July 7, 2011

Last Day In London - Harry Potter, Jellied Eels, and King's Singers!

Harry Potter Day!!!!  
Something is buzzing in London
Just kidding… but no, seriously.  I’ve been obsessed with the books since I read them in college.  As I started my freshmen year at Asbury University, Harry started his first year at Hogwarts.  Tear… Gag.  Love these books.  Read them too many times to tell you without being embarrassed.  (Andrew’s Note: Me too!)  Dressed up for the book and movie releases.  (Me too!)  Been to every midnight showing and release party with the hubby and recently, with some of my favorite Harry-Nerds, Jordan, Julia and Anthony!  (Yes.)  I can’t wait to have kids just so I can read them the books much like my dad read me “The Hobbit” by J.R. Tolkien when I was in first grade. 
Today was the UK movie premiere, which is when all the Potter stars come to Leicester Square to see the first showing of the movie; we commoners won’t get to see it until next weekend.  Regardless, we signed up for the Harry Potter Walking Tour at noon.  It met in the thick of things at Leicester Square which was huge fun.  It was like a midnight showing in the US, but way more intense.  Some of these Brits had been camped out since Monday in tents to see the stars walk down the red carpet.  There was even a girl from Argentina who had come to see the premiere.  I appreciate devoted fans, as I consider myself one of them.  Way to go Argentina.  Anyway, if you were one of the first 3,000 to get a wrist band, you got to attend a red carpet party at Trafalgar Square before the red carpet walk at Leicester Square.  Needless to say, London was Potterified today.  It’s like the closing of an era here and they’re making the most of it. 
We met our tour guide in the center of the nerds.  He yells out, “Who is here for the Harry Potter walking tour?”  About 3,000 people turned their heads and started salivating.  No kidding.  We signed with about 40 other people and the tour began.  The really funny thing is that we walked less than a block to get away from the Potter mania, and 3/4 of the tour group got lost.  We went from 40 to 10 in about two minutes… poor tour guy, he thought he was going to lose his job.  (It’s true.  He said he’s lost one or two from time to time along the tour, but never the majority of them before he’s even said a word.)  However, if you’re going to lose a Harry Potter tour group, what a better way to lose them then in a HP movie premiere?  J  We walked all over the city of London, and saw all sorts of sites from the film locations to the inspirations for locations that J.K. Rowling wrote about.  However, it was pouring the whole time.  Pouring!! Boo!  (That might be a little dramatic..it poured for about the first 45 minutes, then a few more times for 5 or 10 minutes here and there.  It was slightly miserable since we walked the streets for about 2 ½ hours, but our AWESOME R.E.I. raincoats helped so much!)  We were drenched from about the waist down, but it was so worth it.  I’m definitely going to find a way to make my band kids view all my pictures from the tour.  Must find a way to relate it to band class… must.  (Play Harry Potter next year!)
Kind of ghetto, but they had to set up something for the
tourists, even if it's not technically in King's Cross Station
After the Harry Potter Swimmin….I mean Walking Tour, we fulfilled one of my have-to-dos for lunch.  About 2 years  ago, we saw a Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern on the Food Network where he went to London and stopped at a shop called F. Cooke & Sons.  It’s a tiny shop in a London suburb that has been feeding London workers the same thing for 180 years – EELS!  Little river eels.  (If, at this point, you want to stop reading to freak out for a minute or two go for it.  I’ve had 6 years of marriage to Andrew to not be weirded out by his fascination with all things not normal, you’ve had 5 blog posts.  There’s only so much we can expect of you…………..  Better?  And…. Back to eels :)  They also serve pies and mash, which is a small beef pie with a mountain of mashed potatoes.  Very stick-to-your-ribs food for a full day of working.  Andrew Zimmern got a bowl full of jellied eels and loved everything; from the eels to the green sauce they slather everything with to the ambiance of the place.  Sure enough, I plotted us a course through 4 or 5 tube stops and then about a mile’s walk through random borough and we found it!  Daniel and Allison and I each got a pie n’ mash and I got a bowl of jellied eels :-)  They were actually way better than I expected!  The eels themselves were meaty like cooked tuna, but a little softer and hardly fishy at all - almost like a piece of soft swordfish steak.  You do have to be careful and eat around the spine…it’s really sharp and angry.  (I love eating at restaurants where there are no tourists and the owners have to tell you how to eat the food.  Ether we come off as idiots… a lot…or we eat at really bizarre places.  Could be an unfortunate combination of the two…. Sigh)  The clear jelly around them was odd – like a salty brine.  When we paid, we told the lady how much we enjoyed the food and she was thrilled to hear that we saw the shop on TV 2 years ago and made a special trip out there to go.  She said the restaurant has been in her family since it was started in the 1800s.  Full, happy (?), and culturally satisfied, we set back off for London (although my socks were still a little wet from the morning!)
Me being excited and Daniel contemplating why he came with us to this particular outing....
Jellied eels on the left, pie n' mash in green sauce on the right!  Stick to your ribs, coal mining  food!

