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Archive for the ‘adventures in Europe’ Category

 

Priscilla Queen of the Desert – London – West End

As a movie Priscilla became a cult classic in Australia and the UK.

I’m not sure why, but Australians have this thing about ritzy performances in the roughest places – like ballroom dancing in a barn, or this documentary that I once saw of a black tie gala that was preceded by tuxedo’d men who were tearing around in dusty old pickups very drunk and cursing. Next morning it looked like there had been a battle with comatose Ozzies scattered across a torn up field amongst shreds of finery, bottles everywhere.

Priscilla became so much a part of Australian popular culture that in the closing ceremonies of the 2000 Olympic games, a bus with a stiletto atop drove around the Olympic stadium with numerous transvestites in tow.

Having enjoyed this incredible show in London, the cast came forward for their bow and Don Gallagher, the most serious of the characters (Bernadette) spoke about the need for charity and that profit from that week was being donated to some cause (I can’t remember what).

As we left we were were asked to contribute what we could to the cause. I pulled out my donation which was not large (considering the restricted cash flow issue), but I was prepared to drop it in the hat or whatever.

In following the crowd we suddenly found ourselves outside on the street in front of the poster and without an opportunity to contribute. I must admit, the show had been so fantastic and the appeal was so heartfelt that I was truly disappointed that we had somehow missed the opportunity to give.

Anyway, what you see behind Maggie are some of the main characters, the million dollar bus and the 3 angels – red hair spiked up high with the incredible voices.

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Priscilla; Queen of the Desert – Palace Theater – London

After the disaster with the Visa that didn’t work, our unbelievably generous relatives sprung for theater tickets for what they suggested “Mick needs to give a chance as its really quite good.” Looks like the tickets were 65 pounds apiece which put us on the floor near the front.

The nearest tube station was Leicester Square and emerging up the stairs we found ourselves in the noisy carnival of people, lights and entertainment that is London’s West End theater district. Everywhere there were booths that were selling half price tickets. The best prices were on matinees – things like Stomp, Chicago, Billy Elliot and yes – even Priscilla.

The theater itself – the Palace Theater – was built in the 1880s and when the freehold was purchased in 1983 by Andrew Lloyd Weber they removed the paint to discover incredible onyx and marble panels.

Priscilla is the name of the bus in which 3 entertainers travel across the outback, headed for Alice Springs to perform at a casino that is run by the wife of one of these colorful fellows. Actually the entertainers are transvestites – highly talented as dancers I might add. What makes it a musical is that they lip sync the Supremes. The actual musical begins with 3 angels – well sort of angels – dropping down from the ceiling, they have phenomenal voices and the level of sound grows to quite an overwhelming volume.

Priscilla somehow spins on stage, lights up as though by pixels as every square inch is possibly lit by a light bulb or some kind of illusion to make it appear that way. Half the bus is cut away and part of the drama takes place as they are driving and you see the inside of the bus in cross section – and of course there is that fantastic scene from the movie where one of these fellows is atop the bus (in this case sitting in the stiletto that is pictured above) with silk train blowing out behind. Moving from its position atop the bus the stiletto somehow slides right out over the audience.

One thought though, I can’t imagine why some people took their children – it is certainly not for the younger audience.

All in all, that was money well spent, it was very funny and high energy.  Maggie and I are considering going in Toronto some time within the next few weeks to see how the Canadian talent compares.

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Scotch, whiskey, whisky or whatever you want to call it

Anne Gordon kindly offers this post as a special guest blogger, she is a national travel writer, having written for every major newspaper in Canada and many others across the world; she is also a member of TMAC. The following post is one on a subject that I find especially appealing – scotch!

“For centuries in the hills and highlands of Scotland, pure spring water, malted barley and yeast, together with the distinctive smoke of peat, have given the Scots an alcoholic experience finer than any other. Called ‘Uisge Beathe’ ( the ‘water of life’) in earlier days, Scotland’s most favoured drink is now more widely known as whisky.

Introduced to the country folk by Christian monks centuries ago, the art of distilling started out in hidden bothies (roughly made shelters) in the hills. It was a precarious operation. The distillers spent a great deal of their time dismantling the tubes and cans of their trade and fleeing whenever word reached them that the Customs men were close on their heels.

Today those small beginnings have flourished, providing Scotland and the Scots with an industry that has greatly enhanced the country’s economy. Worldwide whisky exports now exceed 1 billion bottles a year, an income of more that $4.7 billion.”

