First up taking the DLR. I've always loved this train service probably because it's above ground but also because it's forever changing and updating. Not only have they completely extended their lines and service levels over the years it's been running but you get to see so much of the change in and around the east side of London whilst you ride on it. If you're a kid (small or big kid) you can run to the front and pretend to be the driver too. For whilst there is the operator, these trains are run by computers and track and a bundle of other technical bits and pieces. Here's Emily just as we left West India station - the area made famous by the many goods traded between England and the West Indies. Of course at West India Quay there is not only the Marriott Hotel but the fantastic Museum of Docklands, plus a bundle of good eateries and drinking establishments and a five minute walk over the little green bridge from Canary Wharf and all it offers.
I must say, of all the trips we've made back to London this was the first time I really smelt the pollution. We took the DLR in to Bank at which stage it does go underground to meet the various tube lines. Bank is the deepest tube station in London. Whether that has anything to do with it I don't know. But as soon as I got on the really noisy, 'mind that gap' Central line I could smell a whole heap of stuff and really wouldn't have a clue what effect it has had on my immune system. Either way it was horrible. I couldn't help but be slightly critical either and compare against the mainline trains of Zurich (the lines from Thalwil to Zurich that is). Apart from the complete lack of disabled access on the Zurich trains - there is no way somebody can wheel their wheelchair on to any of the trains due to the useless footstep that doesn't pull out and the then gap that is created, oh and the really stinky and dirty toilets, the tube is pretty sad despite it still having a little charm. Rickety and with almost no suspension in part, there's copies of the Metro and rubbish just left strewn on the seats. Of course due to various threats, there are no bins on the tube, on the platforms and also not close to many of the mainline stations. Let's not mention how everyone sits trying to avoid eye contact too. I'm sure whoever designed the seating system didn't realise what a social exercise they were also creating.
Bloch is a high quality 'trusted' dance wear retailer which has been in operation since 1932. I've known of it from the days when I used to work at Digital Equipment (all those years ago) and wandered past on my lunch hours. Who'd have thought I'd end up working at the Royal Opera House where my love for the arts was reignited? Emily didn't have a clue where I was taking her and got quite excited as we approached the door first thing in the morning. It was good to go early.
Upstairs is the dance wear and downstairs, the foot wear. After picking up a new little leotard (it's a lot cheaper than I thought it would be), we headed downstairs to just take a look at the ballet shoes. I wanted for her to hold a proper ballet pointe shoe and she did. She also wanted to see what the tap shoes looked and felt like and after she'd tried on a little ballet pump and headed to the bar to try it, along with the shop assistant, we walked up the stairs with Emily stopping to watch the tap dancer on the big screen. That was it - from the shop the piazza - Emily was skipping, tap dancing (if you want to call it that!) and jumping. One very happy little lady. Next stop was my old work place - the Royal Opera House.
I took her along past the stage door entrance (in case we saw anyone famous - sadly no) and pointed out to her where she could go if she worked really, really hard to become really very good at ballet. Of course the Royal Ballet School. Then up above you can't fail to miss the walkway between the school and the Opera House. What I didn't realise was that the latest exhibition was covering the career of Dame Monica Mason and displayed in the cabinets were many beautiful creations. We were able to take a look. Like most of the exhibitions at the Royal Opera House this one is free although there are additional tours at a small fee. This particular one is open until June.
After that we couldn't help but take a look in the Royal Opera House shop at all the lovely girly bits and pieces. Unfortunately (fortunately) we learnt that the shop will temporarily close shortly due to the Opera House's joint venture with BP who together are creating The Olympic Museum. This will be open from 28 July to 12 August 2012 to coincide with the games.
Fortunately I escaped without breaking the bank although they did have some lovely clothes on sale! Then straight out in to the buzz of the piazza. Oh how I love wandering around Covent Garden, sitting and people watching. This time however there was more than people to watch as the Faberge Big Egg Hunt, in aid of Action for Children and Elephant Family, had bought all the auction items into Covent Garden for all to see. It was truly impressive. I'd seen a few on our last London trip at Canary Wharf. Emily and me were able to view them all in one place. Here's a selection ...
The egg that I really liked was the Ridley Scott egg. That was out of my price range so knowing it is my birthday month I figured I would bid for the First Spring in Eden egg by Sophie Conran. I love bluebells, can't get enough of them. I guess because I spent my childhood wandering through bluebell woods where I grew up. However having entered the bidding process my ceiling was raised to the point I figured I might as well go for the first option. Then whilst using the Autobid, Patrik decided to hit the Autobid button and entered me in to this race where I was fearing I'd win. He'd upped my price to over £4,000! Thankfully we were outbid but sadly we didn't get any of them. Actually I was a little upset that they did keep extending their bidding time with just one minute to go. But hey ho.
Anyhow, Emily and I didn't have much time left after admiring all the eggs and wandering through the marketplace (of course popping in to the magnetic cookie shop too) but had to stop at the street entertainer. Covent Garden is full of them but the spot just outside the church summons the best of them. This guy was no exception and even though we were running late, Emily would not let me leave. I was all a little worried given the content of the show. Even the entertainer expressed it wasn't a show for kids although would, in his words, 'encourage the children to think about being an entertainer'. Oh well, it was quite compelling. Here's a few photographs of the guy who had picked someone from the huge audience. The entertainer was to lay between a bed of nails and the man was to stand on top of him. But first, unbeknown to the tourist, he had to lay flat on the floor and be subjected to the entertainer stripping off and juggling sharp knives as he walked the length of him scantily clad in Union Jack tassels and shorts.