On the bus in London!
The famous statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus.
The graceful curve of Regent Street.
Maestro Wachs on Trafalgar Square, with the National Gallery and church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields behind him.
A lovely day to hang out in Trafalgar Square.
Snoozing as the bus passes Big Ben. (It was a LONG jet-laggy day!)
New Scotland Yard from the bus.
Group ph0to in front of Buckingham Palace.
Buckingham Palace, home of the Queen in London.
Beautiful view from Trafalgar Square down Whitehall to Westminster Palace (the Houses of Parliament).
Taking selfies in front of Buckingham Palace.
Big Ben through the London Eye!
Our Air New Zealand LAX-London Heathrow direct flight seemed to take a shorter than usual time (about 9 hours — enough for some to grab a snooze and others to watch several movies). Before we knew it, we were touching down in London, wending our long way through passport control, picking up our luggage and instruments, meeting our great KI Concerts guides, and clambering aboard our two buses (nicknamed “Rimsky” and “Bernstein” for, well, repertory reasons!) for the drive into the city. Today’s weather was fantastic — last week it apparently was sweltering hot (in the 90s!), but today it was simply a lovely August day, in the 70s with a slight breeze and a few clouds, perfect for walking around. The idea was to keep the slightly jet-lagged group moving and seeing interesting things so no one would fall asleep and perpetuate the jet lag. And, for the most part, the plan worked.
We drove into the center of London — through really the poshest sections of town (Kensington, Mayfair, Soho, etc.) and dropped everyone off in Piccadilly Circus for two hours to get lunch on their own and to walk around, see some sights and acclimate. Little groups of students set off together to explore and eat. Maestro Wachs and I set off walking and took in a wide circuit that included Regent Street, Savile Row, Carnaby Street, Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square, St. James Place and on back — with a lovely stop for coffee and cake at pretty little Cafe Concerto — whose logo, appropriately enough, is a conductor waving a baton. We rendevouzed with the entire group back in Piccadilly Circus, and boarded the buses to head to Buckingham Palace, passing such sights as No. 10 Downing Street (home of the prime minister; well gated), the Horse Guards, the somber Cenotaph to British war dead, and on to the Palace.
The Queen was not in residence (she’s up at Balmoral), but famed Buckingham Palace looks just as it does in all the footage of royal weddings and other events, and many of the students agreed it was a little surreal to be standing in front of it in real life. We took a quick group photo in front of it, then walked up to the elaborate iron gates to peer in at the military guards in their red coats and bearskin hats. Then it was back on the buses for a splendid drive with magnificent views of Parliament and Big Ben (although we were reminded that Big Ben is actually one of the bells inside, not the tower…) and the great observation wheel, the London Eye. We’ll be back to see more of those in a couple of days.
Finally, it was a very tired but happy ensemble that checked into the St. Giles Hotel in Bloomsbury and had our first dinner together in the Il Grasso Restaurant inside the hotel. As I type this, bed check and lights-out are happening, and I doubt there’ll be any dissenters. We’re all exhausted, but here we are in LONDON, and tomorrow is another big day (Tower of London and Westminster Abbey). More then, and hopefully we can dragoon some students into blogging their thoughts, too!