See more of Anne’s posts on her visits to various distilleries here

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P1040854, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

We were walking by the front of the National Gallery and this madman – unmoving until Maggie passed by, did this.

Well aside from the shock and obligation of dropping a pound in the box, our visit to the National Gallery was amazing.

In London, most museums and galleries are free (as it should be). Sadly I missed the “dead Italian guy” who was said to be on display in a museum near St. Pancreas. The security guard at the national library sent us in that direction as I declined to unpack my backpack for a search; he said it was nothing to be embarrassed about. I said I just could not be bothered to lay out my underwear and whiskey bottles to see the medieval manuscripts they had -honestly, the hassle vs. reward didn’t justify the effort (but I understand their need for security and they were very courteous as they were everywhere in London).

At the National Gallery we were immediately immersed in the fantastic paintings of Caravaggio, Van Gogh, Cezanne and others of their fame. there was nothing posted about not taking pictures, but I thought it safest to not try anything like that in case I got arrested. There are over 2300 paintings which are said to be one of the greatest collections of Western European paintings in the world. It was kind of odd standing about 2 feet from what I only usually see in books.

The National Gallery in London sits at one end of Trafalgar Square. You can get there quite easily from Charing Cross or Leicester Square – just walk toward the statue of Nelson, which rises up atop a column. If the gallery is not your thing, then people watching might be. I got some great photos of tourists posing with the lions.

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Don’t Mess with the Queen

In addition to the regular guards foot soldiers outside Buckingham Palace, the uninvited guest would be dealing with this. I’m not sure exactly what he’s carrying but it brings to mind a less security conscious time when I was sent on an exercise during a potential officer course (Sandhurst). My task was to obtain the signature of the officer of the guard at Buckingham Palace – others had all sorts of odd and diverse tasks. The idea was to show what could be done with initiative.

I had no free entry into the palace but managed to talk my way into the guard room where I learned that the officer of the guard had left for his residence at St. James Palace. I managed to intercept him en-route – he wouldn’t talk but his bat man who followed along behind carrying the squash shoes of the marching, sword-bearing anachronism explained that I could see him later.

Later, in St. James Palace I got an imperious note (with signature) “Please desist from disturbing my afternoon slumbers”. Mission accomplished.

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Life Guards – London

No visit to London is complete without some pomp and ceremony. I took this picture outside the building known as “Horse Guards”. These fellows in red are the life Guards – not the swimming kind (their cuirasses would drag them down). As one tourist in the know explained, “They stand there facing each other (blues and Royals vs Life Guards) for about half an hour and then they have changed the guard.”

As you can see it was a good picture taking opportunity.

The life Guards (in red and the blues and Royals in blue) both comprise regiments in the Household Cavalry, an actual functioning light armored formation of the British Army. When not on ceremonial duty, the Household Cavalry performs a reconnaissance function in a combat brigade; dress uniform is replaced by camouflage, swords by assault rifles.

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All we had left!

When you’re real tired and you need a shower, some food and a good sleep you really look forward to your hotel.

Maggie and I had traveled some distance out of London by tube to a suburb called Kenton. Not a bad place I suppose and the Premier Inn that we were to stay in was 76 pounds a night which was also not a bad price. We were relieved to discover that the Inn was a rather quaint looking building about 2 minutes walk from the station. Lugging our backpacks up to the receptionist’s counter I offered my VISA ony to be told “Your card has been declined.”

“Try it again.” I instructed slightly panicked.

“Declined”

“Phone the number on the back” I suggested to Maggie.

“It’s not working.”

We counted out our cash, every last pence – about 114 pounds. This would cover us for just a third of the time remaining in the UK

Well that’s a situation that just wasn’t what either of us wanted to deal with. Options were a park bench for at least 2 of the next 3 nights or sleeping on the station platform. I wonder if that guy with the Ferrari would mind if we crashed in his front hallway?

To cut a long story short we phoned one of Maggie’s relatives in Chester and they helped us by phoning in their VISA number to the hotel. The lesson here is to make sure you remember to phone VISA and let them know when you are going out of the country. My question is why could we not reach them by the phone numbers on the back of the card and also why does it take several days to reactivate your VISA and why when my brother in law phoned them from Canada could they not have been a little more helpful? WHY? WHY? WHY?

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