I call this picture "Navigating the Spines"

Awesome.  Notice my Harry Potter shirt, too!

The City of London Festival Concert tonight was one we had been looking forward to very much.  The King’s Singers are a very famous group of men who have been around for a very long time.  They are fairly unique because they are a men’s group who sing 4-6 part music.  The two guys singing countertenor sing what would be the soprano and alto parts.  It’s amazing – the older of the two has this beautiful, clear-as-a-bell falsetto tone that gives me goose bumps.  Their program was varied with new and older songs: (Alright nerds, the concert had a theme… can you guess what it was?)

Bennett – All Creatures Now are Merry-Minded
Weelkes – The Nightingale, The Organ of Delight
Ligeti – The Cukoo in the Pear Tree, Two Dreams and Little Bat, The Lobster Quadrille, A Long Sad Tale
Bartlet – Of All the Birds That I Do Know
Gibbons – The Silver Swan
Ravencroft – The Three Ravens
Wilbye – Sweet Honey-Sucking Bees
Williamson – The Musicians of Bremen
Kats-Chermin – River’s Lament
Various songs that they love – Beatles, Paul Simon, etc.

A few of these were Renaissance madrigals, and the Ligeti pieces were 20th century madrigals that were some of the most difficult choral pieces we’ve ever heard (Sounded a lot like the composer said “you have to sing every note in a different key than the next guy and also in a different time signature…. Go”.  According to the program, Gibbons’ “The Silver Swan”, about a mute swan who, when dying, sang that “more geese than swans now live, more fools than wise”, is about the passing of the madrigal tradition itself.  I didn’t know that!  My very favorite was Williamson’s “The Musicians of Bremen”, a piece that was recently composed for the King’s Singers.  It’s about a cat, dog, donkey, and rooster who decide that they are old and of no more use and want to go apply to be musicians in Bremen because they are supposedly accepting applications.  It was really fun to listen to and BRILLIANTLY composed for each animal. 
Another beautiful venue - The Mansion House, home of the Lord Mayor of London!

The King's Singers!
(**Choir nerd alert!!  Students, take notes!!**) Listening to this group sing really reinforced the notion that singing the same vowel shape across the group does HUGE things for your tuning.  They have mastered this of course, so every single one of them had exactly the same vowel shape for every single note.  They also sing in the British style of little or no vibrato (depending on the piece), so there is nothing to mask being perfectly in tune.  It is a sight to see!  Or….a sound to hear!  Whew! (I’m even embarrassed at how nerdy that was husband!  Way to go!  But in all seriousness, Andrew does know a thing or two about the vowel concept; you should hear his (Grace School) and his mom’s (Gwinnett Young Singers) choirs.  WOW.  They do the vowel thing like few other children’s choirs!)
What a fantastic way to wrap up London!  We’re sad to see London go, but tomorrow we are off to York and the real musical meat and potatoes of our trip at the York Early Music Festival.  London is Allison’s favorite city in the world (yes yes) and I had hoped that it would live up to my expectations, and it really has.  I love this city!!!


  1. Ich Bin Ein Berliner7/07/2011

    too bad Taylor B. hasn't been mentioned in the blog yet... :(
    and if London is yall's fav. city, just wait till if (when) you visit Berlin.
    -Guess Who-

  2. Ich Bin Ein Berliner7/07/2011

    p.s... you missed out on the Freud House. one of my fav. things i visited in London. Take the Jubilee Line north to Finchley Road Station, and it's right nearby.