Friday, April 20, 2018

Hamilton & Other Hijinks in London

Trip date: March 2018

Everyone knows that the hit Broadway musical Hamilton has swept the nation! But it also crossed the pond to jolly old England where the tickets are just slightly easier to get. My girlfriends who are based in Europe snagged four tickets and very kindly invited me along! Having seen it in Seattle I was super excited to see it again, and the opportunity for a girls weekend was just the cherry on top!

I cashed in a bunch of miles and got myself a round trip Business Class on British Air. I'd spend four days in London with the girls, then four days in Edinburgh with my BFF, and then one week on my own driving around Scotland! I was OTT excited!

The BA lounge at SeaTac is nothing special (why are American airline lounges crap compared to international cities?) but there is a small trolley of mini sandwiches, fruit, cheese, etc. Another counter offers non-alcoholic drinks. There is a bar the size of a coat closet where you order real drinks and I was very happy with the martini I got there (airport standards in place).

My flight over was on a 777 which has a very strange 2-4-2 configuration. I was seated in one of the middle seats which I was able to trade for an aisle; the 2 in the middle are super cozy which would be great traveling as a couple. The window seat on the 2 config side is definitely the most private seat but I wasn't able to finagle that this time.

I had a lovely 9-hour direct flight to London, which was just enough time to have a four-course meal paired with wines, watch a movie, and go to sleep in my lay flat bed. The seats on BA seem overly complicated (even coming with a full instruction manual) but they are very comfy and come with mini mattresses and nice blankets and down comforters.

I had purchased my ticket on the Heathrow Express online in advance so once I had my bag it was a quick 15 minutes, for about $15 to Paddington Station. From here I grabbed a black taxi to our Airbnb in Southwerk, that took almost an hour even though it was just lunchtime!

I took a nap while the girls were out at lunch so that I wouldn't fall asleep in the theater. It was 5 1/2 hours until showtime!

Our apartment was in such a great location, right outside the Borough Market! We easily walked to the Shard that evening for drinks at Gong. We had reservations and when they sat us they mentioned that as soon as a table next to one of the windows opened up they would move us to it. I thought that was very nice!

The views of London from the 52nd floor are spectacular and the space was very elegant. It took over 30 minutes to get our drinks though, which meant only one round before the show, and they were all just ok. I'd say go to Gong but have a glass of champagne. It's definitely worth it for the views!

We grabbed a taxi to the Victoria Palace Theater, almost missing curtain call as traffic was so bad! The show was great but we all thought that the vocals weren't as strong as on the album, and I felt there was a bit of exuberant patiotism missing from the all British troupe. None of that stopped us from singing, chair dancing, and having a great time!

The night wrapped up in a divey bar, laughing and having some good fun with a bunch of drunk Brits. They do love to let loose!

We had tickets the next morning to the Modigliani exhibit at the Tate Modern. While we were all getting ready, Melanie went to the Borough Market and brought us back coffee and bacon & egg butties (bacon & egg sandwiches to you and me!) how great is that?

The exhibit was really unique. They had an interesting selection of his paintings, the vast majority were owned privately, as well as some sculpture. Most of it I had never seen before. They also had a VR exhibit which Forest and I did; it plopped you right inside his studio and surrounded you with bits of his work, his life, and even his views of his Paris neighborhood. The experience was so real that both of us even felt the wind on our face as the rain started outside his studio window!

Before leaving the Tate we all grabbed a glass of wine and took in the views of the city and the Thames from the 6th-floor bar. A great view and stop that not everyone knows about.

(Not far from the Tate is the Banksy Print Gallery, which Mel and I stopped into later in the day. Some interesting stuff by both Banksy and other artists represented by Lazinc.)

It was time for lunch and I had made reservations at Kricket in SOHO. When in London- Indian food! Kricket was cool, modern, pretty, and delicious! Our waiter nicely gave us a bunch of recommendations and they were spot on; go mainly with the vegetable options and just add one or two proteins. We all loved it! Highly recommended.

After a pretty epic day of drinking, four of stopped into Arabica on our walk home through the Borough Market. We had to wait a bit as it was a busy Saturday night but it wasn't too bad. We ordered a selection of their Middle Eastern dishes and everything was great!

Another morning a few of us went to brunch at Duck & Waffle which is on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower. The restaurant is good, my duck confit and waffle was great, but the draw here is definitely the views. Spectacular! And different from those you get at The Shard. And it's open 24/7 so if you need a late night spot...

