at 3:30 in pouring rain. We are some savvy travelers, that’s for sure!

The Friday afternoon sky cleared and train travails were forgotten. We checked into our B&B and I ventured off for a walkabout. Bath, cleverly named after its main attraction, ancient Roman Baths, is a perfectly scenic English city of 84,000. While there’s no lack of tourists, tourist shops and restaurants, there’s also no lack of photographic opportunities, especially after a summer rain.

Sandra, who DOES know how to read train station reader boards, successfully arrived from London on time, taking just one train. Saturday the three of us took in the Abbey and the Roman Baths, along with 10,000 of our closest tourist friends, most of whom were Italian teenagers. While waiting in queue to see the Baths, we were surprised to witness a young man wearing a mankini promoting an ice cream shop. We found that odd. It was a fun day.

Mankini Man promoting an ice cream shop in Bath... and in serious need of a tan.

Malcolm, who ALSO knows how to read train station reader boards, arrived from London and the four of us made our way to the Chapel Arts Centre for our gig. It’s a small venue with great acoustics, a great sound system and a competent sound engineer. We got set up, did a sound check and were ready to perform. While the show was lightly attended, we gave it our best and had a great time chatting with many in the audience after the show.

Sunday morning and it’s off to the train station to train it back to London and then immediately board another train to Liverpool. This zigzag doesn’t make intuitive sense as Bath and Liverpool are in the same general region. Ticket pricing logic does not always follow geography. We saved money by taking this odd routing.

We rolled into Liverpool right on time and checked into our Travelodge room, just a short walk from Sunday night’s venue – the Lomax. After a quick set-up I walked a block and stumbled into Beatles Central. You may recall the Fab Four got their start in Liverpool and the city has had a hard day’s night shaking the reputation ever since. Down one street is located Lennon’s Bar, the Rubber Soul Oyster Bar, and the Cavern Club where the Beatles famously performed in 1961. A banner stretching across the street proudly proclaims “Mathew Street – Birthplace of the Beatles!” It’s 6:00 p.m. and the din of multiple rock bands performing permeates the street. The evening’s security guards sporting black attire are already in place.

Back at the Lomax two acoustic acts took the stage before our set. It’s a typically small venue and tonight hosts a good sized crowd. Our performance went really well. Well, up until when the P.A. started popping and cracking like it’s the 4th of July. We had to end our set a couple tunes short. But a shout came from the crowd, “Play acoustic!” So we moved up to the edge of the stage and perform Robert Johnson’s “If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day.” We won the evening. Click here to see a video of our opening number, “Pure Evil.”

Liverpool's Cavern Club - "Birthplace" of the Beatles.

Playing washboard, shaker and foot tambourine on "Say Goodbye For Both of Us" at the Lomax. Photo by Adrian Wharton.

After a Monday morning walkabout between rain squalls it was time for one more train ride back to London. On board we settled into the Quiet Coach and waited for our 11:46 departure. The kind voice on the intercom states the train will be delayed due to an encounter between a train and an unfortunate human. The train won. As a result, the train lines are in temporary chaos as diversions are made. No worries… it’s understandable. Near the Wimbledon Station our train rolled to a stop. The kind voice on the intercom states the train has lost power. We arrive at London’s Euston Station an hour late. No worries.

But why end the day now? A few hours later Ned, Sandra and I made a five minute walk to the ‘Round Midnight Blues and Jazz Bar where Ned and I performed as a duo for a set. Again, a small venue but it hosted an attentive Monday night crowd.

A midnight Skype session with Natalie caps the day and the weekend. What a nice way to put a period on it. Or an exclamation point!

Until next time… Todd

P.S. – More photos are on the way… I promise!

No comments:

Post a Comment