Our Online Conversion Manager treated his wife to a whirlwind London theatre break recently with tickets to see the amazing Billy Elliot the Musical – what a lucky gal! Read all about their weekend with tonnes of inspiration and tips for your own short break in his latest guest post…
With 30 on the horizon (I know, from the picture you’re thinking how is this possible?) and having never been to London for anything other than work, I thought that this was a sad state of affairs which needed rectifying. My wife, Laura has worked hard at civilising me in recent years, so as part of this I’ve really enjoyed the theatre productions we’ve seen in Yorkshire, and by now this had whet my appetite for a big name West End show. Admittedly my first choice would have been the Lion King, but Laura had seen that with her family some months before so we settled on Billy Elliot due to Laura’s interest in ballet. This was also seen as another good opportunity to culture me some more, but first I had to indulge my inner nerd, allow me to explain…
As a former history student I have coerced all other members of my party (usually my wife, but this also includes my immediate family, my in-laws and on one occasion the rest of stag party) to go to all historical sites, displays and museums in the nearby area, so I thought why should London be any different? Love me, love history. With this in mind I put The British Museum at the top of my list of things to visit, and after a very enjoyable train journey down from Leeds with East Coast we checked in to the Victoria Hilton Doubletree, got changed and then got cracking.
A quick note on the hotel, I chose this one firstly as it was a 5 minute walk from the theatre, and secondly, it was no more than 6 tube stops from the touristy stuff I wanted to do. In terms of location, it was perfect. Plus, I’ve always found Hilton Doubletree’s to be good value for money, and I’m part of their loyalty scheme (I do love a loyalty scheme) which my bulging wallet – sadly none of it money – will support! They also give you an amazing warm chocolate cookie on arrival, which would have been great had I not given up chocolate for lent. Laura gladly took one for the team and ate both of them – what a hero.
The British Museum was great as I got to put a face to a lot of the figures I’d read about in the Victoria and Albert Galleries, and with the exception of the themed Vikings: Life and Legend exhibit, it’s all free. Needless to say I filled my ancient historical boots.
In fairness I could have spent a whole day there, but we had a show to see, so we raced back, got changed and headed to the Victoria Palace. At this point I should mention how excited I was about this, to the point where I’d bought a new tie for the occasion – in the picture you will see said tie’s debut outing. Once inside we found that we had great seats, about 8 rows from the stage and after a quick drink we settled down for the performance.
In short I loved it. With the interval we were in there for about 3 hours, and it flew by. I thought the performances were excellent, particularly the boy playing Billy who you could tell was simply loving what he was doing, and also that of his teacher and his older brother who I thought gave a really gritty and powerful performance. I’d read a review in the Guardian a while back saying that the show had trivialised the plight of miners, so either the show had been updated as a result, or the critic was talking nonsense as I thought they got it all spot on. It was also very funny and the set design was really impressive. The Maggie Thatcher song just after the interval is a great example of both. Surprisingly though (to both myself and others), my favourite part was Swan Lake, where Billy is shadowed by an older dancer. I found it absolutely mesmerising and as a result I’m going to see a proper ballet later in the year, even more culture!
Day 2 unsurprisingly featured lots more history, starting off with a visit to the London Dungeons as I’d really enjoyed the Edinburgh equivalent. The London has had an update recently so I definitely wanted to check it out. I’m happy to confirm that as much as I enjoyed Edinburgh, the London version is loads better. It’s the actors that really make it, particularly in the Whitechapel section; it’s very clever. It also provided the best and worst part of the weekend; the best as they put Laura in a cage, the worst when they let her out again.
I’d highly recommend getting to the London Dungeons around 9.45am as the queue was pretty short (this was on a Saturday). From there we made it onto the Natural History Museum, which is full of dinosaurs, and who doesn’t like dinosaurs? This is another freebie which is great! It was pretty busy, however if you try the exhibition road entrance rather than Cromwell Road you should get in far quicker. There are also a lot of nice places to eat and drink around the Fulham area, so it’s well worth a little exploration particularly if you’re used to the frozen lands of the north as it appears that London is hoarding all of the sunshine too.
A meal out and drinks with a friend rounded off our weekend in London, so again if you want to do a bit of this but without the crowds, Victoria is a good area to stay in my opinion. There’s so much more I want to see in the big smoke, and I’ve really been bitten by the theatre bug! I’ll definitely be looking to squeeze another trip in later in the year.
Are you planning a London theatre break? What West End show is top of your list to see and which London attractions have caught your eye? Let us know using the comments box below.