Afterwards, we went to the London Mithraeum at Bloomberg Space. The remains of an ancient temple from the cult of Mithras was found during construction and it's open to the public (and free!). There are some very cool glass cases of random items they found dating from about 2000 years ago! And it's all in the middle of The City.

By our last day, the other ladies had left for home and Forest and I packed up to head to Edinburgh. We got to Kings Cross Station a bit early and treated ourselves to a fancy little lunch at Plum & Spilt Milk, complete with champagne, wine, and full English fry up. Ahhh, vacation!!!

London post on cocktails coming... cuz you know there were some cocktail crawls!

All London photos here.

Other posts from this trip:

The English Spirit
An Introduction to Unicorns
The 45th
Big Castle, Small Distillery, Highlands
A Slice of Skye
Oban & the Isle of Mull
A Wee Time in Glasgow

Friday, April 6, 2018

Partly Cloudy Palm Springs

Trip date: March 2018

I'm just back from my 6th annual Palm Springs trip! I've stayed in 3 different houses with the group I've been going with, and this may well be the last time in the Contempo Oasis as it was recently sold so we're not sure if it will continue as a rental or not.
This year I flew in a bit later in the day than most of the others, on the direct SEA to PSP Alaska Air flight. Flights were pretty expensive so I used miles for one-way and got a really well-priced flight on the return, both in Premium class. Although on the flight down we had so much turbulence that they only did one drink services so not a lot gained there! ha!

I got rained on a bit as I took a taxi to the rental house. WTF?  And then was only greeted by this very sad bar, leftovers from last year, as everyone was out doing the tough work; the shopping.
I turned up the hot tub, changed into my suit and waited for the others to get back. Once the shoppers were back, we did some drinks in the hot tub before having our traditional first evening dinner of Costco roast chicken and steamed artichokes.

I was only down for four full days this time so I chose not to work like I normally do (minus a quick check of email daily). My morning walks looked quite a bit different as the valley had had cool drizzly weather recently. There were lots of flowers blooming and the river bed was full of vegetation and even had some water running over its dam.
One night Lauren, Paul, Steve, Dave, Mary and I went out for drinks and dinner. We started with cocktails at Truss & Twine and while the drinks were all fine, the space is really dark, bare, and cavernous. It doesn't scream "hang out and have a couple". Hell, it doesn't even whisper it!
I probably wouldn't choose to go back here but seeing that is owned and connected to Workshop Kitchen, where we were having dinner, it was a fine stop.

Workshop has been around for years, but we had yet to go. I was very much looking forward to it, more so after walking into the prettily lit courtyard!
We checked in, about 10 minutes early for our reservation, and ordered drinks from the bar to sip on outside. The bar here is really great and I would absolutely recommend a drink here even if you aren't dining.

Long story short, the restaurant didn't seat us for 30 minutes past our reservation time even though there was another table set for six who were running late. We spoke to the hostess and manager multiple times and they didn't seem to really have a clue how to fix things. It was frustrating and we were all quite hungry by this time.

However once seated we had fantastic service, the manager sent out some complimentary small dishes (the roasted Brussels sprouts, caramel fish sauce, lap cheong, and crispy shallots were a huge hit and I'm not particular to them in general) and glasses of pink champagne. Every single thing we ordered, a mix of shared plates and an entree each, was fantastic. Excellent flavors, presentation, and execution. So even though we got off to a rocky start it ended up being one of the best dining experiences I've had in Palm Springs. Although you can safely skip dessert.
My last day was partly cloudy, such a difference from in years past, but our pool was warm and it was a great and lazy day spent floating, drinking mimosas and rosé out of my glass with my hanging Chad glass marker that Mary had brought us!

And on my last night our friend Shirley arrived just in time for my favorite meal- all the tasty things bought at the Mexican market; tamales, refried beans, carnitas, strip steaks, chicarrones, salsa, crema!!!! Followed by a very competitive game of Exploding Kittens!
The next day Mary, Lauren, Carolyn, and Shirley dropped me off at the airport on their way to the tennis matches in Indian Wells.

Too short of a trip, but better than no Palm Springs trip!
Palm Spring phots here.

Weekend in Boise

Trip date: July 2023 My friend Aaron has been to almost every state in the US, he's only missing a few and Idaho was one. So last July, ...

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